My First Complaint... I Feel Sick To My Stomach :(

Business By Piece_acake Updated 5 Apr 2012 , 3:07pm by khewston

Piece_acake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Piece_acake Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:35pm
post #1 of 52

I just received a message from a long-time customer telling me how disappointed she is in the cake I made for her today:

"I just came home and saw the cake. We are not happy with it. It is too simple and we wanted it to be 3D like the Lightning Mcqueen you made for us. They have a similar cake to this at Fortino's. (local grocery store)"

The Lightning Mcqueen cake she is referring to was the first one I had made. I hadn't done a carved car cake before and had no way of knowing how much to charge so I charged $80. It fed 20 plus.

On Wednesday, she messaged me about making a cake for today. Normally I don't take order that late but because she is a good customer I fit her in. All she asked for was a "Mario Bros" cake and that she wanted it for $80. This is what I made:[email protected]/7033381963/in/photostream

It's not the most elaborate cake, but it did take a fair amount of time to create and I thought I was giving her a deal @ $80.

How do I answer this message? Any suggestions? Am I way overcharging on it?

Oh and by the way, yes I am fully licensed and inspected and insured... icon_smile.gif

51 replies
tigachu Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tigachu Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:41pm
post #2 of 52

I don't really have an answer to your questions but I want you to know that your cake was awesome icon_biggrin.gif

LoveMeSomeCake615 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:50pm
post #3 of 52

I'm sorry you are having to deal with a complaint! It's no fun to hear that someone was not pleased with your work.

First of all, that cake is adorable and very well done! I HIGHLY doubt she could get a cake like that at the grocery store, unless your local grocery does a lot nicer cakes than ours does!

Secondly, the price you charged is very reasonable. It sounds like the problem here is what she expected to get for $80, which I know you realize. In the future, I would definitely always fill out a order form for the cake with a full description of exactly what the cake will look like and have the customer sign off on it so that there is no confusion about what they are getting. Even if it is a last minute order, do it.

As far as responding to her, I would tell you that you are sorry to hear she was not thrilled with the cake, and explain to her that although you charged her $80 for a carved cake before, you have since raised your prices to accommodate rising costs (or whatever you want to tell her about the increase in your pricing). Since you were not clear with her about what the cake was going to be, you might want to offer some kind of money back or discount on a future order.

Good luck, and don't sweat it!

Jan14grands Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Jan14grands Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:52pm
post #4 of 52

I looked at your cake and you did a very neat job. Well thought out and I can see how much time you put into making sure it was correct. Very fair price for this cake, in my opinion.

nicunurse Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
nicunurse Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:58pm
post #5 of 52

I am so sorry you are upset. It seems as if the customer is at fault here.You didn't mention, but it sounds like, she was not specific in her design request. Therefore, you made an ADORABLE, as well as flawless cake, for a very reasonable price. If she didn't specify her design, she should not complain. Chin up!! icon_smile.gif You are not a mind reader to know what exactly she wanted. icon_biggrin.gif

DDiva Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
DDiva Posted 31 Mar 2012 , 11:59pm
post #6 of 52

Her expectations were completely out of line with her budget. She got a deal at $80 for that cake. Last minute order with those decorations...I would have charged no less than $100. I don't know what your conversation with her was like but if you gave her an idea of what she would get for her last minute order and budget, then her expectations are her issue, not yours. I generally tell my customers what the cake type options are: ex. Tier(s), 2D, 3D and then the prices. I don't deal with their budgets. The cakes cost what they cost. Then they get to decide what they can afford. And what an insult to compare your cake with a grocery store cake. I think I'd be booked the next time she calls!

Cakery2012 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Cakery2012 Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:00am
post #7 of 52

Hugs you did an excellent job and $80 IMO. is not over priced .

mommynana Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
mommynana Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:05am
post #8 of 52

I don`t sell cakes, I just make them for family and friends,But I just wanted to tell you that you did a wonderful job, The cake looks beautiful and I don`t think $80. was at all to much.

cownsj Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
cownsj Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:31am
post #9 of 52

You cake is fantastic. The detail is 2nd to none that I've seen, and I recently researched a Mario Brothers cake for someone.

Your price is certainly not too high and if she wants to compare your cake with a grocery store then I'm guessing she will want more and more in the future and continue to want to pay the same amount.

My only question is whether it was clear on either side what the cake would be, other than Mario Brothers. She had expectations based on the cake she had just gotten from you, but didn't express what she wanted, and you probably needed to be sure she was aware of what she would be getting. I understand that the time was very short and you went way above and beyond. So the only thing I think I can add is to just be clear with a customer as to what is expected and what you are charging for that. She certainly got her money's worth for the cake. Great job!

brenda549 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
brenda549 Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:33am
post #10 of 52

Just an idea. If this were a repeat customer of mine, I may do something like this:

Dear Customer,

I was disappointed to hear the cake was not to your expectations. Due to rising costs of operating my business, the minimum price for a carved cake is $xxx. This price is well in line with local competitors that design and decorate custom cakes, not with local supermarkets. The cake I designed for you was based on your stated budget and the time allotted. It is my goal to provide you with a clean, well executed cake, that tastes delicious. I hope that is what you received.

Because you were disappointed and there may have been some miscommunication, I would like to extend to you a 15% discount on your next cake.

I hope to be able to work with you again in the future.

Edit Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Edit Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:44am
post #11 of 52

This is a very detailed fondant cake. Our price would have been twice as much for the cake.
You may want to explain to her that when you made the car cake, you underestimated the labor that went into the cake, she got the prototype, you charge more for design like that.
If you gave her an 8" cake for the Mario, that is $3.33/slice for a fondant cake, which is a very great deal.

lorieleann Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
lorieleann Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 12:53am
post #12 of 52

I think that the other posters have offered a good response to her along the lines of costs being what they are for 3D cakes (and that she didn't specify a 3D cake) and that you provided a cake that fit in her $80 budget. The problem here is not your quality of work or the price, it is what she expected from you based on her previous cake which was sold at a discount. I also think that the offer of a discount on her next order is a nice gesture considering that there was a miscommunication and she was not happy (and a mistake that you won't make in the future, i'm sure!)

MacsMom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
MacsMom Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 1:12am
post #13 of 52

The quality of your work is certainly worth $80. (She would have had to pay me $100 for the exact cake).

She didn't request a carved cake this time, and she needs to know, somehow, the bargain you gave her for the Cars cake. We have to bake extra cake to carve it away. That extra cake is costly.

The work you do is flawless, she would NOT find a comparable price for that cake. I hope you are able to shrug this one off, because you WILL get the clientele you deserve.

You cannot get a Mercedes for the price of a Kia.


soozicake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
soozicake Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 1:47am
post #14 of 52

OMG is that woman nuts...I read all these posts prior to looking at your cake. Not sure what I was expecting but my eyes popped open in disbelief....that is one hell of a terrific, fabulous cake. The problem may be you did such a great job and super terrific price on the last cake that her tiny brain thinks that is the norm.
Keep your head held high and be proud to have produced such a fabulous cake for the client, especially at short notice.

soozicake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
soozicake Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 1:50am
post #15 of 52

PS...I adore your kitchen.

vgcea Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
vgcea Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 3:10am
post #16 of 52

That is one beautiful cake. Please let the customer know that the previous cake was offered at a steep discount. And explain to her that $80 and 3D cake do not go together in the same sentence.

RebeccaBloomwood Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
RebeccaBloomwood Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 8:15am
post #17 of 52

I agree with all the advice on what to say to the customer

Just want to say that your work is fabulous! thumbs_up.gif And quite reasonably priced, most specially considering that the order was kind of last minute.

I hope she'll understand once you have sent your response to her.

Best of luck and great job on the cake! thumbs_up.gif

mmmmmmmmcake1954 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
mmmmmmmmcake1954 Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 8:32am
post #18 of 52
Originally Posted by Edit

This is a very detailed fondant cake. Our price would have been twice as much for the cake.
You may want to explain to her that when you made the car cake, you underestimated the labor that went into the cake, she got the prototype, you charge more for design like that.
If you gave her an 8" cake for the Mario, that is $3.33/slice for a fondant cake, which is a very great deal.

Totally agree with Edit, it certainly sounds as if you under estimated on the time and labour of the first cake - and the mario cake is excellent. Maybe if you explain this to her she may be more appreciative and understanding thumbs_up.gif

southerncross Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
southerncross Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 11:47am
post #19 of 52

You have always been one of my favourite decorators. Your work is always detailed, creative and perfectly executed. This Mario Brothers is no exception.

Now as far as your customer, well, bless her heart. This poor dear has no knowledge of baking much less decorating a cake and what goes into the process. I will bet dollars to donuts the local grocery story does not carry anything near your cake at any price. But sometimes, customers are lost in their own ignorance and like a lot of people, they get an image in their heads and expect everyone else to read their minds. That;s their problem. Your challenge is to take them for what they are, put that smile back on your face and take a deep breath.

I think the post of the suggested letter is perfect. It acknowledges the feelings of the customer but also sets forth the realities of what a cake costs (although I would be inclined to say that she got the benefit of a one time deep discount on the carved cake and your sorry if that wasn't made clear to her).

We all get that first complaint and it's never easy. I fretted after a customer called for a cake to pick up immediately and when I explained that I bake from scratch and always fresh and need at least a couple days advanced notice, she railed on about how it would behoove me to have cakes in the freezer for last minute orders. Her parting shot was that in failing to have frozen cakes on hand I was an "irresponsible baker". Go figure.

Piece_acake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Piece_acake Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 1:10pm
post #20 of 52

Thank you all so much for the kind words, it was so nice to come on here this morning and read them. It definitely put me in a much better mood than yesterday icon_smile.gif

Cownsj, you are correct, it was not clear on either side at all. I have gotten many orders from this lady and she usually just lets me run with whatever design idea she give me. That definitely will NOT be happening again icon_redface.gif

Brenda549, that letter is perfect. I am going to send it pretty much exactly like that today... Thank you!

Edit, that was actually a 10" cake so she got an even better deal!

Osgirl Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
Osgirl Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 3:33pm
post #21 of 52

Your cake is gorgeous! My son would love a cake like that! I think it boils down to lack of/miscommunication. She had a certain expectation in her mind based on a cake you had made for her before. Everyone gave great advice regarding having a detailed drawn out plan beforehand so she knows what she's getting OR she can increase her price so she can get something more.

I would probably offer a discount on a future cake since she has been a customer before.

I personally would not go the route of telling her that you had increased your prices. That may be an acceptable reason, but as a customer I would say-well, you should've made that clear when we talked about the cake and the cost (if she did indeed say that she wanted something similar to Lightening McQueen for $80). That should've been part of the conversation.

Either way, beautiful cake! icon_smile.gif

cownsj Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
cownsj Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 3:35pm
post #22 of 52

I hope she receives your letter well and understands the bargain she got on the other cake. Please keep us posted.

Hoping it works out quickly, and yes, that letter is perfect to use.

karateka Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
karateka Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 5:20pm
post #23 of 52

Hindsight is 20/20, but a contract that spells out what will be supplied for that price is invaluable. I do like the letter someone else posted, but would leave off the 15% discount part. She did not specify she wanted a 3D cake. If she was expecting that, she should have told you that. On the other side of the coin, you should have communicated to her what she was going to receive for that price....even if it was a quick email instead of a legalese impregnated document.

For pricing, using Wilton's chart a 10 in cake serves 38 and using Earlene's chart a 10 in serves 30, so for $80 she got a fondant cake for either $2.10 per serving or $2.66 per serving. Either of those are generous pricing for the quality of work you provide. I'll bet you cash money that grocery store doesn't provide work that clean!

I would do whatever your conscience demands....but defiinitely spend some time working up a contract that your clients can read and sign with their order, be it simple or complicated, in order to protect yourself in the future.

The next, and most important step is to cut yourself some slack. Our clients have no clue what is involved in this business, or they'd be making their cakes themselves. You did nothing wrong aside from failing to protect yourself with a contract or specific bill of sale. Take it as a lesson learned and move on. The one positive thing about having something go wrong with an order is that you will never, ever, forget the lesson you learned from it. I hope you won't dwell on it too long, and let it spoil a perfectly lovely weekend!

LoveMeSomeCake615 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 7:06pm
post #24 of 52
Originally Posted by karateka

The one positive thing about having something go wrong with an order is that you will never, ever, forget the lesson you learned from it.

Absolutely true! Been there, done that. icon_wink.gif

khewston Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
khewston Posted 1 Apr 2012 , 8:15pm
post #25 of 52

I LOVE your cake!!! You cannot get a cake like this in a grocery store.

heynannie Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
heynannie Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 12:15am
post #26 of 52

You did a great job the cake was colorfully clean and very well done. You mentioned you took this as a "fit in " request and on that note your client could have been more kind...don't let this stop you from what you love...besides the price of 80.00 dollars was more than generous. She may have had something else upset her ...and your cake may have been the closest thing to blame...;( that couldn't speak back) icon_smile.gif....just sayin' (smile)<333><

momma28 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
momma28 Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 1:40pm
post #27 of 52

I never make a cake without a contract (not even a birthday cake) and my minimum for a sculpted cake is $195 (before delivery and tax). They go up from there depending on difficulty. To expect a sculpted cake for $80 is craziness.

She got so much more than she paid for as even an unstacked decorated round in that size would have been at least $120. Your work is perfect!

jenmat Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
jenmat Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 1:48pm
post #28 of 52

I had this happen once. A lady called and ordered a 3D cake, it was really simple, it was for someone I knew, so I did it at a discounted rate (without telling her). Me being nice, right? NOT.

Fast forward 3 weeks, and she wants a cake last minute, same price range and doesn't tell me she wants 3D. I even tried to explain on the phone what she would be getting, but she wasn't listening because she thought she had just hit a goldmine with me.

I did a cutout cake because of her budget and she was LIVID that I didn't do a full 3D cake.
When I explained to her the situation, it made her even more mad that I gave her a discount once but wouldn't do it for her again. She ended up hanging up on me and I've never heard from her again.

I can tell you, something like this only has to happen ONCE for you to make adjustments. I do NOT offer discounts without making clear full price, the amount of discount, WHY I am doing the discount, and then that is a one time only deal.

An apology for the miscommunication is definitely in order, but other than that, you can't turn back time, only learn for the future, right?

gatorcake Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
gatorcake Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 2:43pm
post #29 of 52
Originally Posted by vgcea

That is one beautiful cake. Please let the customer know that the previous cake was offered at a steep discount. And explain to her that $80 and 3D cake do not go together in the same sentence.

These kind of responses fail to account for the reason, at least in part, why the client had those expectations. The original cake was not offered at a discount and indicating otherwise is disingenuous. The original post claims the price was offered because she had no idea what to charge for carved cakes. Whether or not the client knows what goes into making a cake, the client's expectations were certainly impacted by the decision to set the price for the carved cake at $80. There is no doubt that the quality of decorating is superb (the round is amazing and easily worth $80).

However a round is not a carved cake, and I can only image given what the round looked like, how great the carved car looked. The client would know they got great value, that does not mean (especially if you believe most are unaware of all the work that goes into artisan style cakes) they got a great "deal." You go to a professional and ask you for something and they charge you X are you going to assume they are uncertain about what to charge especially if they do not say something. After receiving great results are not you not going to go back to that professional same level of quality (carved versus round) for that same amount of money? Remember this is not a situation where you as the client know what you should be charged.

The problem was in setting the price at $80 without a predetermined pricing scheme the client was led to believe in fact 3D cakes do go in the same sentence with $80. You cannot offer something at a discount when you have no conception of the original price. The lesson here is not that clients are "crazy" or "nuts."

momma28 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
momma28 Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 3:10pm
post #30 of 52

I think anyone walking into a walmart and seeing the cakes you can get for the pricing offered would know that a carved cake car was worth more than $80 and that you (the client) would be "playing dumb" to say differently. I think if you read between the lines what this woman thought was that she had found a dirt cheap way to get impressive works of edible art. While I agree the design should have been set in writing (which is why I always have a contract), the expectation of getting a sculpted cake on short notice for $80 is unreasonable even if you are not a cake artist.

I often wonder why there is such a disconnect with people and sugar sculptures. If someone made it out of clay it would inspire awe and command a price. Its as though the fact that it is consumable somehow reduces its value or the talent it takes to produce it. My father was a sculptor. He was paid well for his work (which was incredible). I watched him create and I spend far more time working with finicky materials to produce cakes than he did working with clay.

I think not discounting is the hardest lesson any cake artist can learn. My guess is this is the last time for the OP

Quote by @%username% on %date%