Yes, there are a lot of possibilities and I agree with you on that. The thing is I'm looking at it from a biased point of view. I'm approached by so many people who want lots of cake for little and my level of sympathy and tolerance for that is all used up. I really didn't mean to disagree so much.
We don't know what this bride did, but most brides are going to get at least 2-3 quotes and common sense dictates you look at pictures to see what their work looks like. The cake looks to me like the person had never stacked a 3 tier cake, so she either presented fake pictures, in which case she deserves everything she gets or the bride didn't look too closely. As in, she just wanted a low price and subconsciously expected a miracle.
Yes, she should have done what you said about getting them a quicky cake from the uptown grocer. But it's even possible the baker may not have understood her cake wasn't going to hold up with no support and that she has a lack of taste - maybe she didn't think it was so bad, hard as that is to imagine!
You're in the UK, right? Could you possibly go over there and speak with these people and settle all this! Haha, totally just joking of course!
My first impressions was exactly that she possibly showed them pictures of cakes that weren't hers. Or she had cakes that were nice but only 1 tier. If you have never made black fondant it would have turned out like the picture because it would be overworked and tear. So benefit of the doubt maybe her 1 tiers were better.
However she had to know it was that bad no matter what. She had a picture to reference, no excuse. It was awful.
If however this cake matched her lack of skills then the bride got everything she got. Its like asking my 3 year old to make you a RBI cake and then being mad about it.
I think it was wise to post the cake on ebay. Why? Because it showed that it was a universal opinion that the cake was awful. So when she takes her to court its more proof. SMART bang for your buck. Show humiliation and mass approval/sympathy means $$$$. Besides just because you and I feel awful doesn't mean this baker did. They could have been a *** to the bride. Thinking manipulation and bullying would win them silence. I have seen business run this way!