AOkay, not really terror, but I just went with that because it's catchy, and I need to get out of this funk.
I had a client who is a friend of my little sister. A few days before the start of June, I was commissioned by her to do 25 baby bottle cookies for her baby shower announcements. I had never done cut out cookies before, but I always wanted to try them. Even though it was short notice, I decided to give this order a try. The mommy-to-be would also request my services for her baby shower exactly one month away from the announcement date. I was obviously happy to oblige such a request and began planning right away for the orders. Upon receipt of her cookie order, she also placed an order for a caramel cake for the following week. And after that cake, she requested a chocolate cake for her dad for Father's Day. An order which she requested a larger sized cake for the smaller sized price. I honored her request because she was ordering so much within a months time and I assumed we had a really good business relationship going at this point.
Fast forward two weeks later and I have finished the baby shower cake and set to deliver it by 2:30pm. It was gorgeous, but there were some minor issues.
1. I used cornstarch on my decorations not knowing to what extent it would dry out my fondant. 2. The weather here had been mild so far this summer, but for some strange reason the temperature on delivery day shot up to nearly 90 degrees. Even after refrigeration, the buttercream melted, and it showed under the warped fondant. Bubbles and dips in one side created small bulges in only the top layer. :[ 3. I live in pothole city, after a 50 minute drive (I got lost thanks to my gps), and with me holding onto the cake for dear life, a few decorations broke from the jitter and jerk of the car ride. :[ 4. I got lost. Google maps took me right past the venue a good 15-20 miles off course. I had to back track and by then I was an hour and 15 minutes late delivering the cake. :[ 5. I did not take a photo before I delivered the cake. :[ [IMG ALT=""]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3257556/width/500/height/1000[/IMG] [IMG ALT=""]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3257557/width/500/height/1000[/IMG] [IMG ALT=""]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3257558/width/500/height/1000[/IMG] [IMG ALT=""]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3257559/width/500/height/1000[/IMG] [IMG ALT=""]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3257560/width/500/height/1000[/IMG]
When I finally arrived, I did a quick fix of the fondant strap that cracked and split apart, and tried my best to fix the bulge from the melted buttercream. Upon receiving the cake, the client was smiling, happy, and had many compliments about the cake. Her mom didn't look too pleased due to the delay. I offered the client another caramel cake for no charge for the delay as I had gotten lost. She declined and maintained that all was well. Or so I thought...
Later I contacted the client when I made it home to apologize for the bulge from the melted buttercream, and to make sure everything went well with the cake. She told me not to worry as I couldn't control the weather, and that the cake "looked great".
So, I'm thinking :D
Then... My little sister attends the baby shower with less than stellar reviews from the client (her friend). She tells my sister that I was over two hours late delivering the cake, and that the decorations were broken and the fondant and buttercream were melted. :[
I contacted her yet again to ask if there was any problems and got a long rant about everything previously mentioned. She stated that all of the things that went wrong were excuses and that because she had payed they were unacceptable. I offered my sincere apologies and again offered to make it up to her with a free cake or a partial refund of the cost of the cake. She chose a refund, but wants a full refund instead of a partial.
Obviously I am devastated, and a little discouraged because I would never intentionally mess up someone's order for their special day. I kind of feel like she thinks I ruined her cake on purpose.
I'd love any advice or maybe just to know I'm not alone in this cake disaster. Can anyone help me? Please? :[
Below I've attached photos of the cake.
She isn't entitled to a full refund....PERIOD!
She ordered cake for her event==she got cake for her event. She ordered cake for her guests to eat==she got cake for her guests to eat. It wasn't inedible....just lumpy.
I believe a cake is 2 factors for a happy client--- taste and looks. Obviously taste was there so that takes care of 50% of the issue so that leaves looks as failing. Now it really was minor flaws so it was about 25% off. That would make a 25% refund for her.
You have been generous and offered her free cakes, more than one occasion and she refused. Her choice so no free cake. I would just remit 25% of the total amount of her order and be done with it. Move on-- it really wasn't THAT bad. We are our own worst critics. Don't feed into her anymore. Remain professional
I'm sorry about all the problems. Unfortunately, things do happen. As professionals we need to accept responsibility, (set aside any rationalizations), apologize, and give a full refund. Then work hard at keeping our standards high.
No Refund! Refer to the customers initial comment that everything was okay and not to worry. Also, was the cake eaten? If so, then of course you wouldn't give a refund. I'm sure they served the cake and thought it was delicious. That is a lot of cake! Which takes a lot of time to make and put together! It doesn't look that bad at all. Minor flaws, is all. That little bunny is flawless and the fondant covered board was a great idea and also looks great. The name and name tag ALL look great! Just move on. Just say, I'm sorry, I cannot refund the full amount as I have X amount of hours in the baking, assembling and decorating of the cake. A discount or a free cake in the near future is ALL you need to do. Sorry this happened to you.
Hmmm...I'd offer her 50% back, then see if she takes it. If she doesn't and insists on the full amount I think, given the melting buttercream and lateness, I'd give her the full refund and put her on the no-cake-for-you list, The latter because the whole situation wouldn't be somethng I'd want to revisit, and also because she haggled the price of a prior cake with you. Actually, I think she'd be on the no-cake list regardless since she said it was fine at delivery then turned around and complained. Anything I made for her in the future would make me nervous that the same thing would happen, so no more.
The argument that the cake was eaten isn't relevant to anything. When they have a cake they have to serve it even if it's lumpy. And if I was an unhappy customer the last thing I'd want is a coupon for a percentage off a future order. If I was unhappy enough with something that I asked for money back, I wouldn't be ordering from that person again. That's like when Delta airlines screwed up the wifi service I had paid for and when I asked for a refund they said they'd give me a voucher for a future flight. No, I want my money back, suckers. I didn't get what I ordered, I want the payment back, not a voucher so that they can potentially screw that up too.
AI always wonder about that, when people say no refund, they ate it!! What, is the customer supposed to stop the party, bag the evidence, run out and get a grocery store cake? Talk about being even more pissed once the time came to deal with the decorator afterwards.
AThanks everyone for your input, help, and advice! I appreciate hearing so many different perspectives to help me make an informed decision. I have decided to issue a final apology and a partial refund to this client tomorrow. I now know the necessary steps to take in hopes of having a lesser chance of repeating the mistakes that I could have prevented. And although even doing that won't ever fully guarantee that no future disasters happen, I will just continue to trust in my talents and techniques. Now I just have to hope she responds to my request to actually deliver the refund. Thanks so much again for all of your help! <3
You most definitely owe her a refund! I can't believe these other posters saying other wise .... Put yourself in their shoes. They've planned a beautiful party and are counting on a beautiful centrepiece cake to go along. They received a cake that was hours late and looked pretty sad. I cam sure the cake looked lovely at your house, but unfortunately part of our job as cake decorators is to ensure the cake gets where it needs to be in one piece.
Take this as a lesson learned, refund her the cost of the cake, and try to do better next time.
AI guess a full refund is in order then. I just want to do the right thing. I was seriously confused because she stated twice to me that the cake looked great, and that I couldn't control the weather. Then, upon speaking with my sister, it turns out she had so many complaints. I just didn't know what to believe. But I want to be done with this so I can move forward. I've put myself down enough over this cake, but no amount of my own sympathy will change anything that has happened. I'm baking for my life and to make lovely and delicious desserts for people who need/want them. I can't continue to do that if I am stuck on my own disappointments. Thanks again for all the advice. <3
Don't be discouraged, just think of this cake as an lessons learned. You learned about cornstarch for example, and that you cannot trust your gps :) Obviously your client should not pay a penny for a cake in that condition (cute bunny though), then add the fact that it was so very late, you simply cannot charge her nor blame her for being upset. I would not only refund her money, I would also offer her a free cake to prove that you are good at what you do. Bad word of mouth can be quite damaging, its better to shut her up with a fabulous cake :)
I have no idea what's the industry standard (or if there is one) on refunds for this type of thing but I would think that at least a partial refund of the price of the cake is in order. The cake still looked pretty good but wasn't perfect and you were late. No, you didn't do it on purpose but it also wasn't the client's fault and an hour and 15 minutes is a long time. If I was the customer, I'd be pretty annoyed too (and would probably be wondering why the bakery didn't bother checking the directions beforehand). I agree with costumeczar that an offer for a free cake at some future point in time isn't satisfactory.
As to why the client didn't say anything, I think it may simply be that speaking up is hard for a lot of people. People may be unhappy with something and willing to talk about it with a third party (hence your sister hearing the tale) but unable/unwilling to confront the actual person they are upset with. It can be awkward. Maybe she didn't want a to get into it at the party, or maybe, after hearing you apologize for the mistakes, she was hoping for a refund or partial refund rather than an offer of a free future cake.
But these things happen. From the look of the cake and its decorations, you are quite talented, so just use it as a learning lesson and move on. :)
In my own experience, I once delivered a cake late--1 hour late, my fault! The cake was beautiful and remained beautiful throughout the event and after. The only part they were upset about was the tardiness. I refunded them 50% because some of the guests attending the party are my customers and friends. Doing that helped me although I never got another order from her (which was fine with me). Those who knew me (that attended the party) knew that I would never be late on purpose because I take so much pride in my cakes. Oh, and I got a few new customers out of that party.
So, yes, I believe a full refund is in order. I tried to imagine myself in her position, and, yes, I would be upset too if my cake was: 1. delivered late; 2. the appearance of the cake was less than stellar; and 3. I spent good money trying to make sure the party was beautiful and paid for a beautiful cake which was going to be the highlight of my party table.
Don't beat yourself down on this; every unfortunate experience teaches us how to be a better baker/decorator/business person. I love the cake--especially the color scheme, bunny, and details.
Beautiful cake, pastrypiper. Sorry you went through such a tough time just to deliver. I'd give a full refund as well :)
Yes to what Lunita said as well, some customers won't tell you directly if they're unhappy about a cake straight away, especially if a party is in full swing.
Sorry that this happened to you. I think you've had a lot of useful advice already but I just wanted to say that I thought your bunny was so sweet!!!
Also I wanted to chip in regarding maybe why the client didn't mention anything at delivery, Lunita made a point about people who find it difficult to speak up or don't enjoy confrontation. I wanted to touch on this because I had a similar situation to this for my wedding cake. Well, similar in that I wasn't happy with what was delivered. The cake that was delivered to my wedding was diabolical - seriously yours looks a hundred times better, even with the bulges and the broken decorations! Unfortunately the cake was delivered before I arrived to our reception, and in fact by the time I saw it, everybody was already in the venue and would've seen it too, so I couldn't ask for it to be taken away. I was so bitterly disappointed with the look of the cake and I felt even more upset when it came time to cut the cake as the baker had created a top tier for us to cut made up half of fruitcake and the bottom half was polystyrene - which was not agreed - so in all our pictures we are struggling to cut the cake when we hit the dummy cake and couldn't figure out why the cake got so hard all of a sudden - but that's another story!
Anyways, I never complained to him afterwards, only because I felt that even if he had given me a full refund he still ruined our cake and having the money back in my pocket wouldn't change that so what was the point? I'm not at all suggesting that is the case for your client because I don't think the cake actually looked that bad although it wasn't perfect. But the point I'm trying to make here is also that even though these things happen sometimes, certainly in my instance the cake didn't ruin the day - My mother did that all by herself! But seriously, it never ruined my wedding and I'm sure it didn't ruin your clients baby shower and with time she will learn to laugh at it as well.