So, a couple of weeks before Christmas, this guy phones up about courses. No that’s wrong. His mother phoned and I suppose that’s when the alarm bells should at least have given a little tinkle.
Shortly after he managed to phone himself. Said he was a police officer who wanted to set up an artisan bakery in what used to be an important market town the other side of Offa’s Dyke. Hardly any baking experience but he had had a conversation with Paul Hollywood at a food festival. So I suggested he came over to discuss his plans and how I could help – I’d give anyone an hour of my time for nothing.
Arrives late together with his partner and young child. Nothing wrong with that but I would have expected to have been told who was coming to the meeting. They buy a couple of books and he books a couple of courses for January. I’ve met him, they seem OK so I don’t ask for a deposit. Big mistake.
Come January he’s scaled down his plans and decided to start his business as a microbakery at home – I thought it was a bit of a leap going from no baking experience to opening a high street bakery so maybe reading my book had done at least a bit of good. He also announces he’s on a soup diet – we supply meals during the course plus day two includes making a couple of pizza doughs and baking them for lunch besides which, it’s a bit weird coming on a baking course on a diet when you have up to a dozen loaves to bake and sample.
First course should have taken place this Monday and Tuesday. In advance I’ve organised my baking programme to accommodate his courses and spent a good half day in planning and preparation. Sunday evening I’ve got enough starter ready for about 16 loaves for the morning and just finished mixing about 4 kilos of dough for teaching shaping, I’ve even made stock for his soup. Then I get a text. Not even a phone call, a text. His wife has a stomach bug so he has to cancel to look after the kids. He’s sorry for the inconvenience and will be in touch soon to rearrange the course.
Text him back to acknowledge his message and hoping his wife recovers quickly. Safest thing is to say nothing, have a whiskey, go to bed and contact him in the morning.
Monday a.m. email him pointing out that he’s liable for my expenses so far, offering him new dates for the two courses but asking for payment up front for the first course before we proceed.
Few hours later he replies. His “legal representative” (not surprised he’s got one of them) advises him that, because he’s signed nothing, he has no liabilities. Furthermore, “on account of my email” he’s going to find someone “more professional than me” with whom to train. I email him back wishing him well in finding someone more professional than me and also good luck to them too.
What a beautiful set of ethics the guy must have; “I never signed nothing”.