I was just reading a popular wedding site where a bride posted that she thought it was totally crazy to have to pay for a tasting appointment. The other brides generally agreed that it was completely ridiculous, inconsiderate and flat-out nuts that a business would need to charge for an appointment.
I can see it both ways. On one hand, you want to know that you like a baker's cake before you hire them. On the other hand, why should a baker be expected to hand out free cake that costs them time and money to produce?
This is actually a topic that's come up a lot recently because of the increasing costs of providing samples. I personally spend about 4 to 5 hours almost every week with scheduled tasting appointments. That's time that I could be doing other things, and the cost of the samples on materials and time to make them increases my overall tiem and cost.
Yes, it's part of the cost of doing business, but I don't know a lot of other industries where vendors are expected to hand over our time and products for free. I can get a free estimate on plumbing work for my house, but when the plumber picks up a wrench I'd be paying for it.
Some bakers charge for tastings because of people who have taken advantage of a free tasting to bring their entire wedding party to get free dessert. I actually heard from one baker who said that a potential client asked for a late evening appointment because their group was going out to dinner, and they wanted to come over for dessert afterward! Things like that make you want to charge people, or at least put a limit on how many people can come to an appointment.
Then you have the no-shows, who are the people who just don't think they need to call to cancel. Not only is that rude, it takes up time that another bride could have had an appointment. Some bakers charge in advance for appointments because it's more likely that the client will actually show up if they've paid for the time.
Tasting appointments aren't even something that's universally done in all areas. One baker tells me that nobody in her area does tastings at all. If someone wants to taste the cake you buy a special-occasion cake ahead of time.
Tastings are expensive to produce, both in materials and time, so some bakers need to charge a fee, and it really shouldn't be seen as something crazy.