eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:02pm
post #1 of

ASo I just started my cake business and got my first cake order about four days prior to the event.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong the day of the event. While I was making the cake decorations I found out that our dog was missing and it took me thirty minutes to find him. My main decoration that I spent an hour and a half broke when I was finally ready to set it in the cake. Thankfully, i made extra flower decorations to use as a topper for the cake. My frosting was not setting up (I think it got too hot at the kitche).

This is my first paying customer and first delivery. I underestimated my time. I was suppose to deliver between 3pm and 3:30pm. By 3pm, i tried contacting my client but got no answer. I texted her to let her know that I am running late. At that point I was not even done with my decorations. I had three other people trying to help me to get the cake decorations on the cake as quickly as we can.

I didnt notice that she called my phone. So when I finally left the house, I was already an hour late for my delivery time. I was calling her while we were driving but she was not answering. She finally answered on my 6th call and she was really mad and upset and frustrated. She told me at that point she didn't want the cake and that she didn't want to talk to me because the party was over at that time. I apologize to her stating that I underestimated the time I needed. She told me to meet her at her ex husband's place to deliver the cake.

So when we got the address she gave me, her ex husband already pulled up at their driveway but did not acknowledge us. So I contacte her again and I asked her what she wanted me to do. I told her I am giving her a full refund of the money she paid me. She told me to just leave the cake with her ex husband and we'll talk about it later.

I feel so embarass about the situation because I work in the same building as her and felt bad that I did not deliver on time.

I know that I have to prep most of the work two days in advance. I still have a full time job, so I'm doing the business on the side for right now.

Any advice on what else I could've done better?

Also, I have a question about charging clients. For this cake, I only charged her for 30 servings when the cake pan size that she wanted was for 40 servings. I also did not charge her for the fondant decorations I made. When she first approached me, she was hinting that it was expensive and that for the estimated amount the cake better taste good and should really look good. She alao hinted that she originally wanted to just buy a store bought cake becausw it might be cheapee. I only charged her $120. It was a pillow cake covered with pink fondant and the flower fondant decorations. The topper was supposes to be tiara but it broke the last minute. Was I over charging her?

What is your policy for rush ordera? Or do you accept rush orders?

Should I still accept orders from people I work with? I am asking this because I am worried that I will have a bad name because of what happened. I don't know if she will say something to the other people that we work with in our building since almost everyone knew that I was making her daughter's birthday cake.

I am going to see her tomorrow at work and planning on giving her money back since I didn't see her when I delivered the cake at her ex husband's. How should I handle the situation? I know I am going to apologize profusely for what happened.

Thanks in advance!

49 replies
denetteb Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:16pm
post #2 of

Call her today and tell her you will be refunding the full amount and apologize.  Tomorrow, first thing give her the cash.  She probably will tell others about the cake problems, if people still want to order with you fine, if not fine.  You can't do much to control that.   Then you should step back and re-assess your business...get your serving sizes per pan size set,  determine your pricing structure.  If people don't like the price you want for the cake they want, you can change the size or design to meet their budget or they can go elsewhere.  It doesn't have to be a big negotiation.  You probably shouldn't take rush orders since you have a full time job.  Others who don't have another job could better able handle a rush order.  And mostly you need to do some better organization/planning so you can meet the deadline.  Baking ahead and freezing the cakes, preparing the icing ahead and having that already, making sure you have all the supplies well ahead of time, getting your flowers done ahead of time, etc, etc.  It might also be helpful to keep a time log of all the cake steps that you do (shopping, prep, baking, icing, decorating, etc, etc) so in the future you can better plan the time it takes. 

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:18pm
post #3 of

first of all --only apologize once

 

i'm still thinking about the other questions...

FromScratchSF Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:26pm
post #4 of

Hello, and welcome to CC!

 

I really hate that this is your 1st post here because your replies are going to be filled with some pretty tough love.  So I hope you take all this as a learning experience and attempt to grow from it.

 

From the customer's perspective, it doesn't matter all that other stuff you typed.  All they hear is excuse after excuse.  It doesn't even matter that you totally undercut yourself and did a massive disservice to the other bakers in your area by undercutting that much.  The customer paid for a product that you agreed to make.  You did not deliver that product.  It also doesn't matter that you have a full time job.  You were paid for a product that you said you could deliver.

 

The bottom line - You represented yourself as a business, but you don't have any idea what you are doing.

 

My advice is you need to not take another order for a cake until you've done your homework.  If you google search any of the questions you asked in your above post, thousands of threads from here on Cake Central would pop up, giving you lots and lots of advice, perspective and complete how-to's on how to start a business, make a cake, handle customers, manage timelines, make decorations... the list goes on and on.  We are a wealth of information, and all that information is already here.

 

I'm sorry you crashed and burned so badly!

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:28pm
post #5 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by eatmcakery 
...I didnt notice that she called my phone. So when I finally left the house, I was already an hour late for my delivery time. I was calling her while we were driving but she was not answering. She finally answered on my 6th call and she was really mad and upset and frustrated. She told me at that point she didn't want the cake and that she didn't want to talk to me because the party was over at that time. I apologize to her stating that I underestimated the time I needed. She told me to meet her at her ex husband's place to deliver the cake.


 

 

ditto to everything denetteb said!

 

i try to set up deliveries for two hours before the event so that i have wiggle room to find the lost dog, get stuck in traffic etc.

 

so going forward you want to build some good wiggle room in your delivery schedule

 

and if you were an hour late for the delivery time when you left and she says the party is over--that was a really brief event?

 

i don't know that seems like a close call but it's probably the way i am reading it

 

maybe you live real real far away from the venue?

 

just curious

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:40pm
post #6 of

here's my suggestion on how to proceed--cafeteria style take it or leave it

 

op knows she screwed up royal

 

imo we don't need to re-tell her that part especially since she is our source of information

 

because she wrote this and informed us -- we could conclude she is fully aware of her failings

 

retelling her that she blew it is redundant and pain that can be avoided

 

imo we should give her help and information on how to avoid another disaster

 

rehashing her misfortune and mishandling is not constructive imo

 

she gets it

 

she's asking how does she avoid this going forward

 

in other words, say like "when you did blablabla, next time consider blablabla"

 

buzzing the field is unnecessary imo

eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:44pm
post #7 of

AThank you for all the advice!!!

K8memphis - i live 20 minutes away from the venue. I didnt manage my time well. Like you ladies said, I need to be more organized and plan everything accordingly.

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:51pm
post #8 of

and for what it's worth $3-$4 a serving is low but it assumes facts not in evidence to decide with certainty that the pricing undercut

 

if she used a wilton pillow pan and baked a two layer cake $3 - $4 a serving is not below market value in many areas

 

for a sculpted cake yes--that's low but it's not completely without respect--she mighta used those pans though

 

she says she did not charge for the decor--she should have--it's her first paid order we should cut her some slack here and advise

 

it might not be a massive disservice--i mean i think it's premature

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 6:59pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by eatmcakery 

Thank you for all the advice!!!

K8memphis - i live 20 minutes away from the venue. I didnt manage my time well. Like you ladies said, I need to be more organized and plan everything accordingly.

 

 

believe me, eatm,  in this one thing i am positive that

 

it happens to the best of us

 

nothing doubting

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

and you will survive

 

i mean lookie at how you are making yourself vulnerable and looking to get advise --

 

those are the markings of a concerned professional--a newbie pro but you'll get there

 

i've done everything wrong at least once icon_biggrin.gif 

jenmat Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 7:04pm

There are a lot of points here that could be said. However, you took an order for a 3D cake (your first) for 3 days before an event, and you have a full time job. Don't do this to yourself again. No wonder the tiara broke- it probably wasn't perfectly dry and hard by that point. You were setting yourself up for failure. Poor time management is pretty much inevitable if there is no time in the first place. 

Please do yourself a favor and do not take an order for ANY cake unless you have a week's notice, maybe more. You can then have time for failure, and can then turn it into a success.

eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 7:08pm

A

Original message sent by -K8memphis

believe me, eatm,  in this one thing i am [I]positive[/I] that

[COLOR=0000CD][U][B][I]it happens to the best of us[/I][/B][/U][/COLOR]

nothing doubting

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

and you will survive

i mean lookie at how you are making yourself vulnerable and looking to get advise --

those are the markings of a concerned professional--a newbie pro but you'll get there

i've done everything wrong [I]at least[/I] once :D  

Thank you very much! I really appreciate all the advice/information you gave. I definitely learned my lesson.

eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 7:10pm

A

Original message sent by denetteb

Call her today and tell her you will be refunding the full amount and apologize.  Tomorrow, first thing give her the cash.  She probably will tell others about the cake problems, if people still want to order with you fine, if not fine.  You can't do much to control that.   Then you should step back and re-assess your business...get your serving sizes per pan size set,  determine your pricing structure.  If people don't like the price you want for the cake they want, you can change the size or design to meet their budget or they can go elsewhere.  It doesn't have to be a big negotiation.  You probably shouldn't take rush orders since you have a full time job.  Others who don't have another job could better able handle a rush order.  And mostly you need to do some better organization/planning so you can meet the deadline.  Baking ahead and freezing the cakes, preparing the icing ahead and having that already, making sure you have all the supplies well ahead of time, getting your flowers done ahead of time, etc, etc.  It might also be helpful to keep a time log of all the cake steps that you do (shopping, prep, baking, icing, decorating, etc, etc) so in the future you can better plan the time it takes. 

I am definitely re-assessing my business! I will have to be more organize and prepare everything ahead of time to void this kind of situation.

eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 7:12pm

Ajenmat - i learned my lesson, i won't be doing this again. Since i'm working a full time job, im planning on not accepting rush orders from now on.

howsweet Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 8:09pm

It sounds like you charged about a third of the value of the cake. Don't do that to yourself. When you undercharge, you cheat yourself and undercut someone else.

 

Handy tips:

Whenever possible deliver 2 or more hours in advance of the party time.

As mentioned, make delicate sugar pieces days ahead (maybe 2-4).

Finish the cake the day before

When you take the contact number, emphasize that you need a number that will be good the day of the party. (it may be the same number, but reminds them they shouldn't be out of pocket if possible.) In the case of the bride, you also need a back up number for someone other than the bride.

Don't contribute to lowering market values in your area by undercharging. You don't want to be trying to make a living off of selling cake in an area where $3-4 per serving is normal for a 3d cake.  My entire household income is from making cakes and I could not possibly make a living by charging that little.
 

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 8:10pm

this is what i would say at work tomorrow if it comes up and if you feel you might need to clear the air 

 

you could even bring it up if necessary, "oh didja hear what happened? i feel terrible..." (see below*)

 

it is important to get your message out there on the air waves a few times--so both stories have equal footing on the grapevine

 

some co-workers will understand and some co-workers will enjoy the scandal and all will forget by the next news cycle

 

i'd say regretfully but not dejected either. * "yes i really screwed up, i'm a new business--she got the cake and her money back and i learned not to take last minute orders. oh well" or "i learned i'm not ready to take last minute orders" or "i'm not equipped to take last minute orders"

 

oh well as in what can you do about spilt milk type of oh well--it happened it sucked--did the best i could throughout and afterwards--but clearly i blew it--gotta move on type of 'oh well'

 

that's what i would do--just own it -- relate the story briefly and move on

 

and console yourself with cake challenge tv shows that have our fellow cakers, veterans blowing time management when they often have weeks and months to plan

 

it's not an easy business--not for the timid

howsweet Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 8:12pm

That's good advice ^^^
 

remnant3333 Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 9:12pm

I am sure you learned a valuable lesson. We all learn from our mistakes and become smarter the next go round. Hang in there. Don't beat yourself up about this!! You got some great advice from K8 and the others on how to avoid this from happening again. Keep the faith. Everyone has bad times with their cakes. You are not alone!!! I know you will feel very bad tomorrow when you go to work but as time passes all will be forgotten!!

Annabakescakes Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 9:21pm

AI just have to say that I would be mortified! I don't think I would even go to work, and i would start looking for a new job, because I wouldn't be able to look at her!

jadedlogic Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 9:30pm

A

Original message sent by Annabakescakes

I just have to say that I would be mortified! I don't think I would even go to work, and i would start looking for a new job, because I wouldn't be able to look at her!

Nothing like trying to make someone feel worse.....

-K8memphis Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 9:31pm

in 40 years i've forgotten 2 orders--just blew it--geez--feels like sh*t--but they weren't weddings--a shower and just because cake

 

i can only remember being bad late once and that was because the 70 year old bride neglected to tell me her wedding was moved up several hours and thankfully they called & i delivered in enough time for it to be ok

 

i mean i hate to screw anything up but weddings most of all

Annabakescakes Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 10:10pm

A

Original message sent by jadedlogic

Nothing like trying to make someone feel worse.....

No, not trying to make her feel worse, just telling the honest to god truth. I'd would freaking die. But I'm not going to try to make her feel better, either. It is a major thing to not deliver a cake. How do you think the person who ordered the cake felt? Or if it was a child's party, how did that kid feel? I guess people just stood around with their ice cream? Or their punch? It really is a big deal! I'm not going to build someone back up, after they set them self up to fail, just so they can potentially ruin another party. My advice would to start out at square one, maybe get a job doing cakes for someone else, and learn the ropes.

When you have a business doing cakes, you make a commitment to your clients. I take it very seriously. I have gone days without sleep, not eaten, did a cake when I had mastitis, pulled my kids out of school early to deliver a cake, and the dog would have to have found its own way home, or had to wait. If I had a cake to deliver, and my *child* was missing for half an hour, I would have to call the police, and all the neighbors from my cell phone, on my way to venue! The dog would be SOL!

eatmcakery Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 10:23pm

I want to thank all of you for the great advice you have given me.  :)

jadedlogic Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 11:11pm

A

Original message sent by Annabakescakes

No, not trying to make her feel worse, just telling the honest to god truth. I'd would freaking die. But I'm not going to try to make her feel better, either. It is a major thing to not deliver a cake. How do you think the person who ordered the cake felt? Or if it was a child's party, how did that kid feel? I guess people just stood around with their ice cream? Or their punch? It really is a big deal! I'm not going to build someone back up, after they set them self up to fail, just so they can potentially ruin another party. My advice would to start out at square one, maybe get a job doing cakes for someone else, and learn the ropes.

When you have a business doing cakes, you make a commitment to your clients. I take it very seriously. I have gone days without sleep, not eaten, did a cake when I had mastitis, pulled my kids out of school early to deliver a cake, and the dog would have to have found its own way home, or had to wait. If I had a cake to deliver, and my *child* was missing for half an hour, I would have to call the police, and all the neighbors from my cell phone, on my way to venue! The dog would be SOL!

If that was originally said instead it wouldn't have seemed like you were just trying to make her feel worse. I wouldn't expect anyone to reply with "poor you" and it doesn't sound like the OP was looking for that either.

kikiandkyle Posted 3 Mar 2013 , 11:25pm

These things happen amongst people at work, it will blow over soon enough. If you plan on having your co-workers be a good portion of your customers going forward, you need to get another order pretty quick and deliver well. Otherwise, if you can, just stay away from taking orders at work and avoid having to do this to yourself again.

howsweet Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 1:39am
Quote:
Originally Posted by -K8memphis 

in 40 years i've forgotten 2 orders--just blew it--geez--feels like sh*t--but they weren't weddings--a shower and just because cake

 

i can only remember being bad late once and that was because the 70 year old bride neglected to tell me her wedding was moved up several hours and thankfully they called & i delivered in enough time for it to be ok

 

i mean i hate to screw anything up but weddings most of all


Kind of reminds me of the time my poor driver got in a fender bender on the way to a wedding. Thank goodness our policy is early as possible set up so we were able to throw something together. Talk about a hard phone call to make!! Thank goodness I got the groom on the phone and not the bride ..

 

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 2:42am
Quote:
Originally Posted by howsweet 


Kind of reminds me of the time my poor driver got in a fender bender on the way to a wedding. Thank goodness our policy is early as possible set up so we were able to throw something together. Talk about a hard phone call to make!! Thank goodness I got the groom on the phone and not the bride ..

 


Oh my word, I would be sick! Good for you for getting something there!

Janani65 Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 2:24pm

As others said never take an order last minute. I have problem of saying NO to people. So, my strategy is to up the price if the order has less than one week's notice. 

 

My first order for this year also came about one and half weeks before, but he didn't pay the deposit until 4 days before the event. I don't usually start anything until the customer pay a deposit. I was a huge order, 3 tier cake, a smash cake, and 120 cupcakes. Me and my husband didn't sleep for three days. Delivered on time, however, the customer found mistakes to ask for a refund. Later I realized I wasn't planning to pay me anyway. Coz he said he doesn't have money to pay the rest of charge, asked me if it's ok if he get a check from the venue. 

 

I felt horrible and depressed from that incident. Still there is not a single day I don't think about that incident. I even doubted myself. Everyone at cake central and my husband encouraged me to keep working. I learnt a lot from that incident.  Most of the times customers paid me few dollars more when they saw their cakes. 

 

These incidents are not bad always! They teach you lessons. For the next time you know what went wrong. 

-K8memphis Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 2:50pm

howsweet, yikes--forms a knot in the pit of my stomach

 

good save

 

and yeah you don't ever wanna get the bride on the phone day of <shudders>

 

i get the disaster but i can't get the perspective of the photo

 

how does the chocolate shmear appear so much like a spatula or a foot print?

 

did the ganache just cleanly split there like the red sea parting???

cupadeecakes Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 7:14pm

To the OP, everyone has bad days and we've all had our share of cake disasters.  It really sounds like you have learned from your mistakes.  Pick yourself up, dust off, and move forward.  I'll give you my time management tip - I never go to bed before the next day's cakes are ready to go out the door.  Occasionally that means I'm up until 3am finishing a cake, but I never regret it the next day when things go smoothly.
 

-K8memphis Posted 4 Mar 2013 , 7:30pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by cupadeecakes 

To the OP, everyone has bad days and we've all had our share of cake disasters.  It really sounds like you have learned from your mistakes.  Pick yourself up, dust off, and move forward.  I'll give you my time management tip - I never go to bed before the next day's cakes are ready to go out the door.  Occasionally that means I'm up until 3am finishing a cake, but I never regret it the next day when things go smoothly.
 

 

 

that's a great time management tip!!

 

and i want to add this

 

back the schedule up far enough with accurate planning and enough wiggle room to be practical so that you can go to bed by ____ o'clock every night

 

insert the hour--it gets earlier & earlier icon_biggrin.gif i now stop 'working' when the sun goes down

 

9:00 PM is the new 3:00 AM ;)

 

to protect your health--we don't get a second chance to take care of ourselves

 

just like we don't short change ourselves charging too little and undercutting--we also owe it to ourselves to have it together enough to provide ourselves adequate sleep--you are piloting the celebration cake ship as much as any pilot flies a plane--getcher zzzs!

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