Nightmare Client #2: The Bully
by K. A. Kristmanson
There’s a few mistakes that a client can make to leave a bad impression, but most of the time, we can chalk it up to nerves or an issue of miscommunication. Professionals in this business are understanding, and willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, there are also scenarios where walking away from a project is better than agonizing through multiple interactions with an unpleasant client. One of these examples is with a client archetype I call The Bully.
When I was working in a shop up north, I had a run-in with an aggressive client that stuck with me. One morning, an artist was very ill—she literally puked on the floor, no word of a lie. So, she asked me to cancel her clients for the day. It was about 9 AM, so most of her clients got a good half-day’s notice. Not ideal, but there was nothing to be done, and they understood. All except one, that is.
The first appointment of the day—let’s call her June—was not happy that her appointment was canceled. I had left a voicemail for June explaining the situation and asked her to call me back, so we could reschedule. When she did, it wasn’t to make another appointment date. No, she called to yell at me—the counter staff.
Her complaint was about the short notice. Fair, it wasn’t a lot of time, but I called her immediately when the artist said she was going home. June lectured me, outlining her own policies as a hairdresser. She would “get up at 6 AM to give her clients’ enough notice,” and expected the same of others.
As she clearly had no patience for unavoidable inconveniences, we refunded her deposit.
When your artist is sick, there’s only one option. We weren’t going to let June get tattooed, and hope that the artist didn’t blow chunks all over freshly broken skin. But sometimes, you get a client who treats you like a robot designed specifically to fulfill their wishes, instead of a human being.
Moral of that story: always try to remember that your artist is a person, just like you. They get sick, and they have lives outside of work. Which brings me to the second example.
A friend of mine recently dealt with a different kind of bully—the kind that tries to intimidate the artist to get what they want. Let’s call this one Gary.
Gary came in for a consultation in mid-March and spoke with the artist about the tattoo he had in mind. Taking on the project, the artist told Gary that she would book him in for an appointment once the drawing was finished. She also let him know that the waiting period would be three weeks to a month, as she had a list of other projects on the go. He said that was fine and went on his merry way.
Three weeks later, my friend gets an aggressive email that, summed up, reads:
It’s been three weeks since we spoke, and I’m beginning to doubt your professionalism. I’m new to tattoos, but everyone I know says I should’ve been booked in by now. I get that you’re busy, but that’s no excuse, so if you’re not done my drawing, I want my deposit back. You’re clearly overwhelmed with clients and I’d rather get work done by someone who does what I want, when I want it.
This tactic rarely works. Threatening to pull your money to make the artist work faster is not a form of incentive. Especially if the artist is successful and has a client base already established. Needless to say, she did end up refunding him, so he could take his business—and his impatience—somewhere else.
There’s a good chance that his impatience cost him a quality tattoo in the end. He may have gotten it done faster, but really, it takes time and effort to create a drawing that’s worth permanently tattooing on your skin. Moral of this story: tattoos are not just you get what you pay for, they’re also you get what you wait for.
In short, patience is a virtue.
But for every rough client, there’s at least ten good ones. And I thank every client who is understanding and easy-going. You make our work easier, and more enjoyable. So, give yourself a pat on the back if that’s you, and keep being awesome.