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Sweet My Ass (Or It's Just Cake, Or Why You Should Never, Under Any Circumstances, Spend Your Money at Sweet Lady Jane)
Our wedding is three months away. Yes, we should have figured out the cake bit sooner, but we’re having our wedding on a warehouse rooftop downtown, so we’re not exactly doing the traditional do. Our wedding is so offbeat that we recently decided we should probably do something that will give the family a sense of structure, of formality, of “weddingness” just so they don’t lose their way among the techno jazz, shredded chiffon dress (mine) and crazy striped suit (his). In short, give them cake so they feel like it is a wedding after all. And who doesn’t love cake?
In this town, if you’re going to do a proper wedding cake, the rule of thumb – the name on everyone’s tongue – is Sweet Lady Jane. I’ve been there for tea. I’ve nibbled a few scones. I’ve even tasted a tart or two. All quite good, all delivered with proper service. I expected the wedding cake experience to be just as good. I could not have been more wrong.
I called the wedding cake person at Sweet Lady Jane weeks in advance to setup the appointment. I then re-confirmed the appointment with her the day before. In each conversation, she told me to bring pictures of cakes I liked and reminded me that everything is custom – so they could create whatever I wanted. Fine. I already knew we weren’t interested in flowers and foofiness…more modern stripes and clean lines. We still weren't sure we even wanted to have a wedidng cake - so traditional and part of the crazy wedding industry we'd sworn we would avoid. I assembled my preferred cake pictures accordingly.
We arrived at 10:30am for our cake appointment. The handsome guy at the front said: “Great, take a seat, I’ll get the book!” Seconds later, he came out with the big white wedding cake book. My fiancé ordered some tea and we started flipping through the book. Lots of sugary flowers and girly girl cakes – nothing for us. But it didn’t matter right? Because I had my trusty “modern cake” pictures with me and the wedding cake lady said they could do “anything.”
We waited. We drank our tea. We waited. We ordered scones. We ate them. We waited some more.
At 11:10am, I went back up to the counter and said we had an appointment with the wedding cake lady. The woman said “That's me, are you here about a cake?” Um, yes, we are. She had us switch tables and then came over to meet with us.
She asked me to introduce myself. I did. No name recognition. No memory of having talked to me less than 24 hours before. She then looked at my finacé and said: “You could tell me your name, but I’m not going to remember it, so what's the point?” Hmmm. Not how you treat a customer. Ever. Especially when your cake prices start at $6.95/slice. But that is the tippy tip of the iceberg. It gets a hell of a lot worse…
She looked down at the packet of papers I was holding in my hand and said “So I see you have your pictures. Let’s have a look.” I handed her eight different pictures of very basic, very clean cakes. She quickly thumbed through them and for each one said something like “Nope. Nope. Won’t do it. Wouldn’t want to. This one is awful. We might do this one for you. Can’t do that one. This one isn’t even possible to make.”
Excuse me? You might do this one for me? It became very clear, very quickly that she had no intention of listening to us. She was on the hunt for portfolio cakes. If it didn't fit within their "aesthetic", it wasn't worth their time. One cake in particular (green striped one at right) was our favorite. I got the picture from a divine bakery in San Francisco. She looked at the picture and said “Impossible. This is not a real cake. It can’t be done.” Um. But. It is a real cake. When I told her it was a real cake from another bakery, she said, “Well, you’ll have to find out how they did it and then we might do it for you. But it will be $28/slice.”
Okay. We live downtown. We see homeless every day. Many of them are in desperate need of food and medical attention. It inconceivable to us that someone would spend $28 per slice to feed 80 people. For cake! It is just a cake! It does not cure blindness. Does not wipe out carbon emissions. Does not un-botch Iraq. It’s cake!
But it gets even worse.
As our mouths hung open (sticker shock), she then said “So do you want to taste some cake?” This sounds innocent. Nice, even. Especially in writing. But it was delivered more like “you’ve already wasted this much of my time so you are damn well going to try some of my cake.” We looked at each other. It was now close to noon. We both had meetings, places to be. Nicer people to talk to. I asked my fiancé if he had time to taste a few cakes. He said sure, if we make it quick.
That was the precise moment when she lost it. She replied: “Oh, I see, so this is just a 'pretend' cake meeting for you? You’re not really interested in working with us? You don’t have the time to taste our cakes?” I then reminded her that we had been patiently waiting since 10:30am and that while we’d love to taste some cake, we did not expect a cake meeting to take an hour and a half. She was surprised.
“You mean to tell me that you’ve been here since 10:30am? How come no one told me about this?”
Well. Um… We stared at the table cloth. At the pictures of the cakes she had said no to.
She then shouted across the bakery counter to her staff: “Excuse me, I would like to know why nobody told me these people were here at 10:30am for a meeting with me. Can anyone explain that? Can you tell me why this happened? We need to revisit the notification system around here.”
We were mortified. Slinking down in our chairs, trying to figure out how to leave without her noticing. We couldn't. She had us trapped, standing over us, blocking our exit.
The handsome young guy who seated us and who did (I saw him!) go back and tell her we were waiting, came over and said: “Yes, we should revisit the notification policy. Because I did tell you they were here and you never came out.”
Cake Lady: No you didn’t.
Handsome Worker Guy: Yes, I did. I told you your 10:30am appointment was here, you gave me the book and said you’d be right out.
We were silent. Truly, truly, unbelievably shocked. It was so bad it was getting kind of funny. But not.
Cake Lady: I was on the phone. You can’t expect me to remember to come out. You need to physically drag me out of the office and over to the table.
Handsome Worker Guy: Um, okayyyy…..
We were still silent, but trying to convey to handsome worker guy via non-verbal cues that we were so, so, so sorry to have turned the wrath of Cake Lady on him. (Yet, I must say, that when employees are that willing to yell at their boss in front of customers, you know they have had it with her. You also know this is not the first time she’s behaved this way.)
Cake Lady (shouting): Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. I’m so sorry that you received such terrible service from my LAME staff.
This seems outlandish, so wild it cannot be true. But it is! We will never – ever – buy anything from Sweet Lady Jane again. Most certainly not a wedding cake. It seems we are not the only ones.
We’ve got three months to go and we need a non-traditional cake. We’ll be visiting bakeries all over Los Angeles to find a cake that is yummy and moist and service that is, well, service. Nice, friendly and – sweet. (It’s cake after all!) Where should we go? What Los Angeles bakery do you swear by?