As consumers, we are always out to get a fair price. One of the most worrying issues shoppers face is overpaying for an item or service. This is why there are so many price comparison tools, apps, and websites available to us online. This worry tends to intensify the higher the price tag for said goods or services gets.
Despite the fact that bartering has gone out the window, for the most part, many people still want to haggle for a lower price. They shop around, they relay prices to other sellers or providers, all in the hopes of getting the best product for the lowest price. For the most part, this keeps most businesses within a certain level of each other when it comes to pricing. Someone isn’t going to make a profit if the guy down the street is selling the same product for half the price—so this is why you see most products sold within just a few dollars of each other.
When it comes to the tattoo industry, tattoos are usually priced by the artist that will be completing the work. On some occasions, tattoos are priced out by the hour. Other times, tattoos are priced by the piece, and there’s almost always a shop minimum—the minimum cost it would take to open the sterile packages and inks required to do a tattoo—which, most times, is relatively similar across the industry. Regardless of how shops opt to price out tattoos, you’ll find these costs will be fairly equal in the end.
As someone who spends a lot of time in different tattoo shops, speaking with many different artists, I’ve realized one thing about the tattoo industry as a whole. A decent artist, who understands the time, effort, and worth of their art, will price accordingly. There is an unspoken industry standard when it comes to tattoo pricing. Obviously, the more experienced the artist, the higher the price can be, but overall you’ll find a consistent line of pricing across the industry.
But, there’s always that one shop or artist who likes to throw a curve ball into the industry, offering their services for half the cost of the other shops in the area. Often, you’ll find this is in response to slow business, as they’re trying to drum up appointments. There are many reasons for slow business—lack of presence in the community, poor location, or… and this is the most important reason… bad work.
During my time sitting in tattoo shops, no matter which shop, I have heard the same conversation take place over and over. After the artist gives a quote for a decent-sized piece, the prospective client will quip back with, “The guy down the road said he’d do it for fifty bucks.” Now, this is where anyone with an understanding of the industry will facepalm themselves. There is a saying in the industry: Good Tattoos aren’t Cheap and Cheap Tattoos aren’t Good. There has never been a truer statement. Unless the tattooer is a good buddy or a family member that is literally giving you an amazing discount, a cheap tattoo is highly unlikely to be a good idea. Think about it… if all of the shops in the area price the half sleeve you want at $600-800, the guy desperate enough to do it for $100 may not be the wisest choice to go with. There is a reason why he is so desperate for work.
When you set out to get a tattoo, it is important to put the quality of workmanship first and the notion of price second. Shop your design around—talk to several different artists and shops to find the person who seems to be the best fit for what you are looking to get. This is something that is going to be on your skin forever. Once you’ve found the best fit, then consider price. Many artists will be willing to redesign a concept to fit into your budget, while still giving you the overall idea you were searching for. They’re pros at suggesting changes or sizing alterations to fit within the range you can afford. Sometimes, a little compromise on a piece is the wisest decision to make when you’re working on a strict budget. Other options to get a decent piece without having to go hungry are to break it up into sessions or get your quote and save toward it.
None of these options include going to the guy down the road who is willing to haggle prices and do it for a quarter of the cost everyone else in town quoted you.
Tattoos are permanent. They’re not like a $30 tee-shirt that you can toss out if it looks bad on you. If you skimp on the price of a tattoo and decide to go with the shady dude (or dudette, no discriminating here) that decision will be emblazoned on your skin for the entire world to see. Sure, you can attempt to have it removed but tattoo removal only breaks up the ink embedded in the skin, it doesn’t remove the scarring from the actual tattoo. You’ll still be able to see the design if you look closely. Not to mention, being a costly and drawn out process. Tattoo removal costs, on average, between $200-500 PER SESSION and generally requires several sessions. You can attempt to have the design covered up, but this can be tricky and extremely costly if your design is dark, large, or in a difficult location.
When you end up with poor quality work on your body, it can be embarrassing and a hit to your self-esteem. In addition to these non-costly factors, getting a cheap tattoo is actually more expensive in the long run. Yes, you saved a few hundred bucks when you initially got the tattoo, but later down the line you’ll end up spending more as you try to rectify the situation. In addition to the original cost of the tattoo, now you’re adding an expensive cover-up or several pricey tattoo removal sessions. Either way, you’ve just tripled or quadrupled the cost of that cheap tattoo.
Think smart… when you get a quote for a tattoo that seems almost too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t gamble when it comes to your body—stay away from the “cheap tattoo.”