Do You Ever Refund The Nonrefundable Deposit?

Business By cai0311 Updated 23 Apr 2010 , 3:31am by JenniferAtwood

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cai0311 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 3:29pm
post #1 of 34

I have a bride that booked her wedding cake with me for the begining of June. Her FH, who is away at boot camp, was to return the week of the wedding. They just found out that isn't going to happen.

The bride called me explaining the situation. She said they still want to use me for their cake and will let me know as soon as they have a new date. They are trying to get married in July now, it just depends if they can find a reception hall during the days her FH will be home. She kept saying how sorry she was about this, and understands if I tack on a fee for the change and knows that depending on where the hall is a delivery fee.

I told her I have no problem with the change, I understand the situation is out of their control (although why you would plan a wedding knowing the guy is leaving for boot camp and not expected to return until the week of the wedding is beyond me). I explained the only issue would be if they pick a weekend I am already booked, then I would not be able to do the cake. In all reality, I don't care how many times they change the date - it only becomes a problem if I have other weddings that weekend.

Not once did she mention the deposit. It is clearly stated in the contract that the deposit is nonrefundable. I know I don't have to refund the deposit, and I don't think she is expecting it back if I can't do the cake, but I think in this circumstance I might.

33 replies
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cakesdivine Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 3:40pm
post #2 of 34

Nope, you are under no obligation to return the deposit. Just apply it to the new date once she has it, if it conflicts then it is her problem not yours. The only way I would ever refund a deposit is if I had to cancel on the date and they needed to find a new baker.

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leah_s Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 3:46pm
post #3 of 34

Well, no. That's why is called "non-refundable."

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cai0311 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 3:48pm
post #4 of 34

I know, but don't you ever feel bad for people? I plan on keeping the deposit until I know for sure her new date. I am sitting on the fence as to whether I want to be nice and return the deposit if I can't do the cake for sure. The deposit is only $50, so it is not like I would out a lot of money.

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cakesbycathy Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 3:51pm
post #5 of 34

A non-refundable deposit is just that, NOT REFUNDABLE.

The only exceptions (for me) would be if the baker cancels. If for any reason I were not able to make the cake I would refund any payments made. The only other exception I can think of would be if the bride or groom died (God forbid). I would probably return the deposit under those circumstances (something to consider since the groom is military).

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jillmakescakes Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 5:09pm
post #6 of 34

Just because you FEEL bad isn't a reason for your business to lose money. Its not feel-ness, its business.
(chanelling my inner IndyDebi!)

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cai0311 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 5:13pm
post #7 of 34

The only reason I would could even consider returning the money is because cakes are not my full time job. For me, cake money is fun money. I am not counting on any of it. Which in the summer means it all goes towards my husband's golf addiction icon_smile.gif

I know just because I don't need it doesn't mean I should do it, sometimes I like to do the nice thing because I can.

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KarmaStew Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 5:21pm
post #8 of 34

I have returned a non-refundable retainer ( I always call it a retainer, not a deposit. The word deposit implies they will be paid back) once. Five months before the wedding I received an e-mail from a bride stating that her husband-to-be and one of their kids had been killed in a car crash. She never asked for the retainer back but I send her a check, along with a condolence card.

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adonisthegreek1 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 5:53pm
post #9 of 34

If she did not mention the deposit then neither would I.

Some people say under no circumstances should you ever return a "non refundable" deposit. I wouldn't make refunds a matter of habit, but under certain circumstances I definitely would give a refund. My chefs that I trained under, who were very successful, taught us that it's better to be humane and build a strong clientele.

Once I booked a non-refundable party for my son. I was not a cake decorator then. I had to cancel the day before the party, because he was hospitalized with pneumonia. The facility was very accommodating and allowed me to re-book with no cost or penalties. I have used this place again and again. I called the bakery to let them know that I would not be picking up his cake. Before I could even ask them to freeze it for me as the party had been rescheduled, they were very rude and said that it wasn't their fault that my son had pneumonia. I did pay the balance and pick up the cake a couple of weeks later, but I have never used that bakery again and I tell everyone not to go there.

Another time, I had scheduled a non-refundable party at a banquet hall 9 months in advance. Six weeks before the party I ended up in the emergency room. I needed surgery and 6-8 weeks of recovery. I contacted the banquet hall. The owner said that although I had signed a contract and paid a non refundable deposit that if he could book that night then he would give me a full refund. I just wanted to postpone, not cancel so he allowed me to re-book and apply the deposit to the new date.

If I had already bought supplies for someone's special order, then I would not refund the money. If I still had the money and it was a life altering emergency, I would just give them their money back.

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Loucinda Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 6:30pm
post #10 of 34

My chefs that I trained under, who were very successful, taught us that it's better to be humane and build a strong clientele.

I think that is some excellent advice. With my business, it is very rare that I have to purchase something "specific" for one cake - so that reason really would not apply for the most part for me.

I have a soft spot for anyone in the military, I actually give any active duty people a discount. They risk their lives for all of us, so for me, I would do what I could to help them out. If that involved a refund - I would do what I felt was right. That is a decision that only you can make.

I have booked several wedding cakes for this year from references that are former brides living abroad at military bases! So, for me, making adjustments for those in the military has helped my business. (which goes along with the PP's quote!)
I would first try to get the booking on a date that will work.....and go from there.

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KHalstead Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 6:39pm
post #11 of 34

I've not been in the situtation to have to return it YET...but if I were in your situation I think as long as you haven't turned down any other orders because of her cake, then I personally would probably at least offer it back to her.

That's just me, and I am a softie and definitely feel for people so there's my 2 cents lol

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DebBTX Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 6:49pm
post #12 of 34

I would go the extra mile for military people, and do as much as possible to make their day special.

-Debbie B.

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cai0311 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 6:55pm
post #13 of 34

No offense the first several posters, but I am glad that there are a few people out there with a heart. I don't think every, or even most, cancelled orders should result in a refund. I recently had a woman order a small cake and never picked it up. I called her 6 times, left 3 messages and talked once in person the day of pick up. I don't know what happened, but she didn't get a refund. I also won't give a refund in the event bride or groom got cold feet/changed mind about getting married.

I do think that each time someone cancels (only the one time for me and possibly this bride because of a schedule conflict) the "should I, shouldn't I" needs to be asked. I think adonisthegeek1 is correct that showing a little humanity can reap rich rewards in the form of a loyal client and someone willing to pass you name out because they know you care. As a customer, that would work for me.

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leah_s Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 7:01pm
post #14 of 34

With military couples I let the deposit ride - once for 2 years - until he returned home and the wedding was rescheduled.

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MalibuBakinBarbie Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 7:03pm
post #15 of 34

With respect to the non-refundable deposit stated in your contract, in this case I feel that because her future husband is in the military, learning to fight for our freedom and demonstrating his willingness to make any and all sacrifices for that purpose, I would refund the deposit if you are booked and cannot do their cake. I don't have a cake business, but that's what I would do. icon_smile.gif

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ayerim979 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 7:16pm
post #16 of 34

I would hold of till I know the new date. For some reason I feel that if you return the deposit that is giving her the right to go with another baker if she chooses too.

I know 50 dollars isn't alot of money but trust me not alot of people would want to loose out.

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smokeysmokerton Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 7:44pm
post #17 of 34

I think I'd refund it too. My husband is a veteran, so I definately have a soft spot. Having said that, I would probably ask her if she wanted it refunded or if she wanted to try to work with me on the date. Some people don't have a lot to spend on their wedding(I know I didn't), so already having a deposit in place may just be one less thing for her to worry about when the time comes. If you are booked when she needs it, you could just refund it then.

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costumeczar Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 8:10pm
post #18 of 34

It depends on the situation. If I could do the cake I'd just do it on the new date. If I couldn't do it because I had other business booked that day and there was absolutely no way I could do it, I'd refund part based on how much time I'd spent with them for tastings, etc. If she really hadn't bothered me much in terms of answering a million emails and having ten tasting appt requests, and I hadn't done any work on her cake, I'd probably just refund the whole thing. The deployment takes the control out of her hands, and if you haven't done any advance work on their cake that you can't use for another one, I'd just refund it.

And I've returned either full or partial non-refundable deposits before when I felt sorry for someone, but that's generally when they call me and are crying hysterically saying that their fiance dumped them. Seriously, I see no reason to add insult to injury. They usually come back when they get engaged again, or send other people to me anyway.

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Kitagrl Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 8:23pm
post #19 of 34

Why not just keep the deposit until they do schedule their wedding? You can just tell her its a special favor that the deposit will assure her a place no matter when he comes back (if you have to work all night long one night to fit it in, its okay that one time...)

I would never refund a non-refundable deposit unless it was a drastic situation (somebody's deathly ill or died, etc) and they needed the money and I knew it. But I only require $50 deposits as well, for that very purpose, so they are not out too much money if something happens.

I am very humane and compassionate but on the other hand...usually if you book a hotel room and you get sick and can't go....then you lose that "nonrefundable" room unless you had purchased insurance.

Luckily this rarely if ever happens (having someone ask for a deposit back.)

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KHalstead Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 8:24pm
post #20 of 34

maybe a good MIDDLEROAD would be to let them know you'll be holding on to it, and if the future date chosen is one you're not available for, maybe you can offer to apply their deposit to a future cake order from them? That way you don't have to "give back" the deposit, but you still get the good customer service of allowing them to make use of it in the future?

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dldbrou Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 8:26pm
post #21 of 34

If you can not do the cake because you are already booked, then you might offer her a coupon on her next cake. Maybe as an anniversary cake or birthday or baby shower cake.

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CoutureCakeCreations Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 8:29pm
post #22 of 34

The purpose of the deposit is exactly for situations like this. she did state that she still wants your services so the deposit stays with you. If for some reason she changes her mind, the deposit is still yours. Your contract should state that the deposit is non refundable and if so under no circumstances should it be returned.
Hope that helps!

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costumeczar Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 9:11pm
post #23 of 34

The non-refundable part of it is to cover your loss of business in case she does cancel, as well as for holding the date. It doesn't mean that you CAN'T give it back, that's up to your discretion. Totally your call. You should see if you can do the new date first, anyway, because this might be a totally moot point.

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malene541 Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 9:44pm
post #24 of 34

I don't have any family or direct friends in the military and I would absolutely refund it. Even if she didn't say anything about it I would surprise her with the check/cash and a letter saying how I would be proud to be able to make a wedding cake for someone that is protecting my freedom and future!!!

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cakesbycathy Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 9:55pm
post #25 of 34

I'm not saying you should NEVER give the deposit back. Are there exceptions? Yes. But as a general rule, I believe if the bride cancels or changes the date for whe the baker is no longer available then she is out the deposit.

In this case we are only talking about $50. What about the bride that puts down a deposit of say $350 or more? That's a much bigger chunk of change for a baker to have to give back. For many bakers that money is probably already spent.

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costumeczar Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 10:02pm
post #26 of 34

You'd be totally within your rights to keep any non-refundable deposit, sure, but it's up to the individual baker to decide how they want to handle each specific situation.

Personally, I keep all deposits in my account until the cake is done, then it's my money. Technically the deposits are mine if they're non-refundable, but in a situation where I couldn't do the cake because of some problem on MY end, I'd return it. So that means I don't spend it until I've delivered the cake. If I end up in traction somewhere and my husband has to call all my clients and return their money, he'll be able to write the checks without draining our bank account.

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chassidyg Posted 8 Apr 2010 , 10:05pm
post #27 of 34

Off subject, but I think you all are wonderful for the what you do for our military. It means so much to them & to us their wives & families icon_smile.gif

Someone asked why they'd schedule a wedding that close. A lot of our Military personel will get married after boot camp to ensure their spouses have coverage & benefits, as many of them are scheduled to be deployed after boot. Not as soon as previous years, but many of them do.

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in2cakes2 Posted 9 Apr 2010 , 12:13am
post #28 of 34

My oldest son just took his oath for the Marines and will ship off to bootcamp in August so I have a huge soft spot in my heart for our military. I give a discount to all military, active or not. These men and women's lives are a blank check that our government can cash at any time. I would offer a refund or let the deposit float to their new date. JMHO

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spring Posted 9 Apr 2010 , 1:05am
post #29 of 34

Owning a shop in a military town I have been in your situation. We came up with a military policy for our soldiers. I explain the policy and they can either order the cake from us or not.


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terrig007 Posted 9 Apr 2010 , 1:38am
post #30 of 34

When I married my military husband 10 years ago, the lady at the Chapel at Fort Monroe informed me that even if my husband to be got killed (he was in Bosnia at the time I planned the wedding) they would not give me my $25 back. I said I thought that was pretty harsh and then she told me well that was the way it was and was almost boasting that a few months earlier a wedding was scheduled and the groom to be was killed by a drunk driver. I told she was heartless and left and my maid of honor told her she was a lunatic as we walked out.
I would just hold on to it and if you can't do their new date, then refund it (if you didn't turn down anything or can't book something for their date) if you want.
My neighbor's daughter thought her Navy boot camp ended on one date and it wound up ending 3 weeks later (the recruiter gave them the wrong dates and when she got to Great Lakes she got the correct date) and the parents were stuck having to pay to change their airline tickets.

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