Thanks you guys. I didn't sleep last night mulling this all over, and I appreciate all the insight from all your angles. (no I don't take it wrong)
I did consider that they may have worried about taking the cake out too soon. At 100 degrees, that's an issue. The written instructions state to allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving AND that usually we recommend setting it up (safely) at least 30-60 minutes before guests arrive to the reception, which is how we deliver and set up for weddings that aren't picked up by the customer.
Verbally I just said that they'd want to stick as close to that timeframe as possible, especially since they were talking about it going outside and possibly not even in shade. Hopefully my concern about it melting didn't lead to them freaking out and bringing it out of a super cold fridge 20 minutes before they cut it, but who knows.
This m.o.b is one pissed off lady (she wasn't very nice, even when they picked up; I noticed that she wasn't too friendly but figured whatever).
My stance is that I'm not willing to bend to her and give her a bunch of money back because they didn't follow instructions, and also due to the fact that they signed off on being responsible for the storage and setup, and then had the cake in their possession for about 24 hours before it was served. Who knows? They may have put it in a freezer, for all I know. I can tell from her email that she will fly completely off the handle if I deny her money back, but I refuse to let this be the new norm, where if you yell loud enough someone will definitely give you money back just to get rid of you. They just do it everywhere once they think it works, and then all vendors will suffer. I am hearing this behavior being a new habit more and more, and I find it tactless and classless and horrid.
This one was so blatant that I had no trouble disagreeing with her that the cake was not dry, poorly made, or made completely of shortening, because none of that is true.
If they go ahead and bring cake 45 minutes over to me, then what? My dh says I should not let them in with it. I'm not going to eat it with the bride and have THAT conversation "It's fine." "No it's NOT". etc. And if they throw it away here, and go home with nothing, they will come back and say that they returned the uneaten portion (who DOES that?) of a cake and weren't refunded for that portion. I can imagine them even asking for compensation for the wasted trip over here to do all of this. Dh says tell them free anniversary cake is all we will offer; subjective complaints 9 days after the cake was baked, after 24 hours in their posession before serving, nothing can be done in terms of monetary compensation. But he says it's a whole other can of worms to have them come over here and stand here in my shop saying "LOOK at this, it's terrible." Well, yeah, where's it been for the last 10 days? That's not an argument that's solvable.
I'm still mulling this over, but I need to send them some sort of response by tomorrow at the latest, if I'm deciding to have them not come here.
Please feel free to continue to opine. We as vendors do need to understand how best to cover for these situations and avoid them, since even with the best of our work on the line and the most careful transportation situations, I think there are customers who will complain no matter what.
I'd like to add something to our contract about, I don't know, subjective complaints not being a valid argument in terms of monetary refunds, but ? I understand if the cake collapsed because of poor construction, or the flavors were wrong, or it was delivered an hour late, but to ask for money back because it *seemed dry* and *everyone made a face when they ate it*, is not a reasonable request and I will not be dictated to by these women about what's going on, in terms of who is getting refunds from this bakery.