mfeagan Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 4:45am
post #1 of

AI have been making cakes and cupcakes as a side business for over 8 years now. I have NEVER had a complaint from a customer until today.

Back story: I made 30 cupcakes for a close friend's bridal shower. They wanted 1/2 with chocolate buttercream and 1/2 with pure white, so I made "Criscocream". The cupcakes were a hit, and a guest at the shower called to order cupcakes and a cake from me.

Order: The customer called me twice while I was traveling back from a vacation. We were in South Carolina, and there is really sketchy cell service most of the way home, so I waited to call her back the next day. Already she seemed annoyed that she was "having a really hard time getting through" to talk to me. I explained why I didn't call her back the day before and apologized.

She said she loved the cupcakes at the shower and wanted 1 doz for her granddaughter's birthday the following Friday. She said she wanted the chocolate cake with the "white icing".

She also ordered an 8 inch round with chocolate cake, chocolate frosting on the sides of the cake and "white icing" on the top "to be different".

I always read back the orders to my customers at least twice to be sure I have everything they want.

She asked how much money they would be. I gave her a price and she asked if I could "do any better". I kindly told her I could not as I was already giving her a discount because she was a referral.

We spoke at least 4 other times in one week because she kept calling me to talk about delivery, delivery times, adding neon colored zebra stripes to the cupcakes, etc...

Delivery: I delivered the cupcakes Friday at noon as requested. She loved them and said they were adorable. Her granddaughter would love them and all that jazz. She paid me then talked about the cake she ordered again that is due this upcoming Friday. I went over the details again. She confirmed and I left.

Today (Saturday): She called me to complain that the cupcakes were not what she ordered. She didn't ask for that "white icing". It was supposed to be "chocolate with white on it and zebra stripes". (I have no idea what she has in her head...how is that possible?) She said they were horrible and really no one liked them at all. I apologized and said to her that I confirmed with her the order and that it was exactly what she had ordered. I also said she ordered white and chocolate on her son's cake for the following week.

In dealing with her these past two weeks, I feel more and more she's out to get something for free or cheap. She already didn't want to pay a discounted price of cheap. She also wants a Happy Birthday message on the cake, and she conveniently leaves out how to spell the name, which I always confirm. It's "Brion". Not "Brian" or "Bryan". A very easy mistake if not careful.

Am I crazy to not trust this woman? If she really hated the cupcakes so much, then why would she even want me to make a cake for her son still?

I seriously do not want to make this cake for her this week. I almost would rather give her check back for the cupcakes and tell her I am obviously not meeting her expectations and it is best she find another baker for the cake.

My mother has a different opinion. Keep the money. Make the cake. Never do another for her again

I don't make crappy stuff. It looks nice and tastes good. I supply cupcakes to a bridal shop weekly. I also just did a fundraiser where Top Chef Just Desserts Johnny Iuzzini was a guest and a judge for. I provided 12 doz cupcakes for the dessert. He ate all 4 flavors I made and said he "loved" them.

Sorry for the long post. Just not sure what to do in this situation. I know it is only one person in my whole career of doing this, but it would be nice to get some opinions!

28 replies
CindiM Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 5:18am
post #2 of

It is not you.  You have a bad customer.

 

Either make the cake or tell her you have changed your mind.  You are being too nice, to have some one give you a hard time over icing!

vgcea Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 5:20am
post #3 of

ATrust your gut.

therealmrsriley Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 5:37am
post #4 of

AI think your idea to not do the upcoming cake is a good one. If she really is out to get something for free or cheap and you do the cake, you could end up in the same predicament again. Not worth it.

The first complaint in eight years is great. Don't let this shake your confidence.

kikiandkyle Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 2:30pm
post #5 of

Better to give her back the money before you've spent your time and money making her a cake she's only going to whine about a refund for, especially if it was already discounted and you're barely making any money on it. Give her the number for Walmart, that's probably more what she had in mind. 

BatterUpCake Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 3:13pm
post #6 of

SO she looks at the cake and loves it and then later says it was supposed to be a zebra pattern? Lose her....

remnant3333 Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 4:16pm
post #7 of

Save yourself a lot of headache and dump her!!!! Always go with your instinct!!!! You will always come across someone like this customer who wants something for practically nothing. Your gut instinct will never fail you!!!!

Norasmom Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 4:35pm
post #8 of

Yes, tell her as she was unhappy with your cupcakes you feel it is best for her to go elsewhere.

 

Also, always get an email string going, that way when she says you didn't do what she wanted you can send her the emails.

mfeagan Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 4:50pm
post #9 of

AWow! Thanks to everyone for their insight! I think I will call her tomorrow and tell her I feel it is best we parted ways before she is disappointed in another cake I make her.

I forgot to add in to my original post she said that wasn't the same icing she had at the bridal shower. She said the ones I made for her had marshmallows icing on it. I told her there wasn't any marshmallow in the frosting and it was the exact recipe I used at the bridal shower.

She's nuts! I wish you could hear the phone messages! She starts talking then stops in the middle of a thought and goes to something else. It's really weird!!

howsweet Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:04pm

If she's already paid for the cake,  I agree with your mom. I say this partly because it sounds a bit short notice to cancel. And also partly because if she's loosing her marbles due to something like Alzheimer's, you can afford to go the extra distance and be as kind as you can.

 

And when someone orders from me over the phone, I always send email confirmations and make sure I get a response back. May not have been possible in this case, but it's a good business practice.

BrandisBaked Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:11pm

AI'd just give her a partial discount on the order she was unhappy with (like 25%) and then cancel the upcoming order. I wouldn't want to work with someone like that.

Also, I would avoid telling your friend about this as it would only make you look bad to gossip about a costumer. Even if the customer was crazy.

mfeagan Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:33pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrandisBaked 

I'd just give her a partial discount on the order she was unhappy with (like 25%) and then cancel the upcoming order. I wouldn't want to work with someone like that.

Also, I would avoid telling your friend about this as it would only make you look bad to gossip about a costumer. Even if the customer was crazy.

 

I haven't mentioned anything to my friend about her at all. I had initially thought about just asking her what her thoughts were about this lady, but quickly was against that idea! 

:D

 

I really appreciate everyone's insight. I'm honestly hoping she calls me tomorrow and tells me she doesn't want it! haha!

jason_kraft Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:39pm

AIt may be short notice, but if you aren't comfortable working with this customer then IMO you should cancel the upcoming order ASAP and provide a full refund of any deposit that was already paid. It shouldn't be too difficult for her to find a cheap birthday cake on short notice.

Based on what you've posted, no discount is necessary for any previous orders.

BrandisBaked Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:51pm

A

Original message sent by jason_kraft

Based on what you've posted, no discount is necessary for any previous orders.

Perhaps it's not necessary, but it is good business practice. I would never tell an unhappy customer "too bad". Either I would offer a discount suitable to the circumstances, or a discount on a future order. Since OP doesn't seem to want to work with this client again, I would opt for a partial discount on the original order.

mfeagan Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 9:52pm

All of this was a total lesson learned. I will definitely require email confirmation or confirmation on my facebook page I have set up for people to browse and order. For any cake over $100 I will also require a signed contract. I have been working on one with a cancellation policy and payment policy gathered from numerous invoices and bakeries all over the web! Cakes aren't cheap to make, and I make everything from scratch - not saying boxed cakes are bad! I LOVE cake mixes!!!! It's just a lot to purchase when someone cancels, hates your stuff, makes changes, etc...

 

By the way...these are some of the things I have made. The zebra ones at the end were the cupcakes I made for the lady. I just rolled the black into the colored fondant, then I went over it with a somewhat wet brush to bring out the black more. It was really dull after the powdered sugar was on it when I rolled it out. 

 

I just don't want people to think I'm exaggerating and they were ugly or something! I in NO way think I am like Buddy Valastro, Sylvia Weinstock, Ron Ben Israel or any other professional baker who does this for a living! I know there are a lot more people out there and on this site with SOOOO much more talent than me! Talent I envy with skills I wish I had! 

 

I'm practicing hand painting on cakes, and my next venture is hopefully royal icing string work. It completely amazes me!

 

Thanks again to everyone! So glad to have this community!

 

 

Hi Hats - chocolate or vanilla cake with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream

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RN Cake - Nurse Graduation (I will be honest and say I took a lot of inspiration from Google images on this one!)

 

 

Cupcake Assortment for "Top Chef Lynchburg" - a fundraiser to benefit a children and family center. This is the one Johnny Iuzzini was a judge at. Glad he was judging the food courses and not desserts. That would have terrified me! haha!

Left to right: Mint Chocolate Chip, Pumpkin Spice, Vanilla with swiss meringue buttercream, Salted Caramel, and another Mint Chocolate Chip

*

 

 

Zebra cupcakes from HELL!

...and by the way...i was nice enough to purchase cute pink and black zebra striped cupcake wrappers and spent another $2 on those just to make them cuter! Plus all her neon colors she wanted. I probably made $5 on these after I bought everything and delivered. :shock:

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jason_kraft Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:00pm

A

Original message sent by BrandisBaked

I would never tell an unhappy customer "too bad". Either I would offer a discount suitable to the circumstances, or a discount on a future order.

Agreed...based on the circumstances outlined in this thread this customer has shown that she is either less than honest or has confused OP's product with someone else. Combined with the attempted price negotiation this works out to a 0% discount in my book, although an apology that she did not enjoy the cupcakes at the time OP cancels the upcoming cake would be in order.

If the customer has simply said that the cupcakes were not up to the quality she expected based on the previous order and the order amount was relatively small I probably would have offered a full refund.

BrandisBaked Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:10pm

A

Original message sent by jason_kraft

this works out to a 0% discount in my book.

Since you aren't actually in business, I could see why it's easy to hand out such advice. For those of us who actually make our living pleasing customers and building customer relationships, sometimes it's best to compensate and give a little even when you are not at fault - just for the sake of good will.

jason_kraft Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:30pm

A

Original message sent by BrandisBaked

For those of us who actually make our living pleasing customers and building customer relationships, sometimes it's best to compensate and give a little even when you are not at fault - just for the sake of good will.

Again I agree, as I mentioned above if the circumstances were different I would not hesitate to grant a full refund, and I have done so myself on one occasion when a customer complained in a manner where I saw value in maintaining the relationship with that customer (even though we were probably not at fault).

I've never had a customer who was openly dishonest, but I have had a few potential customers who did not tell the whole truth when attempting to negotiate lower prices. When it came time for these potential customers to place an order, I made sure to politely inform them that we were no longer available for the requested dates.

This is just my opinion based on my own business experience, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing but I would kindly request that you keep the discussion civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

BrandisBaked Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:38pm

A

Original message sent by jason_kraft

This is just my opinion based on my own business experience, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing but I would kindly request that you keep the discussion civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Attack? Where?

jason_kraft Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:40pm

AThe implication that my advice is less valuable than others because I sold my business. If you disagree with someone's position on an issue, address the position instead of the person.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

Your comment has further unfortunate implications for everyone else who participates in CC without necessarily operating an active baking business.

BrandisBaked Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 10:54pm

AIt's not an attack simply because you don't like it pointed out that you aren't in fact in business. I think it's relevant to my response that people who are IN BUSINESS and want to STAY IN BUSINESS would have a different response to a customer complaint.

jason_kraft Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 11:02pm

AThis is getting way OT so I have continued the discussion via PMs. My apologies to the OP of this thread for not doing so sooner.

dreamcakestoo Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 11:12pm

Your stuff looks yummy!!  I'm going to split my response on this one.  I think, if it were me, I would call her and tell her you would like to discuss the upcoming order.  Tell her your misgivings about doing another cake for her after her comments about the cupcakes.  Give her the opportunity to back out with a refund and let it be her decision.  It is short notice to cancel on her but, if she's not going to be happy, then she should be given an opportunity to make that decision rather than force you to make it for her.  She may end up recanting her comments and begging you to make the cake.  Or, she may say that she agrees that she should go elsewhere.  I think that is a more professional approach than canceling on her over her comments.  Maybe they were not what she envisioned.  Maybe someone else made a negative comment and made her think bad thoughts.  You never know what happens with people.  It can never hurt to give her an out and make her recommit to the order.  Then, if she comes back with more negativity, you can stand your ground that you gave her the opportunity to cancel the order and she refused.

Norasmom Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 11:12pm

It's possible to still stay in business and avoid difficult customers.  Reputuation is everything, but so is not being taken advantage of.

still_learning Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 11:54pm

AIf you do decide to continue with the next order please insist on getting all the details in writing before proceeding!!!

mfeagan Posted 16 Sep 2013 , 12:12am

A

Original message sent by jason_kraft

Agreed...based on the circumstances outlined in this thread this customer has shown that she is either less than honest or has confused OP's product with someone else. Combined with the attempted price negotiation this works out to a 0% discount in my book, although an apology that she did not enjoy the cupcakes at the time OP cancels the upcoming cake would be in order.

If the customer has simply said that the cupcakes were not up to the quality she expected based on the previous order and the order amount was relatively small I probably would have offered a full refund.

That is exactly how I decided to respond. After mulling through all of these responses today, I have taken advice from each one. Sorry it turned into a heated discussion with some people. Hee hee!!

I am calling her tomorrow to ask her to verify she still wants me to make the cake for her son's birthday. I will mention that since she was so unhappy about my cupcakes, I don't want her to be unhappy again and I'm sorry thy weren't up to her expectations, but they were the exact thing she ordered with the same ingredients as the cupcakes she ate at the bridal shower 2 weeks prior. I will give her the option of letting me make it or backing out.

I saved her in my phone as "Phyllis Crazy Cake Ordering Lady" so if she ever does call again, I won't have the time to fit her into my busy schedule. :)

GigisFreshBaked Posted 16 Sep 2013 , 12:17am

I would make the cake but email her a confirmation.  Tell her you want it in writing so there is no misunderstanding.  Make sure all the messages, and designs are set out as well as the price.  Also, make it clear if she'd like to make additions there will be additional charges.  If you do drawing of your cakes, cupcakes for approval - make sure to next time scan and email and ask for email approval.  I agree with you mom though ... keep the order and finish what you started.  This woman won't order from you again.  You're right, she probably wanted something for nothing.  But I have to agree with one of the others that responded.  One complaint in 8 years?  That's fantastic and you should be proud!  Remember, this woman raved about your cupcakes originally too!  Good luck!

mfeagan Posted 16 Sep 2013 , 1:03am

Quote:

Originally Posted by GigisFreshBaked 
 

I would make the cake but email her a confirmation.  Tell her you want it in writing so there is no misunderstanding.  Make sure all the messages, and designs are set out as well as the price.  Also, make it clear if she'd like to make additions there will be additional charges.  If you do drawing of your cakes, cupcakes for approval - make sure to next time scan and email and ask for email approval.  I agree with you mom though ... keep the order and finish what you started.  This woman won't order from you again.  You're right, she probably wanted something for nothing.  But I have to agree with one of the others that responded.  One complaint in 8 years?  That's fantastic and you should be proud!  Remember, this woman raved about your cupcakes originally too!  Good luck!

 

Thanks for the tips and thank you for your great reply! I clicked on your website link too. Your cookies are AMAZING! Absolutely beautiful!

GigisFreshBaked Posted 16 Sep 2013 , 1:11am

Quote:

Originally Posted by mfeagan 
 

 

Thanks for the tips and thank you for your great reply! I clicked on your website link too. Your cookies are AMAZING! Absolutely beautiful!

 

Thank you :)

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