Monday, April 23, 2012

The Delicate Question of Tipping

Yes, it's true: it is traditional to tip your salon professionals. Including the nail lady.

If you ask Ms. Manners, or Dear Abby, or whoever you go to for this type of advice, you will find that "etiquette" dictates a 15%-20% gratuity with each service and birthday and Christmas presents should be equivalent in price to one service.

If you ask me how much you are supposed to tip, I will blush and stammer and try to change the subject.

Yes. Tipping is standard in the salon industry and I would dearly appreciate it if you saw fit to slide a little extra $$$ my way to say "thank you" when I don't charge you for repairs, or when I do nail art for you anyway even though you were 15 minutes late, or when I don't enforce a policy like making you pay for a missed appointment.

I appreciate it when clients tack on an extra buck or two for my Starbucks habit or to go toward the glitter fund.

And I really appreciate the clients who take the time to do the math and actually calculate 20%.

But I also really appreciate the clients who don't tip. But keep coming back, week after week after week, and who refer me to their friends, family and co-workers. Who don't gripe about prices and occasional price increases, who understand why I have policies and why I need to enforce them. The people who respect me as a professional and enjoy me as a person...the fabulous clients who keep me in business-- whether they tip or not.

And tipping-- no matter how extravagant-- does not make up for being a lousy client or obnoxious person. I don't care if you tip 100%, it won't ingratiate you to me to the extent that it's ok to blatantly ignore my policies or treat me or my other clients rudely. No amount of money will make certain behavior acceptable and you can't buy your welcome.

And in today's salon business where most salon workers are booth renters and most salon owners are working their own booth-- the tradition of not tipping the salon owner is out of date. If the owner of the salon is the person who performed your services, then it's appropriate to tip according to standard practice.

It's a delicate topic all the way around. Some nail techs have opted to simply not accept tips at all. Some nail techs gripe about the clients who don't tip. Some-- most-- are much more concerned with whether or not their clients return happy than whether or not they leave more money than the price of the service.
It's far more important to build a happy clientele, full of loyal customers who return regularly and give positive reviews of your business and your work that perpetuates your success than it is to count on a few extra bucks on top of the price of service.

It turns out that a lot of people-- especially young people-- are genuinely unaware that tipping is a traditional practice in the salon industry.

It's always an awkward situation to find oneself in, when you learn that nail techs get tipped and you haven't been. And it's just as awkward for me when a client tells me they never knew they "should" be tipping me!

I don't want my clients to think that I judge their value to my business based on whether or not they tip-- or how much.

I hope that my clients know that I value them as people as well as clients and that I base their value on their loyalty to me, on their respect for me as a person and a professional, and on the quality of our time together during their visits to the salon. Much the way we all determine the value of the people in our personal lives-- based on the quality of the relationship.

So the answer to this frequently asked question is "Yes, it's appropriate to tip your nail lady." But most nail techs (and massage therapists and hairstylists) aren't expecting it, and would prefer a reliable, respectful, loyal client than a tip from someone who thinks it's supposed to make up for treating us poorly.


  1. Thanks for that article, much appreciated.

  2. I agree that I do not expect a tip. I discourage in fact. I have my prices set in a manner that tipping is not necessary. I do have a sign that says "tipping is not necessary, but chocolate is encouraged". I still get tipped pretty regularly and I accept it with grace, but I make sure all new clients know that I do not expect it. I do enjoy the occasional piece of dark chocolate, however!

  3. Most of my clients tip, but it's the ones who tip well who get special treatment at times when they most need it.....coming in on my days off for an emergency repair or fill, opening early or staying late. The rest just have to wait til I can find the time for them....

  4. I always tell my clients that tips are appreciated but not expected. Most tip reguarly, some don't tip at nail apt but when my birthday or Xmas comes around they are very generous.

  5. Beautifully said, you should be very proud of yourself, a very dedicated lady indeed. Well done.