Inking people is no easy task. A tattoo artist requires more than just creative vision and a steady hand; they also need a poised disposition to deal with problematic clients. From screamers and squirmers to the downright difficult, these people should’ve gotten the boot before the ink was dry.
I had a couple come in—the girl had just turned 18, and the guy looked to be in his late 30s. She said that he was going to pick whatever he wanted for her tattoo.
He chose to have his name and then “owns me” written across her lower stomach. Nowadays, I'd turn something like that down, but this was when I first started tattooing. The whole experience was cringey enough—but it got even worse.
I was working in a really sketchy shop where my boss was just a massive money grabber, so I didn't really have much of a choice but to do it.
So, she was getting the tattoo done, and all the while he was saying how they were coming back the next day for him to get her nickname. You'll never guess what it was...he wanted to get “Princess Bubby” on his neck.
He kept going outside on his phone, and when he came back, she was saying, “I know you're talking to other girls, don't lie to me,” and he was just laughing in the cockiest way.
Towards the end, she looked at him with big puppy dog eyes and said, “I love you,” and he just replied, “I know”. Needless to say, he never came back for “Princess Bubby”.
An artist friend of mine was putting some art on a biker dude who was surrounded by other biker friends. They were all older and really cool, and they started talking about their weirdest tattoos.
They all took turns, and then the oldest guy of the bunch got up and he shocked everyone in the room—without warning, he whipped out his twig and berries to show that it was all tattooed to resemble a turtle with a shell and a face.
My artist buddy said he would have a hard time complaining about any of his clients because there's a tattoo artist out there somewhere who had to tattoo a turtle on some rowdy biker's junk.
Years ago, I had ink on the inside of both biceps, and I decided to start on at least a half sleeve on each side.
I was making good money doing web design at the time, but being the cheapskate that I was, I ended up trading a website for tattoo work at what I assumed was a shop in a city a few hours away from where I lived.
I did half the website work up front, then, having already approved the artwork for each arm by email, headed to the "shop" to start that zapping. I should've headed home when the address ended up being a house, not a shop.
I should've headed out when the artist showed me his unlicensed dog breeding operation in the backyard. I should've hit the road when the stencils didn't really match the approved artwork. But I didn't—and that was the worst decision ever.
I had the line work get started over each arm. About halfway through the first arm lines, we were zapping away in the studio, which was a small bedroom in the house.
We were having a nice conversation, where I was learning the big, intimidating dude doing the tattooing learned his craft in the pokey, from which he was currently on parole.
Suddenly, the ink-slinging was interrupted by hammering on the nearby front door of the house, followed by unintelligible screaming. The dude told me to chill and went to answer the door.
I listened to screaming, and a huge argument broke out for ten minutes, escalating quickly. The front door suddenly slammed shut, although the yelling continued outside.
The guy suddenly came running into the "studio" and told me to get up; he needed my help. He yanked a cheap HP multifunction printer off the computer desk in the corner and shoved it into my arms, then told me to wait a minute.
He left the room, and I heard doors slamming, and cabinets banging, all competing with the fracas in Caracas coming from the front porch.
He came back into the "studio" a few minutes later and balanced on the printer were multiple plastic grocery bags stuffed to capacity with pistols and ammo.
He told me to take my load of value-priced office equipment and ammo, go around back to my truck, hide them inside, and go hide a few miles away for 30 minutes, and he'll text me when it's clear.
His look made it clear this was not optional. I did as instructed. While hiding in an alley, I looked at the start of my tattoo and realized I was not impressed.
I wasn’t sure what to do in this situation. I hid the stuff well in the backseat of my truck and called my brother to tell him what happened. At least somebody would know where I was in case, I'm caught somehow with what I assumed to be hot goods.
Eventually, I got bored, found a good parking spot, and wandered into a nearby bar to calm my nerves. Finally, the text message came in, and it was clear to head back to the house/tattoo shop. I carefully drove the speed limit back to the house, and all was quiet.
I headed inside to the "studio" with my loot, dumped it on the couch, and asked him what was going on.
It turned out the altercation at the door was with a 70-something-year-old lady. She had come to him last week to schedule and arrange payment for a tattoo session for her boyfriend, an 80-year-old guy.
He had all of his ex-girlfriend's names tattooed down his arm throughout his life. She traded him an HP multifunction printer to have lines tattooed through all of the previous girls' names on his arm and add hers to the list.
When the guy came in, he was fine with adding his current girlfriend's name to his arm but not with crossing out the names of the old ones. My ink-slinging buddy did what the guy told him to.
The lady had just seen the tattoo, was not happy with the results, and showed up at the house/studio furious with the artist, demanding her printer back.
He apparently got angry during the argument, and she called the authorities. He panicked—being on parole and all—and couldn't have any arms in the house, which was where I came in. I was pretty mad, not wanting to be involved in any of this in the first place.
I just wanted to build my website and get my tattoos. You'd think I learned my lesson, but I had him finish up the arm we started that same day, and I ended up going back a second time to outline the other arm. I’ve been working on fixing them ever since.
I have an intricate sleeve on my left arm that took several years to finish. One time, I was getting work done, and someone a few booths down from me started whispering, which turned into screaming, then crying, and more screaming.
Finally, I saw the tattoo artist just walk out shaking his head and walk down the hall saying, "I'm out". Another artist went and checked on the client, who was crying, and she had to be shown out while she was hobbling.
She was getting a small butterfly on her ankle and apparently could not handle it. It was really uncomfortable for everyone involved.
My buddy used to have this artist guest spot at his shop. So, one time, when I was getting tattooed, he told the worst tattoo story I've ever heard. The artist lived in a rural town, and not many new people came looking for work.
One day this old lady came in and asked for clown makeup tattooed on her face. The artist said no for obvious reasons, and she left.
The next day, she came in again; this time, it was only a new artist working. This younger guy at the shop was hurting for cash at the moment and agreed to tattoo the clown makeup on her face. Little did he know that the lady had a severe mental disability.
A few days later, a detective showed up at the shop asking about the woman and the encounter with her. It turned out that after she came to from her episode and realized what she had done, she took her life.
I had a client who told me at the beginning she was prone to fainting, and she stated it on her consent form, too. I nonchalantly brushed it off and told her she'd be fine. I got to the last letter, and she asked if we could have a quick break because she felt light-headed.
It was around Halloween at the time, so her friend brought in the pumpkin bucket of sweets we had out in the waiting room.
I thought she was just leaning forward to have a look at what goodies were in there, but instead, it was more her doing a Luigi-style torpedo forward off the chair onto the floor.
I luckily sprinted around and caught her before her head hit the floor. She had a small fit and came around about a minute later.
I was piercing at a shop, and my friend was an artist. She was tattooing this chick who just wanted a basic piece—some stars and swirly stuff with her astrology sign mixed in.
It was a decent-sized piece, about the size of my hand, and it was on the back of her calf. The spot is usually a little twitchy but nothing terrible, however, not for Ariel.
She contained herself for about 1.5 minutes, then just straight screamed and cried. My friend kept asking if she just wanted to stop, but Ariel was adamant that she would continue.
I have never heard anything like this chick’s crying/screaming before in my life. If it had been a horror movie, I would have said she was overacting.
Other clients came in to get piercings, and they had to take a break during those times, so she wouldn’t scare them away. It was the most stressful tattoo my friend ever had to do.
Tattoo artists know that inflicting pain is an inevitable part of the job, but she felt like she was literally tormenting someone for two hours. She had to have a strong drink after that one.
I had to work on a 40-year-old autistic woman who had a fit about needles and people touching her. She kept moving and freaking out. There were no solid lines at all.
I did my best to conceal the moving mistakes, but she absolutely loved the honu, or turtle in Hawaiian! I understood the client's limitations—but her caretakers were the worst people ever.
There were two 20-something medical workers who went behind the shop to do substances. And after we were done, the caretakers decided to go in the bathroom and try to get busy.
So, the client and I were getting to know each other, and after ten seconds of hearing their loud moaning noises, the client said, "They always have fun like that in front of me".
The caretakers finished. The girl had stains on her scrubs, the guy had the largest wet spot on his pants, and they both stank like sweat and hot garbage. The client gave me the biggest hug ever, and all I felt was hate toward the caretakers.
I have a tattoo of Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World on my rear. My tattoo artist has been quoted as saying it's "One of the best pieces he's ever done".
That being said, when I originally called the shop to book an appointment, I said, “Hey, I was wondering if I could schedule an appointment with Travis for this day and a consultation for the day before that!"
The tattoo shop lady replied, "Sure, and what will you be getting done?" I told her I wanted to get portraits of Wayne and Garth on my behind.
She proceeded to hang up and every time I called back, thinking it was some kind of prank. So, I had to show up and explain it was a real tattoo that I wanted. It looks awesome.
A guy and girl came into my artist’s shop and asked to get a tattoo on the chick's back. A couple of minutes into it, the lady started squirming. The artist asked her to sit still.
A couple of minutes later, she started squirming again. He said, "If you don't sit still, I can't finish the tattoo". She said, "It really hurts, but there's something that might help".
The artist said, "Do whatever you need. Just sit still". So, she managed to stop squirming, and it was a while before the artist noticed her head bobbing. He looked up from the tattoo, and this chick was going at it with her boyfriend. He finished up the tattoo, paid, and left.
A week later, the artist was at a pool hall, and he recognized the guy. They made small talk, and he asked, "How's your girlfriend's tattoo healing?" The guy said, "Girlfriend? That was the first day I met her. I haven't talked to her since".
At 18 years old, a buddy went through a bad breakup and decided to get a tattoo while depressed. I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted and insisted I drive. We got there, and he had the tattoo planned out.
The outline crossed his right bicep. I had a couple of tattoos, so I thought, "That's easy, in and out". Right before they got started, my friend said, "By the way, I'm phobic of needles".
He ended up having a seizure and blacked out right when the artist started. The artist calmly said, "He's gone. Catch him”. I caught my friend as he was falling off the chair, and the artist just said, "Hold him still".
It took two hours for a thirty-minute tattoo. I was embarrassed, but the artist just said, "You should have seen the three-hundred-pound biker yesterday. Try catching him".
I worked at a tattoo shop when I was younger. This lady came in to get a tattoo and brought her baby. Only she had no intention of watching the little tyke, so she plopped him in the carrier right in front of me on the counter and was like, "Watch my kid".
She didn't even give me a chance to say no and walked in the back to get tattooed.
Another tattoo artist was up at the front with me and got a squirrely look in his eye. He was up to something, and he wanted me in on it. He asked me if we should draw a mustache on the baby. Of course, I readily agreed, so we got some kid-safe markers and drew this very epic-looking mustache on the little one.
She came out 20 minutes or so later, paid, grabbed the carrier, and started heading out the door without so much as a thank you.
We sat there waiting for her to notice, and sure enough, as she was putting the baby in the car seat, she saw it. Her reaction was epic—we saw her through the windows go rigid as comprehension settled upon her; her baby had a mustache.
She stormed in, already yelling and cursing, and we were just laughing. Her rage was totally understandable, but she screamed, “How could you draw a mustache on a baby?"
I replied with, "How can you expect a stranger, a 19-year-old no less, to watch your kid?" She raged and caused a scene while our manager, our artists, and our customers laughed uncontrollably.
When I was a senior in high school, I worked at a large shop. I basically just cashiered, cleaned, ran to the back to get stuff for the artists, and kept customers out of the work area. I also did some distracting for the people who had no business getting tattoos.
One day, I was talking to this chick who was getting a shamrock of some sort on her arm. I was in a conversation with her because she was nervous, so I was taking her mind off the needle a bit and, as a joke, told her, "Your puppy dog is looking great so far”.
She freaked out and jerked really hard, making the artist draw across the shamrock, ruining it. I stopped telling jokes for the rest of my senior year working there.
This girl I used to date wanted to get a matching tattoo with her sister on her sister’s 18th birthday. They had a design all picked out and ready to go. It was really simple, and her sister was more than ready to get one because she had wanted to get tatted up forever.
The girl I was dating, though, was kind of nervous about it. She wasn't too keen on getting any tattoos other than this one with her sister. Her sister got the tattoo first, no big deal. Then my ex went. They started off doing okay until they were about halfway through.
The artist, who was this big intimidating-looking dude, noticed she began to get pale as they were going. He goes, "Hey are you doing, okay?" and she said, "I think we need to take a break". So, he stopped and got out of his chair for a second.
As soon as he did, my ex threw her head back in the air, like something you'd see out of The Exorcist. We all looked at her, and then next thing you know, she jolted her head forward and began to projectile vomit everywhere—all over the walls, the back of the chair, everywhere.
As this was happening, the poor artist was cowering in the corner, trying to shield himself from the onslaught of puke coming his way.
As he was doing that, he was holding a towel behind him, asking if she needed a towel, only to be cut off by another dry heave from my ex. Immediately after, she passed out, and we had to carry her out of the shop. She didn't come to us until we were almost home.
Needless to say, she had to come back and get it finished a couple of weeks later. It was a cat tattoo. So, for a couple of weeks, she walked around with a headless cat on her shoulder. It was hilarious.
When I was a new artist, I had a friend that I was close with who had gotten a new girlfriend. My friend called me, made an appointment, and we discussed the cost, etc. He then asked what it would cost for his girl to get something little done.
At the time, the shop minimum was $50, and that's what I told him based on his description and me cutting a bit of slack to help him look good in front of this girl.
They got there, and I got the tattoo for her together, which was just her three kids' names and some very simple, stylized cherry blossoms. It was a small tattoo that should normally take a half hour, an hour MAX if you wanted to get fancy with it.
I knew this lady seemed off, but I couldn't tell why until my friend said she was a recovering addict, which is not normally a problem.
She didn't seem visibly high, just a little slow with her words and thoughts. Then we got started, and the bouncing legs began. So, I stopped and asked if she was alright and told her to keep still. She said she was fine, so we kept at it.
Then, she screamed and quickly jerked away from me every time she even heard the machine come close to her. I let her take a break hoping she'd get herself together. She was gone for 20 minutes out to her car.
When she came back, she seemed okay and was ready to give it another go, so we started. I got one name finished, and she stopped not even five minutes after the first break. After the third break, I asked my friend if they had been using before arrival or if she was still using pills.
Usually, when people aren't able to compose themselves and are not managing the pain well, they're either really hungry, sleep-deprived, OR heavily inebriated.
He confessed they were high on the way up but refused to admit that she was going out to the car to use anything heavier or smoke more. I still don't believe him.
I'm perfectly fine taking a break if someone needs it, but this tattoo wound up lasting FOUR HOURS. Four hours of alternating, five minutes of tattooing and screaming, and 20 minutes of her going out to the car and squandering my time.
I was so mad at my friend by the end. I stuck it out and finished her tattoo, and I stared daggers at him the whole time.
Regardless, I did my best. I got paid. I kept my cool and tried to keep her from alarming anyone else the best I could. I have no clue what happened to that lady or how her tattoo healed with all the jerking around she did.
Eventually, she and my friend went their separate ways. My friend and I have since done the same.
I try to educate my clients as to what makes a good tattoo and what doesn't. I have a lot of passion for the field, but some people make it really hard.
I offered a client, who wanted a knock-off of a tattoo she saw online, an original design. She took me up on my offer and being naive, I didn't ask for a drawing deposit. This ended up being a BIG mistake.
I told her to come back in a few days, and she did. She loved the design, and we set the appointment for the day after, stating that I charged hourly and that it would take roughly seven to 10 hours.
We set it up, and she asked to take a picture because she loved it so much and wanted to show it to her friends. I usually don't let people do this, but I was being nice, so why not?
Well, she didn’t show up, never left a deposit, and I saw my design poorly made by some kitchen chop shop artist a few weeks later online. I learned my lesson.
My brother-in-law is a tattoo artist. A local "underground rapper" wanted his MySpace page link tattooed on his forehead. Months later, the world moved on to Facebook, and he came back in to harass my brother-in-law almost daily for it. T
hey ended up calling the authorities when he wouldn’t leave the shop. When they searched him and his car, he had six loaded pieces, over $2000 cash, a list of full names of people who owed him money and their addresses, as well as people he owed money to, and thousands of dollars worth of dope in his car.
I was a tattoo artist for a few years, and the worst customer I had was a guy in his early twenties who wanted a full sleeve. He said it was his first tattoo, so I told him it would hurt and take a long time; he claimed he had a high pain tolerance.
As soon as I started, he yelled, "THAT HURTS!"
He told me to do half of it, and he would be back to finish it. After hours of him holding back tears, I got done with the half he wanted. I told him that I finished and asked him to pay $260 for the roughly eight-inch sleeve.
He flipped out and claimed that he was uninformed of the price. For context, right as you walk in, there's a sign that tells you prices.
My mom paid for my first tattoo for my 18th birthday, and I did not research anything, so I was walking in blind. I ended up getting something on my shoulder.
When the artist got to a certain spot on my back, he must have hit a nerve or something because a shiver went through my body. All the blood drained from my head, and I started puking my brains out.
He ended up running out of the room while my mom held a trash can for me to puke into. I went to the shop after I got out of school, but I had to wait for my mom to get off work to pay for it and be there.
I was talking about what I was going to get while I waited, and the artist asked me if I'd eaten anything. I said not really, so he told me to go get something to eat since getting a tattoo on an empty stomach can make you pass out.
I followed directions without asking any questions and went to a little Chinese place next door and ate a whole chicken and broccoli combo and a Mountain Dew. Apparently, it's not a good idea to do that.
I had a guy who wanted "failure is not an option" on his stomach. As soon as I started, he kept having me take breaks after every letter/every other letter, and that was just the outline. Once I started filling in the letters, we got to "failure is" before he made me stop.
He would NOT let me continue because he said it hurt too much, even though he talked a big game beforehand! So, yeah, I guess failure WAS an option in his case.
While I was apprenticing a few years back, I would mainly do cleaning, breaking down stations, taking appointments, etc. Every few days, this really tall slim shady look-a-like would come in and book an appointment with the shop owner and never show.
What struck me about this guy was just the complete lack of expression on his face or life in his eyes; he just looked blank.
It kind of gave me the creeps. He would always be really set on an idea, originally a tribal piece, and then come in and change what he wanted and set the date back. After changing his mind six times, he settled on wanting to get a portrait of LeBron James on his leg.
My boss said, "I would be more than happy to have [my apprentice] here set an appointment for you; it's just that you've rescheduled on me so many times, I am just going to need a deposit of $50 to save the time slot for you".
He said that he just had to run to the bank to get some cash and never came back after that.
I recently got my foot done, and to distract myself from the pain, I got a story out of the guy who inked me. There was a mother/son pair, and the son wanted a tattoo on his stomach. The artist printed the stencil and put it on his stomach, but not at a good placement.
The mother was complaining. Attempt number two, again was not a good placement. They were getting loud, and the mom was making inappropriate comments about her son. The third stencil got placed on, and it still wasn’t good.
They were now getting rude. With every stencil, they just got louder and meaner to the point that the tattoo artist tossed them out. It was the first and last time he had to give someone the boot.
When I got my first tattoo, I overheard a great story. A girl was getting a big piece done on her hip and leg who came in just after I'd started and was asking where her normal artist was.
She and my artist looked at each other and chuckled, then told us why he wasn't there. A few days before, a huge guy had come into the shop.
He was an absolute Viking of a man, and he’d come in to get his girlfriend's name across his back. They sorted out the stencil and checked he was happy with the placement.
As he stood in front of the chair about to sit down, the artist buzzed the needle a couple of times to check it and just saw the color drain from the guy—not from his face but from his entire body.
Then, he slowly toppled backward, straight on top of the tattoo artist, breaking two of the artist's ribs. When I went for my second tattoo a couple of years later in a different city, my artist told me an almost identical story about one of the girls in the shop.
A giant guy came in, getting his girlfriend's name as a chest tattoo this time. Everything lined up, the artist stood in front of him, and as soon as the needle touched his skin, he just collapsed forward.
The artist got a broken arm as a result of trying to not jab him in the chest with the machine while he collapsed. I guess the moral of the story is that if you're a giant, don't get your girlfriend's name tattooed on you. Otherwise, you'll faint and break the artist's bones.
I can imagine I'm probably someone's worst story. I have a horrible tendency to laugh when I am in pain. My husband knows that I'm seriously hurt when the tears have stopped, and the laughter ensues.
At the tender age of 20, I was going in for my third tattoo, and I warned the guy about my issues. He nodded, said no biggie, and seemed unconcerned when I told him I bleed easily as well.
Five minutes into it, I let myself go—I was laughing uncontrollably, and he got huffy, saying, "Crooked lines aren't funny!" I apologized in between breaths, and my boyfriend of the time tried to distract me.
Eventually, the artist had to stop because the blood was pooling up fast and I couldn't breathe from the laughter. We finished after a 20-minute break and an icing session. I tipped him well, said thanks, and I'm positive he was glad to never see me again.
I'd been inking for about five years when this guy swaggered into the shop. I say swaggered because I could tell he'd had a bit to drink that night.
It was enough to make him feel cocky, but not enough to be completely out of it, which automatically would have gotten him booted out of my chair.
I'm not going to deal with people so plastered they aren't in control, and no one needs 10 AM buyer’s remorse for something like a tattoo.
He came in, and I could tell he was new. I directed him to my book of options, but he didn’t even look at it. He just sat in my chair and said, "I want you to draw a troll. He should be fishing using one of those plumbs to balance the line".
I asked, "So you want a net?" He replied, "What?" I said, "A net. A trolling net for fishing?"
He said, "Ha! Is that where it comes from? No, man. I want a big green under-the-bridge troll! And make sure he's got a plumb. That's really important. I want it on my arm".
I rolled my eyes but started sketching a few things out. I was halfway through outlining something and I said, “So what type of fish is this thing catching?"
He said, "Fish? No, man. He's catching an alpaca!" I asked, "An alpaca?" He said yes and I asked, "In the water with his fishing pole?" He said, "Now you've got it! "Don't forget the plumb!"
So, I sketched it out and the guy was going bonkers over it. He loved it. I started it up and went for an hour. I got a third of the way through before we stopped. He asked, "What are you doing?"
I said, "Stopping man. Large tattoos have to go in pieces. It'll be better for you". The guy plunked down $2,000 in cash and said, "Keep going". I stared at it, then I stared at him, and I kept going.
He said, "And don't forget the plumb!" Three hours later, this guy hadn't so much as whimpered on the chair, but I was finally done.
It was the weirdest tattoo I'd ever done but it was a masterpiece. He thanked me and walked out the door. I stopped him on the street because I couldn’t let it go. I said,
"Hey, dude. What's up with the tattoo?" He looked at me with these instantly serious eyes and said, "So I never forget". "Forget what?" I asked. "That 'alpaca plumb troll' is an anagram of 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop'".
I'm not an artist but I witnessed a pretty bad customer when I was getting some tattoo work done. A kid came in who was about 19 and had a printout of the word "loyalty" in all-caps that he wanted tattooed down his forearm.
From the moment the kid walked in, he was being loud and obnoxious. He was with his girlfriend and was telling her how awesome this was going to be. The artist he was talking to must've had some great foresight because he asked for half the money up front.
The kid sat down, the artist sized it and transferred it to his arm. He asked him normal questions, "Black ink? Solid lettering?" The kid was like, "Yeah, let's do this!"
He got ready to start and said, "I think this is spelled wrong". The kid disagreed. He held it up to me, as I was sitting at the station next to them. It said, “L-O-Y-A-T-Y”.
They fixed it by copying the first L and re-aligned it on his arm and the artist started. The kid stopped him 45 seconds in and said, "Noooo, why are you filling it?"
The guy's like, "You said you wanted it solid." The kid said, "Oh, I didn't know that's what you mean," and they discussed that it's not fixable and it will look dumb as an outline.
The kid agreed to fill it solid black. While the artist was doing this, the kid burped and blew it right in his face. Then, he did it again a second later.
The artist stopped and said, "Listen. You're being really obnoxious. I've put up with it, but seriously, if you burp in my face or say one dumber thing, I'm going to stop, and I'm keeping your deposit".
The kid just sheepily said, "Sorry," and was completely silent for the rest of the time I was there. When I came back a couple of weeks later, my artist told me that he apologized again before leaving but didn't say anything the rest of the time.
I was taking an apprenticeship at a local parlor when a woman came in who wanted a tattoo to "represent her children". It was a flower, on her cheek, with three squiggly lines radiating toward the center of the flower.
The artist asked her repeatedly if she was sure and even gave other suggestions, then made a stencil and showed her how it would look.
With her okay, he proceeded to do the tattoo. A few days later, she stormed in with a giant beast of a man, yelling about how terrible it was, and no one told her it looked like sperm going toward an egg.
The tattoo artist said, "Well...kind of thought that was your intent". The beast-man proceeded to knock down our display and two plants on their way out.
My tattoo artist told me that there was a man who went unconscious and pooped his pants in the middle of a tattoo. The man's next move was ridiculous—when he came to, he waddled awkwardly into the bathroom, flushed his stained underwear down the toilet, and clogged it so it started to overflow.
He then ran quickly out of the shop with his half-finished tattoo, never to be seen again.
I was in for a five-hour session to get a new shoulder piece and have my other one completely redone. There were two permanent artists and one guest artist at this particular studio, and I was with the guest artist.
S, one of the resident artists, was working on an older classy-looking lady, and L was working on a 20-something, very clean-cut-looking kid when I came in.
This studio didn’t take walk-ins, and you were advised to come in for a consultation before your appointment. About 30 minutes into my session, I heard S mumble loudly but nothing alarming.
10 minutes later, I heard him yell for L and S, the guy working on me, to come quickly. The lady was on blood thinners and hadn't claimed it on the release waiver, AND had had several drinks before coming in.
The floor looked like a scene from Dexter, and blood had spread all over everything. By the time S got back to me, it had been 30 minutes, and the medics were on the way.
Needless to say, that lady was charged double and asked not to come back as you are given verbal and written instructions to NOT come in for your appointment if you have had more than one drink within 24 hours or if you were on blood thinners.
I'm pretty sure I was a tattoo artist's worst customer of the day. My best friend and I wanted matching tattoos. We lived cross country from each other but were going to be in our hometown at the same time for four whole days and figured it was tattoo time.
We hadn't seen each other in person in three or four years, so we had this whirlwind week planned. I had to attend orientation for grad school, too. I had gone to orientation at around 7 AM, picked her up and we stayed up until 3 AM making tutus for a color run.
We woke up at 5 AM to get ready for the color run, drive there, run, etc. Then, we went to the state fair and ate fried butter and had to drive to the tattoo place. At this point, we were so tired, we were dysfunctional.
We'd been emailing the tattoo artists back and forth for weeks about the tattoos because we wanted the same albatross, but she wanted hers embellished and big on her shoulder and I wanted mine simple and small on my wrist.
We'd even sent in measurements of my wrist space. We got to the tattoo place, and the artist told me, "I can't make it that small and have it look good. It would have to be at least this big," which was twice the size we'd agreed on in our emails.
I was really tired and was also an anxious human being who could not handle change in a split second. My friend went first, and I sat for an hour staring at this outline, wondering what to do. My friend told me I didn’t have to get the tattoo at all if it was not what I wanted.
I almost started to cry. Then, I nitpicked. I want his eye stripe to go this way, not that way, I want it 10% smaller, I just want the outline, no color or detail.
She was awesome and patient with me. She did the outline in gray and asked how I liked it. I asked if she could add a little shading here and a little here.
Then, I asked if the beak could be yellow. It was stupid. I was the worst. She was wonderful and sweet the whole time, but I know in her head she just wanted to smack me and tell me to get out. I tipped her extra for being a hassle.
My SO is a tattoo artist. I remember when I was a piercer at the same shop, this girl came in to get her entire rib cage tattooed as her first tattoo. Rib cage tattoos are one of the most painful ones to get done, especially as your first.
She wanted this giant detailed phoenix flying out of flames. The tattoo turned out well, but this girl quite literally screamed the entire time. Like, she did NOT stop screaming at all.
And she was in for four four-hour sittings in order to get it done. I would have to explain to all of my clients that came in that the girl was getting a rib cage tattoo and that she was probably in pain because it was her first tattoo.
I had to assure them that we didn’t have some Dexter-style room in the back of the shop.
A buddy of mine had his artist come over to our loft to do a tattoo for him. Personally, I have many tattoos, but I am very strict about artists' designs, etc. It seemed weird to have a friend just do it in the living room, but whatever, not my body.
My buddy wanted his name in Hebrew on his body. After the tattoo was done, he flipped out—he noticed the artist didn't account for the mirroring of putting the stencil on the skin, and essentially each of the letters was flipped.
So, since Hebrew letters read both forwards and backward, now he will forever have the word "clone" tattooed on him in Hebrew instead of his name.
I tattooed a triforce on a guy's rib who was sweating, yelping, shaking, and so forth. His outward expression of pain was visibly ruining other people's tattoos, and you could see them getting uncomfortable and squirmy.
My buddy peeked over the half wall and asked him, "How do you call yourself a man?" To which the dude howled, "I doooooon't!" I had to give him credit for rolling with it.
Anyhow, I told the guy he would have to come back in two weeks and finish it before the shop opened so as not to upset the other customers. He was receptive.
Two weeks later, he came in with a girl. She was above-average pretty, holding his hand and being his support. The dude was still jumping everywhere, shaking—the works.
The girl was rubbing his head, and I looked up and asked her, "Are you, his girlfriend?" She gave me a stink face and said, "No. And I definitely wouldn't be after this".
He was the worst jumper and screamer I've ever had, but a really fun guy to tattoo.
I had an awkward moment between two artists while one of them was doing my first tattoo. I was getting a rather large tattoo on my ribs, and the guy was asking me if I really wanted it there because it was my first tattoo, and it was really going to hurt.
He asked if I perhaps wanted something a bit different, etc., but I told him no and my reason, so he was happy enough to continue.
While we were talking, a girl came in with her friend and wanted a small tattoo on her leg, just below her hip, because she heard it was the least painful place.
The artists told her all tattoos hurt the same, so she just needed to accept it would hurt. I mentioned the “all tattoos hurt the same” remark of the other artist, and my artist said, “Well, he probably just wants her to shut up”.
After about five minutes of her squealing and jiggling all over the place and the artist asked her to stop so as not to ruin the tattoo, he finally had enough and tossed her friend out because "She is just making it worse".
The girl started crying, and her tattoo artist just looked over to us and told my artist, “You can finish this up".
The two guys then proceeded to have a conversation about how they hate people who cry and whine the whole time while the girl was still actually crying in front of us. They were super nice to me, but I felt really awkward for that girl.
I'm not an artist, but I actually sent my tattoo artist his worst client ever. I referred a kid I used to work with to my regular tattoo artist. He initially went in and told him that he wanted a sleeve done and that he wanted it all in a single day.
The artist said that's not really something he's going to do, but rather split it into two eight-hour appointments to try to appease him. Months later, this kid came back and decided he wanted another sleeve.
So, the artist spent all the time drawing it up, and when this kid finally came in to get it done, he told the artist that he had recently lost his job and didn't currently have the money to get tattooed, but that he still wanted to get this sleeve done somehow.
He then offered my artist a bunch of Subway gift cards and a few other assorted gift cards he had gotten for Christmas in place of actual money. The artist laughed at him and told him no way that he couldn't pay his bills with Subway gift cards.
This guy begged and pleaded with him, and my artist told him he had to get his priorities straight and to come back when he had the money to get tattooed.
Disappointed, he decided to leave, but on his way out, he asked my artist for $50 in gas money for having to come down just to not get tattooed. He was told to get out and never come back.
I felt terrible because this was my regular artist who did 90% of my work, including my whole sleeve, and I sent him the worst client he's ever had.
As I was being tattooed, there was this neighboring appointment who kept coming over, and looking at my tattoo. She was there for her first tattoo and kept asking me and my artist questions. As nice as I was and as introverted, as he was, she wouldn't go away.
It really broke our concentration when trying to power through a large, outlined piece and pain. When she finally plopped down for her typical Pinterest wrist tattoo, I couldn't believe how she fared. She fainted and cried, held her husband’s hand, and passed out a second time.
The tattoo artist was like, "OK, that's enough. Come back next time when you're ready". He was pretty annoyed that his time was being squandered.
I had an 18-year-old come in for her first tattoo with her SO in tow. She wanted a Latin quote that was very important to her. She came in with it already written the way she wanted it and insisted on my not changing it at all. Cool beans.
I made sure she knew I knew nothing of Latin and told her to really check it over.
I was tracing it, and she noticed a tiny typo. I fixed it and told them to really look this thing over again and meditate on it. Triple-quadruple-check that it's spelled right. Good? Good.
I was tracing it in front of them. This was also right before closing. I made peace with the fact that I was staying late for this. I made the stencil, and they checked it.
I placed and replaced the stencil several times. She eventually decided she liked it best where I had first placed it. Cool. I had her confirm the stencil and again really focus on that spelling.
Good? Still good, so I tattooed her. She and the SO were super satisfied with a job well done. The next morning, she called up about a typo.
She just noticed it was missing a letter. She tried convincing the owner that it was my mistake, but the manager vouched that I gave them ample opportunities to tweak it, and I literally tattooed what they gave me to tattoo, exactly.
This happened to my artist before he tattooed me. A girl walked in and wanted a half-sleeve of her favorite flowers. She brought in a photo of the flower and asked if the artist could quickly sketch it up. I saw the photo she brought in, and it wasn't special-looking in any way.
If anything, the flower was very similar to a rose or those basic flowers that you can find outside every building.
The guy sketched it up, and the girl smacked the drawing out of his hand. She yelled at him, saying that he needed to be more artistic with the flower and that it looked nothing like the photo she gave him.
Keep in mind that this flower had absolutely no special features that made it stand out. She grabbed her boyfriend by the hand and walked about in complete disgust, yelling at the artist for not being good.
I was a tattoo artist for about two years and was a piercer as well. We had an extremely large woman come in who wanted her new son's name added to a tattoo of Piglet from Winnie the Pooh she already had. This tattoo was a mess.
It looked like someone had done it with a converted Bic pen, black ink, and a pencil sharpener motor, but whatever. I'll add the name for $80.
The name was “Kentavious”. Seriously. I had her write the name out for me. I made a stencil and asked her if it looked right. She said yes, so I put the stencil on. I asked, "Everything looks good?" Yup. "You sure?" Yup.
I finished the tattoo, and she said, "That ain't how you spell little Kenny's name!" She was pretty understanding about it not being my fault and said she was still getting the spelling down because he was only born a month ago. Ugh!
My buddy was in the shop waiting to get his sleeve worked on, and he saw this dark-skinned girl describing her tattoo to the tattoo artist/owner. She wanted some colorful girly thing, and he was telling her very politely it was not going to work and that maybe she should do something else. But she wouldn't take no for an answer.
She kept on and on, and he kept telling her the color just wouldn't look right. Finally, she pushed his last button and just told her that the color wouldn't work because she was as black as night. Then, he told her to get out of his shop.
I’m a professional piercer and body modification artist. I have dozens of stories, but this one client lied to me about eating prior, and I knew it. So, I made her sit for 10 minutes after I was finished with the procedure and then told her I'd be right back.
I told her to stay seated even if she felt like she was okay. No sooner did I shut the door to my room behind me when I heard a loud thud? She stood up to look in the big mirror and instantly passed out. Her head went through my drywall. I had to put a poster over the hole!
A guy came in for a smallish yin-yang on his shoulder blade. No problem. I got everything set up and told him to come into the room. The dude didn't speak English very well. It was winter, and he kept saying in broken English how he had to take his pants off.
I kept insisting, "No, you keep your pants on". He kept saying, "No, buddy, I take my pants off”. I said, “No, you leave your pants on. You're getting a tattoo on your shoulder. There's no reason for you to take your pants off". "I take my pants off, okay?" "No. You do not".
Finally, he went to the bathroom and came back holding long underwear. Okay, fine. So, we put on the stencil, and after two tiny lines, he completely tapped out and said he was done.
I implored him to let me at least finish the outline, but he's like, no. I still had to charge him something, so I rang him up for a shop minimum which was $80 at the time. The transaction was declined due to insufficient funds.
I tried again, gave him a bit of a break, and only ran through fifty bucks. Again, the transaction declined—insufficient funds. At that point, I just told him to get out of the shop and don't come back.
I worked as a tattoo artist for about three years in the mid-90s. I once had a large woman—300+ pounds—come in wanting a Tinkerbell tattoo on her left bosom.
I wasn't really excited to do it, mainly because she reeked of BO and definitely had some sort of infection going on in her mouth because she had terrible breath. However, I really needed the money, so I agreed.
As I started, it immediately went from a chore to a nightmare because she had little to no pain tolerance, and I wouldn't be able to get more than 4–5 seconds of work in before she would recoil and scream out in pain.
She then started doing long, deep breaths, which smelled so awful I almost just told her to leave. About 20 minutes into it, she got up to use the bathroom, and when she returned, she had a very pungent smell of diarrhea.
At that point, I told her I would have to continue the following day because my tattoo machine was acting up. She seemed disappointed but agreed to come at a later time.
As she was putting her shirt back on, she mumbled something under her breath. I didn't really hear what she said, so I asked her to repeat herself.
She looked sheepishly around the room and looked at me and said, “Aan I get about tree-fiddy?” I told her to leave, and I quit doing tattoo work shortly after that day.
This kid came into our place, and I instantly thought that he looked like Harry Potter from the movies. We checked his ID because he did not look 21 at all. He asked me if I could do a tattoo of Harry Potter angrily getting busy with Severus Snape from behind.
We all thought this was a prank, but he pulled a drawing from his backpack of Harry Potter angrily getting busy with Severus Snape from behind.
It was not even a bad drawing, but I told him, "No". I don't like joke tattoos, and this seemed like a very bad idea to me. My co-worker, however, agreed to do it. She thought it was funny in a "funny how stupid this kid is" way.
At least he wanted it on his back where most people wouldn’t see it. About two years later, the last book was released, and one week later, this kid showed up again and asked about tattoo removal.
He did not mention the tattoo, just how big it was, but of course, we all remembered him right as he walked through the door. My co-worker told him that it would be $500 at the very least to remove it and asked him what the tattoo was because there may be a way to change it.
He told her what it was, and she replied, “Oh yeah, I remember you. For ten bucks, I'll give them happy faces”.
This lady came into the shop one day. She was a huge Lennon and McCartney fan and wanted them tattooed, one on each of her thighs. I said, "No problem". After some hours of tattooing, I told her I was finished and handed her the mirror to see the work.
She looked and said, "That doesn't look anything like Lennon and McCartney!" I said, "It does, too. Looks just like 'em". It was clear that we were not going to agree, so I suggested we find someone to give us an unbiased opinion.
There happened to be a hobo just outside the shop on the sidewalk. I asked him to step inside to settle a dispute. He came in and I explained the situation. I said, "We need your unbiased opinion. Tell us. Does this look like Lennon and McCartney to you?"
She spread her legs and the hobo leaned in and looked, then he leaned back and squinted. Then he looked really close again, and said, "I don't know about those other guys but the one in the middle looks just like Willie Nelson".
I had a customer who had to be unconscious while tattooing because she couldn’t take the pain. She asked me to give her a tribal tattoo on her cheek.
So, I gave her some sleeping gas and got to work. When I was done, she got up, and I told her to take a look. She unzipped her pants and looked at her behind.
She said, "You didn't do anything yet. What's the deal?” Then she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and freaked out. I guess she meant her rear-end cheek. I still had to charge her full price plus tax.
I had to tattoo a gentleman who worked on the slime line of the local fish cannery. He proceeded to make uncomfortable passes at me, even though I repeatedly told him I was married. I was already uncomfortable—but he just kept making it worse.
After each awkward attempt, he commented loudly about how I should be more thankful for the fact that a man was complimenting me. He smelled like a rotting fish throughout all of this.
A well-known fool at my school wanted to get a tattoo of Scarface on his leg. He took a photo of his hero in the tattoo parlor but was unhappy with the results. His next move made me gasp.
He waited outside the parlor the next day, threatening to bash the artist. It turned out he took a photo of Dustin Hoffman by mistake.
My tattoo artist told me he once had a guy come in and say, "I would like to make a trade". My artist confused but intrigued, just kind of looked at the guy. The guy then caught me completely off-guard—he pulled out a live bird from his pocket and was like, "I want to trade this bird for a tattoo".
The bird was just flapping in his hands, and everyone in the shop stared in awe and confusion. My artist told him to get out.
I was working on the top floor of a tattoo studio, tattooing a bloke early one Saturday morning. He went pale and said he needed to pee, so I quickly pointed him in the direction of the bathroom.
10 minutes later, I got worried he had passed out on the toilet (it happens), so I went to walk down the stairs. That's when I was hit with an unpleasant surprise.
I noticed a super gross stench. I looked down at the stairs and saw tiny little piles of diarrhea on each step. The guy had pooed himself on the way to the toilet and ran away. I never saw him or his money again!
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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