We created a pretty rad cake yesterday, one that I was particularly pleased to bits with. I made these really cute dumplings out of hand-made Belgian modelling chocolate and cookie dough based on popular dim sum dishes found in Chinese restaurants all the way from fancy ones like Hakkasan and Yauatcha to the myriad in Chinatowns around the world. We had woh teep (or "gyozas"), har gau and siu mai, and then decorated a Triple Decker layer cake with layers of chocolate brownie, red velvet and vanilla sponge, and bold bright red and yellow striped Swiss meringue buttercream, wafer fans and golden chocolate chopsticks. I think you're likely to agree it looks pretty cool! So what was so offensive?
Believe it or not, it was the golden chopsticks. Not because of cultural appropriation, or any other non-PC reason (which I may have been accused of from time to time...ahem cough #BloggerBlackmail), but because of the way they are positioned.
A customer very kindly informed us that upright chopsticks look like upright joss sticks which are considered unlucky in Chinese culture. Of all customer feedback, this is the MOST valuable as it's constructive, objective and helps us improve our products. So thank you Christina - you're awesome and we can't wait to create your bespoke cake featuring chopsticks laid the right way!
Sadly along with the constructive feedback, we also occasionally receive destructive feedback. I know being in a "creative" and food business it is unrealistic to expect to please everyone as tastes are ultimately highly subjective. But destructive feedback still disheartens me as more often than not its sole purpose is to get "free cake" or "money back" as the complaint is more often than not to do with something completely out of our control.
Over the years we have had a few complaints about the condition of the cake after it has been stored in a fridge or driving it carelessly in a car on a scorching day, both of which are against our advice. We have had a customer severely unhappy that the colour was not exactly as seen in an edited-double-filtered-VSCO-Valencia photo. We have had someone who described a cake as "too sweet" and another describe it as "not sweet enough" while the majority are giving rave reviews...all about the SAME cake - our best-selling Deliciously Stella. The mind does boggle at times and all we can do is treat all feedback individually and continually review our processes and T&Cs (which is important...but SO BORING).
Our best-selling cake, Deliciously Stella - "Too sweet"? Well, it IS covered with the entire contents of the naughty treats aisle. "Not sweet enough?!?" Oh boy...
I think the big companies are partially to blame for the "entitled consumer culture", the ones that are able to "silence" complaints through refunds due to the Tripadvisor effect and fearing a bad review, no matter how subjective. As with any business where real human beings are involved, human errors sadly are unavoidable and recognising them and trying to rectify is of the most importance to a business in order to improve itself. Such as in the chopsticks scenario, I am grateful to be educated in order to be able to make things right going forward. And while it's true we cannot please everyone, in comparison to the amazing overwhelming amount of great feedback we get on a daily basis the odd disgruntled one shouldn't cause me upset...but I guess I can't help it, it's only human to care, right?
The way I see it, the moment someone stops caring is the moment that business starts dying and the moment someone gets consumed by one wrong'un is the moment the countless other appreciative customers get undermined, so I'll put on my big girl pants and continue to wear my heart on my sleeve simultaneously.
Lots of love and dim sum, and then some,
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