PetSmart, Starbucks Allow Workers to Have Visible Tattoos

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Nov. 24 — While national attention has been riveted on arguments over the holiday spirit displayed in Starbucks's seasonal red cup design, the coffee retailer is instituting another change that may be even more discomfiting to the tradition minded—allowing visible tattoos, a change also made by other employers.

“In our updated Dress Code policy, effective October 20, visible tattoos, colored ties and neck scarves, and black denim are allowed,” Troy Alstead, chief operating officer, wrote in an online posting.

However, there are still some restrictions on body art, an accompanying fact sheet on the company's new dress code notes: “We want customers to focus on you, not your body art. Tattoos are allowed, but not on your face or throat. Treat tattoos as you treat speech—you can't swear, make hateful comments or lewd jokes in the workplace, neither can your tattoos.”

The policy revision, Alstead explained to employees in his posting, is part of the company's policy of “creating a warm and inviting third place environment where you can be yourself.”

‘Appropriate' Tattoos at PetSmart

Preceding Starbucks in this new trend in branding the employee rather than the employer, pet care chain PetSmart has been allowing employees to have visible tattoos since February 2014, spokesperson Michelle Friedman told Bloomberg BNA in a Nov. 24 interview.

“Visible tattoos are permitted provided they're appropriate,” she said, adding that “appropriate” means no nudity or profanity.

PetSmart made the policy change “in response to associate feedback,” Friedman said. At the same time, the company also began allowing “casual” office wear at its Phoenix headquarters, she added.

Customer reaction “has been overall positive,” Friedman said, with the relatively infrequent comments being supportive.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

For More Information


Starbucks's letter to employees about its new dress code policy can be seen at