It's a hairy issue
Bryce Billings strolled into the Downtown Barber Shop at 824 Mass. for the usual -- short on the sides, long on top. Barring disaster he would pay the usual -- $7 for the cut, and a buck or two for tip.
"I'll pay whatever I've got in my pocket," the Kansas University junior explained as barber Jon Amyx clipped his hair.
Around the corner, about the same time one recent morning, homemaker and piano teacher Susan Pomeroy of Lawrence sat in a chair at Do's Deluxe, 801 1/2 Mass., where hairstylist/owner Marty Olson had washed her short hair and was in the final stages of cutting it.
It was the usual for her too. She gets a wash and cut about once every five weeks at the salon, and pays $23 for it -- and no tip.
"It's not a reflection on Marty," she explained. "I view him as a professional. I also like Marty a lot. I don't tip my doctors or my dentist and I like them, too."
To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
Some people do it automatically. Others have never considered paying a little extra for a hair cut.
Olson said about 60 percent of his customers tip, usually between $1 and $3. But he doesn't mind the 40 percent who don't.
"In this business you can't depend on tips, so you price accordingly," he said.
Downtown Barber Shop's Rex Porter doesn't expect tips, but he appreciates them. Like other barbers and hair stylists, he said some customers give bigger tips and gifts around Christmas time. For Downtown patron Bryce Billings, who earns his haircut money by delivering pizzas, tips are an essential part of life. About 80 percent of his pizza delivery customers give him tips, and he tries to tip whenever it seems appropriate.
"I won't tip unless I feel I've gotten really good service," he said.
Waiters and waitresses in American restaurants expect a tip of at least 15 percent if the service is acceptable -- more if it's exceptional, less if it's lousy.
But there's no such rule for hair cutters, either barbers or hair stylists, who hold different licenses and are governed by different state boards in Kansas.
"We always tell people that it's up to them, that the best tip they can give me is a referral," said Brenda Peterson, manager of Hair Experts Design Team, an upscale salon in the Holiday Plaza at 25th and Iowa, where a woman's wash, cut and style costs $30 and the tip can be $5.
For complex jobs, involving perms and coloring, the tab can run to more than $120 and hair stylists may earn a $20 tip, Peterson said.
A sampling of barbers and hair stylists in Lawrence said they depended on repeat customers and not on tips for their incomes.
Starting stylists at Becky's Hairstyling, a full-service salon at 2108 W. 27th in the Park Plaza Center, earn about $22,000 a year plus tips, said owner Becky Isaac.
"If you're very satisfied with the service I would do whatever you feel comfortable with," Isaac said. "A lot of times students are not able to give as much as they'd like, and that's not a problem.
"I'm very adamant that if your are not pleased with the service, don't tip."
But if you are pleased with your haircut, a tip is a good way of expressing you satisfaction, said Lori Durrant, a hair stylist and co-owner of Sizzors, 910 Ky.
"It's more a way of letting you know that they appreciate the work you've done and that they're happy with the hair cut," Durrant said. At her salon, a typical $16 haircut will earn a $2 tip.