Tips for Tipping

I don’t trust anyone, except for my hairdresser. I’ve trusted her since I was six, and two decades later that trust is intact. When I was in second grade my then hairdresser cut my hair shorter than I wanted it. She was, in fairness, following my mom’s directions. But I refused to set foot in her beauty station again. My mom only convinced me to go back by promising that a new person would be cutting my hair. She handed me over to Bonnie, and by the time Bonnie handed me back, with a lollipop of my choice, I had a sharp haircut and a steadfast bond. As I grew older, and my mom accepted that Bonnie was the only person I would allow to cut my hair, I went to the salon by myself. My mom sent me off with $15 and instructed me to come back with only $1. I explained to my mom that I’d come home with all $4, my math skills more than advanced enough to know the charge for an $11 haircut. No, my mom corrected me, I was to give Bonnie $3 for a tip.

I explained to my mom, who I thought also trusted Bonnie with her hair and her life, that the salon priced a kid’s haircut at $11. I’d stared at it for enough years to be certain. My mom broke it to me that while that was true, it wasn’t the right price to pay. I explained to her again about my trust in Bonnie. She told me that sometimes trust means paying more than what you’re told.

Hair dressers provide a personal service, my mom explained. They do something nice for you and they don’t get paid enough for it. She didn’t go into details about how some people are paid less than minimum wage – the tax rule that’s supposed to keep all of us out of poverty. She didn’t explain how those in the service economy who spend their day dealing with customers lack the infrastructure of organized labor to force work to a standstill until they are protected by the same privileges enjoyed by white-collar workers or unionized blue-collar workers. She didn’t explain how so-called pink-collar workers are unable to afford the means necessary to wage a campaign for better pay on a national-scale. Instead, my mom told me that some people do you a service and you pay them extra for it because it’s the right amount – no matter what’s written on a sign.

As one calendar year ends and another begins, we take the time to thank those in the service industry who work for us every day – our supers, maintenance staff, and the newspaper lady – by paying them a tip to make sure their pay fair.

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