Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Naughty Nigerian Email Scams, Computers and the Modern Tattoo Shop.

Crazy to think just 11 years ago we didn't even have a computer of any kind in Lucky 7 Tattoo. No previous shop I had worked in or owned had any type of computer. Not until 1998 did my boss in Sac Town even buy a copier for the business. Staff had to jog 3 blocks to Kinko's, enlarge or reduce the image, then run back the way we came. Dripping with sweat and panting apologies to the waiting client. After years of this foot race for the shop girls - one hot and smoggy afternoon in July -  my boss had to make this Kinko's trip himself  (for his first and last time.) At that turning point he decide to crack open his money clip and call the I.B.M. salesman.

Up until a few years ago, a great deal of the tattoo designs were either sheets of "flash", which are large pieces of white paper with anywhere from 1 to dozens of drawings of tattoo patterns -usually grouped together by similarities, like all butterflies, etc.. Each shop had  many of these "flash sheets" on hand, drawn by the shops artists.In older street shops, some or even all of these sheets were purchased from supply companies to the tattoo trade. Needed too were books. These were a huge investment, yet very necessary and a vital supply to have for reference. At the very top of the tattoo shop heap were the artists who would draw each design from scratch. Difficult in the best of circumstances, doing the best you could to have the customer describe what they saw in their minds eye, then to have them explain the tattoo in terms you can follow and create on paper. At the time the designs requested were at least simpler than today. Most tattoos followed the straight ahead traditional Americana patterns of bold lines, simple details -tried and true designs that had been around forever.
Flash By Corey Boobar, 2001
Everything changed last decade, at least on the forward thinking West Coast. As extensive tattooing became more seen in public, and true artist's with a love for the medium joined the ranks, new thinking opened up the tattoo industries creative mind. One of a kind tattoos became the "it" ink to have. Picking a design off the wall of the shop was deemed "not cool" and "thoughtless". The public at large decided each tattoo must have "meaning". For tattooers who worked at the art it was a somewhat welcome and challenging change. For the 'Biker Bob's" of the tattoo world, who had only been able to trace the predetermined flash designs of the past, were shit out of luck. The either evolved or perished - most sinking in to the shame of the latter.
Flash by Ben Karnofsky, 2011
With small computers coming on line to almost everyone in the new millennium - hard and fast - it helped tattoo artists and their customers tremendously. Not only with all kinds of  information at their fingertips to aid in the design of ink but also in finding good tattoo shops and their artists. Only a decade ago most people in search of a tattooer just picked a place near their home. Or looked up "tattoo parlors" listed in the phone book yellow pages. Yeesh, that is scary. Now each and every week we receive a new client from Yelp or another Social Media site. You can pick up your smart phone and see the style and vibe of an artist work. Or see what others have said about a shop and their personal experience with the staff. That is cool! A good deal of appointments, the prep work that goes in to the design, etc are done online through email. This helps our guys at Lucky 7 get the design kinks worked out before an appointment.The client doesn't have to keep stopping by to make suggestions or request changes. That makes the artist and the client much happier.
Flash By Russell Fortier, 2004

So this all loosely leads up to my Nigerian Scam story. I, as I am sure many of you, have had an unsolicited email or two arrive to our inbox. Telling some story of sadness from across the ocean. Many times it is from someone who claims to be very rich and very important, perhaps even a "government official". But darn their bad luck, even with all their riches and connections they need YOU to "help" them out of a jam. Which, after you "help" them out of their jam, you will receive thousands of dollars! All by cashiers check!

Starting about 6 years ago Lucky 7 received an email offer of outstanding proportions. The author of the email wrote in that clipped, slang version or proper English with many misspellings. The subject line directing me to "PAY ATTENTION AT ONCE!!!". Doing as I was told I cracked open the body of the email to learn the Nature of what this person wanted from Lucky 7:
 He was going to be sending a cashiers check, made out to Lucky 7, in the amount of $5100. He is the manager of a "very famous musical group" coming to play my area in 5 months time. The band members would arrive one by one in a limousine. Each band member wanted a tattoo. The tattoo designs requested were as followed: "Clocks, houses, MOMS, bicycles and songbirds." As there are 11 members of the band, and the cashiers check was made out for "too much money", I should send a cash refund of $2900 immediately after Lucky 7 received the band managers cashiers check. Um......WOW...

Obviously this clown was trying to trick bag me and Lucky 7. We received this email, in one version or another, at least 15 more times over the years with a slight variation or 2 in the "Tattoo Designs" requested by "THE MUSICAL GROUP". What I usually would send as an answer was:


Funny, I never got an answer or response from the musical group manager. Sometimes I like to ponder what others do in response to these emails. One great soul turned the tables on these guys, made the "Nigerian Church Official" get a tattoo to prove his devotion to the "church" in America who was going to send the Nigerian lots of money for his "Earthquake Relief Efforts". Go to if you want the whole funny story. Brilliant stuff!  Toodles kids!