Are You Tipping Too Much? This is How Much You Should Tip a Barber

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Tipping culture has gotten out of control, to be sure. There’s nothing wrong with tossing some extra money to signal outstanding service now and again, but recently, it seems like we are all expected to tip on everything. Still, there are some places where you are supposed to tip, historically, and just to be a good person. Today, we’re going to look at the ethics behind tipping your barber. Are you tipping too much?

Tipping is a cultural thing, and as such, there are certainly going to be some disagreements with our methodology. What is that methodology? Some resources online (mostly forums), sure, but also, a healthy dose of editorial discretion from someone who has been getting their hair cut by a barber since, well, they had hair to cut. Regardless, there is always room for your specific situation, so don’t get too worried if it’s not addressed directly. Let’s get started.

How Much Should You Tip a Barber?

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In the United States, between 15% and 20% is the standard tip for a barber.

You should tip your barber between 15-20% in most cases.

See, not all that difficult. Generally speaking, barbers operate out of a studio or rent a chair and pay part of their daily income to the person they are renting space from. In some situations, a barber may be salaried, but this is much less common.

Regardless, in scenario one, where a barber is renting a chair, you are helping to negate the costs incurred by your barber. At least at a practical level. This doesn’t even consider the fact that your barber also has costs associated with tools, maintenence, and hair products (many of which need to be refilled daily). When you tip, you are contributing towards these costs.

In scenario two, we can speak less about the practicality of things and more about honoring good service. In the service industry, at least in the United States, pay is often tied to the perceived “quality” of the service provided. The keywords here are quality and service provided. This is why you don’t (or at least shouldn’t) be paying a 20% tip when you purchase espresso to-go from a coffee bar. The service provided is limited to you being handed a coffee within a few seconds of asking for it.

The tip is a way to quantify the quality of service. In many cases, 15% is a cultural floor, with 20% being the average and a way to show you appreciated the service. Anything above 20% is seen as a kind gesture or a way to signal that you were truly impressed or apprecitated the work that was done.

Is Not Tipping Your Barber Legal?

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It’s not illegal to not tip your barber, but it’s a cultural expectation.

Tipping isn’t a legal requirement, but a cultural one. If you plan on returning to that barber, it would be a good idea to tip them for their service. Not tipping, in the United States, is seen as rude. This is true with any repeatedly frequented establishment, whether that be a bar, restaraunt, and of course, a barber shop.

Is it Ever Okay Not to Tip Your Barber?

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There are some rare situations where you may not tip your barber.

It’s a good idea to assume that you will always be tipping your barber 15-20% every time you sit in their chair. Still, there are a few exceptions, but they always involve communication.

For example, if your barber is new or just starting out, a haircut may be free. In this case, their services are offered for free, and a tip could be anything that wouldn’t be an outright insult (it’s hard to quantify this, but between $5 and $20 feels right). This isn’t common and usually occurs when a family friend is learning the trade and wants people to practice on. You’re taking a “risk,” and so you aren’t paying full price.

Another instance where you may not pay a tip is if you have a personal relationship with the barber and they have made clear they don’t need a tip. This may be because their price includes the costs associated with cutting hair, or they want to provide a certain level of experience to the customer. In some high-end service industries, this is the case, and a tip is politely declined. Again, this is quite rare and isn’t something most people encounter.

Should I Tip My Barber in Cash?

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Cash is almost always ok, but some people prefer digital payments.

When it comes to the details of the tip, things are a lot looser and will depend on the establishment. In most situations, a cash tip is going to be just fine since you can take cash anywhere. In other places, a tip can be added as part of the service through a PoS (Point of Sale) system like Square or Swipe. This is pretty familiar for most people, and tapping the percentage as they turn the iPad toward you isn’t anything new.

The best thing to do? Ask. Since there is a credit card surcharge, paying your tip in cash may be able to save both you and your barber some money, provided they are interested.

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