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Ask Amy: Should I tip a business owner?


Dear Amy, My hair is short and has been cut regularly by the same stylist for the past 10-12 years.

The stylist was always employed by a fairly exclusive salon, and since their prices kept going up two or three times a year, I kept going because I had established a good relationship with the stylist.

Knowing that the salon owner took at least half of what I was paying her (because the stylist made no secret of it), I always tipped my stylist 20-25 percent.

Now the stylist has left the expensive salon and gone alone to a small rented suite.

I was surprised when he kept the same high price for a haircut that the salon charged.

Am I still required to tip this person who owns the business and has set the prices themselves?

I feel like leaving the price as high as it was at the lounge would be enough to cover their costs and make a profit without me adding a tip.

I feel uncomfortable not tipping the same person because they don’t have a boss, but on the other hand I feel taken advantage of if I’m expected to add 20 percent to the already high price.

What is the correct way to handle this?

– Cut

Dear Undercut: Let’s say your stylist charged $50 for a undercut at the luxury salon.

You routinely tipped him another $10.

So, as of your stylist’s departure from the luxury salon, your regular haircuts were worth $60 to you.

You mention business reasons (she gave half her fee to the salon owner) why you chose to pay and tip the way you did.

Her stylist has now opened her own business and is paying her rent, utilities, and overhead. Have her abilities diminished? Are your haircuts not worth $60 to you anymore?

If not, you should patronize another business, and your stylist will have been given a helpful example of how your current prices work in the marketplace.

My general point is that it’s not your job to scrutinize this person’s business model and decide what their profit margin should be.

If you choose to continue patronizing this business, yes, it is now considered standard to tip the person who cuts your hair, even if that person owns the business.

Dear Amy, I am 67 years old and retired from a long nursing career.

I have noticed that more and more they call me “Dear”, “Honey” or “Hon”.

This happens in a number of situations, but probably most often in healthcare settings.

For the record, my husband (who has had gray hair since he was 30) has not been approached in a similar way.

I grew up in the South, and I know that these words of endearment are common and done without thought to the effect on an older person.

I realize I used this same condescending address a few years ago with a patient while I was working in a nursing home.

I didn’t mean to demean my patient at all, in fact I was fond of this patient and it slipped out on me.

There’s no ill will behind these words, but it’s humiliating and makes me feel like I’m turning invisible.

Is there a way to speak without embarrassing the speaker in a way that can educate them on how many older people are made to feel when spoken to in this way?

– Retired nurse

Dear Nurse, I hear from many women who feel exactly like you. I wonder if any patient really prefers to be addressed this way?

You are in a great position to reflect on this practice, certainly in a healthcare setting.

You can say, “I’m a retired nurse and I know this way of addressing older patients is common, but I prefer to be called by my first name.”

Dear Amy, I appreciated your response to “Anonymous” who was complaining about “kids outdoors” at family events.

Your opinion of this parenting style aside, I agree with your assessment that parents often tend to “review” family events.

We have a large family estate and the dangers are plentiful.

I love to see children running around, but they require supervision.

I learned this the hard way, running into our pond and pulling out a 3 year old, just before he went under. The little one just came in.

– Watchman

Dear Caretaker: These tragic accidents happen when parents are distracted, drinking, or, yes, unprotected.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @asking either Facebook.)

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