Ah, tips. A topic that eludes our clients consumes us throughout the day and causes excellent relief at the end of the day or much grief. It’s an odd phenomenon that mainly occurs in this country. We’ve grown to depend on tips for our livelihood, so it’s only fair that we concern ourselves with behaviors and strong business practices that bring us more of them. However, are you focused on the tip only and not the service?

One of my first jobs in the beauty industry was a salon owned by a hairstylist, Kata Lekich, who became known for her progressive thinking. I considered her like a second mom. She called me her fifth daughter.  Her policies may run counter to your belief system, but here we go.

“NO Tipping” signs sat on her counters, that’s right. She provided profit sharing, a level system of moving up in the salon. As part of our graduation from each level, we needed to pass a curriculum and demonstrate our skillset on models, culminating in a show.  We didn’t offer hair coloring services either, as she believed that took people out of their natural harmony. She even wrote a book about her philosophy called, The Polluted Pond. These practices were unheard of and a factual statement to the public.

Many of you may balk at some of her philosophies, but what I loved was her belief in what she provided, which was an avenue for her stylists to make more, as they became better skilled, more booked, repeat business, etc. I know some of you may be asking the question, “How would I pay my bills without tips?” I get it, the tipping conversation is enormous, and some parts keep us bound in an ancient system that I believe is dysfunctional. I won’t go into all of it here, but it’s certainly worthy of a conversation.


“When we serve from a place of integrity, our clients can align with what is true, whether we receive a tip or not.”



You probably know about tipping because it is unpredictable by nature and not always based on your actions or how good of a job you do. Could it be solely based on the client’s philosophy about tipping? It is a bit degrading in a field trying to increase public awareness of professionalism in our industry. Is tipping one of the ways we hold ourselves back in our industry? Does it keep us bound in a class system?

So, let’s assume you do receive tips, love tips, and paying your bills depends on information. The notion that you must act as if they don’t exist may seem shocking. That’s right. If you can walk into the salon with a laser focus on providing for your clients at the highest level that is authentic to you and nobody else, you will not have to worry. Your tips will flow, and if they don’t, you can’t take it personally. You will know that your actions speak, your position will change, and your clients will recognize you as a person of high caliber, high integrity, and someone they want to support.

Be neither ecstatic nor down when you look at your tips. It is kind of like being unmoved by your success or your failures: it just is, but that does not determine who you are as a person. Monitoring removes you from yourself and puts you into your head and in a competitive conversation versus just serving. If you are pretending to care, faking your actions, if you are a woman turning on her charms by wearing clothes she thinks will get her male client’s attention to get more tips or a male hairstylist doing the opposite, it begs the question. Do you want to be seen as a professional or not? This kind of manipulation and maneuvering takes you away from authenticity, which is worthy of reading.

Another way I’ve seen negativity around tipping is by discussing it in the back room.  Or giving more or less service depending on what the client is known to provide for their tip, or assuming she can get more by dressing sexy for her male clients. Complaining about not receiving a large enough tip or no tip to your cohorts is unappealing. Not a practice to adopt my friends, and indeed not a reputation-building maneuver. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Did I do everything to serve her or him most respectfully?”

Kata influenced me a great deal, and her philosophy stayed with me over the years. I don’t know the reasons behind her “no tipping” policy, but I can guess. Tipping created a negative connotation, and she wanted to be transparent with the client about the charge for their service. She did not want them to be uncomfortable. She wanted to declare to her clients and align herself, her staff, and her salon with values they could all support. After all, their reputation was on the line.

Deciding not to accept tips is not popular thinking in this industry. And believe me, it was even less so 25 years ago. It might hurt to think of not receiving the income that tipping offers. Stylists depend on their tips to live, but what if we paid more in the minimum wage so stylists could earn a decent salary above the poverty level.  I guarantee you that when you focus on the service aspect, the tip will follow, but not from trying too hard. Business today requires values.  What are yours?



Keep track of your service quality, unrelated to your tip, for a week. Keep impeccable with your service, and see what happens.



Food for thought.  Read this article by Amy McKeever, Watch a TEDx Talk on the Terrible Side Effects of Tipping nor the Ted Talk, by Canadian restaurateur-turned-University-of-Guelph-professor Bruce McAdams.

Check this out and see what you think.  The Journeyman Barber, Hairdresser, and Cosmetologist: (1905), Volume 1

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