Groom-Zilla - A Story Of A Struggling Cake Artist & The Client She Already Knows Is Gonna Give Her A Headache...

Business By Moniquea Updated 29 Jan 2015 , 10:04pm by cakebaby2

Moniquea Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 5:06pm
post #1 of 40

 So I've been working hard.  Like Live Cake Challenge Saturday, Wedding Show Sunday & Networking 2-3 times a week, meetings with jerks and clients, marketing, kids, husband, bills ...blah, blah, blah... made myself sick and still going - hard.  No big deal really, I'm sure you work hard too.

 

I won't go into how I did a cake tasting against my better judgment but I did.  Bride was quiet which is weird to me bc I'm such a loud mouth, maybe the Hispanic side of my bi-cultural upbringing or a side effect of my ADD.  The mother was nicer but closer in age to me so maybe that counts for something, maybe it doesn't.  But the Groom... ugh.

 

To describe this groom I have to go back more than a year to a 'risk' I took.  For years I wanted to go into business.  Never fitting in with any crowd completely and turning people off, unbeknowst to me because of my ADD, I've had problems keeping a job for more than a year.  Cake decorating has been a love since little but like most, it wasn't explored until my children went to school.  I saw it as a way of earning money and not having to face the criticism of others or my boss for being too slow.  Slow was actually a benefit.  Despite my loudmouth ways, constant rejection has made me more shy than people think I am and what I'd like to admit, so making a phone call that could take my 5-6 year dream come true scared me half to death.  But I did.

 

$1,000 later I had what I thought was my own commercial space for 5-6 months.  I was thrilled and terrified.  Turns out I should've been even more scared.  I was completely taken by my new-landlords ambitions and soon to be business partner.  5 Months later my knees buckled as I saw his retributive text message on my phone.  He rented me the space without consent from his landlord then never gave me my money back, so I had taken the courageous step and filed a small claims suit.  Maybe telling is the computers went down before I got to file but I waited and did it anyway - I was sick to my stomach.  I will never see the money, even if I win but I finally fought back against a bully for the first time in my life.

 

This groom reminds me of him.

 

So now that I've taken the long route to my point, I ask you, as a small new business who is desperate to pay for rent, insurance, permits and supplies - do you turn down a cake because the customer is a slime ball?  I already took a deposit.  And because of my ADD didn't make the connection until I was driving home.  I knew I didn't like the way he dominated the conversation and continued to insist the cake look exactly like the picture despite my honest 'I'll do my BEST' but can't guarantee this.  There is a small detail he wants, I told him I don't think I can.  He insisted.  I told him I'd have to be paid to make one - hoping he'd say never mind.  So I offered to refer to him a florist and a photographer and joked with all this extra work I am doing he'd better not give me any headaches if I can't make this detail. He also told me & his mom anything over the budget, he and his wife would pay - NOT his mother.  With the check his mother counts out $25 for me to make the sample.  Quickly I quirked back - I thought you were paying anything extra.  He chuckled and his mom made light of it and I AM DISGUSTED ...  They have plenty of time to look for someone else but I need the money and am excited by this challenging cake but wonder if it will be worth it in the end... I will be sending a contract soon - just don't know if I should be sending the check & cash back instead.

 

So tell me, now that you know more about me and my situation - what you think I should do.  Suck it up and be a 'business' owner or follow my gut and pray the work comes from somewhere else or something else -TIA

39 replies
reginaherrin Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 5:51pm
post #2 of 40

That is a very detailed and hard cake to do and you would need a lot of experience to pull that one off.  How much experience do you have with details like this?  Do you really think you can re-create something like this?  If so then do the cake.  If not then I wouldn't do it.  If you do agree to do the cake and it doesn't turn out like he wants it then he will come back and probably demand a refund.  You have to be truthful to your customers about your skill level and what you can and can't do.  You are the professional and know what you can do, not your customer.  They will just assume you can do whatever they want. 

leah_s Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 6:06pm
post #3 of 40

I had a domineering groom like that once.  He kept saying, I want this cake EXACTLY like the one on display.  I explained that the display cake was a dummy, and I couldn't promise real cake would be EXACTLY identical, but it would be very close.  NO, he wanted a guarantee of EXACTLY the same.

 

I sent him packin.  Had disaster written all over it.

MimiFix Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 6:11pm
post #4 of 40
Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 

 

So tell me, now that you know more about me and my situation - what you think I should do. 

 

That was a very detailed post with far too much painful, extraneous information. I'm  not sure what you're telling us, but my heart goes out to you. You asked what we think you should do. If I were you I would reconsider being a business owner, because it's not just about the cake. There are too many potential problems waiting to happen.

-K8memphis Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 6:16pm
post #5 of 40

i hope that you are re-creating the same size and shape of the cake--  square, tall square & round, diminutive topper-if you can pipe, you can do that easy peasy--it's balanced and over piped it's not stencil perfect so that makes it that much more forgiving to reproduce--

 

as far as the need to have bff type clients--nice work if you can get it but other than that you gotta make hay while the sun shines as the old saying goes--if you can fulfill the expectation--do it--when you have more than enough clients and money to pay the bills then you can to pick & choose in the meantime groomzillas gotta get their cakes somewhere...

 

good for you for sticking up for yourself--ain't easy and boy are the boogers out there to getcha--keep up the good work--

 

best to you

-K8memphis Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 6:32pm
post #6 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by -K8memphis 
 

i hope that you are re-creating the same size and shape of the cake--  square, tall square & round, diminutive topper-

 

 

because this is where 'exactly like that' goes off in the ditch forever--i mean if they want  40 servings or 200 it just ain't never gonna get to 'exactly'

 

had a job where the boss would write up the baking schedule according to the servings needed then sh*t their pants when an 'exactly' cake wasn't -- cannot ever be exact if you don't bake the right sizes & shape--

 

the profile has to be kept intact 

 

Moniquea Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 6:58pm
post #7 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by MimiFix 
 

 

That was a very detailed post with far too much painful, extraneous information. I'm  not sure what you're telling us, but my heart goes out to you. You asked what we think you should do. If I were you I would reconsider being a business owner, because it's not just about the cake. There are too many potential problems waiting to happen.

Well MimiFix,

 

You picked up on exactly what I am wondering myself - should I even be in business.  My level of detail and extraneous information may be true but - it's just who I am and how I talk.  I explain my background not just because I find it relevant but know that there may be others feeling like me, maybe just not as willing to expose it and I would like to think I am not just asking for myself but someone else who either now, in the past or future may learn from my experience.  Kinda the point of these boards :)

 

My fear is as much as I want this, is it something I am willing to learn from and work on?  If there is one thing I have learned is that every job comes with its pitfalls.  I love working with all of my clients and this is the first where I guess I am looking for feedback on whether my 1) 'history' & previous experiences leading me the wrong way or 2) trying to warn me.  If I can overcome one bully maybe I can learn how to deal with them as no one in any situation or job or business will EVER completely avoid them or be successful without a strategy to deal with them.  Avoiding them is not dealing with them and only postpones the issue.  By filing my small claims suit I did not give my power away - does that make sense?

 

Anyway, I have some more thinking to do.  And I think it has more to do with skill level.  I have written to the photographer for the bakers permission.  If i can not receive it I will offer a different design or a refund.  I need the money but can't risk a single person bringing down what I am working so hard to build because of 'his' issues.  Not that refunding his money will be good for me either - he already told me how he got a refund from the photographer....

Moniquea Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 7:21pm
post #8 of 40

I think that came out wrong... what I mean is

 

1) Is this an opportunity for growth, if so what tips can you offer

 

or

 

2) Is this a warning about impending doom - don't do it until you have confidence from tips gained from question 1.

 

But quit the business and run... not yet ;0)  Dealt with a hotel wedding coordinator who basically told me bottom line - people/business only care about the price.  If I listened to him I would've quit Tuesday.  Men are harder but not impossible, I'll figure it out ;)  I choose to keep the faith and ask for help  

reginaherrin Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 7:23pm
post #9 of 40

To be a successful business you have to learn to be professional.  This not only means you know how to deal with difficult customers but having a professional manner and knowing how to deal with business problems.  This will/should have nothing to do with your personality, you should still be able to be the person you are and still be a professional looking/sounding business person.  If this is something you do already then great you should stay in business.  If not then owning your own business just might not be the right fit for you.  I don't know you personally but just by reading your post I think it may be the latter.  I wanted to add that the 2 men you talked about in your post don't seem like a bully.  The one that rented you the kitchen was just a bad person scamming you out of your money and the groom is just a very picky, has to have his exact way all the time.  I wouldn't call either of those bullies since they have done nothing to actually bully.  So I don't think your problem will be overcoming bullies but just learning how to deal with difficult customers. 

Moniquea Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 8:09pm
post #10 of 40

True.  The first was and is a bad person.  The second has so many of the same traits I wonder if he is picky and a bad person - letting his mother pay like that with-out a Thank you, grossed me out.  You had to be there to understand...

 

I am a professional.  Of that I have no doubt.  Am I perfect? No.  I believe there are different levels of professionalism and that can vary on the client, profession and so on.  Thank you very much for that insight.  I will look into how to deal with difficult people - If I can improve that then I can make better decisions.

 

Learning how to deal with difficult business situations, well they didn't teach that in business school.  I've worked in my past life with people screaming in my face about things that were out of my control for and solved problems that had more educated people asking me how I did it ...BUT they weren't my clients.  I bend over backwards for my clients, they don't always thank you for it but I do it to improve my skills and service.  Dealing with people who want that and more... for less?  I've never had a tolerance for but now I need the money.  So I'm questioning how to deal with it and if necessary - if I even should.  But again, I'm not quitting.  A bump in the road is not a reason to quit driving.

howsweet Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 8:36pm
post #11 of 40

Regarding the ADD, are you medicated? If not and if this is getting in the way of functioning effectively, you might want to look into it. ADD is worsened by trauma. I have a cousin who was severe ADHD and I found out years later his ADHD was drastically exacerbated by the fact that his own father molested and beat him and his mother knew and did nothing. And I know what you mean about the negative feedback. I used to tutor him in math and when he would have trouble concentrating and get distracted, his grandmother would say things like, Jeff just doesn't want to do good.  Everyone close was cruel to him, albeit some unknowingly. Stress does terrible things to the brain and different people react differently depending on their personal make up.

 

My point is that even if you are being medicated, you may need counseling to deal with the negative responses you've gotten from people all your life, even if there was no abuse. And even though you feel like you've dealt with things ok, especially since you are stetching your limits and going into business which is difficult for anyone without ADD or other problems.

 

Regarding the cake order:  The question is can you do this cake? If yes, then there's no reason not to take the order.

 

Except, of course, for the issue of the groom...I think you need to revisit the conversation with him and reiterate that no cake is identical, but it will look very similar. If that's not good enough, then the ball is in his court and he can walk away.  Don't keep talking to fill the silence or make jokes to make everyone feel comfortable, let him answer. If his answer is again, not it has to be exact, then you have to say, sorry, I can't do your cake. (You might consider showing him examples of cakes you've done from a photo)

 

And you said there was something you didn't think you could do? Then I'm not quite sure how you can accept the order. I do plenty of things I've never done before, but if I don't think I can do them, then I have to refuse the order.

 

 I think you're to be commended for getting past ADD issues and fulfilling your aspirations. I wish you all the best! :) 

costumeczar Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 10:23pm
post #12 of 40

You don't need permission from anyone to copy a cake, there isn't a copyright on cake designs. However, there's no way that you're going to be able to EXACTLY copy that cake or any other one, because you're human, not a machine. Everyone has a different style, and no matter how you try to copy someone else's style it's going to look like your style to a certain extent.

 

If the groom continues to insist that it be EXACTLY the same I'd turn the job down. If he's told you already about how he got a refund from the photographer like it's a badge of honor for him you can be sure he'll have a complaint about something on the cake not being exactly right.

-K8memphis Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 10:43pm
post #13 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 
 

  A bump in the road is not a reason to quit driving.

 

 

stunning--insert clapping hands smilie face--

 

*=D> applause

jenmat Posted 12 Apr 2014 , 11:00pm
post #14 of 40

AI guess I have a different take on whether to take the order. As a small business owner, I have the responsibility to protect my business. Almost like protecting my child from those who might hurt her, if warning bells go off, I need to respond. There is a reason I no longer work at a large business that needs to take every client.

By not taking this order you are possibly loosing money. But he has already expressed the ability he has to get money back from a photographer, and made it clear what he expects of you even after you have stated your limits. The possibility of doing the work and then having to issue a refund and deal with bad publicity may be very likely. The best of us can't copy a design like that 100%. Heck you can't even see most of the cake other than the front! If he made you uncomfortable then use your best judgement. Mine would be to send him packing.

BeesKnees578 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 3:07am
post #15 of 40

AIf he won't accept the "I will do my best to replicate but can't guarantee it" clause you should have in your contract....RUN!

I agree with jenmat. He WILL try to get his money back if you agree to this and it doesn't come out to his expectations. Even if it's perfectly gorgeous.

Normally I would just reassure them of my best efforts and tell people that even the original artist, depending on the design, couldn't even replicate their art to the letter. And this design is one of them....If it's all freehand, there is no way to get it exact. Similar, yes. Exact, no.

I would decline if he's not willing to agree to the replication clause in your contract. Especially since you've already told him.

Make sure that your contract says something to the effect that full refunds are only given in the event that their cake becomes undeliverable while in your possession and partial refunds are only given in the amount of the value of any damaged decorative elements (or cake) that occurs while in your possession. If a cake appears to have structural issues after delivery, they will be addressed after pictures of damaged cake from all angles have been examined to determine the cause of damage. No pictures, there is nothing to discuss.

And dowel and support the heck out of that cake!!!

Because if you take this order you will have to cover Every. Single. One. Of. Your. Bases. Because you know he'll be looking for free cake.

BeesKnees578 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 3:25am
post #16 of 40

AAnd was him telling you that he got money back from the photog a thinly veiled threat?

It sounds like something my FIL would say to let someone know that he expects perfection. ...or else they're gonna get an earful! I wouldn't want to be a vendor for him either!

lorieleann Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 6:27am
post #17 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

 

If the groom continues to insist that it be EXACTLY the same I'd turn the job down. If he's told you already about how he got a refund from the photographer like it's a badge of honor for him you can be sure he'll have a complaint about something on the cake not being exactly right.

 This ^^^   I bet the original designer of that cake couldn't reproduce it exactly either.  The piping is too organic and there are too many details to get exactly the same. 

 

And that photographer comment.  That right there would be enough to make me turn down the order. If you have the quality in your work, then you will have the customers to book at weekend--maybe not as elaborate or high ticket of an order, but something less stressful. 

Tammy0 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 7:34am
post #18 of 40

AThis post was was all over the place, so I'm not really sure what answers you're looking for, but my first thought was - a client with specifics isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't see anything "Groom-zilla" about him. Two - totally unprofessional to joke about who is paying. It doesn't matter what the client let's you be privy to, you have to keep boundaries. And, three - Why would you ever agree to copying someone else's design?! Forget skill level, what about integrity?? I get using the same techniques or being inspired by a design, etc. but copying an exact cake?

If you're just copying, you are no longer an artist. No one really commented on this... is this an acceptable thing to do in the cake industry? I've seen people do something very similar after seeing my work. That's fine - as artist, it's normal to be inspired by other artists. But, if I saw an exact copy of my work, I would be really disappointed. And, there is NO WAY I would ever copy someone else's work. I would be embarrassed.

morganchampagne Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 7:51am
post #19 of 40

ANothing to add except this sounds like a lot of stress for you and it looks like it's not worth it. There's a lot going on and you just don't need to deal with it. He sounds like a problem, one that you don't really need to deal with seriously.

Claire138 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 9:23am
post #20 of 40

Most cake decorators get into this job bc we LOVE it, seriously, I have to meet one who isn't doing it bc it's something they adore. The business side is difficult as are some clients, however, if it is getting too much maybe you need to take a step back to think about if you really want to head down this road. 

As for copying or taking ideas from other cakes I don't see anything wrong in that personally, I recently made a cake for an engagement party that was copied from a beautiful cake my client had seen. I contacted the woman who made the cake and asked if she minded, she was as sweet as pie and said no and even gave me some tips on how to do the exact design. 

costumeczar Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 12:52pm
post #21 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claire138 
 

Most cake decorators get into this job bc we LOVE it, seriously, I have to meet one who isn't doing it bc it's something they adore. The business side is difficult as are some clients, however, if it is getting too much maybe you need to take a step back to think about if you really want to head down this road.

As for copying or taking ideas from other cakes I don't see anything wrong in that personally, I recently made a cake for an engagement party that was copied from a beautiful cake my client had seen. I contacted the woman who made the cake and asked if she minded, she was as sweet as pie and said no and even gave me some tips on how to do the exact design.

I don't adore it, it's a job. I really like parts of it and really hate parts of it, and that's normal. If you're looking for a job that you love all the time and love every part of, you're going to be looking for a long time.

 

Copying is no big deal, and the idea that copying doesn't make you an "artist" is a load. First of all, I have a personal issue with people yapping about being artists becasue they decorate cakes, so that's my own bias, But if you know anything about art you know that many artists do copy, either themselves or others. Degas and the ballerinas, Monet and the waterliles, there are plenty of each, it's called a series or a derivative work. And the idea that cake decorators come up with totally new deisngs on their own is pretty much BS...everyone gets inspiration from somewhere, and there's not a whole lot new under the sun. People need to relax on the "copying" thing.

Claire138 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 1:17pm
post #22 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

I don't adore it, it's a job. I really like parts of it and really hate parts of it, and that's normal. If you're looking for a job that you love all the time and love every part of, you're going to be looking for a long time.

 

I stand corrected:lol:

Moniquea Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 1:39pm
post #23 of 40

Thank you, thank you all -

 

When I wrote this yesterday - I was having a moment of self-doubt.  Not just of the job but of myself...sometimes you need a smack of reality and a small vote of confidence.  I'm back, so to speak and looking at things through a clearer lens, thanks to all of you.

 

I am going to practice doing this cake, in different methods.  My original belief is that the organic feel put it more in my skill level.  However to avoid the black bleeding on my SMBC in the heat of October and guests with black stained mouths, I had planned on making royal Icing plaques.  But after some more thought I'm not sure this will work during set-up.  So I'm going to work on it, if I work on it and he isn't happy with my samples I think it will be easier for us both to part ways - amicably.

 

As far as the copyright, I have received permission from other bakers before and while I know it's not 100% needed its something I like to do respect others in our profession.  Also, it is not a exact replication as their budget won't allow it, so away with one tier and 2 rose filled spacers.  It will be 3 tiers, a change in the design of the bottom tier and with one spacer filled (Depending on cost) with black calla Lilly's ... that I am helping them find but made it clear I am not a florist and will refer them to one for the wedding & cake.  Also a photographer.  

 

I've also decided to refund the $25 by adding it to deliver or something else, professionalism means nothing if you have to walk over your morals to do it.

 

Again, thank you all - I love this community!!!

costumeczar Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 4:48pm
post #24 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by Claire138 
 

 

I stand corrected:lol:

I think the only job I could find that I would adore would be profesisonal potato chip tester.

Claire138 Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 6:23pm
post #25 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

I think the only job I could find that I would adore would be profesisonal potato chip tester.

 

I would LOVE that job

costumeczar Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 7:42pm
post #26 of 40

check out this list, potato chip tester is on it. But who would do number ten, that's just ugh...

 

I wouldn't mind painting eyeballs all day, and designing clothes for Barbies would be fun.

 

http://www.careerbuilder.com/Article/CB-813-Changing-Jobs-20-Odd-Jobs/

-K8memphis Posted 13 Apr 2014 , 9:49pm
post #27 of 40

i got my hopes way up about the potato chip tester gig but when you read the fine print there you're not getting to eat them after all -- discarding potato chips is nearly criminal -- come to think of it they would have to pay me to get me to throw them away -- i think my cellulite and i will not go pro on this one--remaining amateur and loving it--just one batch of lipton onion soup sour cream dip away from heaven... :-D

SugaredSaffron Posted 14 Apr 2014 , 11:31am
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

I don't adore it, it's a job. I really like parts of it and really hate parts of it, and that's normal. If you're looking for a job that you love all the time and love every part of, you're going to be looking for a long time.

 

Copying is no big deal, and the idea that copying doesn't make you an "artist" is a load. First of all, I have a personal issue with people yapping about being artists becasue they decorate cakes, so that's my own bias, But if you know anything about art you know that many artists do copy, either themselves or others. Degas and the ballerinas, Monet and the waterliles, there are plenty of each, it's called a series or a derivative work. And the idea that cake decorators come up with totally new deisngs on their own is pretty much BS...everyone gets inspiration from somewhere, and there's not a whole lot new under the sun. People need to relax on the "copying" thing.

:party: Sing it!

howboutbake Posted 14 Apr 2014 , 12:37pm
post #29 of 40

Just wanted to add that by reading your first post Moniquea, it sounds as though you are still struggling with your ADD somewhat. No judgements here! I'm a behaviour interventionist, so I am just making an observation based on what I am familiar with :smile:

 

I am sure you know all of this but there are there are a ton of great resources out there on dealing with adult ADD, and I am sure there are a bunch related to running a business with ADD! You can even do double duty by getting the audiobook versions and listening to them while you practice :grin: 

 

 

Congrats on running a business and pushing on despite all of the hurdles you've encountered!  

 

 

All this being said, I would ditch the dude.  It stinks that you took a deposit already, but hey, it's a simple matter of returning it and apologizing.  The size and complexity of that cake alone is enough to be crazy making, even if you had a lovely, sweet, forgiving couple. Add the anal retentive, penny pinching, refund guy and it's just too much in my opinion. 

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 14 Apr 2014 , 1:12pm
post #30 of 40

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 
 

 

 

I am going to practice doing this cake, in different methods.  My original belief is that the organic feel put it more in my skill level.  However to avoid the black bleeding on my SMBC in the heat of October and guests with black stained mouths, I had planned on making royal Icing plaques.  But after some more thought I'm not sure this will work during set-up.  So I'm going to work on it, if I work on it and he isn't happy with my samples I think it will be easier for us both to part ways - amicably.

Are they paying for these samples? It's one thing for you to do a practice round or 2 on your own, but if they requested and are receiving samples or trial run cakes from you, they should be paying for these.

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