Today I got a call from my customer about 20 minutes after she picked up her cake and told me that the back was melting. After talking with her for several minutes, I learned that she drove home with a 3-tiered cake in her passenger's lap! The layers of the bottom tier shifted against one another and the filling burst through the fondant on one section.
This is the 3rd time someone has called me well after leaving to tell me that something went wrong with their cake. Once it was a temperature issue as the car was really hot and once the whole cake (in the box) slid and the cake went crooked. I take photos before they leave and these cakes were straight and stable and happy. These customers aren't asking for refunds but I am sure they won't order again even though, IMO, it's their own fault.
I had another case (a long time ago) where a customer didn't put an italian cream cake in the fridge! It had CREAM CHEESE icing on a CREAM cake! My 4-yr-old knows milk and cheese go in the fridge! She called me the next day to complain that they couldn't eat it because "the texture was weird."
I try to educate people before they leave with cakes; I tell them to keep it cool, keep it level, drive carefully, I instruct them on how to cut it.... What else am I supposed to do?!
How much do you have to teach your customers at pick up?
I always email a few days before pickup to touch base with the customer.Now that it is summer I make sure they are aware that the vehicle needs to be cool and free of cluuter such as golf clubs/baby strollers...I also mention that I should be the last stop they make because if they leave a cake in the car in warm weather to stop and go shopping etc..It is sure to melt.As fof the customer with the cream cheese icing..I'd be very carfeul if I were you...If you are not legally licensed or your are then you need to carry insurance for mishaps such as these because if dozens of people would have eaten the cake and became ill...You could have been sued regardless of whether you told her to refridgerate or not.
If they leave your home and you have told them and done everything you could do...Then there is not much you can do.I do have a waiver on my website stating all of this also so they can't come back and say they never read it or it wasn't listed.
I don't educate. I just deliver all of my cakes.
If someone were to pick up, I'd simply tell them pretty much what Kiddiecakes does and finish off with, "and once it leaves here, it's up to you to get it to the table in good condition. I can't be responsible once it's out of my hands. I can't come to fix it. Safe travels."
When I worked at a bakery we put a sticker on the box instructing them that because we used real butter in our buttercream to put the cake in the refrigerator as soon as possible and keep it there until an hour or two before an event.
When they came to pick them up, if they were tiered cakes we took them out to the car and put them in ourselves. If they didn't have a grippy pad (what I call those rubber mesh shelf liners) we cut one and put it under the cake so it would not slide (assuming it was a flat surface).
If conditions were not ideal I would tell them so...even to the point of encouraging them to come back with a different car. If all else failed, I would tell them all the pitfalls to watch for and wish them good luck. I guess it worked OK because no one ever called to complain about their cake not making it.
I have everyone initial a few line items upon pick up. Once it leaves my door it is their responsibility, any allergy concerns have been discussed etc. This way they are well aware of what they need to do. I also put a please refrigerate me sticker and reiterate the "initialed items".
I think if you have had three disasters, you may need to change what you are doing. If the customer is transporting, you need to make sure that the cake is stable enough for a customer to transport. WRITTEN storage directions are a must. My site has directions for each type of dessert also.
I also agree that you need to educate the customer before they get there. You also should not let a customer carry a tiered cake on her lap. We all know that is a huge potential problem. If they aren't prepared, the shelf liner and a rolled up cheap towel to level the back seat would be the right thing to do, before sending them down the road, knowing this will end badly.
I do not agree that our liability ends when the cake is out of our hands. Our job is to provide a great dessert for this person's very important event. I too deliver all of my cakes. But on the rare occasion that it does get transported by the customer, I know it will be ok. The cake I am doing right now is a three tier that will travel 2.5 hours. I am giving them all three tiers in a different box, wrapped completely on the outside with plastic wrap because it will be refrigerated for two days. The cake will be supported and the top will be prepared to support the topper. They will have a little kit with piping gel (to secure the layers), a few extra flowers and leaves, and a few little border balls. I know that cake can take any bumps going through the mountains. They also will have storage instructions.
It is your reputation that gets trashed when the cake doesn't make it, regardless of who is at fault. If the event was not too far away, I would take it myself before I allowed a customer to transport it incorrectly. That goodwill will go a lot farther than the ill will of a destroyed, expensive cake.
I give them verbal instructions, but I also have a printout that they sign and take a copy with them, which covers transporting, storage, and serving/cutting tiered cakes, with everything I can think of that they need to know.
But yes, it does say, once it leaves the bakery, we can't be responsible for damage they cause (having been given all these precautions).
I carry to their car and place it so I know it leaves safe. After that... it's up to them. I've never had a mishap and they've gone far and wide and through construction and over mountain passes.
No, wait. ONCE a lady got home with a little 2-tier cake and said the icing melted or slid off one part. It came out of the fridge overnight and went straight (in a box) to sit on the front seat of a pickup truck in 41-degree weather for the 1.5 hour trip home, so it HAD to be the heater of the truck blowing on the box, or the temp when she got home. Obviously I couldn't drive the 1.5 hour to fix it, she wouldn't send me a photo..(?), and also not surprisingly, she hasn't been back.
They say the only people who should move big cakes are the person who made it, and the person who paid for it...I guess that helps...
Chef_Stef, your experience is the point I was trying to make. Yes, it is their responsibility, but you have only had one odd problem. Your structure and all of the components of baking and making the cake make it sound enough for transportation by the customer. This is our responsibility in my opinion.
The layers of the bottom shifted against each other? How did you support it? A properly supported caked would not have the layers shifting against each other like that. The supports would prevent this from happening. Now cracking inside the cake it would not help. Sorry, I'm not buying that as the reason.
I think it was a structure thing and the cake actually cracked inside, not shifting layers, which would be impossible to have the whole layer shift with supports. I've delivered cake while on a lap and this had never happened. You need to reevaluate this again.
For clients that opt to pick up their cakes I give written instructions on how to properly drive and store their cake. I make them sign a waiver that says I am not responsible once they leave with their cake.
I require delivery of tiered cakes. I explain that while I am sure they are a careful driver , I have experience delivering cakes and that the delivery fee pretty much guarantees piece of mind that their cake will be perfect for their event.
Honestly, most cake muggles don't have the faintest idea how to drive with a cake in the car. What they consider turning the corner slowly is probably NOT how I do it. My standard directions are to "drive like you have a baby in the car that is not wearing a seat belt."
When dealing with the general public you really have to dumb everything down, as if you're trying to explain things to a child. They don't bake/construct cakes everyday, so they don't realize you have to actually be careful with them (sad, I know).
A few days before pick up send an email with how to store and travel with the cake. Get some stickers printed up with the directions on them and slap them on the box. When they come to pick up the cake, help them out to the car to ensure it's probably loaded up in their vehicle.
Personally I would NEVER dream to call someone back over my own mistake. I would chalk it up to me being a moron and move on. For my dad's 60th birthday I got this amazing lemon cake from a local bakery ( I can not for the life of me figure out their recipe) I decide to set the box in the passengers seat floor. I slam on my breaks to avoid hitting someone with no brake lights and book the cake smashes into the side of the box. Totally my fault.