"Way back in the early '90s, I was great friends with a tattoo artist and hung out at their shop a lot.
The shop was in a seedy area so we had a building in the parking lot of a shopping center that had a fun Mexican taqueria with pool tables, two really seedy adult clubs, a head shop, and an adult theater. The clientele was, um, interesting.
I've seen a girl get a sun tattooed around her butthole. I've watched girls and guys get genital piercings, but there were two standouts.
One girl got the 6 inch to 12-inch portion of a ruler on her inner thigh.
But this one guy would come by from the club. He was always quite smashed. He wanted a simple tattoo. He wanted a Nazi swastika with a hand shooting a bird in the middle. The artist refused and said we wouldn't work on you when you're under the influence. This repeated every Friday night for like six weeks until finally, the artist said, 'Fine, get in the seat.' He gave him exactly what he asked for and charged him double.
Cue the very next Friday and that same very smashed and now very angry guy showed up, looking for a cover-up.
Nope. Get out."
"A friend of mine went out with his buddies to a tattoo parlor to get this huge bald eagle tattoo he saved up for. He planned out the design and appointment and everything. They showed up, and the previous appointment was taking a bit longer than normal, about an extra 30 minutes. Totally fine. They decided go out to kill time, and they head to the bar for a drink cause it's 30 minutes.
He and his buddies come back trashed about 3 hours later. Luckily there were no more appointments by the time they got back...or not luckily. They burned through all of the tattoo money, and had about $60-80 left. They asked what he could get with that. Naturally he bled out as he got the freaking Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons tattooed on a palm sized spot on his arm.
He actually loves telling that story cause sure he was stupid, but it's so freaking funny when you find out the story behind it."
"My sister wanted to get a memorial tattoo for our mother. I took her to a buddy's shop to get it done. We went over all these different designs he took a couple hours to draw and she finally settled on one she liked. Paid the deposit for her appointment and scheduled everything.
The day after her appointment, I met up with her to see it. She told me she bailed out. According to her, 'he wanted too much to do it,' even though he gave her a huge discount and fit her into his busy shop schedule. He offered to return the deposit, but I declined due to embarrassment.
Well, she ended up getting inked by some dude she was hanging out with who was under the influence. He scratched her up and naturally, the whole thing looked like a middle schooler's notebook doodle. The worst part (besides the tattoo) was that she had screenshots of my buddy's design and credited him on Facebook with a pic of her very ugly infected tattoo. He asked her to remove the tag and she flipped out and started trashing him and anyone who spoke negatively of 'Mom's tattoo.'
She still thinks my friend tried to rip her off. She's done this to other tattoo artists and is constantly trying to get work for cheap or free. Obviously, she is covered in really bad white trash clipart tattoos. I feel really sorry for any true artist that ever has to deal with her."
"About two years ago, I got my first tattoo. During a break after three hours or so, my tattoo artist and I went outside to smoke and chat a little. Out of nowhere, this guy came at us with no introduction and gave the artist a crumpled paper and he was like, 'You gotta tattoo this on my entire back.'
I watched as the artist unfolded the paper. It was a poorly done drawing of a completely orange, woman from behind. The woman was squatting while spreading her butt cheeks as she took a dump. I tried my best to not lose it, and so did my tattoo artist as he gently tried to explain to this dude that he wasn't up for this, and neither were the others in that shop. Meanwhile, that guy tried to convince him to do it and said that he was willing to pay a lot of money for it.
Eventually, he left and my tattoo artist explained he gets at least three of these kinda people every couple weeks or so and it wasn't even the worst design he'd seen."
"I'm a tattoo artist and I've had some interesting requests over the years. Some of them are creepy (doesn't help that I'm a lady). For instance, the guy who wanted a back piece of him in bondage gear with a woman whipping him. He would not talk to anybody but me about it, but luckily at that time I was an apprentice and told him several times I wouldn't be tattooing for many months yet. Eventually, he bugged off.
Once I tattooed a straight black line on the top of some guys head. He was maybe in his late 40s, seemed perfectly sane, in good health and completely normal. He had a very tiny and long-healed scar right where he wanted the tattoo - right alongside it. I questioned him for almost 40 minutes while I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should turn it down. In the end, he convinced me he really did want this tattoo and so I did it, even though it still kinda trips me out to this day. He had no other tattoos.
Most recently, at a previous shop I was at last year, I fielded a phone call for a really weird request. The guy started the phone call by saying he had already been turned down by several other local shops, which was definitely a red flag. He asked if I would tattoo a 'stack of dope' (bricks) on him. I actually took a moment to process that and asked him to repeat himself. He did. It didn't make more sense the second time. I told him I was not comfortable doing that, apologized, and we ended the call peacefully. He sounded disappointed but just...no. No. I don't want your dealer money, pal!"
"Some time ago, a guy came into the shop, begging for a tattoo on his chest. 'Everywhere else refuses to do it! Please, you HAVE to!' he pleaded.
This is normally pretty foreboding, but one of our artists took a bite. 'Well, what are you looking to get?'
It was a swastika. A giant one, at that, that would sprawl across the guy's entire chest. The artist declined, 'No, we don't do crap like that here.'
But the customer was persistent, no other place would do it, after all. 'I'll pay double, triple what someone normally would!' Now, this meant that the artist could make around 600 dollars to embed a needle into a guys chest thousands of times, so he got an idea.
He said, 'Fine, I'll do it, but you pay all of it up front.'
Customer agreed, paid, and they set up to work.
The artist deliberately pressed as hard as he could into this guy's skin. Like, blood everywhere, the customer was yelling, hard. The guy had to stop his tattoo about a third of the way through to take a break, where he promptly left and never came back."
"I have been tattooing for 11 years and I can easily say I only really judge people for getting racist tattoos. The amount of weird crap people want is mind boggling and I don't even bat an eye at it anymore. I will do some minor judging at basic girl type tattoos, like the kind that Pinterest makes popular.
One time a guy came in and asked me to tattoo the chemical symbol for dopamine on his junk. My husband happened to be at the shop when this guy came in and later on he was adamant that I NOT do the tattoo. He was uncomfortable with me working on that guy.
That immediately made me mad because it is my job, and trust me, it's very clinical. Male genitalia are very difficult to tattoo, those outies like to become innies real quick. So, of course, I'm going to do the tattoo on the guy.
Fast forward and dude showed up for his appointment stinking and looking like a homeless person. I mean, he smelled like he hadn't washed his clothes or showered since he made the appointment a few weeks earlier.
I told him I was sorry, but my husband was extremely uncomfortable with me working on him and didn't do the tattoo. He smelled so bad I wasn't going anywhere near his junk."
"I try not to judge but I have a difficult time not doing so sometimes.
The most interesting tattoo I've ever done was on a guy who came in wanting the words, 'Bridget, I'm sorry. I was wrong. I love you.'
I would say it was the dumbest tattoo I've ever done, but...well, you just have to have the full picture.
The story went like this: a 38-year-old guy was dating and living with his girlfriend of two years. She wanted to get married. He was reluctant because she didn't fit some of the ideals he had in his head for his long-term partner. They were all superficial things: she was shorter than he liked and blonde. He preferred brunettes. So she left him. Two months later, he realized he made a huge mistake. The only problem was that she'd moved on and was dating someone and had made it clear that she's not interested.
This was when this gentleman came to get the tattoo that was going to solve all of his problems. He told me that he'd arranged to have dinner with her in a week. He intended to plead for her to come back to him, and when she inevitably doubted his sincerity, he would reveal his tattoo as a sign of his commitment. I tried to talk him out of it, but he's an adult, sober, and of seemingly sound mind. I did the tattoo.
Cut to that very next day. It was my off day. I was at my friend's subdivision pool and I noticed this guy who was remarkably attractive. He's also playing around with some of the kids there and I leaned over to my friend and inquired as to Hotty McHottypant's identity. She told me about how he's the new boyfriend of her pretty blonde neighbor who had just gotten out of a long-term relationship. Her name? You guessed it. Bridget. In the flesh.
At this point, I was wriggling with the excitement of seeing this girl in person and the anxiety of having knowledge of what was about to happen to her without being able to reveal it.
Over the next few days, little billboards start popping up around town. 'Bridget, I'm sorry. I was wrong. I love you.'
We all know how this was going to end. Bridget would see the tattoo, freak out, and this guy would live the rest of his life with an uncomfortable tattoo.
But that's not what happened!
He had dinner with Bridget. She saw the tattoo and she completely changed her mind. She broke up with her boyfriend and got back together with her ex. Three months later, they got engaged. They had a destination wedding and are still married today. I know this because I saw both of them at that same pool three and a half months later and they both came over and Bridget gave me a big hug and thanked me. Also, the billboards earlier that month all over town that said, 'Bridget, I love you. Will you marry me?' helped tip me off.
And that's my story of how the dumbest tattoo I've ever done ended up being not dumb at all. I wouldn't recommend anyone else trying it, though."
"One of my good friends has a shop here in Denmark. He's from Colombia and got his friends from back home to come and help him start the shop. He got them to tattoo at his new shop for a good price and he rips off people. None of the artists speak English, only Spanish. My friend speaks Spanish, Danish, and English.
One time, I was hanging out at the shop eating a kebab or something with my friend. Some guy came in and wanted a tattoo either today or tomorrow. My friend was like, 'Yeah, cool homie, the artist will fix you right up. What you want?'
The customer wanted the number five with two wings on either side and a crown on top of it with his girlfriend's name inside the crown. My friend and I just looked at each other, going, 'What!?'
My friend started asking him if he wanted angel wings or demon wings, king crown or queen crown, all these things, but none of us could wrap our heads around the 5. I started trying to help because the customer and my friend were starting to get frustrated.
My friend gave the customer a piece of paper and told him, 'I know you're not an artist, but try to draw the 5 how you imagine it,' and he drew a graffiti style 5. Okay, we get it, you want to be hard in your 5 man gang. My friend went into the back and explained the idea to the artist in Spanish. Now, I don't know a lot of Spanish, but when I hear 'loco' and two guys laughing uncontrollably, I knew it was going to one of those tattoos that was well executed but gave the customer exactly what he wanted and nothing else.
The customer comes back a few hours later for the tattoo, bringing his girlfriend. It's the most copy and paste tattoo I've ever seen. I hated it, my friend hated it. The artist was just smiling, saying to me in broken English, 'New tattoo, three weeks.'
None of it looked pleasing, but the customer liked it, so whatever. He asked my friend to ask the artist if the name was correctly spelled. Then the artist, in the most broken English I've ever heard, in front of the girlfriend, 'You sure tattoo? Tattoo is forever!' and I was so freaking close to laughing in their face, but I managed to hold it. They finished the tattoo, the customer was happy, my friend and the artist got paid. I got a good laugh. All good, but my god...the tattoo was so unpleasing to look at. It's been four weeks now and the guy hasn't come back. I guess he's still together with his girlfriend, but we're all convinced he's going to come back wanting a cover-up."
"I have a long time client that I really like as a person, but he has awful tattoo ideas.
About 15 years ago, he got his Malaysian girlfriend's name, which was very American, and they had been 'together' for three years, but never met. He surprised her with it, she told him she had lied about her name, so he got her 'real' name above it. And, 'shockingly,' she disappeared after he sent her all of his money.
His latest bad idea was a quote that involved the word 'your,' but he insisted that I spell it 'u're' because that's how he abbreviates it. I tried to explain the problem with it, but he didn't care. I refused to do it unless he spelled it correctly.
Typically, I don't dictate what people put on their bodies, as long as I can make it look good and it's not hateful or offensive. I don't usually judge people on their tattoo ideas, not everyone is creative or original. I might not enjoy tribal and text, but if my client is cool, I can still enjoy my work."
"So a buddy of mine is a traveling tattoo artist -- he just travels the world and works as a guest artist at tattoo shops.
So this time he's in Thailand and an older white couple comes in. The husband seems to have had a few drinks. The husband wanted to have his wife's name tattooed on his genitals. My buddy straight up denied the request, but another artist decided to go through with it.
Next day, the couple returned, but they were arguing on the way in. Apparently, it was an, 'If you do it, I'll do it, too,' kind of agreement, but the wife wanted no part of it."
"We had a guy come in who wanted a pinup girl on his arm, except he wanted the girl to be super fat. He then went on to talk about how much he loved fat chicks.
At one point, he looked at the owner's daughter, who was (I'm guessing) around 250 lbs, and said, 'Sorry but you're too small for me. I like them heavy.'
After some back and forth, we came up with a design he liked and we did our business.
As long as the artist had some creative license with what they were doing, they never actually judged. It was when they had to do that one flash butterfly again or barbed wire that they were judged. And if that is what you REALLY want, then cool. Just understand that at least five people in the immediate area have the exact same one."
"I've been a tattoo artist for over a dozen years. To an extent, yes I do judge folks. I own three shops. The shops specialize in custom work and we try real hard not to do flash work or anything like it. We have a shop list of tattoos we won't do. So when someone comes in wanting tribal bands or tramp stamps or their college boyfriends name, I judge them and turn them around.
I tried to guide folks in their tattoo choices and many understood where I'm coming from and agree, but there were a few headstrong ones that wanted what they wanted and we generally just sent 'em to the hack shop down the road. I'd rather be broke and homeless than tattoo a monster logo on someone. I don't think the people were bad people or stupid or anything. I just think they weren't putting the respect of permanency on it they should be. We pride ourselves on custom designs and responsible tattooing practices.
When I was younger, I started out in a seedy biker shop and the patrons of that shop were wild with their ideas. Since I was younger and new to the game, I just hacked out crappy/raunchy/immoral tattoo ideas. The one I really thought was the absolute dumbest (besides significant other names) had to be the guy that had a gorilla, wearing his motorcycle club's colors/vest/patches, about to penetrate his belly button with the saying, 'I go where I wanna go,' above it. But the belly button was a woman's private area. She was laying back with her legs spread. He was a big bad biker that just established a chapter of his motorcycle club in a rival territory and was in the midst of a 'war.' So the idea behind it was pretty serious, but the design he wanted was out of control. The woman that was laying back had the same color hair as the rival club and had a tattoo of the city/state name on her leg. It was a blatant 'Eff you, fight me,' tattoo, but man...it was so freaking dumb."
"I know a girl who was proud of the fact she was double teamed. She got an Eiffel Tower tattooed on her ribs as a reminder that she banged two dudes at once. I was there when she got it tattooed and she was explaining to the artist why she was getting it. And the artist was not amused at all. He didn't even smile or anything. He just said, 'Is that right' a lot. He clearly didn't wanna hear about this girl's bedroom life.
I'm friends with a few artists who worked at that shop at the time and they said when she left, everyone made fun of her. They still talk about her sometimes if a story like that gets brought up."
Sparkling Moments Photography/Shutterstock
"I had this one teenager come in and ask for a tattoo. They had a simple request for it - a woman's name.
I always get a little wary when people ask for a name tattooed on them because of the chance it'll go awry, but sometimes it's their kids or deceased family. I try to make sure they know the risks of it.
I ask the guy, 'Are you getting married?'
He said, 'No.'
I asked, 'Engaged?'
I asked, 'Is this your prom date?'
He said 'No.'
I finally asked why he wanted the girl's name tattooed on him. He told me this was his female friend and she'd friendzoned him for some 'Chad,' and he was sure that if he got a tattoo of her name, she would have to repay him by sleeping with him and leave that jerk to be with a nice guy like him.
I kicked the kid out. That's the reason I don't like to tattoo people's names."