Category: Current Affairs
Published on Friday, 17 March 2017 02:56
Written by Daryl Tan Kai Liang
When Nicholas Luo engaged Shiberty Bakes' services for a custom-made cake that was supposed to be the statement piece for his wife's grandmother's 90th birthday, he did not realize that what he had ordered was a recipe for disaster.
In what seems to be an off-brand drama series unfolding right before our very eyes on social media, that we would like to dub “Baking Bad”, a Facebook post of an extremely dissatisfied customer of Shiberty Bakes has gone viral, lamenting about how a bad experience with the cafe had ruined an important celebration.
To cut a long story short, Nicholas Luo's wife ordered a three-tiered cake for her grandmother's 90th birthday and paid $475. When Nicholas dropped by to collect the cake, to his dismay, he found the texture of the buttercream on the cake to be uneven. He requested for these blemishes to be fixed but expressed shock when a staff member of Shiberty Bakes put on a pair of gloves and tried smoothening out the lines and craters with her fingertips.
Nicholas contacted the owners of Shiberty Bakes and corresponded with them for an hour before leaving the shop's premises. He believed that he was entitled to a delivery because the cafe had not presented him with his ideal cake. Despite the owners informing Nicholas and his wife when the order was placed a few weeks in advance that they were unable to deliver at their stipulated dates, Nicholas was adamant on the delivery and threatened to pursue legal action if the cake was not delivered to them by the next day.
The next day, one of the owners, Jessica, personally delivered the cake to the restaurant that was requested, but Nicholas was still not appeased as he found the cake to be in worse shape, literally. In addition to the blemishes, that was the first cause of concern, still being present, the cake was lopsided and when a chunk of cake crumbled off, Jessica tried to mend it by pushing the piece back in with her bare hands.
Nicholas described the entire fiasco to be “ a dramatic and stressful experience” for his wife and her family, adding that “throughout the whole nerve-wrecking experience with Shiberty Bakes, neither the business owners were apologetic.”
Nicholas' First Post
Nicholas' Second Post (A sequel)
Nicholas' Third Post (It's now a trilogy! Yay!)
BUT WAIT, THAT'S NOT THE END OF THE STORY. THIS IS WHERE THINGS START GETTING JUICY.
After Jessica was alerted to Nicholas' less than satisfactory review of Shiberty Bakes, she decided to share her side of the story in a lengthy and well-worded reply (kudos to her, we actually appreciate it when someone takes the time and effort to eloquently craft their words in a grammatically correct manner).
Jessica expressed her regrets and conveyed her apologies but remained indignant about the way herslef, the co-owner of Shiberty Bakes and her staff were treated by Nicholas and his wife. She also shed some light on some events that transpired that Nicholas had left out, claiming that he is intentionally twisting the story in his favor. The following is her statement in full:
Hi Nicholas, this is Jessica, owner of Shiberty Bakes. Your post has come to my attention, and I would like to express my heartfelt sentiments about this whole situation.
First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the whole matter, as the owner of Shiberty Bakes, to you, our customer. We are terribly sorry that you have had an unpleasant experience with us, and it's something we regret deeply. I know that you've been mostly unwilling to accept our apologies thus far, but still, I would like to offer it for the final time.
You say you're a small business owner yourself so I'm sure you know that regardless of who said what, when a customer is unhappy or displeased with your service or product, even if they aren't always being 100% right or reasonable, it's our responsibility to make things right, and try to appease them. Because in the service industry, the customer is always right. This is something I've come to understand after running the cafe for a year plus, it's just the way it is. We will do what we can to make you happy, as much as we can.
However, as both a self respecting person and a small business owner, something I cannot take lying down is unfair allegations about our morals and ethics. I feel like I need to speak up for all of us at Shiberty Bakes, because we have been unfairly portrayed in your post. If I do not respond, I'm afraid people who are too quick to judge will have the wrong opinion about my brand, something I've taken years to build up, I presume you would understand why I feel the need to give my side of the story. To not say anything at all, is as good as accepting your entire post as 100% truth, which I do not agree with.
I would not have felt the need to respond & defend my brand, had you posted on Facebook that the cake was not what you expected, you did not receive quality service from us, and that you won't be patronizing us again, because these are your own opinions, and you are certainly entitled to them. I am not here to convince you that you have no right to be upset, angry, or even encouraging people to boycott us. If that is the way you feel, then I honestly cannot do anything to stop it.
However, it is rather dismaying, to know that despite our best efforts to resolve the problems, this post still came about, and may I add, specifically worded in a way to sensationalize the whole story, with certain details being left out and other things worded in a biased manner, offering a very one sided view to the whole thing. Forgive me if I sound indignant, for in fact I actually am, as I know it can be tempting to sensationalize things on social media, and it's easy to do so when you're still feeling upset over what happened, however, I would like to urge you to reconsider if how we were treated was honestly decent.
I would like to point out that at no point in time, did we ever take advantage, threaten, or taunt you. You are our valued customer, and we have always treated you like one. The people to have been threatened, were us.
I have attached screenshots of the text conversation for your reference. We asked for some time to fix your cake as we were running full house when you came to collect your cake, but couldn't wait & left shortly after, so we asked if you could come back later, as we couldn't offer delivery on your date of event (this was already highlighted weeks ago, when you first placed the order), but you said, no means no. You demanded that we either had it delivered to you tomorrow morning, or you would legally pursue the matter.
It could have been nicely discussed to find an alternative solution, but it went straight to threatening to pursue legal aid. We were shocked by your aggressiveness in handling the situation. I feel that for someone who keeps emphasizing that it's important to be genuine and nice, you were largely condescending, rude and aggressive when dealing with us, which hurt all of our feelings. You raised your voice unnecessarily at my staff in the cafe, which my other customers witnessed and told me about when I rushed back to the shop, and even said, "This cake is not what I paid for, it's melting, it's for my grandmother's 90th birthday can you imagine what would happen if it toppled in front of the old folks and scared them?!". The cake was not melting, and at no point did it threaten to topple. That's quite a bit of dramatization, as is this entire issue.
Regarding my staff using gloved hands to fix your cake, it is in fact what she should have done, as when the buttercream is hard from the fridge, the warmth from our hands can melt it slightly & smooth it out. This is the fastest way to fix any unevenness in the cream which you were displeased with.
In our replies, we apologized to you for the imperfection on the cake, which I'd informed you only appeared overnight with the weight of the cake pressing down on the bottom most tier. When buttercream is hard when chilled, it can show signs of cracking under enough pressure. It happens sometimes, as much as we take precautionary measures. It can be fixed by smoothing it out. Your cake was massive, as you'd requested, so it was more prone to cracking than any normal cake. I think you were expecting a perfectly smooth cake, however, we told you that we have already tried to make it as smooth as we possibly could, and were sorry we couldn't get it 100%.
At 1500hrs, the cake was in fact ready for your collection. My staff advised to put the cake in the fridge, because you should generally always put a cake in a fridge where possible, of course. If you're going to leave the cake for a couple of hours in an air conditioned restaurant table, it's gonna be fine. It only needs to be fridged prior to transportation or overnight, to ensure the cake won't slide around during transport.
Nicholas then advised to put the cake in the fridge afterwards, because you mentioned that your restaurant does not allow you to keep cakes at their premises, therefore, you had to bring it home. This was why there was a change from "no need fridge" to "need fridge". For this, I apologize for the miscommunication as several people were talking to each other at any point in time, and along the way, people got confused. However, this frustration arising from miscommunication is not reason enough for Charlene, your wife, to shout at him on the phone, and use the word "fuck" several times.
I strongly believe that no matter how frustrated you are at a service provider, you do not have the right to use hurtful vulgarities on them. This is the basic level of respect we can have for another human being, and ourselves. I am appalled that you simply phrased it in a manner whereby just because she was frustrated, it gave her the right to shout at Nicholas and hurl vulgarities. I beg for some decency here. And once again, your wife threatened to "disastrously tag us on Facebook", even though he was professional enough to stay on the line, despite her literally f*cking him upside down. Honestly, if a customer started cussing me out, I would either cut the conversation short, or hang up the phone and text them back to tell them please talk to me nicely, no matter how much I wanted their business. Wouldn't you, as a fellow small business owner, do that too? Or would you suggest that we should just take it in our stride?
Regarding the "we are influencers" part, his exact words were not, "Please go ahead and tag us. Do you know Jessica and Myself are both influencers!?". This allegation is very alarming. What he said was, "You know that Jess and myself are social media influencers, and we wouldn't want our reputation to be ruined over a cake." Perhaps, you may have accidentally left certain details out. I can see how these words can be easily misunderstood, and I do not blame you for it. Still, I find the need to explain. It was his plea for you to not do it. This was after we got threatened by your wife, Charlene. He even urged you to treat him with some respect, and did not encourage you to "go ahead and tag us". Certain things, worded differently, can be very dangerous. This is a case of He Said VS She Said now, and as nobody has proof of the phone conversation, I shall not continue to elaborate further.
There is no reason for Nicholas to to say something so arrogant & cocky only to immediately follow up with, "I can understand your frustration and Jessica is already at the shop. I believe you are already in contact with Jessica. There is a time difference and I cannot be in Sg to tend to it as I am being paid on a sponsorship for work", etc.
He responded in that manner because Charlene, your wife, was guilt tripping him about not being there personally, despite him telling her I was already at the shop fixing it (he was in Bangkok). Upon receiving a call about a problem with the cake, I rushed down to the shop, to find that you had already left.
We did not refuse to provide you delivery purposefully, we mentioned since weeks ago we couldn't do it. I did contact you several times, when the situation arose. My whatsapp was buggy, which was why we advised voice calls. Each time any of you called, I answered. After you threatened to take legal action against us, I reminded you once again that you can come anytime up till 10pm to collect the cake.
At night, your mother in law called me, seemingly distressed. She said she's an injured old woman who was made to collect the heavy cake all by herself and there's no one else to do it except her. I asked, "What about your son in law Nicholas, can he do it? We can open the shop longer, stay back for you, so that it can be collected tonight." and her reply was, "No, he refuses to do it, he doesn't want anything to do with the cake anymore."
I told her that I could sympathize, however, I have other work the next day, and I couldn't simply postpone it. I did not want to force her to collect by herself, so I said I will try to find someone to help me. I did not want to over promise, so I told her the next solution now is for us to open shop earlier for your collection instead. Next morning, I rushed out my work as fast as I could, got my bf to help, called your mother in law, told her that we could deliver in the end. I did initially tell her there would be a $40 delivery charge, which you mentioned, however, you left out that we decided to waive the delivery fee for you of our own accord. I couldn't find any delivery service so last minute, and I couldn't carry it on my own, hence the appearance of my bf.
A piece of buttercream was displaced when I tried to smooth out your cake further upon delivery. It was fixed within a few short minutes. As for using my hands, I have sanitized it with hand sanitizer prior. Majority of us kitchen people use our hands, and it's not always with gloves. We keep our hands clean, and fingernails short.
My bf spoke up for me because he noticed that I was being treated in an extremely hostile manner by you and your family and I was visibly affected from being treated harshly, and I hope you won't see it as him being rude, I am thankful that he was supportive, assuring me that I wasn't doing anything wrong.
In no way am I trying to shirk responsibility for what actually went wrong - the imperfections on the cake, wasted time and any inconvenience or unhappiness caused to you. However, you have not been accepting of our methods of solutions and apologies, so I don't think it's fair to say we were not apologetic, when you just did not care for it. From a business owner point of view, I am utterly regretful and sorry. From a human point of view, I feel that this post was written out of spite, ignoring our efforts to resolve the situation, and this hurts me, even though I try to view it from a non-personal stand point. You have focused so much on being upset that you did not recognize our efforts for redemption.
At the end of the day, your cake was delivered on time, and fixed up. It could have been a lot less dramatic, had you not threatened us several times, hurled vulgarities, raised your voice, guilt tripped and now, post a sensationalized account of the events for people to get hyped up about. I am truly apologetic if our best wasn't good enough for you. But it's saddening to know that someone would go out of their way to try hurt your brand image because they were so displeased with the apology they did in fact receive.
If anything, we were the ones who were being taunted when you asked my staff, "Are all your cakes this bad?",
Intimidated when we had vulgarities shouted at us numerous times on the phone,
Threatened when you said "I am not accepting anything today, neither will I make another trip down to collect the cake", "If I don't have the cake delivered tomorrow, I will pursue further in whatever means it takes",
Taken advantage of when we went out of our way the next morning to have the cake delivered to you when you refused to collect it yourself and rejected all other solutions, then waived the delivery fee..
But there was never a "thank you for fixing it and delivering it in the end". In return, we received this angry Facebook post.
Sometimes, the service industry feels like a thankless industry to be in, and this incident is surely one of those times when I question how much I love my job to put up with this. But, every incident is a lesson to learn from, and I'd like to thank you for this opportunity of growth. I have to say that I'm equally upset about social media influencers being stereotyped as such shameless, disgusting people, and having a social stigma surround our profession, when I know that most of us aren't this way. Although it's easy to jump on the hate bandwagon, we're not so different, you and me. We all deserve basic respect, and in no way is a customer better than a service provider, or a social media influencer better than a person who isn't one.
I agree with you, that respect should be earned. But due respect should also be given even when you're dissatisfied with a provider's service, no matter if you're frustrated or disappointed. We did not do anything to you with ill-intent in heart or mind. I am dismayed and humbled by this situation, but I choose not be derailed, for I know that there are still many customers out there who appreciate the hard work and love we put into our cakes, and we will try even harder in the future.
I too, would hope to be a small voice for sincere, hardworking and sometimes taken for granted or mistreated service providers out there who have had to unceremoniously deal with condescending customers while doing the best they can - and even though are sometimes told that their best just isn't good enough, to still keep trying, and not be too disheartened by such events. No one is perfect, and some customers will never be fully satisfied no matter what, but we really do try.
Have a nice day.
Nicholas retaliated with calling Jessica out on her words. He started off by saying that no formal apologies were made before Jessica's reply on his post:
I must say I am astonished by how prompt a reply came on social media. Because all this while since the event date 19th February 2017, till today 14th march 2017, no follow up or apologies for what Jessica “felt” in her post came to ANY of my family members or me)
I will like to start off by thanking you for spending your time to read my post as I am just a nobody that caused you guys dismay.
I don’t like to craft nice words and make a post look so beautiful. So let me be myself and share exactly what I am driving at.
1) Delivery of Order
• Cake was not delivered to expectations. (Why?)
Smooth finishing (How is that smooth?)
Topper and matching candles (Topper came, but probably from popular or somewhere else. Matching candles? I got 9 candles from the restaurant)
3 tier cake (I see 4, what about you?)
Customised tier-ed box for collection (How is that cardboard box from SKP customised? Although I see it with my own eyes that day la. It was the box with scotch tapes and cling wrap lor. Customised la. Nothing wrong la)
2) Delivery of Service
• I cannot feel any sincerity from this whole incident as none of the owners were apologetic and doing and damage recovery. Other than “assuring” us that the cake was done to the best of their ability and they cannot satisfy my high expectations. But please, look at the photos taken. Are they acceptable to you? If they are. I hereby apologize to Shiberty Bakes for being the MOST demanding customer.
Just to highlight. There wasn’t a full house that day la. Only 7 people, and 4 were done with their meal when I stepped in. Only 3 brand new customers. FYI; Most of them spoke to me and my brother asking what happened as they saw the cake and realised I was very unhappy with it. A couple that placed their orders had nothing on their table and had to help themselves with water and talk to us. That’s how busy the café was.
Oh yes, best efforts she mentioned. I don’t understand how is this whole incident considered best efforts. Fellow café owners and SME owners out there, please share your advice and thoughts on whether I am wrong that I don’t feel them trying their best. Since when did a “Sorry” came within all the conversation of what I have attached. Those screenshots are ORIGINAL and not edited. Nothing LEFT out.
I don’t understand why people can accuse me of hating influencers? Since when do I hate influencers? Did I mention anything about influencers? I actually respect influencers. I respect Jamie Chua, Xia Xue, Charlene Tan, Yina Goh and etc. All these people are GENUINE and live up to their reputation of being an influencer. Just to remind the public. Influencers are given the title as they can influence people and bring on good and positive shifts in areas where it cannot be outreached by the government or other bodies. That’s to the best of my knowledge and at least I feel it that way. So please leh. Don’t assume and anyhow bomb me leh. Wa lao. I feel injured now. I know you angry bird la. But have a chill pill leh.
Oh yes. They got CCTV sia. Please show everyone what happened since you are so “victimised”.
She posted on her wall to make me the “bully” and make herself “victim”. Well, up to her lor. Anyway, I didn’t only approach SGAG, I approached TNP, CASE, SPH, Goodynewsfeed and etc. I am happy to let you know. My intent was simple. I want to make sure you understand how much I am affected by this incident and how determined I am to make you learn what you should have learnt in this incident.
To end this off. I am not here for war of words. I just want everyone out there to know what exactly happened. That is my main point of driving this. Fellow people, please help spread this awareness so that we all are safe from cyber-bullying and other forms of unfair advantages. Have a pleasant day everyone. Gum xia. (please take some time to see the photos that I have posted so that you all have the proper picture of what exactly went through)
The cake war saga continues on Nicholas' three facebook posts that we embedded above. We stand completely neutral as amused onlookers in this scandal, with the observation that starting a business is definitely not a piece of cake. Take our fun poll below to express your own opinion of this week's installment of Baking Bad!