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’d paid $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) 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. 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) On 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 the 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 the previous week, appearing slightly intoxicated. He was a cry baby who kept bragging about his skills. 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.

12) Why weren’t we given the 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.

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

14) Forget about an 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 his each hour 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?

15) 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’d 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.

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

17) Appointments should be honored — it’s between HBA and the artists. No apology from J was very discourteous.

18) 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, but we paid the price for our HBA loyalty.

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

Entrance window

Now: it wasn’t that we couldn’t have paid the extra $20. In fact, we were planning to tip him. What enraged us – how odious his behavior was: last week, 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 for life. We are required to sign a consent form before the procedure, making us legally vulnerable.

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.

31 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 on😉 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! 😉 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 🙂 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 🙂

  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 😉

    • 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 🙂 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 🙂

      • 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. 🙂

      • 🙂 well penned 🙂 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 🙂
        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 🙂

      • 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.

    • This afternoon I saw a response from the business owner to my Yelp review. You may be shocked to read this 🙂 “Hello. This is F, owner at HBA. To clarify An appointment is predicated by a deposit which you did not leave. You had no appointment. The tattoo you wanted would have ran roughly from your wrist to your elbow and the design was the Ohm symbol running into a heartbeat into a signature into a heartbeat into another signature into another heartbeat then into pitchfork.This you claim was worth $150 let alone $80:00? You also added aspects of the design since getting the quote as well. While we strive to bring satisfaction we in no way tolerate belligerence and condescending behavior from customers seeking work for half the price. I commend my staff for maintaining their professionalism in light of such rude behavior. Good luck finding that much work for that little amount of money. Sorry we couldn’t come to a consensus on pricing as I am sure we did not quote you as high as $320. Good luck with your new artist.”

      And my immediate response:

      Mr. Owner, there’s a proverb – The fish always stinks from the head downwards. Your response – which is ill-informed and rude – has proved that.
      Read your response once again. Please don’t make a mockery of yourself.
      1) You say: “To clarify An appointment is predicated by a deposit which you did not leave. You had no appointment”
      We say: Were we told this? Did the front desk guy who scheduled the appointment tell us this? Was he an alien or invisible? Why did he confirm the appointment “twice” without taking a deposit from us?

      2) You say: “The tattoo you wanted would have ran roughly from your wrist to your elbow and the design was the Ohm symbol running into a heartbeat into a signature into a heartbeat into another signature into another heartbeat then into pitchfork.”
      We say: You make it sound like this was a tattoo that was to run from my head to toe. The $160 we paid your tattoo artist was “his” price for “that” work. He didn’t do us a favor – we paid him what he quoted. He agreed on a $300 package for both of us for the “same” work. My design had “nothing” extra; and my wife’s tattoo had turned out to be a lot smaller, saving his ink and time. We had “never” come back to you over the years for our “four ‘free’ touch-ups,” saving your ink and time.

      3) You say: I commend my staff for maintaining their professionalism in light of such rude behavior.
      We say: Shame on you for saying that! “Your staff” gives us an appointment for 12 pm. “Your tattoo artist” comes an hour late. Then, his offensive, nauseating, and repugnant behavior. He doesn’t remember our agreement. He is clearly forgetful. The front desk guy tries to stop him but he doesn’t. He vapes in front of our toddler son. If you commend your staff for all of this, then I’ll refer you once again to the proverb that I mentioned above.

      Mr. Owner, it’s distressing that you don’t realize we’d been your loyal customers for years. Your response reeks of arrogance and ignorance. Instead of working on the lapses, you’re finding excuses for your wrongness. Also, it’s disappointing that your response has no apology for the hour-long wait we did – no apology for the way the tattoo artist screamed at us – no apology for the fact that he smoked in front of our toddler son.
      Hope you’ve done drug tests on all of your employees. Also, we wonder why you’ve never given us a proper receipt for all of the tattoos we did at your place. Besides, since you have our address we feel threatened – especially in light of this irresponsible response from you – that you might retaliate. Please delete our address from your files.
      We wish you good luck. Hope you find a lot of customers.

      • Your reply to him was really good. He was “arrogant and ignorant” and there was horrible customer service in his entire tone.
        Oh my gosh did he not know how to show respect for a customer – and if he was smart – well he would also know that customers beget more customers – so pleasing a customer is plain ol’ good for business – and the minute a business assumes it can start dissing customers and get away with it is the sign that poor managerial skills are trickling through.
        Further – as a business owner – he should know that his aggressive reply to. Customer will also impact future customers.
        Maybe he could have started with “I am very sorry about your experience….” “I apologize for the mix up and whatever might have been on our end.”
        And you know m….
        I was at a tattoo place last year and I did notice that there is negotiating on price and also noted someone was laughed at for asking if they had any tattoos for twenty dollars – they said a minimum of forty (I think)
        Anyhow – to offer a package deal on any product is sometimes the way a friggin sale is made – it is a negotiation and it could
        Be the start of good business client relationship –
        And if the price was not fitting the artist should have spoken up right away – and u could have checked around – and this owner overlooked the fact that u chose his place cos of the past good service – but no mention of that either.
        Just this curt response that scolded you and then insulted you as if you were a cheap ass and then trying to get something for very little.
        And for a business owner to write someone this (was it on yelp for everyone to see) well he or she reveals a lot about their leading style and I would
        Not want to do business there or work for a person like that. I am sure in their mind they assumed they were standing up for their employee and then defending their side of a complaint – but this Mr Owner insulted a customer rather than acknowledging poor service and a dissatisfied customer.
        And to be so condescending is just a sign of classlessness and poor leadership skills – managers and owners don’t have to suck up or even give too low of prices – but kindness is key – and even more so to someone who patrons your establishment – or did.
        But I think the part of his reply that irked me the most was insinuating you were asking for all this work and then trying to pay nada – he almost inferred you were stupid regarding tattoos – And that crosses another line…. ugh
        This is an example of why I love yelp (and google reviews and this site called glass ceiling) because customers can read reviews and get a feel
        For what they want at a place – they can read between the lines or detect the essence of the place from reviews and replies – and even if this a manger does not feel like the customer is always right – a little customer service mindfulness would have shown – um – just a little respect and value for a customer.

      • Well, he’s an assh*le, and his curt response only reflected his uncouth and uneducated self. Whatever he said (or lied) in his response was meant for the “new” customers. After all, it came down to “he said” and “they said.” That tattoo artist – who was vaping – was on some drugs, I reckoned. That’s why I checked if they’d done drug tests. Summing up: what they have is a facade that covers up their fast-crumbling structure. Losers!

      • Well so glad u did not have that guy ink u up! Ugh
        And I bet the manager was all standing tall acting like he backed his employee – and I think there is a time to do this – a time when a company or manager can maybe unite and hold their ground defending their service – but his entire tone and treatment lacked professionalism and manager 101 shit ! Like dude – there s e just certain ways to speak to a customer no matter what the case – he needs to take a class or maybe do some MLM

      • Thanks, amigo, for your understanding and support. They are a bunch of losers. Please read below some of the reviews they received on Yelp. Wish I’d read them before I went there.
        “so i went to this place on reviews that suggested i would be in good hands….first off let me tell you , either i have the worst of luck or someone set me up because the guy who tattooed me ( dillon i think his name was , tall crackhead looking guy ) looked like he was coming off of a bender when he approached me …i gave him a simple design to do and when he showed me the sketch i kinda had an idea i was in trouble….yet i gave the shop the benefit of doubt because of their reviews (originally there for mono or jose ) when i approached his “station” it looked like life took a shit in his room and left in a hurry, the guy smelled like weed and had a nasty attitude about my suggestions concerning MY TATTOO….needless to say my tattoo came out like shit cause of his shakyness and urge to fly thru it…im sorry hoboken body art but youve lost a customer due to what you consider an “artist” to represent your shop….”
        “Horrible customer service; got a tattoo done by James Ray it was unfinished and poorly done. He is very forceful with how he feels the tattoo should come out. Also, once the tattoo healed all the line work is very uneven. Tattoo artist are high off of drugs; it’s in a basement and isn’t clean. Noticed multiple drugs being sold out of shop while my tattoo was being done. Only tattoo parlor in Hoboken and is the worst. The owner hits on every chick that came in to parlor and gave them lower prices. Gives males a hard time. Very power strong to his dad being a Sargent so will deny service to certain ethnicities or sexual preference.”
        “Absolutely do not patronize this establishment. Went here with my friend (two young twenty something females) to get tiny tattoos at 9:30pm and was asked to let the artist “see us” and check if he could. Told us it would be $70 if it was over the size of a quarter unless we had an “alternate method of payment” we’d like to use (making innuendos the entire time.) After the boy at the front desk repeatedly gave us signs we should leave -we were asked to come to the basement studio. At this point things had gotten extremely uncomfortable and objectifying and we asked the boy at the desk for our IDs back so we could leave rather than follow Victor (the tattoo “artist”) into the basement. He told us victor had taken our IDs and didn’t know why. We called down the stairs and asked for our IDs. Victor came back up startled and gave them back. We left unharmed but incredibly shaken, ruining our entire night. Take your business elsewhere.”

      • I know – I was half kidding – and in person that sentence would have sounded like a teacher – “ now dear – we don’t say hate…”

      • Oh and did u know about activated charcoal and tattoo recovery!? I heard that taking some capsules of activated charcoal can help pull the ink from blood stream
        Take 2 capsules a few times a day before the sitting and then for two days after – extra vitamin c and a good internal oil (helps skin heal)

      • Those comments are sobering and alarming – except the folks who later complained of a shit mess really should have used better judgment and left – but I can see how they don’t leave as split decisions are made –
        And a powerful take away from this post is that it provides a modern example of the “customer who never comes back”

  4. I’m on your side here, Mahesh. It does sound like tattoo artist J was unprofessional on many levels, from not being upfront about charging for his services to being late. It also sounded a little bit like poor management on HBA’s front. As you said, a tattoo is permanent and you do want it to be done nicely and be in good hands of a great artist. I also agree with what Erik said, that J seemed to be throwing his weight around. ‘You know me’ is beyond cocky. A title is just a title, and there is always a personality to boot when it comes to someone – and you don’t earn respect when someone demands they are better than you.

    It was interesting reading the vaping conversation between you and Yvette. Maybe J smokes all the time at the tattoo place, and didn’t expect to see a kid there. That said, I’d rather someone not smoke at all for health reasons. I didn’t know vaping could be as dangerous or even more dangerous than a normal cigar – it’s actually catching on here in Australia and these kinds of activities are socially acceptable. The world of puffs and plumes is an interesting one, with people getting involved in it for their own reasons.

    Getting a tattoo is something I’ve never thought about for myself, and I probably never will since I am very, very picky about what to get for myself all the time 🙂

    • Thanks a lot, Mabel, for your interesting inputs 🙂 Love this: “A title is just a title, and there is always a personality to boot when it comes to someone – and you don’t earn respect when someone demands they are better than you.” 🙂

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