Should I Issue A Refund???

Business By sweetpeachcakes Updated 7 Apr 2010 , 8:26pm by cylstrial

sweetpeachcakes Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
sweetpeachcakes Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 5:35pm
post #1 of 23

Months back, I booked a wedding cake for this past weekend. I do a lot of cakes, mostly custom party, and I always use the same recipe: my grandmothers scratch vanilla butter nut. I have only ever had one complaint that the cake was dry and with that cake there were other circumstances that cake to light on why the cake was dry (problem solved,moved on). The cake for this past weekend was a general wedding cake; 4 tiers with buttercream icing. This morning, the wedding planner, who is the one I've been communicating with (I never met the bride) came in to let me know that the cake was beautiful and looked just the was they wanted it, but it was so crumbly they couldn't even pick it up with the fork. She didn't actually use the word "dry" until my grandmother got into the conversation and used the word first, so I'm not sure if the customer meant the cake was actually "dry" or if the main complaint was that it was "crumbly." She never said it tasted bad, but said that a lot of it didn't get eaten because they couldn't pick it up....

Anyway, I want to make the customer happy, but I don't want to get into the business of issuing refunds to anyone and everyone who orders our standard cake and expects a Betty Crocker cake (no offense at all intended to box mixes as I love them myself but haven't used them in the cakes from my bakery).

To add to it, we had a few layers left over from the baking, so we took one home yesterday to eat with strawberries as a sunday dessert and it was just my cake as usual, no different.

The customer said she would bring back a portion of the uneaten cake (which at this point I have no idea how it has been stored) for us to test.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not insinuating that this customer is lying or is just trying to get a refund. She may be entirely correct and the cake may have been dry. I don't know if it was being compared to the groom's sheetcake just across the room (which was in a grocery store box) when I was setting up the wedding cake.

My question is: Do I issue a refund? How much? She paid $350 for the cake. What is standard procedure? I've never had to issue a refund, but I've also never been in this situation. Please help! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

22 replies
Jenny0730 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Jenny0730 Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 5:47pm
post #2 of 23

I would ask what they are looking for and go from there. You wouldn't want to issue a full refund if a 50% refund would satisfy them.

Spuddysmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Spuddysmom Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 5:48pm
post #3 of 23

Did the wedding planner (who communicated this) eat the cake? It kind of sounds like you believe the cake really was too dry. I can't picture a cake so crumbly you couldn't eat it with a fork, that sounds "desert dry". If the piece that you took home to sample seemed fine to you, was it that way because you had yours with strawberries, adding lots of moisture, or because you don't like moist cake, or the planner was mistaken?

leah_s Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
leah_s Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 5:51pm
post #4 of 23

I've learned on here that it could have been the knife they cut the cake with. It could have so destroyed the cake turned into a crumble.

Although I always thought a serrated knife was the best knife to use, several people on here say a big "no" to that idea. Thin, sharp, non-serrated knife.

You might want to ask what they used to cut the cake.

sweetpeachcakes Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
sweetpeachcakes Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 6:02pm
post #5 of 23

Thank you leah_s, I will ask. The knife set they had on the table was a smaller version of the "classic" serving set, definitely serrated. I don't know if that was it, but I'll certainly mention it to her.

Thanks Jenny, that seems like a good starting place. I will go from there.

spuddysmom, the layer we took home was just like our cakes always are. It did not have any icing on it and we did put strawberries on it, but did so just before eating, not letting them soak into the cake. I still have another layer here at the shop that I am going ice in buttercream and test it against the remaining cake the planner returns. It is not that I do not "like" box cake, I don't think I ever said that. I like box mixes just fine, but I also like my grandmother's recipe. It's one that she used for many, many years as a caterer and never had any complaints. Also, I will not say outright that the planner was mistaken. Maybe exaggerating, but I will not say that she is abslutely wrong. I think that the taste and texture of a cake and whether or not it is liked is in general, personal opinion. The planner said "when we cut the cake, we had to have a plate right there because we couldn't pick it up to put it on the plate and it was so crumbly we couldn't pick it up with a fork."

I am not questioning what to do it a customer is right/wrong. My main question is should/when/why/how do I issue a refund to keep customers happy?

Marci Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Marci Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 6:17pm
post #6 of 23

Before I made a decision on refunding or not, I would look at the cake they return. Usually I have a policy that if all the cake was eaten, no refund (definitely not 100%) because it couldn't have been all that bad.

Since the cake was exactly what they wanted visually, I would not refund 100% of the cake - regardless of how crumbly it was.

Oh a side note, crumbly and dry are two very different things.... a cake are be so moist that is too crumbly to pick up and a cake can be so dry you could throw it like a frisbee. I would not jump to the dry conclusion until you see it.

I would ask who cut the cake into pieces. Not cleaning the knife, not heating the knife, the wrong knife.... they all can lead to texture problems. Also, how big of a slice were they trying to cut - were they trying to make very slim pieces and it was falling apart?

I tend to feel that if something didn't go right, I need to try to fix it. Maybe a partial refund, maybe a free cake in the future (an 8" anniversary cake designed to match the wedding cake for example), maybe just a long conversation between you and the bride and the planner about what happened and how sorry you are that the cake wasn't enjoyed by everyone.

Hope this helps!

Margieluvstobake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Margieluvstobake Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 6:22pm
post #7 of 23

I just made a cake this past weekend for my neice's birthday. I asked my sister to take a picture of the cake after they had cut it so I could see how it looked on the inside. I had torted it and put in a cherry filling. The picture she sent to me was a crumbled mess. Now the cake was very good, there was no complaint about that, they just said it was very crumbly. My niece actually said that the piece on her plate was half crumbs. My sister cut it with a regular table knife and did not even clean it in between cuts. One of the pictures she sent me actually showed the knife on the cake board covered in cake crumbs. So it was her fault for how she cut it. It was not a problem with my cake. This same thing may have happened with your cake.

dreamcakesmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
dreamcakesmom Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 7:34pm
post #8 of 23

My thought went directly to a cutting issue. Honestly for a cake to fall apart I would actually think it would be super moist and crumbly vs too dry. When you look at a refund for a cake I always think of it this way. If a mistake you make directly links to them not being able to eat the product then they deserve a refund. If they are just not fully satisfied with the product then maybe a small partial as a sign of good faith (like 10%) or even a certificate towards a future purchase. If they bring the cake back and you can cut a clean slice properly and it tastes good then I would not issue a refund but would offer them a certificate towards a future purchase. O would also consider issuing cutting instructions for all future weddings in writing to include both sizing of pieces and proper cutting knife recommendations.

mamawrobin Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
mamawrobin Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 7:47pm
post #9 of 23

This is why you should include proper cutting instructions with each cake. If the way they cut the cake is the problem I would not offer any refund.

ttehan4 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
ttehan4 Posted 29 Mar 2010 , 8:00pm
post #10 of 23

How it was cut is probably the culprit. I don't think that I would offer a refund. I would apologize for anything that they thought was wrong and offer them something in return. Maybe a sampler tray of some of the goodies from your shop or a maybe say "come see me the next time you need a cake and I will take care of you". Makes them feel that you care about how they felt and they are getting something in return.

I also have in my contract that all cakes served at the event must be my cakes. I would not want someone to confuse the grocery store cake for one of mine and have it associated with my name.

sweetpeachcakes Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
sweetpeachcakes Posted 30 Mar 2010 , 2:55pm
post #11 of 23

Thanks so much for everyone's comments. I tried not to lose sleep over this last night....

The client did not bring the cake in yesterday and has not come in yet today either. I am worrid that she may wait until late this afternoon or worse, later this week, at which point the cake probably would be dry.

I do still have a layer left that I'm about to torte and ice and experiement with different knives. My grandmother seems to think the same thing about the cutting being the culprit.

I think I will offer her a cake for a future event. She is an event planner and I hope will appreciate the gesture.

EatSomeCake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
EatSomeCake Posted 30 Mar 2010 , 4:27pm
post #12 of 23

Common sense would tell her to come ASAP before the cake dries out over time....

Thing are looking in your favor, because so much time has gone by I would just offer a small cake to validate their concerns...and hope that that appeases them. If it bothered them that much they would have had the event planner bring the cake sooner so obviously they are not too worried about a refund. If it was the bride and groom or other close relative that showed up very soon after the wedding at the bakery I would assume it was serious and I would give them a partial refund for having inconvenienced them so much after their wedding and it would be obvious then how much it was a bothersome factor at the wedding...however this is not the it is obviously not too imp. to them....

SpecialtyCakesbyKelli Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SpecialtyCakesbyKelli Posted 30 Mar 2010 , 4:48pm
post #13 of 23

Maybe they are just accustomed to more of a box mix cake which has a totally different texture than a scratch cake. I wouldn't offer anything up front. I would wait to see what cards she plays first. But considering that she still hasn't come by with any cake... I wouldn't be too concerned. I mean really, what does she expect after she's waited several days to bring the cake back.......think she may be waiting for it to dry out? LOL

dalis4joe Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
dalis4joe Posted 30 Mar 2010 , 7:00pm
post #14 of 23

the knife.... the cutting... I agree... and I don't think a 100% refund or even a 50% refund is valid here... maybe a discount 20%-30%... maybe a free anniversary 8" in.... maybe a dozen cupcakes... just something to like the other said.. to make them feel valued... but they ate the cake... and like u said... the word dry didn't come up until your grandma said it... I hope it all works out... just make them feel what u r explaining to us... that you care and you want to make ti right... but keep in mind the work yo did.. the hours... the labor/ingredients, etc....

Good Luck!

ladyonzlake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
ladyonzlake Posted 5 Apr 2010 , 12:43am
post #15 of 23

I think you should talk to the bride and get more specifics. It seems unclear as to what the problem was. Sounds like they ate the cake? If it helps you could offer a complimentary freshly baked 1 year anniversary cake or a 15% disount on a future cake order.

kellymarie Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
kellymarie Posted 5 Apr 2010 , 1:26am
post #16 of 23

I apologize if i missed this already- but did she not have a tasting??

I agree the knife (as well as perhaps lack of care while cutting) is likely the culprit- definitely speak with the planner and hopefully you can get this resolved easily. I hope they don't wait too long to bring it back to you! If they do- and it's not sealed well that right there would make it "null" because who knows how that has affected the cake?!

BAH! unneeded stress icon_razz.gif

dguerrant Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
dguerrant Posted 5 Apr 2010 , 3:45am
post #17 of 23

I also have in my contract that all cakes served at the event must be my cakes. I would not want someone to confuse the grocery store cake for one of mine and have it associated with my name.

I recently did a '57 chevy cake for an anniversary party and when I got there, they had gotten extra cakes from someone else, several 8" assorted flavored cakes. I also helped the caterer (we're close friends) work the party, as we served the cake, omg it was DRY DESERT DRY we couldn't serve it either. we had to use 2 servers to scoop it up and put on plates, you needed a big glass of milk to wash them down for sure. I made sure that evereyone knew that we didn't do the 8" cakes. when asked, we simply said ' We only know about the car and here are some business cards."

I hate it when they don't get both cakes from me, I have had people mix my cake with someone elses, and give someone else credit for my hard work. I love doing carved and specialty grooms cakes and a lot of time they out shine the bride's cake especially if i didn't do both. If i have both, i step up the bride's so it's just as special and unique.

PinkPiggySweets Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
PinkPiggySweets Posted 6 Apr 2010 , 4:11am
post #18 of 23

This refund discussion is a great one! I had a customer inform me that the cake delivered Saturday was dry during my follow-up call. I was so disappointed. My fiance (the baker) and I (the decorator) just recently began our business. I do not know how to handle this situation but I am placing myself in the customer's shoes. I am calling them again tomorrow to apologize for the situation and to inform them that a coupon is in the mail to them for their next event. I really hope this does not deter them from using us in the future.

[Who ever thinks their cakes are dry?...LOL] I hate this.

momma28 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
momma28 Posted 6 Apr 2010 , 4:30pm
post #19 of 23
Originally Posted by sweetpeachcakes

4 tiers with buttercream icing. She paid $350 for the cake. What is standard procedure? I've never had to issue a refund, but I've also never been in this situation. Please help! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

ok first....$350 for a 4 tier cake, am I the only one who thinks this is low?

Second: I agree, cutting is the culprit. I leave instructions with each cake, if there is a catering staff I speak to the person who is in charge of cutting the cake before I leave. Recently at a tasting event at a high end venue the chef came out to ask if I had any specific cutting instruction beyond a hot clean thats how you cut a cake. The slices were pristine! I believe the knife was dipped in a pot of hot water and wiped between slices.

I personally would not issue a refund and would explain that you have cakes baked from the same batch , baked at the same time and they have no issues.

KHalstead Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
KHalstead Posted 7 Apr 2010 , 6:32pm
post #20 of 23

cutting is definitely the culprit.........I make very dense moist cakes and I forgot my cake knife at my best friend's wedding and all the caterers had on hand was a huge serrated bread knife.........while it went through the fondant nicely with a sawing motion, it completely obliterated the was very crumbly!!! I guarantee they used a serrated knife!!

Butterpatty Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Butterpatty Posted 7 Apr 2010 , 7:34pm
post #21 of 23

Is there an update? I am curious (okay, okay, nosy icon_rolleyes.gif ) about what happened.

Kitagrl Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Kitagrl Posted 7 Apr 2010 , 7:43pm
post #22 of 23 one of the early posts she said that they could not eat much of the cake because they couldn't get it to stay on their fork.

This is more than just the knife??? Actually I don't understand how you can NOT get cake to stay on a fork...moist, dry, whatever.... huh?

Unless, true, they just hacked up the cake and served mounds of crumbs.

Weirdest thing. I'd be giving them a date that you request the leftover cake. No fair they let it stale for two weeks and then say "Look you gave me this stale cake." Well yeah, its gonna be stale this far after the wedding....

cylstrial Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
cylstrial Posted 7 Apr 2010 , 8:26pm
post #23 of 23

Did she ever bring the cake in ? Because now it's going to be unedible - it's been so long.

Quote by @%username% on %date%