About 20 years ago my then girlfriend (now wife) and I had this great idea to start a DJ company. We were both young, no kids, and liked music. I’d love to say I was a really good DJ, but the truth is I was actually pretty terrible. On our first big gig at a 350 person reception everything was going incredibly well. We had only dealt with one drunk guy, and everyone was dancing. About half way through the night though, I got a little too comfortable and moved a little too fast and tripped over the power cord. The MAIN power cord. Yup. Everything shut down. It was if time came to a screeching halt and the whole world was staring at me as I dumbfoundedly held onto the end of the plug I tripped over. It was a little awkward.
But we still got tipped.
At another wedding, about a year later, the night was once again beautifully humming along. People were dancing, bride and groom were having a blast, grand march went off without having to do nine calls for the best man… it was great. I had a blast. With the night winding down I started our signature sign off, thanking everyone for an incredible celebration of the new couple. I finished congratulating Mike and Lisa, and queued up the last song. Except the brides name wasn’t Lisa. It was Stephanie.
And the fun-loving, easy crowd that seemed impossible to tick off: They suddenly started booing and laughing. I quickly realized my mistake and corrected the name to Stephanie. As the bride shook her head and death-stared a hole through my head from the back of the hall, I started the final slow dance song the bride and groom requested as tried to convince myself there was only a small chance Lisa was the name of an ex-girlfriend. As the final song I queued up played on and I brought myself back into the moment, I realized that instead of the slow dance the bride and groom requested, I had somehow queued the theme song to the hit 90’s children’s show from PBS, Barney and Friends.
Yup. It was pretty bad.
But we still got tipped.
As much as I admittedly didn’t deserve a tip that night, the reason I got a tip was simple: It’s what you do. It’s customary. I’m sure the limo driver got tipped. I’m sure the wedding planner got tipped. I’m sure many other people, who did a far better job than I did that night, got tipped. And ss they should have been. They worked hard.
But tipping your Bridal Stylist? That seems a little far out. Right? I mean, asking for $100 for shipping for an order, that has been proven acceptable. Asking for a 3% charge for paying via credit card, that has been proven acceptable at many store.
But asking for a tip for the Stylist? Should we really be straightforward be asking for tips?
The resounding and unequivocal answer is YES. Here’s why:
What Stylists Do is Special.
Experience is the new currency in the bridal industry and probably the most used buzz word of the last 5 years Brides want an experience. They don’t want to be sold. They don’t want to buy something so much as they want to hang out with their mom, aunt, sister, BFF and have a good time and feel the emotion of the moment. None of this can really be effectively accomplished if the Stylist doesn’t make that connection and doesn’t provide an experience that the bride falls in love with. I mean really, aren’t we putting “finding the ONE” on the same platform as the bride finding her “one and only” partner to spend eternity with?
None of this can be done with out incredible soft skills from the Bridal Stylist. The threshold in which Bridal Stylists have to meet in order to be successful is much higher than it was just a few years ago. The skills they need to possess sometimes seem just short of a family therapist. In addition to being an expert on all things wedding gown, they have to figure out why mom is saying her daughter looks fat in front of half a dozen people, let alone how to decipher who actually gets to decide what dress is the one.
The creation of the bridal buying experience and the development of the soft skills required to sell a bridal gown are the very reason why independent bridal boutiques have not been stomped out by Amazon or David’s Bridal. You can’t have the same experience buying a dress on Amazon, and likely won’t when buy from David’s Bridal. Even from other online bridal sellers it’s just not the same experience, and it’s just not what today’s bride wants.
The Stylists make it special. They make it meaningful. This ability deserves a tip above and beyond normal pay.
I mean, what in the heck does the limo drive do to make the limo ride special? Open the door with fancy gloves?
This is not to say, however, that this is the only reason Stylists should be tipped. We’ve all experience that bride before. The one that is super stressed about her wedding, super stressed about her family and super stressed about planning a PERFECT wedding, that she unwittingly takes it out on the Stylist she’s working with. Or, worse yet, maybe the bride is simply having a bad day, the sky is the wrong color, and the Stylist takes the heat. While working in the bridal industry is a dream come true for many stylists, working with the public sometimes just plain sucks, no matter who your clientele is.
And finally, I think we can all agree that finding a mutually beneficial way to pay our employees more is always a good thing, and the more we do it and the more we ask for those tips, the more customary its going to be. Tips for Bridal Stylists should be paid above and beyond what they are already paid from your shop. Higher pay has a high correlation to a reduction in turnover, increased job satisfaction, and aids in self worth of your employees. How on earth would employees that feel better about themselves not be good business?
What your Stylists do is special. Start asking for tips.
How do you start? Start first with yourself.
Assuming you are an owner or a leader within your bridal shop, you will get absolutely nowhere if you don’t have a plan to drive the new concept of tips home to your Stylists.
Wait, drive the idea home to my Stylists? If they want it, they should ask for it!
True. But it’s not that simple. First of all tips benefit more than just the employee, they benefit the owner indirectly through higher wages for the employee resulting in lower turnover and higher job satisfaction. Plus, it’s cool to see something you created (your shop, that is) pay people more. This is a great thing. It’s helpful to start from this perspective.
Next, you have to recognize, that while Stylists deserve tips, they may not know how to go about getting them when someone says, “You can ask for tips now!” They need guidance. The need a leader. They need encouragement.
In order to have a successful tip program, you must commit to driving the new policy home, and keep reminding your employees to ask for tips. You’ll find yourself doing this over and over, and maybe even get frustrated from time to time. But in the end, seeing that $200 tip come through for an employee, the pure joy on that Stylists face is worth every bit of it.
Commit. For the good of your employees, for the good of your business, decide you are going to commit to asking for tips.
For instance, in my store, many of our Stylists earn an extra $200 to $300 a month just in tips. My favorite thing to say is, “That’s a car payment!”
Gain Buy In From Your Staff
Your Stylists must have buy in before you can even think about implementing a policy around requesting tips from a bride. Your Stylists will undoubtedly be excited about the prospect getting tipped from their brides, but once they start thinking about the objections or reactions that might come from asking for tips, you might see their excitement fade a bit.
Push forward. Deal with each objections from your staff one at a time and carefully dissect what their fear actually is. One of the most common objections you’ll run into from your employees is that they feel uncomfortable. They don’t want to ask. They feel like they are imposing, or they are asking too much. They’ve already spent so much on the gown.
There are two ways you can discuss this. First off, don’t give your employee the impression that you are judging them for bringing this up. You need to encourage honest dialogue for the program to get off the ground. Second, acknowledge how the employee feels, and then given them a new script to play in their heads.
“Good point, Monica. It can seem pretty daunting to ask for a tip from someone for yourself or another person. But, if you don’t ask, you most likely won’t get one. Bridal stores across the country are doing this, and Bridal Stylists are getting large tips. You deserve that, too, for your service! Now, let’s explore how we can find a way to make it more comfortable to ask for tips…”
Keep moving your staff forward. Once they see the incremental progress and/or the large tips come through they’ll become more comfortable.
Tips have been a game changer in my store. In an industry where the work our Stylists do is hugely underrated, that extra $20, $50, or $400 tip makes the next difficult bride a tad bit easier to swallow. It’s time to find ways to pay our employees more for the work they do. Tipping is an EXCELLENT way to move in that direction.
It’s a win-win-win.