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Young adult perception of visible tattoos on a white‐collar service provider

Dwane H. Dean (Department of Marketing and Finance at Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland, USA)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 30 August 2011




Although customers may interact with visibly tattooed employees, there has been very little research investigating customer perceptions of visibly tattooed workers. This paper aims to fill some of the gaps.


The independent variables of employee appearance (tattooed versus non‐tattooed) and service outcome (below, equal to, or above expectations) were presented in textual scenario to a convenience sample of university students aged 18‐24. Subjects responded to questions regarding the appropriateness of employee appearance, confidence in the ability of the service provider, satisfaction with the service, and likeliness to recommend the service provider.


The youthful sample considered visible tattoos on a tax service provider to be very inappropriate, and they held significantly less confidence in the ability of the tattooed versus non‐tattooed employee. Satisfaction with the service (across three levels of outcome) was significantly lower in the tattooed employee scenario (as compared to the non‐tattooed employee), and subjects were significantly less likely to recommend the tattooed service provider, even when service outcome was favorable.

Research limitations/implications

The effect of visible tattoos was only investigated for one service occupation; other types of services may be more (or less) affected.


Human resource managers have generally been unwilling to hire visibly tattooed job applicants, though empirical evidence to support this posture has been lacking. The present study, using a sample expected to be accepting of tattoos, provides evidence that visible tattoos are unfavorably perceived and have negative consequences for the business, at least for the service business tested in the scenario.



Dean, D.H. (2011), "Young adult perception of visible tattoos on a white‐collar service provider", Young Consumers, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 254-264.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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