HEATH — The gumball machine popped out not one, but two plastic containers — an unusual surprise. Inside each was a slip of paper bearing a number.

Trey Crumrine looked down at the numbers, 35 and 39, and debated which to pick.

"You gotta choose," Mike Bentley, a tattoo artist at Underground Tattoo Station in Heath, told him.

"I can't just get two tattoos?" asked Crumrine, 22, of the University District.

Crumrine decided on 39, and Bentley pulled up a drawing of a dagger on his iPad.

"A dagger? I hate daggers!" Crumrine joked before discussing with Bentley where to place his new tattoo.

It's all part of the fun with the shop's Get What You Get Tattoo Machine.

The name pretty much explains it all: Customers pay $80 for a quarter to put in the gumball machine. Turn the crank, and out comes a random number. Each number corresponds with a tattoo design. Whatever you get is what you get tattooed.

All of the designs are gender-neutral, traditional-style tattoos that would normally cost at least $150. If customers pull something they absolutely hate or already have, they can try their luck again for another $10.

The shop started doing Get What You Get tattoos when it moved to its current location on Hebron Road two years ago, Bentley said.

He said he has visited some tattoo shops on the West Coast with similar machines, but he only knows of a couple in Ohio. When he saw the gumball machine up for grabs online, Bentley thought it would be perfect for a Get What You Get offering.

Bentley said Get What You Get tattoos take the hassle out of deciding what to get tattooed.

"There's a misconception that every tattoo you get has to have a meaning," Bentley said. "You can just get a cool tattoo."

"Tattoos act as a bookmark," said Zach Ames, another artist at Underground Tattoo Station. "You'll remember everything that was going on in your life when you look at it."

Bentley said the shop's three artists — him, his wife, Brooke Hollis, and Ames — do about 25 to 30 Get What You Get tattoos a month between them. Most of the tattoos are walk-ins, and many of the customers come back for more, including Crumrine.

With 15 tattoos and counting (seven of which were done at Underground Tattoo Station and one Get What You Get tattoo on his thigh,) Crumrine said the random tattoos are timeless and fun.

Like with his other tattoos, Crumrine let Bentley go with whatever he was feeling that day.

"Shade it however you want," Crumrine told him. Bentley worked away on Crumrine's right calf, coloring the dagger with bold blues, reds and golds.

Twenty-eight minutes later, Crumrine walked over to the mirror to inspect his new ink.

"Ahh, badass!" he said.

While some people might scoff at the idea of paying money to get a random tattoo, Crumrine said he simply wants to walk out of a shop looking better than when he came in.

"There's no rule book that tattoos need to be meaningful," Crumrine said.

The Get What You Get tattoos have also helped break stereotypes people might have held about tattooing, Bentley said.

Some have historically associated tattooing with biker gangs and bad decisions after one too many drinks. Now, when people visit Underground Tattoo Station to see the machine, Bentley said it's a chance to educate them about tattoos.

It's one reason the shop proudly proclaims on a sign by the front desk: "You don't need to be smart to get a cool tattoo."

 

shendrix@dispatch.com