Why I dropped a client a WEEK before her wedding
I first talked to "Bride A" three months prior to her wedding. She called me to inquire about booking us to make her wedding cake, and she was a friend of a long-time event planner we worked with. We had the date available and after a great phone conversation. We sent the bride several sketches, each at different price points for her to choose from. I was hoping the bride would make a selection and that the process would progress to a tasting, but...
We never heard back.
I make it a rule not to pester or pursue clients. I feel that if a client is receptive to our phone call, and are on-board with our sketches, they will be responsive and we can progress the booking. So, when I did not hear back from Bride A, I put it out of my mind and moved on with our other clients, and I assumed the bride had moved on and found another vendor. Perhaps we didn't meet her needs, and that is totally OK. I had no contract, no face to face meeting, and no booking fee from this bride, so there was no reason for me as a business owner to assume we were under any obligations to create her wedding cake. There was no booking.
Fast forward to just two weeks before the wedding, I get a somewhat panicked text message from the bride saying, "I need to talk to you, you haven't confirmed the cake!" I was a little surprised, firstly because I never received a phone call, or a voice mail, and secondly because I was sure this client had moved on. Then it occurred to me that perhaps she had changed her mind, as sometimes clients do, and wanted to reach out to us regarding her cake (at this point I had not recalled that her wedding date was only two weeks away as we get lots of inquiries and I assumed it was still many months away). I was also in the middle of creating a huge cake for another event and so I apologized for being unavailable, and informed the bride that our team were currently working on a wedding cake for an event that weekend and I would reach out to her first thing on Monday morning during our office hours.
I called the bride at around 9.30 am on Monday morning and she proceeded to talk to me as though it were common knowledge that we were making her cake, and she reminded me her event was in 2 weeks and was concerned she hadn't heard from me. I was utterly confused and taken aback as I usually document these interactions in my planner and clients have to pay a booking fee to secure their event. I had no contract or booking fee on file and when I checked back through our messages, the last correspondence I received from the bride was prior to us sending sketches (which she did not respond to). She was extremely panicked and I felt concerned for her considering the event was so close and I was quite certain that at this stage it would be almost impossible for her to book a cake so close to the event. I wanted to try to make this work for the client because I understand that things are hectic and stressful and perhaps this was a genuine mistake. As I was available for that weekend, I agreed to do the cake last minute (which is generally against my business practices). I called our mutual planner acquaintance to discuss the situation.
The bride had requested quite an elaborate design (200 servings of cake with several decorated faux tiers) and lots of colorful hand-made sugar flowers (which can take MANY hours). I emailed the bride the full cake quote (based on the original sketches we sent and after a bit of back and forth on the price, and with some compromised modifications, and the amount of servings she required) detailing the cost of each individual element and asked her to make payment upon receipt, as with the event being so close (only two weeks away), our team would need to order supplies, I would need to begin work on the sugar flowers in order that they dry in time, and we could custom dust the flowers to the required colors. I expressed to the bride that no work would begin work on the cake without a signed contract and booking fee in place - it's just too risky.
So, despite the immediate urgency of this event, and us going to extreme lengths to accommodate the bride, a full five days go by after the invoice and contract is sent, and a reminder email to both her event planner and the bride, and still no payment has been received. I contact the bride to let her know that full payment must be received in order for our team to proceed with the cake. She then tries to call me with concerns about the original price, and asks us to create a cake at a significantly lower price point (60% lower) as her Mother does not wish to spend this much on a cake.
I refused, as this price point was below our minimum order fee, which is documented on our website. Our website is very clear about our minimum costs and our per-serving costs, and these are non-negotiable. We make custom, one-of-a-kind cakes, and these come with a significant price tag. Despite the budgetary issues, we had already tried to reach a compromise - offer a simpler design, but the bride seemed insistent on retaining almost all of the original design but at 40% the cost. I simply refused and decided to inform the bride that this was just not how we do business. Finally, I decided the best course of action was to cancel her order and I walked away.
As a person, not as a business, I often feel obligated to step in and go above and beyond, even when this is a terrible business decision and my own business is at risk of suffering the consequences. I tried to recall every detail of this situation, our conversations, and asked myself, "what happened, what went wrong!" I felt wracked with guilt, but, the truth is, it was the brides responsibility to follow up and to book her cake. We are not here to baby sit clients through the process when they have clearly disengaged from us. I cannot understand how a bride who booked one of the most expensive venues in the State assumed that a casual phone call equated to a commitment and that even though no contracts or money had changed hands to secure her order, that I was available at her beck and call to make a cake on demand (at the last minute). I've spent a lot of years chasing after business and all it did was exhaust me emotionally and financially. This bride has only herself to blame, and after 8 years in business I just will no longer give things away for free.
I wish this bride all the best for the future and I hope she is able to secure a cake vendor. If this had been a priority for her, then this would NEVER have happened. In all my years of doing business I have never experienced a situation like this. I just cannot afford to take the risk of making a cake that would cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars and hours of time to make, only to risk non-payment, or a poor review. I choose me, I choose my business, and I choose to walk away!