If you were in my shoes...

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by momoreg, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. momoreg

    momoreg

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    As many of you know, I have been working with cakes and pastry for a long time. Since being in business for myself, I have had no complaints--until now.

    I just finished a cake for a client that I put MUCH more work into than I should have for the money involved. The client (whom I could have predicted would be like this) is not happy with the cake itself, and would like half of her money back, claiming that I FAILED at half the job.

    I had not recommended the flavor combination that she chose. In fact, I did try to steer her away from the cake she chose.

    She claims that it tastes like freezer burn, and it had been baked two days before the event (never frozen). She also complained that the mousse was gummy, and this mousse gets rave reviews with everybody. She says that all the guests at her party hated the cake! I find this hard to believe. What sort of guest would say that, anyway??

    I offered her a free tasting on her next cake, as well as 20% off any future orders, but she says that she doesn't plan to order another cake. I am reluctant to give her any money back, since I do not agree with her criticism of the cake.

    I told her that I will send her something as an apology for disappointing her, and I'm thinking of sending cookies, but I don't know how to avoid this with future clients, or whether even sending the cookies is a way of admitting that there was something wrong with the cake. I don't agree with her complaint, and that is why I'm having trouble with this.
     
  2. chef douglas

    chef douglas

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    Ahhh the General Public, always so hard to impress and satisify. Did she bring you back any of the cake to prove (or disprove) any of her aqusations? If she didnt I would have to say that she is out of luck; a good anaology is the customer who is eating in the dining room who finishes all but a small porition of their Pasta and says that it was horrible and would like a refund, in a situation like that I am inclinded to offer her dessert on the house but not refund the cost of her meal. What you have to ask yourself, is this client the person like the one described above?

    As far as admitting blame, you take the good with the bad, if the customer is unhappy you should try to smooth things over in any case, while she may not be a repeat customer you wont have it dwelling on your mind in 6mos whether or not you should of given her something.

    Just my .02
     
  3. cape chef

    cape chef

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    QUOTE=momoreg]As many of you know, I have been working with cakes and pastry for a long time. Since being in business for myself, I have had no complaints--until now.

    I just finished a cake for a client that I put MUCH more work into than I should have for the money involved. The client (whom I could have predicted would be like this) is not happy with the cake itself, and would like half of her money back, claiming that I FAILED at half the job.

    Did you sign a contract?

    I had not recommended the flavor combination that she chose. In fact, I did try to steer her away from the cake she chose.

    That was the right thing to do, what was her response?

    She claims that it tastes like freezer burn, and it had been baked two days before the event (never frozen). She also complained that the mousse was gummy, and this mousse gets rave reviews with everybody. She says that all the guests at her party hated the cake! I find this hard to believe. What sort of guest would say that, anyway??

    No guest worth their weight in salt would say such a thing! freezer burn, I don't believe it.

    I offered her a free tasting on her next cake, as well as 20% off any future orders, but she says that she doesn't plan to order another cake. I am reluctant to give her any money back, since I do not agree with her criticism of the cake.

    That was very business like of you to offer, but I would stand behind your product and chalk this one up to the small % of people who can't be pleased

    I told her that I will send her something as an apology for disappointing her, and I'm thinking of sending cookies, but I don't know how to avoid this with future clients, or whether even sending the cookies is a way of admitting that there was something wrong with the cake. I don't agree with her complaint, and that is why I'm having trouble with this.[/QUOTE]


    Momo, I would send her a quick note, no cookies, no money. If you give in in anyway to this client it can set a precedent, you are good, No VERY GOOD. I believe only if you see a pattern on the negative side do you need to re-think this.
     
  4. michigan dave

    michigan dave

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    From a business perspective... what do you have to gain by giving her money back. Usually refunds, discounts, freebies etc. are done to encourage repeat business from the customer. Since this woman has already told you that she is no longer your customer you don't seem to have anything to gain by pleasing her. If you are in a small market or she has influence with other customers you may have to take this into account and act appropriately. What you may want to do is to send her a letter telling her why you don't feel that she has a valid complaint etc (don't admit ANYTHING lest she use it against you in a small claims suit). One more thing to maybe think about. You said in your original post that you thought that this woman was going to be difficult and she insisted on a bad combination of flavors. I have learned to listen to that little voice in the back of my head that says "You're heading for trouble." I once had a customer that complained vehemently about a service that I was providing to them for free. There are just some customers in this world that you don't want and the best thing that you can do is learn to recognize them quickly and put as much distance between you and them as quickly as you can. There are plenty of other customers in the world that are not a problem that you don't have enough time in your life to deal with the problem ones. Good luck and above all if you feel you did right don't beat yourself up over it!
     
  5. momoreg

    momoreg

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    I appreciate the input.

    It's true, I don't have a lot to worry about, since she's not planning to order another cake from me. In addition, she's not a typical client anyway. However, she does WORK FOR a client of mine, and I'd hate to have her opinion affect whether or not her boss calls me.
    \
    There's not so much at stake in this situation, but I'm trying to view it as a learning experience.

    She and I didn't actually sign a contract, but I do email a proposal that includes a description, that the client must okay before I begin work. When I told her that I didn't think her cake and filling were a good combination, she insisted that this was what she wanted. She also asked me to replace the Swiss buttercream with the gritty bakery stuff. All in all, a no-win situation for me.

    I did tell her that I'll send her something; I didn't say what.
     
  6. chrose

    chrose

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    To paraphrase Brad, there's no accounting for taste in some people. I would not give her anything back. I thought of a bunch of things to retort her claims, but everytime I went to write something, one thought would come back to me and I would erase what I wrote, and that is that it's just not worth the effort of replying! It's a simple as that.
    If you're concerned about your client send them a small cake and tell them that you just wanted to remind them of your quality and commitment.

    To the other lady send her a well written note, that's all she deserves. If you would like, I would be more than happy to write something for you to send her (seriously written that would make you comfortable) and don't be surprised if she comes back sometime and orders another cake. I would put money on it!
     
  7. deltadoc

    deltadoc

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    I may not be a professional chef, but I do know a little about business.

    Give the refund, don't fret over it anymore, as that customer just isn't worth it.

    Start a list, not that I think it will become a long list, of customers that you will not do business with in the future.

    She's a write-off. The customer is always right, even when they're wrong.

    If you do have a "sixth" sense about a future customer, and not knowing if you have a fixed price schedule for specific services, but if you base your business on estimates given, use that sixth sense to price that potential "unable-to-satisfy" customer into one of your competitor's hands.

    doc
     
  8. chef_bob

    chef_bob

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    I agree with the "give the refund" school of thought. Remember that shampoo comercial "and she told two friends and so on and so on" It is hard on the ego when some one does not like what we put our soul in to, but it is even harder on the check book to loose potential customers because some one is bad mouthing around town. This women may not be a potential future client again, but doing everything you can to make her as happy as possible will probabally be money well spent. I should add that I am aslo a big fan of keping a list of customers you will not deal with in future. It is a very empowering feeling to turn business down and some customers are just not worth the stress.
     
  9. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Momo, did your e-mails mention anything about what would happen in case of dissatisfaction with the cake? I don't know Connecticut contract law :rolleyes: but I would guess her acceptance of your proposal is a contract. Legal? I don't know. My contract experience is with labor contracts, not this type of arrangement.

    I've tasted your cake and, well, she must be meshuggah. I lean toward giving her the refund and a note that reflects your reasons for doing so- a kind of disclaimer. Keep in mind what her boss (your client) would say if s/he knew the contents of the note. It's possible the customer would share it, right? I think this isn't about money, it's about your reputation, which is priceless.

    You might want to consult a lawyer about a regular form, with language that protects you from this type of incident, which you and your clients can sign.

    I hope this works out as well as it can!

    Mezz
     
  10. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Im sorry, but I don't agree with the give a refund standpoint, especially if you feel that you gave the woman exactly what she wanted, and you stand behind the quality of the product you produce. This is a case of a customer that wasn't going to be happy no matter what (your 6th sense told you that from the beginning). Don't cave in to her or you set a bad precedent. There are times when refunds are appropriate and times when they are not. I really believe that this is one of those times when they are not. Giving a refund, can, in her eyes, be an admission of guilt, on your part. Stand behind your product unless she can prove that you did give her a substandard product (which I just can't see). In the short term this may cause you some grief and a headache or 2, but I think in the long run you are better off standing behind your product.
     
  11. rivitman

    rivitman

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    I doubt you will get any sort of good will credit for the refund. The customer will take the money and still talk smack.

    If you KNOW your work was good, I wouldn't refund a dime.

    Were I the customer, I'd have sense to bring some product back to the maker to illustrate my complaint, then we would work out a solution.

    One of the things I have seen happen is a customer finishing the complete meal then lodging a complaint, vs summoning the waitstaff after a bite or two.

    The former gets nothing from me, while the latter ALWAYS gets the benefit of the doubt, even if they are wrong, I.E. medium rare vs rare.

    It may be possible that something went wrong, but the tone of the remarks and the tactics of your customer as you relate them have me smelling a scam.
     
  12. momoreg

    momoreg

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    I have read all of your comments, and I decided to put it all together into something that works for me.

    I agree with Rivitman that she will probably still talk badly after all is said and done, but have sent her a check for $10, and have offered her 20% off her next order, along with 2 tastings. MIND YOU, there will be NO next order. ;)

    The check was accompanied by a letter, explaining why she would not be receiving half the price of her cake.

    I'm sure she's eaten all of her HORRIBLE cake by now...

    Thank you ALL for your insightful comments.