Epic Excuses: What to Do When Your Employer “Can’t” Provide Wage Statements

An examination of the deceptive practices salon owners use to avoid providing clear wage statements. Practical advice for salon professionals to ensure transparency and fairness in their compensation. Steps to take for safeguarding your earnings and understanding your rights in the beauty industry.

Have you ever worked for a salon owner who refuses to give detailed pay stubs, giving weak excuses for why they can’t?

These excuses may include:
“The system isn’t capable of generating those kinds of reports.”
“I keep all of that on file. Don’t worry about it.”
“I can’t give you computer permissions to see those details.”
and my current favorite: “That is confidential and proprietary business information.”

Let’s take a second to talk about Bafflegab and IJD Technology.

  • Bafflegab: overly-complicated language intended to confuse the listener.
  • IJD Technology: “It Just Does” technology. For example: “How does faster-than-light travel work?” It Just Does.

In this case, what we have is the opposite of IDJ Technology: “It Just Doesn’t” Technology.

Many states have legislation in place requiring a business owner to provide detailed pay stubs upon request. Follow this link to check your state’s laws.

Your salon owner is required to ensure their compliance with any applicable recordkeeping requirements. Here’s a post about what those requirements may be.

Legality aside, you need to be doing five things:

1.) During your employment interviews, ask detailed questions about pay stubs and compensation.
Explain that you keep your own detailed hour and service records and expect to be provided with detailed pay stubs every pay period so you can make comparisons. Make certain that your employment contract specifies in detail what commission rates you are being paid. (This keeps salon owners from hiring you with promises of high commissions and then shorting you later, claiming they “never promised that percentage” or “forgot.”)

Get. It. In. Writing.

2.) Diligently track your hours and service sales. 
Even the most honest owners make mistakes. You need to take responsibility for tracking your hours and sales yourself so you can check your math against the owner’s.

In a perfect world, all owners would be trustworthy, upstanding, law-abiding citizens incapable of making mathematical errors.

Unfortunately, we do not reside in a perfect world.

It takes seconds to jot down your service details in a notebook between appointments. I don’t care how busy you are or how far behind you’re running: write it down.

Some salon owners will employ some extremely shady theft tactics. One owner I heard of this week charges more money for the service without disclosing this to the employees. She also refuses to disclose tip totals. Her staff asked for reports and she refused to provide them. When she finally did, they discovered she was skimming a considerable deal of money off the totals.

Exploitative salon owners may also refuse to provide detailed pay stubs or allow anyone to access the booking system or register.

3.) Stay away from employers who withhold information like this. 
Unless you’re an hourly-only employee, you need to be able to see your earnings. If you are hourly-only, you need to be provided with your hours and hourly rate each pay period.

4.) Hold owners accountable for discrepancies. 
If you notice your check isn’t adding up, schedule a meeting with the owner ASAP to get it straightened out. Show the owner your math and ask to see hers to figure out where that money went (or, in the case of an overage, where it came from).

An employer who isn’t thieving will appreciate that you noticed the issue and help you figure out what happened. An owner who is stealing may get defensive and refuse to help.

Don’t kick the door down and automatically assume you’re being robbed.

Give the owner the benefit of the doubt.

5.) Understand that mistakes happen–a lot.
I have used software to calculate payroll for years. Roughly three or four times a year, a part of my system breaks down due to user error. Here are some common reasons for payroll discrepancies:

  • A receptionist accidentally checks out a client under the wrong service provider’s name, awarding the wrong employee the service commission.
  • A service does not get put into the system at all, which means the client doesn’t get charged and neither the service nor the payment are reflected in the EOD (End Of Day) reports.
  • A service provider forgets to clock out during her lunch break, resulting in an unbalanced hour count that requires rectification.
  • A service provider forgets to clock in, resulting in a crazy low hour count that requires correction.
  • A service provider forgets to clock out at the end of the day, totally jacking up their hour count and making me want to punch them in the face since adults shouldn’t have to be reminded to punch in a four digit code on the computer before they walk out the damn door.
  • A service is cancelled/not performed but the client is charged anyway, resulting in an overcharge that needs to be refunded and an over-payment to the employee’s paycheck.
  • Incredibly stupid tip collection and documentation procedures allow theft, invite mistakes, and make the tip reporting process dependent on employee honesty–which I am not cool with, since people lie.

The majority of payroll discrepancies I’ve had to correct were caused by receptionist error during booking or checkout. Often, errors are the result of miscommunication between the service provider and the receptionist. I started requiring the service provider, receptionist, and client to review the service ticket and final total prior to checkout. The receptionist needs to verify with everyone involved that the client received the right services and ensure she is charged for any additional upgrades that she may have enjoyed.

Where tips are concerned, under our previous system, the clients were given small tip envelopes if they chose to leave cash. They sealed the cash in the envelope and slipped it into the service provider’s lockbox themselves. Only myself and the service providers have the keys to these boxes. Because I’m compulsively organized and big on presentation, each provider had their own colored envelopes with their names printed on them–just in case one ended up in the wrong box. At the end of the day, cash tips were totaled by the closing manager prior to distribution to the employees–because we don’t mess with the IRS.

That system was effective because it made it impossible for tips to be pocketed by reception staff–money wasn’t just shoved into a cash drawer. Trust me on this–the first time you have a drawer overage in excess of a few cents and your receptionist is sitting there scratching her head, wondering whose tip she “forgot” to put into the system during checkout, you’ll implement a similar method. (Currently, we no longer accept tips of any kind.)

Salon owners: If you’re using software to do your math for you, 99% of the errors you end up with will be the fault of the front desk staff or the service provider.

We have no room in this business for Bafflegab or IJD Technology.
An employer who resorts to either of these deceptive avoidance tactics can’t be trusted. If you’re not an hourly employee, your commission earnings are not “confidential” to you and they certainly aren’t “proprietary.” Those totals dictate your income. If you were promised a percentage, you deserve to know exactly how much money you brought in so that you can ensure the numbers make sense.

The vast majority of salon management softwares do far more than just provide detailed pay stubs–they provide about 500 different types of reports, many of which a salon owner will never even use (for real, a lot of these booking softwares have gone waaay overboard in that department).

These excuses are unacceptable, so stop accepting them.

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9 Responses

  1. Im in Ohio and have worked in a salon going on 18 years. Soooo we used to get itemized deductions for product cost, water usage and electric. It was seriously getting out of control. We would not get the detailed deductions with our totals like it was a big shady secret. I decided to raise some of my prices for some of my services. No change in my paycheck. Also the owner raised the prices without letting us know. So I asked her why I haven’t noticed my pay going up since she raised prices and let her know I changed a few of my prices as well. She parts her lips to tell me that now she takes 10% of the total for “operation cost” then I get my 50%. So really Im not making 50 only 40%. Im really tired of all her behind yoyr back policy changes. To make matters worse I tapped into our computer system to find out she really is taking 13% off the rip. I have been very loyal and she would have to close if I left…. How illegal is this and how can she get away with this?

    1. It’s illegal, definitely wage theft. She can’t get away with it if you report it (as long as you have evidence and documentation to support your accusations). If you decide to stay, insist on an employment arrangement that clarifies the terms of your arrangement and requires her to provide written notice of any changes prior to the beginning of the next pay period.

      1. Thx for the response. Since then I confronted the owner and manager for the dishonest behaviors, thinking they would make it right. Big mistske. Owner tells me that we (all employees) are all in this together and she has to do what is necessary to stay open. I told her she was breaking federal labor laws because Im a w-2 employee… The next day I came to work to talk to a receptionist and cancel my day out until this situation was rectified. My license was pulled off the wall and my shoes were sitting at my station. The manager asked me to sign a document to state I am leaving with all my personal belongings. Wow!!!! Right!!! I left and took a job across the street even though I signed a noncompete 18 years ago. So now what???? I started my new job waiting to be served.

        1. I doubt you will be. If you’re served for a non-compete violation (which wouldn’t hold up anyway since it’s unreasonable) you would have the opportunity to expose the misclassification, which is a far greater offense and would launch an investigation into the entire business–including all staff, past and present. It wouldn’t be a smart move on their part, lol. And no, you aren’t “all in this together.” You don’t owe anyone anything. You perform work and are paid a fair wage. That’s where your obligation to that business ends. If they don’t understand that, they do not deserve to be business owners.

  2. I currently work for a salon in Wisconsin and our employee for the past two to three years has been very shady about our pay, our hours, our insurance and over time has taken the insurance away after a day’s notice. Allowed a gas leak to continue for a month because we can’t pay for the repair, changes our pay to a complicated system of math equations that lead to us receiving lower pay and no communism on salon given discounts and to top it off, has been changing our clock in times to keep us within certain amount of hours…several of the girls have had enough and after two years of people coming and going we just don’t know legally at this point what we can do. The salon is falling apart and our prices are higher then ever…..Any suggestion?

    1. I always recommend contacting an employment law attorney who represents exploited workers for advice on how to proceed. Some state agencies have great resources, but the attorney is generally your best bet as they’re most informed about which method of recourse is right for you.

  3. I get paid by commision 50%. But the owner ne er let us see the end of the day statement. By the end of the week he always takes like $35 dollars out of our money because of shortage in the books. We are 8 stilysts using the same register. I do not think is fair I have to paid for someone else mistake. And because I do not see when he count the money I do not even know if there was really a mistake or he is stealing the money. Bottom line, is legal that he charge the shortage to us?

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