Compensation Confusion: Tipping and at-home hair salons

by epi on August 31, 2011

Q: I live in an area where a lot of people have a home hair salon. I know the tipping etiquette for other types of salons, but wondered if I should tip the owner/stylist of a one person shop. It seems to me that since they are not paying for a booth on rent on a salon, they are already getting their tip on the profit they make on the cut/style.

A: You are right. You don’t have to tip a stylist who works out of their own home.  Of course, if you think they did a terrific job and want to thank them, a 10% tip would be appropriate.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Briere August 31, 2011 at 3:17 am

Dear question asker…

You never have to tip anyone, but tips are a way to show appreciation for someone doing a fine job for you. As you would tip a bartender for bringing you a glass of water (it’s no less time-consuming than dispensing a soda), you should always tip for people’s time and care to do a great job, especially when a service is being performed on someone’s body.

Personal services are tipped services, and if you don’t tip, you may offend the person because tips are expected in that line of work, regardless of the location of the work being performed. The same is true of massage, hair, nails, etc.

Additionally, another thing to consider is that whether they have overhead or not is irrelevant to the service rendered. They’re inviting you into their home, and they may have a separate space carved out only for that purpose, at which point, a portion of the mortgage goes to paying for that space, which is in essence, rent. They still have to pay licensing fees, and more. But if not, you may not realize that salons will provide chemicals to independent contractors, but at home, the provider has to pay for 100% of the chemicals to be applied to your hair, not to mention the trips to the store to get precisely what each client needs versus having it available in stock for you. The “profit” then becomes skewed and it’s not what you think it is.

Finally – stylists don’t generally make much money in the first place. If they do a fine job for you, and help you look and feel great, isn’t even $5 a nice way to say thank you to a person that could be responsible for that aspect of your persona for many years to come? I think so.

# # #

Dear EPI – I’d love to see a reconsideration of your advice on this subject. I think there are factors involved here that you may not have been aware of when you originally answered the question.

All the best,
Laura

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Vanna Keiler August 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I’m guessing the costs for working from home described by Laura above (e.g. portion of the mortgage, electricity, chemical products, etc.) would all be considered when charging clients at home, much as it is when you are renting a space or the owner of a salon who is also a stylist. Therefore, I don’t think clients should feel obliged to tip at a home-based salon— much less at a store or anywhere else for that matter— unless one felt the service was great AND had the financial means to tip. My suggestion to stylists and other professionals who can do so would be to make sure they are comfortable with the rate they are currently charging to customers, and consider the tips as “icing on the cake”.

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epi August 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for your response. This topic is ever evolving. Our response to the question is general, and specific circumstances and relationships mean new considerations. Traditionally speaking, proprietors are not tipped. If you are unsure of the tipping expectations you could perhaps ask a friend who visits the same stylist or, if you are close with the stylist, ask them yourself.

You did bring up an excellent point that there are extra costs to consider when working out of one’s own home.

Ultimately, a tip is an opportunity to show your appreciation for a job well done. If the owner is willing to accept a tip and you want show your appreciation monetarily, by all means tip.

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Rosey September 9, 2014 at 6:55 am

I believe if you are using space at home you may write a portion of that off on your taxes along w/ supplies, etc. If you sell products you get to keep the profits. You can’t do any of that if u work in a salon. There are benefits both ways.
Also, I thought it was offensive to tip an “owner”. That’s what they have told me in the past.

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Jody August 31, 2011 at 6:53 am

A friend of mine does hair out of her home. I always tip her — because I think she does a great job. The first time she did my hair she said I didn’t have to tip. My response was “I’d tip a salon stylist, why wouldn’t I tip you?”

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Rebecca August 31, 2011 at 11:55 am

Does the same advice apply for a stylist who owns the salon? I’ve always tipped him in the past but now he is the owner and it seems different. I like the advice though that a job well done is worth it regardless. I was just wondering what the etiquette would be in this situation.

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Chara September 2, 2011 at 9:43 am

I don’t normally take into consideration the bills of the individual providing a service when I tip. Tipping seems to be an activity based more on the service provided.

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Natalie September 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Another hairdress tipping question: I am playing for my hairdresser’s wedding this fall. Instead of cash payment, we are exchanging services, which means I play for 7 free cut and styles. Do I still need to tip on these free cuts?

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Country Girl September 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Will she or others be tipping you for your services? If so, then I strongly recommend tipping her for her’s in return.

If not, then I think it is up to you whether to tip or not to tip. Don’t feel awkward if you choose not to, it is an exchange of services. However, 7 free cut and syles is very generous so I personally would leave a larger than normal tip on at least your last session of cut/styling.

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Just Laura September 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I agree with your first statement 100%. That being said, Natalie said she is playing for the wedding. If she is playing a musical instrument (cello or violin, for instance) the price could be very high – higher than seven haircuts, even. My former roommate is a professional vocalist. If she and her small choral group are asked to perform, they receive $10,000 plus expenses (NYC/NJ area). A single professional musician may make over $1,000/wedding. I wouldn’t tip more than normal, unless the hairdresser tips more after the wedding.

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TootsNYC September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

The point with not tipping the proprietor or owner of the business is that her *fee* is supposed to cover all the costs of her business. She sets the price. If she thinks she should get more money, as a main compensation, then she should set her price higher.

Tips are for people who do not determine the price. And they are for people with whom you do NOT have a direct “customer/vendor” relationship. That’s why I’d say you don’t tip someone who does hair out of her own home. She set the price.

However, if a business that you are working with does a particularly good job, it’s perfectly appropriate to give them a little extra–it’s just that you call it a bonus–not a tip.

For Natalie–I’d treat this the way gift-card restaurant meals, or comped meals, should be handled. The tip (if any) is factored on the true value of the bill, not on the actual amount you pay. So if you would normally tip her, then tip her. If you wouldn’t usually tip her, then don’t. It’s the haircut that you’re getting in barter–not the extra service that the tip is in honor of.

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Shirley January 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Even if the stylist owns her salon and set her own prices she deserves a tip “if you think she did a great job , exceeding what you had expected in service.

What is a tip? (Worldwide): a gratuity (a voluntary additional payment made for services rendered)

You shouldn’t be asking if you should or what you should be tipping. That is just a sly way to get justification to skip the tipping. I go out of my way for my customers to feel special having a great place to relax and not be overcharged for services. They tip me very well and insist I take it.

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Bruce T. Boccardy January 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Hi,

Say, what is the appropriate amount to tip the person who shampoos my hair before the cut? This would be a business not at home. Thank you.

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Elizabeth January 17, 2012 at 12:19 am

It depends how much you’re paying for the haircut and how much you’ll tip the actual stylist. Around these parts, a man’s haircut might be $25. So, you’d tip the stylist $5 and the shampoo guy/gal a buck or two.

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Vola May 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm

What’s the proper etiquette for tipping when having a teenagers hair done? Is it best for them to pay or for the adult? Should teenagers be explained to about the tip? The cost of the appointment for example being $50, with an out the door cost of $60. I love and am cheerful in tipping the persons doing the work on me that I don’t care to do, or learn to do myself. Not to mention, it’s usally a want and not a need. So the tipping is part of the splurge. Also feel a little underhanded in my motive. Hoping that when I’m in a jam and really need their services again they’ll remember my expressed appreciation.

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Sharon June 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

Stylists who work from their homes are eligible to claim some amount on their yearly income tax (Canada). My stylists charges $50 for a trim (she is a master stylist) so in this case I don’t think it is necessary to tip.

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Julie March 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

U always tip a person jn the service industry at least 10-15% if they did a great job!!

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Lisa May 30, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Tipping is the same whether it’s at an expensive rental salon, a Great Craps or just a home salon. Tip the same! Honestly, the stylist won’t at all understand a little tip or none at all and they won’t feel that great about doing your hair again. They will never tell you this however. Just tip the same $15-20%! If you can’t afford the tip, you probably should buy a $10 box kit and do your own hair.

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Christina June 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I don’t usually respond to these types of things, but your response is so ignorant!! “If you can’t afford the tip, you probably should buy a $10 box kit and do your own hair” like COME ON!!! There are some people that save and save (working at a job they don’t get tipped for) just so they can get their hair done, there should never be the expectation to tip – EVER! If you are going to be in a career be it hair stylist or bartender you should never rely on tips, nor expect them from clients/customers. You should also never treat them any different or give them worse or better service depending on the tip. I don’t get to just do a half assed job or refuse to do a job because I didn’t get a tip last time. That’s just ridiculous. Do you tip your doctor? Do you tip your cell phone provider? No, I didn’t think so. They provide a “service” too. The bottom line is.. if you feel the urge to tip, then tip. Give what you can, not what is “expected” of you. If you can’t tip, if all you can afford is to pay for the service itself – then do that. Good grief!!

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Elizabeth June 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I’m sorry, but that’s wrong if you live in the US. Tipping for hairstylists has become as an accepted procedure as it is for waitstaff. It’s not like that all over the world, but it is the case here. Comparing a hairstylist to a doctor or cell phone provider is a bad comparison. A better comparison would be to that of a manicurist or a massage therapist, both of whom also get tips.

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Tamela July 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Tipping is optional! Americans are the only ones who think that tips are mandatory. I tip according to my wallet. I keep coming back if sevice is good and go elsewhere if it wasn’t. I pay over $100 dollars to get my hair done. No chemicals are used. It’s for the time it takes. She does it from home. And it’s her business. Now, please justify a tip.

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Tomica September 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

I don’t think bartenders should be thrown into this tip conversation, seeing as that their income is based on tips. They typically make below min wage hourly. As far as a hairstylist that works from home, I think tips should be based on the customer service. There shouldn’t be a set percentage because, the price the stylist sets is for their income and expenses. They aren’t depending on these tips to make money. Now if you’re getting your hair done and the stylist goes above and beyond to create a warm environment and provide great service, then tip if you want to. I pay like 100 bucks to get my hair done. 100 bucks for a style that takes 3 hours, that’s like making 30 bucks an hour. I’m not going to tip them for doing their job, but I will for exceeding my expectations

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Rachel September 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

My stylist also happens to be my friend, so I asked her about this. She said that she hopes to receive a tip when doing hair at home or “on the side”, and it is disappointing when she does not. To her, it is an indication that her services weren’t up to par. Even $5 is greatly appreciated, but most certainly not “required”. It’s just a matter of how you feel about the services you received.

I agree with Tomica. Bartenders as well as waitresses/servers are not in this same category. They make very little an hour and their income is entirely based on tips, and we all know that. A tip is absolutely expected in that situation. When it comes to going to the salon, I always leave a tip but (after doing some reading) it looks like my tips are on the frugal side. I tip my stylist $10 for cut & color that costs me $95, and $5 for just a cut that costs me $50… Apparently I should be doubling that? I don’t agree with this though. My stylist is an independent stylist and she sets her own fee (unlike a server or bartender) so I believe she sets the cost to be exactly what she needs or feels she deserves… I can’t afford to pay an additional $20 on top of that. However, I do feel that a tip is necessary if you are happy with your results. Even a small one is better than nothing at all.

Shirley says we shouldn’t be asking about tipping at all, but I disagree. Times are hard and many people want to do the right thing and tip when necessary, but we don’t want to be shelling out extra money when we don’t need to. This is a perfectly legitimate concern and thank you to EPI for addressing it.

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Ellie January 29, 2014 at 11:30 am

I agree with Christina, sometimes I feel like I am tipping everyone. Go away on a vacation and all my spending money goes to tips. I don’t get tipped. I don’t mind leaving a tip but I believe it should be at your own discretion. If I get crappy service, I am not tipping. Too many waitresses provide minimal service and expect a tip. They could learn a lot from waiters and waitresses working in resorts in the south who basically live only off their tips so they provide exceptional service.

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hairstylist June 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Dont tip if you don’t feel your hair stylist is worth it. So many customers really appreciate their hair stylists and to accordingly. When i am doing hair i am never focused on the money,my focus is giving my client my all. Tips are always appreciated and its somewhat confusing to get the occasional nontipping client. Makes you question whether or not they were happy with their experience. There actually is a lot of overhead with an art home salon. Costs include property rezoning, higher property taxes, high insurance rates,personal malpractice insurance, salon equipment and maintenance,keeping supplies in stock (which is extremely cost intensive) ,licensing fees. I run a salon out of my home and i go above and beyond for my clients,treating them very special guests in my home,offering them espresso, wine,beer,sodas,snacks,etc. I try to keep my rates very low. I must say that if one of my tipping clients had a hair catastrophe,an unexpected funeral,unexpected house guests and needed their hair done asap i would bend over backwards for them to work them in, Even on my day of.a non tipping client nit so much, because they don’t seem to appreciate what i put into them having nice hair. I strive to keep my prices low andvery affordable if all of my clients stopped tipping my prices would increase dramatically. I personally do rely on tips to keep my business running efficiently. It’s just customary in the state’s to tip your stylist. Most seem happy to do so and it it’s always greatly appreciated by your stylist. Typing from my phone,please excuse spelling errors.

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michelle February 25, 2014 at 11:48 pm

omg are you serious?! of course they want to be tipped!!!!

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Evie March 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm

What about a person that does hair out of their home and doesn’t claim it? And doesn’t offer anything to customers, such as coffee, water etc. She charges about $25 for a cut. I feel like I’m missing out on the whole salon experience when I go to her home and not pampered at all, but she still does a good job cutting my hair so I keep going to her. I feel like I’m doing her a favor going to her make-shift salon (a corner in living room). I still tip, but as someone else said, I now think I am under-tipping. Should I still feel like I need to tip 15-20%? Just curious how other feel about this. Again, she does a great job cutting, but I really don’t enjoy the atmosphere.

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Elizabeth March 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Tipping is ultimately at your discretion. You should not feel as though you are doing anyone a favor whom you are paying for a service. The whole thing is a package deal. You could go to a nice salon with the whole experience it offers, pay more and hopefully get the haircut you want. Or you could go to this person, deal with the atmosphere such as it is, enjoy the low price and the end result. Whether she claims her wages is none of anyone’s business and unrelated to how much you tip. On a haircut like what you’re describing, I would probably tip $5, in part because I think it’s the right amount and in part it would be easy to pay in cash at that amount. But if you’ve been tipping less, again that’s at your discretion. I’m sure your hairstylist appreciates any tip you give, just as she likely assumes you appreciate the lower price of a home-based business. I don’t think you should feel as though you have to give more. If she wanted to raise the price she certainly could.

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