This article was originally posted on February 5, 2018. It was updated on March 30, 2019.

There are plenty of times customers visit a store and leave empty handed. Most of the time it seems reasonable and isn’t any different than most other shopping experiences. Stores can temporarily run out of certain items. Sometimes products are discontinued by the store or even the manufacturer. Who hasn’t left a shoe store without a new pair of shoes? We’ve all been to a restaurant that was out of a specific dish. These scenarios all seem reasonable right?

Things aren’t quite the same with personal services. Outside of time constraints like store hours and availability, you’re not likely to be turned away for a massage, haircut, or manicure. After all, a cashier at a store isn’t telling you they won’t sell you an item, they’re telling you they don’t have it in stock, and that’s not likely their fault.

Piercing services however, are a little different. We have many variables to consider when piercing our clients. In our industry there are some widely accepted reasons for refusing a piercing. Like all businesses, we have store hours and want to go home after work like everybody else, and we too can run out of certain jewelry pieces. Anyone who follows the industry knows there’s been a jewelry shortage for about five years. Even now most of our designers still have a 3-4 month shipping time. Like we’ve already said, these situations are common for any business.

Here’s a couple things that separate piercing from most common shopping experiences. We have certain limitations like the state’s body art regulations. Yes, proper identification is required and no, a school ID doesn’t work. And believe it or not, occasionally we still have to explain to a parent it’s against the law to pierce the nipples of their underage child. Insurance is the other big factor and there’s a wide range of companies and plans available to piercing studios. All have requirements. Our studio for example doesn’t pierce anyone under 16 years old.

Fortunately, our studio isn’t open late and doesn’t generally attract a clientele that comes in drunk. But there are studios, usually tattoo shops, where turning away clients who’ve been drinking might be common. Someone under the influence can’t legally sign a consent form. Being under the influence can also create a disruptive environment in the studio. Piercing requires concentration and attention on the part of the piercer. If a client’s behavior prevents this it can be uncomfortable for everyone in the studio. This can be especially true in the piercing room where piercers are often alone with their client. Once in a while a client’s behavior may be inappropriate once the doors are closed. A piercer always has the right to end any experience that doesn’t feel safe or appropriate.

Perhaps the most common reason for turning away a piercing is the client’s anatomy (or lack of). Well formed anatomy for any piercing is critical. It’s not impossible, but extremely rare for someone to not have a good nose or ears for piercing. But many other piercings, tongues, septums, and navels for example, can easily be developed in a way that makes proper jewelry placement impossible or impractical to wear. Anatomy can truly prevent someone from ever healing a piercing and that can be quite disappointing. A skilled piercer is going to be able to identify anatomical features that indicate if a piercing is viable or not. An ethical piercer isn’t going to take money for doing a piercing they aren’t confident in.

Experience and skill levels are weighed in too. Not every piercer has experience with all piercings and their comfort levels will be stronger and weaker with different piercings. A piercer has to know when they’re outside the scope of their skill set. This is very common for example with genital piercings. Not every piercer is fortunate enough to have exposure to these piercings when they are learning to pierce. Even though someone might otherwise be a competent piercer, they may not offer every service. If a piercer says they don’t feel capable of doing a particular piercing it’s best to trust them.

We also have to be aware of the recent myth that Daith piercings help alleviate migraine pain. This situation has brought many people into piercing studios who would otherwise not be in one. We love to pierce, and we want to pierce everyone asking for a service. However, piercings never have medical benefits and when someone desperate for pain relief expects help from a piercing it would be unethical to let them believe this is realistic. There is a certain amount of liability in taking money under circumstances like this and our studio’s policy is to turn down any person asking for a Daith piercing due to headaches.

No business makes money by turning away customers. But every piercing studio relies on doing quality work to build their clientele and reputation. As individuals, piercers want to have a strong reputation of their own. This means not only knowing when they can say no, but also when they should. Refusing a piercing is simply an obligation sometimes.