I Want To Kick This Customer To The Curb (Sorry, Long)

Decorating By pmarks0 Updated 15 Nov 2010 , 11:22pm by Adecakes

pmarks0 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
pmarks0 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:08pm
post #1 of 106

But I can't because she's a colleague of my DH and he views her as "good practice" for dealing with difficult people. Except that if she wasn't a colleage (notice I don't use friend) I wouldn't have done this for her.

She is having a 50th birthday party for herself on Oct 2. Back in March she came to me (us really because she roped him into helping her with music) because she wanted me to make her cake. Yet back then, she didn't care what it looked like and no one would eat it as there was lots of dessert. I questioned why bother, but she wanted it for effect. She had no idea what it might cost and didn't ask.

Over the course of a month I had no less that 23 emails between us with her constantly changing her mind on what the cake should look like. She kept sending me pictures that she liked. Finally settled on one that I hated. In any case, she's the customer... So because she's a colleague DH says that we will give her the cake as our gift but she will pay cost.

She has decided she wants a 3 tiered cake in black, red and white, with the flags of Canada and Trinidad in the place of bows on the original design and a red 50 topper. Still hate the cake with the flag but I go through everything and figure out the cost to her. The cake would be covered in buttercream with fondant accents in red and black, a gumpaste 50 on top and these two flags made of gumpaste. She wanted marble and went on repeatedly about fruit in the filling.

Calculating all required boards, dowels, cake and icing costs, I gave her a price of $200 for a 6/10/12. I think she fell on the floor because she asked if this was just for the cost. I confirmed it was, reminded her that the actual price for the cake would have been $430, provided a breakdown of the costs and asked her budget. $100!!!!!

At this point I wanted to tell her to find someone else but DH doesn't get it, and said 'good practice'. This was all based on her original date of Sept 25. When she had to change the date, I had a perfect opening to cancel on her but didn't. Stupid me. LOL.

So, she then said that two tiers were fine, no filling necessary, size didn't matter as there were other desserts and fondant wasn't necessary and she insisted she never wanted fruit (I quoted her email and told her the date she sent it)..

I provided her with pictures of 3 different cakes, two that were 2 tiered and one just a 12" square. Anyway, I sent her new costs based on all buttercream, fondant, 6/10 tiers, buttercream filling to meet her budget. And all seems well.

Fast forward to this week. We are now 4 weeks away from the party. She gives me the cash and starts asking me a) what are you putting on the top? (the cake in the picture had inedible foil stars and ribbons) b) what about a candle I have to blow something out and c) how big is it going to be.

I remind her about the 50 topper (she wants something more fun party-like), tell her the candle has nothing to do with me, that's her issue and c) that the cake will be about 7-8 inches in height when all done + the 50. She leaves and I think she's fine with it all. Until yesterday when I get an email and want to kill her.

Pam, how high are each cake, 4" standard size? Are they homemade cake? I do not want boxed cake at all. Would these not have the standard filling in the middle to join both cakes? I would like with the 50's on the cake the possibility of having canadian and trini flags as a decoration. I am not sure about the topper, I want something that looks different and fabulous.

I do like the toppers from the cake as it looks more like a celebration cake. If you only doing a 50 topper that would look a little boring icon_sad.gif. Please let me know what else you were planning for the top of the cake. Also how much would it cost to have a 4" cake added as another layer to the top? I would like to take that one home to enjoy the next day

My guess is that she's been talking to a friend. So now, she wants to know how much it will be to go back to a 3 tiered cake.

I tend to bake with a mix as a base as there can be more error with a scratch cake. Now she's talking "standard filling"...she has no clue. She's back to the friggin' flags again which I had told her did not fit the design. And I'm not planning anything else for the top! (Can you tell I'm pissed off? LOL)

Oh, and I made it very clear to her that I wasn't copying another decorators work. I could tell she didn't get this. She also doesn't remember that I said in my emails that I would not be copying but would use as an example of what her was look like.

So I've now spent several hours finding a vanilla cake recipe that I can make into a marble cake, and costing out the revised cake both with a cake mix base and with a scratch cake. I've also added in a contingency amount for the scratch to cover any failures that require additional materials.

I've attached the picture she liked. I can't find the original link as I stupidly saved the image to my hard drive not marked it as a favourite. icon_sad.gif

I can't find similar items at our local party supply store, and considered going to Michaels to see if they had. But now I'm thinking, 50 topper in red, and fondant/gumpaste stars on wires in red and black. I had thought originally silver using a shiny dust (not sure which one) painted on. But I so don't want to do the flags. I think it's not appropriate to the design and my name is attached to this cake.

Sorry about the long vent.

105 replies
pmarks0 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
pmarks0 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:20pm
post #2 of 106

I'm having problems attaching a picture here.

tmac670 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tmac670 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:23pm
post #3 of 106

First off-- don't stress about the box vs, scratch thing--- most people can't tell anyway.
Let her know that all your cakes have a box mix base--and so will hers. Who knows, maybe this is the perfect time to give her money back, since you don't do scratch! lol
Sometimes the men in our lives don't get it, do they.

jsmith Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
jsmith Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:30pm
post #4 of 106

Your husband's right. This is good practice for learning how to deal with difficult customers. Drop her now. You've already wasted too much time dealing with her and your not even going to get a decent cake to add to your portfolio. If you had charged her normal price then you would be a little more in control, but since she's getting a cheap price with whatever design she wants then she's going all out. Unless she's in a supervisory position over your husband then just tell her something's come up and you won't be able to make her cake after all.

BRATTYR Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
BRATTYR Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:30pm
post #5 of 106

SO SORRY THAT THIS HAPPENED TO YOU!! some people just dont get it!! but sorry i dont see a picture attached.
i think you tell her at this point you cant make any other changes and she need to make a final decision!! and i would never make a cake for her agian!!!

crazyladybaker Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
crazyladybaker Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:36pm
post #6 of 106

oh my word! Show her the door! ACK! icon_eek.gif

Karen421 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Karen421 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:44pm
post #7 of 106

If you make the scratch cake - I can hear her now - " It's dry" Make what you always make, don't change or you will be asking for more trouble from her. Explain to her, you use the box as the flour in your recipe. Good luck, remember, This to shall pass!

cownsj Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
cownsj Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:45pm
post #8 of 106

I'm sorry for all your headaches with her. But you know she is an expert at dealing with "difficult people". She is treating you the way she treats those difficult people and she "will" get what she wants, or so she is determined.

Only you know her game (job), and you can beat her at it and be happy. Simply tell her you will make her cake the same as you make all your other cakes, period. You are not going to risk a mishap by changing your way of baking.

You are the pro, and she needs to trust in you and your expertise. Tell her all this. Then decide, based on all you've done, heard, said...... what the design should be, TELL HER that is what her cake will be and again, she needs to trust you, that you know what you are doing and you want to make her happy, and by letting you, the expert, do what you do best, she will be happy with the end result.

And in the end, let her make some minor change to the design so she will feel as though she's won, and she will be happy.

VickeyC Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
VickeyC Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:46pm
post #9 of 106

I think if it were me, I would have to tell her to take her "different and fabulous" idea to someone else. She could then drive them crazy, and be charged out the wazoo for not only the cake, but the trouble of changing her mind so much and being such a difficult person to deal with. As for DH, I would have to tell him that he should just stay out of the kitchen. LOL

karenm0712 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
karenm0712 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:46pm
post #10 of 106

RUN, RUN, RUN! Maybe if you tell her that you DO use a box cake mix as your base she will decide she wants to go elsewhere! icon_biggrin.gif

So sorry you have to deal with this difficult "customer"...

divinecc Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
divinecc Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 10:48pm
post #11 of 106

Wow, I am tired just reading the email I can imagine how you feel! Sometimes I don't get how oblivious people are....sorry you have to deal with her, good luck! icon_wink.gif

Ladiesofthehouse Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Ladiesofthehouse Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 11:00pm
post #12 of 106

I had a customer like this and I think it has something to do with turning 50! My sister is indecisive, and roller coaster like this too and she turns 50 in November. It's such a big deal to some people that it just throws them for a loop mentally. After my dealings with these 2 if it was me I would run the other way--the weirdness only gets worse! LOL

PattyT Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
PattyT Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 11:33pm
post #13 of 106
Originally Posted by jsmith

Your husband's right. This is good practice for learning how to deal with difficult customers. Drop her now.

icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif Love this comment.

However, if you are stuck with her, I like your idea of augmenting the "50" with some stars on skewers/wires, but also some of those swirly curley-cue fondant things. They are fairly simple for you to do, even in advance.

She seems set on the "flag" theme - but could you incorporate the colors. I just looked up the Trinidad flag and it's red, black and white, and since Canada is red and white the curley-cue things could be those colors two. Maybe instead of red stars you could do little red maple leaves.

Good luck though....sounds like a doozey!

malene541 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
malene541 Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 11:37pm
post #14 of 106

I find it hard to believe she can tell a difference from a scratch cake to a modified box cake. Do what you know and make the modified box cake and don't say a word. She's saying enough all ready right?! icon_smile.gif
Good luck and we are all here for you!!

giggysmack Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
giggysmack Posted 1 Sep 2010 , 11:58pm
post #15 of 106

I would tell your husband how you intend to deal with overly difficult customers. I would send her to Flour confections in pickering. Out of curiosity I would send them an email and get a quote. As far as scratch vs. box just be honest and tell her what you do and charge accordingly. Part of dealing with difficult customers is showing them what your limits are. They can have the choice to deal with it or not. I would also consider charging for design changes. Who is paying you to answer all those emails? In the future I would consider having a deadline for design changes. I have found that if I give the customer a precise itemized list of what each detail costs helps them to understand better. Start with a base price for buttercream 2 tier cover with buttercream $$ 3 tier cover with buttercream $$ to cover with fondant add 30% (or whatever you wish to charge)
Price each detail separately
fondant stripes $$
Flag 3" $$ each
fondant this $$
fondant that $$
I usually include some buttercream decorating in the base cost but anything fondant and it goes up or if it is very detailed buttercream the price goes up
good luck

KristyDi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
KristyDi Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 12:08am
post #16 of 106

Oh good grief! What a pain!

I'm personally a scratch baker, but she dosen't get to dictate what recipe you use to make cakes. She either likes your cakes or she dosen't. I would NOT make a new recipe to cater to her whims. As I see it you have 2 options. . .

1. Omit the info that you use box mixes and assure her that you have a tried and true recipe that never fails you and is delicious.

2. Tell her that you use a box mix as a base but enhance it. It's wonderful, moist and delicious. You're not comfortable experimenting with a new, unfamiliar recipe on her very special cake. (Then you hope she insists on scratch while you hold firm so you can suggest that she might be happier if she found a scratch baker. Then she'd be someone else's problem)

Decide on a design you're willing to make, based on the elements you've discussed with her and offer to make that or nothing.

Tell you DH that if he wants practice with difficult people he can make the cakes himself. You've had all the practice you can stand for a while.

Vkandis Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Vkandis Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 12:14am
post #17 of 106
Originally Posted by KristyDi

1. Omit the info that you use box mixes and assure her that you have a tried and true recipe that never fails you and is delicious.

I love advice like this. Thread after thread on this forum about bride's and MoBs lying to get refunds yet folks have no problem lying or at a minimum using double speak or vague language to intentionally mislead/deceive customers--priceless.

If she is adamant about scratch cakes then this is your out. This addresses you hubby's claim about learning to deal with difficult customers. It is no longer about dealing with difficult customers it is about no providing a particular product they are requesting--problem solved.

myslady Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
myslady Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 1:06am
post #18 of 106

Give her a final date to make any more changes and let her know after that date, she will be charged a design fee in addition to any increased costs, payable before the cake is delivered.

Clearly outline what her cake is going to look like so there are no discrepancies on what she is ordering.

Like another poster said, Let her know that a box mix is one of your ingredients and if she prefers a scratch cake, it would be best to go to another baker.

While the design may not be to your personal taste, I don't agree that it is ugly.

cakegrandma Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
cakegrandma Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 1:39am
post #19 of 106

Like others have said, I would tell her you have a recipe that uses a box mix and it is wonderful. If she insists that it be from scratch then I would tell her as another CC'r stated that you do not do that and perhaps she would be happier with someone else doing her cake.

I would give her a price with the now extra tier, small or large it is still more work as well as the other items she now wants. I would not do fondant unless it fits in the 100.00 budget she gave you and if she really wants fondant, then charge her for it.

If the party is 9/25 or whenever, explain all that you are doing to make her cake and let her know, if she likes the design, there will be no more changes. I would care less if she wants pink bunnies instead of the flags. Enough is enough.

Make sure you have all that you need or want to do along with the notice of no more changes in writing. Have her sign it and make sure she pays you in full up front.

Last but not least, No more cakes for her and tell you husband not to even mention to her about you making a her a cake or he can do it!!

pmarks0 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
pmarks0 Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 4:15am
post #20 of 106

Thank you everyone for the support, kind words and advice.

I was able to find the picture that I'm going to be using as inspiration for her.


As you can see this one is a two tiered cake. Her colours are red, white and black. And I will put a red 50 on the top. I think with red in the design it will give her the "fun" aspect she wanted. And I think the 50 with some black and red stars on wires will also do it and as a PP said, maybe some curling fondant ribbons as well. I just have trouble determining how much fondant I need of each colour. When it was a two tier, I was figuring I'd colour the white fondant myself. But now that it's three tiers (assuming she accepts the new price) I'm thinking I should buy the black and red fondant. If I buy Duff's red and black at Michael's, with a coupon 2lbs will cost $18 each. I figured 1lb of each would be used so I was going to add $18 in the new price.

Originally Posted by PattyT

She seems set on the "flag" theme - but could you incorporate the colors. I just looked up the Trinidad flag and it's red, black and white, and since Canada is red and white the curley-cue things could be those colors two. Maybe instead of red stars you could do little red maple leaves.

For me, I just don't feel the flags fit the design even though they fit the colour scheme. All I can think is that maybe do one of each flag, put them on a bamboo skewer and stick them into the third tier on an angle rather than mount the flags directly on the cake.

A caker friend agreed with you all and said don't tell her there's a mix in the cake, although I'm leaning to telling her because maybe that's enough for her to change her mind. LOL. But I doubt it. She won't find anyone else to make her a cake for cost.

The look on her face when I told her that I wasn't going to copy the cake proves she doesn't read her emails or has no recollection of what I (or she) has said because I told her way back when that I wouldn't copy it. But the best was when she said "what are you going to do for a candle"...she really had trouble grasping the concept that I wasn't providing a candle for her. And I may have had some incredulity in my voice as well. LOL.

I have one question - if I put stars on wires would you do them in the red and black colours of the cake or would you do them in silver? If it's in stock I can get a platinum silver luster dust that is very shiny. I guess I could brush the stars with luster dust as well for a bit of shimmer.

Thank you again. I love how we can get great advice from other cakes.

srkmilklady Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
srkmilklady Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 5:04am
post #21 of 106

I think your idea about one of each flag on a skewer angled on the top tier sounds perfect. And the stars in silver sound just fine. Sounds more like she's turning "5", not "50". And quite honestly, she doesn't sound like a person that will be happy no matter what you try to do for her. Me??? I'd be dropping her like a hot potato...not worth the stress or the "practice". But if you do go ahead with it, I hope there's no temper tantrums after the party because the cake wasn't what she wanted.

Oh and by the way...my DH was hanging around last weekend while I was working on two cakes and was "trying" to make suggestions...until I handed him the bowl of icing and spatula and I left the room. I think I got my point across! icon_eek.gif

Good Luck with everything...I hope it all goes well for you...will be waiting to see the final creation! thumbs_up.gif
(I'm in Oshawa, so if I hear screaming on the 25th, I'll be wondering if it's coming from Ajax! LOL
Take care.)

tesso Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tesso Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 5:30am
post #22 of 106

After the 15th email I would have tasered her, left a note on the body that read, hope my free electric shock therapy helped you. Here's a list of bakers in the area. Happy Birthday. icon_lol.gif

srkmilklady Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
srkmilklady Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 5:33am
post #23 of 106

icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gifthumbs_up.gif Love your post Tesso!!!

adventuregal Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
adventuregal Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 5:37am
post #24 of 106

w.o.w...I don't think I could handle that! Firstly-it's not as if she's your DH's boss or a coworker he likes. He wants you to keep her as a client because its practice? It seems to me that anytime a client has been this crazy up front that it only gets worse and can even lead to a legal bout icon_sad.gif You definitely need to put your foot down (which it sounds like you're doing a good job of by saving and quoting emails). I agree with the other posters about a "design charge" if she changes anything else. The scratch vs. box thing made me crack up icon_smile.gif She seems the type that when quoted the additional price for scratch would change her mind in an instant! I also wouldn't want to test out a new recipe on her cake. I'd stick with what you do or tell her to go some where else-I mean...how much of her nonsense does your husband want you to put up with for practice?

scp1127 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
scp1127 Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 5:51am
post #25 of 106

Beware... she is going to be unhappy no matter what you do. It sounds like her expectations are higher than her budget. Give her the money back and tell her that you don't think you can make the cake she wants. If you don't, you may be on here later telling us she wants a full refund. She is already making us squirm and we don't even know her!

tinygoose Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tinygoose Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 7:08am
post #26 of 106

Wow, wow...that keeps going through my head...wow. Personally I don't deal with difficult people, I don't care who your friends with.

I have a lady I'm doing a cake for right now who said she wanted mint green, but gave me a baby invitation as a guide that was clearly more of a yellowish, celery type green. When I asked her which green she wanted, she laughed. "Dear Lord, I don't care! If anyone there is going to complain about something so trivial I'll show them the door....hahahaha." Love her!!

Anyway, just remember "No." is a complete sentence, and don't let her push you around. If you can't dump her, then slow the communication down. No reason to respond back to her right away, give it a few days. remind her that she is not your only customer, even if she is.

Part of learning to deal with difficult people is learning that some of them are just not worth the trouble.

I had a bride email me once with a picture of the cake she wanted. She stated right out of the gate that she was extremely picky, and wanted the cake "exactly" as it was shown in the picture. It wasn't a difficult cake, but I could just hear the ...."oh I said blush pink and this is clearly more of a soft petal pink" in my future. I replied that I was unavailable that week.

Anyway best of luck with her.

MikeRowesHunny Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
MikeRowesHunny Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 7:52am
post #27 of 106

Don't lie about the box mix - people can tell the difference (I certainly can). Just tell her that you don't possess the skill required to make scratch cakes well, and as this is important to her, she will need to find another baker. That's the simple truth.

indydebi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
indydebi Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 10:02am
post #28 of 106

Sounds lik your husband thinks "dealing with difficult customers" means being a doormat and living under that silly saying of "the customer is always right".

Tell him that sometimes "dealing with a difficult customer" means telling the customer to go somewhere else.

During our sampling appts, its not just the bride interviewing US to see if she wants to book with us. It's also US interviewing HER to see if we want to work with her too. I've waved bye-bye to more than one bride for this reason.

smokeysmokerton Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
smokeysmokerton Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 11:53am
post #29 of 106

I would say to her with as much regret as you can muster "I'm sorry, but I don't bake scratch cakes. I guess you'll need to find someone else." I certainly wouldn't change my recipe to suit one person who isn't even paying me for my time.

sweetnessx3 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
sweetnessx3 Posted 2 Sep 2010 , 11:56am
post #30 of 106

WOW What nerve ppl have !!! DH needs to read all the emails ,maybe then he will see just what a pain shes being to his wife and tell her himself that your not doing her cake !

She is making me upset just reading this ..... Soooo sorry your going through this !!!

Quote by @%username% on %date%