Fun with retail

Yesterday, I returned my birthday cake. This was not at all Jack's fault, he bought it in good faith from what is normally a fine bakery that today shall remain nameless *cough* on West East Figueroa Street *cough*. We came home from dinner on Tuesday (birthday) night and I said, "WHO WANTS CAKE?" Nobody did, because we'd eaten too much at Trattoria Mollie, so the cake sat on the counter for a half an hour while we all looked through the giant Helmut Newton book Jack had given me as a present. All the most gracious homes have naked ladies on the coffee table.

So, whatever, it was getting late and I'd be damned if I was going to bed without any birthday cake, so we lit candles, sang, made a wish, etc., and I got my cake.

"How is it?" Jack asked.

"It's good. It's okay. Maybe the recipe changed. It's different than it used to be." More eating. "It's weird."

The next morning Jack and Jackson both decided to have a slice for breakfast because that's just what you do.

"This isn't that great, Mom"

"This is bad," said Jack. "It's stale."

"It tastes like it was in the walk-in too long, right?" Because it would be too depressing to throw away a cake I'd been looking forward to all week, I decided to take it back and ask for a new one, because by God if you spend $30 on a cake anywhere in the world it should not taste like ass.

"Good luck," said Jack ominously.

I went to the bakery, cake in hand, and asked for the manager. A tall, energetic thirtysomething fellow appeared before me. I explained that I believed he had sold my husband a stale cake that tasted like the inside of someone's refrigerator.

"Did you have it straight out of the refrigerator?"

"What? Your refrigerator?"

"No, yours."

"Oh. No, it had been out a little while, I guess. I don't know." I didn't have my stopwatch handy.

"You need to leave our cakes out between one and two hours before you eat them, it gives the butter cream time to [I forget what word he used here -- flourish, maybe, or come to life]."

He then proceeded to explain that how his employees should have told us to leave it out longer, because that was the problem. "How was the texture, was it dense?"

I had no way to judge how appropriately dense my cake was or wasn't supposed to be according to him, so I said, "I don't know, it just didn't taste like it was supposed to. I mean look at it, it's kind of gray."

"Well, it's too bad no one told you to bring the cake up to room temperature before you served it, it's the most important thing you can do . . . " blah refrigeration blah density blah butter blah, I didn't hear the rest because at this point that I literally threw my hands in the air and turned to walk away because he could keep his fucking cake, I didn't need to be lectured anymore about how I had made my own birthday cake taste like a mild case of Satan's halitosis.

"No no no, wait! I'll give you another one!" He said. Reluctantly, I returned to the counter and watched him box up a fresh chocolate cake with mocha frosting. "They should have put these instructions on the box," he said, placing a gold-trimmed sticker on top of the box that had a paragraph of text about treating pastry nicely, implying that they could not be held responsible for the certain destruction your ignorance of butter science would cause.

"Well, thanks," I said half-heartedly, as you do when someone else has spent a great deal of time telling you how wrong you are. I left, went to get my car washed, and then, since it was a mild day and the cake had been in my non-refrigerated trunk for two hours, I went home and had a piece. It was delicious. I talked it over with Jack (who then revealed his own bizarre experience with the uptight bakery manager when he picked up the first cake) and I decided to be a good guy and call the manager and thank him and tell him that the replacement cake was great. Bygones, etc.

I don't really want to relive my second conversation with the guy but I will tell you that it was still very important to him that I know that I was wrong and he was right. He told me that after I'd left they'd cut into the cake and tried it and, "We all thought it was fine."

If I'd had a little more presence of mind at this point, I might have said something funny, or sympathized with the fact that it must be hard for him and his employees to bake their cakes using the furnace that's been built into Satan's asshole, but I didn't. Instead, I revisited the stunned silence that had become so familiar to me earlier in the day.

"Do you want to come get your cake back?"

Fuck me. Really? Come get it back and do what with it? Throw it on the floor and roll around in it, crying and apologizing to you and all your employees for doubting its stale, gray excellence? I've worked in customer service for years and witnessed some amazing moments of passive-aggression on both sides of the counter, but man. This guy takes the cake, and I am not even going to apologize for forcing that phrase into this post. The only thing that makes me feel a tiny bit better is reading the other terrible online reviews the place gets for its service.