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To Lie or Not to Lie


greenbean
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A woman came into where I work today and wanted to order 8 brownies. We make four varieties, but she wanted them all the same. One of the girls up front came back to tell me about the order because the woman wanted them baked the same day she came to pick them up. I am well aware that many people don't realize that it is impractical and nearly impossible to bake everything we have available fresh every day. But I am always at a loss for what to say in these circumstances. Do I tell her the truth, that we make and freeze our brownies, but that they remain moist and flavorful, do I lie and tell her that I will make them fresh (but don't), or do I make them fresh for her? Actually skip the last option, I just really don't have time. I don't like lying to people, and I'm really bad at it, but is it better to preserve the image than tell the truth? It's almost like a magic show, given the choice, I think most people would rather not see behind the curtain.

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Personally, I'd just tell her the truth: it's just not practical to bake everything fresh every day. You may or may not lose her business but at least people know that you are honest (and you can feel good about that). And really, I don't think that most people care one way or another.

If you try to cater to each person's whim, then you'll never get anywhere...

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Is there any reason she said that, as a customer I would not think to ask that if the products were fresh?

If you are sure your products taste exactly the same as just baked than I would lie. I found out that a local bakery froze some items and even though they tasted good I could not bring myself to purchase frozen/thawed items.

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I'm with John on telling her the truth. I'd put a spin on it, though, that freezing the brownies at their peak of freshness makes for amazingly moist and flavorful bars at serving time. Or something like that.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

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I don't like lying to people, and I'm really bad at it

It seems to me like you've answered your question yourself.

If you want to be as indirect as possible, just tell the customer that it isn't possible to bake the product that day. If you're uncomfortable with that line of inquiry, get the front help to answer by saying that it's for "production reasons."

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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You can tell her that you follow Alice Medrich's advice to freeze just baked brownies to ensure they stay fudgy and delicious.

Even if you didn't know you were following her recommendation. : :wink:

You can even show her the book where she says it (the story is pretty cute - someone's room mate threw a still-warm pan of brownies into the freezer - he was saving them from something dire but I can't remember what that was!!)

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Is it possible to offer a sample of fresh and frozen brownies so that they can be compared?

(Perhaps not always feasible but maybe helpful in some cases when you happen to have them or in the case of someone placing larger or recurrent orders.)

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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For 8 freaking brownies I'd give her a box of Duncan Hines.

I used to get people wanting their pasta cooked fresh to ensure al dente. OF COURSE THE CHEF CAN THROW A BIG POT OF WATER ON IN THE MIDDLE OF A SATURDAY NIGHT TO DO SOME FRESH ANGEL HAIR. There are some people that need a little reality-based education. Then there are some that will never know either way. I'm happy to accomodate either. With some nice fresh pasta from yesterday.

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Is there any reason she said that, as a customer I would not think to ask that if the products were fresh?

If you are sure your products taste exactly the same as just baked than I would lie. I found out that a local bakery froze some items and even though they tasted good I could not bring myself to purchase frozen/thawed items.

Have you ever tried to serve freshly baked cake and have it crumble too much? So called 'day old' cake serves better (layer cake in general).

The layperson does not know what's best. They are truly clueless. I held the lofty position of being a bagel bagger at Litburg's Bagel Bakery on the far North side of Chicago a loooong time ago. Real bagels are tough crusty little buggers. The real boiled ones. Tough. Everybody wanted hot bagels. No I want hot from the back. Why did we even fill the case? Customers thought it to be a rare ethereal bagel-y seasoning to get me to walk to the back and return with a bag of bagels. There was something suspect about the ones in the case. You got any in the back? They'd complain they weren't fresh. Geez Louise go buy some challah you want soft bread don't buy the freaking bagels. Hot bagels cool bagels they are tough they are fresh. Stale you can't even eat not to worry. If you can sink a tooth in it it's fresh eat it and shut up.

Touched an old nerve there didn't we? :laugh:

But as to your dilema, if they are placing an advance order and you can swing it, give her same day baked--but you're probably gonna wish she got the challah too because she's used to the previously frozen ones. She won't believe they're fresh. You're danged if you do and danged if you don't. I've heard story after story.

This is opening a can of worms. I would hold my breath till I turned blue but I would NOT discuss my baking with a random customer. I would not divulge freezer information. There are too many preconceived conflicting notions out there. Some brownies are too fudgey to cut the day they are baked. Charge her more for same day baking if she special orders. Or at least tell her you need 2-3 days notice and a two dozen minimum. Make it worth your while. Or you only take special orders on Tuesdays during a full moon and one-eyed jacks are wild. Otherwise she can just be satisfied with nasty plain old fresh brownies and she can hire a pastry chef to bake to her whim. (Don't really say nasty or plain of course.)

Just for the record, the opposite of fresh is stale not frozen.

Freezers are our friends.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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It sounds to me like the customer wants to make sure the brownies are not left over from the previous day. I agree with the other posts that you should explain that the brownies are baked from scratch in large batches and frozen immediately for storage. The fact that they are frozen doesn't mean they aren't "fresh." While some baked goods such as muffins taste best just after baking, I don't think that's the case with brownies. I bake fudge brownies and always freeze them, and I agree with Medrich that they maintain their fudginess.

I've been in this position and always tell the truth. I have never had a customer object. In fact, if a customer asks for a baked good that is not on display but is in the freezer, I will offer it and they are usually happy to buy it frozen (unless, of course, they want instant gratification :biggrin: ) One of the biggest surprises has been my experience with pies. I make them from scratch, but freeze them before baking. Once word got around that I usually have unbaked pies in the freezer, customers started buying them that way, preferring to bake them at home themselves (and probably telling their guests they made it from scratch.) It works out great for me, because my shop is low volume and I obviously hate when baked pies are unsold at the end of the day.

Ilene

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Some brownies are too fudgey to cut the day they are baked. Charge her more for same day baking if she special orders. Or at least tell her you need 2-3 days notice and a two dozen minimum. Make it worth your while.

Just for the record, the opposite of fresh is stale not frozen.

Freezers are our friends.

Totally true. I forgot to say in my previous post that I can't even cut my fudge brownies unless they're frozen first. Don't stress out over this customer.

Ilene

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If you are sure your products taste exactly the same as just baked than I would lie.

I think that it's terrible when people lie about food that they serve to other people. And misleading.

Why would you lie about a thing like that? If you freeze them because you think they're just as good, stand by your beliefs! Aren't they more important than the sale of 8 brownies?

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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You've got lots of suggestions, and there's always a clue in the customer - what sort of answer does she look like she'll be happy with ?

Another option would be, "(They're frozen for storage like in every bakery but) Brownies, we'll be baking again on Tuesday when you can get them just out of the oven. Baked today we have..."

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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The paying customer has no clue how to run a bakery and unless you want to invite them in to micromange your every move just tell this potential client that you sell fresh brownies. That if she advance orders by so many days lead time you can give her same day service for a two or three dozen minimum. But by and large she needs to get her an in home chef and that's how I would approach it.

In fact, when dealing with her I would have said with knitted brow breaking into a smile, "You don't think my brownies are fresh? <pause pause> That's the only kind of product we sell here. I take great pride in my baking. If you have a problem you just let me know <we're best friends now> and I'll take care of it. You can count on us" Then say I gotta run, I've got something in the oven.

Too late to use that on this one, just an idea for the next micromanager.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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I would think that if she wants to order some (8???) brownies from you that she must have tasted them before. I would have asked her if she had been pleased with the product in the past and then layed it on her that they are generally frozen prior to selling. As well, I would throw in some stuff as has been already mentionned about the freezing process trapping in the moisture or something above the layman's knowledge. I always hesititate before saying the word "freezer", but anyone who thinks that every product can be baked fresh daily for a whole bakery has no clue what they're talking about and I wouln't hesitate to explain that to them... in a much nicer way though.

What did you end up doing?

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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Two things that haven't been mentioned: you could say 'we make our brownies in batches of [x amount]. If you want them freshly baked the day you pick them up you need to purchase/order that many.'

Another way to get around it in the future is to place minimums for orders, so customers need to buy either x amount of an item or spend x amount of dollars for a special order. Otherwise you'll never win.

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Two things that haven't been mentioned: you could say 'we make our brownies in batches of [x amount]. If you want them freshly baked the day you pick them up you need to purchase/order that many.'

Another way to get around it in the future is to place minimums for orders, so customers need to buy either x amount of an item or spend x amount of dollars for a special order. Otherwise you'll never win.

I just could not agree more.

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Everyone with experience has answers that are ringing true. I have dealt with this sso much in my retail shop. I tell them "All the items are prepared and finished daily" I strtegically leave out the word "baked", its not lying its suggestive selling. And what K8 said, you dont have time to discuss the inner workings of your production schedule or do you even want to. The general public has no idea what it takes to make everything you make so unfortunately they have to be told what they want to hear. People who want to learn will listen to the real answer.

I give demos and panel discussions on pastry all the time and one of the main things I focus on is refrigeration, it is the life blood (other than awesome employees and love of what we do, stellar product doesnt hurt) My freezer is my second hardest working employee (sous chef is just the best) and I definetly couldnt do my job without it.....

"Chocolate has no calories....

Chocolate is food for the soul, The soul has no weight, therefore no calories" so said a customer, a lovely southern woman, after consuming chocolate indulgence

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To be quite honest, your customer should thank her lucky stars there's someone in her community that is actually making/touching the food she's eating as opposed to getting a mix, adding a couple eggs and some oil and calling it their own. Not to mention thawing something that was made in a factory across the country eight months ago and calling it 'fresh.'

It's really sad how much of the crap (and it is crap) people are consuming as 'homemade' or 'fresh baked' is mass produced and pumped full of preservatives. But as Jello Biafra famously said 'the convenience you demanded is now mandatory.'

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Absolutely, I totally agree. If it were me, I would tell her (and other customers) that, for practicality, a lot of goods are made and frozen. If they value your service enough, which they should, they should also trust your ability to produce something that is still just as good as if it weren't frozen. Afterall, you wouldn't sell it if it didn't taste good.

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I guarantee that you will lose customers if you divulge that information.

The word "freezer" is buzzkill to a bakery.

It's no one's business what you do!

I'm just curious as to how many have said 'tell' have owned bakeries or tried to run a food business for profit.

It's absolutely polarizing to put that out in the public mind.

It's ok with some people and totally not ok with others.

I have a friend who advertises that way,

"Always fresh never frozen"

Wherein I say again that the oppostie of fresh is stale.

You just don't put that information out there. Honest.

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the woman wanted them baked the same day she came to pick them up. I am well aware that many people don't realize that it is impractical and nearly impossible to bake everything we have available fresh every day. ...

is it better to preserve the image than tell the truth?

In life, there are no better, or safer options than to tell the truth. I think Sir Walter hit the nail on the head when he wrote, exactly 200 years ago, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!" Nothing good ever comes from lying.

Why not tell the woman just what you wrote, "it's nearly impossible, and impractical to bake everything we have available fresh every day, so we freeze many things when they come out of the oven, so they're just as fresh and delicious for our customers every day, and if you could taste any difference, I wouldn't be doing it that way; the brownies are baked on (this day) and (that day) if you want to pick them up the day they're baked, but any day you get them they will taste identically delicious." ??

Then, word can get around that people can trust you for your delicious baked goods and your honesty.

You can't know her reasons. If she didn't know what you're doing, and wants to get them fresh from the oven and freeze them herself (perhaps so she could thaw one every day for a lunchbox), she'd be double-freezing them. How can it ever be better than to tell the truth?

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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please just tell the truth

as someone who has learned a great deal from honest people that do ..especially where food is concerned....I appreciate it and will always buy from people that do give it to me straight vs people that don't ....

one of those brownies may be frozen still and if she finds out she will not trust you again ..I know I wouldn't

but if you carefully explained to me the reasoning and had me taste a previously frozen one vs a fresh one to see that the quality is still true ...you have a teaching moment and it is win win....

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
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