To Tip The Owner or Not? Salon & Spa Owners & Editors Weigh In

Ask ten different people their thoughts on tipping salon/spa owners and you’ll get 10 different answers.   The Beauty Bug was recently put in this situation, and She admittedly was stumped. She asked around (spoke to a customer of an owner who doesn’t tip, but gives the owner a $150 cash as a Christmas present), Googled,  flipped a coin and consulted Her magic 8-ball only to finally make a spur of the moment, on the fly, game time decision. She tipped the owner. But, after doing so She needed clarification once and for all, so She  went straight to the sources. Should you be slipping the owners some extra cash on top of the fee for the service, or does the old school of thought that says you never tip an owner still apply? Here’s what the salon owners and magazine editors said…

The editors say…

“…as for the big question of whether or not to tip the owner of the salon or spa, that’s up to you. It’s  NOT necessary from an etiquette point of view, since the owner gets to keep what he’s paid (ie. doesn’t have to give a cut
to the salon/spa).” -Kristin Perrotta, Editorial Projects Director, Allure

“The old rule for tipping salon and spa owners is: Don’t tip them. This always felt a little weird to me, so I compensate by over-tipping any assistants, shampoo-ers, etc. Since there’s hardly a business on earth that hasn’t been affected by the economy, I now think it’s OK to tip owners it’s not like you’re going to insult them! Just be ready to re-pocket your tip if they refuse it, or better, simply hand it over to their assistant(s). You can’t go wrong tipping; I think it’s better luck than throwing money in fountains! Everybody wins with a good tip, no? -Jean Godfrey-June, Beauty Director, Lucky Magazine

Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from salon owners throughout my years as a beauty editor, it’s not customary to tip an owner if they provide your hair or spa service. You should however tip their assistant — if they have one — and if the assistant helps with holding foils, washes your hair or blow dries it. The amount of the tip can vary from at least $10 to the usual 15-20 percent you would tip your stylist. Depends on how generous you’re feeling and how hands-on the assistant is. If they have more than one assistant and both help out, you should tip them both.  -Kristen Giordani, Senior Beauty Editor,

“I find myself tipping them more often than not because usually they were just a stylist or colorist before they owned the salon and we developed our relationship. If you’ve tipped in the past and now they are the owners, I would keep tipping. If you are unsure, ask at the front desk if the owner takes tips or not and follow their lead.  If it is a new salon for you and you see the owner, you don’t need to tip.  But honestly, when I ask at the front desk lately, I am finding more and more owners taking tips…” -Andrea Pomerantz Lustig, Columnist, Glamour Magazine

“Whether or not to tip a salon owner is a touchy subject. There’s really no clear “yes” or “no” answer. It’s at your discretion. Some owners may not accept them and others definitely do. If you are super happy with your service, you can leave a tip. In some cases, if the owner doesn’t accept gratuities, she will kindly distribute it to her assistants. When in doubt, discreetly ask the front desk about the salon’s tipping policy and then make your decision.”-Holly Carter, Beauty Editor, People Magazine

“If you’re lucky enough to snag a coveted appointment with the owner of a salon or spa, mind your beauty manners. The rumor about not tipping an owner is wrong, wrong, wrong. When asked directly, salon owners may suggest they don’t expect a tip, but trust me, they’d love one. When I first started as a beauty editor, I’d send an orchid with a note, but after 10 years of asking their assistants, I now know the real rule of thumb: cold hard cash. Think about it: The salon owner runs a business, so a generous tip goes a long way. Some pros may turn down a face-to-face tip hand-off, so leave 15%-20% of the service in a discreet envelope at the front desk. Plus, don’t forget to tip the assistants. They slave to make you look your best, too!” -Polly Blitzer, Editor-in-Chief, Beauty Blitz Media

The owners say…

“It is my belief that clients view tipping as a way to show appreciation. While I do think it’s not necessary to tip the spa/salon owner (and I tell my clients they do not need to give me a gratuity) many of them will insist. It’s a form of a gift and some clients just insist and so it’s good manners to accept it and be gracious. I think as a general rule, owners should discourage accepting gratuity.” -Renee Rouleau CEO, Renee Rouleau Skin Care Spas Dallas, TX.

“It is generally perceived that the owner of the salon doesn’t get tipped; presumably because they are profiting from the salon. In theory that sounds good, but is generally not the case. A salon owner, unless he is ripping off his/her stylists, is generally working as hard as his staff to keep the salon afloat. Tipping is a show of appreciation to the person who did your hair, whether its $20 or $100, it is a personal choice.” – Dickey, Owner, Hair Rules Salon, New York

“…tipping an owner of the salon it is not expected but would be accepted.  The usual tip is 20% of the original service and is based on how you are taken care of by the staff, your experience and how happy you are leaving the salon. ” Joel Warren, co-owner of Warren-Tricomi Salons, New York, Los Angeles, Connecticut.

“It is classy for salon owners to refuse tips all together.  In the 40 years I’ve been doing hair as a salon owner, I have never taken a tip from a client. Salon owners should charge considerably more than their staff. The experience and technique level are a higher value and therefore their prices should be above the employees.  If the client insists on tipping, tell the client that as the owner you don’t receive tips but instead suggest they put that tip money into buying a hair care product that will benefit their hair.  Also salon owners need to remember that if they do take any tips to make sure they declare them to avoid any problems.” -Philip Pelusi, owner, Tela Design Studio, New York

“Being a celebrity and editorial stylist in addition to being a salon owner, I don’t cut hair as often as my staff does. However, I think it is appropriate to tip a salon owner who still offers client services, because it’s just that — a personal service. In addition to the enormous level of business risk they’ve put in to open up their salon, they’ve also put in years of experience to get to their technical expert level, so if the client is happy with the outcome, he/she should feel free to tip as they normally would.” —Erin Anderson, co-owner and artistic director of Woodley & Bunny Salon and Apothecary, Williamsburg, NY.

“The generosity and graciousness expressed by our salon customers is and always has been about more than money.  In New Orleans, they say “lagniappe”, which means “a little something extra” – like a baker’s dozen — and to me the tip represents part of that generous spirit, rather than something that is needed to be certain a stylist will do quality work. I do think it is acceptable for a client to tip a salon owner for a great service, especially when it comes out of true appreciation rather than as an expected add-on to the bill.” -Sam Brocoato, owner, Sam Brocato Salon, New York.

1 Response to To Tip The Owner or Not? Salon & Spa Owners & Editors Weigh In

  1. Andrea Claire

    I used to assist an owner of a high profile salon – he gave all his tips to me.

    A number of salons have tipping envelopes which also eliminates the awkwardness in tipping.

    I believe the owner should be tipped IF that is how you feel and the owner should not refuse it as the client will only feel embarrassed and awkward. The owner can give the tips to the assistant staff or donate tips to charity, if he/she feels strongly in not keeping it.

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