Upset My First Customer

Decorating By inspireddecorator Updated 21 Aug 2008 , 9:48pm by sweettoothmom

inspireddecorator Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 3:09am
post #1 of 28

I don't know about you, my name has been getting out there and ppl are calling me up for a cake. Which is fine and great, but they are giving me like 2 or 3 days notice. I was trying to fit it all in, but it's getting hard, especially when they want more elaborate cakes. This week, I made 4 and it's not the weekend yet. On top of it, I work full time in an office, so my nights are full with cakes.

Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I feel like I am being taken advantage of when I am not given ample time. What ticked me off icon_mad.gif was a lady called me Sunday about making a Halo 3 cake. I told her I would research some ideas and get back to her on how we should proceed. She seemed like she really wanted a Halo 3 Helmut. I called her back Wed and then again last night, told her to call me at work, never heard from her. She finally called me back like at 8:30pm tonight. Well it's Friday and I would have to bake the cakes tonight to be able to carve them Sat to make this helmut which I don't think I could pull off anyway.

I was kind of humming and hawing to try and figure out if I could pull it off by Sun. She said, can you do it or not. Because Save on Foods is right here and they can't do it either, so I will just get a plain cake then. She was mad, you could tell, she kind of cut me short.

Is there something I should have done differently? Do you think I led her on to believe that I would make the helmut? I am kind of upset by this and I don't like upsetting or letting anyone down. I feel so bad, I want to call her back and tell her I will do it, but I don't see how.

Thanks for letting me vent icon_sad.gif

27 replies
Edee Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 3:32am
post #2 of 28

NO! It's not your fault. I think it is rude of people to want something specific in such short notice, even the stores don't do it that quickly! I have the same problem with family calling and asking for a cake in 2-3 days, it takes me one day just to get the materials. I completely understand what you are going through, but I would make them know you need a weeks notice (or however long you need). Otherwise you will get burnt out quickly! Good luck. Maybe make up buisness cards and on them put how much notice you need. Just my 2 cents worth. Good Luck!

JanH Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 3:48am
post #3 of 28

It's great that you're getting business. icon_smile.gif

However, if you have no "minimum lead time" policy for your business, then your customers have no idea that 2 or 3 days isn't enough time to bake and decorate a custom cake.

Establishing minimum lead times for different types of cakes (simple sheets vs. carved tiered cakes for example) is critical.

With this info, and some customer education - it will be possible for your customers to know what is or isn't possible with only 2-3 days notice.

It may be that nothing is available on such short notice, but until you have a consistent policy - they'll keep on asking. (Either you train them or they'll keep testing you.)

HTH

inspireddecorator Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 3:54am
post #4 of 28

You are both so right. I am learning valuable lessons believe me. I made a 4 tier wedding cake last weekend and didn't receive payment for it yet. I know, I am stupid. Lesson learnt here too. I've got a lot to learn about the business side of things.

I even put off making my son a BD cake (his BD is Aug 16th), so I guess I can do that now for him. He will be happy and me too.
Thank goodness he is 24 and understands.

Thank you

xstitcher Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 5:14am
post #5 of 28

I think if she wanted it that bad she should have called you back on Wednesday, not waited until Friday evening. I guess all the "cake civilians" ll think it only takes a couple of hours to do a cake icon_rolleyes.gif !

Have fun with your DS on his bday!

Luby Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 1:22pm
post #6 of 28

You mean you can't just snap your fingers and the cake is made? What kind of baker are you anyway? icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

I wouldn't give it a second thought. I don't make cakes to sell anymore, but if someone called me on Friday night for that type of cake on Sunday my answer would have been "NO"!

fergiesgirl Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 1:45pm
post #7 of 28

I take deposits, and I DON'T take last minute cake orders. And if I have what I feel is enough work for the weekend (considering I have four kids and etc) then I simply say "I'm sorry I'm booked up" and remind them that many customers reserve cakes 1-2 mos in advance.

Its exciting you are getting your name out! Now you just have to learn not to let the customers run your business AND run you ragged. Its your business...YOU decide how many cakes you want to make, and when you make them. AND make sure you take deposits as well. For party cakes I allow them to pay the balance at pickup but anything I deliver is prepaid completely beforehand.

Good luck! And congrats on your growing business!

(Oh MAN I'm supposed to be Kitagrl, my friend logged in on my computer and I forgot. SORRY!!!!)

Kitagrl Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 1:48pm
post #8 of 28

There. Updating in my own name...

indydebi Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 1:51pm
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by inspireddecorator

She said, can you do it or not. Because Save on Foods is right here and they can't do it either......(




And there's where you have her over a barrel! She's learning the hard way it's a special request that isn't just sitting on a shelf!

Hubby's family ran a garage business for decades. Way back when, almost no garage would work on this one particular foreign car. Guy brought it in to the garage and the job was turned down. Guy gets all upset and says, "Well this is the fifth place that won't work on it!!!!!" Father-in-law says, "And what does that tell you?"

Same thing here. She can't get this cake off the shelf .... what does that tell you???

Another way to get people to order early is to add a $50 or $75 rush fee to all cake orders that come in with less than 7 days notice. THAT'LL get their attention!

And I'll one more interesting tidbit ...... it is NOT bad to turn down business!! The word gets out "you better order early with her ... she books up fast!!!" And that's a VERY good thing!!

michellenj Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 1:52pm
post #10 of 28

Don't worry about it. She's probably just frustrated (with herself) because she didn't get the order in sooner.

inspireddecorator Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 4:14pm
post #11 of 28

Thanks for all the great advise and you are soooo right. icon_lol.gif People do expect the world that's for sure. I have had a few cakes not materialize into orders because they thought it cost too much. 2 tier, with hand moulded figurines. I was going to charge $80, too much, so no cake. Oh well. I am getting better at charging a bit more. I am sure still not enough, but at least it's not free or for a bright shiney dollar (as my sister teases me about).

I don't feel so bad anymore this morning. I am going to put this stuff into action. Lesson learnt for sure. Well at least I can spend Sunday with my son and relax.

margaretb Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 8:54am
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by inspireddecorator

2 tier, with hand moulded figurines. I was going to charge $80




Okay, I don't sell cakes, so what do I know, but that seems incredibly cheap! I don't see how you would even make minimum wage for that rate. If someone said, "Hey, I want you to do 15 hours of work for me, and I'll pay you $3 an hour," would you agree?

ladybug76 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:34am
post #13 of 28

I agree about cost of 2-teir with hand molded figures. I too lack in the 'business end' of cake decorating and am usually dragged over the coals with my final price. Almost all my cakes have hand sculpted fondant figures, which takes time but people sometimes don't appreciate (or undertstand) the amount of time, detail and talent it takes. One cake took my nearly 13 hours and my husband said, "Hey congrats!! You just made $3.50 an hour!!" thumbsdown.gif I wish there was a system in pricing fondant figures. At any rate, glad you are feeling better and know that your cakes and time are wroth every penny.... and if the customers don't agree with the price, then they can go to the grocery store!!

Cynita Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 12:28pm
post #14 of 28

Well, I have learned and I have learned because of the smart business people you find on this site. Kitagrl said it well.
My motto, "take it or leave it." My regular customers know the time frames and for new customers who call and are not familiar with time frames and pricing, I normally take a few minutes to explain to them before even talking about their order. If the notice is short(2 or 3 days, sometimes 1 week can be short depending on what they want) I tell them that I am booked, even if I am not, simply because I don't want to overload myself and run around like a chicken without a head. Train your customers, they will respect you. For my pricing I have also learned. It's simply not worth taking the time from my 4 year old to give strangers practically a free cake. Undercharging and working all day gets old real fast, trust me.
I did a Diego cake(in my photos) this past weekend and I charged $261.00($2.00 per serv and I tacked on $55.00 for the decor.) It didn't take much to decorate, some airbrush and toy figures. So, a guest from the party called me and she was all excited. She wanted a strawberry shortcake cake and wanted it to be the size of the Diego cake for 50 people. She told me she did not want to spend over $100.00 dollars. I had to educate her really quick.
First, I told her that a cake that size was not in her budget and a cake that size feeds way more than 50 people. A cake for 50 people would still go over her budget($100 for 50 people plus the cost for the strawberry shortcake design.) I did not hear from her again and good because I don't want to be held up. There are people who want the product and want to pay for the product and there are people who want the product, but do not want to pay for the product. That's understandable, but don't get mad at the business because you can't afford their product. I once told a lady, "it's ok if I'm not in your budget, you are free to go to a place that you can afford. Sometimes I want to shop at Macy's but it's not in my budget, so I take my behind to JCPenny. I'm not mad at Macy's, I just can't afford them at that time."

Cynita

hammer1 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 7:51pm
post #15 of 28

yeah cynita, I had to tell a fellow employee yesterday that he and his bride to be might have to go to Sam's club. they wanted 25 table cakes and a "three" tiered cake and they don't have much money, but they love my cakes.. I posted their sample table cake on my cakes page..it had handmade blue pears and chocolate monogram. Oh and by the way they are having a sit down dinner for 250, but no money for the cake. i nicely explained that table cakes (that's 50layer) takes a lot of time, lots of time icing smoothing etc, I think he got it..I nicely explained that I would not be offended if they found someone cheaper, I doubt if they will. I said 25 for a two layer 6 inch cake...I probably shouldn't have but I did say you could buy small pepperidge farm cakes.

hammer1 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 8:02pm
post #16 of 28

yeah cynita, I had to tell a fellow employee yesterday that he and his bride to be might have to go to Sam's club. they wanted 25 table cakes and a "three" tiered cake and they don't have much money, but they love my cakes.. I posted their sample table cake on my cakes page..it had handmade blue pears and chocolate monogram. Oh and by the way they are having a sit down dinner for 250, but no money for the cake. i nicely explained that table cakes (that's 50layer) takes a lot of time, lots of time icing smoothing etc, I think he got it..I nicely explained that I would not be offended if they found someone cheaper, I doubt if they will. I said 25 for a two layer 6 inch cake...I probably shouldn't have but I did say you could buy small pepperidge farm cakes.

xstitcher Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 9:04pm
post #17 of 28

I probably shouldn't have but I did say you could buy small pepperidge farm cakes. icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

That's too funny! What did he say to this??

hammer1 Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 12:58pm
post #18 of 28

he said he would take the sample cake home and talk to his bride to be...oh and if I ended up not doing the wedding cake would I do a small cake for the rehearsal dinner, because he loves my cakes.

playingwithsugar Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:14pm
post #19 of 28

As far as I'm concerned, she's not your customer until she buys something.

Hence, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

And I agree that you need to create a deadline policy regarding orders. You can't keep taking on several projects with only a couple of days notice. You are going to burn yourself out and lose your passion.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

robinscakes Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:25pm
post #20 of 28

I guess if you were not sure that you could make the 3D helmet you could have said that you weren't sure about it. If she gave you enough time, though, you could have figured it out. But, you certainly gave her plenty of time and left messages, but she dropped the ball when she didn't call back until the last minute. It's these situations that teach us the business aspect of cakes. Now you can clearly state that you need X amount of days lead time on a cake. You just never know that you have to tell people these things until you run across these situations. I don't think you did anything wrong. It's hard to let customers go, but sometimes you just have to (especially when it's their own fault). I work out of a bakery and I constantly get calls on Fridays, when I'm already swamped with Saturday's orders, to see if I can make a cake for a party on Friday or Saturday. I mean, what are people thinking?????

mlynnb Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:31pm
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Quote:

And I agree that you need to create a deadline policy regarding orders. You can't keep taking on several projects with only a couple of days notice. You are going to burn yourself out and lose your passion.




I totally agree...I didn't even do this for a living and I totally got burned out with friends who wanted a purse or pillow cake----tomorrow icon_confused.gif I just started doing some cakes here and there again after a years hiatus for that reason...that and I was practically giving cakes away because these were my friends and for some reason that made me feel obligated. I finally got myself a backbone and learned how to set limits and it's amazing how much happier I've been. icon_biggrin.gif

playingwithsugar Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:34pm
post #22 of 28

Margo -

Have you set any prices into your limits? Even if you are doing these cakes as favors for friends, your time is valuable. Depending on your comfort level, you might not want to charge full value, but if you are doing that much for so many, I think you should consider asking for more than ingredient/supply costs, even if it's only $20.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

mlynnb Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:48pm
post #23 of 28

playingwithsugar wrote:

Quote:
Quote:

Margo -

Have you set any prices into your limits? Even if you are doing these cakes as favors for friends, your time is valuable. Depending on your comfort level, you might not want to charge full value, but if you are doing that much for so many, I think you should consider asking for more than ingredient/supply costs, even if it's only $20.



Theresa-
I have made sure that I get a little extra $ for my time. I feel like I'm in a weird position as far as money goes because I'm not a legal home baker, and I'm not sure I want to be....I mean, I've thought about it, but I'm really hesitant because of family time, ect. Anyway, I just want to be careful of that, you know? I definately don't want to cross that line between being properly compensated and charging what someone who does do this for a living would.

doughdough Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 1:50pm
post #24 of 28

It doesn't sound like you did anything wrong...I'm guessing that this lady was more mad at herself for waiting until the eleventh hour to order the cake!

A couple weeks ago a friend of a friend called me to see if I could make her a Nike running shoe cake for her husband. This was on a Wednesday, and she needed it on Saturday. I told her no, mostly because I was already booked up, but also because I have told myself not to accept any last minutes cakes (to me anything under a week is "last minute"). I figure if I'm firm now w/ my friends & family, it won't be too much of a stretch when I'm doing it for a living.

That shoe cake would have been fun to make, but not if I had to do a rush job on it! And the best part was that my friend's friend was not upset at all, and was quick to reserve a date for next month for her son's birthday cake!

michellesArt Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 2:05pm
post #25 of 28

the other way to look at it is how much priority your customer puts on the cake-is it important to the vibe/theme of the occassion? is the cake the center of attention (so to speak)-if that's the case one, your customer will give you the appropriate notice and two they will pay for it gladly cuz they know it's worth it. educated customers know our time is valuable, others...well it's our job to educate them so they know for next time. sure they could be pissed but i would say i need more notice so that i can make your cake perfect (then your ensuring them that their cake is important to you too)

CarolAnn Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 2:36pm
post #26 of 28

I don't take last minute orders, and anything under a week is a last minute to me. I live out in the country and it's a trip to town or further to shop/plan for cakes, so yep nothing under a week. Also, if someone wants something totally different or too complicated to learn in a short time I just let them know sorry I can't do it for them. I feel this is the only fair thing for both of us since I find it very stressful to be under the gun trying to learn something new with limited time. Oh boy, that makes me sound like a real weenie! This isn't my livelihood (obviously, with this attitude) but I won't let the possible stress kill something that I enjoy so much. I've done some short notice cakes for friends and given them a discount but no more. They can give more notice or go elsewhere like anyone else. I've long lived with the attitude of "Life is too short for...." but with the stress of the last two years I've changed my ways and attitude towards this cake business. I have to safe guard myself so I can continue to enjoy what I like doing. If someone wants something last minute they're welcome to go to Wal Mart and I'll point them there.

In my opinion if someone calls about getting a cake and doesn't bother to follow up with calls or return calls there shouldn't be a cake. I had a woman I know call about making her dd's wedding cake. They needed it in 3 weeks. We talked about it a while and I sent my photo book to her via my dd and they would look at it and she'd call me back right after. She never called back and I had to ask for my book back. I have no idea what they did for the cake and I don't care. I was glad I didn't have to deal with them on such short notice. I say if you know you can handle what the customer wants go for it. If you don't have the skill or adequate time to acquire it be honest, with yourself especially, and tell them. I'm only speaking for myself here.

dee-lite Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 11:25pm
post #27 of 28

Lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part.. icon_rolleyes.gif

sweettoothmom Posted 21 Aug 2008 , 9:48pm
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by JanH



It may be that nothing is available on such short notice, but until you have a consistent policy - they'll keep on asking. (Either you train them or they'll keep testing you.)

HTH



Good point. I had not thought of lead time. JanH

Great post. We appreciate your venting nad bringing this topic to awareness.

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