Yeah, that guy. There’s always one, either at work, school or wherever you are, he’s there. Before I get to that guy, first a little backstory.
Five years ago I resurrected my catering company, Maggie’s Tapas, here in Los Angeles, mainly because my husband was sick with MS and then his employer, Fidelity Investments, let him go. The economy tanked and we needed to make a living. We hoped we could be successful together and grow the business. We needed to pay the bills.
Then in December, 2011 he got stomach cancer. That, in itself, is another story and one I’m working on as a book, mainly because I have a lot to say about how we got to that point in our lives, but suffice to say it is germane to this story as you will see.
It’s now February 19, 2012 and I get a catering call about a wedding in July. I’m struggling at this point with figuring out what I’m going to do. I’m kind of in crisis–do I keep up the catering when the very food I’m serving is what caused my husband’s cancer? I’m vegan at this point so can I still serve meat to customers? Isn’t that hypocritical of me?
I take the call and a few red flags started to go up right away. First there was lack of a full venue address, only an intersection, and then the quick, “oh, you’ll have to deliver the food outside since our venue doesn’t allow outside caterers.”
And that is where I made my first mistake with that guy, although I didn’t know at that moment he was going to turn out to be that guy. I should have stopped right there and said, sorry, can’t do that. It’s not the right thing to do as a caterer. No outside vendors means just that.
The final warning to me was his email request for six different tapas for 250 people (delivered mind you) for $1000 or $4 per person. To put it another way, this would have been $0.67 per person, per tapa. I could not give him what he wanted. I had not figured out the whole fishes and loaves to feed a multitude catering trick–and still make a profit.
But you know why I didn’t just tell him that immediately?
I was too preoccupied with:
1. Trying to get my husband on the PCIP or Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, a stop-gap program before the full implementation of Obamacare and,
2. I was struggling with figuring out how in god’s name we were going to pay for Gleevac, the chemotherapy pill that had been prescribed to him. It costs $40,000 per year. That year anyway. Have no idea what it costs now.
I was worried for my husband’s health. I was worried for my sons. I was scared.
And here’s where the life lesson comes in. No matter what you choose to do in life from everything to work or attending a class in ceramics, you will always come across people like this; people unable to see past themselves.
It’s up to you to decide how to deal with them. I highly recommend keeping your dignity even though you may not want to.
I emailed back on March 14 that I could not help him for his price point and politely suggested he may want to consider DIY’ing his appetizers. I worked with many brides on a budget and my recommendation was meant with good will.
My reward for this was an email back wherein I was called a “piece of work,” and “greedy and unprofessional.” Not sure how turning down his business squares with greedy, but there you have it.
Seconds later, his Yelp review was online. Of course it was.
I was, naturally, very upset especially since his Yelp diatribe was full of untruths. I did offer him another two price points, $20 for everything as requested or $10 with some modifications. He just didn’t like them.
He wrote that “So many other quality caterers were willing to give me a respectable, transparent price within budget.”
Wonderful! Then why call me if he already had what he wanted?
I suspect he was not getting what he wanted from anyone, quality or not.
Now that my husband’s health has stabilized (cancer free as of last screening and no longer on MS meds, thanks to a vegan diet) and I no longer operate my catering business–I feel I can address what happened with some deeper wisdom.
The ultimate lesson in all this is temper yourselves. Our connected world makes it too easy to hit send or publish, whether it’s a book or hotel review or email. Take time and reflect. What will your words say about you?
You don’t want to be that guy. You really don’t.
What’s funny to me, and demonstrates the inability of some of us to see past our own navels, is that he owns a small business, right here in Los Angeles. Hope he doesn’t get a call from someone like himself.