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m.o.b. Complaint (I never get these). How to handle this? - Page 3

post #31 of 114
Thread Starter 
This particular cake went in the back of a minivan to a wedding who knows where in another town. No idea if there even WAS a venue. They took a cutting guide and it sounded like a family affair.

I'm not worried about the cake; there was nothing wrong with it.

And YES, me too-- I have had 4 complaints in 12 years, and THREE OF THOSE were this year, almost back to back, and I swear they sounded related, their email complaints are so similar, all full of capitals and exclamation points and semi veiled threats. Threatening me doesn't really get you far; I have enough skin for 3 secretaries after running two businesses for 12 years dealing with customers, but yes, it does seem like this year people are definitely going around making the rounds after the wedding and getting a little bit back here, a little bit back there. The last one I had a complaint from was also hassling the venue about her bill, so it must be a fun new trend. (oh joy)

My attorney friend would take them to mat on a slander case, so that wouldn't be a cool direction for them to go, either.

Sometime the customer isn't 'always right'; sometimes they're just trying to get something back by being the squeeky wheel. Did someone write a book about this tactic or something?

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

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Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply
post #32 of 114
This thread sure touched a nerve, and it breaks my heart. There's been a huge change in our society, and in many cases it's not for the good. This issue is a symptom of the attitude and willingness of people to act in a fraudulent manner. I made many wedding cakes from 1979-99 and only once did I have a problem with a customer seeking a refund.

It appears that many cake businesses see this problem getting worse. We need to stay ahead of them by discussing ways to protect ourselves: create a list of red-flag behaviors, what to write into contracts, etc. We need to continue this discussion with the intent of becoming a smarter group of businesspeople.

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post #33 of 114
Before I start I want to clear, this is not about saying you are in the wrong. Rather this is something I noticed across posts and it is something to consider as you move forward with this individual.

Given your account of the individual's complaints about the cake it does seem like the cake may have been served cold. Given what you have posted about your instructions it may be worth reflecting on how/what was communicated to the clients.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef_Stef


If the filling 'separated' from the cake when they served it, then they served it probably freezing cold (note the 100 degree temp warning I gave them, took too seriously I guess about keeping it cold), but other than that, at room temp, that cake is delish, and I have proof.



First you noted that you warned them about the temperature. What was the nature of the warning you provided? Is there any chance that you overstated the danger, or communicated the danger of melting in such a way that the client could have interpreted that bringing the cake out of the fridge (assuming it was kept there) for any length time could lead it to melt? If these people have little experience with how to handle cake they could easily assume based on how the nature of the warning they were given that they should keep the cake in the fridge as long as possible. This relates to the second thing you mentioned about the document you have them sign.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef_Stef


My pickup instructions that they signed state very clearly to keep the cake cool or in the fridge before the event but to bring it to room temp before serving it.



How is this stated on the instructions? Is this all it states or does it provide instructions on how one should do this? That is does it provide them with an idea of how long it takes a cake like the one they received to come up to" room temperature" under room temperature conditions? What about if the conditions are not room temperature--i.e. they do not have air conditioning and so it is hot in the hot/venue? It is not safe to assume they know this, and if the house/venue was hotter than "room temperature" it coupled with the emphasis on temperature they could have easily assumed they needed to keep the cake in the fridge until the last possible minute.

In this case where they if they took it out sooner than they did would have led to the cake melting. Again if a person is not familiar with how IMBC acts at 100 degrees and they have little idea as to how long it takes a cake to come to room temperature so it is fluffy and delicious simply telling them let it come to room temperature provides them with little insight into how to ensure the cake does properly come to room temperature.

I know this sounds like I am trying to defend the client--this is not my intent. Rather it seems in this case what was communicated to the client in terms of how the cake needed to be handled prior to its serving could have contribute to the cake being served cold. It is also likely that they ignored everything you said and/or they are pushing for a refund which is why I am asking about what exactly was communicated to the client.
post #34 of 114
double post
post #35 of 114
I think I would still let them, (want them) to bring the remainder of the cake to you. Drive the 45 minutes, each way to get to you. Unless they really believe they have a chance at getting their money back, they won't bother. If they do show up, you just show your most professional side and make them the offer of the free anniversary cake, but only AFTER a nice discussion about the cake.

If you make it easy and say no need to come, they'll think they have you right where they want you. They'll be happy, later, to get the free anniversary cake, but right now, they want money and they think they can bully you. Plus, why let them keep and eat the rest of the cake? (providing they haven't left it to go to ruin) I think this is where you show you are a strong, confident, business woman and you will handle things with them face to face, as you first told them. Backing down from that now, I think, will make you look weak, and they will not settle except for everything they want.
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."
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"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."
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post #36 of 114
What was the total amount of the order?
post #37 of 114
I said earlier that I probably wouldn't do a refund. It's been way too long for them to return cake. Their excuses are flimsy. I'd stick to my guns also knowing any complaint they post online about me would be overshadowed by all the glowing reviews I already have.

But Kara brings a valid point - Paypal just reversing a charge. Square and Paypal are not banks, they are privately owned companies (actually I think Paypal is public IPO). They aren't covered by FDIC and don't have very good internal fraud protocols... their protocols are "refund the money when someone complains". They take the money from your account and the merchant has a heck of a time proving no fraud happened. In fact, Paypal is notorious for this, and it's the reason why I don't even have a Paypal account. I do have a Square, but have used it twice. I process all my cards thru Google Wallet. Their merchant protection and fraud detection is stellar. Even if someone tries to claim a chargeback, they don't take the money from my account. As long as I can prove delivery, I'm 100% covered.

Anyway, POS machines and software from your merchant bank account is much more expensive, but has fraud and merchant protection built in - which makes them far superior for processing cards. But who of us can afford those???

I don't think I (or Jason) derailed the discussion, although we bickered a bit we both brought up valid points we felt relevant to a complaint situation, which is the customer may attempt to take the refund in their own hands if you don't give them one (which you said you were not). Jason mentioned them contacting Visa and Visa gives them a refund. I still hold that as untrue, as Visa is not an entity you can contract, but you CAN contact your bank. And your bank will say no way. But contacting Paypal or Square direct is a completely different situation because they aren't banks - so they very well may force one.
post #38 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

IBut Kara brings a valid point - Paypal just reversing a charge. Square and Paypal are not banks, they are privately owned companies (actually I think Paypal is public IPO). They aren't covered by FDIC and don't have very good internal fraud protocols... their protocols are "refund the money when someone complains".


I agree that PayPal transactions are even worse for merchants in this respect than credit card transactions, but Kara's customer disputed the charge by contacting Amex (which is both a bank and a credit card company).

Square and Google Checkout are both merchant account processors. Customers would have no reason to contact the processor directly, as you said they would contact the bank issuing the credit card and not the credit card company itself (I find it's simpler to just refer to the issuing bank as the "credit card company", since that's what many people think they are).

Quote:
Quote:

I process all my cards thru Google Wallet.


Google Wallet is a platform for loading credit cards onto your mobile phone and using your phone to pay...is this how you process all payments, or did you mean Google Checkout? Google Checkout does provide another layer of protection for the merchant, the customer would have to convince both the credit card issuer and Google that the item was not delivered as promised.

Depending on the state, the customer may still be able to recover funds if they are simply not satisfied with the quality, with some restrictions (purchase > $50, bought within 100 miles of the billing address, and attempt to resolve with the seller in good faith first) under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre16.shtm
post #39 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

IBut Kara brings a valid point - Paypal just reversing a charge. Square and Paypal are not banks, they are privately owned companies (actually I think Paypal is public IPO). They aren't covered by FDIC and don't have very good internal fraud protocols... their protocols are "refund the money when someone complains".


I agree that PayPal transactions are even worse for merchants in this respect than credit card transactions, but Kara's customer disputed the charge by contacting Amex (which is both a bank and a credit card company).




It was my friend who had her money pulled back by paypal, not me. Their answer to her when she asked what she could do was basically " duh......we don't know." The plain fact is that anyone can dispute a charge anywhere, since anyone can deny purchasing something, signing a contract, etc etc. You would hope that it wouldn't happen, but there are enough dishonest people around that it does.
post #40 of 114
Thread Starter 
double post

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply
post #41 of 114
Thread Starter 
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.

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

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Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply
post #42 of 114
Thread Starter 
double post

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply

Not doing cakes any more, moved on...

Now blogging about life after cake and other randomness here:  http://itsa-long-story.blogspot.com/

Reply
post #43 of 114
If I were in this situation I would taste the cake, if it didn't taste right (after accounting for the time passed) there would be an immediate 100% refund, if it tasted fine I would pro-rate the refund based on how much cake was returned. Then I would blacklist the entire family from any future orders.

Is this customer trying to get free cake? Maybe. But in my view it's better to give a partial refund to someone who doesn't deserve it than to refuse to compensate a customer with a genuine grievance. These days, the amount of bad P.R. a pissed-off customer can generate will usually outweigh the cost of a refund. And if a customer is willing to drive 45 minutes to get their refund, they are probably pretty pissed-off.

I recognize that you may not like this customer, but as a business owner it's important to put your personal feelings aside and do what's best for your business.

I think a token offer like a free anniversary cake would probably just make the situation worse. I also don't agree with a clause that says subjective complaints are not valid, if I read that in a vendor's contract it would make me think the vendor does not stand behind the quality of their work, and if you are targeting the premium market that is a must.
post #44 of 114
The "premium market" here are the ones who bitch and moan the most, they seem to think the world is their servant. When the country club ladies who lunch walk into a consult my radar goes up waiting for pickiness.

I wouldn't offer an anniversary cake either. I also wouldn't have her drive with the cake to you, that's just opening a can of worms. I'd keep it long distance and ask her what she wanted to do to resolve the situation. You don't have to say okay to what she says, but it would at least give you an idea about what she's thinking.
post #45 of 114
Dang, I'll defend my product to the death, but I just don't know what I'd do here. The cake was out of your control for nearly 48 hours. Who really knows what happened in that time. This sucks. Who's to say that cake didn't fall over in the car 5 miles down the street because they hit the brakes, and they concocted this story to sound believable. Far fetched I know, but how do you really know?
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