Salon Ambiguity, Round Two: Tips on Tipping

1206032288If responses to our annoyance at blowout ambiguity are any indication, most well-coiffed Newbury salon patrons believe extra blow-dry charges are criminal. Case closed.

But since we’re on the topic, let’s tackle another area of salon uncertainty: gratuities. Specifically, are we supposed leave something when the salon owner styles our hair? (We’ve occasionally been handed envelopes for the owner, which we thought defied conventional etiquette.) And what percentage of our services’ total cost are we supposed to be tipping?

Since our mothers are woefully far away, we decided it was time to call in another expert. Enter Jodi Smith of Marblehead-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, who provided some modern mom-caliber advice.

Can you give us a little guidance regarding the whole tip-the-owner situation?

In the past, owners were not tipped per visit. Instead, their loyal customers would give an end or year gift and/or tip. But as customers became more transient (and as customers salon-hopped), some owners began accepting tips per visit. When owners are tipped per visit, the end of year gift/tip is adjusted accordingly.

Now, having tips envelopes upon request is fine and even having a basket of tip envelopes discreetly on the counter is also within the realm of reason. But to hand a tip envelope to a customer who has not asked for one is a bit grabby and greedy.

When the owner does my hair, I will tip the owner. If I regularly see the salon owner, I will tip at the end of the year. If I am salon hopping, I will tip for the visit. I do not tip an owner who does not directly provide a service just for the honor of being a customer at his/her establishment.

Let’s talk numbers. Can you break down exactly what we should be leaving? Do the percentages change if the services are uber-expensive?

I tip 15 – 20 percent for the person who did my hair, 10 percent to a colorist and $5 – $10 to the washer. (Although I did tip $20 once for an amazing shampoo/scalp massage!)

Even when the cut/color is uber-expensive, the percentages still apply. Yes, the tipping does get expensive. But if you are willing to pay $350 for a hair cut, you should be able to swing the appropriate tips. (Otherwise, you can go to your local SuperCuts and get your hair done for less than what you tip the shampoo person!). Luckily, in Boston, even on Newbury Street, there is a wide range of prices to fit almost every Bostonian’s budget. (I have been going to Nancy Carroll at Avanti Salon for over a decade. She is fabulous and could charge $350, but doesn’t!)

Bottom line?

There is no limit to tipping. There are some who are so thrilled with their new look, they’ll tip 100 percent or more of the cut cost.