First Complaint... Advice How To Proceed Please.

Business By kvand Updated 6 Mar 2015 , 5:27pm by Mybearsbaby

kvand Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 9:01am
post #1 of 33

AHi all,

I'm just headed into my 3rd year of my cake business. If there is one thing that people always tell me it's how delicious and moist my cakes are. Today I delivered a cake 1.5hrs away for a wedding. The delivery went smooth no hiccups we were even 20 minutes earlier than expected. (We were told they wanted the cake at 3:30) The entire cake was a scratch made vanilla cake with our raspberry buttercream filling. After delivery I send an email to the mom of the bride who ordered the cake to follow up and included a couple of our post set up photos as a courtesy. She responded this evening to say the decorating and icing were exceptional but the cake was dry. This was a total surprise to me as I tasted the tops of the cakes (that were cut off when stacking) and was happy with the flavor and texture. She told me she didn't get to try the cake until after the wedding was over and she was at her parents house so I wonder how long it sat out before being wrapped and how it was stored between cutting and eating. She made no mention of any guests complaining or anything like that.

I'm a little at a loss for how to handle this. I always want people to be happy with the product they are receiving however I am confident the quality of this was excellent but can't account for what happened after cutting and trying a cake many hours after it was cut. The line in her email that gets me is when she said "not what I would have expected for the price." I already reduced the price for her on this cake because I was trying to do something nice for her by staying in her budget.

Does any one have any wording suggestions for my response email? How would you tackle this? I was thinking maybe I would apologize that she didn't enjoy it but also make mention that when I tested it for quality it was not dry. Should I offer a cake credit? A free anniversary cake? Partial refund? Nothing. Ugh! I was hoping I wouldn't have to deal with this!

[IMG]http://www.cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3329802/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

32 replies
JanDunlevy Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 1:18pm
post #2 of 33

AI am not an ugly person and I like for people to be pleased but I have to say that the first response that went thru my mind was to say "that since you reduced the price to accommodate her budget that some of the moistness was unfortunately reduced as well!" I really wouldn't do this but it was what went thru my mind! I would ask her if there was a possibility (in a nonaccusatory way) that the piece of cake she had after the event could have been left out or uncovered for any period of time and if so, that would have a large impact on the moisture. Let her know in no uncertain terms that you had tasted the cake prior to it ever leaving your possession and it was fine. You could possibly say that you stand behind your cakes during the event but beyond that,because of having no way of knowing how the cake was stored or preserved, you cannot except responsibility for the quality of the cake. Hope this is easily resolved!

Gingerlocks Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 3:26pm
post #3 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JanDunlevy 

the first response that went thru my mind was to say "that since you reduced the price to accommodate her budget that some of the moistness was unfortunately reduced as well!"

Buhahaha, I nearly spit out my morning coffee reading that!

 

I think part of the problem may be that most people are used to the artificial taste, fluffiness, and  moistness of boxed cake mixes; and that your cake is from scratch, which is completely different. I often find that people don't know what real scratch tastes like because they've grown up only having an artificial boxed mix cakes. So she may just not know what a real cake tastes like. And like Jan said the piece may have been sitting out for a while before she ate it; its impossible to tell. 

 

Plus you already gave her a discount, I mean I hate to say it, but she got a discounted wedding cake and beggar's can't be choosers. So I wouldn't offer her any discounts. 

leah_s Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 4:34pm
post #4 of 33

A"I trim each layer of my cakes, which gives me a chance to taste test every cake. Its part of my commitment to quality control. I also only bake from scratch which pleases sophisticated palates such and yours and your daughter's However, scratch cakes can be more sensitive to having their cut edges being exposed to air. Perhaps the cake sat uncovered for a bit too long. I appreciate your business and want yo reiterate that I gave you a $xxx dollar discount on your cake so that your daughter could have her dream cake and stay within her budget. I wish the newlyweds many years of happiness."

leah_s Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 4:36pm
post #5 of 33

AThere you go.

Or, tell her to take a hike.

And for all that is sane, don't ask bridal parties if they liked the cake. It's the next morning when they get your email that they finally realize how much money they just spent and are wallowing in budget regret.

MimiFix Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 4:59pm
post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gingerlocks 
 
...she got a discounted wedding cake and beggar's can't be choosers.

 

From a business standpoint, we need to be careful here. The word "discount" does not automatically mean that a product is a lower quality. There can  be any number of reasons why someone receives a discount. Day old items are discounted, so in that circumstance the consumer can expect an inferior product. But the OP stated she had, "reduced the price for her on this cake because I was trying to do something nice for her by staying in her budget." In this case there is no reason why the bride should expect or receive an inferior cake.

 

Long-term issue: In this forum we have repeatedly talked about pricing and the dangers of dealing with bargain hunters. Discounting a custom cake for budget reasons can often work against the business owner. The bride gave us some insight into her personality when she complained and said, "not what I would have expected for the price." The OP needs to thoroughly examine quality issues. If she decides that quality was not the problem, I hope she will revise her pricing policy.

Gingerlocks Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 5:12pm
post #7 of 33

I'm not at all implying that she deserved an inferior cake because it was discounted; but the OP did her a favor in reality she discounted the cake so this woman could afford it. Right or wrong, that's what happened. And now the customer want's what? A refund? The cake was already discounted, I just don't think there's anything more the OP can offer this customer. 

-K8memphis Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 6:01pm
post #8 of 33

did you use butter in the cake recipe and did you chill the cake at all -- if you used oil in the cake batter then disregard the following answer --

 

if you said yes and yes to the first two questions then the cake probably could be described as 'dry' although it probably was not -- the moisture would have been fine but when a butter cake gets chilled it then does not fully relax back to room temp without a few seconds of microwaving which of course would tend to melt the icing on a decorated cake -- people eating the cake would describe it as 'dry' because it rubs down the back of the throat a little -- it's the same literal moisture level but it's a bad combo imo for a tier cake -- vanilla cake is the worst for this kind of thing happening --

 

not that you should explain this to her or anything just saying for future -- but also what leah said about it being left out in the air too long -- which is why so many bakeries and others use white cake mix for the fresheners therein -- there's a lot more to making tier cakes than just making/decorating the cake -- tier cake is performance cake -- mine have to be work horse formulas --

 

best to you

kvand Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 6:33pm
post #9 of 33

AThank you so much for your valuable responses!

Regarding the slightly reduced price to accommodate budget. They didn't ask for it I just did it because they seemed like nice people and it's my slow season. It's not something I regularly do. Actually, I almost never do especially when they ask.

The cake is an all butter recipe. No oil added. Yes, it was refrigerated and so was the sample I tasted. This is regular procedure and has never been an issue before. Maybe she refrigerated her piece and ate it cold? I'm not sure.

I dont usually send follow up emails but this seemed like a low budget wedding and again I was trying to be nice in providing a couple decent pics of the cake. I did say "I hope you enjoyed the cake"... Apparently I should stop doing things because I am trying to be nice! lol.

I am confident that the initial cut of the cake was good but that her piece was not stored properly. I also think it's likely she is a box mix person and doesn't know what real cake tastes like. It's unfortunate I can't say that to her... lol!

I'll be sending her a response later today and will update when I get a response back.

Thank you again for your valuable input!

MimiFix Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 7:03pm
post #10 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gingerlocks 
 

I'm not at all implying that she deserved an inferior cake because it was discounted; but the OP did her a favor in reality she discounted the cake so this woman could afford it. Right or wrong, that's what happened. And now the customer want's what? A refund? The cake was already discounted, I just don't think there's anything more the OP can offer this customer. 

 

Gingerlocks, I knew you were not implying that the bride deserved an inferior cake. I'm sorry if my post made you think so.

 

This kind of issue comes up fairly often. Cakers give discounts to accommodate the bride's budget instead of changing the design or size. Cheap brides often take advantage and later complain about quality so that they can get a full or partial refund. Then the caker starts a thread. It's a recurring issue. If we don't change our behavior, stop giving out discounts, and start pricing cakes correctly, we will always deal with this annoying problem.      

-K8memphis Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 9:04pm
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by kvand 

Thank you so much for your valuable responses!



The cake is an all butter recipe. No oil added. Yes, it was refrigerated and so was the sample I tasted. This is regular procedure and has never been an issue before. Maybe she refrigerated her piece and ate it cold? I'm not sure.

I dont usually send follow up emails but this seemed like a low budget wedding and again I was trying to be nice in providing a couple decent pics of the cake. I did say "I hope you enjoyed the cake"... Apparently I should stop doing things because I am trying to be nice! lol.

I am confident that the initial cut of the cake was good but that her piece was not stored properly. I also think it's likely she is a box mix person and doesn't know what real cake tastes like. It's unfortunate I can't say that to her... lol!

 

 

 

it doesn't have to still be cold to get the 'dry' factor where it drags a little down your throat mimicking a dry effect -- i can make a great scratch cake with butter, fridge it for an hour, bring it to room temp (without heating it) and it seems 'dry' --

 

if you are interested in this factor of cake making i recommend that you do a blind taste test -- gather up a few friends, family -- 

 

to me in my caking it's a real big deal for my cake to perform for an event like a wedding -- i pop mine in & out the fridge/freezer through out the process -- i deliver them cold -- after it's served the cut side needs to stay soft at room temp for several hours -- it also has to serve cleanly and not crumble etc.

 

i think it's not wise of you to dismiss her as someone who doesn't 'understand' your cake -- srsly -- that's not good business -- it's an issue now and you have an important criticism to learn from -- i have given you a potentially viable reason for her to come up with the cake seeming being dry -- 

 

i'll put it this way -- my cakes taste great, not dry for several days after the wedding -- yours should too -- no matter what the ingredients are --

 

best to you

kvand Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 9:16pm
post #12 of 33

AK8memphis, do you use oil in your vanilla cake? Is that why yours is not sensitive to air like an all butter vanilla cake is? I have considered adding some oil to the vanilla cake recipe to help with this but then to me the cake tastes greasy and box mix-y. I have tried several vanilla recipes to settle on the one I use which even though it's sensitive to sitting in open air is delicious when eaten immediately after being served or wrapped properly for storage.

I have done many blind tests and continue to do that on a regular basis when I am playing with recipes.

As I mentioned before I've never gotten a "dry" cake complaint. Actually people usually tell me they were eating it days later and still loving it.

-K8memphis Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 9:28pm
post #13 of 33

i unashamedly use doctored white cake mix for my white tier cakes -- it is the best product i can find -- that cake is a blank canvas for the fillings, splash and icing --

 

using butter is the culprit in most if not all cakes that are ever chilled/frozen -- when you take a butter cake out of the fridge the butter does not relax all the way back to pre-fridged texture -- it's that simple -- microzap it for 5 seconds and it's a lovely thing --

 

i don't expect my cakes to get proper handling at a wedding so i use a work horse formula for them -- i think the clients need all the breaks they can get -- it's such a big deal day -- i'm not afraid to use the best i can find for them -- 

-K8memphis Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 9:37pm
post #14 of 33

and so often the principals don't get to eat at the reception or can't remember what they had it's such a whirlwind for them -- so i wanted mine (cake) to be great the next day too -- when oftentimes the families get together and say ahhhh -- needs to be good for a long time

Gingerlocks Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 10:48pm
post #15 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by MimiFix 
 

 

Gingerlocks, I knew you were not implying that the bride deserved an inferior cake. I'm sorry if my post made you think so.

 

This kind of issue comes up fairly often. Cakers give discounts to accommodate the bride's budget instead of changing the design or size. Cheap brides often take advantage and later complain about quality so that they can get a full or partial refund. Then the caker starts a thread. It's a recurring issue. If we don't change our behavior, stop giving out discounts, and start pricing cakes correctly, we will always deal with this annoying problem.      

 

I see what you mean; and you explained it far better than I could. This problem does go hand in hand with the discounting of our work; if we don't value it enough to charge properly, no one else will value it either; that is the heart of it. 

costumeczar Posted 15 Feb 2015 , 11:24pm
post #16 of 33
 

 

 

Quote:


And for all that is sane, don't ask bridal parties if they liked the cake. It's the next morning when they get your email that they finally realize how much money they just spent and are wallowing in budget regret.

 

Exactly...This is when most people feel the pain, and some people will try to get money back by complaining about random things, Most people won't but some will, and you don't need to give them an "in."

Quote:

Originally Posted by MimiFix 

The bride gave us some insight into her personality when she complained and said, "not what I would have expected for the price."

When someone mentions pricing in their complaint it usually indicates to me that there's some level of budgetary regret involved regardless of the quality of the product. Fits right into what Leah said.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by kvand 


I dont usually send follow up emails but this seemed like a low budget wedding and again I was trying to be nice in providing a couple decent pics of the cake. I did say "I hope you enjoyed the cake"... Apparently I should stop doing things because I am trying to be nice! lol.

 

Low-budget wedding + you gave them a discount because you were trying to be nice = no good deed goes unpunished. If you're sure that the cake was fine, and you just want to be 100% sure, call the venue and ask if the cake was okay. Talk to the person who actually cut it. They're a neutral third party and will be able to give you the real story of what happened.

johnson6ofus Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 2:10am
post #17 of 33

Quote:

Originally Posted by leah_s 

"I trim each layer of my cakes, which gives me a chance to taste test every cake. Its part of my commitment to quality control. I also only bake from scratch which pleases sophisticated palates such and yours and your daughter's However, scratch cakes can be more sensitive to having their cut edges being exposed to air. Perhaps the cake sat uncovered for a bit too long.
I appreciate your business and want yo reiterate that I gave you a $xxx dollar discount on your cake so that your daughter could have her dream cake and stay within her budget.
I wish the newlyweds many years of happiness."

THIS!!!! Leah said it perfectly. And and others have pointed out, the bargain shopper may now just have a post-party spending hangover. Don't be afraid to stand behind your cake! After 3 years, you know the cake was good, AND you tested the trims. 

Apti Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 6:12am
post #18 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by kvand 

Regarding the slightly reduced price to accommodate budget. They didn't ask for it I just did it because they seemed like nice people and it's my slow season. It's not something I regularly do. Actually, I almost never do especially when they ask.

 

Sounds like you did everything correctly except "being nice".  When you did this "because they seemed like nice people and it's my slow season", you were, in actual fact, giving them your net $$.  How "nice" did these people seem?   (sarcasm alert) They must have been REALLY nice in order for you to give them the gift of $$ without them even asking for it.

 

In effect, that is what is happening every time someone posts a thread saying a "discount" was given.  The portion of payment that is discounted ($25?, $50?, $100?) is actually money taken directly from your bottom line.  Additionally, bottom line dollars (net profit) are most important during a slow season when you have less overall business.

 

Perhaps if you start thinking, "Do I want to give these customers a $75 wedding gift?" instead of:  "I'll offer them a discount so they can have their dream cake on a smaller budget..."

 

In order for me to give strangers $75 or $150 or even $25 gift of MY money, they would have to be a very, very special case.

 

Use this situation to your future advantage.  Every time you feel like being the good guy, remember what happened with this wedding.

costumeczar Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 12:38pm
post #19 of 33

Quote:

Originally Posted by Apti 
 

 

Perhaps if you start thinking, "Do I want to give these customers a $75 wedding gift?" instead of:  "I'll offer them a discount so they can have their dream cake on a smaller budget..."

 

 

Excellent idea! I bet all discounts would stop dead in their tracks with this approach.

 

Also remember that Ted Bundy seemed like a nice guy. John Wayne Gacy dressed as a clown and performed at charity events. Not saying that your customers were serial killers, just saying that people seeming to be nice isn't necessarily a good factor in pricing decisions.

remnant3333 Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 5:14pm
post #20 of 33

I have been following this and wanted to know what happened. Did you tell them you are not giving them back any money due to you taste testing your cake with the scraps? Just curious as to what happened? Did you call the venue to find out if the cake was okay. I kind of think that the cake that customer ate had been sitting out too long and was not stored correctly so by the time she tried tasting it had already been dried out. 

kvand Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 6:45pm
post #21 of 33

Hi All, 

 

So I have emailed MOB back I used Leah's emails as a base and stated that if the cake sat out at all it could have dried out due to the fresh scratch cake etc.  After I received her email I realized I still had the trimmings in a bowl so I tried them to be sure and they still tasted fine. (the bowl had been covered with plastic wrap).  MOB emailed me back saying that the other guests felt it was dry too.  I am so baffled.  

 

K8Memphis, I could not use a box mix in my area it would never fly no matter how doctored it is.  not to mention that part of our whole "thing" is that everything is made fresh from scratch. I am glad it works well for you though.. would probably make things easier:) 

 

I have learnt my lesson about "being nice".  As I said I almost never do that and now I remember why.  It has nothing to do with not valuing my work it was just genuinely me being nice. NO more Mrs. Nice baker here!  lol.  

kvand Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 6:46pm
post #22 of 33

Oh and the venue was a community hall and the caterer was the MOB... soo no one else to call to confirm.

-K8memphis Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 7:54pm
post #23 of 33
no of course not -- i wasn't suggesting that you use a box mix -- i was suggesting you take the complaint seriously and build a better mouse trap -- because clients expect the cake to be tasty and good for a few days --
 
like no refrigeration and maybe a simple splash would help
-K8memphis Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 8:20pm
post #24 of 33

*simple syrup splash

 

but also be sure your clients know how vulnerable the cake is to begin with so they can be on guard to hold it properly -- for example along with the cake boxes i always leave for possible leftovers i'd leave plastic bags too that they can slide the boxes into -- then you've covered all your bases -- it seems that if we do all their thinking for them it works out better

kvand Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 8:28pm
post #25 of 33

I absolutely take every piece of feedback seriously.  It's just tough to see how far to go with it when I have a sample of the cake here and it still tastes good a couple days later after sitting in a bowl covered in plastic wrap.  

 

I'll be playing with the recipe to see if I can make it more resilient to abuse.  (That's what I'm working on today) First complaint in 3 years isn't too bad but of course no body wants one ever.

costumeczar Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 10:35pm
post #26 of 33

Quote:

Originally Posted by kvand 
 

I absolutely take every piece of feedback seriously.  It's just tough to see how far to go with it when I have a sample of the cake here and it still tastes good a couple days later after sitting in a bowl covered in plastic wrap.  

 

I'll be playing with the recipe to see if I can make it more resilient to abuse.  (That's what I'm working on today) First complaint in 3 years isn't too bad but of course no body wants one ever.


Don't kill yourself too much trying to improve something that was fine a couple of days later. Like you said, it was the first complaint in a few years, and if the MOB and her friends are used to cake mix they're going to think that a scratch cake was denser than that, which it's supposed to be. Most people confuse "dense" with "dry" to begin with, and if the cake isn't spongy from chemical softeners they think it's dry even if it isn't. I'd personally just write this one off to someone not being used to scratch cakes and (maybe) looking for money back for no good reason. On that front you can't be sure, but I don't think that I'd offer any kind of refund or even bother responding further. If you didn't have the scraps that you tested I might say differently, but since you do and they were fine, I'd be done with it.

kvand Posted 16 Feb 2015 , 10:46pm
post #27 of 33

I had given my neighbor some of the trimmings from the cake and just asked her what she thought of it.  (She is a straight shooter and will tell me the truth good or bad) She said her and her kids loved it... could not get enough... it was moist and sugary but not over sweet.  (her words... maybe not in that order).  This tells me that its not my biased opinion saying it was good.  It actually was.  I am washing my hands of this issue and chalking it up to you can't please everyone.  I am still going to do the taste testing experiment with adding a little oil to the recipe to see what that does to it and if it makes it retain moisture longer without adversely affecting taste or texture. I am not opposed to making improvements to our products or experimenting. :)  It never hurts to learn new things.

 

Thanks again for all your input and comments.  They were all greatly appreciated!

jgifford Posted 17 Feb 2015 , 1:45am
post #28 of 33

If I may suggest, DON'T contact the MOB the evening of the wedding.  These people have been stressed for weeks, they just got finished with the big event and they're exhausted.  If things didn't go exactly as planned they're also probably a bit peeved and need to vent at someone.  When you contact them, you give them the opportunity. 

 

Since the MOB didn't initiate the contact, I don't think there's any need to consider a refund or a future discount, and you didn't indicate she asked for any.  I know feedback is wonderful, but let them contact you.

MnSnow Posted 17 Feb 2015 , 1:47am
post #29 of 33

I did a bridal show this weekend and someone must have been really proud of the cake you did-- I had a future bride bring an exact picture of that cake to me and ask if I could re-create it! Talk about small world!

kvand Posted 17 Feb 2015 , 7:18am
post #30 of 33

This cake was inspired by another very similar cake. pic below. (was this the pic you were shown?)  I try very hard not to make exact copies of other's cakes but sometimes there is just no convincing people to adjust the design and go different... I added some light pink pearls to the border and changed the middle tier from a beaded border to just a light sprinkling and added a few pearls to the rosette centers in the bottom tier.  

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