fbrumback Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 2:49am
post #1 of

A local baker, who works out of her home as well and has been "on the scene" longer than I have has been using intimidation and threats to get me and others to try and close my business.  Using phrases like "you don't want to piss me off" and "I would watch your back".  She goes so far as to tell me (and others) that our work isn't comparable to hers and we should consider shutting down before making fools of ourselves.  Apparently, she offers her cakes for less than $1.50/serving (she insisted she charges less than I do, and that is the lowest I will charge).

 

The icing, so to speak, is that she has stolen at least 3 of my clients by underpricing me, then uses my designs to create their cakes.  While I understand that my ideas aren't protected in any way, her complete lack of integrity and the sheer pettiness of this is what lead me here.  So, for those who have experienced this before, how do I handle this situation?  I'm more than sure, because this is a smaller, rural community, that she'll pop up again.  Thanks in advanced!

42 replies
jason_kraft Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 4:22am
post #2 of

AIs she operating legally?

Norasmom Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 4:25am
post #3 of

Ignore her, she'll go away…someone so cruel usually self-destructs.  My guess is she is not great with customers, either.  Her pricing will make her burn out.  Be patient…

jason_kraft Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 4:28am
post #4 of

A

Original message sent by Norasmom

[rule]Ignore her, she'll go away…someone so cruel usually self-destructs.  My guess is she is not great with customers, either.  Her pricing will make her burn out.  Be patient…

That's a risky strategy...she may burn out after 3 months, or 3 years, or never (if she is supported by someone else's income).

kikiandkyle Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 4:56am
post #5 of

AProtect yourself by not giving designs to clients until they have paid a non-refundable deposit, and attract a higher class of clientele by charging a decent price. The kind of customer you get when you charge a real price isn't interested in saving money by going with someone less professional. At $1.50 a serving you're competing with Walmart.

IAmPamCakes Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 5:30am
post #6 of

AShe sounds awesome.

katcope01 Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 5:33am
post #7 of

Something like this happened to me when I opened a small shop in our town.  The other caker and I were on friendly terms until then, and she accused me of stealing her idea to open a shop.  I later found out she had wanted to open a shop - and in the building I ended up leasing - but didn't have the money to do it, so it appears she took it out on me. In my opening weeks, she gave free cake samples to all the businesses on both sides of my street, and bad mouthed me to to whoever she could - including my relatives and customers!

 

Fortunately, I was so busy I had no time to think about it or get too stressed by it.  I decided not to play her game, and I ignored her.  I gave excellent customer service, I donated cakes to community causes, i was positive and I shared caking information.  In short, I developed a good name and this seemed to override the negativity she was causing.  When she temporarily closed her business to start a family, I heard no more, but have no doubt she is still harbouring resentment or whatever it is she was feeling.

If you are really concerned about the threats to your safety, reporting the threats to police would be wise. 

 

One other thing - don't base your pricing on her undercutting you.  Price according to what you feel is a good price for both you and and your customer for what you provide.  If your product is good quality, people will be happy to pay a little more, and will give you great word of mouth - and that's what will help you rise above this other woman.  Good luck!

-K8memphis Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 3:56pm
post #8 of

i have a mini tape recorder  ;) records phone conversations also

 

peace of mind is a lovely thing-- proof is even better

jason_kraft Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 3:58pm
post #9 of

A

Original message sent by -K8memphis

i have a mini tape recorder  ;) records phone conversations also

If you use a smartphone there are also apps that will record phone calls. However you may want to research state laws on this, since in some states you can only legally record a conversation if both parties consent.

howsweet Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 8:24pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by fbrumback 
 

  Apparently, she offers her cakes for less than $1.50/serving (she insisted she charges less than I do, and that is the lowest I will charge).

 

 

Wow, you are charging so little that to undercut you, she has to charge $1.50 a serving? This is the kind of situation so many keep ignoring.  No one thinks his/her little cake business effects the market prices...  It sounds to me like you may possibly be guilty of some serious undercutting yourself. Who knows?? Maybe she had to lower her prices because you and others charge so little. Maybe this woman is so desperate to make a reasonable amount, she's snapped and is trying to squash the under chargers in any way she can. I'm not saying that's what's happening, but I don't know that it's not.

 

I'm not sure that would be legal for her to do that, but the trade laws were made to protect the little guy and with the assumption that sellers would act in their own best interests (and not under charge). The law was to keep a giant company from coming in and charging less to put the little guy out of business and then raising their prices back up to where they have to be to make a profit. This lady IS the little guy.

AZCouture Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 9:47pm

A

Original message sent by howsweet

Wow, you are charging so little that to undercut you, she has to charge $1.50 a serving? This is the kind of situation so many keep ignoring.  No one thinks his/her little cake business effects the market prices...  It sounds to me like you may possibly be guilty of some serious undercutting yourself. Who knows?? Maybe [I]she[/I] had to lower [I]her[/I] prices because you and others charge so little. Maybe this woman is so desperate to make a reasonable amount, she's snapped and is trying to squash the under chargers in any way she can. I'm not saying that's what's happening, but I don't know that it's not.

I'm not sure that would be legal for her to do that, but the trade laws were made to protect the little guy and with the assumption that sellers would act in their own best interests (and not under charge). The law was to keep a giant company from coming in and charging less to put the little guy out of business and then raising their prices back up to where they have to be to make a profit. This lady IS the little guy.

Great observation, could have some merit.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Nov 2013 , 11:45pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 


If you use a smartphone there are also apps that will record phone calls. However you may want to research state laws on this, since in some states you can only legally record a conversation if both parties consent.

 

 

yes of course--forgot that part--the devil's in the details--very important detail--thank you for pointing that out

theresaf Posted 29 Nov 2013 , 7:40pm

AI am sorry you are in this position and hope you can maintain a positive community presence as said above. There's that dang professional high road again. Sadly, phrases like 'watch your back' are not the kind of threats the police can follow up on. Sure they have to take your report but not much more can happen. Not in NY State anyway. My real job involves a lot of people who are already in court for something and think nothing of saying writing or leaving messages that most of us would never dream of. As a result I have a close personal relationship with my local police station and a panic button. (Now you all know why I find comfort in cakes!). Anyway, the actions of others that the police can act on is 1) a specific quantity in a short time period of harassing calls 2) a very specific threat of harm . Have a face to face chat at your local precinct if this persons actions worry you. Just present it in a straightforward and specific incident way. They may tell you to file a report so something is on file if something should happen or they may have some specific advise. Does your town have a Chamber of Commerce ? Join it and make your local presence known. Good luck. Theresa

-K8memphis Posted 29 Nov 2013 , 7:56pm

geez theresa----i'm sitting here thinking that you already know this but you need to watch your back--but i mean it in the nice way -- because that whole inflection thing is the thing--and i understand what you mean about the limitations/boundaries of the police--

 

in this case, op says 'herself and others' so that in itself is concerning--

 

this is making my bp rise--

 

check your laws and get a tape or app of something--

 

maybe contact some of 'the others' and y'all or a coupla of y'all stop by the precinct--or get together with the others and call and they will send an officer out to you--this chick should not be out there blowing like this--how much the stupid cupcakes cost is the least of the matter--

theresaf Posted 29 Nov 2013 , 8:31pm

AThanks for your concern K8! I am always trying to watch my back! People can be crazy (today's understatement!) All the more reason to keep good records of actions and don't willingly start something with a nut!

cooksdream Posted 30 Nov 2013 , 5:30pm

Have your thought of joining forces with bigger bakeries or other companies in the baking industry to expand your reach?

 

I have had lots of times when competitors (often larger than us) have tried to intimidate and threaten. Ultimately they see you as a threat which is a good thing but price cutting doesn't help unless you have deep pockets to whether the ongoing storm.

 

You need to set your prices based upon the value you see for your products and then offer service, service, and more service. Look for new ways to innovate and expect them to copy, keep innovating. Customers are smart and they can see what is going on and ultimately it will be the quality of the product and the service you provide that will keep them coming back. Also be careful not to be too open with your pricing..the more open you are the easier for someone to undercut.

 

Look for new ways to expand, just because your in a rural area doesn't mean you have to think rural unless you choose to.

fbrumback Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 12:07am

Quote:

Originally Posted by howsweet 
 

Wow, you are charging so little that to undercut you, she has to charge $1.50 a serving? This is the kind of situation so many keep ignoring.  No one thinks his/her little cake business effects the market prices...  It sounds to me like you may possibly be guilty of some serious undercutting yourself. Who knows?? Maybe she had to lower her prices because you and others charge so little. Maybe this woman is so desperate to make a reasonable amount, she's snapped and is trying to squash the under chargers in any way she can. I'm not saying that's what's happening, but I don't know that it's not.

 

I'm not sure that would be legal for her to do that, but the trade laws were made to protect the little guy and with the assumption that sellers would act in their own best interests (and not under charge). The law was to keep a giant company from coming in and charging less to put the little guy out of business and then raising their prices back up to where they have to be to make a profit. This lady IS the little guy.

 

$1.50 for a small, plain cake fits my demographic and is in line with what other home-based bakers are charging.  My prices range from $1.50 to $3.00, sometimes up to $4.00 per serving depending on complexity, not including delivery and equipment fees.

 

For what it's worth, I too am a "little guy".

morganchampagne Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 2:11am

AAre you turning a profit at $1.50 a serving? I find that hard to believe

fbrumback Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 2:23am
Quote:
Originally Posted by morganchampagne 

Are you turning a profit at $1.50 a serving? I find that hard to believe

A small profit, but yes.  $1.50/serving orders are rare.  My point wasn't my profit margins, but the fact that she's willing to not only threaten me, but undercharge so severely.  One of the cakes in question I designed and quoted at $2.50 per serving, making the cake approximately $70.  My understanding (based on what she told me) was that she took that client by pricing lower and using my design.  I was hoping to find advice from those who have dealt with people who have similar morals as this woman and could offer guidance.

-K8memphis Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 2:34am

op's profit margin and pricing matrix are not the gist of the thread although they were mentioned in passing--her proving to anyone here that she is operating her business according to standards other than her own is not her point nor our business imo--

 

i get to travel through mississippi and arkansas with regularity and as i pass though a lot of these areas there is no question that cakers who are charging $1.50 a serving would be loosing clients, would not be successful would not be able to build a business--

 
op's being bullied by a competitor and i would hope we could offer support rather than more suspicion, doubt and criticism with so much reading between the lines we've started a novella--where the bully became the poor beleaguered victim upthread--
 
how about we offer her some support--
howsweet Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 2:52am

Seems relative to me - sorry if you don't see it. And what people will pay for cake in depressed areas - does that mean everybody is entitled to custom cake?  Because of what exactly?  They sound like custom cakes to me as it was mentioned that her "designs" were being copied.

 

And here's the thing "$1.50 for a small, plain cake fits my demographic and is in line with what other home-based bakers are charging." Using what other home bakers are charging is the last criteria I'd be wanting to base my pricing on. I hope I don't have to explain why.

 

And I would hope that no one else has experienced this kind of thing. It's not like we can all come on and share how we handled it.

fbrumback Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 2:57am

Thank you!

howsweet Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:03am

OP, I can tell you that if someone was threatening me, if I didn't absolutely depend on this income, I'd consider shutting down. Not because it's fair but because the safety of yourself and loved ones is more important. I know I rant on this all the time, but if prices are so low in your area you can barely make any money, maybe it's not worth it. If you figure out what you're really making per hour compared to what you might if you got a part time job, the part time job might come out on top.

 

I didn't mean to negate your plight - this is really scary when people threaten like this. I don't know if this will help at all, but part of the reason the police can't do anything is because these are almost always empty threats (and freedom of speech). Of course you can't operate that way. If your community is really small, I'd be wanting almost everyone to know about this and if you can get a relationship with the police, it will help to have that in place if she actually does something she can be arrested for. Can you get a restraining order? Where I live, you don't need a lawyer to get one, you just go apply.

 

Good luck.

fbrumback Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:09am

Thank you!  I prefer to stay at home with my young children, one who is special needs, and my husband's income supplimented by my caking allows me to do that.  While I'm by no means rolling in cash, it does allow me to cover our grocery costs and some incidentals so that it doesn't all fall on my husband's shoulders.  And I love it.  I'm not going to allow someone to bully me away from something I love.  I truly believe she's full of hot air, but she's full of a lot of it and continues to bully other bakers.  One thing I'm taking away from her behavior is that I need to offer better service and a better product at a fair price.

morganchampagne Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:09am

AI'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. I just thought that was low. I hope that you find a way to cope with the situation

howsweet Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:28am
Quote:
Originally Posted by fbrumback 
 

Thank you!  I prefer to stay at home with my young children, one who is special needs, and my husband's income supplimented by my caking allows me to do that.  While I'm by no means rolling in cash, it does allow me to cover our grocery costs and some incidentals so that it doesn't all fall on my husband's shoulders.  And I love it.  I'm not going to allow someone to bully me away from something I love.  I truly believe she's full of hot air, but she's full of a lot of it and continues to bully other bakers.  One thing I'm taking away from her behavior is that I need to offer better service and a better product at a fair price.

It's good she's probably full of hot air. If you outdo her (and everyone) on the cakes, you can raise your prices.

 

The way I got into this business was taking care of my mom who was completely bedridden and literally couldn't do one thing for herself. It was something I could do from home, so I understand needing to stay home to care for others.  I undercharged for a handful of cakes in the beginning, but the wear and the stress of caring for my mother - someone who had to be turned every couple of hours (among other things) - all by myself,  was such that I was not inclined to do any other work for little, if that makes sense. When I saw how hard I had worked for the first cakes - I almost literally shook my fist at the sky swearing to never charge less than I was worth again (Like Scarlet Ohara - I hope you've seen Gone With the Wind - haha)

baker145 Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:48am

AI am also being bullied by this person and while I don't think she means physical violence I do not like the idea of violence against my business either. I am a young baker just starting out and this is very disheartening. The thought that she would publicly slander my business for no reason except that she feels threatened makes me want to stop baking.

howsweet Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 3:53am

Quote:

Originally Posted by baker145 

I am also being bullied by this person and while I don't think she means physical violence I do not like the idea of violence against my business either. I am a young baker just starting out and this is very disheartening. The thought that she would publicly slander my business for no reason except that she feels threatened makes me want to stop baking.


This may be about as rude an awakening as a person could get in starting out, but the business world is tough. There are a lot of people willing to do anything to get ahead. All you have to do is study a little history and see what people have done for power and money in the past. Human nature hasn't changed.  The sayng, it's a jungle out there, is a cliche for a reason.

kikiandkyle Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 4:01am

AYou need to literally rise above it - get out of this budget market that she has decided is hers and market to the more discerning consumer in your area, sure there are fewer of them but you only need one or two orders in place of six or eight to make the same amount of money, and you don't have to work as much.

howsweet Posted 1 Dec 2013 , 4:08am

That's good advice in my opinion ^^^

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