People Won't Take No For An Answer

Business By BrandyCakes83 Updated 14 Jul 2014 , 4:12pm by embersmom

BrandyCakes83 Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 4:06am
post #1 of 19

The last SEVEN quote requests I have done have gone basically like this....

Potential customer:  Hi!  I had your cake at ___'s party and it was AMAZING!  I want something like this for my kids' party.  ::insert picture of obscenely detailed time consuming masterpiece::
Me:  I'm so glad you enjoyed ____'s cake!  I had so much fun making that one. 
A cake similar to the one in the picture is going to run you around $150.
PT:  Oh.  Hmmm well what if you made this change (a change that basically means doing only 4 handmade fondant figures instead of 5.)  THEN how much would it be?
Me:  Well we'd have to come up with a new design so it would be balanced and beautiful  What kind of budget are we working with? I'm sure we can come up with something FANTASTIC.
PT:  I need 30-50 servings and I need to keep it around $60.
Me:  I see.  I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to make you a cake like that for $60. 

PT:  Oh.  Well can you do a similar design but on a sheet cake and I'll buy (whatever toys) to put on top.
 

This is where I start to get frustrated.  I can't find a nice way to say "Sticking toys on sheet cakes is grocery store shenanigans I do not participate in.  Frankly, if you sent me that picture with a $60 budget there is no way we are going to be able to bridge that gap."

It's not that $60 is chump change.  I'll churn out $60 cakes all day long but they are basic and don't require doing 5 sketches trying to please a nitpicky customer. 

 

This is becoming the norm but I refuse to lower my prices below market value just because that's all they can afford. I'd rather make one cake a month for pedicure money than accommodate these jackass customers that are crawling out the woodwork.  For every customer that will happily shell out for a cake there are literally 15 that want to haggle.

 

It's getting beyond ridiculous.   

18 replies
Cakecrazy25 Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 6:00am
post #2 of 19

ARight on! I agree. I've learned to ask what their budget is along with the number of serving needed right after I thank them for contacting me. When their budget doesn't match the serving or design concept...I offer them what can be produced for that amount. I call them representative cakes or cupcakes to highlight the special occasion. Not everyone will get a piece but it serves it's purpose as a conversation and picture taking piece.

SweetOutlaws Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 6:57am
post #3 of 19

I agree as well, people need to realize, that if they want a lot of work and design done to their cake especially with fondant, then it's not going to cheap, they don't understand all the work and hard labor that goes into making their cake. If people today did understand the concept then they would understand. 

 

Yes asking up front what their budget, and how many servings is a key point, and also asking what type of design do they want to have. 

cakesbycathy Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 1:10pm
post #4 of 19

I know it's frustrating!  Most people have no idea what's involved in a custom cake.  They see all these fabulous cakes on Pintrest and figure $50 should be what it cost.

 

I think you are handling it the best you can.  You're asking up front about their budget and letting them know in a nice way you can't make the wow!  cake with their budget.

 

When they ask if you can make the sheet cake and they'll buy the toys I think really the only response you can give at that point is to say "I don"t make sheet cakes.  If you want a cake like that you'll probably have to get it at Walmart or (insert name of local grocery store here)."

BrandisBaked Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 2:30pm
post #5 of 19

ASo would you rather have someone just never respond after your first quote? Or have an opportunity to maybe do a less expensive cake and still make a profit? Seems to me like they still want YOU to do their cake but are looking for a way to get something within their budget. It's not haggling, because they aren't asking you to lower your price - they are asking what you can do within their price range. Am I missing something? That's what happens in business...

As to the comment of "people need to learn...", how will they learn unless they ask? But yet you get so frustrated by their questions?

MimiFix Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 3:17pm
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandisBaked 

So would you rather have someone just never respond after your first quote? Or have an opportunity to maybe do a less expensive cake and still make a profit? Seems to me like they still want YOU to do their cake but are looking for a way to get something within their budget... That's what happens in business...

 

You do sound very frustrated. I agree with BrandisBaked, this is part of the custom cake business. People will take no as your answer if you say, "No, I cannot help you, thank you and good luck." Or something pleasant that ends the conversation.

 

If you give them alternatives they will continue. Decide at what point you cannot help and say No. Just say no. 

maybenot Posted 13 Jul 2014 , 7:54pm
post #7 of 19

When they balk at your initial price, ask for the upper limit of their budget. 

 

Take back the steering wheel and tell them EXACTLY what you can do for that amount of money, be it in terms of serving or decoration, with the understanding that there is NO option to downgrade it any further--and certainly no option to upgrade it without increasing the price. 

 

If they don't accept that proposal, just nicely cut them loose.

costumeczar Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 12:04am
post #8 of 19

AI've had people want me to do tasting appts for 8" birthday cakes, and I tell them I don't do appts or sketches for those. I get people who want all kinds of stuff and you just have to set your limits. Maybe having a minimum order amount would help, then you can tell people that regardless of the size of the cake it's going to be X amount to start. That eliminates a lot of people who want to haggle.

embersmom Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 1:59pm
post #9 of 19

I think I mentioned this in another thread, but we get similar customers at work where they expect us to fulfill their cake fantasies for, say, $60 because after all, we're a supermarket.

 

And out answer is, no, we can't.  We're not allowed to draw, we can't mash up any Deco-Pac designs because of copyright issues, we don't do tiered cakes, we don't do fondant, etc., etc.  We're a corporate-owned supermarket chain and these are the rules, I'm sorry.

 

I had one customer over the weekend who literally ranted and raved over why we couldn't execute a simple design which veered into a rant about how "there are no real decorators anymore" and "no wonder why your business is down your cakes look like sh*t" and how "I can't afford what [area retail bakery] charges for this SIMPLE DESIGN!"  She just went on and on.  I could feel the the figurative hair on my back standing on end, and I wanted to explain to her WHY the area retail bakery probably charges what they charge, but no, she wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise.

 

I convinced her to scale back her idea a bit and I'd personally do the cake (I draw, btw., but since I'm technically not allowed to do it, I keep it on the lowdown). 

 

Her husband picked up the cake yesterday, thanked me, and apologized on her behalf.   That's never happened before.  I thanked him.

 

 

ETA:  The reason why we can't draw or what-have-you is because we have no way of charging for it.  All our sizes/prices are already logged into the computer system, so anything we do has to stay within those confines.

MimiFix Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 2:04pm
post #10 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by embersmom 

 

... I convinced her to scale back her idea a bit and I'd personally do the cake... 

 

"I'd personally do the cake..." Isn't that risky for your job security?

costumeczar Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 2:08pm
post #11 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by embersmom 
 

 "no wonder why your business is down your cakes look like sh*t"

I love this one...If she really thinks that why did she come there to get the cake?

embersmom Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 2:53pm
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MimiFix 
 

 

"I'd personally do the cake..." Isn't that risky for your job security?


I'd do the cake at work -- meaning it wouldn't go to the other decorator.

 

ETA:  Some customers will ask for a specific decorator to do their cake.  We also fired a decorator some time back for actually stealing customers for her own off-the-books home business.  I wouldn't dream of doing that.

embersmom Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 2:57pm
post #13 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

I love this one...If she really thinks that why did she come there to get the cake?


That's exactly what I thought when she said it.  Then I thought, it's simply convenience and price point.

 

We have a competitor maybe a mile up the road from us, and many times we get customers who regularly patronize the competitor but either don't like their cakes and/or their restrictions are even more stringent than ours (I honestly don't know -- I've never sampled a cake of theirs).

ugcjill Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 3:11pm
post #14 of 19

Mimi makes an excellent point that can be misunderstood if you don't know the ins and outs of corporate budgets.

 

The reason this is risky for you is that it raises the finished product to a level that the store is not charging for and will not provide, but the new expectation from customers is that they will receive the higher quality for no extra cost. It damages the store economically, since they are pricing low-effort cakes at low cost and the budget for the department is set accordingly. You are assuming the liability for the pricing damage by going against the store's policy, and also by doing work that can't be attributed correctly to the budget. Corporations are big on keeping all the nickles and dimes in the right places and this is the kind of thing that can bite you. It may seem small, and one cake at a time IS small, but when businesses are big, the cumulative effect can be bad. So it gets stopped, one way or another. That's where the risk comes from.

embersmom Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 3:32pm
post #15 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by ugcjill 
 

Mimi makes an excellent point that can be misunderstood if you don't know the ins and outs of corporate budgets.

 

The reason this is risky for you is that it raises the finished product to a level that the store is not charging for and will not provide, but the new expectation from customers is that they will receive the higher quality for no extra cost. It damages the store economically, since they are pricing low-effort cakes at low cost and the budget for the department is set accordingly. You are assuming the liability for the pricing damage by going against the store's policy, and also by doing work that can't be attributed correctly to the budget. Corporations are big on keeping all the nickles and dimes in the right places and this is the kind of thing that can bite you. It may seem small, and one cake at a time IS small, but when businesses are big, the cumulative effect can be bad. So it gets stopped, one way or another. That's where the risk comes from.


Yep :nodding:  I understand that.  I don't normally do anything extra for a customer, but I made this particular decision with the blessing of my manager.  My guess is that he didn't want to deal with her, so he OK'd it.  If I hadn't been there, I know for a fact that there was no way she could have had it done since I'm the only one who can do that sort of thing.

 

I should have mentioned that when I first posted about it, btw.

 

Thank you for making that point.  The discrepancy also lies in the fact that, before Big Corporate Chain bought us out (we were originally a small regional upscale chain where we did a lot of scratch baking and we had more than one professional decorator on staff), we were the "go to" place for cakes.  We were allowed to charge accordingly for custom work.  We lost most of that customer base when we were bought out.  The Powers That Be are constantly updating what we can/cannot do as far as cakes are concerned because overall revenue has dropped considerably.  I don't think they'd ever revert to what we did before the buyout, but they do give kudos for those decorators who go over and above what is typically considered a "supermarket" cake.

 

The cake was a beach scene -- waves, sand, some beach grass.  Not complicated at all.  Took me about as much time as doing a case cake, which doesn't take very long at all.

MimiFix Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 3:47pm
post #16 of 19

Thanks for jumping in, Jill. And thanks, embersmom, for your further explanation. It's interesting how corporations make decisions that often work against them.

ugcjill Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 3:58pm
post #17 of 19

Quote:

Originally Posted by embersmom 
 


Yep :nodding:  I understand that.  I don't normally do anything extra for a customer, but I made this particular decision with the blessing of my manager.  My guess is that he didn't want to deal with her, so he OK'd it.  If I hadn't been there, I know for a fact that there was no way she could have had it done since I'm the only one who can do that sort of thing.

 

I should have mentioned that when I first posted about it, btw.

 

Thank you for making that point.  The discrepancy also lies in the fact that, before Big Corporate Chain bought us out (we were originally a small regional upscale chain where we did a lot of scratch baking and we had more than one professional decorator on staff), we were the "go to" place for cakes.  We were allowed to charge accordingly for custom work.  We lost most of that customer base when we were bought out.  The Powers That Be are constantly updating what we can/cannot do as far as cakes are concerned because overall revenue has dropped considerably.  I don't think they'd ever revert to what we did before the buyout, but they do give kudos for those decorators who go over and above what is typically considered a "supermarket" cake.

 

The cake was a beach scene -- waves, sand, some beach grass.  Not complicated at all.  Took me about as much time as doing a case cake, which doesn't take very long at all.

 

I see. And I recognize this.

 

Kudos should be given for bringing in more money on higher quality cakes, not more quality on lower money cakes, know what I mean?

 

The store's willingness to cut price while sneaking in higher quality with a wink and nod is a signal that they intend to damage the local economy and drive out the competitors.

 

I definitely understand your excitement to perform above and beyond what they ask, we all want to do our best. But the intent is much different for the store, where these concepts are pushed heavily from very high levels. Whenever there are shareholders involved, the goal is never to improve the lives of you or your community. The plan to gain market share is afoot.

ugcjill Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 4:12pm
post #18 of 19

AAnd I also don't mean to implicate your manager as being corrupt - the game is always innocent on the surface. The "incentives" (gift cards usually) for going above and beyond... That's a common technique. It gets everyone's performance level higher until it becomes normal and expected. Then they stop, but the work stays the same. And the competition is gone by this point, but keep performing or you can be replaced by someone with a lower salary. And it goes on from there.

Sorry I'm on such a rant today. There's no point, really. We're all pretty helpless against it.

Another glass of sunshine, anyone?

embersmom Posted 14 Jul 2014 , 4:12pm
post #19 of 19

Exactly Mimi :nodding:  Back in the before-the-buyout days we had a very talented decorator who could do practically anything,  and of course as soon as a customer got wind of her existence, the customer would place the order specifying that they wanted only her to do the cake and nobody but her.  You can imagine the problems that cropped up on her days off and/or when she was on vacation and especially when she gave her notice :o 

 

The Powers That Be, IIRC, took it all in stride because she was the moneymaker for the department.  Their feeling was, if customers wanted her to do their cakes badly enough, they'd wait for her.  Most of them did.

 

It's funny about marketing trends.  For awhile there the trend has been toward mass market "Cake Boss" type cakes:  Very simple, geometric swirls, squiggles, and drop flowers almost anyone can execute (thereby saving the company $ by not hiring a seasoned decorator).  Overall in-store cake revenues have gone down as a result, so now the thinking is trending toward slightly more upscale as in "simple to execute if you have experience but not everybody can do this particular design".  I'm waiting to see if it's going to revert back to full-blown roses and reverse scroll borders like we used to do!

 

I have an out-of-state friend who's a bakery manager.  Her store manager says that, although mass-market cake is relatively cheap and in-store bakeries are loss leaders, it's the bakery offerings that get people in the door.  To that end, she's very cognizant of how her decorators decorate and how her bakers bake.

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%