How to Deal With Difficult Customers

In this line of work, you will have to deal with people from all walks of life. I call them the “cast of characters” because of the different range of people I have experienced over the years.

Some people will look like they are the most rugged barrel-chested monsters who have been through some shit, but turn out to be the sweetest people ever. And sometimes you have the little petite, innocent looking girls who turn out to be the most difficult, nasty people you’ve ever met. (This is not always the case, but people will surprise you)

The point is, you should take each experience case-by-case (especially as an apprentice just learning the business), and not let pre-existing notions dictate your interaction with someone who 1. you don’t even know and 2. is willing to pay you for your work. This will, overall, make you a more well-rounded individual and allow for you to take  your customer service skills to new heights.

In my experience, there are two types of problem people you will most likely run into at some point or another in your career, so it is important to recognize and be able to deal with both.

  • #1 – DIFFICULT

The first is the difficult customer.

This is the person who really doesn’t know what they want, and is making it hard for you to do your job. You have done everything you could – from asking them questions to showing them pictures – but you’re still getting a “no” for every answer and no explanation as to why (yes it happens). You’re getting upset, and there is no real compromise on the potential client’s part.

This person clearly is not ready to get a tattoo. From an ethical standpoint, it is now your responsibility to respectfully turn them away. You can say something along the lines of “I’m sorry I can’t help you today, but here is my card. Do some more research, find something you really like, and shoot me a text (or email) when you are ready and we can go from there.”

This will help them save face for being a waste of your time, and it also allows you to keep a line of communication open for a potential future client. Just because they’re difficult doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means they are horrible at communication. But you, being a master of customer service are able to navigate your way through this obstacle and come out a winner.


The second is the extremely difficult.

Now, what do you do when you are faced with an extremely difficult customer? This is after all of your effort to be passively professional have failed and you are dealing with an unreasonable person.

They could include: someone who is drunk or on drugs (two types of people who should *NEVER* be tattooed), a tough guy whose ego is out of control, someone trying to extort or con you (like I said, all walks of life).

Unfortunately, situations like this do happen. Tattooing is not as stigmatized as it once was, but you still get a small number of people will live up to the stereotype that fits this business. As mentioned earlier, these are your last resorts when nothing else is working.

Your job is to diffuse, and keep yourself and everyone in your shop safe. Ask them to leave politely (this step may need to be repeated a few times, but keep repeating yourself in a calm and clear voice, threatening to call the police if need be).

Don’t let your ego get in the way on this one, just get them out and keep everyone safe. You don’t know who this person is, better to have them leave without further incident than escalate the situation and risk your life over a deadbeat because you “don’t want to get punked out.” It isn’t worth it…trust me.

99.9999 times out of 100 people will leave, but in the rare case they don’t call the cops and be prepared to defend yourself.

NEVER put your hands on someone unless you or someone else is threatened, and it is the only way to keep the situation from escalating.

*You can learn about this and more to become a well rounded tattoo artist by clicking here. Now get to work!


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