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Cottage Law Drama at the Farmer's Market!! Help

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok, so I am sick to my stomach right now and I could really use some opinions on what you guys would have done.

I attend a Farmer's Market in my area selling cupcakes etc (mostly to promote my custom cake business). Anyway, I have eveyrthing pre-packaged, labeled, business license, name registered and steer clear of icings I am not allowed to make (cream cheese etc.). Then recently the director of the market allowed another cupcake vendor to come in and this vendor has no license, name not registered, sells cupcakes open without packaging and makes cream cheese icing every weekend. Her prices are lower. . obviously because she doesn't have the overhead that I do because she's not following ANY of the guidelines.

I've been mulling over this for the last couple months and I finally decided to say something to her. I am not the type of person to just go call the dept of agriculture because that would just be mean and hurt everyone. So I sent her SUCH a nice email. .I mean ridiculously sugary and mentioned that there are couple of guidelines she's not following and not only could it hurt us in the long run but it also undercuts the businesses that do things appropriately. I also included that I am by no means perfect and did not make it sound like I was attacking her.

She responded with a very short email and basically said she'd talk to the director because she's never mentioned she was doing anything wrong. (the director turns a blind eye to these kind of things, we've discussed it before. . she basically leaves it up to you and i fyou'd like to chance it.) soooo. .out of courtesy I emailed the director to give her a heads up because I did not want her to be caught off guard. I sent her a copy of my email and she responded saying that I handled it inappropriately and we will need to talk about it tomorrow.

How did I handle it inappropriately?? She clearly was not going to do anything and I COULD have turned her into the dept of ag but I didn't. I was not mean or spiteful and actually told her that I was GLAD she was in business and able to support her family like I am, but that we should all work hard to not abuse the law.

I am so nervous about what the director is going to say tomorrow, but I just don't understand what I did wrong. Please be honest. . shoudl I have not said anything? Was it inappropriate? What would you have done??
post #2 of 25
You're totally right, and if the director is ignoring cottage food laws then she doesn't have a leg to stand on about handling things inappropriately. If she tells you that you did anything wrong I'd just say that you didn't want to go to the Dept of Ag. and that you thought that addressing the person directly was the most civil way to handle it. I'd probably add "I'm sure that you want the people who have booths at your market to comply with the law, since it could be bad for everyone, including your market, if they're not and someone turns you in." haha!

Don't feel bad, you're handling this the right way and she's just trying to cover her butt because she knows that she's wrong.
post #3 of 25
I wouldn't worry about it too much if I were the other baker I would probably thank you, maybe she didn't know the laws, and now she can become legit. I do wonder what will be said in the meeting let us know!
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. . .I will definitely let you know. The only thing I can think of is that she's going to say I should have gone to her first. . .but we've discussed this before and I know she doesn't do much about it. and like the girl said, she is aware of how she does business and nothing has ever been mentioned to her so clearly the director doesn't care.

Her response said that as far as she knew she was in compliance .. not sure HOW she missed such major no no's. .I sent her a copy of the brochure from the Dept. of Ag and pointed out the big red box that says specifically no cream cheese icing etc. . .so hopefully it'll help.

And I truthfully was not trying to be mean, but we should all be playing the game the right way otherwise we're just going to hurt each other in the long run. I'm aware there's competition, such is life and it's what makes for a better business. . but when I see another vendor that clearly doesn't care and just woke up one morning and decided to sell cupcakes willy nilly and breaks all the rules. .that gets under my skin.

Thanks for the re-assurance. . .I will let you know tomorrow night what was said. Trying to calm down now. . it's been a hectic week to begin with so this just added to the stress. LOL
post #5 of 25
I would not worry but I would keep this argument in the back of my mind should you need it.

Let her say her piece. Then defend yourself by stating that you were just concerned because there are laws that are in place for a reason. State that you were trying to inform the other baker in case something happens because an illness would affect not only her business but yours.

Then tell the Farmer's Market Mgt. that it would be detrimental to the Farmers Market if someone were to become ill because someone was not following proper food handling laws and then everyone would suffer. People tend to steer clear of places that have made others ill. So you were just looking out for the market in the first place.

Plus, being an unlicensed baker with no insurance someone who would fall ill could sue the Farmers Market for damages that they would not be able to recover from this other baker. You enjoy being there and want to remain there.

If you make it clear that you were concerned about the market I am sure that she would have to back down. I would also make sure that you have a witness there to watch and hear what is being said. She might not be so aggressive if she is thinking there are witnesses to what she is about to say.
Relax, you will do fine.
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks. . the director (so far) has never been anything but nice to me .. i actually made her son's birthday cake and she buys cupcakes off me weekly. . we use to have a good relationship and now it just feels weird. .I don't know what happened.

And the funny thing is that I was the first Cottage Food Law vendor she allowed into the market and when she let me in she came to my table the first week and checked to make sure I had labels, packaging etc then I noticed she started not caring as much and now she doesn't even check with other vendors. . .

So it's not really fair either that she inspected me up and down and now is just letting everyone do whatever they want. She really is a very nice person, so I'm surprised that she's acting like this truthfully.
post #7 of 25
This situation is exactly why I recommend just anonymously notifying the health department and letting the professionals handle it. As you've seen, it is very difficult to bring this up to an illegal competitor directly (even with the best of intentions) without unintended consequences.
post #8 of 25
I agree with Chiara. Being legal is important if not for any other reason than the fact that if someone ever got sick from the illegal baker's food, many people would be affected.
post #9 of 25
I agree with a PP. Listen to what she has to say and then make it all about her. Tell her you just want to make sure she doesn't get in trouble with the Health Dept. How you would hate for something like this to shut down the Farmer's Market because someone gets sick and sues, etc., etc.

Then I would be anomously be reporting the other vendor to the HD. It's not being mean. It's protecting your business and those that patronize the market.
Tact is telling someone where to go so nicely they can't wait to take the trip!
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Tact is telling someone where to go so nicely they can't wait to take the trip!
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post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
I guess my concern with reporting her is that. . #1 they'll know it's me. .even if it's anonymous. . .it'll be quite obvious after this fiasco but #2 I don't want to draw un-neccessary attention on other bakers either. . .I just didn't want this to be a big deal, but now it's turned into one. Ugh .. so frustrating. .I just can't wait to talk to her tomorrow and get it over with. I'll definitely be back to fill you all in.
post #11 of 25
She may have been concerned because the knew the health inspector was coming. If he's come and gone, perhaps she got the green light and thinks he won't be around again this year.
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by forheavenscake

I guess my concern with reporting her is that. . #1 they'll know it's me. .even if it's anonymous. . .


It doesn't really matter who she thinks reported her, the health dept will just let her know what the rules are, and it sounds like it's not too difficult (in terms of capital investment at least) to comply with them in your state. Think about how much worrying, hassle, and confrontation you could have avoided by just filing the report with the HD and moving on with your life.

In any case, chances are she will be too busy working on labels to worry about trying to find the "snitch". icon_wink.gif
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Quote:

Please be honest. . shoudl I have not said anything? Was it inappropriate? What would you have done??



Okay. I'm going to be honest.

I think you handled the issue in an inappropriate manner and that what you did was way out of line.

That you felt you had to 'sugar coat' your email tells me that I think you know you were doing the wrong thing. What you have written in here tells me that you've cracked the sads because your competitor's prices are lower and have used what you feel are violations to excuse that feeling.

What I feel you should have done in the circumstances is approach the Director not the vendor and to do so face-to-face or in a written letter not an email.

I think communication is vital in situations like this where intention is easily misconstrued and bad feelings are created but moreso because, essentially, you only think she's illegal. You don't have any evidence or qualification to back that up. Furthermore, an email captures a mere 10% of cues required for good communication and is far too flimsy a platform from which to launch an assault on another party, particularly one you do not know. And let's face it, unless you have her spending sheet in front of you, you don't know what your competitor's overheads are.

That you are now contemplating reporting her to the Department of Agriculture is appalling. You really aren't giving this person a chance to become aware of the situation, allow her to address it and/or rectify it should this be the case. What may seem like the basics to you may be an entirely different thing to her and the contract she may have entered into with the Director may have allowed her to think that. Ultimately, it is not your market and you are not privy to its operations. It is the Director's responsibility to ensure that laws are being followed and, again, you have denied the Director this chance purely based on what you think she might have done.

Absolutely if you felt that there were violations I think you should have said something. But not to mull over it for two months while you summoned the courage to have a go at someone. What I would have done would have been to notify the Director of what you thought were violations, given her a chance to respond and if that response did not happen or was not to your satisfaction then you would have a reasonable basis on which to move further to ensure that your concerns were heard and addressed.

By giving the other person the benefit of the doubt is not to say I condone violations. But I believe in giving someone a fair go. I've come across plenty of people who run businesses without what I think are the legal requirements. But I've also come across many a situation where the person was either not aware or given different information by the manager/director of a market or there was a mix up in communication as to how things should be run. 99 times out of 100 I find that the violator is horrified/embarrassed/whatever and makes pains to rectify things. To go in gung-ho makes one look bitchy and spiteful and it ruins relationships. And unfortunately, I think you are about to find that out.

Good luck.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mietta

What you have written in here tells me that you've cracked the sads because your competitor's prices are lower and have used what you feel are violations to excuse that feeling.


The OP has first-hand evidence of violations, since her state's CFL requires labeling (which her competitor does not have) and does not cover cream cheese frosting.

Quote:
Quote:

That you are now contemplating reporting her to the Department of Agriculture is appalling. You really aren't giving this person a chance to become aware of the situation, allow her to address it and/or rectify it should this be the case.


Not sure why you think reporting her is so "appalling"...the health inspector will make this person aware of the restrictions of the CFL and give her a chance to get in compliance. That's what our tax dollars pay for.
post #15 of 25
Maybe things are different in Australia.

The Director of the Farmer's Market has a history of ignoring food laws.
This vendor was clearly (easily observable) not complying with prevailing food laws.
The OP did the non-compliant vendor a HUGE favor by informing her of the laws.
The OP did the Director of the Farmer's Market a HUGE favor by informing her of the violation.

If a consumer got sick and wanted to sue someone (which is generally what DOES happen in this country) both the non-compliant vendor AND the Farmer's Market would be sued.

What would I have done? Called the Dept of Ag and told them they needed to make an inspection visit. But then I'm not as nice and forgiving as the OP. In fact I'm going to set something up to catch some unlicensed vendors in January. I'm tired of be undercut on pricing.
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