Tipping at salons used to be simple. Tip the person who cut your hair, plus a little something for the shampooperson.
Now customers can be handled by a stylist, a colorist, and assistants. Whom do you tip, and how much?
Unlike with waiters at restaurants, tips are not a stylist's main income, says Robert Novel, co-owner of Georgetown's O Salon. Tipping is seen as a nicety, not a necessity.
Tricia Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute in Vermont, suggests you tip a stylist 10 to 20 percent. If you're getting color and a cut from different people, tip each 10 to 20 percent of his or her specific service, not the total cost of the appointment. Post says that you should tack on more for exceptional service, particularly for stylists who come in early or stay late.
Traditionally, clients don't tip salon owners. Novel says there's an understanding because an owner's income is higher than an assistant's.
If a stylist's assistant blow-dries your hair, you might tip $2 to $8, depending on the length and quality of the service. Shampoo assistants who wash your hair before a cut get $2 to $5, while those who perform more-difficult washing after a coloring should get more, $5 to $10.
Be sure to bring cash; many salons won't put tips on credit cards. Serena Chreky, of DC's Andre Chreky Salon, says this is because any "after transaction" charges written in by a customer require an electronic adjustment. This costs the salon an additional fee.
"All salons can put tips on credit cards if the owner chooses," she says. "The fees add up quickly, and many small-business owners cannot afford to incur these expenses."
What if you end up with a haircut or color you hate?
If you're displeased, Post doesn't advise forgoing a tip as a protest. She recommends leaving a nominal tip, then taking your complaint to the manager. "They want you to leave the salon happy," she says.
What if you can't afford all these tips? Post says salons understand that college students and young professionals are on tight budgets. If a monetary tip isn't possible, there are other ways to show your appreciation, says Jacqui Davis of downtown DC's PR @ Partners: "A heartfelt thank you and being told what a fabulous job we just did always strokes our ego and puts a smile on our face."