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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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