What Would You Do: Tipping Assistants
It’s a surprisingly common dilemma in salons: how do you handle tipping your assistants? If they are tipped out, how much do they get? Is there a fixed system in place, or are tips given on a per-situation basis? Are clients supposed to tip assistants? One member of the BTC Community wanted these questions answered, so she reached out to us for help.
“I started at a salon a few months ago as an apprentice/assistant, and I was wondering if it’s normal to not be tipped out? I get tipped maybe $10 a week if I’m lucky, and I’m even doing blow-dries and styles for the stylists. This culture doesn’t seem very normal to me, especially at a higher end salon with prices on the steeper side. AND the assistants are in charge of cleaning the entire salon (including bathrooms) and the laundry has to be done about 15 times a day by us, too. I make minimum wage. Would love some help with this!”
Predictably, responses varied from “absolutely” to “no way!” Read some of the best replies to this divisive question below, and weigh in!
Of course you should be tipped out!
In one camp are the BTC-ers who believe that tipping assistants should be mandatory. After all, they say, they are the backbone of the salon!
“Most of my clients tip our salon technician and if they don’t I make sure to. Usually $2 to $3 for shampooing and $5 for color. She is the reason we run so smoothly!” –@connicreelman
“Our assistants get tipped out $2 for everything they do. (Shampoo: $2. Shampoo, treat, tone: $6.) Our assistants allow me to double- triple- even quadruple-book. Without them, I couldn’t make the money I’m making.” –@haircraftandmagic
“The assistant works hard so we can help more clients. Yes, they are learning from us, but we also need to teach them to treat the people around them with respect, and that includes showing the people who help you what they are worth. Minimum wage is not enough for how hard they work in a busy, high-end salon. Yes, yes, yes—tip your assistant!” –@rosaharris20
“I typically give my assistants $5 for every guest they are hands-on with during my day, but will throw down more money if things got crazy. I personally don’t feel right not giving gratuity at the end of the night!” –@beautybyjonathan
“We tip our assistants. We have a price list in the back room that has a breakdown—for example: “blow-dry Cara’s client: $3,” or “apply Beth’s client’s color: $4.” We put a check mark next to each service and we tip out after an assistant’s shift…and as far as cleaning, everyone in the salon should be doing so!” –@carapeters1983
“A great idea is every Saturday get an envelope and have everyone pitch in what they can anonymously and split with all assistants.” –@jimmyhilton
“The salon where I work does 5 percent tip share to the apprentices.” –@lifebycarac
“I have been a stylist and salon owner for 26 years. I definitely don’t think it’s the responsibility of the client to tip…and as a stylist receiving help from an assistant, you better believe I’m going to tip them. Even if they’ve just swept hair and folded towels all day—that’s still a tremendous help. What I would like any individual to learn while assisting is that every facet of the salon environment is valuable, everything they do is appreciated and we are all team players. They work just as hard as we do—sometimes harder. Can you imagine at the end of a nine-hour day going to another job?” –@ariasalonabq
“I work in a high-end salon. Our assistants make an hourly wage (a little more than minimum wage), and they are expected to clean the salon and do laundry. We, the stylists, pay them $1 for a regular shampoo, $2 for a color or highlight, $3 for a perm and $3 to apply and rinse a toner.” –Jodie Gontarek Clarke
But there are other stylists who believe it’s not so black and white—and tipping should be a case-by-case situation.
“When I was an apprentice, I only got tipped by the clients, and this varied a lot. But when I became a stylist I would only share my tips with the apprentices if they were especially helpful/professional/enthusiastic, and in my experience, that’s the same with a client, too. Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are getting trained, the salon is giving up time to train you, hence the minimum wage.” –@fringeyemz
“When I was an assistant, I wasn’t tipped out. Sometimes—if I really saved someone’s butt—the stylist would throw me $5 or $10. When it was $20…man, I was thrilled with that. I try to do the same.” –@hairbymisskellyo
“If you are learning and growing, stay. If you aren’t, leave. I was in the same situation during my apprenticeship and the education was weak—I should have left. But if they’re teaching you valuable education, suck it up.” –@hairbyashmo
“When working with the assistant at my salon, I tip out according to how much work they do for me personally—aka greeting my clients, helping with styling and shampooing. They should be helping you out because without your help they wouldn’t be able to see those extra people you’re finishing.” –@bexbeautyyy
You Have to Pay Your Dues
And still there’s a whole other group of people who believe that education is an assistant’s payment—so they shouldn’t expect any extra compensation.
“I made minimum wage when I assisted, and only was tipped out when clients handed me a tip. Holidays I received a bonus. But the amount of knowledge and tips I got out of assisting was well worth it. Just keep in mind you’re constantly learning while assisting!” –@lakinceleste
“When I started out 18 years ago, my hands would bleed I would do so many shampoos and rinse so many perms, and I never expected to be tipped out. Sometimes the clients would tip additional to me and very occasionally the stylists would buy me a drink. But other than that I was a starving artist who started at the bottom. And this was also a very high-end salon. Now, this makes me appreciate all the hard work I put in—it made me a better stylist. Good luck, and stick it out! I promise it’s worth it.” –@prettylittlebob
“As an assistant/apprentice you are being paid to train and learn from experienced stylists. There should be zero expectation of tips. Take into consideration that your training is FREE! That’s truly what you’re getting out of “apprenticing.” More than likely you were given a job description and you agreed to do that job for the pay rate you receive.” –@ohanasalonco
“If you like the salon and need the experience, don’t worry about the money. Hustle so you get to their level. Also while you’re learning, make sure you’re using that skill to try to build clientele on the side that WILL tip you and help you with extra income.” –@marian_scissors
“I don’t think tipping should be expected. I assisted for over a year at a non-tipping salon, but I did feel like I was taken care of. Even though I trained for more than 60 hours a week on less than minimum wage (I was salary), the education was invaluable. We had a generous benefit package (which is unheard of in smaller salons) and my fellow stylists were all respectful and helpful. I was bought lunch and felt appreciated. It was an all-around positive culture. I’ve been doing hair for over 15 years and can honestly say that experience gave me the building blocks to be great, technically, but also to be humble and loving (which attracts clients that’ll take care of you). I think it all depends on the salon culture. Find a salon that values what you value. –@ms.a.so