Ohio’s Underground Tattoo Station is home to a gumball machine that decides what tattoo customers get, known as a Get What You Get tattoo. This concept isn’t exclusive to Underground Tattoo Station, but it is still quite an unusual system, especially for those who haven’t come across anything similar before or who hold the belief that all tattoos should be meaningful. For a lot of people with tattoos though, they’re a fun way to remember a time in your life, regardless of the tattoo’s design.

How it works

The tattoo shop has a gumball machine that they purchased online for the Get What You Get system. Customers pay $80 in exchange for a quarter which they can use in the machine. The machine will drop out a plastic ball that has a number inside. This number corresponds to the tattoo design that you’ll be getting. Most of the designs are a traditional style, gender-neutral and would usually cost around $150, which is one of the reasons they appeal to customers.

Many customers are usually walk-ins, rather than pre-booked appointments, to add to the spur-of-the-moment decision. If you already have a similar tattoo or you really don’t want the design, you can pay an additional $10 for another turn on the gumball machine in the hope of getting something you prefer.

“You can just get a cool tattoo”

The shop has three tattoo artists and between them they do approximately 25-30 Get What You Get tattoos a month, making them a popular choice. Tattoo artist Mike Bentley, who works at Underground Station Tattoo, says “There’s a misconception that every tattoo you get has to have a meaning, you can just get a cool tattoo.”

Another artist from the shop adds, “Tattoos act as a bookmark, you’ll remember everything that was going on in your life when you look at it.” Once you get a couple of tattoos you’re more likely to enjoy the process of getting them done, rather than getting them because of the meaning behind them.

A happy customer with a random tattoo

One regular customer at Underground Station Tattoo is Trey Crumrine who pulled the number 39 out of one of the plastic balls from the gumball machine. This related to a dagger design that led to Trey Crumrine joking, “I hate daggers!”, but later saying that the random tattoos are timeless and fun. Bentley inked the dagger onto Crumrine’s right calf, who told him to “shade it however you want”, giving the artist complete control.

Bentley opted for a classic combination of blues, red and golds. Once completed, Crumrine looked at the tattoo for the first time and exclaimed, “ahh, badass!”, delighted with his new ink. This is his second Get What You Get tattoo and it’s expected that he’ll be back for more.

Get What You Get tattoos are a popular system in many tattoo shops, depending on your location, varying from gumball machines to vending machines. As long as you trust the artist, don’t take it too seriously and aren’t after anything that’s deeply meaningful to you, they’re a great way to get a discounted, spur-of-the-moment tattoo.