Ok... I really need an opinion as to what to do. I am just starting out and have come across my first issue with a client. I made her an Easter basket cake that was filled with cake pop "eggs". It took a lot of work and I definitely under charged. Anyway... At some point AFTER the cake left my house, the basket handle fell over and took chunks of the sides of the cake with it. The cake was made the night before pick up and was fine while here. She has now sent me an email saying the cake is unservable and is upset because of the money she spent. Keep in mind the cake was for a small family only birthday (8 people).
My question is what do I do?? I am obviously not making her a new cake, nor is there time to fix it. The way I see it, once it leaves here, my responsibility is done. Do I offer her some cupcakes or something to smooth things over. Or do I accept that I have lost a client and hope she doesn't smear my good name all over the place?? Help!!
I think it depends on the circumstances of how the handle fell. If it's because you didn't build it with adequate support to withstand transportation, then it's your fault and you owe her a refund. If it was because she abused it during transport, it's her fault and you owe her nothing. Problem is that regardless of what actually happened, she's blaming you. And there's probably no way to prove either scenario. I think you need to ask her "what can I do to make this right for you?" If you don't want her badmouthing you, you have to make her happy.
I agree with DSmo...Ask what you can do to make it right..within reason..I'm sure the cake is still edible and such and can still be served.It's not like it was dropped on the ground..Now that being said you will still have to either give her a partial refund or extra product to make her happy.However in the future I would definelty state that once the cake leaves your care it is no longer your responsibility...Who knows what happened to it after she left...sounds like a bit of buyers remorse to me...
There are several wavers on this website you can use as a template or print them out. They are delivery wavers. They kind of state that once the cake leaves your 'custody', you are no longer responsible for it. You have the person sign the waver as the pick up the cake. It also might help to snap a photo with a cell phone of the client with the cake as proof you handed them a decent cake.
At this point, it's hard to tell who is at fault. I've seen the way my family drives when I have wedding cake on my lap! They are not as cautious driving as I would be. My husband (who is a cop) drives like he's responding to a 911 call! Yikes! With wedding cake in my lap!
That stinks, I'm sorry you have this issue. Once the cake leaves your possession you have no control over how it's handled. But you are in the customer service business so being nice is imperative. Sympathize with her, let her yak about how awful it was (and how it ruined her babies for life) then use interrogation techniques.
Ask detailed questions about how it could have happened. Be pleasant. Get her to tell you what she did - how she mishandled the cake which caused it to break apart. (My husband, a retired cop, taught me this valuable skill. He says that in his business the customer was always wrong.) If she admits to it, she won't expect anything. If she calms down but doesn't say it was her fault, don't offer anything except a minor discount on the next cake. If she's hard core, just think of this as a learning experience.
The basket handle fell, not the cake. It sounds like a structure problem. We have to build these cakes knowing that the customer is going to transport it. I don't agree that once it leaves your hands, your responsibility is over. A seasoned cake artist would build the cake for durability... then the responsibility ends. If you don't transport the cake yourself, you have an obligation to build the cake in a manner that the average person can transport. In the end, it is your reputation on the line. Yes, I understand about driving skills, but I don't believe customers drive erratically while transporting an expensive cake for THEIR special event.
I would ask for a photo so you can inspect what happened. Its true our cakes need to be built to withstand a bumpy road (even when I transport my own cakes, there are still bumps in the road and turns and it has to be sturdy enough to withstand it...just because it can stand okay on the counter doesn't mean it can survive a car trip.)
I love refrigeration because it firms everything up really well for transport...its saved me many times...
But anyway yeah the photo may be able to show you what happened...it sounds like possibly the weight of the handle just pulled it over....in which case it may not have been anchored well and you may owe at least somewhat of a refund.... hate that for you.
In the end it's your rep and she has the power right now. I've given refunds (full or partial) in every single case - even when I feel I'm not guilty. Bottom line, if she can hurt your rep - make her happy.
My last partial refund: I sold her a 3" high single tier 12" fondant covered red velvet cake for a wedding shower. She picked it up. The next day she placed a heavy topper on it (something not meant to be a cake topper) and the cake caved in.... I never knew she was going to put a topper on it.
Did I owe her a penny? No. But because she was pleasant and not demanding anything in fact, I offered her 50% off her next cake (which I'm doing at the end of this month). If she had been ugly, I would have offered her a 50% cash refund to save my rep.
She hadn't even asked for a refund and I offered her a discount anyway. I just don't argue with this customers about this kind of thing. They just don't get it.. and I've learned to ask the obvious - will you be placing a heavy ceramic item on this cake?
If it's someone who will not hurt or help you, do what you feel is right for this situation.
[quote="ferrarigal"]Ok... The way I see it, once it leaves here, my responsibility is done.]
Wow. Not the best business philosophy in my opinion. Are you just starting out your own business and have experience under your belt or are you just starting out baking as well? Ask her to e-mail you some pictures and explain how it happened so you can evaluate the situation. You may just have to chalk this one up as a lesson learned.
Wow, I can just give a little word of advicefor next time. Im sorry this happen to you.
For any basket in the future; I would probably give the customer the handle to the basket separately and maybe have them inserted into the cake at the place of the event.
Have a great Easter Sunday
Hmmm...could someone have tried to pick it up by the handle? I've heard of people doing that with handbag cakes...
Coral3, I was just thinking the same thing the whole time I was reading this thread! I wonder if a picture would give any clue to whether this was the case or not? Probably, because if that's what happened, the cake around the handles would be pulled out. If the handle fell over, the cake would be damaged differently (wouldn't I make a great detective, har har har?). And if someone tried to pick it up by the handle, it's the customer's fault, not the baker's, although the OP might still want to soothe some ruffled feathers with a bit of a discount on the next cake or something.
I'm with tryingcake. Call it advertising expense. A customer with a problem, fixed to their satisfaction, will tell everyone how you stand by your product, your fault or not.
In two places on my site, under services and terms and conditions (must be checked at checkout), I have my refund policy. Basically, it is satisfaction guaranteed.
Well I guess I'm just too old and cranky. It doesn't happen that often but I'm tired of some customers demanding and threatening if they don't get a great deal they can brag about to their friends. I certainly apologize for any problem they had, but I want details. It's during those conversations that I can usually tell if they have an honest problem or they just want something for nothing. Color me cranky.
I am in agreement with many here on the site. I think I would ask her if she minded supplying pictures so I could analyze what may have gone wrong. By stating it this way it will not put the customer the defensive so easily and state it just fell. As has been stated you can determine if it was it was a defect in how you may have constructed it or if the customer did something that caused it to happen. Either way, to save your reputation, learn a lesson from this and offer her something for it happening. I would watch her and if she complains about future orders then I would be booked up after that. Some people complain about everything to get "something for nothing". Good luck in your future cakes and customers.
Thank you all for your valuable advice. The pic she sent me looks like the handle was pushed over or fell (she had her young son with her at pick up). So I still don't know what the case is. I think I am going to offer her some product and another apology. She is not the nicest of people but I feel badly. I am still new to all of this and want to keep my clients happy. I like the waiver idea though. I am going to chalk this up as a lesson learned!
If my Easter cake was ruined, a partial refund would make me madder. Do not underestimate the power of social networking. The damage can be huge. I would offer a refund and product in the future, especially if she is unpleasant. This is the kind of person that will talk the most.
I am not in the business of selling cakes (as of right now at least) but as someone on the other end what I would possible do in the future is either a discount on next order or offer 1-2 dozen frosted cupcakes depending on how much was the cost of the cake she ordered from you. I figure putting together a dozen frosted cupcakes, very simple nothing fancy wouldn't be a big loss from your pocket and time.
If you have some frozen and handy buttercream then you could easily address the issue....not that I wish this to occur to you again (or often).