Originally Posted by KalisCakes
I know this seems obvious, but hear me out: I have no clue how to handle this situation. I have a couple who want to cancel their wedding cake with me. They attended another wedding where we did the wedding cake, and unfortunately we had a bit of a cake delivery disaster there resulting in one tier being damaged. Because of this, these clients say they have "lost faith in my ability to produce the cake they are wanting".
Their wedding is June 25th (just a few weeks away.) They signed my contract in February, and left their deposit. They are now wanting their deposit refunded. I explained to them they signed a contract, and that deposits and prepayments are non-refundable, though should they choose to cancel, and prepayments would be applied to another event occurring withing 90 days, as is stated in their contract.
This didn't go over well, and they began to make threats of taking me to court (okay, I have contracts for that reason) and going to the news stations, etc. I don't want to deal with the hassle of the news stations in the event they actually do some kind of report, nor do I want negative publicity. But I also am not inclined to train anyone that a contract is non-binding. Help!!!
2. The wedding cake from the previous event had damage to the second tier. In the midst of slamming on my brakes at the venue when a member of the wedding party stepping in front of our delivery van, the cake went sliding. The cake was scheduled to be delivered at 9PM for cutting at 10PM. We arrived at 8:30, and I had the intention of taking the cake to the hall's kitchen to do the repair work of attempting to repair the tier (which I'm pretty confident I could have), or removing the tier. Instead, as we began to remove the cake from the van, the wedding party member rushed inside and brought the bride, groom, and wedding party out into the parking lot (no rear entrance at this venue). Of course, the bride was upset, as I would have been had it been my wedding. I apologized profusely, explained we had to slam the brakes on to avoid an accident. I explained I needed a few moments to access the damage and repair her cake. Long story short, she wanted to argue, demand money right on the spot, and even had her new husband threaten myself and my crew. When I began to put the cake back into the van, her father insisted she go back inside, and asked us to go ahead and just put the cake on the table as-is. (Mind you, this current client was part of that wedding party). At that point, as the cake was stacked the entire time, the leaning of the cake continued, so by the time it was placed on the table, the lean was pretty noticeable. The cake was served. The refund that bride is getting has already been settled and mailed of certified mail.
I've done numerous cakes for this group of people, so they have seen/tasted first hand the quality of the work I do. This group of people have actually been put on my "no more cakes for you" list because I have problems with them (ordering late, haggling price, not returning equipment) but this contract was on that I took before I put them all on that list.
Thank you all so so very much! I couldn't have worded this email without all of y'all input. I am doing all further communication with her through email so that I can have written accounts of everything should she decide to waste her time and take me to court over a $190 deposit.... and I am most DEFINITELY changing my policies of delivery times!!!!! In this situation they wanted the cake "presented", but did not want the venue to move it. So in the future should they want me to "present the cake", it'll cost the same as my cake cutting services do since I have to return to the venue after delivery. Here's a copy of the email I sent:
She then explains her policies, then state this.(This is on pg. 2, in case anyone wants to read it)
What happened at the other wedding you attended was very unfortunate. It was an unforeseen situation, and I appreciate the concern it has caused you in regards to your event. However, since such disasters are not the norm, and because this account is separate from yours, I am unable to refund you the amount deposited. I understand you are upset, however these are the terms and conditions of the contract, which is in place to protect both you as the client and us as the vendor. When we met last Wednesday, I explained the reason retainers are non-refundable is because other business is turned down in order to focus on your cake. These deposits also cover preliminary expenses, as well as the time spent in the consult, tasting, and design process.
I would love to continue to move forward with you on this contract, and will be happy to provide references from past clients to help ease your apprehensions and concerns. If, however, you would like to continue with the cancellation of this order, I will email you a creative rights release for the cake design that was previously emailed to you so that you may find another vendor for your wedding cake. I'm sorry you are considering not to have us create your wedding cake. As per our contract signed by you on February 16, 2011, the policy clearly states that the deposit is non-refundable. I would be happy to work with you and apply it to another order cake should you so choose.
Thank you, and feel free to email me back with any questions that may arise.
4.Oh, and should she actually want the references (which I kinda doubt, but maybe she will so she can say ugly things to them..." the reference list is actually a group of friends (and I have done cakes for all of them, so I'm being honest in using them as references)... but yeah, they're all aware of the whole story and have given me permission to use them should I need to have clients of mine set her straight about the kind of work I do.
Actually, yes, you both are ready that part of the contract correctly. It's a section my lawyer edited in for my protection, but it's also one I keep thinking about changing back to the way I had it. I'll explain my lawyer's reasoning though: He explained that this covers me for situations such as the one I'm going through now should I be the one to back out, or situations like the one I went through with that delivery where I had the wedding party threatening me. I could have (probably should have) loaded the cake back up and just left without another explanation.
So basically it's there to protect me from bridezillas when I've already invested time/money into their cake consults/custom tastings/custom design process, and sometimes even put money into their cake (special stands, etc.) But thank you for bringing this part of the contract up, because it does bother me to. *I* know that I would never just have people sign contracts and then take off with their money, but how are *THEY* supposed to know that, especially when the contract says I can?
Any ideas on how to reword it to include "no deposit refund if you become a crazy client or make threats of lawsuits/slander... but other wise you'd get a full refund if I back out"?
Thanks, SCP, for the alternate view. I really appreciate hearing all sides of the argument. I actually have a bachelor's in Sales and Marketing, as well as my MBA, so PR issues are ones that I'm familiar with, and also the reason for my hesitation regarding this issue. The lawsuit wasn't what I've been concerned with; it's the negative publicity. This is a group of people I have done many, many cakes for over the years, and this is the first time a cake disaster has happened. As I had mentioned earlier, though, this group has become increasingly more difficult to deal with, and are ones I personally and professionally, no longer wish to do business with. I made the mistake of letting a sob story pull at my heart string and I lowered my price greatly on a cake I did from them, and from there on out they have expected/demanded that same discount, while also wanting more and more in regards to their cakes, deliveries at unusual times, and constantly ordering cakes late (ie: call on Monday for a 4 tier cake to feed 300 on Saturday). I already tried explaining things to this group to try and get this professional relationship back on track, but they have flat out said that because they have been long time clients of mine, they deserve the discounts and special treatments. So, as far as my reputation within their group, eh. I hate to see it tarnished because they know first hand the work I do, but I also don't want their business anymore.
I will say, though, that had this entire situation happened with a different group of people, a group that truly has never seen my work, or maybe just seen a few examples and then experienced a cake disaster, my reaction would have been different. I more than likely would have refunded the money, and still offered to do the wedding cake for free, or offered a groom's cake or other cake, as a chance to redeem myself. (Assuming of course, the original wedding party hadn't threatened bodily harm to myself and my staff, and these clients hadn't barged into my office with threats of lawsuits and negative media coverage.)... In fact, even in this situation I might have done something similar if all that hadn't happened. It's the whole honey and vinegar mentality.
HaHa, Very True Jason! And many of my long term clients DO get special treatment, but what I love is that they don't EXPECT it. They appreciate it. And, the ones that get the special treatment as the ones who shell out $$$$ for cakes, not $$ for cakes. Another good way of getting a lot of extra for little $$ with me, and getting on my preferred client list, is to tell me I have complete creative control and can do whatever I want. lol
And yes, having a cup of coffee and chit chat with me while we design the cake/talk about a contract will gain more points than arms crossing, feet stomping, and a bad attitude. It works both way.
The common phrase is "It's just business." Well, with me that's a yes and no. I spend a lot of time with clients during the design phase and tasting phase, and I meet with clients in my home office the majority of the time because 1)gas prices are HORRIBLE! 2) it's more convenient for me 3) it gives me more room at the bakery for... well, BAKING! and 4) It IS more personal. So these kinds of issues, while I know they happen, are really few and far between, and also take me aback and require quite a bit of thought and analysis on my part. My clients know that I put a personal touch on everything I do, so having a client come into my office where they've been many many times, where I've designed birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, even funeral cakes, and treat an issue like "it's just business".... well, it's really unfortunate. But I guess if they want to treat it like just business,then, okay, it's just business. Read the contract, end of story.
8.I just had one of the local news station come by my home requesting an interview. They're got a friend at one of the stations. Thankfully, I have all paper trails, etc. so I've printed everything out, contracts included, photos, etc. We'll see how this goes.
Any advice on what to say/not to say??
9.Well THAT was fun! (NOT!!!) The thing about this particular news station is that they don't do investigative reporting; they do one sided "already formed an opinion" reporting. They weren't interesting in non-refundable deposits, contracts, or previous work. They just wanted to know why I don't give out refunds, if I think this is acceptable business practices, if I think it's right to have my clients meet with me in my home office for their consults, if I think it's right that I have my clients contact me through email/online appointment booking, what am I going to tell other clients who want refunds after they see this airing, etc etc....So, whatever damage that's going to be done is done. I stuck to the facts, recorded the interview with my digital recorder, and now we'll see how they edit it tonight.
But to try and look at the bright side, the majority audience for this news station are usually the Jerry Springer clients I don't want.
*sigh* And this city wonders why there are very few high end vendors, and not just for cakes, for EVERYTHING: floral, venues, restaurants, shopping, etc.
Actually, my best friend is a civil attorney, and my uncle is a lawyer in corporate law The 6 o'clock news didn't air anything, so we'll see what happens at 9 (have an hour and a half to go, my time). I did have the reporter read the contract, and have added the contract to my website under the new "Our Policies" link. I also just made a twitter account, and am about to subscribe to this reporter's tweets.... She posts all her stories that are about to air, and so far no tweet about this "story". And, in the event it is aired at 9, there's an arsenal of my clients who are ready to post their experiences as well.
Haha, this news reporter said she tried calling me a month ago, but that I didn't answer.... ummm.... this wasn't a situation a month ago. She also said she had already looked at my website and facebook, to which I restrained myself from asking, "Well, then, why didn't you schedule an appointment online or send me an email like both my website AND Facebook say to do?"
11. Well, I watched the story, and while it's obviously not a positive one, I think it could have been a lot worse. here's the link: http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/28150072/detail.html
12. Thanks so much Shannon!!! I think that the only ones who are really responding right now are the ones that started all this, and the ones firing back are long time loyal clients (some of whom yes, happen to be friends as well.)
My personal facebook status currently is "Gosh, I suppose could email all 300+ of my current contracts to tell them I'm going to be out of town/unavailable for a couple of weeks. I could also email them monthly letting them know my menstrual cycle, but that doesn't mean I'm GOING to!"
I won't be posting any remarks on the news station site, or on Facebook, unless it gets truly ugly where I do need to make some type of rebuttle.
She then explains her policy on how you order a cake (Pg6)
I'd like to thank everyone for their love and support through all of this. Running a business is never easy, and while we pour our hearts and souls into what we do, unfortunately we will never be able to please everyone.
I am saddened when any situation goes this far, because I feel it is unnecessary. In this forum, we are all supposed to be professionals and use it as a means for advice, tips, professional criticism, unbiased opinions to situations we deal with, to learn from each other and to come together as professionals with a common interest.
Again, I'd like to thank everyone for their time and attention to all of this, the input everyone has given, the many views and sides offered, and for the encouragement that has been presented thus far. I truly value each and every comment, post, suggestion, etc. that has been given, and will use this wealth of knowledge to further my business, and help better myself as a business owner and cake decorator.
13. As with any situation there is a long, lengthy story full of details, all of which has not been discussed here. And with the direction this is taking, I have been advised it would be unwise for me to reveal and details about any of these clients that could be deemed personal or make them identifiable given that it involves more than one client. My lawyer and I are going to go over this entire thread to determine what clarification is necessary, and how it should be worded.
I strive to be ethical and honest in EVERYTHING I do, business and personal.
Thanks again so much to everyone for their continued interest and support. I simply pray that as a business I am able to move on from this, that my current clients know how much I value them, and that all parties involved are able to have the cakes they deserve.
14. Just another quick update: due to the responses the news station has had, they have already released the full, un-cut interview and linked it to the story.
I have received several wonderful emails, and with the permission of one client, I'm posting hers:
Hope this email finds you well. As you might imagine, I recently saw the article published about chasing butterflies on KFox. I was relieved to find that it appears that the article was a gross exaggeration of actual events. I am looking foward to seeing your wonderful creations on my wedding day and trust that if you were unable to fulfil our contract you would not hesitate to inform me.
Have a wonderful Day!!!!!"
Thank you again everyone, for all your love, support, advice, and encouragement!
I'm very sorry you feel I've been dishonest here, WykdGud. If there's a specific question you have, it may be one I can answer without going against what I've been advised to say/not say. As I stated at the very beginning of this thread, this involves a group/family; not just one specific client.
For the record though, I have been EXTREMELY honest, because quite frankly, I'm not smart enough to keep up with a lie.
16.Are y'all talking about the background on the site? That was done for me by the company that set up the site for me. They are definitely cakes I could do, but are not cakes I have done.
I want to have some type of inspiration gallery that shows cakes that I COULD do, but haven't had orders for... Have any of y'all done something like that on your pages? And how would you go about doing that? Posting pics and linking those pics to the maker's page?
Thanks for the info Caker. It would never be my intention to mislead anyone, and definitely not steal anyone's work. That's one reason when client's come in with a picture of a cake, while I may use it as inspiration, I wouldn't do the exact cake (well, obviously that can't be done) or even attempt to try. I'll most definitely call IT right now and have them take it down and just use a standard background until another is designed.
That being said, I'm no Sylvia Weinstock or Ron Ben Isreal, but I'm certainly no WalMart either. And I see nothing wrong with showing client's pictures of other cakes that I DO have the skill for but have not done yet, provided I make no claim that they are my cakes, and give credit where credit is due.
18. There are? In my gallery? I'll go check right now. I'd love to know which one.
Thank you Joy, for showing me which one so that it can be taken down and the correct picture put up. Yes, that is not mine. That is the picture that I was sent of a cake a guy ordered for his kid.
20.I know enough about computers to turn them on and use them, and that's about it. My site was designed and set up by a girl in our area who was recommended to me. The Plex cake was my mistake 100%; I emailed her the wrong picture.
Thank you, Cakes and Joy both, for pointing out errors in the site that could potentially be misleading and/or get my and my business in trouble.
Thanks for the link to the article!! And yes, I just went over the photos, and the Plex cake is the only one that isn't mine. I need to start blowing up the thumbnails before I email pictures; that or invest in some new glasses. Now I need to find the pic of the ACTUAL Plex cake I made!
22. The website, as I am learning, I have royal messed up on in my selection of who helped me. And thank goodness for this forum otherwise I would have been none the wiser! So now to find a new web page developer.
As far as being calm: I'm actually anything but calm! The photos totally freaked me out, and the conversation I just had with the girl that does my site was not at all pretty (because of the pictures and because I've just learned from you all that I may have been ripped off.) But because everything is viewable to all, the only place I get to flip out is at home in private by my self in the middle of the night. Everything from tears to wanting to scream to scrubbing the house with bleach. (Does make for a very clean house, btw
So let's talk about the article:
First complaint at the end of April: The client who didn't pay for the cake by the deadline.
The story that aired June 6: Does not match up with the previous complaint because the previous complaint received no cake due to non-payment.
The other of the two complaints that was received: I have a very good idea where it came from, but have not been told, so I won't say. But it all does relate to the beginning of this thread.
...take from the article: "is my understanding that Mrs. Wells did not take a simple vacation. She completely fell out of contact with customers for several weeks, holding clients' deposit money. They had no idea what was going on or what was to happen to their cakes."
As I explained in the interview, my "vacation" was a year end review of my business, what I needed to change, improve on, adjust, etc. as well as to prepare for the upcoming busy season. During this time I DID NOT answer emails, though for people who scheduled appointments online, I did accept. I do not answer my phone. It says clearly on my website to schedule an appt online. I do not accept contracts or deposits until the cake design process and flavor tasting and selection as finished. I have learned from this that, and perhaps this is because of these wedding shows, some clients are feeling they should have constant contact with me even after the design, tasting, and contract process. This is a point I will from now on be more clear about as far as "what clients should expect". When I sign a contract, I EXPECT the contract to be upheld, on my end and the business' end. It seems not everyone has the same expectation.
"since this story has aired, we've received several similar calls and emails regarding Mrs. Wells business practices. Many of their stories are similar to the one that ran on Monday." So people are calling and saying that after they finalize the design and tasting, and do the contract and deposit... what...? This event has yet to occur, therefor what exactly is the issue?
Part of this "vacation" time has been to evaluate areas in the business that need evaluating. Communication is one of those areas, hence why I have chosen to go to a no-phone, just email or schedule online system. Because unless I start charging more, I can't afford a receptionist. And in this area, people are still learning what these kinds of cakes cost.
Thank you, CakeStyles, for asking.And for showing me this. I just got off the phone with the news station because that all is a flat out lie.
That was the cake that was not paid for. Depoit left April 15th for event April 30th. Final pmt due April 22. No pmy recieved. Client said pmt would be brought by before April 29th. No pmt on April 29, no cake on April 30.
And phone numbers they found disconnected would probably be person, private landline numbers. the phone number where in extreme cases clients can text me as listed on my website has been in service for OVER 6 years.
This is her posts from the first 13 pages