Refunding Deposit, Help!!

Business By KalisCakes Updated 16 Jun 2011 , 6:50pm by bakingatthebeach

Mb20fan Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 7:25pm
post #31 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by KalisCakes

Here's a copy of the email I sent:




Very nicely written...wish you the best of luck with this situation and now that you have peaked my interest, I hope to hear more if anything else comes about. ImageImageImage

indydebi Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 11:44pm
post #32 of 413

This caterer flat out calls it his "Bridezilla Clause" (scroll to very bottom of this pageicon_smile.gif

http://www.jbarhtexasfoods.com/aboutus.html

sugarlover Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 12:09am
post #33 of 413

Do Not Do Not give that deposit back. If she didnt read the details of the contract then thats her problem!

scp1127 Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 6:00am
post #34 of 413

From a PR standpoint, I disagree with most of you. We are supposed to deliver cakes as ordered. The last cake has put doubts in the customers' minds. We are supposed to be driving slowly, anticipating pedestrians in parking lots and we are supposed to transport these centerpieces of a monumental event in such a manner that they do not get damaged (extreme circumstances excluded). Had you just given back the deposit and explained that you understood and hoped you could regain their trust in the future, the issue would slowly die. Now you have infuriated these customers. I don't think some of you realize how far-reaching this situation will be on this business. The negative story of this decorator already delivering a destroyed cake and then refusing to return the deposit will be told for years to come every time wedding cake decorators come up in conversation. Not to mention the damage on the social media sites. And for those of you who say that this would not impact your business, you are not correct.

Newspapers and other news media do not report on hearsay. Normally, the person wronged must file a police report or a lawsuit. Then the media starts a story based on the formal accusation. Just running a story because someone is mad opens the media up to lawsuits. That is why reporters reasearch a story to get the facts.

jason_kraft Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 2:27pm
post #35 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Had you just given back the deposit and explained that you understood and hoped you could regain their trust in the future, the issue would slowly die. Now you have infuriated these customers.



By refunding the deposit OP would also have lost the ability to redeem herself...if the customers decide to go ahead with the cake anyway since the deposit is non-refundable, and OP does a great job, she will have salvaged the business relationship. As it stands now, the only thing the customer remembers is the failed cake from their friend's event.

Of course, there is the risk that the customer will end up canceling, but if they are willing to go so far as to forfeit their deposit over this there would probably be no pleasing them anyway.

KalisCakes Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 5:41pm
post #36 of 413

Thanks, SCP, for the alternate view. I really appreciate hearing all sides of the argument. I actually have a bachelor's in Sales and Marketing, as well as my MBA, so PR issues are ones that I'm familiar with, and also the reason for my hesitation regarding this issue. The lawsuit wasn't what I've been concerned with; it's the negative publicity. This is a group of people I have done many, many cakes for over the years, and this is the first time a cake disaster has happened. As I had mentioned earlier, though, this group has become increasingly more difficult to deal with, and are ones I personally and professionally, no longer wish to do business with. I made the mistake of letting a sob story pull at my heart string and I lowered my price greatly on a cake I did from them, and from there on out they have expected/demanded that same discount, while also wanting more and more in regards to their cakes, deliveries at unusual times, and constantly ordering cakes late (ie: call on Monday for a 4 tier cake to feed 300 on Saturday). I already tried explaining things to this group to try and get this professional relationship back on track, but they have flat out said that because they have been long time clients of mine, they deserve the discounts and special treatments. So, as far as my reputation within their group, eh. I hate to see it tarnished because they know first hand the work I do, but I also don't want their business anymore.
I will say, though, that had this entire situation happened with a different group of people, a group that truly has never seen my work, or maybe just seen a few examples and then experienced a cake disaster, my reaction would have been different. I more than likely would have refunded the money, and still offered to do the wedding cake for free, or offered a groom's cake or other cake, as a chance to redeem myself. (Assuming of course, the original wedding party hadn't threatened bodily harm to myself and my staff, and these clients hadn't barged into my office with threats of lawsuits and negative media coverage.)... In fact, even in this situation I might have done something similar if all that hadn't happened. It's the whole honey and vinegar mentality.

WykdGud Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 5:46pm
post #37 of 413

Long-term customers should get special treatment? BAH! Tell that to McDonald's! I've been eating Happy Meals since 1974 and I get no special treatment. icon_sad.gif

ConnieJ Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 5:57pm
post #38 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

Long-term customers should get special treatment? BAH! Tell that to McDonald's! I've been eating Happy Meals since 1974 and I get no special treatment. icon_sad.gif




hahahahahahahaha

jason_kraft Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 5:58pm
post #39 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

Long-term customers should get special treatment? BAH! Tell that to McDonald's! I've been eating Happy Meals since 1974 and I get no special treatment. icon_sad.gif



High-end custom cake shops aren't exactly comparable to McDonald's...frequent customers of upscale restaurants often get perks including preferential seating and invitations to special events. We have several regular customers who get special treatment such as extra product thrown in for free, priority on our baking schedule, and so on.

Of course the value of said special treatment is inversely proportional to the bad attitude of the customer. icon_smile.gif

WykdGud Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 6:00pm
post #40 of 413

*GROAN*

It was a JOKE! I was mocking the sense of entitlement...

KalisCakes Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 6:10pm
post #41 of 413

HaHa, Very True Jason! And many of my long term clients DO get special treatment, but what I love is that they don't EXPECT it. They appreciate it. And, the ones that get the special treatment as the ones who shell out $$$$ for cakes, not $$ for cakes. Another good way of getting a lot of extra for little $$ with me, and getting on my preferred client list, is to tell me I have complete creative control and can do whatever I want. lol
And yes, having a cup of coffee and chit chat with me while we design the cake/talk about a contract will gain more points than arms crossing, feet stomping, and a bad attitude. It works both way.
The common phrase is "It's just business." Well, with me that's a yes and no. I spend a lot of time with clients during the design phase and tasting phase, and I meet with clients in my home office the majority of the time because 1)gas prices are HORRIBLE! 2) it's more convenient for me 3) it gives me more room at the bakery for... well, BAKING! and 4) It IS more personal. So these kinds of issues, while I know they happen, are really few and far between, and also take me aback and require quite a bit of thought and analysis on my part. My clients know that I put a personal touch on everything I do, so having a client come into my office where they've been many many times, where I've designed birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, even funeral cakes, and treat an issue like "it's just business".... well, it's really unfortunate. But I guess if they want to treat it like just business,then, okay, it's just business. Read the contract, end of story.

chassidyg Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 6:24pm
post #42 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

Long-term customers should get special treatment? BAH! Tell that to McDonald's! I've been eating Happy Meals since 1974 and I get no special treatment. icon_sad.gif




You go to the wrong mcdonalds then icon_wink.gif Once a month or so I'll comp out my regular's breakfast or lunch, or I'll buy the senior's coffee occasionally icon_smile.gif

warchild Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 6:58pm
post #43 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

*GROAN*

It was a JOKE! I was mocking the sense of entitlement...




Double *GROAN*

Not a thread goes by.......

Davwattie Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 7:26pm
post #44 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

*GROAN*

It was a JOKE! I was mocking the sense of entitlement...




Well I thought it was funny icon_lol.gif

carmijok Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 8:47pm
post #45 of 413

KalisCakes...you are doing exactly what you should be doing...divesting yourself of toxic customers!!

SCP's post tells me that they think a business runs on the basis of fear...fear of bad publicity. Sorry, but while you may get some bad PR from these particularly PIA people, in the long run it will work out better for you. And you know that because of how you're responding to them.

Believe it or not SCP...this will be a non-issue in a few weeks. Most people don't spend their days thinking about the next cake they're going to buy. We think of it because we're in the cake biz. Most people really don't care until they need one. If they are friends with the PIA people, then they are probably of the same ilk so who needs or wants their business? As long as you continue to please other customers, network with the right people and put out a good product, that's where you will get your business.
thumbs_up.gif

enchantedcreations Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 9:01pm
post #46 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by Davwattie

Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

*GROAN*

It was a JOKE! I was mocking the sense of entitlement...



Well I thought it was funny icon_lol.gif




I thought it was funny too! Totally got it; some people have no sense of humor. They think this is all serious business: "nothin but the facts Ma'am". I guess we should be carefull, we might get the post pulled. ouch!

enchantedcreations Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 9:01pm
post #47 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by Davwattie

Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

*GROAN*

It was a JOKE! I was mocking the sense of entitlement...



Well I thought it was funny icon_lol.gif




I thought it was funny too! Totally got it; some people have no sense of humor. They think this is all serious business: "nothin but the facts Ma'am". I guess we should be carefull, we might get the post pulled. ouch!

jason_kraft Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 9:16pm
post #48 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmijok

Believe it or not SCP...this will be a non-issue in a few weeks. Most people don't spend their days thinking about the next cake they're going to buy. We think of it because we're in the cake biz. Most people really don't care until they need one. If they are friends with the PIA people, then they are probably of the same ilk so who needs or wants their business?



It used to be true that information about local businesses stayed within certain circles, but with the advent of ubiquitous social media bad reviews can spread very quickly and can be visible to everyone looking for information about the business.

I don't think anyone is advocating a fear-based approach to doing business, but it is true that one pissed off customer can do a lot of damage to a firm's reputation, and not just within that customer's circle. And for an important purchase like a wedding cake, most brides will do a significant amount of research on their vendors before they buy -- if there is a lot of competition in your area a single bad review might be enough to knock you out of contention.

cakesbycathy Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 9:39pm
post #49 of 413

In this particular case the OP is damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. She doesn't refund the money they are going to complain (even though they knew the policy and by signing the contract, agreed to it). She refunds the deposit and they are still going to bad mouth her for that one disaster. Plus she setting herself up for other members of this group to complain and then get their money.

I feel her email is was completely professional and appropriate.

I also think it would be a good idea to send a letter to the head of the group telling him/her that they need to find another baker for their organization.

scp1127 Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 3:57am
post #50 of 413

Carmijok, I am sorry, but your statement is inconsistent with all marketing and PR proven and measured data. Many people read this site and it would be wrong not to refute your statement. I would suggest to anyone who is serious about their business to research this subject (as I have done extensively).

This is not fear... it's damage control. In the past, businesses spent thousands advertising in traditional media... print, radio, and TV. Now it is about maintaining your reputation in a one-on-one atmosphere, making the most of every encounter, whether it be in person, on the net, phone, etc. This means of promotion is less money, but requires finesse in PR.

KalisCakes, since we are on the same page... here is what I would do. Cancel the order with the most gracious note, understanding their concern, and leaving open the possibility of earning their trust in the future. I would then send a smll cake or cupcakes to the offices of each bride... the original and the canceled. This would allow them to share your story and to see first hand that you are committed to customer satisfaction. Also, 24 people at each place will have the opportunity to see and taste your work... total damage control.

THEN BE BOOKED EVERY TIME THEY CALL until you feel comfortable with them.

I have customers who are the backbone of my business... the people who spend money, have friends with money, and tell everyone how great my cakes (etc.) are. These people and their friends get very special treatment. Today, small businesses who want to grow, understand the power of word-of-mouth. It can cause your business to grow or bring you to your knees. To equate an expensive, non-necessity, luxury purchase, custom cake with a fast food experience does no good to promote and share solid business advice... which is what this particular forum is about.

ccr03 Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 3:55pm
post #51 of 413

Carmijok and scp are right - to a certain point. Yes, this will be a non-issue at some point in time, but not necessary in a few weeks. But it will not be brought up every time cake decorators are mentioned for years to come.

Advertisng and PR is not based in social networking - FB, Twitter, etc... It is on those social networking sites that reputations are built and destroyed. It is on those sites that the one-on-one encounters are relived.

Damage control - yes. Kissing a donkey's behind - no. There is a fine line between the two and ONLY a business owner knows what that line is for themselves. NO ONE else can tell them.

As far as the cupcakes - you are assuming they would accept them and NOT badmouth them. From the looks of it, these customers are not those people. Kaliscakes, has made it clear that she does not care about losing this group of customers.

jason_kraft Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:09pm
post #52 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by ccr03

But it will not be brought up every time cake decorators are mentioned for years to come.



If a review is posted on an independent review site or even on a blog that includes the business name, it absolutely will come up when potential customers search for the business in question, even years later.

indydebi Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:23pm
post #53 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccr03

But it will not be brought up every time cake decorators are mentioned for years to come.


If a review is posted on an independent review site or even on a blog that includes the business name, it absolutely will come up when potential customers search for the business in question, even years later.


My sister has been married for over 30 years and they STILL talk about how crappy her cake tasted. Yeah, they even remember the name of the person who made the cake, who has LONG since retired.

WykdGud Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:24pm
post #54 of 413

I don't care what anyone else does - but I REFUSE to be blackmailed into altering my business practices under threat of a negative review. If I give in to one person, it will set a precedent. Personally, I think giving out unwarranted refunds and discounts will impact my bottom line much more than any possible negative online reviews can.

I believe in bending over backwards for my customers, but a line has to be drawn somewhere and those lines are clearly spelled out on my website and in the contract the client signs. If someone lies online about their experience with my business, it's libel and I can sue for it.

costumeczar Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:34pm
post #55 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by WykdGud

I don't care what anyone else does - but I REFUSE to be blackmailed into altering my business practices under threat of a negative review. If I give in to one person, it will set a precedent. Personally, I think giving out unwarranted refunds and discounts will impact my bottom line much more than any possible negative online reviews can.

I believe in bending over backwards for my customers, but a line has to be drawn somewhere and those lines are clearly spelled out on my website and in the contract the client signs. If someone lies online about their experience with my business, it's libel and I can sue for it.




I agree with this...Social networking works both ways/ It's not like you don't have a reputation online already, if you do use facebook and twitter. If someone posted a bad review of me I have a squadron of satisfied customers who I could call on to go in and post good reviews, or counter that person's claims. Even on sites like the Knot, which tends to attract bargain-hunters who are quick to post complaints, other brides will counter the bad remarks with their own experiences.

Now, if you have ninety bad reviews and they all complain about the same thing, that's something that maybe you should look at. But if it's one person who squawks, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Depends if the complaint is warranted or not. Most people who see only good reviews are suspicious of that, too. One bad one won't kill you, people know that you can't please everyone, and all good reviews are unrealistic.

Some people look at bad reviews as a way to demonstrate your customer service online. I personally will have bad reviews that are blackmail-y type taken down, but if it's something warranted then I'd address it publicly online.

carmijok Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:40pm
post #56 of 413
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Carmijok, I am sorry, but your statement is inconsistent with all marketing and PR proven and measured data. Many people read this site and it would be wrong not to refute your statement. I would suggest to anyone who is serious about their business to research this subject (as I have done extensively).

This is not fear... it's damage control.




Before I retired a few years ago, I spent 30 years as a PR, advertising and marketing director in various media, and then eventually owned my own advertising agency. I have also kept up with how social media works and its impact and uses in marketing. I appreciate your 'extensive research', but I do have a tiny bit of real life experience in the subject as both an adviser and a business owner.
Bottom line is this...you will never please everyone. Period.
You also will have customers that are 'snake-bit'...that is, for some reason everything you do for them, something always goes wrong whether it's your fault or not. You can do what you can do to make sure every customer is satisfied but at some point someone won't be.
Spending time, energy, money and sleepless nights on those individuals...no matter how mouthy they are...will not help you in their eyes no matter what you do.

Damage control consists of taking responsibility for your actions, making the necessary amends to the customer if there was negligence on your part, and moving forward.
It is NOT changing your business practices or policies to appease individuals who have no complaint other than they want their deposit back because of an accident with a completely different client! That is running your business from fear. Regardless of what the OP does, those people will still say bad things, still get on Facebook and tell everyone how they got their deposit back --which will open up a whole other can of worms! She wants to rid herself of these people! They are toxic...let them go. She does not need to kiss their respective rears in the process.

The good news is that most people have short attention spans and by moving forward and providing an excellent product and customer service to all your existing and NEW clients, then the negative 'press' as it were, will dissipate. As I mentioned earlier, most people aren't thinking about cake 24 hours a day like we are. You have to step back and look objectively at a situation and see it from the ordinary person who just wants a birthday cake for her 4 year old. She probably isn't friends with with the PIA people and doesn't get Facebook comments from them.
Any posted bad reviews can be mitigated by the posting of other positive reviews as well as an explanation from the OP if absolutely necessary.

I worked at a bakery a couple of years ago for fun (where I got the caking bug) and they had a customer who called said our cakeballs weren't cooked. Really? Since we made them from crushed cake I tried to tell her that was impossible. She then came and demanded her money back. We gave it. We even offered to give her another batch or a big discount on a cake and she refused. Despite our attempts at making things right, she went online and wrote not one but several scathing reviews at different websites on our bad business, our awful cakeballs and service. So much for bending over backwards. Did it hurt the business? No. Their cakeballs continued to be their top seller.
It's cake, not a nuclear reactor exploding. The OP's done all she can do and she is better off without them--with their deposit, and her professionalism intact. Life and cake goes on.

ccr03 Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 4:40pm
post #57 of 413

A business being linked to their own reviews is different from this one bad experience being brought up everytime bakeries are mentioned are slightly different, how scp stated. Also, regardless of how many years pass, if the overwhleming reviews are positive, one negative reveiw will hardly affect the business.

I've had slips in the past, made it right and still get tons of business this the group of friends/family. They come back because I have a good, quality product.

scp1127 Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 5:12pm
post #58 of 413

Those of you who do not think th impact of the social media is powerful need to get some facts. Not from me, but it would be prudent for you to study this issue. Many CEO's have said the same thing an have had their business suffer severe damage because they were not proactive concerning customer complaints. Look at the famous cases of Dell and Comcast. One person's complaint has created a fallout that can never be repaired.

Those of you who ignore this and think you are invincible are most vulnerable. The power of social media is in its infancy and is already a driving force in the market. It doesn't disappear because you don't want it be a factor.

Jason is right... reputations are made and ruined easily by word-og-mouth. People do check reputations and those bad reviews are cached forever.

And I'm sorry to disagree, but this new form of media is your advertising... the part you have no control over. Today, unless you are a national brand, it is the most powerful form of advertising you have I really don't care who agrees. Proven facts aren't up to debate. You can choose to study and understand it, or you can choose to do what many businesses still do and reject it. And the more businesses in this industry who choose to stick their heads in the sand, the more business opportunity there will be for others to embrace this powerful marketing tool.

How can it be that I am a new business and I hear daily how people were not happy about their last cakes. Too dry, taste was just ok, tasted like a grocery store cake, nobody ate it but it was our only option... I may be talking to someone who has never tried my products, but they volunteer their comments. I understand that there are many people who put out a great product and people love your work. But be realistic... many of you are who these people are talking about. I am being general.

Damage control is not fear... it is one of the best opportunities you have to turn around a potentially bad situation and use it for your own good.

Argue if you want, but facts are facts.

WykdGud Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 5:18pm
post #59 of 413

I have two different Facebook accounts. One for networking, and a personal one as well. I can honestly say that on my personal (non-cake) account, I have NEVER seen ANYONE post about any cake they may have bought or eaten. So while it MAY happen, I think the risk is minimal and I am not going to let Twitter dictate how I operate my business. But that's just me.

Also, the implication that those of us who aren't intimidated by social media are ignorant is very demeaning.

jason_kraft Posted 3 Jun 2011 , 6:26pm
post #60 of 413

I see people post on FB about cakes they've ordered all the time, usually if there was a very good experience or a very bad experience. The real concern is independent review sites like Yelp.com -- they are great for generating positive buzz, but if you mess up you'd better do everything you can to address the issue. When I look at online reviews (for businesses, products, etc.) I usually check out the negative reviews first (even if the reviews are mostly positive), in most cases it is clear from the review whether the customer or the vendor is at fault.

Luckily these sites usually allow the business to respond to reviews so you can at least post your side of the story, but if you are not respectful in your replies that can lead to further damage to your reputation -- on more than one occasion I have decided not to patronize a business because of the way they responded to negative reviews on Yelp.

Obviously you can't guarantee that every customer will be happy 100% of the time, I'm just saying it's dangerous to write off a PITA customer thinking that the damage to your reputation will be limited to the customer's circle of friends. It won't.

And there's no need to be intimidated or alter your business practices either, if a deposit is nonrefundable you should hold the line and not refund it, but do so in a tactful manner under the assumption that the customer will order from you again in the future (even if you think they won't).

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