Hair Affair: Tipping at the salon

Q: Should you tip the owner of a hair salon?

A: If the owner of the salon charges more for his or her services than other stylists in the salon charge, you do not tip. If he or she charges the same, then you do tip. If you aren’t sure, call and ask the booker or secretary if there is a difference in rates depending on who your stylist is.


  1. Suzanne

    Thanks for asking this question. There are many variations on it that I would like your advice about:
    Some salons are groups of independent stylists who have their own chair in the salon, with their own hours, etc. Should they be tipped?
    And others are small one-chair shops owned by a single stylist, usually in a rural area.
    And then other salons have a hierarchy where there are many stylists at different levels and price points. In a place like that, the lower the price, the higher the tip?
    Also, what is the standard tip amount in a salon?
    Thanks for your help. This has given me heartburn for a long time.

  2. Jody

    A friend of mine does hair out of her home (and charges much less than an outside salon). I always tip her on the theory that I’d tip a stylist at a salon so why wouldn’t I tip her. My usual is 20% — it’s only a cut but she does what I want and does it very well.

  3. PM

    I think this is an interesting question. I think you should always tip the person that performs the services. If they are an owner, they are still the one providing the service you normally tip for.

    I come at this as a massage therapist. CNN did a story referencing Emily Post. It shows that it is now acceptable to tip salon owners, but not massage therapists who are owners.

    I am sorry, but as a massage therapist, I own my own business, I can only do 20 hours of work per week and am rarely 100% full. I also am myself. That means that I don’t get a dozen people giving me a cut of their sessions, yet I still have to pay rent, buy supplies, and promote. I don’t have the economies of scale and multiple sources to help pay that, and split the resources. If I buy an ad big enough or often enough to get a response, I must absorb the extra cost, and turn away people or be overworked. (Overworked therapists is a major reason most therapists don’t survive past the 2 year mark–this is most therapists)

    Heck, just the other day, I put my heart into a 2 hour massage, They guy didn’t tip. He’s called back a dozen times wanting to get another. I am sorry, I just about killed myself giving a 2 hour massage, and get no tip, yet you like it so much you will call a dozen times wanting another. Sorry if you can’t afford it, get a 90 minute and tip.

    If I offer a deal, hey, you are getting a deal show some thanks. If you tip 15-20% when you get 15-20% off when you still save $5 off the original price. I price the going rate. In fact, probably the lower end of going rate. Granted, I am not some fancy spa, but I’m still providing a personalized and custom massage. I try to keep my rates low enough that anyone can afford to get a massage at least occasionally, but the biggest reason for a rate increase is non-tipping. I don’t care if its $1 at least try. I was charging $10 less, but people got cheap when the recession hit, and stopped tipping so much. Now I charge $10 more, and get the same amount I was before people cut back on tips. Only instead of $15 tips, I now get $5 tips, and a better clientele a clientele that often throws in an extra $20 for a $25 tip. meaning over all, I get more, and deal with less cheapskates. That means that deal you were getting is now gone. Again, I say show some respect, and tip. They will remember it when you come in next time!


    • Winifred Rosenburg

      The original reason for not needing to tip owners is that the owner would be able to make prices what they want to get paid instead of having someone else set the price for them. It’s traditionally assumed, therefore, that gratuity is included. So please feel free to raise your prices as needed. Customers should always feel free to tip good service even when they don’t have to, but you shouldn’t count on it.

    • T. Sensibility

      as a business owner, the cost of doing business is how you come to the cost of the service. A tip to the owner is simply additional profit. If you do something special for me that is not included in the basic service, (for instance I arrive late and throw your schedule off) then I will tip. If you make my experience somehow better with you than I would have with anyone else doing the same basic service I’ve paid for, then yes a tip would be appropriate. Perhaps if your prices are already so low that you are not making very much from each client, again, tipping is appropriate. While I would “appreciate” you doing all of the above, it definitely isn’t “expected”. Likewise, you should not expect a tip for simply doing the basic job I’ve already paid you, rather well, to do. Like any business, good performance results in repeat customers. My regular business and loyalty should be enough.

    • Ron walter

      Do you tip the person who ‘knocks themself out’ drycleaning your clothes, helping you find the right dress for a wedding, etc?

      • Elizabeth

        I would say that tipping is not exactly usual or expected in those contexts, but I can also imagine a dry cleaner or a salesperson really appreciating a tip as an expression of one’s appreciation.

      • Lori C

        There are also several other ways to express your appreciation. A letter to the business owner, a positive online review, and recommend this business to all of your friends in the area. If someone truly got you out of a jam a thank you note and perhaps a gift card would be a very nice thing to do.

  4. Heather

    I agree with the poster above who said “feel free to raise your rates.” I find it irritating when an owner posts a long list of things they do and says “You should tip me so that I can make ends meet!” All the “extras” (promoting, bookkeeping) are part of your job. Set your prices where they are fair whether than playing games where you set them low and then insist that tips are not optional.

    • Lynda

      I agree and feel uncomfortable with tipping professionals….Set your prices high enough to include tips if you feel necessary but don’t expect or pressure the client to come up with another 20% or feel like a cheapskate….I disagree with tipping people who consider themselves professional.

  5. My hair stylist owns the salon I use and is classified as a ‘master stylist’. I’m assuming this is the reason she charges an exorbitant fee from her clients. For this reason alone, I don’t tip her. After my last visit, however, I was asked (for the first time in all the years I’ve been going there) if I wanted to put her tip on my cc. Totally put on the spot and caught off guard, I said sure. $160. was the total, with tip, to color my gray and a cut. It took an hours’ time…After the cut I received (nonplussed), and the insensitive nature of that request, I haven’t booked another appointment with her. I really am torn between going back or starting over at another salon… Have I over-reacted?

    • Elizabeth

      The rule that one should not tip the owner of an establishment has become outdated. Your stylist expects to be tipped like any other worker in her salon, and it is the way that you communicate your satisfaction and/or appreciation of her work. However, if you’ve been going for years and only this once been asked about it–and you like her work so much that you would prefer not to have to find someone new–you might have a conversation with her about it. Otherwise, I would either continue going to her, and expect to tip a minimum of 10%, or go somewhere else (and expect to tip). I can’t say whether $160 is a good or bad price (it is more than I spend on similar services), but if you like the place and feel like you can’t get the color or cut elsewhere, then maybe it is worth it to stay. Like it or not, tipping for a hair cut/style is the norm, and it doesn’t get negated because the price is high.

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