Gift Certificate Issues

Business By FullHouse Updated 28 Feb 2012 , 10:21pm by Pebbles1727

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 1:29pm
post #1 of 21

So, long story, but I donated a gift certificate for a school fundraiser. The person who won the GC has been very difficult to get info from and changed her order/date several times, not responding to emails half the time. I finally had her send me the GC as her non-refundable deposit to hold her date, she sent that over a week late without even checking to see if I was still available.

Now the deadline for guest count and flavor has come and gone and I am stuck wondering if she still wants this or not or even where I am supposed to deliver. I'm sure I could look up her address, but how do I even know that is where she will be. This is driving me crazy, I have never had a paying customer do this and now, here I am stuck dealing with it for a GC I donated to support my son's school.

Needless to say, I won't be donating anymore GC's, just product.

DH suggested collecting a cash deposit that I would refund upon delivery if I ever do another GC donation (which I won't). I really like that idea, in hindsight. I really thought that the fact she had to turn over the GC would make sure she didn't leave me standing. Now I'm wondering if she changed/cancelled the date of her party and is just not bothering to contact me, because, hey, either way she's doesn't get her GC back (which I would absolutely have made an exception if she had been respectful through this process but then had an issue outside of her control).

Anyway, partial vent, and wanted to share the cash deposit idea in hopes it can save someone else on here some trouble in the future.

20 replies
subyu62 Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 2:10pm
post #2 of 21

Do you have the donation request on paper? If there is a contact person on there maybe contact them and let them know what is going on? Most PTO presidents know most of the kids/ parents. They may be able to contact them for you. The last thing the school wants is vendors having a hassle, they want you to continue to donate!

Sorry this happened.

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 2:43pm
post #3 of 21

Thanks, I do know who the PTA volunteers are, but I refuse to hunt her down - its a large school so they may not know her either. It just amazes me how disrespectful some people can be, especially when they know it was a donation. I guess I've been lucky, all of my customers have been so easy and gracious to work with so this took me by surprise.

My business policy is that if someone seems they wouldn't be a good fit as my customer, I will not take their order, it will save us both frustration. Since she already had the GC, I didn't have that option. I figure, from now on, if I just donate product, whoever wins leaves with that product and I don't have to worry about the customer service aspect of it. Win-win.

Alana7 Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 4:16pm
post #4 of 21

I'm very interested in this because I might be the one venting in a couple of months....hopefully not.
I too donated a gift certificate for a school fundraiser last year. That was my first and I wish I had got some advice here on cc before I handed it over. I had the amount and expiry date but failed to include a lot of stuff like needing a lead time of 2 weeks(at least) and depending on availability. The expiry date is soon approaching (April) and I"m preparing myself for a last minute order on a busy weekend. icon_mad.gif

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 4:59pm
post #5 of 21

I had included a stipulation that the event needed to be booked at least 1 month ahead and was subject to availability, also gave the person clear deadlines for her to finalize her order. She ignored the deadlines.

Just heard back from her today, after the deadline. Technically, I could tell her that I'm sorry, but I can't adjust her order at this point (I had originally said if she didn't chose by the deadline, details would be chosen by us), but its just not worth dealing with more back and forth. I've let her know that this is her final order and I've ordered supplies so nothing can be changed.

Now I have to wait and wonder how this will all work out. I will be so glad when it is done. Good luck with your GC. Sometimes people forget and just don't redeem. If it has gone past the exp. date, I would not honor it (unless the person was very apologetic and it was only a short time past - hey, we all forget things sometimes).

jason_kraft Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 6:31pm
post #6 of 21

Even if you don't include on the GC that minimum advance notice is required, you are under no obligation to fill an order at the last minute as long as you state this on your web site.

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 6:42pm
post #7 of 21

The first time she called, I did turn her down because it was less than one week notice and I truly didn't have time in my schedule. This time, there was notice for the date, but not the final details. You think you cover all angles, but then there are situations you don't expect because most people don't behave that way.

I really don't want to start having all sorts of obscure, what-if rules every time someone books with me. I'm just chalking it up as part of doing business and dealing with the public, there can be 1000 wonderful people but you also will get a few difficult ones. I will walk though, if she doesn't pay me the small balance owed when I get there.

BlakesCakes Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 8:57pm
post #8 of 21
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Even if you don't include on the GC that minimum advance notice is required, you are under no obligation to fill an order at the last minute as long as you state this on your web site.

Exactly. I do lots of GCs. I stipulate a # of servings, start up & expiration dates, 2 week minimum notice, and generally advise that nothing is guaranteed until we agree on a date.

I can honestly say that I've had amazing luck doing this. Overall, people call me well in advance of the event and if I can't do it, we come to a mutual agreement about another date, early acceptance of the cake with them freezing & defrosting, and in only 1 case extending the expiration date by 1 month.

I use e-mail exclusively for all planning and if I don't hear back by the time I need to, I e-mail saying that I need final details or I won't be doing the cake. Period. I get quick responses to those e-mails.

I've had one person who was a total nut job. Bought the GC & wanted the cake 11 days later--I was going to be out of the country, wanted an nut free cake even though I stated on the GC that I don't do those, etc. I tried so hard to work with her....I'll split the GC into 2 events, extend the expiration date....nothing satisfied her. When her lawyer DH tried to force my hand on the nut allergy cake, I told him to create a waiver and I'd see what my lawyer thought of it....................he went away, never to be heard from again.

Force her hand. You must have some kind of contact info for her.


FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:28pm
post #9 of 21

Thanks, Rae. I have heard back from her (no apology or acknowledgment of being late), so at least I'm not left wondering if she cancelled and didn't tell me. Now I have to hope that she actually pays for the upgrade. For small orders, I take a deposit and have the balance due at delivery and have never had an issue with that. I really don't want to be faced with having to choose to walk away with all of her guests (and people in my community) standing there. I did make it clear on her invoice, that the upgrade is considered the final order, may not be changed and must be paid for at delivery, before she receives anything. I googled her name and turns out that she has some negative info out there about her on public record. Wish I knew that before I sent her contract.

jason_kraft Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:31pm
post #10 of 21

If I were you I would insist on payment for the upgrade cost via cash or bank check two weeks before the event. If you don't get payment, don't even start on the cake.

cakesbycathy Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:41pm
post #11 of 21

Completely agree with Jason. You need to get the money she owes you BEFORE you deliver the cake. NOT at delivery. Tell her you need the CASH by x date (at least one week before the event but 2 would be better) or you will not be able to provide her with a cake.

BlakesCakes Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:47pm
post #12 of 21

Well, I'm not inclined to try to change the rules mid-stream, but if you're really worried that she'll play with you at delivery, I'd just tell her that because of the issues with getting her order in a timely manner that you'll need to get the "upgrade" payment before delivery.

If it's enough to worry about, I'd go pick it up--CASH only. Tell her that it'll make the delivery more seamless because you're squeezing her in and have to rush off to deliver another cake.

If she won't do it, remind her nicely that you'll walk with the cake if there is no CASH payment--and then calmly walk out with it if she doesn't pay. Donate the cake to the police, fire, local hospital nurse's station, etc. and be done with it.

I only suggest what I'd be willing to do myself.

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:48pm
post #13 of 21

I wish I could but I had already sent out my initial contract which states balance is due at beginning of event and that she had until this past week to give a final guest count, at which point if she added anything the balance is due in cash at the start of the event (its for a cupcake decorating party and she added guests above what the GC covered). Her GC served as the retainer. If I knew about what I found on Google today, I would have told her since she was late with the guest count, she needed to pay today or couldn't add, but I already sent the invoice.

FullHouse Posted 20 Feb 2012 , 10:54pm
post #14 of 21

Rae, I like that. I did bold print on the invoice that the final guest count may not be changed and is due in cash before the event starts. I will call her to make sure she received the invoice and reiterate that the party will not start until I receive payment. Its not a lot of $, but it certainly is the principle of it all. I would just hate to walk out on all those kids because of what an adult does. Plus, she could go back and badmouth me to my son's school and unless they confront me, I would never know and then my business name is smeared (though plenty of people there know me and know I am reliable and have donated a lot to the school with no issues).

Alana7 Posted 21 Feb 2012 , 3:18am
post #15 of 21
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Even if you don't include on the GC that minimum advance notice is required, you are under no obligation to fill an order at the last minute as long as you state this on your web site.

Good point. I will have to include that in my website too.

Hope things work out for you FullHouse. No new GC on the horizon for me, but I will definitely change the wording if/when I give out another.

FullHouse Posted 26 Feb 2012 , 10:34pm
post #16 of 21

In case anyone was wondering. It all worked out fine. I never heard back from her after sending the invoice and calling, but she handed me the payment as soon as I walked in (I didn't have to ask) and she was very friendly and gracious. She also gave me a generous tip when I left. Guess some people are just not as on top of deadlines and communicating as others. Made me so nervous, but happy it all worked out.

Still, won't be donating any more gift certificates, product only. That way I can bake as it fits into my schedule.

Thanks for all of the advice.

Pebbles1727 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 5:58am
post #17 of 21

Glad to hear it all worked out okay. I know you have already decided to do product only, but I actually like doing certificates for causes I believe in. I only allow a limited amount a year, it has clear expiration date,"based on availability" and I do not allow any upgrades, it's just for a specific size cake to serve specific number of servings and designer's choice of decor within the theme of the event. The "value" amount is also clearly stated. The problem is that everyone in the brother is asking for a donation for all kinds of events and causes. I had to put policies in place that I have mailed/emailed to everyone who is asking for a donation. About 90% of askers do not meet the requirements, so I never hear back from them again. Works great for me ; )

FullHouse Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 12:37pm
post #18 of 21

Pebbles, do you mind sharing your requirements?

Pebbles1727 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 5:57pm
post #19 of 21

Sure thing, here is my standard response. I often add or take things away based on what kind of request I receive. This usually takes out all schools where my children do not attend, and all churches (other than ours of course), it also eliminates all requests for "cake walks" during Halloween season and all "just ask and see what happens" requests, LOL. Most of the time I either don't hear a thing or get a response along lines "oh wow, didn't realize you had policies in place for this kinda thing." Now... most of charities/causes I support never got this letter, as their reps usually scheduled an appointment with me and came prepared for all of my questions and with tons of information. Of course, I do offer certificates/services to causes/events that haven't even asked for anything, but of course once again it's things that i feel strongly about and we already support or wish we could support as a family.
Hope this helps, P

Dear ______
Thank you for your request. I contribute to several charities, causes, and non-profits throughout the year and am usually very careful which My Bakery supports to make sure that they align with my and my family's values and believes. These causes include services to families, women and children; adoption; and cancer research/treatment. I also contribute to School (where my children attend) and Church (our home church).
If your organization/event fits within one of the above categories and would like to be considered for donation/support, please e-mail/mail me the following:
1.  Brief description of your event/organization including goals and mission statement
2.  Description of how raised funds to be spend, including percentage break down of administrative/fundraising costs vs funds allotted for the program/services
3.  Copy of your 501c(3) status
4.  Contact name, address, phone, and e-mail address

I give careful consideration to each request and will be in touch if I have any questions. Please keep in mind that since My Bakery supports several charities on annual basis, our contribution funds may already be committed to other events/causes during 2012. If we cannot support your event at this time, please let us know if you would like to be considered for our 2013 contributions.

Thanks again. Sincerely,

FullHouse Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 9:07pm
post #20 of 21

That's great. Thank you! I like that it formalizes their request and will cut out the impromptu fundraisers.

Pebbles1727 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 10:21pm
post #21 of 21

Exactly. I don't mind donating and I never ever donate for PR purposes, only to causes that are important to me. And I have a LOT of people asking for donations and promise the "exposure" "to tell everyone," "list in the program/brochure," etc. So, they also get this letter and it eliminates them quickly. Good Luck, P

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