Tipping should be one of those no-brainer things. Tack on somewhere between 15 to 20 percent, and (generally) everyone's happy. But in the beauty world it gets a little more complicated...and awkward. A trip to the salon means not only a haircut, but a shampoo and a blowout -- sometimes by three separate people. Thus all deserve, though not equally, some form of tip. And what about those services that require a little more time and, well, care? Like bikini waxes.
We decided to get on the phone and call different salons and spas around New York City*, as well an etiquette coach to see what kind of gratuity people were leaving in some of the more iffy tipping situations. Check out our totally unscientific findings below, and let us know in the comments section how tipping etiquette stands in your city.
Nail services with more than one person: Recently during a routine weekend mani/pedi we ended up seeing three people, two different ladies for the pedicure. Actually, four if you include the guy who walked over and gave the massage at the end. The total wasn't that high, but it felt skimpy to just leave a few bucks for each, right? "You should give the full amount, whatever you want to give, and tell the manager, receptionist or your technician, to divide," said Jin Soon Choi, founder & owner of Jin Soon Natural Hand & Foot Spas. "Tell them that [however many] people took care of me, so please share. They will split accordingly." Recommended tip: 20 percent and let someone at the salon know you'd like it divided.
Salon shampoo: The sad news is these people (the ones who just gave you the awesome scalp massage) aren't always getting tipped. "I would say probably, but not always," Kristen Murphy, senior manager of salons at Bumble and Bumble Downtown, told us, "but when they are it's between $3 to $5." Recommended tip: $5
Blowout from the stylist's assistant: They usually see somewhere between $5 to $10 "because they're more present throughout the service," said Murphy. Though some salons suggest $10 to $20. Recommended tip: Depending on the price of the service, tip somewhere between $5 to $20.
Bikini wax: Even if the service isn't as much, salons generally see higher tips in this category. And deservedly so for the dear souls. Choi agreed, telling us it's "it's definitely more personal." Recommended tip: 20 percent or higher if you're feeling generous.
Service you didn't love: It happens. We get the person who rushes through the treatment, or it doesn't turn out the way we expect. We get really cranky about it and want to let them know by way of a next-to-nothing tip. But take a step back for a moment. The situation can be remedied by speaking to the manager who may offer up another technician or future credit. "If they are not happy, we try to fix it, says Mylene Tagounert, operations manager at Sally Hershberger Salon Downtown. "If they don't want to see the same person, we offer somebody else."
Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of Etiquette Expert, concurred. "If you're unhappy with the service you should say something, if you don't say anything, you should leave the usual tip and never go back. Or if you have a good relationship with your stylist, maybe you don't realize you don't like it until you get home, then make another appointment to get it fixed. Most hairstylists want to keep you as a customer, they want to make you happy. They would rather hear that you want it fixed, instead of you going to somebody else. The tip has a lot to do with not only your satisfaction, but also their time. Say if you're going to leave less of a tip, leave 15 percent instead of 20 percent, but a lot of the time, I would rather say something, and still leave the 20 percent and get it fixed. Typically, they won't charge you to get it fixed, and you don't need to tip for that follow-up visit." Recommended tip: 15 to 20 percent. Speak to the manager first to see how they can remedy the situation. Then make a decision whether you want to return or find a new stylist.
*We acknowledge that Manhattan has higher prices than most U.S. cities, so please keep that in mind.