William Burgess

Recognizing difficult customers

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One of the old timers who mentored me in this biz said something to the effect of "sometimes a customer is gonna be difficult but they themselves don't realize it" meaning you gotta turn them away when they do certain things even if the customer is not recognizing their own behavior.

TOTALLY flipped out on a customer tonight...got talked down in price quite a bit but still decided to go the extra mile. Drawing kept me up LATE the night before...one of those "double the work but really want to do it" kinda pieces. So its taking a while, as I had planned because I was putting a lot into it. He can't hang because its getting too tender...says can we finish one part and do the rest later. I say cool, we will be at the 3/4 mark then so how about 1/4 your money back and pay when we finish...he looks all disappointed...so I asked is that fair..."We'll it could have been easily cheaper". I actually refunded his money, bandaged his half completed tattoo and told him walk.

Every time this has happened, I realize there was some truth to what my mentor said and have compiled a list of red flags. In all cases it would have been easier to just to turn them down as a customer and deal with someone else who won't give me such a hard time.

-Price haggling...especially the "that's a rip-off" type response.

-Looking like they aren't trusting you to do a good job..."your'e gonna do a good job, right?" and such

-Complaining about other artists work that is competently done. "he messed it all up"

Any other things come to mind? Tattooers please respond.

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So people pay before? I guess I always assumed you pay after since the number of hours planned might not pan out.

Different shops, different rules, different jobs. If there's a price in the wall most shops just charge it beforehand. Payment in advance usually avoids complications. Most street shops charge beforehand, fairly standard.

A lot of 'custom' shops charge afterwards, but some will start with a deposit of the predicted first session. Example would be; a predicted 3 hour session with a shop standard $50 deposit requires a $150 deposit.

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Bad form most anywhere, save for a flea market or thrift store.

Even in flea markets and thrift stores, I find myself paying the asking price, since it's usually so low. I think I paid 5 dollars for two books and a pin the last time I went to a thrift store. I understand that people would haggle at those places though.

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Even in flea markets and thrift stores' date=' I find myself paying the asking price, since it's usually so low. I think I paid 5 dollars for two books and a pin the last time I went to a thrift store. I understand that people would haggle at those places though.[/quote']

Also depends on the thrift shop, at ours it's loosely organized and there's really no prices on on anything so we welcome it..

Tattoo shops and other businesses are not set up that way at all.

Generally I discuss the idea, the placement and ask for a ball park figure so I can be sure to have plenty of cash for a tip etc, didn't ask for a price on the last two though, they are kinda small so..

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Also depends on the thrift shop, at ours it's loosely organized and there's really no prices on on anything so we welcome it..

Tattoo shops and other businesses are not set up that way at all.

Generally I discuss the idea, the placement and ask for a ball park figure so I can be sure to have plenty of cash for a tip etc, didn't ask for a price on the last two though, they are kinda small so..

This brings up a question for me.(and I know beforehand that i will be severely scolded!),but why is there a need for tipping? It seems to me that all prices charged should be inclusive of a profit.

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I think it goes beyond the price haggling and complaining, you have to size someone up as they walk in the door, how they are dressed, what they drive up in, what kind and how much source material they have with them, what their other tattoos look like and how they conduct themselves as a person. If they act like a cartoon character or try to come off as super cool or do they interact with you like a normal person. My main red flag even if they pass the other tests is when someone says they would never get something off the wall, that means they might be more likely to be difficult when it comes to the drawing. But we try not to turn away business and deal with most people, i would say price haggling is the only real deal breaker and once a number is thrown out there it never goes down. If someone is going to be a pain in the ass, you should at least get paid what you are worth for it and price will weed out a lot of crazy and hopefully avoids the scenario of losing your cool on a customer. But don't be mistaken, some people need to be kicked out of a tattoo shop, but most people don't they are just sensitive yuppies who need a little extra attention.

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When it comes to price, where I am shops usually have a shop minimum. This varies from location to location and I have seen many people try to work their way around this when it comes to smaller tattoo's. The way I look at it is simple. Everyone that has very little experience within the tattooing world had often said something along the lines of

"Tattooing is so easy! They just draw all day and rake in the dough."

When as most know it isn't that simple, being any artist results in putting your heart and soul into developing a practice that for most will always be a constant process of improvement. A lot of artists I have met spend a lot of time on each design whether it be on canvas or flesh, because there is this piece of them that never quite feels like it is ever perfect. Often times bigger or more complex designs can take hours of thought/preparation which usually is a part that people forget is unpaid. Whether or not they are working on those half body suits with extremely intricate detail that has to fit every body just perfectly, or the tiny hello kitty tattoo that takes a half hour to complete, there is a process to the tattoo which often at some point in preparation these people are not being paid for.

I also realized a few times over that being a tattoo artist, whether you have the skill to be a world renown award winning artist, or are an apprentice working your butt off at a street shop that tattooing is not always the most stable position. Money comes in and there can still be low sales points. Not only that but I know in this area generally there are no benefits that come with being a tattoo artist, there is no medical insurance other than what an artist might decide to pay out of the butt for from a private company, no dental, and the list goes on. Not every artist walks around with a massive was of cash, nor are they sitting in a room full of it like some sources decide to make it seem. And more often than not, tattoo artists are actually real people, working real jobs, who have real families to feed and support. Not always the easiest thing to do in a cash only environment or when your income can at times be spotty at best.

Shops still pay rent, and to be honest after helping a friend of mine open his own shop in the city, I have come to realize that unless you have a relationship with an awesome landlord in a great part of the city, often times they are over-charged hugely on the rent and utilities area for 2 main reasons.

1. They are extremely judgemental and figure that you are irresponsible and will trash the place or have sketchy people coming in and out non-stop

2. There are still the "dirty drug shops" that run in certain areas that generally employ scratchers who can supply their own dirty equipment and won't mind that they have no rules or regulations for a clean and safe environment

There are a lot of issues that tattoo artists have to deal with as well, and generally for myself I am getting customized pieces that do take time and development to create. Tipping is my way of thanking the artist for working with my mind on a design and creating something that I greatly appreciate that he or she put their being into creating. I also know that shops in this area generally will take a portion of the tattoo earnings from the artist to help pay rent and for everything involved in being in a fully functioning rented shop.

It's my way of showing my appreciation for an artist besides leading that people who ask about my work their way.

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If I go into a shop and ask for a price on a tattoo, I realize two things. One, I may not be able to afford it right away, and two, the price is not set in stone until the actual design is drawn up, unless it's flash art which I have not gotten in a long time and probably never will again.

It's funny, my current artist has a wall full of flash and has never once directed me to it. But even if I happened to have some money while discussing the price of my next piece, I still may not have the amount I need. Sometimes I even know that I'm asking way far in advance. But my artist will still quote me a price and even write it down on a card. But if I wanted the piece sooner, I would still say, "hey, I can't afford that right now, so I'll just wait until I have the rest of the money".

And I have a perfect analogy. I built my own custom motorbike about a year ago (nothing fancy, just a bicycle with a minibike engine). I knew from the outset it wouldn't be cheap. I built it from the bare frame up, and some people were nice and helped me out with some of the parts I needed. But I had to wait to have the money for a lot of the parts I needed. Online vendors usually don't haggle over price. And if I'd been impatient and rushed to build the bike with substandard parts, it would not have come out the way I was imagining it. And I feel the same applies to tattoos. If you want it for less than its worth, rush to get it done or go to a substandard artist, it's not going to be what you want. Every potential client really ought to keep that in mind.

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