April 29th, 2021
Free Burgers and Free Ink? Sign Me Up!
You can’t find a deal this sweet anywhere else.
In my family, we have a motto: If it’s free, it’s for me. For many years this motto has guided me to countless meetings for clubs I never planned on joining entirely for the promise of free food. It’s what kept me working at a movie theatre throughout high school and college as I got to see every movie I wanted—including outrageously expensive IMAX films—for free. And when I got a job as a barista, I was encouraged to take expired food home and consume copious amounts of caffeine, both with the free bags of coffee I got to take home and the unlimited free drinks during my shifts. I am a consumer if there ever was one.
When I saw that Farmer Boys, a California-based restaurant, was offering free burgers for a year for customers to get one of three tattoo designs on them in celebration of their 40th anniversary, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. This is an excellent display of marketing and a way for die-hard fans to show their love for their favorite restaurant and get something great in return. The promotion includes getting the tattoo for free, and the designs are 2 inches by 2 inches, so not a massive piece to deal with by any means, and depending on placement, it can be easily covered. The requests for the tattoos have been overwhelming and I see the appeal. If Chipotle offered the same promotion, I would be at the nearest tattoo studio stat. I’m dead serious when I say that the amount of burrito bowls I eat in a year is alarming.
Farmer Boys is far from the first place to offer what many would think is a ridiculous promotion, but honestly, theirs is pretty tame compared to some. It’s only one free burger a week for 52 weeks and you have to be a member of their rewards program for the discount to be applied to your card. In 2018, a Russian Dominos offered 100 free pizzas a year for 100 years before they had to ax the promotion due to the high volume of participants. Surprisingly, people would be willing to get a $50 tattoo in exchange for thousands of dollars of free pizza. Most importantly, they’re definitely not a realty company asking their employees to get the company’s logo tattooed in exchange for 15% raises, which is just scummy and highlights a bigger issue with pay and forming a separate identity from your job than it does the permanence of tattoos. To me, I just see this as a fun promotion customers can choose to engage in, and it gives Farmer Boys great publicity in the process, especially since I’m writing about it and I live all the way in New York, which is roughly 2700 miles away from their closest location. That’s the textbook definition of win-win right there.
The idea of tattoos in exchange for free burgers makes some people stick up their noses. There’s still a debate in the tattoo world of if every tattoo you get should have meaning and some look down on people who get tattoos just for the hell of it. Maybe it’s the Zennial in me and my nonchalant attitude towards the world, but honestly, people should do what makes them happy as long as it doesn’t harm or negatively affect others. I mean it. There are more pressing problems in the world than if somebody else’s tattoo is meaningful. When I look at the Farmer Boys tattoo designs, I can’t help but think they’re neat. Clearly, a lot of work went into representing the brand, and while you might have their logo on you for the rest of your life, at least you didn’t pay for it and you got a year of free burgers too.
While my current tattoos have personal meaning to me, I also have designs for future tattoos that mean absolutely nothing other than I think they look cool, like getting a pair of scissors on my arm. Or because I’d think it’ll be funny, like getting a Beatles tattoo on my other arm so when people mistake my Queen tattoo for being the Fab Four, I can say, “That’s not my Beatles tattoo, THIS is my Beatles tattoo” as I extend my left arm to them. Tattoos are works of art, but that doesn’t mean silly, fun and meaningless tattoos shouldn’t exist. Plus, the tattoo’s story can be more important than the meaning of the tattoo itself. I’d rather have a silly tattoo with a remarkable story than a beautiful tattoo with no story any day.
We seem to forget that in today’s world, the art of tattooing is also the art of marketing. Tattoos are no longer just beautiful artwork and tools of creative expression but a promotion for the artist and the studio that did the work. The Farmer Boys promotion is not only promoting the brand’s 40th anniversary, but the tattoo studios the restaurants have chosen to partner with as well. Anyone who’s gotten a tattoo in the last five years can see the game has changed. Artists heavily promote their work on Instagram to grab new clients and tattoo collecting has become a hobby, with many collectors showing off their pieces through tattoo tours on TikTok. It’s no longer just a design you wear on your skin forever, but it’s a promotion for the artist who did your tattoo. While we might laugh at those who choose to get a tattoo for free burgers, in the end, our tattoos will forever be free publicity to those who did the job and, in my particular case, one of the greatest rock bands ever to exist. We are given this one life, and in the end, the ink we put on our skin is just a minuscule fraction of what we do with it.
Celebrating the legendary drummer after he passed away at the age of 80 with a collection of The Rolling Stones tattoos
These tattoos are themselves a religious experience.