I'm a bit taken aback by a "potential" customer today and wonder why on earth I'm getting the blame so thought I would vent and share and maybe see if I am right or wrong or a different view.
So a customer emails me 5 months ago regarding a novelty cake. I spend days back and forth with regard to designs/prices/flavours etc. I spent hours giving her lots of different ideas and designs so she could choose. My final email was in April (yes April!) when I gave her the choices of ideas that she liked and told her when she decided which one she liked I could give her a final price. I spent days on this! I heard nothing. Not a word back. not an acknowledgement of my email or even a "thank you I'll let you know" nothing. So as we do in business we move on and take more orders etc etc. Anyway to cut a long story short last week I receive an email asking me to create the cake now. I said I'm sorry but it's been such a long time we need to look at the cake design/price again. So I went through it all again. In the meantime she had rang me to make sure I got the email, and even texted me in the evenings! So I emailed her on the Monday and yet again heard nothing. In the meantime another customer came along and booked for that date. I got an email from her 5 days later on the Friday. To which I replied I'm sorry but the date has now been taken. I did not hear from you again so I booked in the next order who paid a deposit. She has now sent me an email saying how let down she feels, how disappointed in me she is, how it's a month before the event and she has been in touch with me for months??! I have politely emailed back explaining she has not been in touch for months and it was 5 months ago my last email to which there was no response. I also politely explained that I do have to take work on a first come first serve basis and cannot turn down work from people who have paid a deposit on the chance that a customer may or may not book with me. I am wrong? I'm quite upset that someone is trying to say this to me when I've been so helpful yet hear nothing from her for 5 months. was I supposed to book the date in after hearing nothing from her??
I would have responded the same. I have owned my own businesses for so long that I dismiss all consultations mentally. If they make a purchase, fine. If not, I don't care.
In the future, you may want to add an availability calendar. It pretty much shows the clients that time is of the essence,
I love the idea of the availability calendar, I saw it on several sites this summer. She forgot that you have your own universe and thus don't have the time to solely revolve around hers, lol. No, you did nothing wrong. Take Care.
Sometimes things like this are a blessing in disguise... Some orders just aren't worth the drama, headache, and frustration.
I spent hours giving her lots of different ideas and designs so she could choose. My final email was in April (yes April!) when I gave her the choices of ideas that she liked and told her when she decided which one she liked I could give her a final price.
From your wording here, I think you left it very open ended.
Do I think you are wrong for going ahead and booking the person that was ready and put down money? Nope, not at all.
In the future though, I would follow a situation up with "We need to settle the details so I can finish giving you a price and you can go ahead and put a deposit down and we can save this date for you."
I deal with the general public enough at my day job to realize that they often forget they aren't the only people out there.
As someone else stated, it's probably a blessing in disguise, as I'll bet she would have continued to be a pain to work with.
I am going to agree with Texas, it was a little open ended and the customer might not have thought you would "give away" her date and that she just had to come back later and let you know about which cake she selected. You can always say you can hold her date for x days until she decides on the design and pays her deposit but after that you are able to give the date to whoever pays the deposit first.
I wouldn't worry too much. Overall I think you handled everything very well.
Unfortunately, similar situations happen to me more often than I would like. I talk to a lot of people and respond via e-mail to even more. It is now a standard practice that I end each e-mail and phone conversation with "You need to place your oder as soon as possible, as I book up rather quickly and cannot guarantee your date availability at a later date." Some people book, some don't, some wait couple of months and get back to me 1 to 2 weeks before their event...well, guess what's my answer is most of the time to those? Yep, sorry, but that date is already booked, and I cannot possibly take on another order. I'm not mean, I'm not punishing them for taking so much time, I'm indeed booked and really cannot handle another order. Some get upset, but there is nothing I can do about it.
However, most of my conversations are rather brief with them, so I put them out of mind pretty quickly unless they book. In your situation however, considering the amount of time you have spent on talking to this client, I would have probably followed up with one last e-mail or a phone call, with Dear, you seem to be really serious about placing an order with me, however I have not heard back from you with your final decision. I have only one opening left for the date you are interested in and currently have a customer who is interested in that spot. I usually take orders on first come first serve basis, but as a courtesy, wanted to give you an opportunity to book first. Since my other customer would like to know my availability as quickly as possible, please respond by x.xx. If I do not hear from you by then, I assume you have made alternate arrangements for your event and will proceed with my other booking. blah blah
Sorry, that happened to you, I know that is upsetting, but life goes on... next one will be easier. There is nothing you can do about it now.
Don't feel bad, it's part of the business. I have a client that has ordered several cakes from me in the past and also works part-time as en event planner. Several months ago, she asked for a design and pricing on a cake for a customer and I responded back. So, time goes by and I continue to take orders. By the time she called back to order the cake, it was Tuesday and she wanted the cake the same weekend but by this time, my weekend was booked. The planner understood when I told her I was already booked since she ordered her daughters birthday cake December back in May or June. You can't hold yourself accountable for their actions. It happens and will continue to happen.
But you can imagine how bad I felt when I had to tell a bride on Friday afternoon that I wasn't doing her wedding cake for Sunday because she hadn't paid. I had given her extra time, had talked to her and she would be in by Wed. at noon to ay (week of her wedding and I require final payment 2 weeks ahead). I knew this bride had a tight budget so I was working with her. She never called back, never came in or responded to emails. I called and even went ahead and baked the cakes. So, on Thursday afternoon, someone called needing a last minute birthday day. We made them a deal if they would take these cakes that we had already baked and they did. So, the bride calls Friday afternoon at 2:00, not to pay for her wedding, but to ask about flowers. I had to tell her then and there that I had cancelled her wedding cake due to non-payment. Yes, I have a contract, she ad signed it and had a copy of it. Her fiance called later, my hubby explained and her fiance understood and was very kind. Yes, it stunk to do that but it is a business and is treated as such. For those who are wondering, no, she did not get her deposit back.
All married couples should start their new life IN THE REAL WORLD. You provided a great lesson.
Don't feel bad. Unless someone actually books, how are you to know they truly do plan to order? What I tell people is until they actually book, the date is considered open and first person to actually book the date gets it.
I always make it clear to all my customers that the cake and date are not booked or confirmed until the deposit has been paid. This usually works but I have customers who 'forget' and then come back to me a week before they wanted a cake only to find that the date has been taken by another customer. Most understand, a few get upset and on rare occasions I have had customers who get stroppy and/or offensive. They are immediately put on my blacklist and I am ALWAYS booked if they contact me again!
I used to feel guilty but now realise that this is the only way to manage a business no matter how bit or small!
I think you handled this well so don't give it another thought!
what i ussually do, on the second email or when giving your quote let them know the due date to book and that you do not hold dates.
Thanks to everyone for your replies, there are some really good suggestions here too for availability etc. I just felt really bad because I don't like to let people down but I can't as a lot of you say, book a cake on the off chance. I do state in my terms and conditions that a verbal discussion is not a confirmed booking and a cake is not deemed to be booked unless a deposit is paid and I have confirmed receipt in writing. I always then send people a final confirmation of the cake they have ordered so they can check through all the details. It made me feel really bad though thanks everyone
If it were a wedding or large order you could give the customer a very short deadline (within 5 days) to get back to you and if they miss it, move on and don't look back. If they call back later just say "I'm already booked that day"
I had a boss once who would calmly respond to customers who came running in like their heads were on fire and their asses were catching because they had forgot to place an order for documents/photos for meetings. He would say "poor planning on your part does not constitute a rush on our part." And for the ones who explained how special or important they were this was his take "you have over estimated your importance here." I have never used these statements but they have popped in my head on more than one occasion.
It is hard to tell people that. I ran into a similar situation with a lady who started contacting me in January for an August 14th cake. We talked on the phone, through email, talk talk talk. Then silence. But at some point I did tell her that she had to place a deposit in order to hold her date. She emails me on August 2nd saying she's ready to place a deposit for her wedding cake. I'm sorry, I'm not available. She was upset, but not rude to me about it.
I want to be peoples superhero, and sometimes my schedule allows for it, sometimes it does not. I just keep a list of people I like enough to recommend.
it'll only be considered booked til client makes a deposit
She emails me on August 2nd saying she's ready to place a deposit for her wedding cake.
She was ready to place a deposit for a cake due in two weeks?
it'll only be considered booked til client makes a deposit