Retirement Cake: Drama To Be?

Business By karateka Updated 27 Nov 2011 , 2:31pm by karateka

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karateka Posted 29 Oct 2011 , 7:50pm
post #1 of 24

I had a bridal consultation with a couple and their "wedding planners" on one Sunday. I went very well. The couple made a comment about how I was "basically hired" today, and the wedding planner wanted to call me about her mother's retirement cake she needed the next month. I was, of course, ecstatic, since my income from this business has been waaaaaaaaaaay down.

I have the couple again this coming Sunday, paying to try certain flavors to make their decision for their wedding. I gave them a discount on my usual "brides choice" tastings, and am considering crediting it to their final bill. But that's neither here nor there.

The wedding planner that wanted the retirement cake followed up and sent me some pictures of what she had in mind. She wanted one of those aytipcal cakes whereby they aren't directly stacked, but some are only one layer, some are 2, some are smaller, some are bigger, but instead of all stacked one atop the other, there is one next to the other, one taller, one shorter, etc. I can't find a link to post, but we are talking LOTS of labor. She kept repeating how she wanted "over the top" cake and really wanted something different.

She said there would be about 100 guests, so I worked on this sketch and came up with 125 servings based on the picture she sent me. It had 8 tiers, gumpaste flowers, a hand made topper, sugar jewels, tufted pillow fondant, ostrich feathers....the whole 9.

I quoted her $551.25, which I consider a steal. She came back with...I wasn't planning on spending that much. Can we keep it at 80 servings. I complied by downsizing the sketch, told her she could save by using silk flowers , skipping the hand molded figure of her aunt on a recliner...

The next email says she liked the first sketch better. What can we do to stay with that sketch. Swallowing the impulse to say "pay the $551.25 I quoted you" I explain what was going on and ask what elements were most important to her.

She finally decides to come up with the needed money for the first sketch. I ask her what flavors she wants, and she replies that from our tasting, she really wants strawberry cake but is unsure about the rest. Her next email asks me if I can make my vanilla cake sweeter??

I really want and need this order, otherwise I'd have told her to take a hike a while back. Am I crazy or just intoxicated (2 pina coladas in) to be worried that this woman is a "retirement-zilla"????

I think I need to switch to margaritas.

Oh....I should mention that she and her husband have already listed me on their wedding planner website. So I need to be nice. And she's nice, so I want to be nice, too...but she is concerning me.

23 replies
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MimiFix Posted 29 Oct 2011 , 8:15pm
post #2 of 24

Geez, you're right to be worried. But she may not understand her aggravating behavior. Since she's a businesswoman, she may best understand your concerns if you relate to her on that level. Maybe use analogies about the kinds of people/craziness she deals with in her business and blank, blank, blank... (you get to fill in the blanks).

Good luck.

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mrsg1111 Posted 29 Oct 2011 , 8:22pm
post #3 of 24

wow! You are giving her an amazing deal, and as a wedding planner she should know that! People are always looking for something for nothing! I wouldn't budge on the price!

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carmijok Posted 29 Oct 2011 , 9:06pm
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I would remind her that sure you could make the vanilla sweeter, but with the icing, fondant, etc., it might be TOO sweet if you added any more sugar to the recipe--and a lot of people--particularly older people (which I would think would make up a large portion of a retirement party)--don't care for super sweets. I might ask her to come in for a tasting of her own with that money going toward the cake along with her deposit.

You need to be the one steering the ship. Give her a few options and let her choose. That way she feels more in control and less likely to start coming up with ideas of her own. When given parameters, clients are more likely to work within those rather than going off in all directions.
Notice how she managed to find the money for the first sketch? You gave her reasonable options without sacrificing your original idea or quote.
I think she could be a valuable resource for you as long as you keep doing what you're doing! thumbs_up.gif

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karateka Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 12:30pm
post #5 of 24

I got another email.

I do recall when I was explaining that she could subtract $75 if she used silk flowers and skipped the figure that she subtracted in her head and came up with $426 for the final figure. (we were on the phone, I wasn't by my 'puter and I said it "sounded right") When I typed up the contract, I used a calculator and it was of course, $476 ( 551-75) and now she is questioning that. She also wants to give final payment a week later. I told her I'd accept a credit card at that time, but not a check.

Don't count my chickens, I guess.....this could still end up cancelled.

I have refrained from telling her that she's already getting a 25 cent per serving "stupid cake decorator" discount because when I calculated the price I used my old per serving by mistake. After all, it isn't her fault. I just have a bad feeling like this could turn south. Crossing my fingers.

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cheeseball Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 2:13pm
post #6 of 24

Warning bells tend to be shushed by "I really need this order". We ignore things, behave differently and then kick ourselves when it turns out...exactly how we suspected it might. Not saying you shouldn't take the order. Just make sure the compensation justifies what you're already seeing.

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cabecakes Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 3:11pm
post #7 of 24

Who is the baker here, you or her. You give the customer their options, and they decide yes or no (in a perfect world). Ultimately though, it is always your option as the baker to refuse to change your style of baking. Remember, your name is going to be assosiated with this product. If you believe it is going to be too sweet, it could be that others will believe it is too sweet as well. I know someone that drinks 2 cups of sugar to a gallon of tea, but I would never put 2 cups of sugar to a gallon of tea (as well as many other people I know). Just because one person has a super-sweet tooth doesn't mean everyone will like it that way. Ultimately, will you be hurting yourself more by satisfying this one customer if the 125 consumers at this party all think it is too sweet.

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AnnieCahill Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 6:27pm
post #8 of 24

Holy balls, are you even going to be making anything off this? That seems like an incredible amount of work for such a low price!

I would be very direct with her. Tell her that your recipes are your recipes, and with the added buttercream and fondant the cake will be just fine. I think you have accommodated her enough.

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artscallion Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 8:27pm
post #9 of 24

She doesn't seem like much of a pain to me. What am I missing? She's a customer. She's spending upwards of $500. (It's not her fault you underpriced for so much work.) I think it's perfectly reasonable to request a sweeter cake. And you can say yes or no. And working out with you what she can afford or is willing to spend also seems reasonable to me. Isn't that how all businesses work?

Why are folks doing the, "Do what we say, and don't ask questions, or NO CAKE FOR YOU!" Customers are part of the work that comes with being in business. This is why they call it work, not Caribbean vacation. You want/need her $$, you stated as much. She can get cake anywhere. You're obviously having trouble getting customers anywhere. So if you want $$ for cake, she kind of is driving this boat.

Of course you don't have to do anything she asks. You can jump out of the boat anytime you want. But I'm confused how being an active customer translates to being a bad customer that will come back to haunt you. If I were paying over $500 for anything, you bet I would be actively making certain that I was the one deciding what I would pay for. If you were selling carpets, would you think her unreasonable for asking if the red carpet you were trying to sell her came in a thicker pile and she'd have to think about the trim in the other room and whether she could afford it? What am I missing?

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karateka Posted 30 Oct 2011 , 11:55pm
post #10 of 24

Get this....

The pricing issue was my mistake. Apparently I cannot perform simple mathematics. When I was adding the sugar flowers to the cake price I mis-added, then used that wrong figure to type her contract. What a dolt.

She was super nice about it.

I offered her the option to sweeten the cake slightly with a sugar syrup. She did not respond.

I'm not saying she will be a pain. She's been really nice and very complimentary. She listed me on her website. I WANT this to work and have no negative repercussions. I've just heard so many horror stories on here that it makes me a little worried. And I don't think that's all that strange. I've done lots of other orders for this size cake and had next to no back and forth. It's just unusual for me, and I'm crossing all my fingers and toes. Or maybe I should just quit reading the forums! icon_lol.gif

I never tried to imply that I believe I am on a Caribbean vacation and she should kiss my feet. By turn south, I meant that she could cancel the order (or conceivably develop buyers remorse), and aside from needing the money, I want to do this cake. It will be a great addition to my portfolio. Maybe I shouldn't have posted.....too many pina coladas and I run off my mouth.

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cupadeecakes Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 4:12pm
post #11 of 24

All this talk of pina coladas... are you sure you aren't on a Caribbean vacation? icon_biggrin.gif

I love it when clients let me do whatever I want, but some want want to micro manage every little detail. You're wise to be on alert, but I wouldn't cancel the order until she gives you real cause. Event planners can be a real asset to your business!

I may have mis-read, but she wants to pay you a week after the event?? That's the only thing setting off my alarms at the moment. Always get your money before they get their cake.

RE: the "sweeter" recipe... One my friends runs a cupcake chain store and she said that a customer was complaining about one of their cake flavors not being sweet enough and tasting "yucky". She went in the back and got the same flavor cupcake and brought it out and asked the customer to try it telling her, "Try this one, it's much better and I think you'll really like it". She did indeed like it and ordered a bunch for her wedding. Perception is reality.

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karateka Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 5:12pm
post #12 of 24

I have no intention of cancelling the order. I was worried SHE would, seeing as how there are so many questions and back and forth.

I'd have tried the cupcake thing...but she asked via email and wasn't right there asking during the tasting.

She wants to pay the final payment a week late, which is still 2 weeks prior to the event, but a week later than the 3 weeks I have on my contract.

Like I said....I was perturbed at first, but she's being so nice and patient that I'm just worried now that she'll end up deciding this is too big a PITA and cancelling the order. I would LOVE to do this cake. And I want her happy, considering how nice she was to list me on her website. Plus...I'm really praying all the questions don't lead to buyer's remorse later. I'd really hate that.

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dldbrou Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 7:20pm
post #13 of 24

Just ask her what her budget is and how many serving she needs an give her your options to make the cake in her budget. As for the sweet taste, maybe the filling could be sweeter and leave the cake alone.

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karateka Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 6:53pm
post #14 of 24

I thought I was finished with this. She paid the balance and said she would let me know what flavors to fill the order with.

I emailed her today because I still didn't know her final flavor choices and my contract says details need to be finalized 3 weeks before. We are within 2 weeks now.

She emails me back saying she wants to taste 7 different flavors. She says she tasted cake with her wedding client, but she never got a free tasting for herself, so she figured she would only have to pay $25 for her choice tasting, and how many will I do for $25. I told her 3.

Am I really supposed to give her another free tasting? She did already taste 3 of my flavors, although I can't remember what they were except for strawberry....I think it was marble and vanilla, but I can't remember for sure.

I want this order, and her client is the one mentioned in the post entitled "I've done something really stupid, now what?" but how long/far do I let this go? Being a wedding planner means she has the potential to really badmouth me if I don't toe the line.


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jgifford Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 7:25pm
post #15 of 24

What is your usual policy? You said "the contract states . . ", so what's the problem here? You are an intelligent, capable, talented BUSINESS OWNER. You call the shots with your business, just as she does with hers.

My suggestion would be to contact her and insist that the details must be finalized NOW, per the contract. The tasting question depends on your usual policy and the contract, if that's covered, but it must be settled immediately. Some people will push until they come up against resistance. You can't let her walk all over you, no matter how nicely she does it, or you run the risk of acquiring the "door mat" reputation.

This is your business and your livelihood and you're in charge.

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karateka Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 7:52pm
post #16 of 24

My problem here is that she emailed me back with this:


Well, I'm going to talk to my husband to see what he thinks. Without tasting them it makes it difficult to order and I don't just want strawberry, I didn't like the others that (bride) and her husband tasted. That's a worry because if I don't like any of the three flavors I'm back to square one. I wanted different flavors throughout the cake, so this defeats that purpose.

I'll let you know shortly.

I've typed this response but haven't hit "send" yet. I am trying to be professional, but after the debacle with her client's cake, I am second guessing myself. My policies state that a free tasting is my selection of flavors and fillings based on what I have on hand. A brides' choice is $25 for 3 flavors and fillings of choice. She wanted 7 different flavors, so I quoted her $55 for the tasting, which she wanted to do this Sunday, putting off final details until within 7 days of the event. She is upset, as per the above email.

Here is what I've written. Send it?

Dear XXXX,
I understand totally your wanting to pick the perfect flavors for your cake. The reason I offer a free tasting for weddings of over 100 servings is so the bride can see what style of baking I offer. Any custom baking necessarily entails a charge, as it requires extra baking and much extra time.

I was under the impression from your reaction that you really liked my cake when you tasted it with (client's name here). Rest assured that my other flavors are exactly the same type of butter cake using real ingredients such as nuts, eggs, sweet butter, fruits, fresh dairy, premium quality vanilla extract and imported cocoa powder. Even my fondant is top of the line, as you tasted at (bride's name)'s tasting.

If you need to taste something that might be different than what you already tasted in texture or baking style, the carrot cake is the only one that is different, not using butter but oil and instead of sugar, honey and maple syrup. Otherwise, the cakes will be a different flavor, but similar in texture and crumb. I do have a couple of pieces of carrot in the freezer if you would like to come by to taste it. I would not charge you since I already have some made.

I have no desire to make it difficult on you (quite the opposite in fact!), but per our contract, details were to be final 3 weeks prior to the event, and we are less than 2 weeks out today. It is important that these details are finalized so that proper time can be given to preparation and execution of your fabulous dessert centerpiece.


What do you think?

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QTCakes1 Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 8:27pm
post #17 of 24

I like it. I don't know if she'll like it. But you sound fair and professional.Your cakes are your cakes and she has tasted them. I have to admit though, I am one that hates one someone asks me to change the flavors of my cake, like "more sweet". No, I won't. It just means my cake is not for you and I understand that. I feel that then may open you up to "Well it still wasn't sweet enough". I even had someone asks me to make a cake taste like an orange hostess cupcake. Uh, no.

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pixiefuncakes Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 8:38pm
post #18 of 24

Stick to your guns, if it's two weeks out from the event, what's she going to do? I would think it's far too late for her to find another cake decorator. It does sound to me that you've been fair to her in all your dealings and maybe she's just really wanting to get it right (might be her first big cake purchase).
Good luck with it, let us know how it turns out.

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jgifford Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 8:41pm
post #19 of 24

I think it sounds wonderful - - very professional and much nicer than I would be by this point. I get the impression she's stalling for some reason - - icon_confused.gif

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karateka Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 8:50pm
post #20 of 24

I sent it. We'll see what happens. Maybe she's mad at me for the debacle about her client's cake. Hard to tell.

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myslady Posted 15 Nov 2011 , 9:23pm
post #21 of 24

I think she is partially lying to you to get a tasting. She came back to you personally after her initial professional contact which says to me she had to like something about your cake.

With this being her first order with you i would do the tasting but not for 7 flavors. I would have her pick her top three choices and go from there.

I would take out the sentence quite the opposite in fact because it sounds like you are contradicting yourself. I would tell her Im trying to make it as easy as possible for you.

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karateka Posted 16 Nov 2011 , 2:05am
post #22 of 24

I sent it and she responded back in a really nice fashion. I guess I was reading her wrong. She is picking the 3 that I allow for a brides' choice and we are meeting Sunday. She will have everything finalized then. I'll be so glad when the holidays are over.

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step0nmi Posted 16 Nov 2011 , 2:46am
post #23 of 24

i really do believe that sometimes people are just testing the waters to see what they can get out of being a 'recent contact' and that you have already given them business. GOOD FOR YOU for sticking to your guns!

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karateka Posted 27 Nov 2011 , 2:31pm
post #24 of 24

Finally finished with this order. I hope she was happy with it.

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