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Front of House and Abuse

I spoke previously on abuse in apprenticeships in the Piercing industry (which you can read here). This is a known, and rampant issue in body piercing, which breaks my heart to admit. But, abuse is not limited to apprentices. Front of House aka “Counter Staff” are also regularly targets for abuse in this industry. For many years FoH was viewed as a disposable, lesser than position for someone at the studio. Relegated to answering phones and cleaning toilets, and not even an apprentice or piercer, this role was demeaned as hardly important. FoH were known to be the targets of harassment, abuse, and hazing. Because traditionally, much like secretaries, this role is filled by women and femme folks, sexual abuse is also common.

It’s time to change that narrative, just like it’s time to change the narrative around apprenticeships. These days Front of House are invaluable members of the piercing community. They are jewelry specialists who help clients navigate thousands of pieces in display cases. They answer all the phones, from pricing questions to calming clients having an emergency. They are photographers, social media managers, and email experts. They help uphold high standards of cleanliness and thus safety in the studio. They are a shops book ends- the first thing that greets a client when they enter and the last interaction a client has before they leave. Front of House is as crucial a position in a studio as a piercer, tattoo artist, or manager. Many studios wouldn’t function without their ace FoH staff killing it at the counter every day.

Front of House is Equal to Tattooing and Piercing

First and foremost let’s make this abundantly clear. The Hierarchy of the studio is not FoH and apprentices, then artists and piercers, then managers and owners. FoH is absolutely, unequivocally, 100% as important, as essential, and as crucial as tattoo artists and piercers. They are, in my opinions, above apprentices as their role puts them equal to piercing and tattooing. I could not do what I do in a day without my FoH answering phones, getting clients checked in, choosing jewelry, sizing jewelry, reviewing aftercare, assisting the client, and keeping the lobby moving. I simply couldn’t, and I know the tattoo artists I work with feel the same. The industry has changed- a busy piercing studio simply can’t survive without FoH just like they can’t survive without piercers. I’ve been in studios where I did both and I can tell you I was overworked, stressed, and didn’t get done half as much in a day as I do at studios where I can focus on piercing. The mentality that FoH is lesser greatly contributes to situations of abuse in the industry. People feel they are in a position of power over FoH and it empowers them to be emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. It needs to be addressed, and it needs to be stopped.

Front of House should Make a Living Wage

Because FoH is of equal importance to Tattooing and Piercing, it deserves equal compensation. You should be able to make a comfortable, living wage doing FoH. Pay scales differ at different studios, but wages for FoH should allow for a comfortable standard of living. If your studio offers benefits such as paid time off, health care, or 401k plans, FoH should be included in these benefits and extras. They do as much as artists and piercers, and they deserve to be paid a fair amount with them for that work.

Front of House deserves as abuse free workplace- from staff and clients

As I’ve mentioned, long has FoH been the punching bag of many studios. Harassed over every mistake, held to standards that are impossible to meet where artists and piercers are not. Hazing for FoH was an unfortunately common practice. I’ve heard of FoH being secretly recorded and then punished for what they said privately. Being punished for ever checking their phones, for not staying late (and unpaid) to assist artists who chose to stay late. Being refused lunch and bathroom breaks on busy days. None of this is normal or ok. FoH, are humans and should be treated as such. You deserve breaks, meals, downtime. It’s ok if you make a mistake, if you need to leave on time. You deserve a workplace where you feel safe, and where your time and efforts are valued. If you find yourself regularly crying at work or after work, that is a major red flag you are being treated incorrectly. No one should feel that unsafe or pressured in their work environment.

Beyond that, FoH often experience abuse from irate customers. I’ve seen and heard of clients screaming, cursing, throwing things, and threatening Front of House over things like the state ID policy, studio rules, etc. And often, I hear of studios not standing up for or defending their FoH in this situations, and allowing them to be treated this way by clients and customers. Listen, the customer is not always right. If you come into my studio and scream at or harass my Front of House because they are informing you about state law or studio policy I will kick you out of the studio so quickly your head will spin. Studios, Artists, Managers, we owe it to our FoH to stand with them, and to protect them from abuse, be it at the hands of staff or the hands of clients.

Front of House is as good as you’ve trained them

A common story I hear from FoH is being yelled at or punished for something they didn’t know- picking the wrong style of jewelry for a piercing, scheduling the wrong client for a tattoo, suggesting the wrong aftercare. If you haven’t taught your front of house what jewelry to choose from and what not, or how you want things done, you can’t get mad at them or punish them for not knowing. Too often FoH are not told or educated about things, and then punished for not being taught. This is is not ok, and over time becomes gaslighting and highly manipulative. They aren’t mind readers- you need to communicate.

Front of house is a valid, essential position in any studio. It’s become as much a part of this industry as tattooing or piercing is. Many bigger and busier studios would not function and be able to do what they do without their kick ass FoH team. They deserve every bit as much recognition, respect, and fairness as anyone else who works in a studio. If you are working as FoH and feel you are not being treated fairly, my inbox is always open and I am always happy to help with anything you may need.

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