Tipping Optional?

4 years ago

I moved to Phoenix a couple of months ago from Las Vegas in search of better opportunities for career development and a change of pace, a different life. So far Phoenix has not disappointed, especially in the area of customer service. So far, everyone here has been genuinely friendly and not in that smarmy friendly-because-I-want-you-to-tip-me way that I found so often in Las Vegas. 

Las Vegas by nature should be customer-serviced based because its foundation is dependent on a customer-service industry: tourism. For that reason a lot of the ammenities, for lack of a better term,  that we have access too aren't average: club pools, celebrity chef fine dining (and casual dining) options, luxury malls, five-star hotels. If you didn't want to leave town to go on vacation, you didn't have to because you could throw a rock and find a rip off of another city's monument (i.e. The Eiffel Tower) and go stay there.

One of the areas that Las Vegas excels in is nail salons. They're everywhere and because there is so much competition they really have to step their game up to be competitive. I had a great salon that I went to with a nail tech who was friendly, attentive and meticulous. I didn't even care that she would sometimes run late because when I finally got in, she would take her time and make me feel like I was important for that 45 minutes I was there. For that, I would tip her well, roughly 30%. The services I got from her were very basic: manicure or pedicure, plain and simple. She almost never tried to upsell me and in the rare case that she did, I would usually take her up on it because I felt like she had my best interests in mind. She was just that kind of tech.

So maybe she spoiled me. Maybe I expected too much when I landed in a new salon in a different city with different standards.

I had the worst manicure of my natural born life a few days ago, provided by a 5 foot tall man named "Danny" who was having a terrible day. When I sat down, he glanced at my busted nails and asked me if I wanted a full set.

"Nope, just a manicure," I smiled.

He physically grimaced and came just short of rolling his eyes before taking  one of my hands in his to examine it gingerly like I'd just told him I had H1N1. The problem with some nail techs is the assumption that a regular manicure yields a bad tip. Because I'm from a service-industry based city, I know and respect the rules and in general I over tip, sometimes even when the service is mediocre. It bothers me when you don't take someone up on an upsell and the silent assumption is made that you are cheap. Again, I'm a good tipper!

I'd seen that grimace before that Danny made. He was already shutting down as far as service goes.

Then the butchering began.

For the next half an hour, he took my already damaged cuticles to the next level with a repeat series of pulls and tugs and that was more terrifying on the next finger than the one before it. He gave a half-effort massage in which he basically tossed one hand between both of his and rubbed my knuckles against his knuckles. The lotion he used smelled like a Valentine's Day bouquet had died inside of it. I'm not sure if he was nasally-impaired or just re-establishing the fact that he didn't care what I thought, but he kept commenting on how good the lotion smelled.

The paint job was one of the worst I'd ever had. Not since I'd exchanged manicures with a friend in the 3rd grade had someone actually painted on my cuticles. He used his almond, shaped thumb nail to get the abundance of excess polish off of the sides of my nails, digging into my skin so hard I thought he was going to slice me. He reminded me of one of those bad babysitters who pinches kids in obscure areas so that the parents don't see: leave enough damage to teach a lesson, but not so much that it's noticeable. 

Before he put my polish on, I took my card out to pay so that I wouldn't ruin what would inevitably be a really bad paint job. At this point I could let him know how much I wanted to leave for a tip, so he could add it to the total. I said nothing and took $4 in cash out of my purse and put it on the table, more than enough for a $15 manicure. My intention was to leave only $2, but the awkwardness of cashing out before the job was completed spurred me to give more so that he'd stop beating the hell out of my cuticles.

After he was done, I walked away from the table quickly and went over to the heating lamp where my friend was sitting to let my nails finish drying. The personal assault on my hands was over, but now I was bothered. Bothered that I'd left a tip, or at least such a generous one.

Maybe you're thinking " $15, what did she expect?!" And you're right, maybe I shouldn't have expected so much. But in this case, is a tip warranted?

Knowing what we know about the service industry and what some of these individuals make, is a tip warranted for the sake of being warranted or should I have exercised my right to consider a tip what it really is: a courtesy?


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