Ask any woman in America who “does” her hair and you will be provided with a monologue.  It will be delivered in much the same way a spy cryptically delivers the formula for the H-Bomb.  It will be divulged quietly and abruptly.  If you are a close, personal friend you will receive more information than if you were merely an acquaintance.  After all, we don’t want the world to learn of the magic hands we’ve studiously searched for.  We found the prize and we don’t want to share. He or She is ours.

10 years, 6 weeks and 3 days ago I was forced to painfully re-enter the stylist search.  “My girl” decided to bear children and become a stay-at-home mommy.  I can still feel the panic rise in my throat when she broke the news.  I had six weeks.  I was being let-go.  My panic took on a life of its own and I dove to the depths of faux pas shame; I begged her to let me come to her home so she could continue keeping my coif in tip top fashion.  Yes, I am ashamed.

Back to the street I went, searching high and low for another master.  After six weeks and three days, I figured I’d throw the dart to a reputable salon and see where I landed.  A bad haircut was better than the grow-out.  I got lucky and have been a devoted follower of Melissa ever since.  This, my friends, is from a woman who thinks hair is hair and a bad cut will grow back.  For those of you who treasure your locks more than I, the agony worsens.

The rapport we have with our stylist’s is unique.  While a service industry, there are few professions that can compare to this one.  Would you ever consider confessing to your waitress at IHOP the same juicy tidbits you confess to your stylist?  I don’t think so.  You have a bond not unlike that of a marriage;  It’s privileged, confidential in nature and built on trust.  So, how do you reward your guru of hair magic?  By tipping.

Here are some general guidelines for the good, the bad and the ugly:

15-20% is the norm range for a good headdress.  This is taken from the total amount pre-tax (if applicable).  I know of some women in large cities (NY, LA, Chicago) who tip as much as 25%.  Opinions abound on the optimal amount.  My personal feeling is that a job well done deserves at least 20%.  While the total cost of beauty does not come cheap, try to remember that you re building a relationship.  If the total cost exceeds what you prudently feel you can afford, look for a less expensive salon option.  Good stylists can be found at every price point.

Tipping well can afford you some added perks.  Last year I needed to attend a last minute business conference.  Putting my best head forward was important.  The visible root exposure would have left me feeling less that professional.  My stylist generously accommodated my polite but urgent plea and squeezed me in despite her full schedule.  This would not have been possible if I’d been an average or sub-par client. She was rewarded accordingly.

Some of you frequent establishments where the duties are separated: Shampooist, colorist, stylist.  For those situations, tipping separately is ideal.  $1-$5 for the shampooist (the higher amount if you are treated to an extra treat (neck massage, ultra-lux conditioning, etc.).  15-20% for the colorist and 15-20% for the cut.  Unlike the food industry, tips are not generally separated by the stylist.  Indicate your tip amounts when making payment.

So…what if your stylist leaves you looking like Chewbakka?  Tipping 0-5% is permissible for the hair disaster.  But, dry your tears my dear.  Nearly every salon will try and rectify your coif.  If they are unable to satisfy your disaster, requesting a refund is acceptable.  If they refuse to refund payment and you still look like Chewbakka, well, it’s time to hit the streets and begin the hunt.  FYI…if you tipped the first round it is perfectly acceptable not to leave a tip for the attempted repair.

What if you have an adorable pixie that requires maintenance every 4 weeks?  For frequent cuts that total the annual cost equivalent of a Bentley, it is acceptable to reduce your per time tipping to less than 20%.  The exact amount is up to you but don’t dip below 10%.

Peccadillo avoidance’s

  1. Arrive on time or several minutes prior to your scheduled appointment
  2. Stay off the phone!
  3. Don’t come sick
  4. Sit up straight and don’t cross your legs.  Believe it or not, hunched posture or crossing your legs can alter the cutting quality.  Give your stylist every opportunity to ensure your do is perfect.

It’s been 10 years, 3 months and 6 days since I found Melissa.  We’ve shared many joys and sorrows of life.  While she’s not indicated a departure from the profession, I’m contemplating building her a house next to mine just in case.

Happy Pruning!