Tipping Hairdressers: A Breakdown on the Correct Etiquette
Hairstylists fill a lot more roles beyond just “that person who cuts my hair.” Case in point: that time you used your appointment as your own personal therapy session and vented about your flatmate issues for the entire duration of your cut (no judgement). In the end, we want to make our hairstylists happy because they, in turn, make us very, very happy.
But the thing is there’s a lot of grey area—which is exactly why we asked two London professionals all the questions you might feel too awkward to ask your own. Hairstylists James Pryce, Paul Percival, Anh Co Tran, Tanya Abriol, Nick Stenson, and Matthew Monzon gave us the scoop on what you should really do if you’re running late, unsatisfied with your cut, need to take a phone call, and more. Keep scrolling to hear their perspective.
How late is too late for a client to show up to their hair appointment?
Pryce: I think any more than 15 minutes then you’re running the risk of your stylist having to rush your haircut.
Percival: Fifteen minutes, really, but we actually encourage our clients to arrive five minutes early.
Abrio: Showing up 15 minutes late really is the limit, taking in consideration that typically each service takes an hour. Consulting what you want to change about your look, getting washed, and settled in takes another 15 minutes. At that point, it has run into 30 minutes of your appointment time.
Stenson: If a client is over 30 minutes late, it’s hard to keep the client experience at an acceptable level, so it’s best that the appointment is rescheduled. A long delay makes things worse for each customer who follows, and that’s not fair to your clients who arrive on time.
What should a client do if they’re running late? When should they call?
Pryce: A courtesy call if you’re going to arrive more than five minutes after your appointment time would be appreciated. Letting us know will allow us to plan our next appointment.
Percival: Always call the salon to let them know—the sooner the better as sometimes things can be moved around.
Abrio: If a client is running late, they should call at least 30 minutes before their appointment time. Stylists will, at that point, need to adjust the rest of their day so clients after them aren’t waiting.
Monzon: If you are running late for your hair appointment and you know you are going to be later than 20 minutes, don’t always expect your stylist or the receptionist to be able to sort it out. If you’re running more than 30 minutes late, you should plan on either rescheduling your appointment or know that you may have to wait some time. Know that your hairdresser wants to make you happy and help make you beautiful. But by being late, you are cutting into everybody else’s time.
Chattiness: yea or nay?
Pryce: Yae! I like to have a chat, especially if they’re new. It’s nice to get to know them as it may affect how you do their hair. It’s also important to realise when a client doesn’t want to talk. Some people like to catch up with some emails or read a magazine.
Tran: Chatty or not chatty, it doesn’t matter. It’s part of our job to connect with the client and vibe off of them. I’m happy either way!
Abrio: If a client isn’t chatty, personally it doesn’t bother me, although I really do love getting to know about a client. Everyone is different.
Stenson: It’s a personal preference, but I don’t mind it. I’m a “people person,” and I enjoy chatty clients. I especially enjoy when clients are interested in making sure to take the best precautions to take care of their hair and ask me for recommendations. Right now, I’m loving Matrix Biolage Exquisite Oil Protective Treatment (£10). It provides a lightweight replenishment and is great for all hair types. I recommend it to all of my clients!
Monzon: The salon experience is different for everybody. Some prefer to just take the time for themselves and not chat; some may want to chat about the latest gossip. The most important thing is to start a conversation with your stylist about the service that you want done with your hair. Bring pictures and references to show what is inspiring you so that you and your stylist are clear on what the finished result should be. That should always be the first conversation.
How much is too much when it comes to sharing things from a client’s personal life?
Pryce: I don’t mind clients confiding in me. If anything, it brings you closer. It’s nice to feel that they feel comfortable sharing something personal with you.
Percival: It really depends on how well you’ve got to know your stylist.
Tran: It’s up to the client what they choose to talk about. I just try to stay respectful and listen. I don’t like to get into an in-depth conversation with clients.
Abrio: When clients share personal situations in their lives, I really think they are aware of what boundaries have been set. I’ve had clients share the most intimate things, and I’ve had to dismiss a client because they shared too much and were just way too inappropriate.
Stenson: Listening is part of the business of a hairdresser. We expect to know things about our clients, and frankly, we’re here to listen.
Monzon: Depending on your relationship with your stylist, it can be a bit awkward when you share some more intimate or personal information. As relationships continue and you get to know someone better, maybe then a bit more information is acceptable. But if you think it may be a bit too risqué or politically charged, it probably is.
Is texting during a hair appointment okay?
Pryce: Yes, absolutely fine. We all have busy lives. That hour or two you have in the salon chair is a good time for a bit of life admin.
Percival: As long as you keep your head up and it’s not constant.
Tran: I personally don’t mind texting!
Abrio: Being on the phone texting during an appointment is such a common thing now. I think if you’re in the middle of a conversation, it’s rude, but if it’s not affecting the stylist and their work, it’s fine.
Stenson: If the client is the one texting, my policy is that it’s his/her time to do with what they will—as long as it doesn’t interfere with the cutting/styling process.
Monzon: Texting and cell phone usage have changed the way hairdressers work. Timing is important. For example, if you’re getting colour applied, most likely it’s fine. If you're getting a sharp, one-length haircut where the balance is important, then it’s definitely not a good time to be chatting or texting. But being in the salon, you should use the time to unplug, relax, and enjoy the experience of being taken care of.
What about talking on the phone?
Pryce: Most clients are aware that if they’re on the phone, it can be difficult for us to do our job. Feel free to answer your phone; just make it quick and try and keep your head still.
Percival: Not really, unless you are sitting waiting for your colour to develop.
Tran: It’s not okay. It gets in the way almost 100% of the time.
Abrio: Talking on the phone for a long period of time while having your hair done is definitely not okay. If it’s a quick chat, no big deal, but being on the phone really changes the dynamic.
Stenson: Talking on the phone makes it difficult for a hairdresser to work and so is very rude. The stylist and client need to have a mutual respect for one other.
Monzon: I’d say if you are expecting a very important call, then it would be okay—just ask your stylist on how they feel about it first.
How much would you expect a satisfied client to tip?
Pryce: I don’t expect a tip as I already charge £160 a haircut. Obviously, it’s greatly appreciated if a client does want too. Usually, it’s between £10 and £30.
Percival: Fifteen percent.
Tran: Twenty percent.
Abrio: Tips are a funny thing. I personally always tip according to my experience. I hate the percentage rule. It’s a good guideline, but a tip is a gift, and it’s such a personal situation.
Stenson: Clients who are satisfied generally tip 20% or more.
Monzon: When it comes to tipping, 15 to 20% should be the standard practice used.
Should they hand you the money or give it to reception?
Pryce: More often than not, I’ll collect my tips at the end of the week, and most of the little envelopes they come in won’t have the client’s name on them. So it’s always nice to receive it directly from the client. That way we know exactly who it’s from. Also, it’s nice to know that someone really appreciates your work.
Percival: Hand it to the stylist if possible.
Should clients tip your assistants? How much?
Pryce: Some salons assign every stylist an assistant. So, in this case, you’d probably feel more obliged to tip as he or she will be present throughout the whole service. If you feel they’ve been attentive and polite, then around £5 is a nice gesture. Remember they’re probably on minimum wage, so any extra cash is greatly appreciated.
Percival: Two pounds.
Monzon: When it comes to the assistants, know that these people are training to make them better and more knowledgeable hairdressers. They are living on the tips that they are making. When someone knows how to rinse all that colour out of your hair and gives you an amazing shampoo and scalp massage, all while keeping you dry, that’s when you can decide how much it’s worth. I know many clients think of the shampoo and scalp massage as their favourite part of the salon experience.
Should a client still tip if they are unsatisfied? How much?
Pryce: Absolutely not. As I mentioned before, I don’t expect a tip, and I’d feel embarrassed if I was given one knowing they didn’t like their hair.
Tran: No, I don’t expect that.
Abrio: If a client is still unhappy after I’ve tried fixing their haircut, I wouldn’t expect them to tip. I would expect little or no tip until you redeem yourself the next time.
Stenson: I don’t think anyone should have to pay for a service they are unhappy with. A hairdresser should make things right and try his/her best to make a client happy.
Monzon: A tip is something that isn’t expected. I think that a tip is something to show the appreciation for the time and execution of the service provided. And if the client is unhappy with the service, then don’t leave a tip.
What should a client do if they are unhappy with your cut or style?
Pryce: If you have an experienced hairdresser, then it’s very rare you’ll end up with something too much different from what you agreed on. Sometimes I find clients like the style but may just want it a little shorter. This is easily fixed, and the client walks away happy. However, if you’ve got it totally wrong, then you may have to grow it out before it can be rectified. If you’re really unhappy with your hair and perhaps you didn’t really connect with the stylist, then you may want to try someone else in the salon. The manager would probably offer you some sort of discount on the original service.
Percival: Always be honest and straight with the stylist.
Tran: It differs from person to person and how big of a change they are making, but telling me immediately so I can fix the problem is usually best.
Abrio: If a client is unhappy with their service, they should definitely speak up. Even if a client calls up two weeks later, they should feel comfortable calling and speaking up. Trust me: We’d rather make you happy than lose you as a client—most of the time.
Stenson: If clients aren’t happy, I’d advise them to speak up immediately so the issue can be resolved. Clients should never leave the salon unhappy.
Monzon: A client being unhappy is a very unfortunate situation; this is why references and inspiration pictures are very important. Also being very upfront about the past history of your hair is very, very important, especially when it comes to chemical services.
What if you have left the salon and realise you aren’t happy?
Pryce: Just ring the salon and explain what’s happened. If you don’t mind having the same hairdresser fixing the problem, then I’m certain they would not charge you when they rectify it.
Percival: Call the salon and ask to speak with the stylist or manager.
If a client has come back to the salon to fix a haircut or colour they were unsatisfied with, should they still tip?
Pryce: That’s up to you. If you feel they’ve put a lot of effort in to fix your hair and you’ve left satisfied, then feel free to show your appreciation.
Percival: No, they shouldn’t feel that they have to.
Tran: Only if they are satisfied!
Abrio: No, they shouldn’t be expected to tip. They already paid you for a service that wasn’t to their satisfaction. Please note: Watch out for people who try to get out of paying for anything by saying they are not happy with their service. There is a difference.
Stenson: Again, I’d encourage a client to stay until he/she is happy the first visit. If it’s a return visit, tipping is again a personal preference based on the circumstances. It’s always appreciated but not expected.
Monzon: If a client wants to change their long hair to a more modern length and then decides two days later they don’t like it, I think expecting any sort of compensation or refund would be completely inappropriate. But if they’re returning to fix or modify a haircut and the outcome is positive, I think the tip is at the client’s discretion.
Do you agree with the above? Sound off below.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated by Amy Lawrenson.