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Giving money back to dissatisfied customers


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#1 sugarseattle

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 03:56 PM

Since this fall, we introduced a new cake, a vanilla confetti birthday cake, to our lineup. I believe the white cake is really delicious, flavorful, and cute. My staff likes it too so I feel pretty comfy about it being good quality. It's become pretty popular, however, it seems to have a dark side.

I've had a few customer complaints about it. I even had one customer invited me up to their office and had me taste it in front of them while they stood around and said "she's the one that made the cake". It was pretty humiliating, but I held back my emotions and tasted it and it tasted fine, just like I would expect. I told her so, and simply said, "well it seems that if you didn't like the cake, so I should offer your money back." But then I felt bad about doing that.

I just got another call and the person said they ordered one a few days ago and couldn't even eat it. I cut into the cake that we had in the case from the same batch and it tasted just fine. but I still offered this customer her money back.

I am unsure whether I have a product that actually sucks and I should get rid of it, or if this is just one of those products that simply isn't for everybody. In any case, I'm not sure I should keep offering to give people money back

I've tried a lot of white cake recipes, and this one is my favorite. I believe it fits into our overall product line, but I'm just so confused as to why it's so polarizing for my customers.

I'm just looking for advice on how I should handle these complaints. I've always had a no questions asked policy, but I am starting to feel taken advantage of.
Stephanie Crocker
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#2 jrshaul

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:01 PM

Can you provide additional information? My immediate thought is the use of traditional ingredients - say, egg whites - has alienated customers used to the standard of flour and mayonnaise.

Also, at $40 a cake, customers may have very high expectations. $40 and change bought me an immersion circulator.

Edited by jrshaul, 09 January 2013 - 04:03 PM.


#3 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:39 PM

What don't the customers like? Off flavor? Weird texture? Dried up?

#4 Edward J

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 05:33 PM

I fear you might have earned a reputation for giving money back while everyone has a free slice of cake.

If the customer can't be specific about WHAT they don't like, then smile and nod and brush them off. Valid complaints are too dry, off flavours, not to dietary instructions, or special instructions. None of your customers mentioned any of these complaints.

If you want to keep the cake, keep one handy for samples or make mini-cakes/cupcakes for sampling or sale, and make sure they try it first.

If you want to give money back, ALWAYS get their receipt back, and ALWAYS ask for the uneaten portion of the cake back--you are paying them for it. You can throw it in the garbage in front of them, but always get the uneaten portion back.

#5 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 05:46 PM

If the recipe is generating random unrelated complaints, it may be wise to regroup and consider another recipe, no matter how well you personally like it.
Word travels fast in this day and age, your reputation is at stake.


~Martin

Edited by DiggingDogFarm, 09 January 2013 - 05:47 PM.

~Martin
 
Unsupervised rebellious and radical farmer, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist and contrarian who questions everything!
 


#6 IndyRob

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:04 PM

Just a gut reaction, in no way influenced by anything as valuable as actual experience....

I think I'd keep a sample cake around the shop and ask anyone who comes by to try a sample (be it a repeat customer or the FedEx delivery person). You could present it as a new flavor that you're considering, or just tell the truth and say you're trying to get to the bottom of it.

When you remove the payment from the equation, you should feel a little more confident in the results of the survey.

Also, if you again find yourself in a situation where you're taken to task in a semi-public way, you might want to solicit other opinions among the group. It could be subtle. Ask for some clarification and then ask for agreement from one of the more sheepish looking people in the group. If the person is playing you in front of their friends they (the friends) may be less impressed if forced to play along, (and may, in fact, admit that it's just fine).

Either way, if you're going to give away some goods, make sure to try to learn the proper lesson from it. That could either be not to sell to this person ever again, or that you need to ask more questions during an order (or provide a sample at ordering time).


#7 pastrygirl

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:21 PM

I agree, you need more specifics on what they didn't like. Is there some ideal (probably boxed :shock: ) that they had in mind and yours is different? I'm thinking of Christina Tosi's nostalgia for boxed confetti b-day cake as described in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook - some may be hoping for an exact replica of that. I, on the other hand, grew up on Grandma's homemade cakes, and I think Tosi's confetti cake looks gross and wonder why anyone would want to slavishly re-create boxed cake and nasty jarred icing.

Do you have it by the slice/cupcake? I work on Capitol Hill, I can come by and taste it with you if you like.

And, if possible, can you give them credit instead of cash so you are not out the cash and get another chance to redeem yourself?

Edited by pastrygirl, 09 January 2013 - 07:22 PM.


#8 Shalmanese

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 10:11 PM

If complaints are only being generated about this cake but not any others, then it's unlikely to be any kind of scam. Just refund the money, ordinary people aren't as articulate about why they do or don't like something but they can be very articulate about a horrible experience from an establishment.
PS: I am a guy.

#9 Lisa Shock

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 10:56 PM

I agree that you should sample it out and ask for input. There may be something that you don't notice, that turns other people off. For me, some white cakes taste of coconut, even if they don't have any coconut in them. And, since I don't like coconut, I have a very tentative relationship with white cake. About 20% of the US population doesn't like coconut. So, it could be something like this.

#10 Edward J

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 02:11 AM

Fair enough, but you can tell us what you don't like. I have a very hard time trusting customers who want their money back but can't tell me what exactly it is that they don't like

#11 Tri2Cook

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 04:34 AM

Is "a few complaints" about this particular cake in relation to a whole bunch of customers who are happy with it? That would point to personal preference and there's not much you can do about it beyond sampling pre-order. Returning their money or giving store credit are options but not obligations if they "just didn't like it". Not liking something doesn't mean there's something wrong with it. I don't like liver, millions of people do. Specific reasons why there was something wrong with it are what you need to listen for. "I don't like liver" and "the liver was burnt on the bottom" are two different things. If the complaints are fairly high in relation to total sales or contain a lot of specifics, you need to look beyond your personal feelings about the product. Even if 100 friends, co-workers and experts agree it's good, if a high percentage of your customers think otherwise, it's not worth the potential problems.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#12 gfweb

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 05:59 AM

Dump the product. The world is full of cake recipes. You don't need the hassle and anxiety.

#13 Edward J

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 12:04 PM

Also, at $40 a cake, customers may have very high expectations. $40 and change bought me an immersion circulator.


Wow, I've never heard of a cake being compared to an immersion circulator. How does one slice and serve an immersion circulator? With creme anglaise? Raspberry coulis? Plain whipped cream and coffee?

Seriously though. $40 for a cake is pretty much standard for a custom made cake. Ingredients aren't free, neither is labour or overhead. Mass produced cakes re another story though.......

#14 HungryC

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 12:14 PM

I'm thinking of Christina Tosi's nostalgia for boxed confetti b-day cake as described in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook - some may be hoping for an exact replica of that. I, on the other hand, grew up on Grandma's homemade cakes, and I think Tosi's confetti cake looks gross and wonder why anyone would want to slavishly re-create boxed cake and nasty jarred icing.

You took the words right outta my mouth. Pretty much sums up how I feel about everything in that cookbook.

#15 jrshaul

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 01:32 AM

Seriously though. $40 for a cake is pretty much standard for a custom made cake. Ingredients aren't free, neither is labour or overhead. Mass produced cakes re another story though.......


It's standard for a custom cake, but about double Whole Foods' price and quadruple the supermarket option. Set a diminishing return on investment curve proportional to that for food which allows me to buy a mcBurger for $2 and fillet for $25. If you're above the curve, great - but if you're not, you're in trouble.

$40 is also, notably, very close to an entire day's pay after taxes at minimum wage. It's serious money. A lousy $10 cake is ignored. A $40 cake will receive greater scrutiny.

Is it a harsh standard? Definitely. But surpassing it is why you can ask $40 for a cake, and I can't.

#16 jrshaul

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 01:34 AM

You took the words right outta my mouth. Pretty much sums up how I feel about everything in that cookbook.


I was not allowed to eat sweetened cereal as a child. I had raisin bran. The kind that tasted of cardboard.

As such, I have zero nostalgia for "cereal milk", and find the retail distribution of maltose-flavored dairy absurd.

#17 Tri2Cook

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 05:48 AM

I was not allowed to eat sweetened cereal as a child. I had raisin bran. The kind that tasted of cardboard.

As such, I have zero nostalgia for "cereal milk", and find the retail distribution of maltose-flavored dairy absurd.

Breakfast was usually oatmeal, rice or cream of wheat when I was growing up. Not because we weren't allowed to have sweetened cereal, because we were a family of 7 with not a lot of money and that stuff went much further for the money than boxes of cereal. On rare occassions when we got some cap'n crunch or something like that, even the milk that remained after the cereal was gone was a treat. I don't think about it fondly and I wouldn't buy a bottle of cereal milk but I understand what she's tapping into with it. For every person looking down their nose at it, there are probably as many or more that love it. The same with cakes, what we think is best and what people want to taste may at times be two different things. Cooking at home, we can be as high-horse as we want. In a business, sometimes your customer base makes you decide between sticking to your guns and making money.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#18 Edward J

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 11:54 AM


Seriously though. $40 for a cake is pretty much standard for a custom made cake. Ingredients aren't free, neither is labour or overhead. Mass produced cakes re another story though.......


It's standard for a custom cake, but about double Whole Foods' price and quadruple the supermarket option. Set a diminishing return on investment curve proportional to that for food which allows me to buy a mcBurger for $2 and fillet for $25. If you're above the curve, great - but if you're not, you're in trouble.

$40 is also, notably, very close to an entire day's pay after taxes at minimum wage. It's serious money. A lousy $10 cake is ignored. A $40 cake will receive greater scrutiny.

Is it a harsh standard? Definitely. But surpassing it is why you can ask $40 for a cake, and I can't.



Exactly my point!

All the retailers you mentioned are producing on huge volume scales, with automated or semi-automated equipment and purchasing ingredients at much higher volumes--which means lower ingredient costs.


Then again, beef tenderloin is about 1% of the carcass weight, and hamburger about 40% of the carcass weight.