My First Complaint- How To Handle

Business By sambugjoebear Updated 20 May 2010 , 4:36am by andreamen1

sambugjoebear Posted 17 May 2010 , 12:24pm
post #1 of 34

Well, after being in business for a year, I now have my first complaint. Actually, the email read more like a rant.

The customer emailed me saying that the cake looked good but that it tasted like cardboard. It wasn't moist at all and that it tasted like it had been sitting out for weeks. She said that when she pays $50 for a cake she expects it to taste good. Her 3 yr old daughter said that it even tasted gross.

Needless to say, I feel horrible over this. HOWEVER, I tasted the cake scraps and they tasted fine. The cake was sticky because it was so moist (homemade WASC) so I know it couldn't have been dry. How do I reply to her?

I'm really upset because she is questioning my baking skills (which has never happened). My husband said that "That's preposterous!"(thank you honey). He's thinking that since she never flat out said that she wanted a refund that I should give her store credit and then let her have a 2nd chance for me to redeem myself. But then he's thinking even harder to just give her a refund and then blacklist her.

Fun little side note: apparently her sister is one of my daughter's teachers (preschool). I'm seriously thinking about contacting her and seeing what she thought of the cake. I just can't believe that it's as bad as what she's saying. Do you think it's a case of buyer's remorse? Or that she's just not used to homemade cakes?

Not being in this situation before, I'm totally lost as to handle it. Any suggestions are needed and welcome. Thank you!

33 replies
UpAt2am Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:00pm
post #2 of 34

i'm not sure on this one. i do a modified WASC b/c i thought it was a bit overly floury tasting (which some might describe as dry i guess?) i don't think that someone would have buyer's remorse over $50 (i wouldn't at least).

if you want to ask the sister, go ahead, but run the risk that she will say something to her sister and i'm sure words will get twisted somewhere along the way. she may say one thing to your face ("no i thought it tasted fine!" and another thing to her sister's face ("i can't believe she asked me to my face and i didn't want to say i didn't like it"). i'm just throwing this out there b/c you may create a bigger problem.

if i were you, i would just say, "i'm sorry that the taste isn't what you were expecting." don't offer a refund if she didn't ask. nothing spreads faster than news of someone handing out refunds/discouts when a customer slightly compains.

i feel for you sweetie...good luck and keep us posted

endymion Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:06pm
post #3 of 34

I think checking with another person is a good strategy. Maybe ask for "feedback on product quality" due to the fact you are still somewhat new to the business. (You want an honest reply, not just a polite answer like, "it was great!" because they know you made it.)

jillmakescakes Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:29pm
post #4 of 34

I have to disagree with asking the sister. She was not your client and its just bad business to involve someone else in a customer service issue. IF her sister brings it up to you, then there wouldn't be a problem asking her opinion, but don't be the one to start that conversation.

Offer her a discount on a future order stating that while you sampled the cake scraps and while they tasting good to you, you would like a chance to redeem yourself in her eyes. This allows you to save face while at the same time acknowledging that she saw a problem and you want to help fix it.

Texas_Rose Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:32pm
post #5 of 34

I wouldn't ask her sister for feedback...that's your daughter's teacher and that's a relationship that you don't want to mess up. If the teacher had just been a party guest, that's different and it would be fine to ask her. Since she's the customer's sister, she's going to feel like she's put on the spot...if her sister is telling the truth, she may feel uncomfortable telling you that the cake was too dry, and if her sister was lying to try to get a refund, then if she tells you the truth she'll end up with a lot of unnecessary family drama.

I've had one WASC cake come out so dry that it was barely was a variation of the recipe. The scraps were fine, but I put a crumb coat on and then frosted and fondanted the next day, and when we cut into it, it was too dry to eat. I've never had that happen before or again with WASC, just that one time and fortunately it was a family cake. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been eating it myself.

mamawrobin Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:34pm
post #6 of 34

I agree with Jill. I wouldn't ask the sister and involve her in any way. That's not good business to involve someone else in a customer serivce issue.

Did you refrigerate your cake? Was it cold when you delivered it?

deheart Posted 17 May 2010 , 1:46pm
post #7 of 34

Hi, I'm new here. Hope you don't mind if I put some comment here. I've been in baking line for more than 4 years and do the business from home. What happened to you is just OK.

I think the best way is just reply to her email and say sorry and thanks for the comment. Then just stop there. I agree not to involve other people in this matter. Refund the money is not a good way to do also. Because the taste is so subjective. "One man's food is another's poison"

All the best! Just smile and be proud to yourself icon_smile.gif

sambugjoebear Posted 17 May 2010 , 2:11pm
post #8 of 34

I had baked the cake Friday night and let it sit on the counter (wrapped) overnight because I was decorating it on Saturday.

After some of your replies I agree that I probably shouldn't ask the sister even though I'm still tempted to. I just really want to know what happened.

I'll try the store credit and see how that goes over with her. I'd really like a 2nd chance to redeem myself. I know that I don't bake horribly (I'm sure my family and friends would have told me that a long time ago if I did-they're honest to a fault like that lol).

Thanks for all of the responses. I'm feeling a little better now. Hopefully when I come home from work today I'll be able to write a coherent email to her.

costumeczar Posted 17 May 2010 , 3:56pm
post #9 of 34
Originally Posted by sambugjoebear

I'll try the store credit and see how that goes over with her. I'd really like a 2nd chance to redeem myself. I know that I don't bake horribly (I'm sure my family and friends would have told me that a long time ago if I did-they're honest to a fault like that lol).


Just write something like this:

Dear Ms. X,
I'm sorry to hear that you weren't happy with the cake. I do use a different recipe than grocery stores, so if you're used to the texture of those cakes the recipe that I use may taste different. I did have an opportunity to taste the cake scraps while I was shaping your cake, and there wasn't anything wrong with them, so it may have been a difference in the texture that you're used to.

I'd like to offer you a coupon for XXXXX that you can redeem for another cake in the future. Please let me know if and when you'd like to use it, and I'll make another cake for you at no charge.

Then send her a coupon with an expiration date on it in big red letters. If she doesn't use it, too bad.

endymion Posted 17 May 2010 , 3:58pm
post #10 of 34

K... Maybe I'm wrong about involving someone else.

But whatif you have already made some "compensation" to the bride (gave the discount or the refund or whatever) THEN maybe you could go to the sister and say, "I'm so sorry about your sister's cake! Has never happened to me before and I am embarrassed. Was it completely inedible...?"

(I'm assuming since she is your child's teacher that you have an established, positive relationship with her and talk to her in a casual and friendly way about everyday topics. If you barely say a word to her then I agree that it would be best NOT bring up the cake at all!)

But if this happened to me, the issue for ME would be wondering whether my cake was truly a problem or not. And I don't know how you will know for sure unless you find someone else who ate the cake, who can actually give you feedback on it. (?)

costumeczar Posted 17 May 2010 , 4:40pm
post #11 of 34

I'd go with not involving the teacher, though, because it isn't fair to put her in the middle of it.

tinygoose Posted 17 May 2010 , 4:57pm
post #12 of 34

I wouldn't say anything to anyone else, what your client says to you is fairly private, and I wouldn't appreciate it if someone played detective behind my back.
Why don't you ask her to bring the leftover cake in so you can take a look at it? Taste it, does it taste dry?

Personally I don't care for WASC, but my husband eats it for breakfast. Perhaps its just a matter of taste. I'd say a coupon for 10% off if there is nothing wrong with it only that she didn't care for it (10% is worth keeping her happy). 20% off her next order if it does taste a little dry.

txnonnie Posted 17 May 2010 , 5:00pm
post #13 of 34

I agree with not involving the teacher. Needs to stay between the seller and the customer.

Denise Posted 17 May 2010 , 5:04pm
post #14 of 34

To some people $50 is alot to spend on a cake. I have really only had one complaint 4 years ago about cake it is was over a $112 cake for a birthday. She liked it when she picked it up...her hubby called 2 hours later ranting and cursing about how ugly it was. I thought she was insane paying $112 for a bd cake for a one year old when she showed up to pick it up looking like a Walmart cake would have stretched the budget to breaking. I think her hubby freaked out over paying that much so what seems like a little could be huge to some people.

Cake may or may not have been dry. Taste is extremely subjective. Don't involve sister unless sister makes a comment and then say something along the lines that 'that was the first time anyone ever said cake was dry...blah blah were so sorry...blah blah blah"

Give a discount on a cake if you might have asked her to return any uneaten portion so you could have tried it yourself and refunded that portion. I can understand wanting to keep a good thought in a customers head IF they aren't trying to rip you off!

Babarooskie Posted 17 May 2010 , 5:05pm
post #15 of 34
Originally Posted by sambugjoebear

I had baked the cake Friday night and let it sit on the counter (wrapped) overnight because I was decorating it on Saturday.
After some of your replies I agree that I probably shouldn't ask the sister even though I'm still tempted to. I just really want to know what happened.

I'll try the store credit and see how that goes over with her. I'd really like a 2nd chance to redeem myself. I know that I don't bake horribly (I'm sure my family and friends would have told me that a long time ago if I did-they're honest to a fault like that lol).

Thanks for all of the responses. I'm feeling a little better now. Hopefully when I come home from work today I'll be able to write a coherent email to her.

If the cake is made from scratch and if butter was involved, then leaving it on the counter, unwrapped, is a very good possibility that the cake did end up dry.

My apologies- I thought I read that it was unwrapped. Woops! icon_redface.gif

endymion Posted 17 May 2010 , 6:05pm
post #16 of 34

icon_confused.gif I wasn't talking about "playing detective" or going behind the person's back to see if the bride is a liar! If you have already given the bride the discount or refund or whatever, then the issue is already resolved amicably between you and the bride, before you ever go seeking this other wedding guest's input on your product.

I was really talking about market research. If this teacher is at least somewhat "a friend" to whom you could go to for an honest opinion, then I don't see what harm it could do AFTER the issue has been resolved, to see whether you need to adjust something in the future (if everyone at the event agreed the cake was dry/inedible), or whether it was just a matter of personal taste (someone who is used to a boxed mix eating a scratch cake for the first time.)

But I guess I'm in the minority, and my approach may not work in this situation.

sambugjoebear Posted 18 May 2010 , 1:05am
post #17 of 34

Thanks again for all of the replies. Costumezcar I used your letter with a few changes and sent it to her tonight. I guess we'll see how she responds...

sambugjoebear Posted 18 May 2010 , 11:09am
post #18 of 34

Well, after sending her a nice, respectable letter I get this in reply:

"I cant see that if you tasted the scraps that you thought it was edible at ALL! I do have the cake left over from the party to give you back! I DO NOT want any in store credit....I would like my money back for the cake! I would rather not do business again!! If there are any problems i will be calling the better business bureau."

She's even more lovely than I thought icon_evil.gif

I am curious about the cake, I just don't want to have to see her again to get it back icon_sad.gif Guess it's a no-win situation.

Sarah824 Posted 18 May 2010 , 11:47am
post #19 of 34

This client sounds really poisonous. It's best for you to "cut her out" of your business. There's no reason for you to have to see her again. If she brought in the remainder of the cake, you'd end up having to listen to more of her negative rants. I would send her a refund, no more apologies, and put her on your blacklist. Life is too short to spend even one more second worrying about this woman! Hang in there thumbs_up.gif

JGMB Posted 18 May 2010 , 11:51am
post #20 of 34

I agree. If you were to go get the cake back, who knows how she's stored it for the past few days? If she left it uncovered on the counter, it would be dry just for that reason.

I'd give her a refund, especially to save face at your daughter's school, and never deal with her again.

I'm sorry this happened to you!

Texas_Rose Posted 18 May 2010 , 11:56am
post #21 of 34

I agree, give her the refund and get rid of her. Do get the cake back, if possible, to see what happened with it. Try to treat it like a business issue and not like a personal insult...people are used to returning something if there's something wrong with it, to their way of thinking, and she may not realize how upsetting it is to you to have this happen.

KHalstead Posted 18 May 2010 , 6:41pm
post #22 of 34

Scrape up the $50 bucks and send it to her registered so that she has to sign for it! Cut this one loose!! She sounds like she'll be nothing but a thorn in your side!

awilder Posted 18 May 2010 , 7:53pm
post #23 of 34

Wow... What a horrible woman!! I think she just likes to complain, because come on, even if she really thought the cake was that bad, who says it like that??!! Unfortunately I agree that you should just refund her the money... but kill her with KINDNESS!!! People like her are just looking to argue and complain, if you show her nothing but kindness, she will have nothing to go on.

Sorry you had to deal with such a sour person.. it is bound to happen to all of us sooner or later.

linstead Posted 18 May 2010 , 8:30pm
post #24 of 34

I agree with everyone else - give her back her money and write it off as a business expense. $50 not worth a BBB complaint. I would send her a note:

Dear Mrs. X,

I am sorry that the cake did not meet your expectations. I can assure you that I baked the cake the night before the party so that you would have a fresh cake. I tasted some of the scrapes and it seemed moist so I am not sure why it became dry by the time you ate it. I will refund your $50 and will pick up the left over cake on __________.


This way she CANNOT say to BBB that you were uncooperative (because you gave back her money) and you are not being snide, rude etc. Then you don't have to take any more orders from her. I would get the left over cake just to see how it is now (although by now probably dried out).

Denise Posted 18 May 2010 , 11:31pm
post #25 of 34

Wow...what a Poison Polly. I am sorry this happened to you.

deheart Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:03am
post #26 of 34

Absolutely agree with linstead icon_smile.gif

Make it all the way business. Cheer up lady icon_smile.gif

sambugjoebear Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:08pm
post #27 of 34

Well, I sent out the refund this morning.

I also received the nicest letter from her too:

"my address, city, state, zip. Thank you."

LOL. That's all it said. Hopefully I will never hear from that horrible woman ever again.

Thanks for letting me complain and for keeping my head straight. Needless to say I couldn't tell her what I was really thinking icon_evil.gif

Now, onto the next one! icon_smile.gif (cake that is, not complaint) icon_wink.gif

mayo2222 Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:32pm
post #28 of 34

I think you did the right thing, even if she is lying or just plain crazy! In the end you are only out your ingredients and hopefully not that much of your time. Hopefully this puts an end to everything and you can move on and enjoy all of your other customers that love your cakes.

dreamcakesmom Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:51pm
post #29 of 34

Ugh. . .Dealing with complaints is always terrible whether they are justified or not. Although our immediat reaction sometimes is to be defensive and think, no way, my cakes are always perfect. Realistically we are human and perhaps maybe soemthing did go wrong, whterh it was a storage problem which dried the cake or perhaps the customer refrdiged the cake and did not bring to room temp which to me when eaten gives the impression of a dry cake. Either way I think the best path is to at least make the customer feel like she has been heard. Tell her to bring the cake back so you can research what perhaps the problem was and that you will issue her a refund by business check so that you have a record. Apologize and move on.

venuscakes Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:56pm
post #30 of 34

My thoughts on this are not actually related so much to the feedback issue but more about whether your client/guests ate the cake.

You said you tasted some scraps - does this mean it was consumed?

if a client complains that it was unfit for its purpose (to be eaten) then they need to return the un eaten cake to you (in my opinion).

If they complain after eating it it is akin to eating a meal in a restaurant and then complaining that it was awful.

With regards to what action you take I would offfer a proportion of the money back as a good will gesture. Although I have to say that if the email was a rude rant I probably would not want this person as a future client so would not offer anything off a future cake.

There will always be complaints slong the way (hopefully not many) and they are good learning curves.

Hope this helps


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