Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Cupcake Caper

January is usually a slow month...due to this, Sharon scheduled a three week trip to China (!) Sadly, I found out too late about the food blogger camp in Ixtapa, Mexico or I would have been out of here, too! To ease my disappointment, I decided to close for a couple of days to clean and get ready for the busy season ahead. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as Sharon got on the plane, I got this email:
"I will like you to bake me chocolate and Vanilla cake of 5 tier that can serve approximately 300 guest or more , and I want the cake to be decorated with pink roses and the cake should be covered in fondant or in butter cream, and there will be an inscription writing on the side of one of the tier as “HAPPY MARRIED LIFE” and i want you to pack them in different boxes to be ready for pick up at the said time and date.. 14th of Jan 2010, 3 O'clock PM. Reply me back and let me know if you can fill in the date for me....??? then i can forward all the details and the picture sample of what i will like you to bake for me.
Thanks and God bless."
S. N.*
(*names have been changed to protect the investigation)
I don't know if many of you have visited our cakes page on the website, but there isn't a fondant cake among them. We prefer to conspire with mother nature to make our cakes special, growing many of the flowers we use in our own gardens. A fondant wedding cake with frosting flowers was the last thing I wanted to take on right after we closed for two days of deep cleaning. So I responded thusly:
"I'm sorry, we are not taking wedding cake
orders for the month of January. 2010.
Our wedding cake baker is on Holiday.
Best, "
The next day, this e-mail greeted me:
"Can you make me 350 cupcakes for the date instead.
Some chocolate and som strawberry. let me know what it will cost me.
I shall be very grateful if you consider this done, for me.
I have already told most of my special guest that you are baking for my wedding.
So please do not let me down."
Reluctantly....VERY reluctantly, I responded:
"That we can do....they will be $3.50 each. Decorated with pink rose on top.
($3.00 w/out rose) Same amount of each? What flavor frosting?
He got right back to me:
"Thanks for the update. I want pink rose design on each cupcake.
And I want chocolate frosting.. So let me know what will be the
total cost for the 350 cupcake.
Await your soonest reply to proceed with the order.
Thanks and God bless."
Okay, I think...1225 bucks for a bunch of cupcakes? I have Ryan, the master, and Irene fresh from a pastry certification class...we can do it, right? So I give him the totals:
"That will be $1225.00...Dark Chocolate Frosting? Sounds good...let us know!"
His swift response:
"Hello , thanks for the swift re Iply to my order request, and for your concern as well, i want you to know that am very grateful, and am really inspired ever since the first time I tasted your cake, that is why I will prefer you bake for me..or i rather not bake a cake for my wedding.

They should be ready for pick up by 3 O'clock PM on the 14th of Jan 2010...and a private shipper will be coming to pick them delivery to my wedding reception in Canada and i dont want you to be worried about the safety delivery of the cake. Regarding the shipping ,I have a private shipping agent that will take good care of pick up and the delivery consignments.. The Shipper will come for the pickup arrangement of the Cake at your place, at the pick up date and time.

And as I have told you previously, you don’t have anything to be worry about on the shipping of the cake it will be well secure and in a good condition on arriving the location of my wedding reception in Toronto Canada, the shipper will be coming with there refrigerator Van for the pick up and it will be ship under the fragile shipping insurance scheme, a friend of mine has use them before for a shipping consignment of this such and they are well reliable, dependable and secure…..

So I want you to calculate for me what will be the total cost of the cake order plus tax if included, and also I want you to add $780 for the cost of the pick up and the shipping, so once I have your reply for the total I will remit my credit card for you to charge for the total cost…so that you can have the order book right away. And once you have the order secured, I will have the shipper contact you for the pick up schedule arrangement, also i will instruct you further on how you will pay the shipping fee to the shipper as to confirm the pickup arrangement of the cake. Willingly Am also offering you an extra $100 for taking care of my order properly and for any less stress you will go through for completing the transaction for me due to my absence.

So please do calculate altogether the total cost of the cake + tax + $780 for shipping charges, including the $100 am offering you, then get back to me with the total for all, so once i have your reply for the total cost i will remit my credit card for you to run for the charges, also let me know is you accept Visa or Master card.
I will be waiting to have your reply for the total cost then we can proceed from there, hope to hear from you soonest."

It was at this point that I really started to wonder...a wedding in Toronto? Are you serious? WTF? So, I brought in my peeps, asked them to read the e-mails...should we go through with this or what? The opinion all around was that, hey, if the card numbers go through it must be legit, right? So we make the cupcakes, and as long as we get paid, what difference does it make how it goes down, right? Sure enough that night an email came with credit card numbers (it was to be divided onto two cards...not that unusual for a high ticket item, but still, another red flag!) so Sunday morning I ran them through the processing machine without a hitch. Or so I thought. On Monday morning the phone rang as we were getting ready for school. It was the Homer Police Department, letting me know I'd been involved in a credit card scam. One of the frauded card owners had caught the transaction and alerted the authorities. (All I can really think at this point is how relieved I am I don't have to make the cupcakes!) I cooperated with the officers gave them the e-mails I had and aksed them what to do next. They requested that I lead the guy on and try to get more info out of him. So I sent along this note:
"I will make 1/2 choc and 1/2 strawbeerry and all with chocolate frosting with a pink frosting rose on top. They will be ready by Thursday at 3pm. Can you give me details on the shipper? I would like to check on size of boxes, etc. Also, I will need your phone number and address, to further process this's not everyday we make 350 cupcakes for a wedding in Toronto!"
He Responded ever so promptly...
"Am using E. L. ..a private shipper for the consignment...You are not to arrange any special packing for the cakes... just have them ready for pick your regular packing. Once everything is set, I will update you with the pick up schedule, and I will have the shipper contact you for the pick. Below are my details you request for me...133 East Bunnell Avenue,Homer, AK 99603, Tel xxx-xxx-xxxx.
I just wish to monitor the pick up arrangement myself, so as to avoid any error. And once the cake leaves your store, its off your responsibility, so you have nothing to worry about.
So make sure you check email on the 14th Morning for the details. Thanks and God bless."
Between all this we have the bakery ripped apart painting and scrubbing away, I'm calling the bank, who doesn't really know what to think. They finally tell me it's okay to refund the transactions, so at least the money is out of my account. I stress about the coming e-mail and possible sting operation going down. Finally Thursday morning brings this communication:
"Hello good morning!.
How are you today and business. Sorry for the late respond, hope all is well ?, I really appreciate all your effort and concern toward the success of my wedding. And also thank you for your prayer support through my surgery, may the good God bless you. More also I want to notify you of the shipping arrangement, the shipper has advise payment for the delivery charges should be made via the western union to enable the the processing for the pick up schedule immediately, so as to proceed with shipment, to avoid any disappointment or delay for the delivery of my wedding cake. So now please I want you to proceed to any Western union outlet with the $780 for the delivery charges in cash and send it to the shipper below information as advise:

E. L.
387 N Wright St Champaign, IL 61820

I believe you should know how to get this done. All you need to do is go to any western union outlet with the amount in cash, on getting there , you will fill a form for the transfer, your name and address to the senders info column. And the above details in the receiver column. You will be giving a western union receipt for confirmation after the transfer. The receipt or the information on the receipt is what you will write out and email to me, and I will forward it to the shipper, and once they confirm the fee, then shipment follow immediately. I want you to know that I have once use the shipper and I don't have problem using them again, because they are well reliable and dependable, as you are, so you don't have anything to be worried about, and once the cake leaves your store, it's off your responsibility and you will not be liable for any error that turn up for you following my instruction.

Please get this done as soon as you can, and after you have send the fee to the shipper as I have instructed you, write out the below details and email it to me, to proceed:


You can as as well email me the western union receipt, the information's is what I will provide the shipper, and once payment is confirmed , shipment follow without any delay or disappointment. Please kindly get this done as soon as you can, and email me back with the details of the western. I shall look forward to your email for the western union details soonest as the shipper are waiting on me.
Thanks and God bless."
So, that's alot of trouble to go through to get me to cough up $780! I forwarded this note to the police and we agreed that no one was probably going to pick up any cupcakes. They recommended that I tell them I have alerted the police and so far we are off the hook. I'm ever so grateful for the guy who dilligently checked his credit card balance, because if those transactions had not been found out until they got their bill, I would be out not only the $780 paid to shipping, but the other $2200 would have had to be returned also...costing us almost $3000, not to mention making the f-ing cupcakes!
Wow, we are still reeling as to why, better yet, why US?


Holly O' said...

OH. MY. GOD. I am speechless but mostly I'm glad you didn't have to make those damn cupcakes!!! Holy shit! Incredible story!

Jennifer said...

This is my first time reading your blog, and holy moly! Are all your posts so exciting? The great cupcake sting! I'm hooked.

steetoa said...

I am so glad you didn't make the cupcakes and alerted the police! Whoever they are, they've got some pretty bad karma headed their way.

A friend of mine was ripped off via Craigslist by a Nigerian scammer... Whatever the nationality, these jerks can be really smooth. Why they'd target a bakery of all places and in Homer, AK is an entirely different story (?!).

The LaVya Initiative said...

I almost peed my pants reading this post! I'm so glad you figured this guy out.


Lisa said...

You're lucky this didn't go any further! A friend of mine was scammed in exactly the same way. And--I found out afterwards--many, many others. Type "wedding cake internet scam" into Google--you'll be saddened. It's endemic.

Carri said...

Thanks for all the great comments! The more I read through those e-mails...I'm embarrassed it got as far as it did, the guy sounded like a kook from the get-go...goes to show, you gotta follow your instincts!

Bob said...

Don't be embarrassed. Most people have a desire to be helpful, and this is the trait scammers and con artists seek to exploit.

I think that speaks more to the quality of your character than to the scammer.

The scam artist furthermore took advantage of it being a sizeable order with critical data being left out, to keep you focused on the logistics of baking the cupcakes, and not the delivery.

Moose Run said...

Hey Sis, This has also happened to us at the shop,twice.Almost the same kinda deal. Luckily we did not lose any money either and we stick to our policy about how items are ordered.We are back from Anchorage after a very successful install.See ya soon. Tarri

schmance said...

I once waited on a woman in New Orleans who asked me out by writing a note on her credit card slip. Something about her gave me the heebee-jeebees. I I didn't even want her to know where I lived. Later that night while I was doing my check-out, I noticed that the name she used in her note didn't match the name on the credit card, but I didn't say a thing because I sure as hell wasn't paying for her dinner. The credit card went through, right? Well, the next day the FBI called the restaurant about that credit card because it had been stolen from a little old lady living out on the bayou during a home invasion by a woman posing as a federal marshal. No wonder she gave me the creeps.

Anita said...

Hi Carri. Interesting story. This very same thing happened to me during MY FIRST WEEK of business at Flying Squirrel. E-mail communication at first. And I got suspicious very quickly being so newly opened. In my e-mail I told the sender that I would need a 50% deposit before proceeding. I also asked if he lived in Talkeetna (turned out also to be a wedding in Canada). I also requested that he call me. Two days later I got a very strange third party phone call as if from a mute or deaf person where the operator was the go between. In the end I simply said no, I can't help you with an order so big at this time. And I wondered the same thing...why me? Did you ever hear if they caught the person?

Carri said...

Hey Anita...crazy, huh? I'm amazed at how many stories have surfaced since I posted are smarter than I, I so wish I'd stuck with my original 'NO!' No they haven't caught him & doubt they will. How's the bakery doin?