"dissastified" Customer - Did I Handle This Right?

Business By suesweet Updated 21 May 2011 , 2:38am by warchild

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suesweet Posted 14 May 2011 , 5:49am
post #1 of 25

A long time customer (1 of my first) sent me this email 3 hours after picking up her cake:
"Just wanted to contact you because I think this is the first time that I've been dissatisfied with your cake. The iPad cake was supposed to look similar to the cake that was emailed to you not have a screen shot print. It had the apps 3d on the cake & honestly that's what I was expecting to see. I'm thinking that I could have gotten that done at the local market bakery, I know the contract states that it won't be exact but to be honest I figured that lent more to "this cake will not be a 100% replica of the photo" for liability sake. I just can not believe I just spent $90 and 1hr getting a screenshot cake."

And this was my response:
"Hi. It's unfortunate that you were dissatisfied because I do value you as a customer. I sure wish you had said something before you left. This was clearly a misunderstanding and I should have thought to ask whether you wanted the buttons "3D"? Then I would have quoted you more like$150 (probably more) instead of $90 because of the hours of extra work that would have taken. And yes, while you could have gotten a cake with a screenshot at a local market bakery, I am actually a little offended at the comparison. I make all my cakes and icing from scratch with no added chemicals or unnatural ingredients . I bake each cake to order to ensure optimum freshness. I use quality ingredients. Supermarket cakes are mass produced from mixes with hardly any natural ingredients, shipped and most often decorated frozen, and then sit around in a case for weeks until purchased. I realize in this economy $90 is a lot to spend on anything but let me break down the cost for you. The ingredients alone (cake and decorating materials including packaging) is about $20. The screenshot (including travel time and gas used to purchase) another $20. I spent about 3 hours just 2 bake, make icing, and decorate your cake (how much do you get paid an hour?). I under value my time @ $15 per hour so that's another $45. That's already a total of $85 and I haven't even included the gas and electric I use. So yes it is definitely more expensive to purchase a cake from me than the supermarket. I know you may have paid less for your cakes in the past, but the cost of ingredients have gone up significantly. Also the cost for my time has increased. I do hope this helps you to understand why I charge what I do. Like I said I value your business and definitely appreciate your patronage over the years. I never want my clients to be dissatisfied so tell me what you think is a fair resolution?"

Do you guys think the response was overkill? Should I offer a refund or discount of a future cake?

24 replies
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pugmama1 Posted 14 May 2011 , 6:24am
post #2 of 25

This scenario is always interesting. You put in the time and effort, they take the cake, they SERVE the cake, then they complain about the cake. You are pretty exact about what went into the making of the cake and personally I think it is okay. You give them an opportunity to help resolve the issue so I would wait for their response. I think what this teaches us as cake people is to be more thorough in eliciting what the client really wants and expects. While this can be upsetting, it can be helpful to improve future cake orders.

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ShaunPepe Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:03pm
post #3 of 25

I do think your response was a little overkill. I looked at you ipad cake photo and yes it does look like one large edible photo placed on a cake. I know it took you many hours to bake, ice, purchase the photo however if the customer showed you a photo and expected a decorated ipad cake, with cut out images then I think she deserves alittle refund. If I were that customer, I am not sure I would be coming back for another cake, especially after that long email. Just my opinion though. Was the ipad photo she showed you alot different?

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LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:18pm
post #4 of 25

I agree, I think you went into to much detail in the email. It sounds kind of whiny and like you are just trying to justify why you charge what you do. The customer doesn't care how much materials are or how much you get paid an hour. I know we talk about wanting to educate the cake muggles a lot, but I don't think a dissatisfied customer is an appropriate time to do this.

Not to be harsh, but I think I would have been disappointed too. If I gave you a picture of a cake with 3D "apps" on the iPad screen, and I got an edible image instead, I would feel cheated, unless you had specifically told me "I cannot or will not be doing these apps in "3D", it will be an edible image, is that ok with you?" You HAVE GOT to be clear with someone on what they want, and get a signed order form and or contract outlining the details of the order.

All that said, I think it is good that you asked her what she thought was a fair resolution.

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texanlostlover Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:30pm
post #5 of 25

While I completely understand your frustration with this customer and agree that there is nothing wrong with explaining why the cake cost what it did, I do think that your tone toward her should have been much more polite. Instead of saying that you are offended by her, you could have simply said "You're right that a grocery store cake would have also had an edible image. However, I'm sure you will agree that the quality and taste of my cakes are much higher than a grocery store cake would be." And the remark about "How much do you get paid per hour" was completely inappropriate based on the e-mail that you received. It didn't sound like she was attacking you in her e-mail, and since you are the professional, your tone should have been even more respectful. That doesn't mean you can't still say what you feel, you just need to watch the way you say it. Especially if you truly do value her has a customer and want her to order again. I would have to say the likelihood of her ordering from you again is very low with the reponse you sent to her. You've got some great work posted, so I'm sure you don't get dissatisfied customers often. Sorry you're going through this though, and I hope that things go better for you in the future!

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sjlilley Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:37pm
post #6 of 25

I think it was also a little overkill because from her email I don't think she really has a problem with the cost of your cakes. After all she is a repeat customer. It seems to me that her problem this time is that she thought your concept was wrong and is dissatisfied with the way you executed that concept.

That said I think you were right to tell her how the 3d buttons would affect the price and why and definately it was good to ask her what kind of recompense (? not the right word) she thinks would be fair. I just hope she doesn't think a free cake would be it. Sometimes people are ridiculous.

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SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:41pm
post #7 of 25

I think part of the problem, too, is that the image is too small for the cake. The screen on the iPad does not have a white border; the desktop fills the screen. The cake should not have had the white border between the image and the black, so it looks less realistic.

I am sorry you are having this problem and hope you and your customer can come to a mutually agreeable decision.

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Kiddiekakes Posted 14 May 2011 , 2:57pm
post #8 of 25

While I agree with everything you wrote to her and certainly wish I could repeat the same thingto customers at times...I probably wouldn't have gone into that much detail...as someone pointed out..Customers don't care how much each cost breakdown is..Give me a price and I will either pay it or not...

You did the right thing about asking her what she feels is a fair resolution but unfortunetly you may have offended/annoyed her and I doubt she will come back..JMO

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cakingformykids Posted 14 May 2011 , 3:10pm
post #9 of 25

I agree with secretagent. the white area on the cake is just weird. I would not have been happy either.

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buttercuppie Posted 14 May 2011 , 3:10pm
post #10 of 25

Something I learned in my advertising days is that when writing an email to someone who just annoyed you...don't put their email address in the "To" section.

Feel free then just to write out an email and get everything out of your system...then chill for a bit, walk around...and then write the professional response in another email. This allows you to vent your frustration but maintain your professional composure.

I can understand both sides in this situation...for future reference, it's always best to include as many decorative details as possible in written confirmations (esp. when doing a cake based on a design that's been sent in). That way you're in the clear if they don't like something that they've approved.

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carmijok Posted 14 May 2011 , 3:20pm
post #11 of 25

Wow...don't think she'll be a repeat customer anymore...but at least she'll be educated in how underpaid cake decorators are! Sorry but you went into WAY too much detail and the 'how much do YOU get paid an hour' was insulting. Plus, I agree with the poster that said the image did not fit the cake. It looks like you hurriedly slapped on an image...no matter how long it took to bake etc. Not seeing the image she sent it's hard to see where the communication lapsed but regardless it wasn't something she expected and your email probably didn't help.
If I were you and I wanted to continue her business, I would write her another letter stating that you are sorry but your evil twin had taken over and written that email and that you indeed are sorry she was unhappy and that next time you will be sure to clarify any instructions from you on cake design...plus you'll be happy to discount her next purchase.

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cs_confections Posted 14 May 2011 , 3:59pm
post #12 of 25

I'm sorry to say that I agree with the others. The first 3 lines and the last 2 lines would have been enough. Good luck on this. I hope this can be resolved with both you and the customer being happy.

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warchild Posted 14 May 2011 , 4:02pm
post #13 of 25

Sorry, I'm probably in the minority here, & might get trashed for it, but I think the response you sent your customer was extreme overkill.

Your customers email did not come across as disrespectful, it was one of disapointment. She was expecting the cake to look a certain way, it didn't, and she was expressing her disapointment that it was not what she expected for the money she paid.

This could have been handled in a more professional and tactful way so both sides would be satisfied. Sending a flaming angry reply to your customer, and adding "how much do you make an hour" in such a sarcastic way, was not the best idea.

I honestly think your customer who you say had been a returning customer, will not return again unless some miracle solution is come too.
I also think there is a high chance she'll be offended enough, she'll go out of her way to pass on your angry response to her circle of friends. Word of mouth can be deadly to a business.

I worked in retail 30 plus yrs, and one thing you learn fast when dealing with so many different types of customers, is to treat all customer with respect at all times. They can be the most obnoxious customer in the world (and you might want to bop them a good one) but you have to deal with thier complaints with a level head.
If you fly off the handle with your complaining customer, you lose. You lose the customer, and you lose more customers via the angry customer.

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Kitagrl Posted 14 May 2011 , 4:11pm
post #14 of 25

I would be interested in seeing the photo she requested you work from...if the photo was all done in fondant, with fondant cut-out apps, and she asked you to replicate the cake, then you certainly should have charged for, and done, the replica, or given her the money-saving option of an edible image...it would have been her choice. I can see how she would be disappointed if the cake she asked you to make had hand-cut icons done out of fondant.

I would just write her, apologize that you did not realize she wanted the cake to look exactly like the photo (again, it would be helpful to see the photo she sent you) and offer at least 50% refund.... Because I have seen the iPad cakes with the fondant cutout apps and it does look a lot different than the cake with the edible image screen shot.....

Your cake is fine, but if it wasn't what she ordered, then it wasn't fine for HER...you know what I mean? Sorry this happened to you.

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AnotherCaker Posted 14 May 2011 , 4:20pm
post #15 of 25

Oh yeah, kiss her goodbye. Sorry! That was uncalled for. You come vent here, but you should knock yourself over with kindness to them. That's just a sheetcake with an edible image on it. Nothing more. I see she did mention 3d apps, so she was expecting that.

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suesweet Posted 14 May 2011 , 4:42pm
post #16 of 25

Thanks for all your responses. Did I mention I wrote that email at 2:00 in the morning after having not slept for 24 hours icon_cry.gif So yeah, after re-reading it I do agree with you all. I did refund her 50% and can only hope she forgives my lapse in judgment.

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cakegirl1973 Posted 14 May 2011 , 5:41pm
post #17 of 25
Originally Posted by suesweet

Thanks for all your responses. Did I mention I wrote that email at 2:00 in the morning after having not slept for 24 hours icon_cry.gif So yeah, after re-reading it I do agree with you all. I did refund her 50% and can only hope she forgives my lapse in judgment.

Hopefully, there won't be a next time. If there is, don't respond when you are exhausted and not in a good frame of mind. Since she is a repeat customer that you want to salvage, I might send her a handwritten note, apologizing for your error/miscommunication regarding the design, thanking her for her order, and offering her an incentive to order from you again, like 10% off her next order or a free dozen cupcakes. I would do this in addition to the 50% refund you already issued. You want to keep good repeat customers happy. This might help.

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jason_kraft Posted 14 May 2011 , 5:48pm
post #18 of 25

Whenever I need to send an email to address a situation that could potentially turn confrontational, I always have someone else read it over before I send it. It is very easy to misread the intent or tone of email due to the lack of nonverbal cues, so structuring your narrative correctly is extremely important, especially in professional communications.

I agree that a handwritten note would help mend fences, maybe even a free unsolicited 6-pack of cupcakes (the cost to you would be minimal if you just make a little extra batter from another order).

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cycakes Posted 20 May 2011 , 8:27pm
post #19 of 25

You absolutely said what everyone has wanted to say at one time or another! No filter, I have that problem too :0). When I am upset I write/type a draft of what I'm going to say back, revisit it in 24 hrs & see if I feel the same (sleep or lack there of, kids aggravating each other or me), then maybe depending on particulars run it by someone who I feel would give me their realistic opinion. Then couple days later (if at all) send it out. If you feel you were harsh with her, tell her so - people appreciate honesty and a true apology is often accepted! Of course a true apology with some delicious cupcakes.....now who can refuse that!!! Best of luck to you, I hope it all works out!!!

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motherofgrace Posted 20 May 2011 , 9:03pm
post #20 of 25

Yep I agree with most posters. I too would be upset if I got the cake she did. I am going to get slammed for this but..... even for an edible image it wasnt very nice.

Plus, she wasnt unreasonable.. .I think your resopnse was.

While we all understand the no sleep part.... that isnt her problem lol. Next time wait until morning, and see how much your response changes

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Brevity Posted 20 May 2011 , 9:10pm
post #21 of 25

[quote="motherofgrace"]Yep I agree with most posters. I too would be upset if I got the cake she did. I am going to get slammed for this but..... even for an edible image it wasnt very nice.

I agree - edible images should stay at the grocery store.
You're going to need some thicker skin.

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motherofgrace Posted 20 May 2011 , 9:18pm
post #22 of 25

I have seen I phone cakes done with an edible image before, and they were nice. But that was with fondant... And i thin kthat makes a big difference when you are doing a cake like this.

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WykdGud Posted 21 May 2011 , 2:27am
post #23 of 25

$90 was way too much for that cake - sorry. And your response was argumentative and rude, not professional at all.

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motherofgrace Posted 21 May 2011 , 2:35am
post #24 of 25


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warchild Posted 21 May 2011 , 2:38am
post #25 of 25

cycakes, mother of grace, brevity, & wykdgud, this thread was over and done with 6 days ago. The OP has stated what she has done to recitfy the situation. Lets leave it at that.

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