We would like to take a few moments to talk
about some things that should be basic
common sense, but more than often is not.
It is called Tattoo Etiquette.
Etiquette is defined as: conventional
requirements as to social behavior;
proprieties of conduct as established in any
class or community or for any occasion. Or
in more layman's terms it is the rules that
govern social behavior.
For instance, it is considered good etiquette to tip a waiter, to not be late, to have a good work ethic, to be polite even in un-polite company, ect. There are some certain common sense things to keep in mind when stepping into a Tattoo Studio. Unfortunately it seems that many people leave their common sense outside, so I am going to take these things and discuss them.
First: Before you come to the tattoo studio have some kind of idea what you want. Tattoos are for life
and impulse buying is not normally a great idea. You might
settle on a tattoo today and six months later you will
probably decide you don't like it. Plan your tattoos ahead
of time. Think about what you want your tattoo to say to
everyone you meet. If you have some idea of what you
want and can communicate that to your artist then he can
work with you to design something just for you, but one of
the most frustrating things we have to deal with is
someone who comes in and starts asking questions about
the cost with no idea of what they want.
Your artist can not answer any of your questions until he
learns what it is you want from him. The clearer you can
be in describing what you want, the easier it is for us to
work with you.
If you have a picture, don't bring it in on your phone. Get
it printed out or email us a copy of the picture with an idea
of the size. We can print it out and size it for you but if
you want an accurate price, we can't do that off a phone.
Second: Strongly consider tipping your artist. Contrary
to popular belief Tattoo Artists are not financially well off.
They rely heavily on tips. Your artist only gets a
percentage of the price of your tattoo work and the more
remote a studio is in relation to a large city the less volume
of work they do. They do not get paid on an hourly wage.
You would not go to a good restaraunt and not tip the
waiter unless the service was just real bad, isn't your
tattoo artist more worthy of a tip than your waiter? Your
waiter is bringing you food and insuring that your drinks
remain filled for the half hour you are there. Your artist is
spending a lot of time putting artwork on you that will be
As a general rule, 10% is considered a low tip, 15%-25% is
considered a good tip, and anything more than 25% is
considered a heavy tipper. This is something you can
believe, if you tip your artist he will spend more time and
put more attention into your tattoo, and that should be
reason enough to tip him.
Third: Do not try to bargain with your tattoo artist. Most
tattoo studios use a set guideline for pricing tattoos and
what you will find is that most artists have already cut that
price. If you try to bargain with him to cut the price even
more, you will not be kindly recieved. Most tattoo artists
receive 30% to 50% of your tattoo price, if it is not worth
his time to do the tattoo not only will you not get the best
quality work, but you will end up making your artist angry
before he does your tattoo. Definantly not a good idea
when you consider that you will be wearing that art for the
rest of your life. Is it worth what you might save?
Some people act like they MUST get that $10.00 or $20.00
off the price. They think it makes them good bargain
shoppers. You might get away with that with a used car
salesman, but it is considered very bad form in a tattoo
studio and is subject to get you a very rude response.
If you do not have the money to afford the work you want
see if there is a way you can do it in multiple settings so
that you CAN afford it. Remember that good tattoos are
not cheap and cheap tattoos are not good. Tattoos are
expensive and if all you want is cheap then a tattoo studio
is not for you.
Fourth: Do not go into a tattoo studio if you have been drinking. We don't want to deal with you while you've been
drinking and its against the law for us to tattoo you while
you've been drinking. Come back when you are not.
Fifth: This is one of my personal pet peeves and it goes along with #3 above.
DO NOT brag about how cheap your other tattoos are,
especially if you got them in a house by your friend Joe
who charged you a case of beer and a BBQ. Your artist
does not care, he will not be polite about it and he will tell
you exactly what your cheap tattoo looks like and you will
not be happy with what he tells you. You come into a
tattoo studio and you will be charged studio prices. We
have bills to pay, and the studio only sees about $20 out of
every hundred dollars in profit and sometimes not even
that. We have to pay State Sales Tax, County or City Tax,
Income Tax, Unemployment tax, Medicare and FICA on the
employees, then we have to pay for insurance, rent,
Utilities, Internet, Phone, C.P.A. fees, ect. We don't care
that you only payed $20.00 for $200.00 worth of work that
came out looking like my 11 year old son did it. If you
are happy with it, fine, to each his own, but it isn't going to
make you any friends. go back to your friend Joe with the
case of beer and a BBQ or pay the price you are quoted in
the studio. Complaining about the price will not decrease
it, if anything it will increase it.
We charge $10.00 to listen to your
Sixth: Listen people. BATHE! If you stink, go home and clean up before you come here to get tattooed. We have to get close and personal to do tattoos and if you stink we will get it over with as fast as we can. Cleanliness and personal hygeine should be a given, but it isn't. Treat your tattooist like you would treat your family doctor or gynecologist. If you come to a tattoo studio be clean. If you are having stomach problems and can't control the issue then wait til that condition is over before you come to get tattooed.
Seventh: Don't try to force your artist to make social
conversation. Many artists have to concentrate on what
they are doing. Asking him questions or forcing him to talk
to you breaks his concentration and may create problems
you don't want. If he isn't talking to you, he isn't trying to
be rude, he's trying to concentrate on giving you the best
work possible. If he is comfortable talking then he'll talk to
you. If not, he won't, let him decide that.
Associated with that is your cheering section. Many people
want a friend with them to share the experience with or to
hold their hand, or whatever, that is fine, but the artist
must be able to concentrate, bringing four or five friends
that hover over the artist is distracting, so don't do it.
Also associated with that is the issue of children. Tattoos
typically take an hour at minimum including paperwork,
consent forms, payment, tattoo preparation, and set up,
and can go for 4 hours or longer. Children have short
attention spans and are easily bored. Bored children
quickly become a distraction. Either bring someone to
watch your children in the lobby away from the tattooing
area, or leave them with someone at home.
Eighth. If you suddenly do not feel well during a tattoo;
nausea, dizzyness, queasiness, or anything like that, tell
your artist immediately. Don't try to tough it out. Your
artist is trained to recognize what is going on and deal with
it. Even if you have no history of medical problems, the
tattooing procedure puts a huge strain on your body and
rapid drops in blood sugar are common even when you do
not have Diabetes or Hypoglycemia. Eat something with a
sugar content and drink a soda before the tattoo begins
and you can usually stop these symptoms before they
Ninth: Be loyal to your artist as much as you can. If you
like his work, come back and get more work from him
often. The more you come to the same artist, the better
deal you will get on your tattoos from him. Bring people in
to get work done by him. Believe me, if you do these two
things you will see that you get more work for your money
than anyone else does, which leads me to the final point of
Tenth: Don't brag to your friends about the price your tattoo artist gives you if he cuts you a deal. He might not cut your friends the same deal he cut you. The artist has some small leeway with the pricing guidelines, but he doesn't cut his price for everyone. If you come in three or four times and he decides to cut your price by 20%, he might not cut your friend's price when you bring him in. So if you tell your friend you got $300.00 worth of work for $200.00 and your friend comes in expecting the same deal, they probably won't get it, and if they tell your artist "Well Sally only paid $200.00" you might find that you don't get that kind of deal again.
Okay, so we've gone through ten rules of etiquette for
tattoo studios. This certainly does not cover everything,
but it covers the biggest issues. You might think this is all
common sense, and truthfully it should be...but its not.
These are the issues we constantly have to deal with in our
studio. Remember that a little common sense and courtesy
to your artist will go a LONG way to making this choice the
most pleasant and rewarding experience you can have.
Your tattoos last forever. Remember that when you go to any studio.
When I first put this "Tattoo Etiquette" together it was only half jokingly. Many things have changed in the two plus decades I have been tattooing, and not all of them for the better.
It never ceases to amaze me that people will spend a hundred dollars a week on cigarettes and another hundred on sodas, but don't seem to want to pay for a tattoo. In the past 5 years I've heard more grumbling about tattoo pricing than any other thing, and honestly, it gets annoying.
We are artists, and we have bills to pay too. We don't do this as a hobby, we do it as a lifelong career. We work sometimes 16 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week and sometimes more and barely pay the bills.
You, the customer, come in and see a tattoo for $200 and you think its too expensive. We finish putting our heart and soul into it and we look at it with pride, but think it wasn't expensive enough. The artist only makes a percentage of that tattoo, and it might be half of the work he does that week. If he closes the week taking home $500 he feels like he has done well, but after calculating his hours and finding he has worked 70 hours for that $500, you find that he makes less than minimum wage.
But you, the customer often complain about the price and if the artist doesn't come down you might well go to another studio that does worse work for a better price, or go to a scratcher running out of his home.
I never wanted to be rude to anyone, I never wanted to be difficult, but when customers complain about the price, I find myself wanting to tell them that if they don't care about the quality of their work, I will gladly send them to an artist in another studio who is no good and will charge you what he is worth. I happen to know one I fired from here who decided that even though he was no good, he would open his own studio. He is not far away.
Things have changed since I entered the tattoo world, and not really for the better. It used to be that people took pride in their tattoos. It expressed something for them and they would save up to pay what it was worth to get a piece of art that was uniquely THEM. They would not go to a second rate artist to get a better deal, they would hunt out the best work and pay what the work was worth.
$50 tattoos have always been part of the tattoo world but it was until a few years ago, a small part of it. Now it seems to be overwhelming it with this idea that I can get the smallest tattoo possible for the cheapest price. Today it isn't about expression so much as fashion and no one wants to pay for fashion. Today just HAVING the tattoo is enough. The cheaper the better and if the quality is no good...well who cares, it was CHEAP! So what, you can cover it with a quarter!
The title: Tattoo Collector used to be worn with pride, but today I was told, "I'm not a collector, I just like tattoos" Ahhh, how times have changed.
I long for the days when people wanted works of art, and were willing to do whatever it took to get it, I long for the days when people hung out at the Tattoo Parlor and brought all their friends, I long for the day when getting your first tattoo was a rite of passage and not something to be rushed, but something to be planned and experienced. I long for the day when Tribal Tattoos were restricted to the Tribes that wore them.
Ahhh, how times have changed.
The truth is that they have changed, and the appreciation of the art is lacking, and that is simply the way it is, so I wrote the tattoo etiquitte only half jokingly. I hope some of you grow to love the art the way it was meant to be loved, and I hope some of you begin to experience it as it was meant to be experienced.