Getting a tattoo? Get the deal in writing, says Wendy

Getting a tattoo? Get the deal in writing, says Wendy

Tattooing is a little offbeat as businesses go, to be sure.

Getting a tattoo? Get the deal in writing
Getty Images

As a much tattooed friend of mine put it when I discussed the business side of the issue with him: “The nature of the business is fertile ground for disputes.

“Tattoos are usually quoted in terms of time taken to do them, and they are rarely written down.

“Appointments are often cancelled, and clients are worked on at odd hours, so when it comes to what was agreed to regarding the cost, it's often a case of he said," she said.

“Also people have bigger tattoos done in stages, and they are fickle and change their minds as they go along.”

All the more reason, then, for both parties to insist on getting everything put down in writing.

Tracy Govender’s experience certainly drives that message home.

Tracy's tattoo quote 

She approached Simba Tattoos in Westwood Mall last month to get a quote for a tattoo. She was told it would cost R600 and that she had to pay a R200 deposit, which she did, and the appointment was set for August 25 - eight days later.

But Tracy called the owner, known as Balram, the same day and asked if she could have the tattoo done sooner and it was agreed that she go in on August 19.

“But when I got there,” she said, “he said that the price was now R1200 and I would have to stick to my date of August 25.”

She reluctantly agreed, she says, but went back a few days later, saying she didn’t want to go ahead with the tattoo and asked for a refund of her deposit.

“But he refused to refund my deposit,” she said. “He didn’t tell me it was non-refundable when I paid it, and the invoice doesn’t say that.

What recourse do I have?”

According to the Consumer Protection Act...

The Consumer Protection Act makes a blanket No Refunds policy illegal. We have the right as consumers to cancel a booking, but the supplier, in this case the tattoo shop, has the right to impose a “reasonable" cancellation penalty, consistent with common practice in that particular industry.

So R200 as a deposit on a cancelled R1200 tattoo could be seen as reasonable if artwork had been done, and the cancellation made with fairly late notice.

But Tracy claims that tattoo shop owner unilaterally doubled the quote, which is why I took up the case.

When I visited the tattoo shop, the owner had a totally different version of events. He said he’d quoted Tracy R600 - his rate for an hour’s work - based on the original size tattoo she’d said she wanted, but she’d later said she wanted it to be much bigger, hence more tattooing time required and his doubling of the quote.

Tracy denies this, saying she was originally quoted R600 for a 7cm tattoo and certainly didn’t want anything bigger, but there’s no proof of who said what, sadly, and the only documentation she has just records that she paid R200 and owed another R400.

There’s no indication of what she was buying for R600, such as 7cm tattoo. The CPA states that a supplier can’t unilaterally increase a quote but in this case there was no documented quote, so no proof that the supplier deviated from what was agreed.

Nor are there any terms and conditions relating to the paying of the deposit.

I phoned a few Durban tattoo shops - none of whom wanted to be named - and it seems that it has become common practice for them to charge a deposit because people often change their minds and don’t show up for their tattoo appointments, meaning the artist wasted time on the artwork in preparation, and lost out on other bookings.

But typically there’s little to no discussion between the tattoo artist and the customer around what happens to the deposit if the person changes their mind and cancels.

Wendy's advice 

So the moral of the story is that when you pay a deposit, assume you aren’t going to go through with it, whether it’s for a wedding reception, holiday accommodation or a tattoo. Ask under what circumstances you’ll get all or part of the deposit back, and make sure that’s noted in writing.

And most importantly, get a proper quote - and by that I mean a detailed one. Not just “Tattoo: R1000 ". What tattoo, how big, and how many hours' tattooing. That way there’s much less chance of a dispute down the line, because there’s proof of what you agreed to verbally. That applies to any quote. Detail is key.

Bottom line - getting a tattoo is a business transaction like any other, and there’s a lot of money at at stake.  It pays to insist of proper documentation.

Verbal agreements just don’t cut it, sadly. Never be shy to say: “So if for some reason I want to cancel, will I get my deposit back?” followed by “Please write that down..” 

Get It In Writing: words to live by. Now there’s a good idea for a tattoo…!

Show's Stories