What Did She Want? Seriously, I'm Confused By A Former Customer.

Business By Emmerdoo Updated 6 Nov 2013 , 4:09pm by DeliciousDesserts

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Emmerdoo Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:08am
post #1 of 17

This will be a rant, and maybe I shouldn't talk badly about a former customer, but I am so angry right now. I get a call from a girl that wanted to talk with me about doing her wedding cake and her groom's cake. 

I met with her, we discussed what she wanted: 

125 cupcakes (5 different flavors) 
1 10'' round cake - rustic style icing in brown (even though the flavor was strawberry) 
1 Groom's cake (carved specialty cake) 
Fall decorations (but they can't be fondant, gumpaste, or royal because she didn't like the flavor of those, she didn't want roses because that didn't match her bouquet, she wanted acorns, leaves, chrysanthemums, and other "non-rosey" fall flowers, she didn't want rice paper cut outs, she didn't want chocolate sheets in any colors/decos/shapes, and she didn't want the icing dyed any "weird" colors) 
No fondant on the groom's cake 
Brown Damask cupcake liners. 

Disclaimer: My contract specifically states that you can remove/change the flavors, amount, and shape of the cake until 3 weeks before. After that, I will not accept any changes unless the cake is market dependent (fresh fruit and such). Even if they decide they don't want the cake, the money paid is non-refundable at that point (3 weeks out from the date), simply because I start buying some supplies and I start making some of the larger layers, then freeze them. 

Back to it: 
Everything was added together and the contract was signed.I gave her the "Friends" discount (which was fairly significant) because of close ties with a family member of hers. Now, a week before the wedding, she decided that she didn't want the groom's cake. Well, I'm sorry, that money is non-refundable - I've already started on the darned thing. I can take what is left of that money and apply it towards the cupcakes, which is what I did. She was fine with that, but still insisted that she didn't want fondant, gumpaste, or royal decorations. I told her that the only decorations that would really withstand the heat of the hall, transportation, pictures, and all the festivities would be buttercream roses. She reiterated what she didn't want, which severely limited my options as far as decorations. Everything I suggested, she turned her nose up and disagreed with. She really tied my hands as far as decorations. After everything was said and done, the cupcakes were still somewhat plain, although some of them had chocolate candies on them. 

I will say that I was unable to get the brown damask cupcake liners. I ordered them about 1 month before the wedding and they were out of stock. They finally came in the mail the day before the wedding. That's too late for me and I should have sent her a message telling her that, but I didn't. 

Lastly, she said that she was unhappy because I was late delivering the cupcakes. We originally agreed on me delivering the cupcakes at 4:30 pm. A week before the wedding, I texted her mother (who was the authorized contact) and her to make sure that the plans were still good. She never responded and her mother told me that the wedding was starting at 5:00. I asked how long the cupcakes were going to sit out before they were eaten. She told me that the reception was starting at 7:00 pm (after pictures and cocktail hour). I told her that because the cupcakes had fillings and buttercream icing, I would feel more comfortable if I kept the cupcakes cold until as close to the reception time as possible, simply because I didn't want them to spoil or somehow turn rancid (the reception hall was a barn and the cake table was right in front of a heater (no seriously, I could have turned the cake table into a freaking tanning bed). She agreed and said that it was ok for me to bring them between 5:30 and 6:00. That gave me a little over an hour to set everything up and make sure that it was clean. I think that is more than enough time for cupcakes. My assistant went with me, we set up the cupcakes, and it looked good (from what I was told, from what I thought, from what the wedding director told me, and from what the food/beverage coordinator told me). The pictures are attached and other than them not being professional (I took them with my phone) I thought it looked good. 

Here's the rub: She had the nerve to text me on Sunday morning (the day after the wedding) and tell me that I "didn't deliver the product she had requested," I was late with the delivery, she was disappointed, and she would like to discuss a refund. I'm seriously ticked off right now and I'm just asking myself if 1. I have a right to be angry. Given the constraints that I was charged with and how unwilling she was to listen to advice regarding decorating. 2. She told me 1 week before the wedding that she didn't want the groom's cake and she even agreed to spending the money on the cupcakes (which allowed me to make more cupcakes as buffers. 140, I think). and 3. When I texted her about the time and verifying everything, she didn't respond, her mother did. 

I told her mother at set-up that the brown damask cupcake liners didn't come in because of being on back order and that money would be refunded. I am seriously tempted to tell her that I will not offer a refund of any kind, the contract was specific and iron clad (thanks to the attorney hubs), and that she severely tied my hands as far as the decorating. But, there's a part of me that doesn't want to create a difficult environment with the person that I work with (who was also the contact for her) and I just want to refund all her money and have her sign a non-disclosure agreement/gag order (again, thanks to the attorney hubs). I seriously don't know what to do. I am angry and I know that what I put out is a DAMN good product (sorry for the language). I have had repeat clients for 5-6 years. I have been through college graduations, engagements, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, and 1st birthdays with many of them. Out of my long list of clients, I have had 2 other people besides this girl that weren't happy. One was because the icing was not the exact shade of "watermelon" as her bridesmaids dresses (she was a bridezilla) and the other because she thought the cupcakes would be bigger. 

Any advice is appreciated and thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my rant

16 replies
liz at sugar Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
liz at sugar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:20am
post #2 of 17

First of all, are those tool chests that the cupcakes are sitting on?  Different . . .


Second, you could have sat the cupcakes in the liners at the last minute, even though you didn't bake them in them.  Just a thought for down the road.


As far as a refund - just the cost of the cupcake wrappers/or part of the cupcake cost is as far as I would go.  Her approved contact ok'ed the time change - unless you were setting up in the middle of the ceremony, or during their first dance or something.


I also may have contacted her earlier about the cupcake wrappers, to see if she had a plan B she was interested in.


Don't worry about it too much - it will work itself out.



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reginaherrin Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:20am
post #3 of 17

So what is it about the cake and cupcakes the she thinks is not what she "requested".  You should have had the decorations of the cake and cupcakes either sketched out or described in detail on the contract correct?  If everything, besides the liners, are what is on the contract then no refund.

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Norasmom Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:22am
post #4 of 17

I'm so confused.  What did she want?  No fondant, no this, no that…did she show you any pictures of what she wanted?  How do you have a fall theme without bold colors???  That's no fun for you, and it makes for a very boring cake.  You did a nice job with what you had to work with.


 Don't refund the money, and next time you have a client like her turn the order down…before you agree to do the order, say you have to check your calendar and then oops…you are booked but sorry.


There's no pleasing some people.  


The only issue here is the cupcake wrappers.  That might have made a difference, but I'm not sure.  Do you have any pictures of what she said she wanted?

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Emmerdoo Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:41am
post #5 of 17

She never gave me a picture. She just said she wanted the main cake to be kind of messy, which after showing her pictures, meant "rustic." 

I agree with you that I absolutely should have texted her about the cupcake liners and I could have set them in there at the last minute, but at that point, I honestly didn't think about that. 


I didn't think that I was being too outrageous and I am genuinely confused as to what she wanted.  There were no pictures, there were no leads in the right direction, just a laundry list of what she didn't want.  I even tried to explain to her that there are certain decorations and decorating styles that lend themselves to a particular type of medium, i.e., you wouldn't try to create a intricately detailed carved cake with buttercream, just like you wouldn't try to create stringwork with fondant.  She didn't want to listen, then she wanted to blame me.  


It's crap like this that makes me want to sell all my stuff, sell my recipes, sell my business name - all of it - and just sit back and not worry about it. I know I would miss it though.  


I need a drink....again.

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reginaherrin Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:49am
post #6 of 17

So there was no clear cut design in mind before the contract was signed and you started working on them for either you or her?  I always tell me brides to wait to sign the contract until we have a sketch of the cake and would never start working on a cake without a clear cut design that the bride/customer approved.  Because if you don't then things like this can occur where they can easily say that is not what they wanted and try to get their money back.  Has she not told you specifically what she did not think was correct/didn't like?  If she can't tell you what she didn't like then she is just trying to get her money back.  If you give a refund it should only be cupcake liners.  On a side note, if those are tool boxes then it would have been cool if you opened each drawer a little more slightly then the previous one and put cupcakes in the drawers (if that makes sense).

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reginaherrin Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:54am
post #7 of 17

Also, you should have been super clear about what can and can't be used to get certain decorations.  For example, since she wanted acorns, leaves, chrysanthemums, and other "non-rosey" fall flowers you should have let her know what you can use to make these and what you can't and if she still did not want them made that way then they can only be plain with no decorations. I have had to do that quite a bit when someone wants a certain decoration but doesn't want fondant.  There is only so much you can do with buttercream.

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Emmerdoo Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:54am
post #8 of 17

I wish they were toolboxes, that could have made it really cute.  They were just wooden crates that apples or fruit would come in. She had her husband sand them down, and stain them that color.  


Looking back on it, I probably shouldn't have signed that contract or booked her until she could give me a clear cut idea as to what she wanted and she can't even tell me what she didn't like about it. It's all vague "this wasn't what I was thinking," and "I was imagining something different." But no, tenderhearted me wanted to help out my friend.  


Next time, it won't be this way.  The only discounts and special favors I will do will be for immediate family (parents and hubs).  Everyone else gets to pay full price and they will be treated as clients, not family, not friends.


It's sad that we go into this business in order to do something we love and people like this take the joy out of it.

liz at sugar Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
liz at sugar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:00am
post #9 of 17

I see the crates now!  The bands of light looked like the metal drawer edges on a toolbox!  Guess my mind is playing tricks on me.


Don't get too disheartened - some people have no ability to visualize what something will look like, or communicate what they really want.


Have a nice evening -



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reginaherrin Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:39am
post #10 of 17

AOh I see it too, it looks like those bands are metal stripes but I see they are the bottom of the crates. Too funny.

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Stitches Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:45am
post #11 of 17

I wish you would have posted the issues you were having before the date, we all could have tried to help you.


Like someone already posted, you could/should have set the cupcakes into those liners (darn)....and you shouldn't ever do a wedding/expensive cake with-out a clearly agreed upon design.


When people are vague about what type of design they want, force them to show you photographic examples. You can't be expected to guess and you'll never guess correctly! I wouldn't have signed a contract with-out knowing exactly what I was making design wise...even if it meant losing her business.


The brides design tastes clearly weren't thought out at any point. She choose damask cupcake liners and wooden crates to display them on....that's a contradiction. I think her style might have been shabby chic (sp?) but she and you needed to discuss that. You could have even shown her photos of similar displays and gotten her to sign off on that.


The delivery time should have been figured out weeks in advance and you should have talked to her about the climate in advance. As long as the cake was on the table before the guests arrived, it was on time.


I would apologize for the cupcake liner mistake and give her a percentage back....whatever you charged her originally for them. Chalk this up to another lesson learned the hard way, learn from it and move on.

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costumeczar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 11:53am
post #12 of 17

AI would tell her that the delivery time was approved by her mother, so that complaint is without merit. This is the kind of person who will just keep picking at you, though, so I'd refund for the cupcake wrappers without telling her that's what it's for. You can probably use those eventually, so that's no big deal. I wouldn't give her back more than that, though, since you did speak to her mother, who was her approved contact.

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costumeczar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 11:54am
post #13 of 17

AAnd just remember that if you get another client like this you need to put your foot down and tll them there are things you can and can't do, and if they don't like it they are free to go hire someone else.

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kikiandkyle Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 1:00pm
post #14 of 17

AI think you could have avoided a lot of this by requiring her to clarify exactly what she did want instead of only noting what she didn't want.

It sounds like she went a bit overboard with her 'brown' theme and was disappointed in the outcome overall, and since she sort of knows you you're the first (and possibly only) vendor she called to complain to. I would offer a discount towards a future order and leave it at that.

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SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 1:54pm
post #15 of 17

AAfter reading your description of what she wanted and didn't want, I expected to see a chocolate colored cake, rough iced, with buttercream fall flowers in natural colors, such as burnt orange, deep yellow, deep red. She said no weird colors, which to me meant no blues, neon, hot pink, etc., just natural fall colors, such as you would find at a nursery at this time of year.

Here are some pics I found online with buttercream flowers. Perhaps that is more along the lines of what she was expecting. I do agree that having her provide some pictures of what she had in mind would have been easier for you to know what she was thinking.

Buttercream flowers birthday cake | Flickr - Photo Sharing! http://www.flickr.com/photos/artycakes/8033563491/

Butter cream flowers basket cake http://www.flickr.com/photos/artycakes/6409657713/

Also, the cupcake display looks kind of sparse. You said she ordered 125 cupcakes but it only looks like half are on the table.

I'm sorry this happened to you and that you are upset. I hope you have a better day today.

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howsweet Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:31pm
post #16 of 17

ARe the cupcake liners... I never serve cupcakes without an extra liner. Especially considering what I'm charging the customer . I always set my cc's in a fresh crisp liner for the presentation. The first time it seemed a little off... for about 2 minutes ... and now they look naked to me without the extra liner.

Like others said, you have to show the customer exactly what you're going to do. People don't realize that the possibilities are literally infinite of what you may actually make.

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DeliciousDesserts Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:09pm
post #17 of 17

AYOU are the professional. You are the one responsible for ensuring a true meeting of the minds. If you didn't do that, you didn't do your job.

As SecretAgentBaker mentioned, I expected to see the buttercream flowers you offered. There aren't any. Did we misunderstand?

I, personally, don't conduct "business" by text. If the client sends me a text, I follow up on an email. If the mother, or other designated person, makes a change I also confirm in email. That can be very messy as you are learning.

I think it's important enough to mention again that I still have no idea what this order was supposed to be. Did you?

If I were in this situation, I would pick up te phone and have an open, honest discussion with her. Try to smooth things out but also be firm about what she did receive. You absolutely should be compensated for your work.

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