Do I still have to tip my hairstylist, even if she ‘makes a good salary’?

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Hi, Group Chat,

As times change, is tipping still required for all services? I ask this because my hairstylist charges $45 for a cut and $90 for highlights. I wear my hair short, which requires cuts approximately every five weeks and highlights every three to four months. She prefers cash, which I always accommodate.

I’m always on time and pleasant and frequently bring her little gifts (candles, a specialty coffee drink, baked goods, etc). A wash, cut and blow-dry never takes more than 45 minutes and with highlights, she frequently has another client while I’m processing. She has many “perks” with her profession, she chooses her schedule, works 3 days a week, plus makes a good salary.

I appreciate her professionalism and she deserves to be compensated for her skills. I believe in generously tipping those in many other service industries such as restaurant staff, hotel/airport persons or hairstylists in the “chain salons” that charge $15 a cut because their employees make a small hourly wage, as well as any other services where wages reflect the necessity of tipping. Also, I work very hard in a service-oriented profession that requires I provide much of the tools to complete my job, stand my entire shift (with little employer benefits, like many others in today’s workforce), and tipping is not expected or allowed. I know I can shop around, but this is the average cost for a stylist in my area.

P.S. I overheard stylists discussing those “clients who don’t tip” like they have the plague.

Sincerely, Tipping Dilemma

Dear TD,

Kelsey Weekman, who is nowhere close to a natural blonde and that’s all you need to know, says… With all due respect … haha, what? Tipping is not optional — it’s a necessary part of how our economy works. The reason your cut and highlights cost what they do is because hairstylists assume you will tip them appropriately. Coffee and candles don’t pay rent (if they did I’d have, like, two houses). If you need to skip those little pleasures every now and then so you can afford to help your stylist keep their lights on, I’d urge you to do so.

Just because your job is difficult doesn’t mean you should withhold any of the goodness that you think you personally deserve from other people. We need to abandon the assumption that if you struggle, others need to struggle, too, and start lifting each other up and fighting for workers’ rights.

Not to go all rose emoji Twitter on you, but I think that’s the kind and reasonable thing to do. Also, I’d be careful with the word “plague,” since we are sort of living through one right now. Go easy on the people who do things for you. Be as gentle and generous as you can. 

Moriba Cummings, a man who takes his bi-weekly barbershop visits very seriously, says… Your gripe in this situation is fair. While my hair grooming routine is a bit different (I’m an African American man who strictly follows the barber code and can’t go more than two weeks without a line-up), the principles you’ve outlined still apply. To put it plainly, I believe that tipping is still necessary, regardless of the circumstance, as service workers and small business owners usually need these supplemental monetary gestures to live functional day-to-day lives (i.e. paying rent, childcare, bills, etc).

As someone who always tips at least 20 percent when visiting my barber, I’ve noticed that, unfortunately, it’s considered low-brow to completely disregard the idea of adding something extra for the provided service. As you’ve said, you’ve overheard how those who bypass tipping are perceived and, to put it plainly, to preserve your relationship with this hairstylist who you’ve explained performs excellently, tipping whatever you can is the only solution.

If you can’t tip 20 percent or more, don’t overextend yourself, but always provide something, because a good relationship with your hairstylist or barber is hard to come by.

Dani Sklarz, who won’t reveal the dollar amount of her cut and color for fear her roommates will think she can afford more for rent says…
As someone who spends an easy couple hundred each time I go to the salon, I still always tip 20 percent. It’s just the right thing to do. While your coffee and candles are certainly a nice gesture, it’s just not going to pay your hairdresser’s rent and grocery bills. I also think it’s a little presumptuous to assume she makes a “good salary” unless you have finite proof of her finances.

The truth is, if you don’t plan to pay the tip, then you shouldn’t be getting your hair done. Unfortunately, tipping culture is embedded into American society and so with that, service industries tend to lead with that expectation when paying out employees. 

My only caveat would be, if this is her own personal business rather than a salon where she is a stylist, you can maybe have a conversation with her about her overall pricing. It might be a little awkward but if it’s weighing on you this much, better to open the doors for communication than have anxiety every time you go to get it done. 

Justin Chan, who has worked briefly in the service industry, says… Tipping is not required by law in the U.S. That being said, it is very much appreciated and can go a long way for those who don’t make much in hourly wages. As far as your specific situation is concerned, avoid making the assumption that your stylist is “well off” and tip her instead of bringing small gifts.

Amid this pandemic, those in the service industry can use all the help they can get — even if it’s just several dollars. If you feel the price of your stylist’s service is too high, then continue to shop around. 

TL;DR… The jury is unanimous — tips or GTFO.

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