$$$Tipping Into Confusion$$$

moneygirlI’ll admit that I have never been quite clear on how much to tip my hairstylist and her assistants. I live in one of the most expensive counties in one of the most expensive states in the country, part city part suburban where luxury services cost way above the national average. A twenty percent tip on top of one of two expensive services isn’t just a tip, it’s another fee, and a pricey one at that.

 How do I treat my hair without breaking the bank? I’ve come up with a couple of ideas. One is to write a really thoughtful handwritten note stating how much I appreciate my stylist and the job she does and mailing it directly to her. The act of going through the immense trouble of actually handwriting a note, slapping a stamp on it, and driving it to my nearest mailbox trumps any perceived insincerity of taking the easy way out like verbal compliments, email, or a positive yelp rating is apt to do. The online review does however work better if you mention your stylist by name. In fact, if you are going to write any online review, you should consider naming names. Anyone in search of a good salon is going to want to know who in that salon to see so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Another idea is to arm myself with a box of cookies or doughnuts on my next visit to show my appreciation. This strategy is prone to backfire by tempting those who are trying to watch their weight or who have unknown dietary restrictions. Food is always a risk. If people have to remind themselves that you were just trying to be nice and not willingly trying to sabotage their diet then food is definitely the wrong way to go. Unless you witness the crestfallen look on the face of your stylist when you hand her that box of cookies, you will never even know that your gift was a huge flop. This kind of pressure I can do without.

The question is do any of these strategies make up for tipping less than the standard going rate? What if you cannot afford a pricy tip on top of a pricy hair service? I save up change in a jar for my hair appointments and get my hair done pretty infrequently. Jar change is a pathetic way to pay for salon services but it does work. The trick is to save quarters.

The holidays are coming and they are the absolute worst time to visit a salon in my opinion. The expectation during this time to tip even more which doubles as a gift or a bonus. I try to plan my salon visits accordingly so I can completely avoid the salon during late November and December. I don’t care if my hair looks like shit during the holiday season. That’s what hats are for. It’s winter where I live so a hat is warranted anyway. In addition to the bonus portion of the tip I have witnessed people adding gifts on top of this such as wine, gift cards, baskets, sometimes cookies or chocolates. It is enough to make me nuts. It is not that my stylist is not deserving of gifts. Of course she is, but the overwhelming sense of obligation makes my stomach knot up. If you choose not to go the gift route, you will be inevitably reminded of all the gifts that your stylist’s other clients have brought because they will be prominently displayed all over her station, the overflow spilling onto the floor. Try looking for a clear spot to put your purse when you haven’t brought anything, better yet, just hold it on your lap because you are not worthy of a spot. The tip is really your last chance to spread holiday cheer if you have shown up empty-handed. In the end, you have no way of knowing if your bonus tip will even be noted for the gift it is. You don’t ever get a thank you after the fact. I am convinced this is the reason I witness so many clients gong out of their way to hunt down their stylist after paying the bill and personally hand him or her their tip. They want credit and who can blame them? No one wants the reputation of a bad tipper, especially during the holidays. In many cases, my stylist mysteriously disappears after I pay the bill and I am forced to leave her tip in a small white envelope at the reception desk. You have no way of knowing if your stylist even knows the envelope is from you unless you include your name which I am always reluctant to do in case she thinks that I am a cheapskate who doesn’t deserve her awesome artistic talent. I think about this stuff and it is torture but then again, maybe it’s just me.

Is there an online course where I can learn to do my own hair?

Tipping has really gotten out of hand in our society. I get restaurant servers needing to make twenty percent due to how pathetically little they are paid but what about everyone else? My son’s summer camp actually solicits tips for their employees by sending a letter home to all parents citing tipping guidelines because according to them so many of us parents ask for tipping guidance. Whatttt? I have never once asked for tipping guidance. This seems like nothing short of shameless solicitation to make up for not paying their counselors enough. They even offer up appropriate amounts, some of which amount to way more than I would be comfortable giving. Camps in my area can cost several thousand dollars for a full eight week program. Now we are expected to tip on top of that? Are you kidding me?

I realize that the main benefit to a mandated percentage subject to increases pertaining to industry and location, is that by tipping the agreed upon amount you are relating your satisfaction with the service in a way that leaves no doubt that the service was above standard. But what about the utter confusion I feel when having to tip on something like a salon cut and color? I was under the impression that the tip is based on the services themselves, not the products used. If I have a $30 conditioning treatment added, I am supposed to detract that from a single total and then tally the tip. Do you know what kind of mental math that entails while being complimented on my awesome hair by the desk person as her phones are ringing off the hook and other customers are booking appointments and paying? I am trying to look cool while feeling like an ass.

If by tipping twenty percent means that I am nothing less than 100 percent satisfied with my hair services, then conversely the opposite must be true. If I tip less, I must be unsatisfied in some way that I have chosen not to verbally acknowledge. This is usually the furthest thing from the truth. Recently, I received a cut and color from the salon I frequent. I tipped a little less than fifteen percent which is pretty consistent for me. The reason is because I believe this is an adequate tip. I am also generally very happy with the job my stylist does. I keep coming back, don’t I? Maybe I do have a reputation of being a crappy tipper at my salon and maybe my stylist secretly wishes to unload me on someone else. I sometimes worry about this too.

Don’t bother looking for online tipping amount guidance because all you’re going to get is some “expert” opinion which is constantly changing. It’s enough to make me want to pull all my hair out and just go it bald.

Recently when out to lunch with my mother-in-law, I tipped the waitress a dollar over twenty percent even though she could not tell me if the stuffed sole special was breaded and had to check with the kitchen. I felt somewhat vindicated.

Published in That Odd Mom