Redditor TatguyVik is a 24-year-old male who is a recently-licensed tattoo artist.
His friend came to him as a customer and had a very specific request that made the OP advise him with a few caveats.
In spite of the advance warnings, the friend agreed and they proceeded with the transaction.
After the procedure was finished, the outcome was not as expected.
The Redditor visited the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for giving my friend a tattoo he ended up not liking?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained what led to the drama.
“A few months ago I‘ve become a licensed tattoo artist. My friend (Male 22) wanted to be my first official customer for over a year. So far I‘ve tattooed on oranges, fake skin, pig skin, myself and a few volunteers. I can say that my work is crisp.”
“My friend came to me and asked me to tattoo a very complicated butterfly onto his chest. I thought ‘wohoo…my first official tattoo and it’s a f’king butterfly….'”
“For those who don’t know: most tattoo artists hate doing butterflies because they are very tedious and therefore can be way more expensive than what feels fair for their size. Mentioning the size, the thing would cover his entire chest and part of his shoulders.”
“I asked him if he really wanted a butterfly and told him about how it would be more expensive than it looks, but he was fine with it. He said it would somehow represent his beautiful GF.”
“He also wanted me to do the whole butterfly in one session. I told him it would be better if we did it in 2-3 sessions, but he was against it.”
“I told him it’s ok for me to do it in one session, but again: it would be a lot of money to pay at once on top of being a lot of irritation for the skin. He was OK with that.”
“So I handed him the standard form you have to sign, made a stencil and got to work. It took me 12 hours to finish the piece and it turned out absolutely beautiful.”
“However we had to take several breaks especially towards the end because my friend just couldn’t take the pain anymore. Towards the end he even started shivering really hard, but he sat through it.”
“That being said 12h of tattooing is not cheap. The tattoo amounted to 2040€ (2245$). My friend was shocked. He asked me if I could give him a friend’s discount and I gave him a 170€ discount (one hour). He paid me reluctantly.”
“I didn’t hear from him in a week and all of a sudden I got a call. He told me he doesn’t like the tattoo and that it’s too feminine. To top it all off he either wants his money back or a free cover up.”
“I told him that I asked him multiple times if he was sure about the tat and that I made many compromises for him because he’s my friend and even gave him a discount.”
“He insisted on either getting his money back or a free cover up so I told him to get a grip and hung up. After that I got a message to go f myself and that he‘ll make sure to get his money back. I sent him a photo of the form he signed and told him ‘good luck.'”
“Info: On some pieces you just simply can’t give a reliable estimate and this was one of them. I did however tell him it would definitely be more than 1.5k while doing the linework when I got a better understanding of how long it would take.”
“Info2: I generally don’t have a problem with doing long sessions, I simply wanted to split it up because of the payment.”
“Info3: He did know my hourly wage beforehand, I simply couldn’t tell him how long it would take.”
“Info4: we took several pauses so he could eat, drink and look at the tat (obviously I didn’t charge the time we were on pauses). He didn’t complain once about the design.”
Strangers online were asked to declare one of the following:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Many Redditors sided with the OP as not the a**hole here.
“NTA but I think you are learning some important lessons about professionalism. Next time if you, in your professional opinion, think a tattoo will take 2-3 sessions, insist the client book 2-3 sessions. Also, do you provide a rough estimate of the cost of the tattoo based on the hours you think it will take? It might be a good idea to do that and err on the side of caution.”
“Having said all that, your friend is still a chancer who is looking to take advantage of you for a free tattoo, so, not much of a friend.” – GlencoraPalliser
“I think a lot comes down to the fact that if you think it’s a bad idea – it is ok to say no. My SIL used to tattoo and she had some rules (no face, no neck, no knees (she has a thing about knees)) but also, if she could sense it was a poor decision she would just nope out of it.”
“Maybe ‘I will only do small tats for friends’ is a good line to draw. Doing expensive money things for friends is generally a bad idea to start with.” – Music_withRocks_In
“NTA. There is nothing worse than people like this. I worked in a tattoo studio and the owner would always quadruple check it’s what the client wants and if they came back he would offer a (full price) cover up or a reduced cost fix.”
“My guess is that your friend’s gf didnt like it.” – animalwitch
“nta! as a tattooed person, i always take my tattooers advice when it comes to size, design, sessions. she’s been tattooing me since i was like 19 and i’m 26 now—i trust her with my life, basically.”
“if she says something would be better in two sessions, you better believe i’m booking those two sessions. if she thinks a color palette or design aspect would look better than what i had in mind, i let her draw it up and i take it into consideration because she’s the professional and she knows my taste in tattoos and how they’d look on my body almost better than i do.”
“you gave your professional opinion, your friend thought he knew better. that’s on him.” – spicysoy
“NTA – BUT LEARN FROM THIS!! ‘It is going to be expensive’ is NOT a proper way to quote a job. $100 my be cheap to some, but expensive to others.”
“You should give customers an approximate time the work will take and the hourly rate. With a codicil for a certain percentage it may be exceeded by.”
“On all the other stuff – he is the AH.” – Smitty_80013
Some thought everyone sucked here.
“ESH -You don’t go from fruit and a couple of volunteers to a 12 hour chest piece. I’m genuinely shocked that the artist you apprenticed with let you do it. Most artists I have seen will only do arm and leg pieces for 3-6 months before they start on work like this.”
“You say you can’t quote a job like this. It’s your job to be able to give a rough quote. It’s fine to give a range, but you say something like it could take between 10 and 14 hours and therefore the cost will be between X and Y. Also the main reason you can’t quote it is that you have not done any work even close to this level of size and difficulty before. You were in over your head.”
“I don’t think you are the only a**hole in this story. Your friend was pushy and rude, and apparently doesn’t know how much tattoos cost, because 2200 for a huge full chest piece is not at all unreasonable. He also should have listened when you told him to split over two sessions. Demanding all his money back now because he doesn’t want a butterfly is absurd, you did the work and he chose that butterfly.”
“Your mentor/boss/whoever you trained under is the biggest asshole for letting you do this job at all. You weren’t ready – both in terms of tattoo skill OR client management. That’s okay, it doesn’t mean you never will be, but that’s why you have to go through an apprenticeship.”
“It was their job to see that you had booked in a 12 hour full chest piece in one session and pump the breaks on that, or at the very least provide guidance on how to manage the clients expectations, and guidance on how to provide cost estimates to the client.”
“Basically in this story, everyone sucks.” – robot428
“ESH. I would NEVER do a full chest piece until i’ve got at least 100 professional tattoos on humans done. but he saw the drawing before right? why would he say it’s too feminine after the fact.” – Visual_Nobody_7800
“I think the issue here is that they just started tattooing. An artist who has been tattooing for some time knows how long it may take them and are able to give an estimate. My last tattoo was with someone who had a couple of months of experience; her work was amazing; it was hard to believe.”
“she told me it would be anywhere from 4-6 hours, and it ended up taking almost 10 hours. The difference was that I was given a set price for the tattoo because she was new and didn’t want to rush it.”
“Every shop and artist charges differently, but it was their responsibility to let the person know, ‘Hey, we are already at x amount of hours, and the price is x. Do you want to continue or just stop for today and continue another time?'” – Consistent-Mistake13
Redditors thought the OP had room for improvement as he was relatively new to the business, but a good majority thought the friend’s reaction was unfortunate.
Hopefully, the two can come to an understanding. Tattoos can be removed but good friendships should be everlasting.