Subpar Service


For many women, regardless of economic standing, a bi-weekly visit to the salon or spa is the single escape we have from the reality of our hectic everyday schedules. That mound of homework waiting on your desk is the least of your worries while you’re getting your calves oiled down and massaged in the pedicure chair. Helping Mike Junior with his science fair project completely escapes you while your head is full of foils that will soon reveal new honey highlights. And the electricity bill that’s due tomorrow is the very last thing on your mind as that cloth strip nearly rips the melanin out of your bikini line—ouch!

Whether its a new ‘do, mani/pedi, brief massage, or wax, beauty services are a therapeutic ritual that we eagerly look forward to at the end of each pay period. Our stylists become stand-in girlfriends and confidants, getting us through personal situations just as they get us through bad hair days. They keep us looking our best and feeling even better, and to show them our gratitude—we tip accordingly.

Tipping Standards, According to CNN Money*

  • Hairdresser: 15-20% (Unlike in previous years, it’s now acceptable to tip an owner rendering services, unless otherwise noted.)
  • Shampoo Person: $2
  • Manicurist: 15%
  • Spa Service (massage, facial, etc.): 15-20%

* These figures are an average suggestion, and subject to your own personal discretion.

But every so often you have an ill experience that leaves you wanting to run out of the salon in a rage, barely paying the bill—let alone leaving a penny more of your hard-earned coins. So what do you do? To tip or not to tip? Now, unless the circumstances are extremely extenuating, I am a firm believer that a tip is in order upon completion of any service. I understand that those who rely on tips are making a very minimal—if any—hourly wage. So I’d be hard-pressed to justify not leaving them anything for over an hour’s worth of labor. But if you do happen to have a negative experience, be it a rude stylist, bad cut, or over-extended wait-time, you have a couple different options.

How to Deal With Bad Service

Request Another Stylist: If you have an inkling at the on-set of your appointment that things are headed downhill (due to attitude, communication barriers, etc), politely request another person to complete your service. Though the original person may not be too happy with this decision, you’ll be glad you followed your instinct and opted for a better person to get you glammed-up.

Ask for a Re-Do: If you’ve held out through the appointment, only to find out that you were not completely satisfied with the results, don’t hesitate to ask for a re-do. If you find that the color is not dark enough, cut not short enough, roots not straight enough—politely let them know. Explain what your initial expectations were in contrast to the result you received, and the stylist should be more than willing to correct the issue. Be sure to request such fixes immediately, though; don’t wait two weeks to decide that your hair was not styled properly and expect them to feel that it’s their fault by that time.

Tip Less: In the case of an extended wait, frequent breaks, or a subpar styling job, you may simply opt to tip less than the norm. As always, I recommend being courteous and respectful, and briefly explaining (via note or otherwise) how they may have improved the experience for further reference. Do not, however, punish the person rendering your service for something they specifically had no control over. For example, during my brief stint as a waitress, I once had a guest leave a nasty note on the back of a receipt that said, more or less, “You would’ve gotten this [measly*] $5 if that hostess wasn’t so damn rude in making me wait [during peak business hours for a whack ‘ol salad and Coke that I could’ve stayed my evil ass in the house for*].” Gee, thanks lady. [*My two-cents, lol]

Speak to a Manager: Sometimes you simply have to call on a person with more control. If you are completely dissatisfied with the service, ask the receptionist if you can speak with a manager or business owner. Pull them aside, out of the salon if need be, and fully voice your concerns in a calm, yet serious, tone. Make it clear that the experience could very well discourage you and friends from revisiting the establishment, and that you’d hate for them to lose business or credibility due to one avoidable mishap. Most often, when given sincerely and respectfully, complaints to the higher-ups will result in discounted future services, or even a full refund.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. To avoid awkward exchanges, revisits to the salon, or lengthy discussions with upper management, try the following suggestions, beforehand.

Tips to Making the Most Out of Your Salon Service:

Make an Appointment, and Honor It: The last thing you want to be is that girl who tries to sneak a walk-in and wonders why she gets thrown to the newbie and receives so-so service. Story of my life in the nail salon, since a pedi is usually the cure to a unexpectedly stressful day. To avoid feeling like the guinea pig during your day of pampering, make an appointment and get to it on time to ensure that your go-to person doesn’t get backed up and throw you to the wolves. If you’re not sure who to choose, call (or come in) well in advance to find out who’s specialties best suit your specific needs. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the person you selected is not comfortable with short hair, can’t do nail art to save their life, or has never applied a relaxer. Uh-oh!

Know What You Want: It’s very hard for a person to perfect the look you’re going for if you have no idea what it is.¬†Granted, we don’t always know how to verbalize exactly what it is that we’re going for, nor do we always know what’s best for us. But it certainly helps to bring pictures as a point of reference for the professional. Be able to point out what you do and don’t like in each picture, and they will likely be able to mesh the good things to reach a great final product.

Keep Distractions to a Minimum: It’s quite easy to miss an error in your service if you’re too busy running your mouth on the phone (telling the whole salon your business, at that) or trying to figure out where your toddler ran off to (she’s wiggled her entire body into the vending machine by now). Pay attention to what’s going on, especially in the beginning of your cut, manicure, or what have you. Make sure that they’re doing exactly what you requested before it’s too late and the error is irreversible.<

Feel free to share any bad salon experiences you’ve had, and how you handled them.

– Chelsea Smith

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  • okay this is my thing… its gonna sound stupid to the uppity folks on clutch, but why do we pay people a tip for something they’re SUPPOSED to do and already get paid for? thats just like giving a pilot a tip for landing the plane THATS HIS JOB!

    this is the second article on clutch that is kinda guilting and shaming people about giving tips in hair salons. hell, my stylist charges 80 dollars to do my hair why do i have to give him extra money (that i cant afford to give away like that) for something he is supposed to do?

    especially when i have an appointment for 3pm on a wednesday (hoping nobody would be there) only to wait and not even get washed yet until 4:45 because theres 5 other women waiting on the same stylist, AND im over here trying to get my hair washed and he goes off on the damn phone for 15 minutes while another stylist steps in and finishes HIS job.

    AND most hair stylists just style hair and dont actually care for it so unless somebody is going out of their way to exceed expectations and do a spectacular service THEN ill pay a tip.

    • Me27

      Ashley– you tip people for the service they are providing. The price you are paying is the price the salon charges for the service and only covers the cost of doing business. Depending on the salon, a hairstylist may not get paid by the hour and may not necessarily get paid for the service they provide because they have to pay that money back to the salon as a price for renting a chair in that salon. They make their money from tips… You should always tip your stylist.

      To address your other concerns: If you don’t like the service you are receiving (i.e. long waits, double-booking, etc.) stop going there. I firmly believe that no person should ever spend money in a place if they are not a valued customer. And you are right, most stylist only do hair and don’t focus on healthy hair maintenance. If you are looking for the latter and you find that your current stylist is not providing that; you should start looking for a new stylist…

  • shatyra

    i don’t tip. my tip it that iome to you every week c

  • Dendoo

    I live in japan at the moment and you don’t tip. It’s rude to tip because they view it as them doing their job. Granted they add like a charge anyway soooo lol but tip??? Oh no. You’ll cause some serious drama if you do.

  • Anonymous

    You can’t afford to go to these establishments (if you can’t afford the tip), then. There are alternatives: you can do your hair at home or go the salon less often or chose an establishment with a price point that you can afford so that you can include a tip. DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t apply to all people, but if the shoe fits wear it.

    Stop living above your means; if you can’t afford it don’t go. This applies to restaurants–waitress, at times the busboy and matrie’d/hostess; salons–hair stylist, shampoo girl/guy, manicurists/pedicurist; masseuse; hotel (e.g. bellhop, maid), bartender; coat check; valet parking; taxi; also pizza/chinese/insert cuisine here food delivery guy/gal etc.

    These are service industries where workers are not usually paid a “living wage” and many who serve (with exception usually of the salon owner/lead proprietor) do not have benefits (health, 401(k), etc). In service industries the “salary” is the cost of the service and the tip (although, as mentioned above, in other countries like Japan this may not be the case).

    TIP = To Insure Proper Service. Come correct. If you’re a cheapskate or can’t afford these establishments don’t go…

    I can’t believe that

  • Anonymous

    Amended: For subpar service, still tip but let the manager know that you are not happy with the service to see if they will correct it or make it right (often times the manager will comp or discount your service, too) and/or don’t return to that establishment. If I don’t get the proper service black/white/asian/latino/native american/multiracial WHOEVER is running the establishment I don’t return and I let others in my circle know about it! If it is a chain or franchise I will call corporate offices if I’m not happy or the service is out and out subpar/trifling. There is power in your dollar/money! Use it.

    P.S. If a (legit) establishment doesn’t have a license that is usually not a good sign; you are getting what you pay for!