Ron’s birthday is coming up – May 22nd to be exact!  It kind of crept up on me, and I realized today that I had better get down to the business of ordering a birthday cake.

Cake is very, very, VERY important to me.  Anyone who knows me well, knows this to be true.  I frequently buy single slices of cake at the supermarket because I’m craving it, and because I know if I bought a whole cake, I’d eat a whole thing–in like, three days or something.  In my baby book, my first sentence is listed as, “I want cake.”  The phrase “I would like some cake” is one of the only things I know how to say in Japanese, and it kind of seems like that would cover me for most situations.  One year, Ron accidentally ordered the wrong kind of cake for my birthday (even though I had very specifically asked for the kind I wanted) and I almost broke down in tears of disappointment in front of everyone.  I once stayed at a wedding reception where I hardly knew anyone and was super bored because I was waiting for the cake to be cut – and it was worth it.

So yeah, cake is a big deal to me.  A big, BIG deal.

Ron typically wants an ice cream cake from Coldstone or a carrot cake for his birthday.  We had a Coldstone cake for my birthday on May 10th, so he decided he wanted carrot cake for his.  There is a bakery in town where I usually get his carrot cake, but this year we are pretty broke (okay, totally broke, May has been BRUTAL financially), so I decided to see if I could find a more affordable option.

Safeway, in my experience, actually does a pretty good job with cake, considering they are more of a grocery store than a bakery.  And I knew they’d charge less than an independent bakery.  I’ve bought individual carrot cake slices there for Ron as a treat, and I knew he really liked it, so I thought I’d give them a try.  Good cake?  Low price?  Sounded lagom to me.

Here is a transcript of the actual conversation I had with the woman who answered the phone:

Me: Yes, I was wondering if I could get a price quote on a 2 layer 7-8″ round birthday cake?
Her: Oh, I have to ask (calling to someone else the room) Uh…how much for a (something unitelligible here)?
Guy in background: Huh?
Her: (louder and clearer, so I could hear it this time) How much for a python cake?
Guy: We don’t make a python cake.
Her (to me): We don’t make a python cake.
Me: What?
Me: I didn’t ASK for a python cake. I asked for a PRICE QUOTE on a 2 layer round cake.
Her: Ohhhhh….uh, I don’t know. Let me ask. (to background guy) How much for a two layer cake?
Guy: $15.99
Her: (to me) $15.99
Me: Okay, I’ll go ahead and order one. (Long pause while she doesn’t answer). Let me know when you’re ready.
Her: (surprised) I’m ready.
Me: Okay, I’d like a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Her: You can get a frozen one.
Me: ….. Uh, what?
Her: You can get a frozen carrot cake.
Me: Just…no. A frozen cake? No.
Her: (surprised, a little huffy) They thaw out in like 30 minutes!
Her: Well jeez…sorry.
Me: I think I need to call a bakery who likes to bake cakes.
Her: Well we could bake you a chocolate or vanilla one.
Me: So you sell slices of carrot cake, and you sell whole pre-made carrot cakes, but I can’t actually order a carrot cake.
Her: ….No.
Me: …..
Her: Would you like a cake?
Me: (click)

I hung up the phone and wavered somewhere between bewildered and furious.  Was it just this dimwit girl I was talking to, or would the Safeway bakery really not make me anything but a vanilla or chocolate cake, even though I knew they sold carrot cake? I decided to try calling a different Safeway.  The woman I talked to there was definitely more on the ball than the first woman, but she did confirm that it was only possible to order a chocolate or vanilla custom cake.  Which kind of defeats the whole “custom” thing, if you ask me.

Maddening as both conversations were, I have to admit, it was a good reminder – you get what you pay for.  If I had called the bakery I usually ordered from, or any number of independent, customer service oriented bakeries in town, I would not have had such a craptastic experience.  It would definitely cost me more, but I would have felt sure the cake would be good, and the experience would have been more professional.  In fact, if I actually HAD wanted a python cake, a good bakery would have said, “Great!  I’ve never made a python cake.  But I’ll figure out how to do it.  Sounds fun!”  And they probably would charge me a small fortune for having a such a weird, complicated order, but I think that’s only fair.

If the product is “just right”, and the price is reflective of the quality and complexity of the product, then I suppose that’s lagom…right?


I’m smiling, so the cake must have been right this year…