Skin Deep 186

Recently, whilst trying to purchase goods of some considerable value with cash, the vendor seemed genuinely surprised that I got a bundle of notes out of my pocket. ‘You can pay by credit card if you like?” was his response. This got me thinking that cash is very nearly a thing of the past. These days you can get a ‘One touch’ card for payments of under ten pounds, but I enjoy paying for goods with cash and I don’t know about you but I will be sad to see the possible demise of our coinage. I must confess though, I use my debit card for nearly everything – except tattoos.

Tattooing is one of the last bastions of cash payments. Recently I was stood in the witness box in a crown court to give a character witness statement for a good friend of mine, who happens to be a tattooist. My job was to explain to the legal profession that tattooing is an age-old profession that deserves a modicum of respect and also that tattooing is mainly a cash-based industry.

There was a certain amount of satisfaction to be had watching the shock register on the judge’s faces as I ran through some facts about hourly rates, waiting lists and the number of people that wear tattoos these days. This was topped off as copies of Skin Deep that were passed around the courtroom and even the judge admitted that he was impressed with the quality of work showcased in the magazines and mentioned that there was a huge diversity of styles and designs.

You could almost hear the defence and prosecuting lawyers’ jaws flop open when I gave them sales figures of just how many magazines Skin Deep sells each month. I could almost hear the words of; ”how can these unsightly people with their weird interests generate such a following?” going through their heads. Almost instantly, I could feel them looking at myself and the other witnesses, that were also tattooed, with something akin to (all be it a little) respect. 

To be honest, I felt quite proud that I had the opportunity to make a certain part of society sit up and think and hopefully look at tattoos and tattooed folk in a slightly better light. Considering that lawyers must see many, many ‘seedy’ types pass by them everyday, many sporting tattoos; so to slightly remove, or at least smudge the edges of the stigma, was quite a good feeling.

The whole incident made me think long and hard. Part of the “evidence” that the individual was guilty was because said individual had a lot of cash in his studio safe. Yep, cash...

The powers that be (the local constabulary) took it upon themselves that because this person had cash in the safe that it backed up the allegation of crime, so the cash was seized under the Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).

Now the individual involved was not found guilty of a crime that would give them an income, but the cash, as I am writing this, is still being held by the powers that be as they seem reluctant to give the person their money back that they had earned – quite legitimately – by working their arse off tattooing non-stop for a years and saving for a forthcoming tax bill.

So I ask myself is it now a crime to have cash? There are still many folk that do not trust the banking system (and judging by recent events, I don’t blame anyone for having doubts with the banks) so what do those in the cash industry that tattooing is do? Do tattooists go back to the barter system and charge say, a small goat for a colour sleeve or a bag of turnips for a back piece? It might work...

At about the same time I heard that cash payments had fallen by 14 percent in the decade ending in 2009. Predictions are that cash payments are set to drop even further.

All these recent events bring to mind a great quote from the great Cash Cooper – an old time UK tattooist – “In God we Trust – All the rest pay Cash!”



Back Issues