Forum: Cake Disasters

How to deal with bad/negative feedback?

I am relatively new to cake decorating and I am working on building my business locally. I agreed to do a dessert table for the friend of a local business person (it was to be a photo shoot) completely out of my own pocket. The communication was awful and I found out a little late in the game that it was to be the same day I had my 1st wedding cake due. Yes…I should’ve gracefully bowed out at that point (lesson #1 learned), but I decided if I worked ahead I might be able to pull it off. Long story short, I didn’t.

Now, I worked for 3 days (almost non-stop) on these cakes and goodies but come the day of the photo shoot, I STILL didn’t know what time it was suppose to be until I got a call at noon asking if I could do it in 30 min…the cake wasn’t even covered at this point…so I said no. Then I had my worst time ever with MMF! It was either too loose or too stiff! None of it was working for me. I did the basic design they asked for but Minnie’s ears kept falling off the cake and the “dress” portion just drooped. I finally just decided there was nothing else I could do and took them “as is”. I delivered the goodies then rushed over to deliver my wedding cake & I wasn’t able to stay for the shoot.

The next time I was in the store, the business owner seemed mad at me, so I went ahead and apologized for the condition of the cake. She then proceeded to tell me it was a “disaster” and she wouldn’t be submitting the photos. Now, I knew it wasn’t up to my standard work, but those words hurt and I’m still a little raw. We live in a small town (on an island to boot) so I can’t exactly give the attitude back. So, I’m wondering…how do you deal with negative feedback? Do I throw in the towel or do I try to forget? I just don’t know. I’m hoping someone else out there will have some wise words…

Crystal Memories in the Baking

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5 Replies

Jenniffer White ...

Crystal, I am super sorry you had a bad day; I hope you know that everyone has days like that

Some other things to take away from your experience:

Make sure you know the date/time/place before you ever accept an order. If they don’t have the details, you can’t take the order.

I know you didn’t know the exact time of the delivery, but if the cake was still unfinished at noon on the delivery day, then there’s some time management issues going on. I’m sure every decorator is different, but I don’t go to bed on Friday until all my Saturday cakes are done. Sometimes that’s 4am.

Don’t get discouraged, but people ARE counting on you, whether that’s a birthday cake, a wedding cake, or a dessert table for a businesses’ photo shoot. There’s no real reason to be mad at them; they may have spent a lot of money to arrange the photo shoot and it sounds like by your own admission that you let them down.

I realize that I have rambled and not exactly answered your question about taking negative feedback. First, evaluate whether or not it’s deserved. If the shoe fits, do what you need to do to make it right, if there’s anything you can do. You will make people mad, and you will lose customers, but that’s no reason to hang up your apron.

I know sometimes people just want a hug and an “it’s OK” so I hope my candor doesn’t upset you, but I hope you learn from your experience.

Nikki Belleperche ...

You pick up, and you move on. Words can hurt but they can also help us grow as artists. Now you know how much you can handle in one weekend and you will be more careful when taking your orders. Even though it was a rough experience you learned from it, and when you look back on the situation remember THAT not any rude or negative comments.

I recently got a negative review on my Etsy page from a lady who was displeased with the size of the cookies she ordered from me. She wanted a $10 refund (over half of the total cost of the cookies, which would have left me with $8 for my supplies, time, and effort). I refused, knowing full well that she got a full quality product from me that was fresh, on time, and in perfect condition (she sent me pictures). But her nasty review and negative rating/comments twords me still burn into my very soul. But every time I start thinking about it I tell myself that even though I have had one displeased customer I have many more that were very pleased (with the very same product to boot!). And now when I make those cookies I am sure to make them just a tiny bit bigger just to keep those high expectations satisfied.

In a business where you are creating custom items for people and dealing with customers there are ALWAYS going to be rude people and negative people who will think its okay to be rude or trash your work. Its your job to tough it out, grow a thick skin, and hold on to those learning experiences where ever you can.

CrystalMemories ...

Ok, that makes sense. Timing is something I’ve been struggling with…I thought I should do all cakes ON the day they where due for freshness sake. It didn’t even occur to me to have them done the day before. I do most of the prep-work but have been assembling on the day of the event. The wedding cake was due in the evening and the last time I had talked with the person hosting the photo shoot, she was putting it right before…that’s why I was surprised when she called me at noon asking me to be there in 30 minutes. I HAD to give priority to the wedding cake since it was ordered first, I was collecting $ for it, and it was for a wedding. I think I still would’ve pulled it off had my fondant not gotten all wonky on me, but I have taken your advice to heart and I think I’ve learned from that mistake.

I take full responsibility for my failure (altho I def think the business owner could’ve been a little nicer about it), but now I’m wondering how I could fix it? Obviously, the shoot is over…but, should I make something for the people involved as an apology or just let it go and do better if I ever get the opportunity again?

Thanks for your advice Jennifer & Nikki, I will definitely try to have my cakes done earlier from now on & carry a lighter load…right after this weekend (grad weekend, lol). :)

Jenniffer White ...

Once you cover those cakes in buttercream and especially fondant, they will definitely stay fresh. How to fix it? You will get some (bad) customers that are all about getting as much money back as possible, but I know that’s not the case here. In this case, I would call the client and offer a heartfelt apology and tell them WHY this won’t happen again. Maybe something along these line:

I just wanted to apologize about the photo shoot event on xx/xx/xx. In this case, I over extended myself and had some time management issues, and the result was that you didn’t get my best work. I know you were disappointed; I was disappointed with myself. I am still new to this business and I have revamped my scheduling and prep schedules so that this type of situation won’t ever happen again. I understand if you are hesitant to trust me with your business again, but I would love another chance to earn your business.

It is very hard for a fledgling cake business to learn all these things on the fly while still making a good name for yourself. Keep you chin up. learn from your mistakes, and keep making cakes!

PS – One thing I did think of later… if this was for a photo shoot, did you ever consider doing a dummy cake? You could have worked on it weeks in advance and then kept it to showcase your work afterwards.

CrystalMemories ...

Thank you again, Jennifer. I appreciate your candor and your advice. The cake was actually being used for a birthday party after the photo shoot, so I wasn’t able to do a dummy cake (altho, that’s a great idea for future reference). I am going to send them all an apology now. Thanks again.