How A Vaping Tattoo Artist Felt Insulted When He Was Insulting

My first tattoo – Sagittarius the Archer – at Hoboken Body Art. The artist was friendly, dexterous.

My Yelp/Google review points:

1) My wife and I had two tattoos each, done at Hoboken Body Art over the years. We loved the place.

2) Last week, she got her third tattoo, and yesterday, I was to get my third.

3) For our first four tattoos we paid around $80 each. We had four free touch ups but never used them, saving HBA’s ink and artists’ time.

4) Last week, J – the new/head artist – looked at the design my wife had drawn: her mom and dad’s short signatures, a musical note on either end, and a heartbeat linking them. He said he’d charge $160. Which was double what we’d paid previously for more or less the same work. Also, we’d given him print outs for the design, making his job easier. He was clearly overcharging since my wife’s tattoo was 30% smaller (as requested by her) than originally planned.

5) He said, “I’m a very famous tattoo artist. You know me.” His eyes awash with pride as he let out a squeal of laughter. I smiled without a clue about who he was. I suggested that I too would get a tattoo and we’d pay $125 each ($250 in total). I even said that for my design I was willing to forgo the symbol on either end (like the musical notes my wife had for her) if the total was $250. He said his final price was $300 ($150 each), and it was clearly understood that if he was charging the extra $50 we both would get the same kind of work. (One tattoo = $160, both = $300; same work.) I was not keen, but my wife had made up her mind to get pricked. It was her birthday week.

6) So, last week, she got her tattoo done, and we appreciated the work he did. We paid him $160. I told him that I’d get mine within two weeks. He said he’d charge me $140 referring to the $300 package. All was well.

The reception

7) Last Saturday, I called HBA twice within a span of 5 minutes for a time with J at 12 pm the next day (yesterday/Sunday). Both times A – the front desk manager – confirmed the appointment.

8) When we arrived at HBA at sharp 12 pm yesterday, A said that J was running late due to a Light Rail commute issue and that we would have to wait for 30 minutes. Now, we have a toddler son who accompanies us and it gets difficult when there’s a waiting period. However, as suggested by A, we went out for a walk, grabbing some coffee at Bwe Kafe, and came back half hour later. But it was not before 1 pm that J arrived. No hint of apology from him.

9) J looked at my design and said he’d charge $160 since it had a symbol on either end of heartbeat and parents’ short signatures. I reasoned that we’d agreed on a $300 package (not $250 where I was willing to forgo those) and that I was only getting what my wife had got. $150 each. Nothing extra.

10) J didn’t remember the discussion we had seven days prior. Since A was not party to the discussion he had no clue.

11) J didn’t give me a good vibe even last week, appearing slightly intoxicated. He was a cry baby who kept bragging about his skills.

12) And yesterday, he was obnoxious, rude, and unprofessional. One, he came an hour late. He said people have to wait even at doctor’s. Two, he wanted $320 total. From $250 to $300 to $320.

13) Why weren’t we given an appointment for 1 pm? It turned out that A had tried to reach J on Saturday, but could get hold of him only Sunday morning. If A had informed us Sunday morning not to come before 1 pm, we wouldn’t have wasted an hour.

14) J was smoking indoors in front of our child. A Big No!

15) Forget about apology, he was accusing us of being amateurs, unprofessional, and annoying. He said he’d come all the way from his house for us and that he was being insulted; that each hour of his was worth $160, completely forgetting that all of us value time. My wife and I are professionals and we can’t wait for an hour at a tattoo shop. How are we amateurs, unprofessional, and annoying?

16) A apologized to us three times; he even tried to hand a $20 bill to J for his Uber expenses. Perhaps, J wanted those $20 from us after he made us wait? If he hadn’t taken Uber, he wouldn’t have been at the shop before 2 pm. Apparently, A didn’t want to lose us, but J, a greedy and self-centered blockhead, wouldn’t care. Such a loser! God bless him.

17) It’s unfortunate that our relationship with HBA has ended over $20. They should get rid of artists like J — I say this because HBA used to have professional, well-behaved artists.

18) Appointments should be honored — it’s between HBA and the artists. No apology from J was not only discourteous but ill-bred.

19) Such a waste of our time, energy, and the $25 we Uber-paid for commuting from Newport in Jersey City. There are so many tattoo shops nearby. We paid the price for our HBA loyalty.

20) Three of our friends had been to HBA upon our high recommendation. Not anymore.

The entrance window

Now: it was not that we couldn’t have paid the extra $20. In fact, we were planning to tip him $30. What enraged us – how odious his behavior was: last week, it was a trailer – yesterday, a performance.

Establishing a good vibe between a tattoo artist and his customer is crucial. If there’s a lack of respect, a customer might not trust that his artist would do a good job. Imagine, a tattoo is permanent, and nobody wants to be scarred trying to remove it if the artist messed it up. We’re required to sign a consent form before the procedure, making us legally vulnerable.

The day’s positive was, I went to bed thinking everything happened for the best, convincing my wife in the same breath that she need not worry about her tattoo.

17 thoughts on “How A Vaping Tattoo Artist Felt Insulted When He Was Insulting

  1. While my normal instinct is to give artists the benefit of the doubt that people are constantly trying to stiff them, nothing annoys me more than someone carrying an attitude of “don’t you know who I am?” It’s crazy to encounter this, don’t people universally see/hate these characters in movies?

    • “…don’t people universally see/hate these characters in movies?” — you’re spot onπŸ˜‰ He did look like someone who was executing a reel assignment; was both in the depth of his character and delusional; his vape smoke painted a thick layer of white around him and he appeared larger than life, which he knew he was, looking at how he said “this is insulting” Eastwood-style. Thanks for commenting😊

  2. Good lord – too many signposts along the way that this guy was going to leave you with a permanent reminder on your body of his disgusting and thoughtless behavior. I would have walked at the first sign, but you’re younger than me – HA! πŸ˜‰ Great lesson on listening to your gut. You are well rid of that business relationship. ❀

    • “…too many signposts along the way that this guy was going to leave you with a permanent reminder on your body of his disgusting and thoughtless behavior” – lovely line, Bela πŸ™‚ YES, well rid of, especially considering HBA didn’t give a hoot about our loyalty. The manager’s sincere apology fell much short of his desperate need to keep his unruly tattoo artist employed πŸ™‚

  3. Well u did the correct thing by leaving – it is sad when a place changes and I bet this tatt shop has new owners/ new management or something like that – and then the changes trickle down – sometimes positive and sometimes negative – in this case – sounds very negative and the shop is headed for problems – cos word of mouth carries a lot of weight – and just sad when prices go up so high and when customer service goes down!
    We recently experienced this at a place we used to like to dine at – the hubs and I have a ew spots for different things we like – and for about ten years we have gone to this place I’ll call “j” – so we decided to have a dinner party there last spring and the food was different – service was ultra slow and we were embarrassed that we had talked it up. Turns out – new management the previous year and so many changes trickled down. And after that night – we took it off our list – it was such a change for the worse – !
    Oh and I like her tattoo πŸ˜‰

    • Yes, you’re right: a new management was possibly the case and the changes trickled down. What was shocking was – the delusional tattoo artist didn’t make an effort to end the dispute on a good note – how about some customer service (a smile?) – he just left with his vape smoke trailing him (after we waited for an hour). I’m super glad you’d taken J off your list – was the sensible thing to do: mediocrity and rudeness can’t be business mantras. Thanks, amigo😊

      • well I also like all the current tidbits in this post – because it really grabs the culture for where it is at – and one day this post will maybe be like seeing a Motorola RAZR phone in a scene.
        you know…
        the vaping (which is exploding in its use these days – college students come to class and set up their lapton, book bag on the fllor and then the vaping base device sits right near the notebook) –
        the Uber use – or Lyft – which is a sign of the times – and such a fantastic option and whew – I still have baggage from being dissed by Taxis so I am a huge Uber fan)
        and then the Tatts – another sign of current culture – walking body art is (and has been) in.
        Anyhow, I am very picky with where we dine and also we are in a budget and don’t love to dine out like we used to – and so the place has to have certain things down. ha!
        and your tatt guy here – well sometimes people like this learn – they grow up and they get knowledge and wisdom and build their practice (or career) and sometimes they don’t!
        and how annoying!

      • Interesting inputs πŸ™‚ Yes, Vaping is on the rise and is dangerous (it’s been proven — can kill you anytime). Uber and Lyft have made the commute user-friendly. What a relief to be not dependent on taxis and their rude agencies! “…they grow up and they get knowledge and wisdom and build their practice (or career) and sometimes they don’t!” – exactly! And the tattoo guy apparently didn’t. Thanks, amigo πŸ™‚

      • Well I had someone who vapes tell me that it was the same thing as the air that comes out of my essential oil diffuser.
        and we went round and round about the different vape options and they said not all vape has propylene glycol additives – and then the vape sites talk it down and say “In moderation” – but I digress…
        truth is I don’t know enough and I am not sure how to respond when someone said it was better than cigarettes. Not sure…
        and could rant on taxis too – but won’t cos you said it well enough “rude agencies” many times….

        and maybe posts like these will be a small help to improve customer service – because the little things add up and who knows who it will help. πŸ™‚

      • πŸ™‚ well penned πŸ™‚ Re: vape – I don’t know where I read it but it said that while cigarettes killed you slowly, vapes could kill you instantly. Propylene glycol additives? “…the same thing as the air that comes out of my essential oil diffuser” – you said it πŸ™‚
        We had an incident with a taxi agency and since then, we’ve decided we’d prefer taxi as the last option. I’ll share that in detail later but the summary is: our flight to India from JFK airport was at 9 pm – we called a taxi around 6 pm. After we put the luggage in and were in the taxi, the driver said it was $75 although the agency had on phone “confirmed” $50. My calls to the agency weren’t answered. We refused to take the taxi, and the driver, who’d driven some distance dropped us at a strange location. We had to call another taxi. The driver had probably thought we’d pay $70 because – well – who wanted to miss their flight πŸ™‚

      • It is so weird (but awesome) corresponding with you via blogosphere again, M!
        and your story is similar to many I have heard.
        and they captilalize on vulnerable times…
        we have had numerous times of being discarded because our route to such and such was not long enough and the guy in charge had to distribute long routes as they generated revenue.
        had one time of waiting with luggage and this was when we noticed we were being dissed.
        People would come out of airport – wait 10 minutes and get scooped. We’d ask about our turn – and were told it was a rotation and we were in the line up.
        two hours later – seriously – I asked a lady to drop us off and she did (likely not safe to do all the time) anyhow, thank goodness there are airport shuffles – and now uber and lyft.
        although I heard uber drivers were caught refusing rides that were too short – I guess they can decline three rides and no more – who knows…
        but as you noted (with the tatt guy) sometimes these folks forget that some of us are generous tippers (or we can be) and so they need not judge their takeaway earnings prematurely

      • “…and so they need not judge their takeaway earnings prematurely” – true that.

        Hey, I’m trying to comment on your “Annoyances” post without success.

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