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I was thinking about what this past year was as far as what I've heard people talking about, and from what I've heard from different people around the world, it seems to have been the year of the "It wasn't exactly what I'd imagined" complaint.
I put the blame for this squarely on Pinterest and Instagram, which are full of pretty pictures that have been heavily edited. I can tell when I look at a cake if it's a display cake or not, but brides can't. So they expect the perfect photoshoot cake that's been airbrushed, and when they get a real cake they're confused. Plus, they see so many cakes that their idea of what they ordered can change in the time between ordering it and delivery.
Another reason is the condition of people thinking that when they order the "basic" cake from their baker, they're going to get the elaborate version they saw online. When they pick up the cake they got what they paid for, but they were imagining something much grander, so they complain.
This is also a result of so many people doing custom cakes right now, and prices being lowered due to too much supply. Every time you see someone on facebook offering to do an elaborate cake for $30, customers are being trained to think that's what they should be paying, so they don't want to pay more. (If you're one of the people offering to sell cut-rate cakes, do yourself a favor and get my pricing guide so that you can earn a living wage.)
These two phenomena add up to the "mind's eye" complaint. I'm not talking about the Cakewrecks "what they ordered what they got," either. I'm talking about people expecting an exact replica of a cake they saw online somewhere.
I had one groom ask me if I was going to make a demo wedding cake for them to look at and approve. I was able to answer him without laughing, thank God, but I told him that even if I did do that, the actual cake that I delivered wouldn't be exactly like the practice one since I'm not a robot. There will always be variations, even if the same person makes both cakes.
Unfortunately, I'm seeing more of the "it's not what I expected" from people who say that their customers cheaped out on the budget but still wanted the higher-end cake design. I have a feeling that the price issue is going to continue into the new year and that decorators are going to have to be REALLY clear about what the customer is going to get.
If you have a customer who wants to cut their costs to the point that what they're buying is a distant cousin to their inspiration photo, make sure to do a drawing to show them what they're going to get. That way there's no argument when you make what they ordered.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com