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To Tip or Not to Tip: The Salon Consult

By Amalah

Our intrepid advice columnist is still on maternity leave. Here is a question she answered before her new baby, Ezra’s birth, in preparation for time off with her young ones. Applause, please.
Hi, Long-time reader, first-time emailer.
So, although my question will not be answered before I need it to be answered, I am asking anyway since my haphazard googling produced NO USEFUL RESULTS and others might want to know the answer to this all-important-question.
(big breath)
If I am going to my usual salon for a consultation about a service (not with my usual stylist), do I tip the stylist doing the consulting? It’s a free consultation (wait, I guess it is, but who knows?), and will likely end with my scheduling the service (which is not an inexpensive one).
I have discussed the above question with several really smart PhD students and we haven’t come up with anything outside of “google it” (which might say something about PhD students in general, I’m just saying).
Okay, that’s it. I hope you can succeed where we have failed!

No. You do not tip during a free consultation. You tip when actual services are rendered and received to your satisfaction, and that tip is based on a percentage of the charges. So…no tip for a visit that incurs no charges, or when the only “service” rendered is a discussion of…future services to be rendered. The salon is the entity that has decided to offer consultation services, and will be paying the stylist for his or her time.
Obviously, the point to the consultation is to ensure that you make the appointment for the expensive service, but also to help ensure that said appointment goes well and you’ll end up thrilled with the results — and will therefore tip the stylist generously (20%) at that point in time.
Think of a consultation as an interview. You don’t get paid for a job interview, you don’t pay people YOU might interview or prescreen before hiring them, be it a dog walker or babysitter or window washer. Same concept, more or less.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Hey what about a complementary bang trim? My stylist offers those between my regular haircuts…do I tip every time?


I tip for bang trims, but I consider that different than a complimentary consultation — I have a relationship with my stylist and want to convey that I appreciate the service and her time. My bang trims take about five minutes and I generally tip about five bucks. More of a gesture than any set percentage, although I once went to a salon that charged $10 (!!!) for bang trims, so by the 20% rule I’m hugely overtipping, but again, I appreciate that the salon DOESN’T charge for the service, so yay! More money for my favorite stylist.