Tipping Etiquette, Or How Not To Go Bankrupt During Your Next Salon Visit

Unless you're a SuperCuts regular (ain't no shame), a trip to the hair salon can be an expensive endeavor. Not only are the rates at a high-end salon pretty pricey, you also have to factor in tips. And, when what seems like 30 different people touch your hair in one visit, it can be hard to tell who gets what (and can turn what should be a relaxing experience into a stressful situation).
According to the stylists we talked to, you should never feel obligated to tip, especially if you were unhappy with the treatment or service provided. That said, if you had an enjoyable experience or exemplary service, it can be considered rude not to tip the stylist. "Salons fall into the hospitality/customer service industry, so tipping is a way to show gratitude for a job well done," says stylist Erin Anderson.
But what happens when your stylist has an assistant who works on your hair, who then passes you off to a shampoo girl to wash it, who then passes you off to another stylist to blow it out? Do each and every one of them get the same percentage tip as the lead stylist? "It's nice to tip everyone who touches and assists with your hair, but there are different levels of tipping," says Paul Labrecque, stylist and owner of the Paul Labrecque Salon in NYC. "The basic rule for tipping is 20% of the service cost [to the lead stylist], plus anywhere from $5-$10 for the assistant(s)." Adds Anderson, "If you feel the service was outstanding, feel free to add on top of that amount, similar to what you would do at a restaurant."
That's all well and good, but it can add up to a lot of extra cash. If you'd rather not drain your bank account, talk to the manager discreetly before your appointment and ask to keep the number of people working on your hair to a minimum. According to Anderson, smaller salons shouldn't have an issue with this request, as it is generally larger establishments that bring on a new person for each service within a service. Sometimes though, as Labrecque explains, a stylist may be too booked to be able to handle your wash and dry. In those scenarios, it's worth a shot to request drying your own hair after your service as an easy way to cut down on costs that won't cause a scheduling headache for your stylist.
Photo: Courtesy of Woodley & Bunny

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