TikTok Tattoogate: How a tattoo artist sparked backlash for ‘absurd’ pricing and design changes

A Canadian tattoo artist has become the subject of TikTok’s newest drama known as #tattoogate after customers shared their negative experiences with the artist, from high pricing and design fees to one less-than-impressive fox tattoo.

The #tattoogate drama began on 10 May, when a TikTok user by the name of Courtney Monteith posted several videos about her experience with an unnamed tattoo artist, who was later revealed to be Lindsay Joseph of Lucid Tattoos. In a video, the mother of three detailed her appointments with Joseph, before revealing a tattoo sketch that didn’t resemble what she had requested.

“I wanted a tattoo by this artist who I love,” Monteith began the first TikTok video. She booked a consultation with Joseph, for which she had to pay a non-refundable fee of $180. During their consultation, the tattoo artist informed Monteith about her tiered tattoo pricing.

The first option, which cost $1,500 plus tax, consisted of a concept sketch of the tattoo with one minor change and a final design review. Her second tattoo option included two concept sketches, a few changes, and a final design review for $3,500 plus tax. The final option was over $6,000 for multiple sketches, reviews, and a canvas of the concept sketch.

“At first I kind of thought that price was going to then be taken out of the final cost of my tattoo, but then I find out that it was not,” Monteith said. “I was still kind of blindsided. I didn’t know what to say. She asked which option worked best for me – obviously I picked number one because it’s super expensive.”

In the video, Monteith proceeded to show the final concept sketch she received from the tattoo artist. During their consultation, she had asked for a half upper-arm sleeve of a full-size fox running through flowers and sent over two reference images of similar designs. But when she was sent Joseph’s fox sketch, Monteith said it was “nothing like what I wanted”.

Although Monteith opted for option one, which only allowed for one minor design change, she immediately emailed Joseph and said the sketch wasn’t what she had asked for.

“She said that if I wanted another sketch she was going to charge me the difference between option one and option two, which is $2,260,” Monteith explained.

“She said it was my fault that I wasn’t clear that I wanted a full fox,” she added, despite sending Joseph two inspiration photos.

Monteith went on to reveal that she had paid the tattoo artist a total of $2,695: $180 for the non-refundable consultation, the design fee, and the $1,000 deposit for the actual tattoo. The two women went back and forth over “like 20 emails,” she said in another video.

“I’m trying to make her understand that I wasn’t aware when I booked the consultation that I was going to have to pay this design fee,” Monteith said. “I urged her to put it on her website that she was going to charge people this before they booked with her.”

The tattoo artist replied that the design fee was optional, but Monteith maintained that it was never made clear to her that the fee was optional. When Monteith asked Joseph to refund her $1,000 deposit for the tattoo session she will no longer be having, the tattoo artist replied via email: “No. I’m not refunding you anything, I have given you options of moving forward. I have been kind, patient, and have fulfilled my duties to you this [sic] far. If you don’t want to move forward, that is your choice, but I’m not giving you my time, expertise, and creativity for nothing.”

“I guarantee if [she] had sent me a beautiful sketch of a full fox, we’d probably be moving forward and I’d probably be getting this tattoo but unfortunately, we’re in this situation and I’m out $2,600,” she said in her final video, which she captioned: “I honestly like her work but not being transparent about fees from the start is just bad business.”

Courtney Monteith’s nightmare tattoo experience instantly went viral on TikTok, with her first video receiving nearly five million views. Her story quickly circulated across social media as many viewers dubbed Monteith’s unpleasant tattoo experience #tattoogate.


Part 3 I honestly like her work but not being transparent about fees from the start is just bad business #badbusiness #tattoohorrorstory #worstexperience #storytime #tattooartist #greenscreen

♬ original sound - cmonteith

It didn’t take long for people to repost her videos on Twitter, where one user even went viral for their Twitter thread explaining the tattoo drama. “Is anyone else following this ABSURD tattoo pricing drama on TikTok? I neeeeed to talk to someone about it,” tweeted @diannaeanderson on Thursday.

Shortly after, one TikToker chimed in about their own “horror story” with the same Ontario-based tattoo artist. A woman who goes by Ri McCue on TikTok claimed she was “basically scammed” out of $4,000 when she had booked a tattoo consultation with Joseph in 2021.

McCue was told her tattoo – which would cover up a previous bird tattoo from her shoulder to her collarbone – would cost $1,700, along with a 50 per cent deposit of $850. But a few days before their appointment, Joseph called McCue and said that she wouldn’t be able to cover the bird tattoo with the design they had discussed, and would tattoo her shoulder instead.

When McCue was unhappy with the new plan, she gave suggestions about tattooing up to her neck. She recalled Joseph saying: “If you want to change the design, then you have to pay a whole new consultation.”

McCue didn’t want to lose her $850 deposit, so she decided to go through with the appointment. But after receiving half her tattoo, she claimed Joseph charged her a “daily rate” of $1,900.

“At this point, I paid her $180, $850, and now $1900 for an outline,” she explained. McCue decided to follow through with her second tattoo session, but told Joseph that she would pay no more than the $3,000 she had already paid. But she claimed that Joseph had called the cops on her and attempted to blacklist her from several tattoo studios in the area.

Courtney Monteith even gave Ri McCue’s video her seal of approval when she replied in a TikTok video: “This is repeat behaviour, you guys.”

Meanwhile, fellow TikTokers commented, “I’m here for tattoo gate,” and, “Getting my popcorn ready for #tattoogate2023”.

Since #tattoogate went viral, tattoo artist Lindsay Joseph has made her Instagram account private.

The Independent has contacted her for comment.