Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 1:20am
post #1 of

I'm just horrible at making good points when I get nervous. I just wrote about this customer today on another thread. We had 18 emails over a month, and I gave her quotes on 6 different cake designs.....today I decided I didn't want to do the cake for her, period. I gave her a quote of $3.00 pp for a fondant cake with hand painted flowers on the sides, plus gum paste flowers on top. I realized how stupid this is and I WAS. I'd rather deal with cupcake for .50 less per serving.

 

So I wrote her today when she finally placed her order yesterday, that I was already over booked (the day before Mothers Day). WHICH is true, I got a huge order for Mothers Day and I can't waste the day before making that lady's cake.

 

So she wrote back to me, "I thought you had committed to making this cake for us, we were just finalizing the details. What happened?"

 

PLEASE HELP ME, how would you respond? We didn't have a contract and now I AM too busy, plus I don't want to do her cake. Would you respond to her email?

 

 

 
 
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lorieleann Posted 1 May 2013 , 1:36am
post #2 of

I think that you could easily reply that you don't book estimates until you receive a deposit and  another client had placed a large order, making you unable to take on additional orders for that day.  Apologize for the inconvenience and wish her well. 

jason_kraft Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:05am
post #3 of

A"I'm sorry, but orders are only confirmed after a contract has been signed and a deposit has been paid to secure the date. Other customers have already confirmed orders for (date) so unfortunately I will no longer be able to fit your order into the schedule. I wish you the best of luck with your event."

If things are still not finalized by 4 weeks before the delivery date I will make sure the customer is aware that their order has not yet been confirmed and if other customers confirm first they may not be able to place their order. The warnings get continuously more dire as the date approaches.

valerieb52 Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:08am
post #4 of

AMaybe there is another baker you can suggest can help her, if you call a baker buddy first to see if they can accommodate her. Next time, charge her double and a half...maybe she will dump you!! :-)...if not, maybe the extra cash will make her being a pain a little less painful!

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:16am
post #5 of

Thank-you!!. I think I'm going to go along the lines Jason suggested. That seems straight and professional. I don't want these kinds of clients. I used to work at her country club and perhaps they think they own me still.

mcaulir Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:29am
post #6 of

I didn't read the other thread, but did you ever tell her that you weren't committed until she'd paid a deposit? I can see why she'd be annoyed if she was operating under the assumption that you had committed and she was never told differently.

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:43am
post #7 of

No I didn't tell her that. She asked me a month ago on first contact if I was available on that date. I was available then, I'm now sold out (the day before Mothers Day!). I work on a first come first serve basis. When I sell out, I sell out.

 

I don't ask for deposits on small cakes. I only ask for deposits on wedding cakes or substantial projects. I do not state my terms to a prospective small cake clients. I don't have many of them!! I want to be able to reject unreasonable clients at any point. They can fire me at any time also, that's what I get by not asking for deposit. I give people quotes on cakes all the time, asking for a quote doesn't guarantee they'll buy from me, there is no contract. If I have a no show on a cake, my hubby is always happy to take it to work.

 

I didn't hear back from her for over a week after I gave her 6 different quotes on cakes. I figured she was busy shopping pricing with every decorator. I had no certainty that she'd finally order from me! I just continued on with my life. I didn't email her warnings, that's not my style.

vgcea Posted 1 May 2013 , 4:00am
post #8 of

I'd go with Jason's response.

mcaulir Posted 1 May 2013 , 9:33am
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches 

No I didn't tell her that. She asked me a month ago on first contact if I was available on that date. I was available then, I'm now sold out (the day before Mothers Day!). I work on a first come first serve basis. When I sell out, I sell out.

 

I don't ask for deposits on small cakes. I only ask for deposits on wedding cakes or substantial projects. I do not state my terms to a prospective small cake clients. I don't have many of them!! I want to be able to reject unreasonable clients at any point. They can fire me at any time also, that's what I get by not asking for deposit. I give people quotes on cakes all the time, asking for a quote doesn't guarantee they'll buy from me, there is no contract. If I have a no show on a cake, my hubby is always happy to take it to work.

 

I didn't hear back from her for over a week after I gave her 6 different quotes on cakes. I figured she was busy shopping pricing with every decorator. I had no certainty that she'd finally order from me! I just continued on with my life. I didn't email her warnings, that's not my style.

 

Maybe best not to go with Jason's response if in fact, those aren't your policies. If you've never told her that a date is only secured after payment of a deposit, and it's not a policy that's posted anywhere, and in fact, isn't actually your policy, I wouldn't tell her that.

 

I get that she's been super annoying - I just feel a bit sorry for her that she thinks she had this booked, and she's just sorting out details, and then a couple of weeks before, you're suddenly not available.

 

The thing about the bolded is that she thought she was first come, and had been first served.

Norasmom Posted 1 May 2013 , 11:51am

From your previous posts, you have indicated you are trying to market yourself.  Turning away business after a month of consultations might not be the way to go, despite the fact you are now booked for that date.  I realize that this woman is a pain, but you gave her no indication about your booking policy, so she thought you were available.  It's a good idea to get deposits a few weeks in advance as others have indicated, particularly with customers like the one you are dealing with.  Even if you don't want her as a customer, you started the process when you were emailing back and forth with her.  Now someone else will get her business...

jason_kraft Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:08pm

A

Original message sent by mcaulir

Maybe best not to go with Jason's response if in fact, those aren't your policies. If you've never told her that a date is only secured after payment of a deposit, and it's not a policy that's posted anywhere, and in fact, isn't actually your policy, I wouldn't tell her that.

Agreed. If she was under the impression all along that her order was already confirmed, and you didn't say anything to the contrary, it may be in your best interests to try to squeeze the order in while apologizing for the misunderstanding. Perhaps you could work with her on simplifying the order so it won't take as much time.

If you reject the order you may get some significant negative PR, especially since it is so close to the event and it may be difficult for the customer to find a replacement.

Jess155 Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:14pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcaulir 

 

Maybe best not to go with Jason's response if in fact, those aren't your policies. If you've never told her that a date is only secured after payment of a deposit, and it's not a policy that's posted anywhere, and in fact, isn't actually your policy, I wouldn't tell her that.

 

I get that she's been super annoying - I just feel a bit sorry for her that she thinks she had this booked, and she's just sorting out details, and then a couple of weeks before, you're suddenly not available.

 

The thing about the bolded is that she thought she was first come, and had been first served.

Agree. thumbs_up.gif  I'm assuming the other customers for that weekend came to you after she did.  If so, she was first and should be first served, as you stated. 

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:23pm

Yes, now I see how I've screwed up! I did use Jason's wording. I don't really know what to do to make things better. No matter what she'll be pissed off at me....and no matter what I don't want to make her cake on that date.

 

Just a fyi (if anyone cares)..........I'm throwing in the towel for the most part with my business. I'm looking for full time employment. I don't enjoy being a sales person, I'm really more of a baker/artist personality and not out going enough. I'll still attempt to sell wedding cakes and my toffee as my side job/hobby.....hoping I can build that.

 

Having business doesn't make for profitability. In order to make money I need to crank up the volume and I can't do that in the rental kitchen near me. It sucks every penny of income. My other choice is to invest in opening my own store...........but time after time I see that the people in my own area won't pay a respectable amount of money for custom baked goods. The big box stores have everyone convinced that all baked goods should be that cheap. I know there's got to be a market for people who are willing to by a custom product, I just haven't tapped into that yet. I'd need to open a shop at least 45 minutes away from my home to reach a wealthier client. That would do more harm to my life then good.

 

This current client (who I don't want) is one of the "richer" people in the area. It's a group of 4 women throwing a shower at the country club, sharing the costs. I was approached by the client who said they were looking for "something special". What that really meant was they want something special, but they aren't willing to pay for it. She kept shopping out options with me for a cheaper design. Then she stalled in contacting me any which way. I took that to mean she wasn't hot on placing her order with me. So I kept on with life.

vgcea Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:36pm

AHow many times have I read on CC not to wait for imaginary orders when real ones are slapping us in the face with a deposit? If OP had come here saying she passed on the large order because she was waiting on this lady who might order we would be telling her to do exactly what she did: attend to the paying customer.

jason_kraft Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:43pm

A

Original message sent by vgcea

How many times have I read on CC not to wait for imaginary orders when real ones are slapping us in the face with a deposit? If OP had come here saying she passed on the large order because she was waiting on this lady who might order we would be telling her to do exactly what she did: attend to the paying customer.

If there is no process for confirmation, no required deposit for a small order, and a first come/first served policy the customer is reasonable in assuming that their order would be filled. It would be a different story if the customer was made aware that their order was not confirmed.

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 2:53pm

Here's my last email to the prospective clients before she stalled. In one way I see that it's looks that I've agreed to make the cake, but in another way it seems to me I've told her this isn't complete until she pays the bill.

 

"I always recommend going with your first choice. It's rarely wrong! Here's a really great website for colors, http://www.theperfectpalette.com/2011/05/chartreuse-gray-white.html The best thing to do is tell me which colors you want, then copy and paste them in an email to me here (or tell me their exact names so I can look them up). Use the website to choose a pretty complimentary color to match your brides color.

I have to tell you that purple is a very hard color to match in frosting (I'll do my best). What happens with purple food color is it changes shades over night.....so they become a blue-er purple shade then a warm purple. I don't know why, but it's a chemical thing.
 
What flavor of cake do you want? Chocolate or vanilla, or do you want to consider a premium flavor like carrot, lemon, apple, red velvet? A decorated cake like these examples can only be done in regular buttercream with the fondant over it. Cream cheese frosting doesn't hold up under the fondant.
 
Once you've finalized your design and flavor I'll email your bill. It must be paid in advance to receive free delivery, or I accept cash upon delivery with a $10.00 delivery fee.
 
all my best,"
 
So tell me if I screwed up and I'll contact her and try and make good?............thanks for you help.....
jason_kraft Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:03pm

AFrom that email, it sounds like if she was planning on paying in cash she wouldn't have to pay anything until she picked up the cake.

Adding something like this would have changed the situation: "Please note that your order is not confirmed until your design is finalized and a bill has been sent. Orders that have not been confirmed run the risk of not being filled depending on availability."

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:19pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

From that email, it sounds like if she was planning on paying in cash she wouldn't have to pay anything until she picked up the cake.

Adding something like this would have changed the situation: "Please note that your order is not confirmed until your design is finalized and a bill has been sent. Orders that have not been confirmed run the risk of not being filled depending on availability."

In hind site your totally correct. I should have added "Orders that have not been confirmed run the risk of not being filled, depending upon availability". But I didn't think of it and I've screwed up with this client.

 

At the time, I had no idea if I'd receive other orders for that weekend. You don't know until they come. Normally, I wouldn't turn down anything....I had been doing anything to build clients. It didn't occur to me to add the "depending upon availability" part! I couldn't predict I'd get one large order from one place.

 

I do have some anger with this client and I did bail on her because I want the for sure order. If she had been easier and not silent, I would have figured out how to do her cake plus the big order.

 

Now she's waiting for me to respond to her last email and I really don't know what to write.....

BakingIrene Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:28pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches 

I'm just horrible at making good points when I get nervous. I just wrote about this customer today on another thread. We had 18 emails over a month, and I gave her quotes on 6 different cake designs.....today I decided I didn't want to do the cake for her, period. I gave her a quote of $3.00 pp for a fondant cake with hand painted flowers on the sides, plus gum paste flowers on top. I realized how stupid this is and I WAS. I'd rather deal with cupcake for .50 less per serving.

 

====

 

PLEASE HELP ME, how would you respond? We didn't have a contract and now I AM too busy, plus I don't want to do her cake. Would you respond to her email?

 

Jason has given you the exact answer for this specific case. You CAN avoid this happening again.

 

You had 18 emails??? You wasted 16 email opportunities to say that ONLY a deposit can hold her order.  I'm sorry but you have to learn to put that kind of info right up front. You should also state that your prices are fixed.  Then ask the customer in email #2, "did you read terms and conditions?' and "do you agree to terms and conditions?"

 

Until the answer to both those questions is YES, do not waste a second of your valuable time.  You are not getting paid minimum wage for your cake...never mind the hours of quoting and haggling.

liz at sugar Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:30pm

Life isn't perfect.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  Just send her an apology saying "I'm so sorry if I didn't make my policy clear - I speak to many prospective customers each day, and my schedule fills up as orders are finalized."  Just be honest: "my schedule filled up while you were deciding what to do, and as a small business, I can only handle so many orders at once".

 

If she wants to be a b*tch, she will be one regardless, so send her a heartfelt apology and move on.  Maybe refer her to another baker who could help on short notice??

 

Liz
 

Stitches Posted 1 May 2013 , 6:03pm

Thanks to everyone who responded. I do appreciate your help a lot! Things should be done with this client and I'm on to new horizons with yet another good lesson under my belt.

mcaulir Posted 1 May 2013 , 11:24pm

I really hope everything works out well for you!

johnson6ofus Posted 2 May 2013 , 12:43am
Quote:

Originally Posted by liz at sugar 

Just send her an apology saying "I'm so sorry if I didn't make my policy clear - I speak to many prospective customers each day, and my schedule fills up as orders are finalized."  Just be honest: "my schedule filled up while you were deciding what to do, and as a small business, I can only handle so many orders at once".
 

 


 

thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif Nothing more.When I seek credit, I really don't have to hear "...based on approved credit..." and when I order custom work, I also should understand "...based on availability..."   But, yes, I know it must be added.

 

She wasted enough of your time! Apologize, make the other cakes ordered, and move on... :)  Really, it will be OK....

Stitches Posted 2 May 2013 , 3:01am

I did apologize after you all helped me see I did things poorly. It's very cool to have a place like this, where people can mentor others who need it. This whole thing has me wondering exactly what everyone else writes in emails to prospective customers in their daily routines.

 

We share tutorials of how to make things and do things............but I need tutorials on how to respond to situations better. I know I'm not handling aspects of my business like everyone else here says they do. I feel awkward to set rules before any play happens. Instead of leading the process I seem to always be reacting to how things have gone wrong. I'm not sure if that's because I'm used to being the employee and always doing what's asked of me...........or if I'm seriously stupid. It's not like I'm a passive person who can't talk to strangers I can be VERY Bold and very out going when I have to. I understand as the business owner I need to lead the conversations..............but they always seem to get away from me, so I know I'm doing something/probably a lot of things wrong.

 

Anyone willing to role play with me and show me what your emails look like to customers? When SuzieQ emails you and asks are you available on May 30th because she need a special cake.........exactly what does your email response to her look like?

vgcea Posted 2 May 2013 , 6:28am
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 


If there is no process for confirmation, no required deposit for a small order, and a first come/first served policy the customer is reasonable in assuming that their order would be filled. It would be a different story if the customer was made aware that their order was not confirmed.

 

I agree. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches 

I did apologize after you all helped me see I did things poorly. It's very cool to have a place like this, where people can mentor others who need it. This whole thing has me wondering exactly what everyone else writes in emails to prospective customers in their daily routines.

 

We share tutorials of how to make things and do things............but I need tutorials on how to respond to situations better. I know I'm not handling aspects of my business like everyone else here says they do. I feel awkward to set rules before any play happens. Instead of leading the process I seem to always be reacting to how things have gone wrong. I'm not sure if that's because I'm used to being the employee and always doing what's asked of me...........or if I'm seriously stupid. It's not like I'm a passive person who can't talk to strangers I can be VERY Bold and very out going when I have to. I understand as the business owner I need to lead the conversations..............but they always seem to get away from me, so I know I'm doing something/probably a lot of things wrong.

 

Anyone willing to role play with me and show me what your emails look like to customers? When SuzieQ emails you and asks are you available on May 30th because she need a special cake.........exactly what does your email response to her look like?

Um, rules are supposed to be set before the play begins, how else would you have guidelines and boundaries to work within? You have to lead the process, you're the professional.

 

 Okay SuzieQ.

 

Hello SuzieQ, thank you for contacting vgcea about your event scheduled for May 30th 2013. At this time we do have the date available but would need a bit more information about what you have in mind. Attached is a link to our request form (requestform.com) please provide as much detail as possible so that we can ascertain whether we will be able to serve you on that date.

 

Also attached is a link to our FAQs and Price/Menu pages. These should be helpful in providing you with information about what we have to offer at vgcea.

 

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you again for contacting vgcea.

 

Sincerely,

V.

 

The way my request form is set up, the form will not submit unless you provide ALL the information: location, #servings needed, date and event time etc. The only optional entry is the photo upload field.

 

My pricing page states clearly on the FIRST two lines: Orders are confirmed when the retainer is paid.

 

Oh and by the way, OP I searched your website earlier today for anything that could have mitigated the situation... and you almost had a loophole you could have used. Almost. Since you don't specifically do ONLY wedding cakes, why is your FAQ not generalized to cover all the products you offer? I would start with simplifying things for yourself by standardizing your policy for small and large cakes, and editing your FAQ for 'custom' rather than 'wedding' cakes. If at all possible, always direct a client to your website where they can get the most information about your business, second only to speaking with you. That should cut out many unnecessary emails. I often direct clients to my pricing page and FAQs before things get deep. That alone does a lot of the weeding out.

 

Here's what's on your website:

 

Will you provide me with a written estimate? Yes, after our consultation we will write you a quote for your personalized wedding cake. We will hold your date for 10 days from the day the estimate is sent (via email).

Stitches Posted 2 May 2013 , 2:13pm

My website is a disaster! It shouldn't be set for public viewing, but I don't know how to change that. I have hired a person to re-make my site, whom has encountered problems in the wordpress software not accepting his code. So everything is on stall. I've not told anyone about my website at all. The only people who know it exists are the people here at CC where I've included it in my signature.

 

Seriously, writing here and learning from everyone is really educating me on how I've gone wrong.

 

My biggest business problem is I haven't defined what my business is. I've taken anything that comes my way hoping that might help me define what path I should take. I clearly see NOW, just how wrong that is, it doesn't work at all. But had I not done that I wouldn't have learned what does work and what doesn't work, for me. So I'm glad I made those screw ups on a small scale.

 

So back to learning.........

 

Most of you have a response email to send to all requests somewhat like Vgcea showed above. I get that and I see how I can and should following that. Please take me through the next hurdle........ role playing:

 

"Hi V,

I'd like a special cake for a wedding shower. We were thinking we'd like an umbrella on top. Can you do that? How much will that be? I looked at your website but I didn't see any cakes with umbrellas on them."

thanks,

SusieQ

 

(I went back and disabled what I could to eliminate incorrect info. on my site like you pointed out Vgcea. I appreciate you making that point to me!)

vgcea Posted 3 May 2013 , 2:17am
Quote:

 

"Hi V,

I'd like a special cake for a wedding shower. We were thinking we'd like an umbrella on top. Can you do that? How much will that be? I looked at your website but I didn't see any cakes with umbrellas on them."

thanks,

SusieQ

 

 

You're welcome.

 

Hello SusieQ, it's good to hear from you. Here's some info I would like you to email me, please answer each question as best as you can so I can better gauge how we may be of service to you.

 

How many people are you looking to serve this cake at your event?

When and where is your event?

Do you have any photos of what type of umbrella you want on this cake? If not, please provide a brief description of the umbrella design you have in mind.

What is your budget for this cake?

Our pricing begins at $X/serving. You may multiply the $X with the number of guests you plan to serve with this cake. That should give you an idea of where the pricing for your cake will begin, it will also allow you to decide if our services are within your budget.

 

Please provide as complete information as you can to the questions above. Here's a link to my FAQs for other common questions. And for the flavors we offer: *link to menu*

 

Thank you SusieQ

 

V.

jason_kraft Posted 3 May 2013 , 2:29am

A^ That sounds about right. Note that many of these questions can be included in an online order form, and depending on your target market you can make some or all of the questions required and/or add dropdowns to help guide customers as to the available options. You can even include a photo uploading feature. This will save a lot of back-and-forth time.

vgcea Posted 3 May 2013 , 2:47am
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

^
That sounds about right. Note that many of these questions can be included in an online order form, and depending on your target market you can make some or all of the questions required and/or add dropdowns to help guide customers as to the available options. You can even include a photo uploading feature. This will save a lot of back-and-forth time.

Jason, the request form on my website is just as you described with all fields (except the photo upload field) required. The form will not submit without the info. You'd be surprised how many people avoid that form like it's a real test or something. SMH. Every now and then I encounter one person who will require the type of email above after I've sent them to my website with links. Some folks just don't want to read and follow instructions.

liz at sugar Posted 3 May 2013 , 2:57am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches  .

 

My biggest business problem is I haven't defined what my business is. I've taken anything that comes my way hoping that might help me define what path I should take. I clearly see NOW, just how wrong that is, it doesn't work at all. But had I not done that I wouldn't have learned what does work and what doesn't work, for me. So I'm glad I made those screw ups on a small scale.

 

I'm glad you have finally found what will work for you.  My bakery opens this fall, and I have pretty narrowly defined what I will do.  Having a retail location means I can focus more on filling a case for walk in traffic.  I won't be doing novelty cakes, because it would take me too long, and I am more interested in making money.  I guess I am not the "hand holding" type, who wants to hear every possible interest a customer has, and how it can all be incorporated on one cake. :)

 

Liz

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