The short answer to “when?” is “always.” The short answer to “who?” is “pretty much everyone.” The short answer to “how?” is “well.” Tipping should be the rule, not the exception. But there are always nuances.
First of all, when we’re talking about a service, we mean something like a haircut, manicure, wax, shave, shine, etc. Frankly, it’s anything where someone else is doing the dirty work, and doing a better job. Cutting your hangnails, trimming your hair, shaping your brows, etc. You don’t want to do that on your own, but you must show appreciation for those who do it for you. Also, often it’s about more than just being polite: In some cases, a service worker’s base pay is set with the assumption he or she will be getting tips, too. In other words, the advertised price is set lower because you, the patron, should be adding more on top. There are other variables, too. Like in a hair salon, a stylist could be paying to rent the chair they’re using, which could come out to a percentage taken out of what they make. Regardless of underlying reasons, tipping is important.
A good rule of thumb is to tip between 15 and 20 percent before tax. This isn’t a firm rule, but it is a good model. Say you’re getting a $12 haircut. For that, and other lower-ticket priced services, you should err on the side of tipping more, and feel free to round up. Five bucks is good. Remember that the person in question is standing near you with sharp objects, holding the fate of your fade in his or her hands. Manners matron Emily Post has some general guidelines for tipping here, and while she’s not exactly wrong, she views tipping as more of a carrot on a stick than a requirement, and that’s not a good precedent.
For any kind of body service, 20 percent should be your straight rule. This applies to manicures, pedicures, shaves, waxes, facials, etc. Unless the manicurist has caused you extreme bodily harm, such as cutting off your pinky finger, tip 20 percent, with a few exceptions. If you’re getting a really cheap $10 manicure, it doesn’t hurt to tip a little more. Honestly, if someone is touching your body in any way at all—like waxing your gross back, or worse, your balls—you should give them more. (And apologize). Really, tipping more never hurts. If you can afford to pay someone to rip the hair off of your genitals, you can afford to give them extra money.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you’re patronizing a place where the prices are low, chances are the workers are making beans, so if the point hasn’t been thoroughly expressed yet, please remember again to tip. Oh and also, if you’re picking up food rather than having it delivered, it’s still nice to drop a bit of dinero in the tip jar. If someone did work to prepare your food, you should show some appreciation.
Occasionally you’ll be hit with the question of whether or not to bother. Once again, the answer is almost always yes. Valet parkers? Tip. Shoe shiners? Tip. People handling your baggage at the airport? Yes, please tip! Tip tip tip, at the very least a dollar or two.
The other thing I must include here: if you can drop $5 on a fancy coffee, you can put a dollar in the tip jar. If you can’t do that, make your coffee at home (you ingrate!). This is not new information to some of you. Good! But it’s something that you can never be reminded of enough.
Image by Tara Jacoby.