Let’s talk tipping. Or the lack thereof.
This is such a touchy subject in part because there are so many different ways to look at clients who don’t tip. Tips mean everything to a service-based business — and yet, they are optional. So what do you do when you’ve got a regular client who doesn’t tip enough? Or clients who don’t tip at all?
When I owned my salon business — and now as a business consultant for stylists — the topic of tips (and how to get more of them) came up often. I am going to give you some suggestions on how to handle low tippers and no tippers based on my personal experience. But, of course, you have to do what you feel is best for your business.
What to Do About Clients Who Don’t Tip
Remind Yourself That Tips Aren’t Guaranteed
I truly believe that a tip is like a bonus. Expecting a tip is setting yourself up for disappointment. If you go in expecting one every time, you will find yourself upset and or even angry in the backroom.
Don’t get me wrong. Does it stink when you spend four hours with a client, and they don’t tip you or leave you $5? Yes, it does. I’ve been there myself. But try to think about it from the client’s perspective.
Some clients don’t understand the tipping game. They don’t even think it’s a thing, right? But then you have the clients that overtip. The ones that truly take care of you and give you more than the average tip (which is about 15-20% of the service value). The 25- or 30-percenters. It really does all average out at the end of the day.
The other side of this is that some clients just can’t afford to leave a tip. You may think, “OK, well don’t come to me if you can’t afford my prices.” But maybe they just love your work and have saved for months to come and see you. How fortunate you are to do what you love every day — and to have talent that people save up to use!
Price Your Services So You Stop Relying on Tips
It is incredibly important to price your services properly with profits wrapped into each service price. Then you are covered. The tip? That’s just extra. Fun money for you to spend on new tools or even some much-needed self-care.
So how do you do it? I often suggest to my clients that rather than fighting for more tips, they should change their business approach. Why not go with a non-tipping model?
How to Create a Tips-Free Pricing Structure
- Start adding in 15-20% to all services.
- Then make it very well-known you do not accept tips.
- Add a disclaimer to your online booking and site if this is the way you decide to go.
- Let your current clients know in advance that you’ll be changing your prices and why. This shift has to be very well thought out and very clear to the guests coming in for services — including repeat clients.
I have talked to a few suite owners that now build “tips” into their pricing and actually enjoy not having the pressure of relying on client whims — and feeling irked by clients who don’t tip. I believe the guests feel less pressure as well. They don’t have to figure out what 15% is on their service while they are trying to check out.
There are definitely pros and cons to this approach especially if you have employees. You have to make sure you are compliant with your state labor board in terms of compensation and commission. But it’s worth thinking about.
Or Try Online Booking That Automatically Suggests Gratuity
I don’t believe you should ever bring up tipping — or the lack thereof — to a client. This is a quick way to turn off your clients and even make them feel bad if they cannot afford to tip you. It puts everyone in a really tough spot.
That said, these days there are may payment processors that gently suggest gratuity when clients pay with credit cards. Schedulicity Pay, for example, now automatically suggests 18% as you check out a client.
This works well for a few reasons. It lets you avoid the awkward “Would you like me to add a tip to the total? …How much?”, and it also means clients don’t have to do the awkward math in their heads around a random $125 total. Plus, for those clients who don’t tip because they just don’t know they should, it’s a polite reminder.
Accept the Ebb and Flow Gracefully
That said, if a client doesn’t tip, or undertips, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it is what it is. I believe that is part of servicing guests — recognizing the ebb and flow of receiving big tips and not receiving tips at all. Going in with a clear understanding that a tip is a bonus and not to be expected can truly change the way you think about tipping and what it means for your business.