Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cake designer seeking informed customer

In a dream world, I'd post this want ad on Craigslist and in every newspaper in the area. In this age of the internet, it seems there are an infinite number of places customers can post their ad hoc reviews about services. These posts are never complete,never truly accurate, but always powerful.When you have a mainly web based business like mine, word of mouth is incredibly important.I have been quite fortunate to be the recipient of many great reviews and literally thousands of positive comments from customers on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Flickr, to name a few.For this I am truly grateful.....however.....where are the sites that empower those small businesses? Namely: where can I review the customer? Now, don't get me wrong, I know which side of my cake gets buttercreamed and without customers I'd just be a chubby girl sitting around with unsold cake, but.....every now and again I feel that I need to speak out about my experiences with a customer.Apparently there is some unspoken rule that says , in order to be in business, you must bend over backwards, change your policies, oh hell, just drop EVERYTHING to please the customer. I do not know who wrote this but I say it's time to burn that rulebook.
First let me tell you a little something about being an artist and small business owner.Let this serve as a guide on how to be a great/ informed customer.

Number 1. : I'm NOT getting rich. I have even had people joke to me, wow! that cake was $$$$? You must be getting really rich! Um, no. Your idea of a bakery might be those production facilities that churn out sheet cakes.As someone who had 15-16 years working in production bakeries, I can tell you that the only thing those "factories" and a custom cake design studio have in common is the word "cake".It was entirely common to have 50-60 cakes a weekend in the production bakeries.Add in answering phones and waiting on walk in customers, cleaning, etc... that left about 20 minutes max to produce each cake.Compare that to the number of cakes I can do per week.On a busy week I can do 6-8, and that is pushing it. Why? Because I devote entire days, sometimes several days to each cake. This is not because I'm incredibly slow or have a broken arm or something, it's because QUALITY takes time. So back to that getting rich thing? again, no.

Number 2. "I'm the customer and you have to do everything I say". Guess what? Nope.Being self employed ,I sacrifice a lot. Weekends, vacations, health insurance those are all just fading memories to me. One of the only perks I have as a result is being able to decide what I will and will not do. I don't willy nilly make up policies as I go along, mind you. I try to make it very clear on all my web pages all the info that you will need to initiate an order. Among these are my menu selections, availability and notice requirements and my policies about tastings and meeting with clients. Time and time again, these are just disregarded and I just cannot understand why .Just as you would not demand a restaurant to produce an entree not on their menu, nor should you ask that of me.Neither would you demand a store to open just for you, should you ask that I do the same.My policies are the result of decades of experience and knowing what is right for my business. please don't ask that I change them for you.

Number 3.:Please do not insult me.I hear constantly, "Debbie, I LOVE your work! Now, here's a picture of someone else's cake.Make it for me!" I presume you came to me because you recognized that I am an artist. Please don't treat me like a machine. I am a designer, not a cake machine.Let me do what I do, I am assuming that's why you chose me over another.On the subject of insulting me, do NOT question why I charge what I must(and I say MUST).I don't sit around calling out the first number that pops in my head. Pricing is an incredibly difficult and complex issue that is ever evolving.Because what I do is so unique, most of my cakes are one offs, I must rely on previous experience with similar cakes to help me gauge a fair to all parties price.I have woefully underestimated the amount of work a particular project will take on countless occasions. I am the one who absorbs this cost oversight. I had a cake last year , for example,that I priced at what I thought was a reasonable number and when I got into the actual crafting of the cake, ended up spending 3 times the hours than I had estimated. Once you factor in my expenses and the salary I must pay my occasional assistant, you can easily see I lost money. A tough mistake for sure, and not one I could afford to make, but I turn these experiences into lessons.The next person who asks for something similar will receive a much more realistic quote. Believe it or not, this is beneficial to everyone. When I know that I have priced a cake properly, I can set aside the amount of time that it deserves and am a much more creative and non stressed cake designer.

Number 4.: Do YOUR homework or: Why are you better than ________? Technically this question belongs in the last paragraph but that was getting wordy =) As a customer, it is up to you to take advantage of the years of work I have laid out for you to see on the internet.Please take some time to peruse my website(s), read my reviews, note the large amount of international press I have worked hard to receive.I AM my portfolio, and if that isn't enough to convince you, then I am not the right designer for you, and you know what? That is fine too. Not every business can be right for every customer, just as not every customer is right for every business.

All rambling aside, I am eternally grateful to the hundreds of customers that have trusted me and continue to make me a part of their important occasions, to you,a heartfelt THANK YOU!

5 comments:

Laurie Clarke said...

SOOOOO well said!! : )

SweetThingsTO said...

I hope that felt good to say... because it felt so good for me to read! Very well said!

debbie does cakes said...

Thanks guys, I'm afraid i'm just preaching to the choir...but at least it's out there. I do feel better .

William Oliveri said...

Nicely put.. We've cancelled all sculpted, rolled fondant cakes because of the time involved and the fact we won't get the money for them. People see these shows on food network and want cakes like that but then balk at the price. I'd rather fill my cases with eclairs, danish, cookies, etc than do cakes.

Nice post! Gotta give it to you for doing what you do. BTW, you do beautiful work!! Just stunning!! Best to you!

Ed said...

Specialty fondant cakes? Try http://offthewallcakes.com/