“When you ship an order of cookies, do you ship extras?” That was the question I posed a few nights ago to cookie business owners on my Facebook page.
Granted, this was hardly a Quinnipiac poll, but I did get a lot of answers rather quickly. In a nutshell, the preponderance of responders (or is it respondents?) said ‘yes’ to the extra cookie shipping. Isn’t that interesting?
You KNOW I have an opinion on this. And, let me preface this entire post by saying it’s ONLY MY OPINION! I’m not judging, preaching or telling you how to run your business by any stretch of the imagination. This is just a platform for discussion because, well, it’s an interesting discussion. Okay?
May I ask you another question? When ordering something fragile from Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Walmart, Target, Amazon, Williams-Sonoma, or any other big retailer, do you get an extra bowl, wine glass, vase or dish? Do these merchants ship extras because they know the product is fragile and that breaks are inevitable? No, of course not.
So, why are you shipping free extras?
You told me you’re doing this in case some cookies break, like an insurance policy. But, you’re still giving away product and there’s no guarantee that they all won’t break. Want insurance? Then check off the little box on the shipping form that asks if you’d like your package insured. If there are breaks, your client can document them and you can claim the damages from Fedex, UPS, or even the Post Office, if I’m not mistaken, provided you’ve paid to have the package insured. Returning money or redoing the cookies (time permitting) shows great customer service on your part. Your clients will be grateful and are bound to use you again for another occasion.
Then there’s the ‘engendering good’ will reason. Think about it. Let’s say you charge $48 for 12 cookies. That’s $4 per cookie, right? Add two extra free cookies and you’ve just brought your cost down to $3.43 each. A difference of $.57 per cookie. Now, let’s say you have orders for 12 orders of 1 dozen cookies per month. If my math skills are correct (and notice I’m using easy numbers so I don’t get myself screwed up) you’ve given away 24 cookies and roughly $13.68. Multiply that by 12 months a year and bingo: you’re up to $165.00! And, that’s if you only make 144 cookies per month!!! I understand including a few bonus cookies to a client who orders frequently and hypes you to friends. But, new customers? I think you’re subliminally telling your clients that the price you’ve quoted isn’t the real price at all.
Which brings me to the next subject: the importance of proper packing. Bridget shares her packing expertise over here. I ship alot of cookies, but I agree with Dani Fiori who wrote that she only ships certain styles. I will not ship a champagne glass cookie. Even with a piece of cardboard slipped into the bag to shore up a structurally unstable design, I won’t do it. BUT, I do use a lot of bubble wrap, foam sheets, crumpled newspaper and FRAGILE stickers in and on every box I ship. And, when faced with a cookie disaster, I file the appropriate paperwork with the shipper, and then quickly return money or credit the customer. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened often. But, it’s happened.
It’s becoming more apparent to me that this cookie business has a split personality. It’s a business/it’s cookies. You and your cookies nurture and cuddle your clients/friends. You probably have a never-ending supply of taste-testers and reject-acceptors ready and willing to ‘help’ you out day and night. It’s complimentary, I realize that. But that’s not a business where goods are sold in exchange for money. I can’t imagine saying to a banker “hey, if you have any reject 100 dollar bills, I’ll take ‘em off your hands.” You wouldn’t dream of it, right? But, that never stops anyone from making mindless remarks like that to us.
If you have a retail shop and inventory is mounting up, slashing the price at the end of the day to move product is how spent money is salvaged. Donating to a food bank is a great way to get a tax deduction and build strong community relationships. But, as owners of small, custom order businesses, we don’t have inventory waiting to ship. We create new product for each and every order that comes in. And that can make it even harder to eke out a living, especially when clients don’t realize that labor is the major component of the price structure. Add to that the skyrocketing cost of ingredients! So, to me, I might as well tape dollar bills to my boxes, sooner than including the extra cookies.
Your clients have chosen to place an order with you because you’ve enticed them with the offerings on your website, and/or prior experience with your product. Many of you said you include the extras as a ‘thank you’. Does your butcher give you an extra steak to say thank you? How about the gas station owner; is he offering up a gallon or two to be nice? I thank clients, new and old, by sending a short email after their event asking if everything went well and thanking them for choosing me to create something special for their celebration.
So many of us open our businesses with wide-eyed optimism, only to be broken by the harsh reality of 15-16 hour days and very hard physical labor involved to sustain the work we love. It takes time and patience to keep the love in the cookies. And the money in the till.
What do you think? I’ll be right here waiting for your response.
I think I’ll have a cup of tea and an extra cookie while I wait.
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Although I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Paula Kelly in person, I think it’s pretty safe to say she should be nominated for sainthood. Paula’s always there with support for a friend, a blog post and a twitpic. There’s NEVER a cross word, a snarky remark or mean-spiritedness in any of her tweets or blog posts. And, her royal icing construction projects would render me cross-eyed before I ever got the first wall up!
So, it’s not surprising that she’s devoted a year of her time and effort to galvanize food bloggers to share their own personal stories, and of course, bake for her special project called Frosting for the Cause, a site dedicated to raising money for the Canadian and American Cancer Societies. Every day there’s a new post, a new story and a new recipe. It’s a mammoth task that Paula’s undertaken with a smile on her face and love in her heart.
Scoot on over there now and get the recipe I’ve posted for Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.
Thank you, Paula. You’re the sweetest cookie I know.
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Twitter can be a fun place to hang out and exchange witty banter, snarky remarks, and, of course, much discourse about what we’re cooking and baking.
I believe I was following an exchange between Abby and Jamie when I casually remarked that I would love to bake with them. One tweet led to another and before anyone knew it, #baketogether was born.
We turned to our undeniably fearless leader Abby to come up with the recipe we’d put our two cents into. Nothing too laborious, lest it frighten away the newbie bakers. Of course, Abby wisely selected her Chocolate Truffle Tart, a gorgeous little confection, perfect as is, but willing to welcome all kinds of changes and tweaks with open arms.
Thrilled and excited to begin, my brain then reminded me that there are only two of us in this household, and one of us doesn’t want to eat dessert. But, since we were to be whiling away Memorial Day weekend at our friend Joey’s beach house, I decided I’d make the tart there.
Other than bringing the 9 inch tart ring and chocolate with me, Joey made sure we had everything we needed, since I provided him with a detailed shopping list. And, lucky for me, another of Joey’s weekend guests LOVES to bake. Great for me, too, since we could gab while making the tart.
Oh..note to self: never ask anyone what their mix-in of choice might be. Because if you ask four people, you’ll get six answers ranging from ‘don’t make anything special for me, because you know I won’t eat it’ to ‘ewww, that doesn’t sound good’. Just make whatever you’re going to make and even the picky ones will eat it. Like the one in this household who doesn’t eat dessert. Ahem.
So, what did I do? Not too much, since I was gun shy with this group. I added hazelnuts and cinnamon to the crust and replaced the recipe’s rum with Frangelico (I have a heavy hand) to the ganache and the mascarpone topping. I toyed with the idea of adding a layer of caramel between the crust and the ganache. I vocalized a desire to make a hazelnut brittle to break into shards for adorning and extra crunch. Neither came to be, since lounging on the chaise by the pool seemed to have a bigger hold on me than I thought.
Hazelnuts gave the crust a lovely mild nutty, crunch while the cinnamon added an additional savory sweetness, not to mention a delightful perfume in the kitchen while the crust baked. Even the buff-est guys hanging out in the house couldn’t resist following the baking crust’s scent into the kitchen to take a peek.
The Frangelico gave the ganache the wonderful gianduja flavor I love so much. More Frangelico in the topping? Why not?
The results? Well, Joey decided his understated cake knife and cake pedestal were the perfect accompaniments to this lovely dessert.
Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Tart
Makes 1 tart or 12 servings
For the crust:
- 1 cup or 4.5 oz graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 4.5 Tbsps melted butter
For the filling:
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 oz. (4 Tbsps) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 Tbsps Frangelico
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch fine sea salt
For the topping:
- 1 package (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsps Frangelico
- (Optional) Chopped Hazelnuts
To make the crust:
Heat the oven to 375°F and have ready a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
1. In a small bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, chopped hazelnuts and brown sugar until well blended. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and mix and smear the crumbs and butter until well blended and evenly moist. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly onto the bottom with a straight-sided, flat-based metal measuring cup to create an even 90º angle straight side. Bake until fragrant and slightly darker brown, 10 to12 minutes and set on a rack to cool.
To make the filling:
1. In a heatproof medium bowl, melt the chocolate, half and half, and butter in a microwave or over simmering water. Remove from the heat and add the Frangelico, vanilla and salt. Whisk the mixture until well blended. Set aside, whisking occasionally, until room temperature and slightly thickened, about 1 hour. (For faster cooling, refrigerate the filling until thickened to a pudding consistency, about 30 minutes, whisking and scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every 5 minutes.)
2. With a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the crust and spread evenly. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours and up to 1 day before proceeding with the recipe.
To make the topping:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar and Frangelico. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat on low speed until smooth. Increase speed to medium high and beat until cream is thick and holds firm peaks.
2. Using a small metal spatula, spread the whipped cream over the chocolate filling leaving lots of swirls and peaks. Cover loosely and refrigerate up to 8 hours. If you have chopped hazelnuts, sprinkle them on the topping just before serving.
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