Washington, D.C. unveiled a lengthy list of proposed rules and regulations on Friday for the city’s tattoo and piercing shops, which are currently unregulated. Most of the proposals are reasonable. At least one of them is utterly, completely ridiculous:
"The licensee or operator of a body art establishment shall ensure that no tattoo artist applies any tattoo to a customer until after twenty-four (24) hours have passed since the customer first requested the tattoo."
The same rule would apply for piercings. WAMU interviewed D.C. tattoo artist Paul Rowe, who not only called the rules ridiculous, but suggested it was a result of the D.C. Board of Barber and Cosmetology--the regulatory agency that will oversee tattoo and piercing shops--injecting personal taste into the regulations. The D.C. Department of Health, meanwhile, told reporter Matt Ackland that the rules will "will stop impulse tattoos," and that "some regret getting tattoos the next day."
That kind of rule-making will not only hurt tattoo businesses by killing walk-ins, it also presumes to know when a consumer made his or her decision about getting a tattoo.
What if a consumer thought about her tattoo for months, came up with a design that an artist could apply in the course of an hour or two, and then showed up at the shop unannounced?
What if the person called as soon as the shop opened to make an appointment for that evening?
What if the person has tattoos already, and knows exactly what they’re getting into?
Also, why is 24 hours the limit? Why not 12, or 48?
A rule likely conceived to dissuade a very specific type of consumer--the spontaneous first-timer--is going to irritate a lot of people, and--assuming it's actually followed--drive business to Virginia and Maryland, which don’t require waiting periods.
If the D.C. Board of Barber and Cosmetology and the Department of Health can't be dissuaded, maybe they should consider what this kind of thinking would look like if it were applied equally. Maybe customers who want to dye their hair or get gel manicures (the latter involve the use of UV rays that elevate the risk of skin cancer) should also have to wait 24 hours. I’m sure salons and barbershops would suffer if their walk-in business disappeared overnight, but it’s important to protect consumers from making rash decisions they might regret the next day. And, hey, maybe we could ask women who wish to terminate their pregnancies to think it over for another 24 hours. Some of them may have thought about it for weeks already, some of them may be totally confident and live to never regret it, but "some" may come to regret it "the next day," which would just be the most awful thing ever.