Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

As you can see, this is no ordinary cake or topper from a grocery store bake shop. A cake like this takes an artist with sugar plate and a paint brush.

As you can see, this is no ordinary cake or topper from a grocery store bake shop. A cake like this takes an artist with sugar plate and a paint brush. 

Recently, we had a small disaster in my family. To most people, what happened wasn’t a big deal, but through the eyes of my 5-year-old grandson it was pretty awful. His parents were planning his sixth birthday party, and like a lot of kids, he wanted a “How to Train Your Dragon” theme. And by golly, he wanted a special cake – he wanted Toothless, the dragon.

His parents searched for and found someone to make the special cake. All was going to be well, great, fantastic, no worries. Party planning was proceeding according to schedule, and my 5-year-old grandson was going to get the party and cake he wanted. 

But as often happens … life happened. All did not go according to plan. Three days before the party, the cake maker had a death in the family, needed to travel out of town, and was not going to be able to make the cake as scheduled. That my friends, in the eyes of a 5-year-old, is a MAJOR DISASTER.  

So the hunt began to find someone who had time in their schedule to make this cake in less than 3 days, during wedding season. My daughter-in-law was on it, and she got her co-workers involved. I was on it, and got some of my co-workers involved, too. (I don’t care who you are, no one wants to disappoint a child.) 

As it turned out, we were all unsuccessful. The point to this story is how we were unsuccessful.
I contacted someone I thought could help. She couldn’t, but she gave me the name and phone number for someone else who might be able to help. I called that person. They were very apologetic, but also couldn’t help. That person gave me the name and phone number of a bakery she thought maybe could help me out.  They couldn’t, but once again, I got the name and number for another potential baker to save the day. 

So, you see how this goes. Everyone I spoke to was apologetic, but not available to make the cake, and they all referred someone who they hoped could help. This went on until I got to phone call number eight. She gave me a name and number, and I realized it was a bakery that I drive past every day. What luck! I decided to stop in on my way home from work. 

I walked through the door and asked for the person whose name I had been given. The woman behind the counter said, “You’re speaking to her.” As I was explaining what I needed, she cut me off and said, “No.”  Thinking that she didn’t realize the severity of the situation, I started explaining that this was not poor planning on our part. It was just a unique circumstance.  Again she cut me off and said no. She offered no empathy and just stood there looking at me like I had two heads and was wasting her time. When I asked her if she could recommend someone that might be able to help, she said no and walked away. Now, that’s just plain rude.

For whatever reason, sometimes, we just can’t help the people who are asking. Maybe you work in a granite shop and they want Corian.  Maybe they want a porcelain tile patio, and you only work with stone, or maybe they want something that just doesn’t exist. There are a million reasons to say no to someone. It’s how you say no that is the key. 

Even if you can’t help them right now, the possibility exists that they may be your customer in the future. Even if you can’t give them what they want right now, being rude and unhelpful will almost guarantee that they won’t come back – and they won’t send anyone else your way, either. 

If you can’t help, at least be nice. Try to sympathize. Try to help. If they are looking for something close to what you do, refer them somewhere else (if you can).  There is nothing wrong with knowing who does Corian, butcher’s block or slate in your area, if you don’t. If you can’t refer them somewhere else, be nice about it. 

For Example: “I’m sorry I can’t help you. I’m new and don’t know where you could go”; or, “I’m sorry I can’t refer you somewhere, I honestly just don’t know anyone who does that. Have you tried Angie’s List, Home Advisor or Porch? Maybe they can help.”

People remember kindness and rudeness. Those eight phone calls I made before I met the “rude bakery” woman? I kept all their info, because we have events in my family all the time. We always need cakes, cupcakes and other special baked goodies. The ninth contact, even though I drive by there every day? I will never go there for anything, and I will not advise anyone to go there. 

As I said, people remember kindness and rudeness. It costs nothing to be kind, but being rude will certainly cost you future business. What do you want to be remembered for?

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