Falling on my sword


On Monday morning, our Catering Coordinator, Ailish, was close to tears about a mistake that happened in an advance order over the weekend.  And no wonder, when I heard about it, I cringed too.

An expectant mother from out of town ordered “gender reveal” cupcakes for a large gathering of family and friends held mostly to announce the gender of the upcoming baby. Because the customer’s mom was picking up the cupcakes, the customer requested the order form be destroyed prior to pick up so the surprise wouldn’t be spoiled for her mom.

You likely know where this is going.

Somehow “nix the order form” was interpreted by the store involved as “nix the gender reveal” and when the drum rolled at the party and the cupcakes were cut open to reveal the…pink…filling, um, there was “no” filling.  In any colour.  (Although maybe it would have been worse if we’d piped in blue?!).

The customer’s vexation, embarrassment, anger and upset was all rolled into one irate email that arrived Saturday. Although it had been promptly answered by our Saturday team, the burning email was of course left for our Catering Coordinator to further address Monday morning.

As I say Ailish was close to tears. She is really skilled at addressing customers’ concerns and making it right: she knows that my philosophy is that the client is always right because even if the customer isn’t right, there is absolutely nothing to be gained and a whole lot to lose by tediously outlining to the customer why he or she is wrong. Without exception, telling customers why they are wrong is a bad idea; my personal experiences of lodging complaints and being told how the business is perfect have been frustrating, to put a mild spin on how I felt.

Anyway, back to PGB’s colossal error of no-gender-reveal. “Our colossal error” was the subject line of my email to the customer. I’ve found that where our mistake is really egregious or the customer is very upset (even though we may not be completely clear on why), the best and really only response is for me to contact the customer personally and fall on my sword. By phone or email I do my best to convey the message that I know we  missed the mark, that I am really sorry and that I realize that there may be nothing we can offer that will make it right.

Almost always, customers respond very graciously along the lines of “mistakes happen”, as did the mom-to-be yesterday. Whew! I think personally that I’d have fumed a bit longer!  But she kindly accepted what was truly a genuine mea culpa and with any luck, we will be able to offer a small recompense by catering the party this summer to welcome their new baby.  Who, by the way, is a GIRL.



About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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