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Maggie Rants [and Raves]

Simple Math

by Maggie Franklin | March 26, 2010 | Bookmark +

I'm sure to re-address the subject of tipping several times over the life of this blog. For one thing, it's a perennial favorite subject for discussion and there are so many sides to the issue — in fact, my own feelings on the topic change daily.


Recently, it came to my attention that a certain member of my inner circle pays about $35 for a haircut. That seems about right for a decent hairstylist in this area. But it was the discovery of the $2 tip habit that caught my attention.


My immediate reflex was to be outraged. TWO DOLLARS?! On a $35 service? That's not even 10%. Why would anyone think that tipping less than 10% is acceptable? Seriously, less than 10% starts falling into an area where the tip feels more like an insult than a gift.


I know there are those among us who feel that "professionals" don't get tipped. Many of us have initiated strict no-tipping policies, others feel that tips are part of the industry. Many in our game expect tips — rely on them even. And I've known more than one beauty industry professional who has been decidedly fonder of the clients that do tip than the clients that don't.


Myself. Hmmm. It's a very uncomfortable subject for me to discuss with clients at all. I think I fall within the very wide band of "the norm" among the techs I typically talk to, feeling that I do, indeed, set my own prices. It's up to me to set my prices at a value that fairly compensates me for my costs of doing business as well as including a labor rate that represents not only a living wage, but also takes into account my years of experience and level of expertise. So I don't rely on tips to make up any part of my income — but if a client wants to kick down a little sumpin’-sumpin’ extra, who am I to argue?


I have a lot of clients who don't tip at all. And some of my very best (and even favorite) clients are among them. I also have several clients who would be embarrassed to tip less than 15% of their service. And I really, genuinely, appreciate their generosity.


And I have a handful of $2 tippers. The people who tip out of obligation, not consideration. Some of these clients are elderly women, from a generation where a dollar went much farther and meant much more. I smile wanly at those tips and bear in mind that those clients mean well. But for the most part, when a client tips less than 10%, it stops feeling like a gift. I doesn't feel like that person is giving me a little extra to say "thank you, you're worth more than you think." A particularly low tip feels more like, "I supposed you're expecting a tip too?" or "I'm better than you — you're a servant, here's a bauble for your time."


A poor tip can make you feel like your client is looking down on you. As though she feels that she's doing you a favor. It's insulting and it breeds resentment. I'd rather not get a tip at all. I don't want my clients to feel obligated to pay me more than I charge. I don't want them to resent me for expecting them to leave a tip and, believe me, when they tip so low it sends a heck of a message. A buck or two on a $50 service says loud and clear that they only tipped because they "had" to. And instead of endearing themselves to me, they've left me thinking, "if you don't like me, why do you keep coming back?"


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