CakeForte Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 7:49pm
post #1 of

How do you explain to a customer that the price is reflected in the SIZE of what you order, PLUS delivery, not only the decoration and cake itself. This was not a wedding or related event, just FYI, The details of the cake were pretty custom to the client, which is why I'm not posting a photo.

I have a client that feels ripped off and hated their cake because they ordered a custom cake for 100 guests, plus we delivered it at. They paid $395.

Here is a direct quote from their email in which I removed the event details.
-----
"Our guest were shocked that we paid so much for a cake that was not symmetric in design nor was it worthy of our [event type]"
-----

Anyway, the design had certain elements the I made by hand out of fondant, like a collage cake, and while I didn't think it was my best or favorite cake....it was not my worst by any means. This is not to say I do not always try my best, because I do. All of the collage items I made several times because they were not coming out right.

The cake itself was level, and the tiers were proportioned correctly.

They're upset because the photoshop rendering looked different than the final product. In my notes I said it was a general idea on what it will look like, and in my policies, we reserve the right to make artistic changes as long as it stays within the same theme.

The only thing that was changed was the placement of the collage items. I made them larger so you could see the details of what they were, and the placement was different than the photoshop image.

Anyway, how would you respond to the customer?

31 replies
jason_kraft Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 7:59pm
post #2 of

After apologizing that they were not satisfied, you may want to mention the amount of time it took you to make the cake. Many people see cake shows on TV and think custom cakes can be put together in an hour, it can be eye-opening when they realize just how much labor went in to the cake. You probably don't need to say much else.

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 8:08pm
post #3 of

Why would she expect it to be "symmetric in design" when what she ordered was a collage cake that incorporates a bunch of different design elements?? If she wanted a symmetric design, she should have ordered one.

This seems to happen a lot where the customer tells their guests or friends what they paid for the cake, and then they are made to feel stupid for paying that much for "just a cake". Sounds like she had buyer's remorse after her friends told her she paid too much.

Unless the work was truly sub-par, and/or the cake was falling apart/leaning/had major flaws, I don't think you need to do anything, other than what Jason suggested. Is she asking for a refund or anything?

cabecakes Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 8:14pm
post #4 of

Didn't the client know in advance how much the cake, delivery, custom made design, decorating were going to be? It sounds like they had sticker shock. I don't do this professionally, but if I did, I would make certain the client was aware of the cost up front (which perhaps they did). As far as quality, it is difficult for us to give advice when we can't see the final product. There have been times on here when people's skill level have not measured up to professional standards, and they are selling cakes at professional prices. I would see if you and the client could come to a mutual understanding on the cake, but not before she understood the amount of time that went into making it. If she is just trying to recoup some of her budget, then she would get a rude awakening. But as I said, we haven't seen the cake, so it is difficult to make a judgment call. You yourself said it wasn't your best work, but you need to ask yourself, "was it unworthy enough to warrant a refund or was it slightly unworthy warranting a discount on a future cake."

LKing12 Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 8:19pm
post #5 of

If anyone gives me a picture and wants a cake replicated, I always tell them that it will not be the same as the picture. Even cakes that are mine and I try to reproduce turn out different.
I would not apologize or acknowledge in any way the first email. If you gave her the cake that she ordered, then she got what she ordered. If she persists then I would just resend her the previous email contacts and let her know that you did what you were asked to do. If she didn't shop around for a better deal, isn't that her fault?

jason_kraft Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 9:08pm
post #6 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by LKing12

I would not apologize or acknowledge in any way the first email.



Ignoring emails like this from unhappy customers often leads to people posting bad reviews based on their understanding of what the product should cost. It doesn't cost the OP anything to explain the amount of time that went into making the cake, and it could avert a PR disaster down the road.

indydebi Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 9:08pm
post #7 of

My question is also "why does she think it should be symetrical?"

I've had clients like this. My most famous one was the mother who was not involved in the reception planning at all, yet she is the one who called and complained that the cheeseballs were not "ball" shaped (mine are not ball shaped .... ever); she complained because she'd "never seen a cheeseball without nuts on it!" I told her (a) my recipe does not include nuts on it and (b) I avoid using nuts as much as possible due to allergy risks.

She complained because at the end of the night, the leftover crackers were broken and accused me of using cheap crackers. I corrected her by telling her I used the msot expensive crackers my supply had.

basically she was expecting walmart cheeseballs on Ritz crackers and didn't know how to react to a "private recipe" version with higher quality crackers. BTW, the cheeseball was wiped out completely so the other guests must have loved it!

Again .... this was a step-family situation and this mother had NO hand in the reception planning so she had NO idea what was ordered and what wasn't but still felt she had to point out that what I delivered was not what SHE expected.

BTW, I got a wonderful email from the stepmom, who was involved in the planning and paid for this whole thing, apologizing that I'd had to deal with "Bob's ex". I still have a copy of that email.

Some people!! icon_mad.gif

jenmat Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 9:48pm
post #8 of

ok, what would "I" do? I would take a step back.
First, it doesn't sound like the customer is having sticker shock. She doesn't seem to be saying from the tiny bit you shared with us that people told her that $395 for a cake was too much, she seems to be saying $395 for THAT cake was too much.
I can't make a full judgement based on not seeing the design, but you need to take a step back and really examine the cake. When I do a design I am less than thrilled with, my remark when set up is not, "WELL, she wanted it that way, so there you go," but instead, "WELL, not my taste, but IS IT WELL DONE?"
If the answer is "yes," then I'm satisfied. If not, then I pray all night that I won't get a phone call or email!
After you have cooled off a bit, really figure out if you feel the cake was well done, even if you didn't like the design. If so, then a small refund may be in order to please her, because it sounds like she may have pull with people in your area (maybe not, I don't know). If you think it wasn't up to your usual standard, then you need to take it like a gal, and do what you can to make her go away... I mean happy. icon_smile.gif

artscallion Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 10:07pm
post #9 of

Be careful not to confuse "we reserve the right to make artistic changes as long as it stays within the same theme." with "I didn't have the skills to do what she ordered, so I did something else that she didn't order."

Of course without seeing both the photoshop rendering and the final resulting cake, it's really impossible for us to judge.

Kiddiekakes Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 10:13pm

I agree with artscallion...unless there are actual pictures to show it is difficult to come to a conclusion about how to rectify the situation.

cakegirl1973 Posted 5 Jun 2011 , 10:35pm

I totally agree with jenmat.

CakeForte Posted 6 Jun 2011 , 5:15pm

Thank you for the replies, it helps with the logic vs ego. I do respect their feelings and will apologize about them feeling disappointed with the cake because no ones wants an unhappy client.

I do take issue with how they suggested that I basically ruined their party, as they said the cake was not worthy of their event, but I'm not going to get into that with them. I'm just telling you all as colleagues.

This is one of those cakes that was very specific and identifiable to the client, so it's way too soon to post pics.

Now my internal checks and balances, I thought the cake was actually very cute when it was done, and I redid the items that caused me problems and I moved them from the placement on the photoshop because the finished design didn't look balanced. Pro or not, you know when your cakes look like it's not "done"...so I moved some elements around and redid them to make it larger.

They want a full refund and my hesitation is because the cake was not a wreck. I've given full refunds willingly because I knew without when I messed up, but this is def not the case here.

When we delivered the cake, the guests that arrived early were complimenting and taking pics. They're not the client BUT that does tell me the design was not off/ sloppy/ poorly executed.

Anyway....I let you know how this all turns out tomorrow.

BlakesCakes Posted 6 Jun 2011 , 5:24pm

If the cake was accepted at delivery, displayed, and consumed, and the client is only now objecting to the design, sorry--NO REFUND.

It's not like a pair of pants that you no longer like after you get home from the store. It's gone!

The time to make the complaint was at delivery and to proceed with the event without a cake, if it was so abhorrent. End of discussion. Sorry.

Rae

tinygoose Posted 6 Jun 2011 , 6:03pm

I put the clause "At decorators discretion." on just about everything in my contracts.

"Flower placement to be similar to that shown in photo/sketch...final placement [b]at decorators discretion."[b]

You never know when something you are planning to put on the cake is going to work or look right, I like the freedom to change small things if need be.

jenmat Posted 6 Jun 2011 , 7:21pm

Again, not knowing the whole story, or seeing the before and afters, I still think a full refund is a pretty stiff penalty for "it didn't look exactly like the picture," or "it wasn't up to our event." But I wasn't there, and this client sounds like the perfectionist type. But still, 100% refund? I guess I'm not getting it.

I dunno, I think you are keeping your head, doing the best you can to rectify the situation, and I really do wish you a quick resolution to this problem.

costumeczar Posted 6 Jun 2011 , 11:26pm

Hmmm... I had a situation like that once, the cake was delivered and while I was setting it up the MOB was there telling me how cute it was. Then two days later she called to say that the cake had been all wrong (it was exactly what they ordered according to the contract.) I remember that she also made a remark like "when you pay XXX for a cake..." which sends up the red flag of "trying to recoup the cost of the party" to me when I hear it.

For that situation I told her that I was surprised, since she had said that she liked it at the reception, and that based on her contract, it was exactly what they had ordered. She hemmed and hawed and didn't call back after that, so I guess she changed her mind. icon_rolleyes.gif

In this case since the guests seemed to like the cake I'd be careful, it sounds like a combination of spending too much and picking at any change in the design to justify a refund. There's no reason why anyone would be discussing the cost of a cake with party guests, so the idea that they're all standing around talking about the asymmetry vs the cost is ridiculous.

I'd absolutely not give a full refund, no way. I probably wouldn't give anything back if I had delivered exactly what she had ordered. Sometimes people have one thing in their mind's eye, but the actual design isn't what they're envisioning, so they get mad about that.

I also wouldn't bother to explain how long it took, that's irrelevant. If you delivered what she ordered, and she agreed on the price beforehand, who cares how long it took? It doesn't matter.

CakeForte Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 4:09am

Sent apology note, said I understand and was sorry they were disappointed. Offered partial refund.

They reply back that they want the $20 delivery fee back too.

Hayyyyyeeeeeeeelllll no. They should have came to pick up their own cake. I could have saved 40 miles on my car.

Over it and done.

YellowBrickRd Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 4:21am
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeForte

Sent apology note, said I understand and was sorry they were disappointed. Offered partial refund.

They reply back that they want the $20 delivery fee back too.

Hayyyyyeeeeeeeelllll no. They should have came to pick up their own cake. I could have saved 40 miles on my car.

Over it and done.




icon_lol.gif Way to go girl!!

KalisCakes Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 6:36am

Here's what I would do, personally, given the cake delivered was what they ordered, it was accepted, used, and eaten:

"Dear PITA Customer (you can fill in their real name here),
Thank you so much for your feedback. I am so sorry to learn you are unhappy, and would like to extend you a credit with us in the amount of 25% of your original order to be used toward the purchase of another cake in the future.
There are many points that are considered when pricing a cake: flavor, size, technical skill required, the level of customization for the cake, details of the cake, etc. If you'd like, I'd be happy to provide you with a breakdown on the pricing used on your cake, including the final tally and the amount discounted to reach to overall end price.
Thanks again, and I look forward to working with you in the future!
Signed....Kiss my behind icon_wink.gif

maymay0829 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 2:18am

Great suggestions ...... if they ate the cake then will only refund partial payment.

MamaDear Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 2:48am

wink wink... tell them to give you back your cake and you will give them back the money.

Seriously- Seems to me that if they accepted delivery of it and were not satisfied by it then they would have said something then and there allowing you to fix it to the best of your ability. If it "totally ruined their event" then they would have been emotional enough about it to say SOMETHING to begin with instead of send you an impersonal, cutting email afterwards. I guess I just don't understand why after the event they are so dissatisfied but during delivery and drop-off they didn't say a word. Can't judge on the cake or design without a photo (understand why you are not posting one though) so I am just basing my opinion on the actions of the client at delivery.

I would probably go with the discount on future orders idea and if they take you up on it you will know it wasn't the stomach/eyes, it was the pocketbook talking.

CakeForte Posted 9 Jun 2011 , 4:42am

Exactly. It's quite fishy as to why they contacted me - via email - when I was closed on Sunday, but not at all when I was open all day on Friday and Saturday. Their event was at 10 AM Friday, I delivered at 9.

Normally I only offer a credit, but this is someone I do not want to work with again, so I did the partial refund.

BakerAnn Posted 12 Jun 2011 , 8:24am

Unfortunately we live in a litigious society. It has become common to sue for the most feeble of reasons, and to expect something for nothing. The time for this PITA client to say something was when the cake was delivered, certainly not after it was consumed.

A discounted price for another cake in the future would be the only offer they'd get from me. Since you understandably do not wish to work with them again I'd follow Kaliscakes' excellent advice and offer to provide a breakdown of all that went into the production of their cake.

Sorry, but I tend to think that many of these folks who enjoy the cakes then whine and demand full refunds have plans to cheat cakers from the get-go. The tip-off to this client's greed is their audacity to demand the delivery fee as well.

Chonte Posted 12 Jun 2011 , 9:03am

some people have alot of nerves. if the cake wasn't what they wanted they should not have accepted it...not waited almost 3 days to contact you and say something about it.

scp1127 Posted 12 Jun 2011 , 9:57am

If I ever have to give a refund, my delivery fee is included in the refund. This is my policy.

If a cake is delivered and the quality of design is not as expected, the customer cannot express their displeasure at that moment. She has guests and she is obligated to feed them. This is also not the time to get into a debate with you.

It would be proper for her to serve the guests, get her event completed, and then call you with her concerns the next day.

We always assume that it is the customer's fault. Look at the uploaded pictures in the gallery. There are works of art, unique designs, clean cakes, and then the majority that are mediocre to not very good. Also, not everyone is a great baker. I have had more wedding and celebration cakes that were not good than good. In fact, I can think of maybe two great cakes in my life. All of these cakes have been from various types of bakeries and bakers. And we all know that most people that take a Wilton class start baking cakes. I go to parties all the time where the cake is just mediocre in taste and execution. Who bakes these cakes? No one here? And please remember that with the huge growth of this market, the customer is now kicking herself because she did not spend $xx more to get the cake from the baker with the wonderful reputation.

This is just a peep at the other side from the customer's view.

I am speaking in generalities, but I don't believe that this is always a customer issue. They are paying a premium price for something they believe to be professional. The cake is always a centerpiece to an event. How do you think the customer feels when she gets a cake that was "not your best work"? She is embarassed because she feels that that cake is a reflection of her usually good traste and this is what she presents to her guests.

If I ever have an issue, my refund policy is spelled out completely. They simply must store the uneaten portion according to the instructions and call asap. For example, if I had a gummy center, that cake should not have been sold. The proof will be there if you are proactive. That customer would get a refund of the cake and delivery fee plus another future free cake to help her to trust me again. If the design was not my best, I would inform her that her refund was already credited to her account upon delivery.

We certainly charge our best (highest) price we can for every cake. Why shouldn't they expect our best for their money. Because of the prices of these specialty cakes, many times, you are dealing with someone used to purchasing higher quality goods on a daily basis and you need to be aware of the expectations that come with premium products. Products purchased on a professional level carry an expectation of professional quality. This income level is not used to purchasing something that was not someone's best, and certainly not in the habit of serving something not as expected. You, as cake artists, ask for the money up front and in good faith they trust you to provide "as expected".

Baker_Rose Posted 12 Jun 2011 , 1:08pm

Very well said scp1127. I have often thought that is why more and more people want a sample/taste of people's cake even for smaller orders. Burn me once..............

Tami icon_smile.gif

Chonte Posted 14 Jun 2011 , 7:48am

i think that this situation is hard to judge because we can't see the finished product so it could be the most beautiful cake ever or it could be a piece of crap or anywhere in between. if the cake was well done and made to the specifications in the contract then no they should not get a refund, however if it is not then scp1127 is perfectly right. their money should be returned. again with out a visual none of us can really say.

hellie0h Posted 14 Jun 2011 , 1:46pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

If I ever have to give a refund, my delivery fee is included in the refund. This is my policy.

If a cake is delivered and the quality of design is not as expected, the customer cannot express their displeasure at that moment. She has guests and she is obligated to feed them. This is also not the time to get into a debate with you.

It would be proper for her to serve the guests, get her event completed, and then call you with her concerns the next day.

We always assume that it is the customer's fault. Look at the uploaded pictures in the gallery. There are works of art, unique designs, clean cakes, and then the majority that are mediocre to not very good. Also, not everyone is a great baker. I have had more wedding and celebration cakes that were not good than good. In fact, I can think of maybe two great cakes in my life. All of these cakes have been from various types of bakeries and bakers. And we all know that most people that take a Wilton class start baking cakes. I go to parties all the time where the cake is just mediocre in taste and execution. Who bakes these cakes? No one here? And please remember that with the huge growth of this market, the customer is now kicking herself because she did not spend $xx more to get the cake from the baker with the wonderful reputation.

This is just a peep at the other side from the customer's view.

I am speaking in generalities, but I don't believe that this is always a customer issue. They are paying a premium price for something they believe to be professional. The cake is always a centerpiece to an event. How do you think the customer feels when she gets a cake that was "not your best work"? She is embarassed because she feels that that cake is a reflection of her usually good traste and this is what she presents to her guests.

If I ever have an issue, my refund policy is spelled out completely. They simply must store the uneaten portion according to the instructions and call asap. For example, if I had a gummy center, that cake should not have been sold. The proof will be there if you are proactive. That customer would get a refund of the cake and delivery fee plus another future free cake to help her to trust me again. If the design was not my best, I would inform her that her refund was already credited to her account upon delivery.

We certainly charge our best (highest) price we can for every cake. Why shouldn't they expect our best for their money. Because of the prices of these specialty cakes, many times, you are dealing with someone used to purchasing higher quality goods on a daily basis and you need to be aware of the expectations that come with premium products. Products purchased on a professional level carry an expectation of professional quality. This income level is not used to purchasing something that was not someone's best, and certainly not in the habit of serving something not as expected. You, as cake artists, ask for the money up front and in good faith they trust you to provide "as expected".




I re-read your post to make sure I understood what you typed. Some of what you stated, especially from the customers point of view I agree with. An $800.00 cake should be worth every cent. However, your statement and I quote....
"We always assume that it is the customer's fault. Look at the uploaded pictures in the gallery. There are works of art, unique designs, clean cakes, and then the majority that are mediocre to not very good. Also, not everyone is a great baker."
I find that is insulting to bakers who post their pictures of cakes. Really, the majority of CC gallery posted cakes are mediocre or not very good?

sugarlover Posted 14 Jun 2011 , 2:19pm

I agree with Blakescakes. No Refund!

cakesmith_duane Posted 14 Jun 2011 , 2:55pm

Hello - In these cases it's best to use common sense. Ask yourself - Was that cake REALLY my best work and do I feel I gave the customer what was promised. Or, due to what ever reason - I kind of threw the thing together at the last minute - or the old saying "Good enough for government work!" which basically means not very good.

I don't judge anyone - I try to do the best I can every time, sometimes things just don't go as planned and crappy things happen. In these unique cases, I work something out and apologize. Use common sense - also remember every bad instance could have future repercussions.

Finally, folks if you are going to critique someone's work - just remember. To critique correctly - one should assist or be constructive. Also, if you are critiquing products - let's see YOUR work, as well. take care - Cakesmith

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