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Do I Tip For a Free In-Store Make-Up Demonstration?

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
Long time listener, first time caller.
I was recently wandering about a fashion mall with a little time to kill and I found my way into a Bare Escentuals. Now I know you’re not a fan of the makeup but that’s not the issue. As I was exploring the shelves a sales girl asked if I’d like to try any color. Soon I was seated on a stool in front of a mirror while a makeup artist redid my eyes (well, EYE, singular. She did one, I did the other…) My question is- do I tip? She showed me all the colors in an eyes & cheek kit and I ultimately bought the kit and another brush (about $75 retail.) Because I bought product am I off the hook for tipping? Did ever I need to in the first place? I always tip my hair stylist regardless of whether or not I buy product. Is this the same? HELP. She looked a little forlorn as I breezed out the door with my bag of goods. I hope I didn’t totally rip her off!

Well…it depends. It depends on the store, mostly. Some department stores forbid their makeup counter employees from accepting tips. Some stores allow tips. Some make-up artists work on commission or have daily sales goals, so your purchase is really the important part, and while a tip would be appreciated, it’s not necessarily expected. If you are paying for the make-up application itself (like at a salon or spa), you would MOST DEFINITELY TIP. But for these in-store makeup demonstrations where a product purchase is really the main goal, there isn’t any real set-in-stone policy or etiquette.
So I shall invent one: when in doubt, OFFER A TIP.
Now, I think you get just about every pass in the book though, since this was just a random, spur-of-the-moment thing. There’s no way the salesgirl could know if you even had any cash in your wallet to tip. Make-up demonstrations are undoubtedly part of her job, for which she is presumably making a decent wage for. (I have NO idea whether Bare Escentuals store employees make commissions [commenters? anyone?]. Sephora employees do not.)
If you made an appointment with a make-up artist, even for a free demo (like they offer at MAC), then I believe you should offer a small tip, regardless of whether you buy something. Services rendered, and all that. For an impromptu wrangling at the mall that ends with a pricey product purchase, I don’t believe it was some terrible breach of etiquette that you DIDN’T tip…but I also don’t believe it would have been rude or uncouth to offer one.
Now, I’ve already stated that I don’t think it’s required to tip for a free consultation at a hair salon, provided you are going to return and actually receive services from that stylist. They’ve done their job, they’ve gotten your business, you tip generously for their styling skills — NOT their sales skills at the initial consultation, if that makes any sense. Same goes for make-up artists. She was trying to sell you make-up, obviously, and you wouldn’t tip a salesgirl who simply recited the product’s marketing brochure and like, got you a kit from the top shelf. But for the demo (AND the instruction — my salon actually offers a “make-up instruction” service…and charges close to $100 for it!), I think that crosses into the realm of tip-worthy. Still a very GREY tip-worthy realm, and I’ll repeat that you DID NOT rip anyone off or break any universally-accepted tipping policy. But, you know. Next time. If you love the product and decide to go back for something else and the same girl is there and you’re thrilled with the demo and spend another $50 and you have a few bucks in your wallet that you don’t need for like, feeding your children or paying your rent: offer.
Worst-case, the store has a no-tip policy and the make-up artist turns it down. I guarantee she’ll STILL be grateful and flattered by the offer. Best-case, you’ve tipped a few bucks even when it wasn’t expected, and helped pay for her lunch in the food court or top off her gas tank. Kindness WIN!


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

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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  • Laura

    March 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I like the idea of tipping but am absolutely PETRIFIED of the whole exchange. How do you decide how much for a service like this? And how do you offer? Just hold it out brazenly? Try to slip it? Ask somehow? What if they can’t take it? Gahhh this is why I try to leave my house only when necessary.

  • Heather

    March 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    “Kindness WIN!” LOL. Tipping’s always one of those things I get confused about too.

  • Jess

    March 16, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    This is the kind of situation I avoid for precisely these reasons. However! I would say that since you didn’t ask for the makeup application and you ended up buying the damn product you are totally off the hook for tipping.

  • Kate

    March 16, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Interesting! I was a waitress for several years so I’m a die-hard over-tipper and it would never occur to me to tip after a make-up counter demo — although, I do usually buy at least one product after a demo, and ultimately, that’s much more expensive than tipping.

  • Amalah


    March 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    When the amount you’re basing a tip off of is kind of vague (i.e. price of the purchased make-up? hypothetical price of a make-up application?) I generally just base my tip on what I’ve got in my wallet: a few loose ones or a five or maybe a ten (if the demo was like, 45 minutes long and not some 15 minute quick sell). I generally don’t carry a lot of cash around, so if I’ve only got twenties or something, I admit I’ll probably skip the tip in a situation like this.
    But if I have an amount that *seems* like an okay tip, I then ask, “Do you guys accept gratuities?” with the money folded up in my hand but concealed — in my coat pocket or in my purse. If she says no, I’m not left there holding out a lame offering of cash. If she says yes, I can pass it to her immediately and quickly and the Whole Awkward Situation is over in a split second.

  • Stephanie

    March 16, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Interesting. I never even thought about tipping a makeup person. Ahh! All these tipping rules. Driving me crazy.

  • Heather

    March 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Amalah, I’m so glad you clarified how to do it in the comment! I got a long demo from a really nice salesperson once, she was super helpful and didn’t push me to buy products beyond the one I asked for at all. I knew I had a ten in my pocket, so I asked her if she was allowed to accept gratuities, and she looked at me funny and said no. Ever since I’ve been totally convinced that I committed a major faux pas by uttering the word “gratuity” or something like that. I probably read way too much into her expression, but I really didn’t get it. Good to know I was in the clear!

  • Alias Mother

    March 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I know you mean well, Amy, but this just seems overboard. Granted, I tend to be anti-tipping, but truly I think Americans may have slipped into tipping madness. I mean, when I tip (waitstaff, cabbies), I tip well but seriously? Now we are tipping salespeople for the privilege of selling us something? Would you tip the vacuum cleaner salesman if he did an excellent job of dumping coffee grounds on your carpet and then vacuumed them up with style? Stop the tipping madness!

  • Ashlea

    March 17, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I am so glad i live in Australia!
    Tipping here is not the norm, and i would never go out if I had to add 10% tip onto everything!
    But then I guess the cultures are different. We pay more in tax, which is included in the advertised price. And we also have really good minimum wages.
    I will tip in a resturant, but ONLY if i get very good service. I would never tip somebody for a poor/half assed job. Doesnt that defeat the purpose?
    Whoah… I think i need to shut up now.

  • Erin

    March 17, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I’m with Alias Mother. I think it is ridiculous to tip someone for performing a demo, even if it did include a makeup application, whether you purchase the product or not.

  • Melissa

    March 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I occassionally get annoyed at how tip-happy our society has become. Then I go to another country and wait 45 minutes to order my damn food, and miss tipping.
    My biggest pet peeve though, is places that aren’t supposed to accept tips, but still do. For instance, I once went to a salon where the owner styled my hair. When I paid, the woman at the counter asked if I’d like to tip on the card. I said I thought he was the owner. She kinda gave me a look and said, “Well, yes, but pretty much everyone still gives a tip.” Never went back.

  • class factotum

    March 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    My husband and I have argued more about tipping than we have about politics and religion and we are a mixed marriage on both accounts.
    I maintain that when the bored girl at Summerfest draws him a five-dollar, 10-ounce beer, of which there are no choices so she doesn’t even have to choose between two taps because if you want the other choice, you go to the other booth, and doesn’t even make eye contact, there is no tip. (No tip even with eye contact.)
    Tips are for the bartender who remembers what you are drinking, wipes off the counter, and gets a glass of water for your wife who does not drink and doesn’t want to be at the bar in the first place.
    Same thing at Starbucks. If I am ordering straight off the menu and you are not bringing it to my table or providing any other service other than again, making what is on the menu while I stand there and wait, why am I supposed to tip you? Yes, if I go into the store every single morning and you have my coffee ready for me or if I ask for some crazy off the menu combo, then I tip. But if I am asking for what you already make, that is all I am paying for.
    I used to wait tables. And I am still anti-tipping for most things.

  • Jessica

    March 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I’m also thinking this is overkill. Yes, the gesture may be nice, but unless you make an appointment for a full makeup application (say, before a big event or something) I think the tipping is too much.
    I agree with some of the posters – I think America has gone tip-happy. Tipping someone who provides a service and I know they don’t make any money (cabs, restaurants, bars) is one thing… Starbucks and DUNKIN DONUTS (yes, ours has a “tip jar” in the drive through) is too much, to me.

  • JK

    March 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I also kind of think tipping a salesperson for demo-ing their product is a bit much. As a former department store employee (with many high-end makeup counters), I can assure you that makeup demos, appointments or not, are part of those girls’ jobs and they are expected to do those as a sales strategy…not as a polite service in expectation of a gratuity. The makeup girls almost always have sales goals they must meet, and the demo is just a means to an end for them. Yes, they might be able to tell that you won’t buy anything before they do it, so they do it out of the goodness of their hearts, but I doubt that most major dept. stores even allow tips, except in the salon/spa.

  • EdenSky

    March 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Amalah, reading you is getting expensive. I’ve gotta say it would never have occured to me to tip for a make-up demo. Then again, I was well into my twenties before I learned that people tipped hair-stylists. Honestly I was pissed. I mean someone just charged me what I considered a ridiculous amount for the use of a pair of scissors and a little mousse and I’m supposed to give them EXTRA money? So maybe I’m just a barbarian.

  • Melissa Chapman

    January 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    As a former waitress/bartender who basically worked for $1.50 and hour and tips– I make it a rule to tip everyone– yes even if the service is bad…being a service person is hard work- any way you slice it– having to be nice to everyone no matter how obnoxious and small they may make you feel- you’ve gotta keep a stiff upper lip and work through it… just for that alone anyone in the service industry deserves a little extra cause g-d knows minimum wage isn’t paying anyone’s rent/mortgage. Oh yeah and those $8 frappucinos you’re shelling out for — unfortunately the barista who’s sweating it our behind the counter isn’t going to pocket any of it;)