Altered image, provided by Wikimedia Commons

Nightmare Client #1: The Squirrel

by K. A. Kristmanson

I’m telling this story as a cautionary tale for potential clients: what not to do when you come in for a tattoo.

This is a true story, but to avoid revealing the individual it is written about, obvious markers to their identity have been altered. Let’s call our client Squirrel.

Squirrel came into the shop with a tattoo done by an amateur for a cheap price in a less-than-sterile environment. The line work was blown out, inconsistent, and crooked. So, she researches legitimate shops, and sends an email to ask an artist—let’s call them Alex—about a cover up.

What Squirrel’s leg might have looked like, initially.

Squirrel provides an image of her leg with randomly placed flowers of various sizes, and a bird in the center. There is some colour, but it is faded and therefore hardly visible.

Alex recommends a consultation, and Squirrel agrees. So far so good. Squirrel is doing all the right things to make sure her next tattoo is better than the last.

Now, here’s where she goes wrong:

On the day of her consultation, Squirrel no-shows. Instead of waiting for her consultation date, this client went looking for another amateur with a lower rate and an immediate appointment (red flags that many clients do not know to look for).

Now, Squirrel’s leg would look something like this.

When Squirrel books another consult with Alex a month later—and actually shows up—she has a bigger mess on her leg.

A giant flower has been slapped over the center image of the bird, in “traditional” style. It is dark, flat, and the colours shade out from black. The lines from the original tattoo are still visible in the petals, and a halo of colour blow-out surrounds it.

Now, the area to cover-up is much larger, which means more time. More time means more money. It looks worse, and now it’s going to be ten times more difficult to fix.

For more detailed information on why this will be much harder to cover up, check out last week’s article.

Back on track, Squirrel reaches out to Alex again.

Alex designs a second cover-up, and manages to get Squirrel in to finish the outline. Before her next appointment, Squirrel decides that she’s going to get a full leg sleeve. She calls the shop phone, floods it with voicemails, and begins sending reference photos with no context to Alex’s email, the shop’s email, and their Facebook page.

Alex writes to her client:

To which, Squirrel replies:

After another no-show, Squirrel has proven herself wholly unreliable, and Alex breaks up with her client.

What went wrong?

Squirrel’s impatience is what got her into trouble in the first place. In comparison to tattooing unmarked skin, cover-ups are very difficult. By going with a less expensive artist, she compromised the quality of her tattoo.

Her second mistake was overwhelming the artist, not just with multiple modes of communication, but with a lack of specificity. If you send reference photos to your artist, that’s great! Just be sure to make note of what you like/dislike from each photo. If you send several images of a butterfly, it’s difficult to tell if you’re wanting wings open or closed, in flight or stationary, or which colours and patterns you’d like in the wings. To avoid miscommunication, be as detailed as possible. Long emails are fine if they’re informative, but try to keep the amount of unread emails to a minimum.

Squirrel’s final mistake was wasting the artist’s time. Time is set aside for a tattoo session, which means no-show clients cost the artist billing hours. Deposits are put down as minimal insurance for that time, and are not enough to make up for several hours lost. By failing to show up to her appointments, Squirrel sent a message to the artist that read: your time is worth nothing to me.

Finally, asking an artist to share personal contact information is not appropriate. The rule of thumb to follow is this: if you wouldn’t ask it of your dentist, it’s probably unprofessional in a shop.

Long story short, don’t be like Squirrel.

Have you had a similar experience? Is there a nightmare client worse than Squirrel? Leave your feedback in the comments!