Customers Who Want To Know How You Do Things

Business By smab109 Updated 19 Jun 2008 , 9:52am by KitchenKat

smab109 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 1:04pm
post #1 of 58

Opinions?

How do you handle a customer who writes to you, admiring your work, has a "reason" why they can't order from you (in this case, her son has an extreme nut allergy) and wants step by step instructions on how you make something? (particulary, my cookies).

I am split on this... I have told people on CC how I do them.... but at the same time...something is holding me back. Maybe my own selfishness, I'll admit!

Any thoughts?

57 replies
bonniebakes Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 1:25pm
post #2 of 58

can you instead point her in the direction of some good books or other resources so you don't have to feel like you are giving away "business secrets?"

LeanneW Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 1:37pm
post #3 of 58

Oh my goodness, I have huge issues with this. My husband is always telling me not to let people know the secrets of cake decorating, except sharing with CCer's of course.

his perspective is that custom cakes are worth the price tag because it is not something they could do themsleves at home. he thinks if I tell them how I did it then it makes them think "that cake isn't worth $200.00, I could do that myself, all she did was brush it with piping gel to make it shiny"

I come from a humble perspective and hate to have people ooh and aah over something so simple as a shiny cake for example.

I see his POV and have stopped sharing my "secrets" so openly. Now when people blatantly ask how I did it, thats a toughie.

I had a customer who clearly was never going to place an order but kept "pretending" she was considering me for her wedding cake and kept saying "could you do this, how would you do that anyway?"

I think she was trying to get a free tutorial over the phone so she could make her own cake.

bottom line, I am working on keeping my lips zipped and letting them be in awe of things we take for granted.

remember before you started making cakes and you saw a GP bow or a luster sprayed cake? we are jaded and have lost the awe factore but the "cake muggles" still drop their jaws at things we see daily.

LeanneW Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 1:40pm
post #4 of 58

even though my post was long, should add, I have no plan on how exactly to decline requests for info except to say in a playful way "that's a cake decorater's secret, sorry can't share"

or "thank you for your compliment, that was a technique that I really had to work hard to perfect"

BrandisBaked Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 1:59pm
post #5 of 58

"Ancient Chinese Secret..."

Just curious though, why are CCers any different than this woman?

Someone on CC could live next door to you and be competition just as this woman could. Just a thought...

The only think I'm selfish about are my recipes. I didn't develop or patent any decorating techniques (unless you count using the silk flower as a former for my hibiscus, which was sheer genius!! LOL!!! But, I shared that in the video) - and most everything I've learned, I've learned from others or through trial and error.

I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for the help of other decorators before me (via books, culinary school, and CC) - this information does not belong to ME... but think of the decorating karma I will accumulate if I help spread that knowledge. icon_biggrin.gif

frostingfairy Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:07pm
post #6 of 58
Quote:
Quote:

"cake muggles"



icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

Jenn2179 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:08pm
post #7 of 58

I don't share recipes either. If someone asks how I do something so be it. Doesn't mean they can do it even if they try.

Susan123 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:16pm
post #8 of 58

I agree completely about not sharing recipes, and that should be clearly understandable to most who ask. And I don't mind sharing the (very few) techniques I know, with anyone I know. However, I'm not willing to share them with some stranger off the street who is just calling with those questions. My time is valuable. I think this is more than reasonable.

awolf24 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:17pm
post #9 of 58

I think that asking for a list of ingredients for a possible nut allergy is one thing but I wouldn't even give amounts - simply a list of ingredients, if you are comfortable with that. If you do not want to, that is your choice, but you might lose the order.

Giving step by step detailed instructions on techniques is another matter. It is one thing to share with other cake decorators here on a forum like CC, which is why we are here in the first place, but I feel that you are not obligated in any way to provide or share that information to clients or potential clients.

Mike1394 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:25pm
post #10 of 58

Is she asking how to make the cookie, or just decorate? Do you want her biz? If so there are many ways to approach. You can ask her to bake them, and you'll decorate. She can give you the recipe she wants used.

Mike

LeanneW Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:27pm
post #11 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandisBaked

"Ancient Chinese Secret..."

Just curious though, why are CCers any different than this woman?

Someone on CC could live next door to you and be competition just as this woman could. Just a thought...




Very good point, I guess I feel that people onn CC are very generous with thier knowlege so it's kind of like what goes around comes around. I have learned so much on CC, and sharing about cakes is the purpose of this site, the purpose of my business is to sell cakes, not instruct people on how I make them.

I respect that everyone seeking information on this site (or by getting books from the library or taking calsses) is being active in thier pursuit of cake knowlege.

I guess my husband just doesn't want me to disregard the hard work I have done in learning techniques and practicing them.


I undertsand that by telling someone how you do it doesn't mean they can or will do it. My husband is thinking about percieved value, he says I should never give a customer the impression that they could do it, it makes my cakes *seem* less valuable in his opinion.

At the same time, I would never give the impression that I was more skilled than I am or say that cake decorating is impossible to learn.

Man, I need more coffee, I seem to be typing for ever just to say whats in my head. sorry for being so long winded... off to refill my mug.

KHalstead Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:37pm
post #12 of 58

an easy answer when someone says "how'd you do that?" ..just say.........."practice.......a LOT of practice" lol

kbrown99 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:39pm
post #13 of 58

I understand sharing techniques. It doesn't mean that they can or will do it. Even if they do, I've learned from others so I feel it's only fair. Having said that, there is a BIG difference between sharing an occasional technique and teaching step-by-step how to do it. That's a class or a private tutorial. Your time is valuable. If you can explain easily how to do something like a flood icing, then I would, but not really detailed instructions. Plus, it sounds like she wants to do this over the phone and some things just have to be seen to be properly understood. At least that's the way it is for me.
HTH

sweetcakes Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:41pm
post #14 of 58

All the great decorators share their secrets, like earlene moore, Collette peters, etc etc, but they share theirs in classes, so there is a fee to learn how to do something. You could tell her you will add her name to your class list, the class will be $60/hr or something like that and then see if she wants to learn it. Nothing is free.

kbrown99 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:42pm
post #15 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by leannewinslow

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandisBaked

"Ancient Chinese Secret..."

Just curious though, why are CCers any different than this woman?

Someone on CC could live next door to you and be competition just as this woman could. Just a thought...



Very good point, I guess I feel that people onn CC are very generous with thier knowlege so it's kind of like what goes around comes around.




Great point.

southerncake Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:42pm
post #16 of 58

I agree with referring her to a book. When someone asks me for a recipe, I usually give a basic recipe that I know is good, but not necessarily the one I use. For example, I refer people to the sugar cookie recipe in "The Flour Pot" cookie book. It is also a good one to refer someone to who wants some cookie techniques.

Once when someone asked for a cookie recipe, another lady standing nearby said "that's her trade secret - don't ask her something like that!" The subject was quickly changed!!

arosstx Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:46pm
post #17 of 58

I like what sweetcakes is saying. This customer (not even a customer really) is asking for step-by-step technique instruction, not just a list of ingredients.

Offer her a private lesson if you feel so inclined, and charge her for it.

psurrette Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:48pm
post #18 of 58

Has anyone ask Picasso how to paint or liberace to teach them to sing with no money involved? I think not! I certainly share my talents with people that will use them but only other decorators. Tell this person this is your business and that it pays for my kids food clothes your house etc. Would you go to a fancy restaurant and ask for their recipe so you can make it at home. If you have balls you might but if they give it to you then they are stupid. We all work hard and figuring out how to do thing what works and what doesn't. This is why we get paid to do things If she wants detailed information tell her she has to pay for it as if she was buying the cookies from you. Ot go to her house and make them with her but dont give her all your secrets. Have her sign a contract that she will not use the techniques for her own person gain. Maybe she is just to cheap and is trying to do it herslef.
good luck

Maria_Campos Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:49pm
post #19 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by leannewinslow

"cake muggles"


LOL!!!!!!!!! you must be a Harry Potter Fans, that is my new term from now on for wannabe cakers!!!!

smab109 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 2:56pm
post #20 of 58

Thank you all for the fast responses!

Definately given me insight!

smab109 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:03pm
post #21 of 58

This is what I sent her. Short & sweet! Hopefully! icon_smile.gif

"Hello Nicole,

My sugar cookies do not have any nuts in them, but I do have them in my home. The cookies are alot of practice and patience. I have experimented with different icings to find the ones that work best for me. Here is a link to a book by Toba Garrett that has inspired me and taught me alot. Hope this helps! Happy Baking!

http://www.amazon.com/tag/toba%20garrett

Sarah"

milissasmom Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:08pm
post #22 of 58

In my opinion, it's simple...CC'rs are different from this woman because CC'rs are here all for the same reason. We love what we do and want to share and learn from others. The time spent on CC is PRICELESS and I thankful for it every single day!! But if every person you met came and asked you how you do this and can they get a tip on doing that, and didnât place an order, where and when would you draw the line?? I know thatâs an over the top scenario but you know what I mean!! It seems to me if she wants a step-by-step private tutorial she needs to pay for it or go buy a book or somethingâ¦there are TONS out there. Especially since she obviously does not or can not order from you! Even if her son has nut allergies, there are SO many ways around that (he is not the first or the last to have this issue). Why can't she ask if you have a recipe that can handle this sort of situation? Or better yet why can't she lead you to the recipe she is obviously gonna use and slap your designs on? If she wants the info, set up a tutorial for her and charge her for it. Other than that, if this is a BUSINESS and you spend your very valuable time on this step-by-step directive with her, What Are You Getting Out Of It?? A future referral?? Probably, but probably not!!! If someone admires her cookies, she could possibly take the credit for the designs and then take the Order for the cookies while she is at it icon_smile.gif And then another, and anotherâ¦.etc.

I guess what I am saying is that this is a business, not a cooking class. NO, you are not gonna get every single order out there but it is not smart to give orders or potential orders away. The good Karma comes in from being a good, kind and truthful person. So if you make this a business transaction, you are showing that you are willing to share your techniques with strangers or customers. Trust me, she is not calling Duff or Collette and saying, "Hey, can you give me Step-By-Step directions on that FABULOUS cake I saw you decorate on TV last night?" Uh, NO....she would be charged for that! Don't sell yourself short or feel guilty about politely telling her that you will gladly set up a step by step tutorial for her for the fee of XX.XX. Again, this is a business! You are a professional and your time is valuable! (I'm gonna keep saying it until you believe it)!! thumbs_up.gif

Any second I spend doing anything that takes a way time from my daughter and husband I BETTER be getting paid for!! If not, then they are getting short-changed and there is no way I am doing that one! That's just my little two cents though icon_smile.gif Time is money!

milissasmom Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:10pm
post #23 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by smab109

This is what I sent her. Short & sweet! Hopefully! icon_smile.gif

"Hello Nicole,

My sugar cookies do not have any nuts in them, but I do have them in my home. The cookies are alot of practice and patience. I have experimented with different icings to find the ones that work best for me. Here is a link to a book by Toba Garrett that has inspired me and taught me alot. Hope this helps! Happy Baking!

http://www.amazon.com/tag/toba%20garrett

Sarah"




Perfect!!

BrandisBaked Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:11pm
post #24 of 58

Why not just refer people to CC? That way they can do their own research, and ask questions from those who don't mind giving up their time to respond.

Sure this is what many of us do for a living, but I truly find the "I'm not going to help you unless you pay me" attitude truly disheartening. Where is Utopia?!? LOL!

BTW, if it weren't for Earlene Moore's website and willingness to provide such a wealth of information to the public (FOR FREE) - I would not be in this industry.

twomonkeys Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:14pm
post #25 of 58

I would just politely say, "Thank you so much for your interest in my work. I've spent a lot of time practicing, researching, and learning to perfect my art. There are a lot of great resources that show step-by-step instructions. I'd be happy to give you a list of some great books that will get you started!"

A general tip here and there is one thing, but step-by-step instructions to someone who isn't even a customer is a no-no in my book. It's different to give advice and How-To's here. We're all already decorators and can give and take. It's not just someone looking how to get something for nothing. IMO.

BrandisBaked Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:15pm
post #26 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by milissasmom

In my opinion, it's simple...CC'rs are different from this woman because CC'rs are here all for the same reason. We love what we do and want to share and learn from others. The time spent on CC is PRICELESS and I thankful for it every single day!! But if every person you met came and asked you how you do this and can they get a tip on doing that, and didnât place an order, where and when would you draw the line?? I know thatâs an over the top scenario but you know what I mean!! It seems to me if she wants a step-by-step private tutorial she needs to pay for it or go buy a book or somethingâ¦there are TONS out there. Especially since she obviously does not or can not order from you! Even if her son has nut allergies, there are SO many ways around that (he is not the first or the last to have this issue). Why can't she ask if you have a recipe that can handle this sort of situation? Or better yet why can't she lead you to the recipe she is obviously gonna use and slap your designs on? If she wants the info, set up a tutorial for her and charge her for it. Other than that, if this is a BUSINESS and you spend your very valuable time on this step-by-step directive with her, What Are You Getting Out Of It?? A future referral?? Probably, but probably not!!! If someone admires her cookies, she could possibly take the credit for the designs and then take the Order for the cookies while she is at it icon_smile.gif And then another, and anotherâ¦.etc.

I guess what I am saying is that this is a business, not a cooking class. NO, you are not gonna get every single order out there but it is not smart to give orders or potential orders away. The good Karma comes in from being a good, kind and truthful person. So if you make this a business transaction, you are showing that you are willing to share your techniques with strangers or customers. Trust me, she is not calling Duff or Collette and saying, "Hey, can you give me Step-By-Step directions on that FABULOUS cake I saw you decorate on TV last night?" Uh, NO....she would be charged for that! Don't sell yourself short or feel guilty about politely telling her that you will gladly set up a step by step tutorial for her for the fee of XX.XX. Again, this is a business! You are a professional and your time is valuable! (I'm gonna keep saying it until you believe it)!! thumbs_up.gif

Any second I spend doing anything that takes a way time from my daughter and husband I BETTER be getting paid for!! If not, then they are getting short-changed and there is no way I am doing that one! That's just my little two cents though icon_smile.gif Time is money!




If I adopted that attitude, I would refer people to my PayPal account before responding to a thread. LOL! I can understand if you don't have the time or don't have the desire to help someone in-depth... but the nicest thing you could do is point them in the most helpful direction (RIGHT HERE!).

Don't we all need some Cake Karma?

LeanneW Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:18pm
post #27 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maria_Campos

Quote:
Originally Posted by leannewinslow

"cake muggles"

LOL!!!!!!!!! you must be a Harry Potter Fans, that is my new term from now on for wannabe cakers!!!!




Not my term, someone else made that one up, but it is very fitting.

LeanneW Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:18pm
post #28 of 58

sorry duplicate post

southerncake Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:20pm
post #29 of 58

I think your response to the customer was excellent!

nutcase68 Posted 16 Jun 2008 , 3:35pm
post #30 of 58

My step-grandmother was the best Polish cook. She made the best perogies and ribs and sauerkraut. The only problem was, she did not like us because we were her step grands. My mom would ask for recipes from her and she would always change at least one ingredient so it would not turn out like hers. Unfortunatly all them good recipes died with her. You could always play the old switch aroo and change a few ingredients. We never did figure out how she made the fillings for her perogies.

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