Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't let this happen to you!

Got this in an email fwd from my sister. She asked, in as horrified a tone as possible in an email, if this could really happen. Since I spent a year as a grocery store cake decorator, she hoped that I might be able to calm her fears.

The original note said:
We had a 'going away' party yesterday for a lady at our [redacted] office. One of the supervisors called a [redacted] store and ordered the cake. He told them to write: 'Best Wishes Suzanne' and underneath that write 'We will miss you'. As the picture shows, it didn't quite turn out right. It was too funny not to keep it though!

Unfortunately, yes, Virginia. This can really happen. As is evidenced by the fact that it really did... happen.

The real tragedy is that the poor decorator didn't even spell "underneath" properly. That would have been really funny. The roses look great though.

I worked once with a very sweet girl who misspelled "birthday" on a cake. To be fair, she wasn't a cake decorator. She was a bakery clerk who occasionally was called upon to write a message on a pre-decorated cake when the decorator wasn't available*.

Remember that the cake decorators at most chain grocery store bakeries, while generally fairly skilled, are usually not tested for IQ, spelling, or grammar. And this could be a potential problem depending on the quality of your local school system. So approve those school funding levies, people!

If you are the anxious sort that would positively freak out if there was the slightest error with your $11.99 sheet cake, do not place your order over the phone. Go into the store, make eye contact with the order taker (who might well not be a cake decorator**), and ask to look over the order form before you go.

If you are the super-hyper-anal sort who is considering asking the minimum-wage-earning cake decorator in the chain grocery store bakery to design from scratch and execute freehand a complicated design not in The Book on your $11.99 sheet cake, and is expecting it to look just like the picture in the latest issue of your favorite lifestyle magazine for those above a, ahem, certain income bracket, STOP.

Unless you know for a fact that the cake decorator at the chain grocery store bakery is an amazing artist***, you should proceed immediately to a custom bakery or freelance decorator and pay whatever amount of money they ask.

I'm serious! It is possible you might get something similar to what you want from the chain grocery store bakery, but it is more probable that you will get stuck with the efforts of someone like me who can copy a design from The Book passably fair but cannot draw a decent stick figure freehand.

Why, you may ask, are you so adamant about this?

Well, when I was working the front lines, I had this very experience. Are you surprised?

I was filling in at a chain grocery store bakery in a higher-income area for a decorator who had just quit. She had been there for years and had an amazing reputation.

I was... competent.

A patron fitting the above profile requested that I design a paintball-themed scene on her $11.99 sheet cake, including figures of two kids shooting paintball guns, for her twin sons' birthday.

Huh? I don't play paintball and have no idea what such a thing should look like. I can barely execute a proper stick figure with its arms sticking straight out. Forget depicting anything that could resemble a gun.

After a major freak out, I came up with a decent looking cake****, IMHO, that resembled a concrete wall spattered with paintball-ish-looking blobs with the message written in a passable imitation of graffiti-script.

Luckily I wasn't there when she picked it up. She refused it. Refused it! She refused my effort on an $11.99 sheet cake. That's harsh. I talked to her on the phone and she wanted TWO FIGURES SHOOTING GUNS. I told her I was not able to do that. She insisted I was. Then the truth came out: the other decorator always did special cakes for her.

Ooohh... kaaaayyy.... Sorry, but that doesn't make me any more competent.

Anyway, I ended up producing something that fit her criteria. I was so embarrassed by it I didn't even take a picture. Young Son does better stick figures. She was pleased. I was horrified. And yes, I did give it my best effort.

FWIW, the customers at the chain grocery store in the high-income area were some of the most inconsiderate, rude people I'd ever dealt with. And most of the kids were terribly spoiled brats. Oops... is my bias showing?

*BTW, this practice is not uncommon in a grocery store bakery.

**See the above note.

***Or unless it's an arrangement of flowers. Most of us can kick ass on flowers.

****I think I have a photo somewhere. If I find it, I'll post it.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of a "public tasting" we attended once.
    We did have fun that night.



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