Tipping is a subject that elicits strong opinions.
Some people tend to tip freely, and hand over a few bucks to cable installers, mail carriers, hair stylists and everyone in between; others tip only when the social pressures compel them to do so.
People also differ in the amounts they tip. Some will get up from a restaurant, toss a few coins on the table and walk out with a clear conscience. Others throw down a small stack of folding money and are happy to do so.
There is no central authority for tipping etiquette, so most of the “rules” are actually better described as “suggestions.” There’s plenty of articles on the subject scattered around the internet, but most that I found were authored by groomers. And you can guess where they come down on the issue.
We’re not groomers though, so today we’ll objectively discuss your options when it comes to tipping your dog groomer and the ramifications of your choices.
In short: Yeah, you should probably tip your groomer, but failing to do so won’t result in the same type of social scorn that stiffing your delivery driver or hairstylist does.
Let’s begin exploring the issue by looking at the kinds of jobs that society has generally decided are deserving of tips:
Each of these has a few things in common with your groomer’s job. They are all jobs that require a fair amount of personal attention, and the customer’s satisfaction is strongly correlated with the worker’s performance.
For example, the guy who comes to juggle at your child’s birthday party is going to be giving the kids plenty of personalized attention, and his juggling chops and entertainment skills are going to determine how much fun the kids have. So, it makes perfect sense to reach into your pocket and show some gratitude for a job well done.
Groomers certainly meet the same criteria: They give your pup their more-or-less undivided attention and their skills and effort level will largely determine the outcome.
Further, a groomer’s job involves a bit of risk. Servers – one should hope – rarely suffer bites from their clientele during the work day; groomers get bit all the time. And no matter how rowdy the bar, most bartenders get through the night without getting peed upon by their patrons. Groomers, on the other hand, routinely find themselves being used as a tinkle target.
Still not convinced? Consider this: You entrust your groomer with your pup’s life, safety, and well-being. Don’t you want anyone charged with such responsibilities happy? Don’t you want them looking forward to your business?
That’s what I thought.
Determining the proper amount to tip your groomer is not easy. The simple answer is 15%-25%, just like you would tip wait staff or delivery drivers. This is probably appropriate in most circumstances, and it is certainly fair to vary the tip amount slightly based on the results.
If you pick up your dog and notice the groomer did a good, if not spectacular job, or she took a little longer than initially promised, perhaps you adjust the tip toward the 15% end of the spectrum. Conversely, you may want to pony up 25% of the bill or more if you find your dog sporting the best-looking haircut he’s ever received.
It is also important to consider your dog’s contribution to the grooming session. If your dog makes things especially difficult on the groomer, it is probably best to juice up that tip a little bit. For example, if your dog nips or pees on the groomer, that’s probably worth an extra ten bucks or so – perhaps much more if the bite was serious at all.
Older and fatter dogs also present special problems, as do breeds who require elaborate grooming, such as bichon frises or poodles. If your dog’s doo is especially elaborate, it’s probably only fair to add a bit of extra cash.
Also, you want to think about the challenges you bring to the table.
Did you need the groomer come in early or stay late to accommodate your schedule? Your tip should reflect that. Similarly, if you show up with your dog looking like a filthy mess, your groomer is going to have to go above and beyond to get him looking his best, which probably earns him or her a bit more cash.
Any freebies your groomer throws your way should probably be reflected in the tip as well. However, it is important to walk the fine line between showing the groomer gratitude for doing something quick and simple for free, and essentially engaging in theft — extra fees are not always the groomers to waive.
You want to make sure that your tip actually goes in the groomer’s pocket, and it isn’t intercepted by sticky or unscrupulous fingers along the way. This means you should always try to put the tip directly in the hand of the groomer.
Usually, the groomer who tended to your pooch will bring out your dog to meet you, and this is the time to do it. Just make sure you show up with tipping cash in hand to ensure it goes smoothly.
Keep in mind, some companies prohibit their employees from accepting tips. You don’t want to put the groomer in an uncomfortable position, but you can do one of three things in such cases:
The first option is probably the most prudent, but I usually go with the third option. I understand why some companies enact no-tip policies, but it just seems mean-spirited in the case of groomers. Plus, it is super fun to be sneaky for a benevolent cause.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to tip your groomer every visit – especially if you always use the same one. Instead, you could tip them periodically. You’ll still want to tip the same rough amount as you would normally, but you’ll just do so in fewer, larger chunks.
What about you? How do you feel about tipping your dog groomer? How much do you usually cough up? Let us know your thoughts on the issue in the comments below. I’m really interested to see the varying opinions on the matter.
But for now, I need to start on my next article: Should you tip your favorite writer?
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.