Thursday, December 19, 2013

"I Smell a Rat!" - 7 Lies Unethical Tattooers & Scratchers Will Tell

Way back in 1992, I officially started my career as a shop girl & body piercer in Reno, Nevada and Sacramento, California. This type of assistant position was a very new idea for the tattoo industry. Before this time, most shops were set up with the tattooers lumped together in a bull pen, behind a low partition - dealing with customers coming in while tattooing at the same time. Fast forward to the 1990's - tattooing becoming more popular. Biker Bob had to move over for the new breed of tattooer artist we have today.  

With the new generation of younger, more gifted artists - who set up nicer shops -came the need for help with their business. Rather than trying to do everything they hired "shop girls" / helpers to speak to customers, sterilize equipment and clean the space. The very first shop girls were usually the wives or girlfriends of the tattooers themselves. In my case I fell into the job for a different reason. I was already a good customer who knew her way around their shops, and I had learned how to pierce.

Fast forward to 2013. Throughout the decades I have worked with gifted artists and ass@#$%*. Men who I admired, with others who over estimated their talents & abilities. Some have lived exciting lives, telling others of their adventures and encounters.  Some just tell stories of their faked "greatness." My goal right now is to see through the tall tails of their so called white lies:

  1. "Sorry, I can't tattoo you.  I am booked out for months and months." Unless the tattooer before you is an uber rock star tattoo artist like Scott Sylvia, Freddy Corbin or Paul Booth, this statement is most likely a complete fabrication. The artist does not want to tattoo you personally. They dislike your design idea. Or they want potential customers and competitors to think they are in demand. Truthful artist will always advise you if they are not the right tattooer for your design type and direct you to another artist or shop. Most good custom shops can find room for your requested day and time within a 3 to 6 week period.  
  2. "Anyone in our shop can do that design. It's easy." No tattoo is ever easy if the artist cares about the quality of his tattoos. Never take any ones word for it when it comes to who can do what.
    Lady Justice Tattoo (Originally done in a shop,
    however the artist didn't possess the skill set for
     proper execution)  Redo by Russell Fortier
    Owner / Artist +Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing  Tahoe, Ca.
    Copyright 2013
    Some unscrupulous shop owners are so greedy for that money in your pocket they will throw ethics to the side, letting an unqualified or under skilled tattooer ink you up. Do not let anyone tattoo you until you have seen their actual work. Ask to see their portfolio. Proof of their skills right before your eyes. If you question their skill set at all - 
    walk away. Your hide is worth much more than a few hurt feelings.
  3. Your design idea is "completely undo able."  Many tattoos are more straight forward, quick to plan and execute. For instance, Traditional Americana designs from the last 100 years. When the tattooers designed the flash of old, they had clarity of the pattern itself in mind. Done to a size that the subject matter would come across clearly to those who looked upon it. With current fashion of all custom design containing images NOT designed with tattooing in mind, creating a tattoo pattern becomes much more challenging for the tattooer- especially when customers want tons of detail in a small space. That being said, some tattooers will lie to uneducated consumers, saying some patterns cannot be done - period. What that artist should say is : "I cannot do it as you like, however I can make some changes, creating a tattoo pattern for you with modifications". OR "Sorry, I do not have the skills to create the tattoo, but let me recommend you to someone who may be able to." Once again, this is an excuse used by tattooers who do not have the imagination or skill set to achieve what you are asking for. They may want to try and bully you into a tattoo design that is nothing like you imagined - just to get into your wallet or purse. Making their day only profit driven, not caring one bit about the customers satisfaction.
  4. "The Tattoo only took 30 minutes. You rate is $150 an hour. Why is it costing me $200?! I call this a smash and grab. In the defense of shops, some uneducated folks expect an unreasonable amount of ink for a very low price. In addition,  wires can sometimes get crossed and confused with quotes of pricing over the phone or by email. That being said, I have also encountered ridiculous pricing that has the feeling of being criminal. An unsavory tattooer will be very vague in giving customers a firm price. Pegging new customers as chumps who do not know a thing. Once the tattoo is finished, the price will always be the highest amount mentioned verbally. No matter what the clock and your grammar school math skills have computed. Shops with ethics will ALWAYS give you the price quote in a written format on your agreement or release. The paperwork will mention if the tattoo will take more than one visit, what you will get completed on your first appointment then a top price for the entire game plan. NEVER allow any artist to start on you without stating in writing what the entire cost will be. It is similar to giving your drug addicted cousin a blank check to buy a few groceries. If that tattooer is honest, he does not have to fleece customers out of their hard earned cash. He will be plenty busy with clients making a decent living. Not having to rob you.
  5. Home tattoo from unknown local scratcher to
    "Lovely Owl in Winter" by Russell Fortier
    Owner / Artist  +Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing  Tahoe, Ca.
    Copyright 2013
    "I am a real good tattooer, but working out of my house because ........" This one just about kills me. When an uneducated & unsuspecting person comes into Lucky 7, with a terrible tattoo or bad infection - sheepishly defending their bad choice of trusting the jerk who did this awful tattoo by saying: "But the guy was legit! He had gloves and wrapped needles and everything". The new age of Internet shopping allows anyone to buy anything. Take a quick look online to witness folks getting mercury poisoning from imported tattoo ink, which is included in many cheap online tattoo kits. Pretty ugly. Dangerous to your health is an understatement. If a person is tattooing out of their house or traveling to your home that means they are not good enough to be working in a shop. Not even a terrible one.  Some claim they apprenticed in a shop for awhile - but something happened to make them quit or were fired. What this really says is they did not honor the contract they made to that shop owner to complete proper training, which takes years! Or perhaps they are "self taught". You cannot learn a skill , that takes years to become somewhat good at, by watching You Tube videos or from a book. Would you trust a self taught plastic surgeon? Only part of tattooing is the tattoo itself. Tattoo Artist must also know what will work well on what area of the body and why. More importantly - properly licensed artist are trained and certified in preventing the spread of disease. Safe tattooing is not just about disposable needles and gloves! The entire surroundings inside a reputable shop has had careful consideration for cleanliness. Your senses can see and smell the attention to cleanliness. Do you want to get inked in living room or kitchen? I understand that money is a big motivator when folks pick a home tattooer vs. a good artist at a trustworthy shop. Nothing good can come of a rushed decision. Save a few extra bucks up. Work a double shift. Perhaps just wait until you are making better money. Never rush into a decision you may regret due to your own impatience. Saving one or two twenty dollar bills is a ridiculous reason to select a questionable tattooer or shop.
  6. "We don't give out any care products or written care instructions. Just keep it clean and rub some A and D ointment on it ". Countless times I've had people walk in off the street to ask for help with their poorly healing tattoo. Sheepishly they explain that the shop they got the work at did not give them proper instruction as to what to expect, avoid or use on this decorative wound they paid for. At a bare minimum, written instructions for care during the healing period should be provided. Listing what is allowed and not allowed in all aspects of the estimated healing period. Great shops will many times include a sample of the care products they commonly suggest for use on the tattoo. Even better is specific guidelines for different areas of the body. Feet are far more difficult to heal than a tattoo on your shoulder. Furthermore not every care product works for every body. Pores can become quite clogged from any product made with mineral oil. Yet may shops continue to recommend ointments that list mineral oil as its first ingredient. A and D ointment is not made for new tattoos. It smells ghastly - and intended for babies prone to diaper rash. Instead of trying to troubleshoot problems that occur after the tattoo application - how about selecting a good tattoo artist working at a solid shop? So if a problem arises you have many years of professionals to seek advice from.
    "New Paint Job" By Russell Fortier
     +Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing
    North Lake Tahoe, CA
    Copyright 2013
"Yeah, I have my Tattooers License. But ............." Except in a very few counties - their is no such thing as a "license to tattoo". Unlike cosmetology or health care - their isn't a "state board of tattooing." For instance, in California there is not a sanctioned testing program.   County Environmental Health Departments are tasked with overseeing tattoo shops within their jurisdiction. No one can be licensed as an individual. The permits to work as a tattoo artist are issued only to those who can document they have served an apprenticeship, taken proper blood borne pathogen training and CURRENTLY work in a licensed shop. Period. Once a tattooer leaves a shop for any reason, the permit is no longer valid. It must be reissued under the umbrella of another licensed shop. Do not fall for the drag some good looking, heavily tattooed dream date tries to hustle you with in a bar. If they were so good at what the claim to do they certainly would not be trying to win your business at such a location. Hey, its cool to party with them - just don't risk your health by letting them tattoo you! 
My darling reader- feel free to pass on this list - or any other of my informative Lucky 7 Tattoo blog entries on to those friends or loved ones you have who may be getting inked in the near future. Education is the key to avoiding unpleasant results that are permanent! As always, my staff and I are just a phone call or email away to answering your more personal questions regarding tattooing or piercing.

TA TA ~ Kathleen @