The Sympathy Tip: Do You Tip More In Certain Situations?

Do you tip more in certain situations than others?

This past week I went to the salon in search of a new hair cut. I haven’t had my hair trimmed in quite some time and for some reason I really love to get it cut when I’m on vacation.

So I searched for shops in the phone book and settled on a salon that was just down the street from our vacation home. When I arrived a very lovely stylist came over to greet me. She led me over to her chair and I immediately took a liking to her.

We started talking about ex-boyfriends and she began to share small snippets of her life. It turns out that she was only a few years older than I am. She had children early in life and went through a series of bad relationships with very bad men. We chatted as she shampooed and trimmed my hair.

For the most part she talked and I listened. I spoke up from time to time, but her life story was really interesting and I enjoyed listening to her. As she was cutting my hair I began to feel very grateful for my life and the situations and circumstances that have led to my current place in the world.

I could tell this woman’s life hadn’t been easy and as I paid my bill I considered her circumstances and then left her a rather large tip. She did a great job on my hair, but under normal circumstances I certainly wouldn’t have tipped so much.

In fact, if any other person had cut my hair that afternoon I probably would not have left as much money, but her story really touched my heart and I really wanted her to have it.
I guess you could call it a sympathy tip. Whatever you call it I was happy to give her the money.

4 thoughts on “The Sympathy Tip: Do You Tip More In Certain Situations?”

  1. It's possible, that since she's in a profession that relies on tips that she takes the cynical approach of using a personal sob story to increase her tips. I'm sure she's noticed how tips go up when she tells her story, even if she doesn't "mean" to increase her tips in a way to be friendly. It's all in how personable and sincere she is in telling it.

  2. An interesting thought. You think that the stylist told me her sob story in order to elicit a bigger tip. I don't think so, but I guess it's possible.

  3. I think this is an interesting story. I know you’ve only been to this girl once but this is how I figure this situation. Unlike certain places such as restaurants or bars, the tip normally goes directly to the service provider. I know this is your first time, but I’ve always tipped my stylist generously because not only is she good at what she does, but she provides a great experience when I walk into her salon and I love knowing I support small businesses. At first, I tipped as much as you did for similar reasons. I only come in 3 times a year but after 5 years of seeing her, she’s been generous to me in return. From giving me a great discount for my annual birthday haircut to even one time not accepting ANY money from me when I came in to get my hair done for my college graduation 🙂 You wagered your tip based on the entirety of the service/ the overall experience and sympathy or not, we all have agency in how much we tip!

    And oh, I love your blog, keep up the great writing!

  4. @anonymous – Thanks for sharing. I love to hear stories like yours. It goes to show the give and take can work for both the patron and the servicer.


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