How Many Clients Don't Pay On Time (Or At All)?

Business By Apti Updated 17 Sep 2011 , 5:36pm by ReneeFLL

Apti Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 3:09am
post #1 of 22

Hi everyone. Let me start by saying that I'm a hobby baker and have IMMENSE respect for those of you who do custom cakes for a living.

On these forums we so often hear the lament, "The wedding/party/event is in 1/2/3 days and I haven't been paid. What should I do?"

I'm really curious, how often does it really happen that someone doesn't pay on time and has to be reminded? Are these people just overwhelmed or ditzy or what? Have any of you NOT delivered a cake because of non-payment?

21 replies
cakelady2266 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 3:55am
post #2 of 22

Well it happens to me a lot and I've been at this a long time. This is especially difficult since this is my full time job. At this moment I don't have contracts but it's coming to that as we speak.

All party/birthday/shower cakes has been picked up and paid for without exception. When someone books me for a wedding/anniversary I require a deposit, I tell the customer then that the balance is due 10 days before the event. I always call the client to go over everything 2-3 weeks before their event and to remind them of the balance and when it is due. This is the usual response "I'll put a check in the mail tomorrow". I have figured out tomorrow is at least 10-21 days later. If they haven't paid by Wednesday before a Saturday wedding I make another call....just checking to see if you mailed the check, this is the usual response..."Oh my dad/mom/grandmother/sister/wedding coordinator will have your check/cash at the reception site". And you guessed it, usually no one is there.

Nothing and I mean nothing pisses me off more than having to run down my money at a wedding. Especially if the wedding and the reception are at different venues. I feel like I'm greedy or a bum if I go looking for the whoever that was suppose to have the money.

Sorry about that sometimes I get overheated. I have waited at the reception site for the wedding party to show, they sure were surprised to see me. And I have had to make calls after the event and wait 3 weeks to be paid. No one has ever stiffed me on a cake, I get paid eventually. I have never not delivered without final payment. I know, I know I am a idiot moron, please remember me in your prayers, bless my heart.

I really don't think that most people are intentionally trying to screw us/me over. Some may be overwhelmed and forget, but I believe the vast majority get in over their heads financially. I think they put off paying the low people on the totem pole as long as possible. Most folks don't want to be known as the vendor that ruined some poor brides wedding.

jason_kraft Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 4:25am
post #3 of 22

We've had 700+ orders over the past few years (mostly party cakes). For all orders under $200 the customer pays via cash or check when they pick up the cake or have it delivered. We've only had a single instance of non-payment -- this was one of our first orders, when the customer said that his wife had already mailed a check. We've had a few bounced checks from other customers but we've always gotten reimbursed plus NSF fees.

cakecoachonline Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 10:06am
post #4 of 22

I was a single (divorced) mum at the time and making cakes as a business. A former boyfriend (and friend) who was then getting married asked me for their wedding cake. I did it and it was a triumph (although I say this myself - but the caterers and hotel staff were caught eating it in the kitchen and said so too). However, I digress. I got the money as a deposit - to cover all the ingredients, box board, stand hire etc. So the only outstanding monies related to my time and profit. They did pay a second chunk of money and then cleared off on honeymoon to the Bahamas on a cruise without paying the final payment. I had to nag and nag (now difficult because these were 'friends' ) It made me cross because if they could afford the Bahamas from the UK they clearly were not short of money - whereas I was. I think the final cheque came - in a re-used brown envelope - like someone had dropped the whole thing in a puddle - no nice note, no sorry for the wait, no thank you for the superb cake which was so nice the hotel staff were found eating it and saying it was the nicest cake their venue had seen, no ......nothing. But then he always was tight!! That's people for you. And the lesson - make sure you get your money up front or on delivery. But I never had any trouble after that one!! p.s. they did ask for the christening cake after that which they paid in full..........

Occther Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 10:27am
post #5 of 22

I only do cakes on a part time basis - and my prices are very reasonable. My policy is that full payment must be received 4 weeks before the event. That way, I can order anything needed. I had a bridezilla who's future mother-in-law was supposed to pay for the cake. Well, several phone calls - and promises to mail check - but no deposit - no check. I sent certified letters to both the bride and MIL cancelling the cake for lack of money. (They received the letter 3 weeks before the wedding.) MIL called crying - said that her husband had mailed to check - blah, blah, blah. Of course, I never received his check. I didn't do the cake.

I figure any one who is getting a cake from me is getting a great deal. Don't make it a hassle for me to collect the money because I don't need the extra stress. I do cakes as a relaxing hobby (believe it or not!!)

MimiFix Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 11:33am
post #6 of 22

Doing a specialty cake, especially a wedding cake, is involved enough without having the aggravation of getting paid. We've all heard stories, and have some of our own to share. After my first few cakes I became hardened to those "check in the mail" stories. I expected a deposit for half the amount when they placed the order. The deposit held their date on my calendar. And full payment a month before the date or no cake. No exceptions. And I did not call with reminders; I had a business to run. I only lost a couple of sales, but with that approach I lost the stress involved with payment issues.

cakestyles Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 12:30pm
post #7 of 22

I would hope the majority will answer that it "almost never happens".

If you have the correct payment policies in place and a concrete contract that covers all bases it should never happen.

I've been doing this a long time and I can remember only having to cancel a contract one time because of non-payment, but it wasn't anything as exciting or dramatic as a non paying bride.

I require 50% deposit at time of booking and balance due 30 days before the event.

mariacakestoo Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 2:17pm
post #8 of 22

Never. The only remotely similar scenario to happen to me was someone never sent their Paypal deposit in for a birthday cake, but I just cancelled their order after an email and a phone call were ignored. Proper policies, sticking to them, and being clear and courteous up front basically ensure it doesn't happen. I can't handle stress like chasing people down for money, so I don't invite it in the first place.

inspiredbymom Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 4:02pm
post #9 of 22

It only happened to me once (knock on wood) but it was a family member that I only charged for supplies, not for time or anything. It's been 2 years. However, I don't stress over it because I love her and she helps me out with the kids sometimes and never asked for a dime. However, others have been real good. I've had to make a few calls before I started a cake but that has been it. I've had to chase people down for money on my other business (daycare) and that is not fun. I had one that actually told me that since she was a single parent I should cut her a break (already just $55 a week) and that I had a husband who could pay my bills for me. I asked her not to come back. I guess that would work for cake too! Never let them darken your doorstep again! No cake for you!

aligotmatt Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 4:29pm
post #10 of 22

I require a 50% deposit when they book and the final payment 30 days before the event. I know that locally if you put something in the mail, it arrives the next day. So, 3-5 days before the final payment is due, I shoot them an email and remind. If they put the check in the mail, it's all good.

My policy states: If the final payment is not received on time, your order will accrue a $25 per day late fee or may be cancelled at Alison's discretion.

Ever since that entered my contract 3 years ago, I have not had a single person ask to pay late or pay their final payment late. Prior to it, the payments were the same, but it would be 30 days out, and they would say, oh I'm sorry, I'll get the check to you by next week... oh my parents were suppose to mail it, I'll call them right now... can I wait a few more days until my paycheck clears... .... ... ...

And I kept thinking, what's the point of having a "final payment date" if their is no consequence for paying late? I have to pay my bills, so if someone will at least PAY, even if they are a week late (but still 3 weeks before the event) then I wouldn't cancel for non-payment. But I don't want them to pay late, I don't want to concern myself with whether they will make their final payment or not. That's not what people pay me for.

costumeczar Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 5:18pm
post #11 of 22

It rarely if ever happens, especially if you put a clause about late fees in the contract icon_wink.gif

This forum isn't representative of the average person's experience. If everyone who got paid on time wrote about it on here it would make it obvious that the non-payers are pretty unusual.

justducky Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 8:10pm
post #12 of 22

Once in 20+ years. That one, I left one message that said if there was no money within 24 hours I was not turning on my oven.

The money was there in 2 hours icon_biggrin.gif

silverdragon997 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 8:36pm
post #13 of 22

Haven't had it happen yet. The only customers who get to pay on pick-up or delivery, rather than pay in full 2 weeks before the event, are long time customers who I KNOW will pay me when I deliver the cake.

Apti Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 10:22pm
post #14 of 22
Originally Posted by cakestyles

I would hope the majority will answer that it "almost never happens".

If you have the correct payment policies in place and a concrete contract that covers all bases it should never happen.

I've been doing this a long time and I can remember only having to cancel a contract one time because of non-payment, but it wasn't anything as exciting or dramatic as a non paying bride.

I require 50% deposit at time of booking and balance due 30 days before the event.

cakestyles--This is exactly what every baker who sells a cake for money should be able to say, but there are SO many posts by people who don't seem to apply any business thinking and just go on emotion. "I felt sorry for the bride/mother/son/neighbor/relative" seems to be the recurring theme on many posts. Maybe the artistic side of my brain is impaired, but I just cannot understand why so many people who make cakes simply can't seem to say "NO".

As Yul Brynner said in "The King and I", "Is a puzzlement!"

It's reassuring to hear your responses on this thread. I greatly admire those of you making a full- or part-time living making cakes. It sounds like most of the posts that ask advice re non-payment are from folks starting out. --Thank You.

DerrellC Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 4:17am
post #15 of 22

With proper contracts,it should never happen. All cakes that are under $100 gets paid in full when ordered,all others 50% down,balance due two weeks before event.If not paid, we keep deposit money and they get NO CAKE.

tbkimber Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 5:26am
post #16 of 22

I just wanted to say THANK YOU! to all of you who are willing to post their policies. For someone like me who is trying to get everything (i.e. contract, policies, insurance, pricing, etc.) in place before opening, it is vital information to have. I really appreciate all of the help I have received from everyone here.


lilmissbakesalot Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 5:53am
post #17 of 22

Yup... never happens here either. I require a $200.00 deposit for all cakes over $300.00 and the balance is due 4 weeks before the event. Cakes under $300.00 are paid in full to book. If someone doesn't pay their balance on time I give one email reminder with "if we don't hear back from you by this date your order will be considered cancelled. If I do have to cancel I send an email, call, and send a letter via certified mail as well so they can't say I didn't do my due dilligence.

I haven't had to do that many times, but no money... no cake.

scp1127 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 6:31am
post #18 of 22

I think that some of you bakers are just really nice people who believe the best about people. The scammers will pick up on this about you and push the payment limits.

Of course, being accomodating to these people isn't always good business, especially where payment is concerned.

One of the differences between a good salesperson and a bad one is that the good one knows how to ask for the sale. Don't apologize, hesitate, talk about everything but the money... these are all indicators that you may be able to be manipulated. When you are with the customer initially, make sure you talk about money as easily as you talk about flavors. This sets the tone for how you handle your business and they will know that you will be handling payment in a professional. Remember, some people seek out businesspeople that they can manipulate. One of your competitors may have already refused to do this cake. Don't worry if they don't buy. You just got rid of that headache like others do. And they will be off to the next baker until they land on one that seems too nice.

cakesbycathy Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 9:14pm
post #19 of 22

If you don't pay on time you don't get a cake.

My contract states that any order under $100 is due in full when you place the order. You're not on the books until I get the payment.

Anything over $100 - 50% non-refundable to book. The rest due by 2 weeks before the event.

I send one reminder one week out and if the deadline comes without payment they get a phone call and email stating their order is cancelled due to non-payment.

I don't mess around when it comes to money.

inspiredbymom Posted 16 Sep 2011 , 3:39pm
post #20 of 22

Too weird.......The cake I did for a family member that wasn't paid? She emailed me last night that she had the money! Thanks for bringing good carma my way......LOL! Of all days for that to happen!

ValerieElizabeth Posted 17 Sep 2011 , 5:08pm
post #21 of 22

This should not happen. Every order has a contract and most orders require a deposit (especially wedding cakes, dessert tables, etc). I can usually get a feel for clients and if I think I will have any issues with them. I've been blessed with awesome clients who pay on time without reminders...some even paying the full amount in advance!

ReneeFLL Posted 17 Sep 2011 , 5:36pm
post #22 of 22
Originally Posted by inspiredbymom

Too weird.......The cake I did for a family member that wasn't paid? She emailed me last night that she had the money! Thanks for bringing good carma my way......LOL! Of all days for that to happen!

Humm. Maybe she reads CC??

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