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Dear PoPville – I Bought a Moldy Cake. I want an Apology and my Money Back, All My Money Back

by Prince Of Petworth April 27, 2012 at 10:30 am 210 Comments

Dear PoPville,

I’ve lived in Mt. Pleasant for 8 years and love my neighborhood. I try my best to buy from the local mom and pop shops that line Mt. Pleasant St because I feel it’s important to support the businesses that keep Mt. P the great community that it is. I buy my wine from Sambers, my hardware supplies from Pfeiffer’s (Old School Hardware now), grab drinks at Marx, eat at Adam’s Express… all wonderful establishments with kind and friendly people I’ve grown to love. But yesterday, the abusive relationship I’ve endured with Heller’s Bakery for the past 8 years finally came to a head. I’ve endured their surly service, dealt with their unfriendly staff, and sustained snippy comments all because they make a somewhat edible bagel and a half-decent cookie. But no more. The story that follows is so appalling, I felt the need to share what this abusive local business is really like.

Yesterday morning around 8:30 am, I stopped by Heller’s Bakery to pick up a cake for my coworkers’s going away party. I selected a $29 black forest cake and got 2 lbs of cookies for a total of $47 worth of baked goods. Per the usual Heller’s customer service style, the staff made me feel like I had troubled them by asking that they select the 2 lbs of cookies and place them in a box. Something they were unable to do and kept asking me what kind of cookies I wanted.

Around 4:00 pm that same day, my coworkers and I gather in one of our conference rooms. After our warm well wishes, it was cake time! The cake looked great and everyone commented how wonderful it looked. So the guest of honor cut into the black forest cake and started serving slices. As they were passed around someone remarked that there were green spots on their slice. At this point the first couple of people served had started eating their slices. As more slices of the cake were cut and the interior of the cake was revealed, the smell came. A putrid, ghastly ordor I still can’t get it out of my nose. The inside of the cake was covered in green mold. I was embarrassed, apologized to all of my coworkers and vowed go to Heller’s to get an explanation to what happened.

I took what was left of the cake, boxed it back up and took it home with me. That evening around 6:30 pm I walked into an empty Heller’s and grabbed the attention of two workers behind the counter. I explained what had happened and showed them the putrid cake. They were disgusted. I asked for my money back but was told that the owner and manager were not there and that I would need to return in the morning if I wanted a refund. They couldn’t help me, but they would certainly be able to help me in the morning. I said fine, I’d be back.

In the morning, I lugged back the stinky cake, that I’d double bagged to keep the stench from overtaking my apartment, and walked into a crowed Heller’s around 8:30 am. The surly guy (let’s call him Bob) that sold me the cake was there but he was with a customer. I managed to get the attention of another worker and asked to speak with the owner or her manager. She barely looked at me and said that the owner won’t be in until about 10am. I explained that I had purchased a cake from Bob the day before and proceeded to show it to her. Like her evening coworkers the day prior, she too made a disgusted face. She decided to call Bob over, but Bob couldn’t be bothered. He buttered a bagel, made a coffee, rung up a customer, anything but come over. In the meantime, I told Bob’s coworker that I wanted my $47 back, which he heard, and yelled over to me that the cake was only $29 and that would be all I’d be getting. I explained that I wanted all of my money back, including the cost of the cookies that had purchased. I asked Bob to please come over and look at the cake he had sold me. He begrudgingly walked over, looked at the cake, and said… “oh wow.” Yes, “oh wow” indeed! So I repeated that I wanted all of my money back–$47. He apologized, asked for my credit card, and proceeded to process what I thought was a credit for the total amount. When he handed me my card and a receipt back I realized that had only given me a $29 credit. I told him that I refused to leave until I got all of my money back–not just the $29 for the cake–but ALL of my money. He told me that he couldn’t do that because I was returning a cake and I would need to speak to the owner about the cookies. At this point a woman who had been watching all of this asked what was wrong with the cake. So I showed her and the other customers waiting in line. They were disgusted… yet the Heller’s worker still refused to reimburse me for the total amount and asked that I leave my name and number and the owner would return my call. He also insisted that he would show him the cake.

Well, it’s almost 11:00 pm and I’m still waiting for a call from the owner. All I want is an explanation, compensation for my troubles, and a real apology. Simple customer service.

Do you think the OP should have been refunded for his entire purchase or just the cake? Do you think the OP should get an a phone call and apology from the owner?

  • amethystdeceiver

    Dude not to be an asshole cause this sounds like a shitty situation, but why THE HELL would you go to Heller’s for any reason? That place is awful!

    • Snarky

      The O.P. doesn’t provide enough info to answer the question. They don’t discuss the condition of the cookies (were they moldy or not) and what happened to the cookies (were they consumed or not).

    • Not Scott

      I wonder if this place even makes it’s own cakes, or if it gets them pre-made and frozen and then just sells as a retail outlet. That’s super-common.

      • Anonymous

        We had a birthday cake from Heller’s last weekend. Fresh and delicious, as it is every year. Just sayin’.

    • Personally, I don’t care for Heller’s. They seem to be a bakery whose reputation is based on looking like it could be a good neighborhood bakery without having the quality baked goods to back it up.

      That said, I’m a little uncomfortable with the way that PoP is being used as a means of the letter writing getting revenge by publicly shaming Heller’s (for not being reimbursed for something they have no obligation to reimburse them for, i.e., cookies that the writer had no complaints about).

      If the letter writer wants to write a bad yelp review or post about it in the forums, that’s fine. But. I don’t think it belongs as a blog entry on PoP.

      • SF

        I keep trying to post this but it’s not going through.

        I totally agree with this– the problem is PoP is allowing this person to have a unilateral 1000 word attack on a local business. Given the following this blog has, it’s irresponsible to do that and not ask Heller’s for comment. For all I know, the OP is crazy and it didn’t go down like this at all.

        Also, what’s to stop a competitor from fabricating and submitting a similar rant against another business? People expect that stuff on Yelp, but it’s a mistake to open this blog up to that. Hurts PoP’s credibility, IMO.

      • Anonymous

        The doughnuts are (or were when I lived in Mt. P in 06-08) pretty good.

  • were the cookies good and non-moldy? i think the situation is awful, but i feel that if you ate the cookies and they were fine, you should just get the refund for the cake, because it was the cake that was the issue (that and the attitude of the staff).

    • dcdude

      Agreed. If I were the owner, I would have probably compensated her for the whole purchase and apologized profusely. That’s just good customer service. But to feel entitled to a full refund seems to me a bit too much, especially since it sounds like you kept the cookies.

    • AP

      Agreed. If I went to Target and bought $200 worth of merchandise and came home and found one of the items was defective, they’d only refund me for that one item, not my entire purchase. It’s a definitely a sucky situation, but I don’t understand why the person thinks they are entitled to a refund for goods that were fine and consumed.

      • Anonymous

        +1. Game, set, match. The discussion should be closed with the Target analogy. I don’t know why you would think for a second you are entitled to any compensation for something you consumed and had no problem consuming. You are entitled to $29. Frankly, you already know this, and it’s the reason you left with your $29 even after your haughty declaration you refused to leave until I got all of [your] money back–not just the $29 for the cake–but ALL of [your] money.”

        Do you think you’re entitled to compensation for your embarrassment in front of your coworkers? You’re not. You’re entitled to never shop there again–and I’m guessing you won’t–but you got all the financial compensation you’re due from the bakery.

      • Anonymous

        This analogy breaks down really fast when you consider the goods purchased. If you buy a platter of prepared food and some is bad, you are probably not going to eat any of it.

        The real question is (as others have pointed out) were the cookies consumed or did the cake make you so sick you didn’t want to eat the cookies? If the cookies were not eaten, why were they not returned?

      • If you went to Nordstrom (even with this cake) they would give you all your money back no questions asked.
        Which policy do you like better? Who has the happiest customers?
        The $16 that Hellers refused to give the OP most certainly cost them the OP as a customer (along with the moldy cake) but likely cost them a customer in line – and very likely a few people on this blog (I being one of them). Was it worth $16? NO.

        • AP

          We clearly do not have enough information here. But my point is that most retailers are not going to give you money back for items that you don’t return (the cookies in this case). Of course, from the business owner’s perspective, I would have just sucked it up for a stupid $18 worth of cookies. They’ve now lost much more than $18 worth of business because of this post.

        • Anonymous


          this point CANNOT be overemphasized. as a business owner, it is my duty to not only provide a quality product but to earn my customers’ business each time he walks through the door. especially in a food & beverage business when you are dealing with many levels of sanitation and public health there is zero room for error. is the cake going to kill someone? probably not. but you definitely risk losing 100% of your trust equity when you sell a defective product that will be ingested by your customers. the only way to earn back that lost trust is to make a gesture, in this case, by overcompensating the customer, for the mistake.

    • KenyonDweller

      I disagree with everyone who says he shouldn’t get a refund for the cookies. Heller’s embarrassed him in front of his coworkers and he had to waste his time going back their twice. They should give him all his money back for his trouble.

      To AP: Target hardly sets the standard for acceptable customer service. And, in any event, this is a small business, not a big corporation, and they should treat their customers better, not worse.

      • AP

        I was just using Target as an example of what most retailers would do. This seems to be the norm, as the vast majority of commenters have noted.

      • Anonymous

        I’m curious what you think the cake victim would be entitled to in the event the cake was the only item purchased? Extra cash on top of the refund? Perhaps a hug?

        • KenyonDweller

          You missed my point. It’s not a matter of entitlement.

        • In a case like that I would either give a discount on the next purchase, a credit, or offer them something from the store to take additional to the refund.

      • t2012

        I have to agree with everyone who thinks he should get refunded for the entire order. He was embarrassed in front of co-workers, inconvenienced when trying to get the initial refund (had to go back twice with a stinky cake). I am sick of this day and age when getting good customer service is the exception and not the norm. Small business HAVE to rely on their local customers and appreciate them as much as they appreciate their local businesses.

        • J

          I think people are trying to differentiate between good customer service and what the OP demanded.

          Everyone seems to agree that really good customer service would maybe include a full refund. People, however, disagree that the OP should have felt entitled to a full refund. I think the example made if the OP had only bought the cake, would he/she have demaned money for her embarrassment on top of a refund? No, of course not because that would be ludicrious.

          • Ana

            To your comment, “I think the example made if the OP had only bought the cake, would he/she have demaned money for her embarrassment on top of a refund? No, of course not because that would be ludicrious” I would say that demanding money on top of a refund in that scenario would have been bizzare, but as someone who has worked in a few restaurants, I can attest to people asking for additional things for free on top of a full refund (like free additional drinks or even a gift card to the establishment) when the food has been bad. Most of the restaurants I’ve worked at obliged without arguement when this has happened. In this case, it seems like it was beyond bad, and while the demand for specific additional compensation might seem extreme to some, the expectation to receive additional compensation beyond the cost of the cake, even if the cake were the only item, isn’t unreasonable.

  • yz

    refund for the cake seems like a no brainer…if the cookies were fine and eaten, pay for them

    • ah

      +1. No strong argument for refund on cookies.

      That said, if Hellers wanted to do the right thing they would have offered up a $25 gift certificate or something as an apology for the inconvenience/disgustingness. I realize that’s almost a wash for what your asking for, but really the cookie transaction is separate and the price you paid for them is not a measure of what their apology/make good should be.

      • MiCoBa


  • Anonymous

    I hate these vaguely worded, open-ended essay questions? Could you convert your query into multiple choice to make it easier for us to respond?

  • uh, no

    Confused why OP thinks he/she deserves $47. You bought cookies. The cookies were fine. You ate the cookies. Why should the cost of those be refunded?

    Yes, the customer service there was atrocious. So don’t go back! But they don’t owe you money for something that was perfectly fine.

  • anon

    Uh, no. You should get the $29 back for the disgusting cake, but why are you squeezing them for the extra $18? Were the cookies moldy, too?

    This is like going to a restaurant and getting a meal with a bug in it and then expecting the entire check for your table to be comped. The restaurant should absolutely pay for the entree, but has no obligation to cover the rest of your check. Sure, they should comp you a drink or a dessert, but that’s it.

    I 100% agree that’s it’s shitty customer service and you will never go back there — along with the people you work with, most of the readers on this blog, and all your friends. And there’s a much better way they could have handled this, but I don’t think you have a case to ask for the $18.

    • Anonymous

      During my time as a server – if a guest had a bug or something gross in his/her food – everything that person ordered (before and after the incident) was comped.

      • Ana


  • what

    I would not have eaten the cookies after seeing that cake.

    • MAR

      This. Who in their right mind would eat cookies from the same place that made the gross cake.

      • That’s totally reasonable, but then the cookies should have been returned too.

  • classic_six

    I’m sorry but I have no sympathy for the OP other than to say that they should only be refunded for the cake, which obviously was inedible and should not have been sold in the first place. Why on earth would they think they should be refunded for the entire amount of the purchase? The cookies were fine, right? Weren’t they eaten?

    If the OP thinks they are entitled to a full refund because of the rudeness that they endured, then why have they patronized the place for 8 years? To complain that they would not select the cookies for them, how hard or why couldn’t the OP just pick and choose? Not that difficult.

  • Heller’s can be terrible about service, but you really only should get reimbursed for the cake. It would be wonderful if Heller’s reimbursed you for the entire purchase — a store with good service would without asking — but you’re not entitled to it.

    • +1.

      If they had any sense they would comp the entire purchase, but I don’t think you can really _demand_ that they do so.

    • Jen H.


      It would have been good customer service to refund the total amount. Might have even prompted this customer to give them another chance in the future and prevented them from spreading the word about the moldy cake on PoP. BUT you are not entitled to a refund for the cookies.

      Just the fact that this person demanded to be refunded for the cookies too makes me think they are an ass.

  • Anonymous

    They’re lucky nobody got severely ill and sued them. I wonder when their last health inspection was.

    If you were so disgusted by the cake that you threw out the cookies, get all your money back. If you ate the cookies, pay for them.

    Either way it seems like it should be reported to the health department.

  • me

    Agreeing with everyone above. The cookies were fine- you don’t get a refund on them because you had an experience with bad customer service. Drop it. You can keep waiting for your apology for the cake, but as for the refund for the cookies? Seriously. DROP IT.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with previous posts– sure, it would have been a nice gesture for them to refund the full amount (and I tend to think a manager would have done so), but they are certainly not obligated. Your cake was defective, and you were refunded for it. End of story. Don’t go back!

  • anonymous

    If it’s true that you’ve had an
    “abusive relationship” with this place for 8 years, I’m having a hard time digging up some sympathy. It’s one thing to buy local. But when you are buying local just for political reasons and ignoring the quality of service you are receiving… well, I think that’s your problem. Sorry- there are a lot of other places selling great products out there. Sweet Lobby on Barracks Row comes to mind. Why waste time on a place you’ve been battling for years? At some point, you’re culpable for your own bad decisions.

    • josie

      This person wants to support a neighborhood business. Suggesting an establishment on Barrack’s Row is not helpful.

      In Columbia Heights, there is Sticky Fingers, a french bakery, and a new crepes place.

      • They selll cakes at Harris Teeter too. Guessing Giant as well.

        • indc

          Sadly, the Harris Teeter on Kalorama has mold on/in their produce. I purchased a severely overpriced red bell pepper and when I cut it open it was filled with mold fuzz. Their organic produce section is nasty looking — like the stuff has been sitting there for weeks (I could go to A**Whole Foods but who wants to deal with the crowds there). Additionally, i bought organic mushrooms from Teeter, and again the mushrooms at the bottom had moldy green fuzz on them (who knew fungus could have a fungal problem).

    • classic_six


      Exactly, beautifully said. You said it much better than I did.

    • Anonymous

      +1. Well said, you summed up my thoughts on this matter.

  • I would distill this down in two paragraphs about how bad the customer service is (not so much about your refund), cut, and paste this on Yelp!

    A moldy cake is neck-and-neck with finding hair in food. Once I see a hair *in* food, I’ll never go back to said hairy restaurant/cafe/etc. Gross.

    • Really?

      People are constantly shedding hair (even with a net!). Hair is so much more benign that mold. Hair — particularly if cooked, does not have germs or bugs.

      Mold grows due to poor food preparation and storage conditions. Mold can cause illness and even death.

      Hair is not pleasant to find in food, but it’s not mold. It’s not dangerous.

      • Caroline

        I agree. It takes a LONG time for mold to start growing on a cake. A black forest cake is maybe a little moister than a standard sheet cake, but I think it must have been sitting around at room temperature for AT LEAST a week to grow that much mold (probably longer, but given how humid this week has been I’ll given them the benefit of the doubt). A stray hair is an accident, but mold on a cake means they’ve clearly violated some health code protocol.

      • Yes, really. Hair in food is gross. That’s great if you have a tolerance for it, but I don’t. It’s an *opinion* — I wasn’t quoting health code law. Jeez.

        • Caroline

          I don’t think anyone was suggesting that hair in food is not gross or that it’s possible to have a tolerance for it.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that you were due the $29, but not the balance for the cookies. It would have been nice for them to comp the cookies too for your trouble, but if they were fine you should have to pay for them.

    On a related note, the OP says that he’s had a rocky relationship with Heller’s for 8 years, but likes to support local institutions. Why support a crappy local business just because it’s local? I think that this is a common sentiment in the neighborhoods and was wondering if other folks support mediocre businesses out of a sense of duty to support local institutions? (This is not meant to attack the OP, but just throwing out a question.)

    I try to support local businesses, even if it costs a little more, but only if I feel like I’m getting decent service, product, etc. No point in supporting something substandard just because it’s been around for a while.

  • Cake doesn’t get moldy like this after sitting out for a day or even a few days. If the cake is really as putrid as the above description suggests, the whole case is at risk for mold. The OP didn’t mention whether the cookies were eaten, but I wouldn’t have eaten them; I would have brought them back and demanded a refund for them as well. If the group ate the cookies anyway, it was a bad decision on their part, but unfortunately they shouldn’t get a refund for goods consumed.

  • EllenR

    Forget whether the OP ‘deserved’ the full amount back…seems like Heller’s should be smart enough to have resolved this quickly and quietly, with whatever the customer dang well asked for – if only to avoid the resulting awful press and potential health department inquiry.

    • craig


  • I definitely understand the OP’s anger. I feel like this is such an extreme eff-up that they should refund the cake and cookie price. It’s not like they spelled a person’s name wrong on the cake or it was vanilla instead of chocolate. There was MOLD in the damn cake! It doesn’t just mold in a day, either, so this was so gross negligence by the staff and should illicit a health department investigation. I certainly wouldn’t go back (and I won’t go now, for that matter), but if they wanted to save the customer and the others in line who saw the incident, it would be a good move to refund everything, regardless of what happened with the cookies. If her total was $500, then yes, the request would be too much. But if you’re spending $30 on a cake it’s moldy, then you need to do something more than give them the customer the money back.

  • Meg

    The store was only obligated to give back the money for the cake, assuming the cookies were fine. It’s not good customer service, but it’s not a grievous offense to not refund the whole bill. I think OP needs to suck it up and not go back there.

  • houseintherear

    This is why people hate people. It was a bad experience, and you got a refund. Put a review online, tell your friends about the experience, and calm the eff down.

  • Anonymous

    When did PoP turn into yelp?

    • ah

      It became Yelp when PoP started showing “check ins” on t-shirts traveling the globe.

  • Sean

    Refund $29 for cake – yes. Refund $18 for cookies – no.
    Posting this on YELP and every other site that takes reviews, plus putting this up on PoP and having all these people comment, as well as showing the moldy cake to all those customers in line would be worth WAY MORE to me than actually getting the additional $18 back. A call to the DC health department would be icing on the cake – pun intended.

    • PJYinCapRiverFront

      You can see the point here though: If they had “done right by their customer” and expressed remorse, the customer wouldn’t have emailed PoP, and wouldn’t have any need to post on Yelp or embarass them AT their place of business in front of other customers.

      This is why the customer is always right. The customer always has a choice in who they patronize, and the business relies on customers in order to succeed. When you botch that trust, ESPECIALLY in the food service business, you have an obligation to the business, the employees, and the customers to acknowledge the mistake by making it right. They lost tons of future business that day, and the customer was simply asking to be compensated for a terrible experience (which is what you are selling when you sell food).

  • shaw

    I agree with the OP. Heller’s sold her a product that could have made people sick. A good business would have refunded the whole amount. It sounds like Heller’s did the bare minimum, and it sounds like they are treating her like she is being unreasonable about not just being content with the moldy cake.

    I don’t go to Heller’s anyway. The food isn’t good. The staff is rude. And I’ve always been annoyed you can’t drink coffee in a glass mug there if you are staying there. You have to waste paper products.

  • Yay! A first world problem thread. Someone hand me the popcorn and others start posting funny things please.

    • Anonymous

      Right, because when people in Lusaka buy food that’s gone bad, they just think to themselves, “oh well, I should be happy I have any food at all!”

      How condescending.

      • Fine, I’ll go back to DCist. No sense of humor around here today.

        • Anonymous


        • Anonymous

          Okay, but after the 500th time of hearing the “first world problems” joke (which wasn’t funny the first time), it grates on me.

          • Anonymous

            The tiredness of the joke IS the joke on DCist. They’re so hip and meta over there.

          • Anonymous

            if by “hip and meta” you mean “totally unfunny and uncreative”, then yeah.

    • Anon X

      Actually, having access to fresh food and a functional civil society that can enforce the health code is a THIRD WORLD problem. When third world countries solve those two problems, they move pretty close to “everythings fine”.

      We’re in the first world, this isnt supposed to be a problem.

      • Anonymous

        I was just thinking that, having been to India, I could see this happening there. But the business owner’s resposne would have been a lot better.

      • A

        Reading how this went down, I think the part that would have infuriated me the most was how Heller’s handled the situation in general…. not the $18 for the cookies.

        As a customer if I came into a store and said, “Hey I bought this cake from you guys this morning, and it’s moldy” I would the shopkeeper/employee to be seriously embarrassed by such an egregious error, apologize, and offer me a refund immediately, not ask me to come back the next morning (!!)

        I can’t speak for the OP but I don’t think I would have cared bout the $18 or even expected a refund for them if they were fine and I ate them, if I had been treated with respect as a customer.

        Anyway, I’ve never been to Heller’s and now I never will…

  • Anonymous

    This depends on whether you live in the “screw you” world or the “do the right thing” world. From my 4 years in DC, most people are of the “screw you” variety (I do find this odd since people are a mix of from so many places, but that is another sidebar conversation).

    The people who live in the “screw you” world will comment here about what’s the big deal, why did you want the cookie money back, who cares, why did you go there in the first place, why didn’t you cut your losses and just give up on it etc. Personally I want to smack those people, they make the world a worse place.

    Those people who live in the “do the right thing” world will understand how disgusting it is to pass off crappy goods and think it is ok. They will understand that the whole event for which the cake was purchased, was ruined there in making it right to refund the cost of all of the goods purchased. That is totally within reason. Good customer service means easy profit and a respectful reputation. Do the right thing, admit it, own it, apologize for it and make up for it. Doing anything else makes you a player and a lesser person. All people may be created equal, but all people are not equal. You choose what kind of person you want to be.

    Do you live in the “screw you” world or the “do the right thing” world?

    • Meg

      No one is saying that the OP was wrong in his/her disgust. No one is saying he/she should eat the yuck cake. What they’re saying is the store has the prerogative to do shitty business and go under. Good customer service will take a business far, but it’s not the customer’s job to DEMAND it. That’s like demanding apologies, demanding tips, demanding gifts, demanding anything. You’re talking less “the right thing to do” and more “entitlement”.

      • Identified

        Customers do have the privelege of demanding good service.
        People do have the privelege of demanding an apology.

        Whether the demand is met is not within control. But if your demand is not met to your satisfaction, you will then know how to proceed.

    • dcd

      I think you’ve got your labels backwards. To me, the “do the right thing” people are those who think, “I got a bad cake, and got my money back for the bad cake, that seems fair.” The “screw you” people, on the other hand, are those who are admittedly wronged but try to extract a pound of flesh, or extra compensation, over and above the cost of the product that was defective. As in, those who wail, “my event was ruined, RUINED, I say, and I demand you make up for that!”

      This is not saying that Heller’s didn’t demonstrate horrible customer service and bad public relations. But there’s a long way between “bad customer service” and OP is entitled to a refund that for items that were not defective and were not returned because “her event was ruined.”

      • Anonymous

        +1 Greatly said!

      • classic_six


      • +1

    • L

      I was thinking the same thing, Anonymous! I appreciate people’s personal opinions about whether the cookies should be refunded, but my goodness! Telling the OP to “quit your whining,” to not feel entitled, and to get over it…man!

    • Ana

      Well put. I’m more of a “do the right thing” person and am always surprised when people start characterizing this kind of thing as a person acting “entitled,” like the OP’s behavior is somehow divaish. I also don’t understand why everyone assumes the cookies were consumed after the cake. If I was at this office party and had eaten cookies and then gotten a whiff of that cake I probably would have upchucked. The overall effect of a smelly green cake would probably kill everyone’s personal experience, and no matter when or how the cookies were consumed I tend to think no one left there feeling physically satisfied by anything Hellers had to offer.

  • Anonymous

    I guess the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” has some truth to it.

  • dcd

    It doesn’t seem like OP brought the cookies back, and s/he didn’t say that there was anythign wrong with them (and given the length/detail of the post, I’m confident that s/he woudl have mentioned it). So, leaving aside surly customer service, the OP’s position is,

    “I purchased a moldy cake and some cookies that were fine. I brought the cake back, but not the cookies. They refunded my money for the cake, but not the cookies (that I didn’t bring back). I’m entitled to a refund for the cookies (that I didn’t bring back.)”

    I’m going to borrow a line from John McEnroe here: You cannot be serious! Of COURSE you’re not entitled to a refund for the cookies. It would have been nice for them to give you a little something for your trouble, like a credit or something, but that’s just poor customer service (which you can’t really be astonished by at Heller’s, right?) You ate (or at least didn’t return) the cookies, you don’t get a refund for them. This is not a difficult concept. Good grief.

  • Patrick

    “Entitled” comes to mind. You got your $29 back now it’s up to you to let others know (yelp, wapo, pop), and move on with your life while patronizing a better bakery. If I’m the owner, I’m not calling you.

    • Anonymous

      @Patrick – this is why you will never own a successful business

      • Patrick

        Thanks for your opinion but I wouldn’t have sold the moldy cake in the first place. But the OP complaining stating “Well, it’s almost 11:00 pm and I’m still waiting for a call from the owner” is just idiotic. If I was the OP and the owner called me at/after 11:00 to talk about a $29 cake, I’d probably be asleep and it would just piss me off even more. My advice remains: state your case to the outlets and move on (to a different bakery)

  • lb

    It sounds like not very many people have worked in customer service. OP should have gotten all of her money back. Personally I wouldn’t have wanted to eat ANYTHING from the bakery that gave me a moldy and stinky cake. OP never said she ate the cookies but she did say that some of her unlucky coworkers ate part of the cake before they realized it was moldy. Gross!

    She should have gotten a full refund, plus a new non-moldy cake. Of course, that’s only if Heller’s wants her to come back. It sounds like they don’t. I’ve never been to Heller’s and, after reading this, I probably never will go.

    • Annonny

      Agree entirely with this. This being DC, there are clearly too many folks looking at this as a legal/bureaucracy issue and not as a business/customer service issue.

      Legally does the customer have a right to a refund for the cookies? No, not unless they were returned too.

      Would it be good business sense to refund the money and then some to try to keep a long-time customer? Yes.

      • What I think is missing from this entire debate is how the customer acted when they went back to Heller’s. Having worked in customer service, even if the customer is right, if the act like an ass, I wouldn’t go out of my way to give them anything extra.

        It’s all in the way you treat people. I once discussed the high prices ($14 – $18/glass of wine) of the drinks at a local bar with the bartender. I did it in such a respectful way that the bartender comped me several drinks. I plan on going back and paying for more expensive drinks. Point being, I was respectful.

        I have my suspicion that the OP was very arrogant, abrasive, and confrontational in their interaction with Heller’s. If they weren’t, well then, shame on Heller’s. I have my doubts though.

  • Anonymous

    don’t get greedy. the cookies seem fine, as you don’t detail that they were too moldy or old… the cake was the problem and the cake was $29. You were refunded your money. Done and done. I suggest you stop patroning Heller’s… you clearly do not think you are given the proper respect there… stop being a masochist and returning over and over again expecting a better experience. move on.

  • Gladys Cravitz

    the bakery owner is an idiot if he doesn’t refund all of your money – he sold you a disgusting MOLDY cake!

    you should call the Health Department

  • ret12

    It is just good customer service to provide you with the full refund. You should call and ask for the owner Alex, he is a nice guy that owns a couple of places in town, and I think he would be happy to refund all of your money.

    This has made me never want to go to Hellers.

    • dcdude

      Is Alex the surly guy that sometimes runs the register? If so, then he is definitely not a nice guy.

  • Anon X

    Is this one of those small mom and pop shops we’re supposed to be upset about going out of business because of Walmart?

    • Ryan

      Ha! You stole my comment before I could say it.

  • Blue

    All of you saying a refund for the cookies is an entitled request are flat out wrong. This is a huge health hazard and should be reported to whoever overseas health safety/food inspections. The store should also have refunded the entire amount, regardless of whether the cookies were there or not. It shows gross negligence that such a moldy cake was sold and calls into question the safety of all of the products at the store. Plus they made the OP come back twice to deal with it.

  • qst

    It sounds like Heller’s won’t care, but I suspect they’ve lost a LOT more than $18 worth of business as a result of this posting.

  • pru

    We’re not talking about a little spot of mold on top of wonder bread here. What he’s describing is truly awful.

    If I’d been the store manager, I would have volunteered a refund for the cake, the cookies, AND a store credit to try and convince the customer to try and trust their goods again, and smooth things over enough to not land a scathing review on the internet or a phone call to the DC Food Safety and Hygiene Inspection Services Division.

    • +1. Refund and a credit to bring the customer back and try again.

  • Sounds disgusting – both the old putrid cake and sucky customer service.

    I am sure gave this place no more that 8 visits to get it right before I never went back… 8 years – you must be crazy – NO bake goods are worth that.

    You deserve the cost of the cake back and nothing more – unless the cookies were bad too AND you brought them back.

  • Anonymous

    The OP should hire a good lawyer to get the $18 refunded. I think Bob Lablaw is available.

  • Bloomingdude

    I went to Heller’s 3 times before I decided it wasn’t that good and the service was terrible. I liked the idea of the place — longtime European bakery — a lot more than the actual place itself. Heller’s is the polar opposite of Heidelberg Bakery in Arlington, which is awesome.

    I agree totally with the other commentors that the Health Department should be called. I’d also contact the Better Business Bureau.

    Hopefully, Heller’s will get its just desserts ;-)

  • blithe

    If there were simply a minor problem with the cake — a little bit stale, raspberry filling instead of lemon — an error that’s clearly an accident, and/or that could not have easily been recognized by the shop staff, I think the appropriate remedy would be to reimburse the customer only for the cake.

    For this, though, I would expect the store to do much much more. The store knowingly sold products that were not only substandard, but a potential health risk. And I say “knowingly” because a cake doesn’t go moldy overnight — and certainly not if it’s properly stored, so even if they didn’t know the cake was moldy, they knew that it was either very old, and/or had not been properly stored.

    If I were the owner, I would be doing everything I possibly could to make this right with the customer — including a full refund for everything purchased, and a major apology.

    If I were the OP — as others have said — I’d be contacting the heath department, as well as Yelp, and Citypaper, and Google and any other resource I could think of to put this incident out there. This goes WAY beyond just bad customer service. It’s a serious heath risk that was caused by gross negligence, and should be handled as such.

    On a side note, I haven’t been to Heller’s in many decades, and the one that is/was(?) in Tenley, was never quite the same. But when I was a kid, living in Petworth, Heller’s was the best bakery around. I can still remember how wonderful their pound cake tasted! I stopped going to Heller’s when it moved from wonderful to mediocre. That it’s now gone from mediocre to gross and probably dangerous is appalling. Oh well, another childhood “madeleine” bites the dust. :-(

    • saf

      It used to be a great bakery – we got our wedding cake there.

      But it has changed hands and in my recent experience, has not been as good.

      I have never found mold on stuff from there, but these day, all I like from there is donuts.

  • Anon DC Rez

    Gentrifiers like the author are going to be responsible for all the establishments from the “good ol’ days.” When these fine places from the Golden Age of DC are finally gone, we’ll be left with nothing but soulless yuppie Hell-holes.

    • Anon X

      If I’m a gentrifier because I find nearly decomposed food inedible, then so be it.

      I hope you enjoy your cupcakes with a twist of aflatoxicosis at Hellers. You should go there every day to give it business so it doesnt go under.

  • Anonymous

    i don’t get it? were the cookies rotten too? did you return the cookies? why do you deserve the money back from them if the answers to cookie questions are no?

  • JRL

    They should definitely have given her the full refund. They basically poisoned her and her whole office. After that, it’s bad form to be a stickler about $18.

  • taylor.nmt

    I would say that you are entitled to two things:

    * The full cost of the cake.
    * The satisfaction of knowing that your miserable experience at this establishment will prevent others from enduring the same.

    Anything additional would have been the business attempting to resolve the issue by buying you off (which they probably should have done as a good business move, but were not obligated to do).

    Heck, I might’ve sat at one of their tables outside, set the cake on it with a little sign saying “I bought this cake here yesterday,” and waited for them to come back with a better offer.

  • Sir Douchy

    I was thinking of trying out Heller’s Bakery this weekend, but after reading all this I think I’ll pass. I guess they’re going to lose more money due to this bad PR than the price of the cake and the cookies (not that I think the OP is entitled to a refund for the cookies).

  • Anon X

    That thing had to have been months old. Sugar is preservative, so this thing was not just a week old or something.

    I also find it strange that it kept its shape after so much decomposition. Having some personal experience with not cleaning out fridges at times in my life, I just cant believe this thing looked ok on the outside but not on the inside.

    This cake almost certainly was doctored. They either re-iced it or touched it up somehow. They had NO idea how bad it was on the inside, but they knew they had it too long.

    This is evidence that most of their shit is probably not fresh. They use a bandaid approach to keeping things around past their prime and this time they screwed up their system.

    They should have paid you to not stand out side their store with a display of this cake and a sign.

    Speaking of, why didnt you set up outside the store and show everyone on the sidewalk their cake?

    • Anonymous

      Whoa, you’re right. I was trying to figure out how the cake could have decomposed that way but it didn’t even occur to me that a business would re-frost a very old cake to make it appear fine. That’s horrible.

    • SF

      FWIW, our office got a nasty interior moldy cake from Dean and Deluca once. I’m certain they had no idea, and it looked perfect from the outside.

  • columbina

    I dislike Heller with all my heart. You can’t be a bakery and sell bad quality bread. I’m not surprise to hear they sell moldy cakes, everything there feels moldy. I stopped going there years ago and I’m grateful for Le Caprice, the fantastic new bakery on 14th St.

  • iammrben

    Go to La Caprice on 14th and Newton instead — they make cakes to order (granted, you wouldn’t have been able to swing by and grab one on the fly like you can at Heller’s) and have ridiculously tasty pain au chocolats and brioches.

  • Regardless if we ate the cookies or not (we stopped eating cookies when we cut into the cake), it would’ve been smart of Heller’s to offer me some sort of apology and just give a full refund. I emailed the owner yesterday to ask for my $18 back and gave him the heads up that I would be submitting this to PoP–no response.

    • Bloomingdude

      I hope you take seriously your responsibility to call the Health Department. The people who run Heller’s are clearly idiots who don’t care about the safety of the food they sell. But you’re also an idiot and pretty selfish IF you make this just about your $18. You have proof that they may be poisoning people, and you should let the authorities know before someone gets really sick.

      • blithe


      • pru


    • Anonymous

      Your need for a pointless apology is really turning me off to your plight dude. You’re certainly entitled to the money for your cake. After that, just move on. It’s a moldy cake. They didn’t run over your dog with a car.

      • Bottom line–Heller’s Bakery is not worth patronizing. They’re rude, they don’t care about their customers, and for years I’ve excused their terrible customer service because they had a decent product. The moldy cake they sold me proved they don’t even care about the health of their customers anymore. This is simply a business that doesn’t give a shit about its customers or its community. I know all of you in Mt. Pleasant feel the same way and have stories of your own to share about this place. I, for one, will never set foot in Heller’s again. If you do, you’re just perpetuating their terrible behavior.

        • anonymous x2

          Dude, you’re going scorched earth over some crappy customer service. Take a deep breath, you’re going to give yourself a coronary. Your stress level is way more dangerous to your health than that cake ever was.

        • I just want to know how you acted in the store. If you were like some of the insane people I have seen yelling and making a scene in the store, I wouldn’t have given you anything extra either.

          Of course, you’ll probably never be honest if you did lose your composure and were out of line, even though you were right.

          • Anonymous

            I know OP personally and can assure you he is one of the kindest, most decent people I know. He’s not the kind of guy looking to pick a fight or just be loud. He’s a sweet, amazing, generous person.

            I think his story is one that many MtP residents can relate to and that’s why we’re seeing so many comments here. His experience with Hellers customer service is not unique to him unfortunately.

      • Annonny

        It’s not unreasonable to ask a buiness that almost poisoned you and your co-workers for an apology.

        It’s unbelievable that any business owner who did so wouldn’t apologize.

  • Andrew (resident of Adams Morgan)

    Based on this posting, I won’t be going back to Heller’s any time soon. Mold in cakes and other baked goods is a serious problem that results from systemic issues with health and safety in a place of preparation. They may not get caught by the random health inspection, but its legitimate to suspect that the rest of their food products may not have been prepared safely. Thanks for passing this along!

  • Anonymous

    WHY on Earth did you post this right before lunch time?

  • Anonymous

    Totally deserves his money back. This place is a dump. Would be a lot cheaper for them overall to give the dude his cash than have it generate this kind of storm/Heller’s hate and potentially interesting the city health inspector…just saying.

  • The OP is not entitled to the extra money for the cookies. It probably would have been a good idea for Heller’s to give it to you anyway, but you’ve presented no evidence that the cookies were also defective in some way. You have a good story as to why your co-workers didn’t want to eat the cookies after seeing the cake (which is why, again, Heller’s should have given you the extra money, no questions asked), but you got what you paid for with the cookies. You did not get what you paid for with the cake.

  • Anonymous

    That’s disgusting. For your trouble they should be begging forgiveness and offering store credit in addition to a refund!

  • Anonymous

    Entitled to cookie reimbursementon grounds of product liability, no. On ground of emotional pain and suffering, yes.

  • Jess

    I’m perplexed that so many commenters assume that the OP is a woman when PoP identifies him as a man. Is complaining about a moldy cake just something that people assume a woman would do?

    • Jess

      Or that only a woman would pick up a cake for an office celebration?

    • shortfuse

      I had the same thought! It seems like some folks who think the OP is being a spoiled brat automatically assume it must be a woman. You know they don’t default to female pronouns all the time.

      • That’s funny, I was an OP for a Dear PoPVille post once, and many commenters simply assumed I was a man due to the content of the post.

  • Jenn in MtP

    YES!!! All the money back…good god!!! They should act as disgusted as everyone else, apologize profusely and OFFER all his money back, they should further offer a free replacement for a future time to regain the lost customer back! These people have long ago lost my business and this only seals it…i do wish someone would by that place and fix all the wrongs!!!!!!!! Horrible!

  • Kate


    For the Heller’s employees who are posting here, this isn’t about what any customer is legally-entitled to, should they almost poison their entire office with your shitty, gross cake. This is about running a business and protecting the reputation of your owner and our neighborhood, frankly. Geezus. Apologize – profusely. Make them a new cake. Refund their money. Stop being a dick to my husband and I when we come in for our morning bagels. You know, what anyone would say if they didn’t work for the offending (dickish) company, posting under fake names here.

    • Why do you keep going to Heller’s if they treat you so poorly? That’s giving them a lot more supportive than commenters here saying it’s a tiny bit ridiculous to feel entitled to an extra refund.

      • *giving support / a lot more supportive. Apparently I couldn’t choose a phrase to go with there.

      • Anonymous

        Reminds me of a quote from Baseketball: “Goddammit! I swear if you guys rip on me 13 or 14 more times… I’m outta here!”

        • PJYinCapRiverFront

          Oh, so you’re the one that saw that film.

    • dcd

      Assuming that people who disagree with you must be biased, because no one could POSSIBLY think any different, is the sign of rampant narcissisim, or sub-par intellect. Perhaps both.

      • classic_six


        Probably both, my friend. FWIW – I am not a Heller’s employee. I have stepped inside once, years ago, never bought anything and never stepped foot in there again.

  • Take the money for the cake, and don’t go back there again. Just because a place is local, family owned, etc. doesn’t mean that it’s perfect or that it deserves your business.

    If it was my store, I would have refunded your entire order and probably given you incentive to come back, like a gift certificate or maybe another tray of cookies for your coworkers. But they chose to just give you back the money for the cake (which really is what you’re entitled to), so you really didn’t come out of the situation all that badly.

  • cce

    I think they should have given him a refund for the whole thing plus a cup
    of coffee to feel better, and a box of fresh donuts for all the co-works who
    couldn’t eat the cake!

    • Anonymous

      AND a free handjob!

  • The deservedness of cookie refund aside – If I returned to a bakery with a moldy cake bought that very day and was told I had to come back again the next day for a refund I doubt I would have resisted the urge to fling/dump the cake right then and there.

    • AP

      Haha…me too! I would have taken pictures of the cake as proof, then dumped it in the middle of the store and stormed out. There’s no way in hell I’d leave with a moldy cake, store it in my house, and come back with it the next day when it’s “convenient” for the store.

      I really wish people would STOP PATRONIZING SUBPAR BUSINESSES! You’re only helping to keep them in business and drag down the neighborhood by setting the bar low.

      • Room 112

        It’s because the OP loves the drama.

        Blow up a picture of the moldy cake and picket outside Heller’s every saturday morning like it was an abortion clinic.

        • Annonny




          • Anonymous

            IT’S A CAKE, NOT A CHOICE!!!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting how OP & supporters continue to mix up entitlement through contract (the purchase) vs. good customer service/PR. It’s a contractual vs. normative delineation that ppl need to remember.

    The purchase contract was not upheld on the bakery’s end b/c it provided a faulty product (disgusting moldy), so the OP should be made whole with the refund. Cookies were not said to be defective, so the bakery upheld its part of the purchase contract, and does not need to compensate.

    Now, on the good customer service end, the bakery definitely should have gone out of it way to win over a customer with a horrible experience. A good business would do this, but is not obligated to do so.

    • Anonymous

      interesting how some people are assuming that other people are saying OP is legally entitled to X when they are saying Heller’s should have done X.

    • PJYinCapRiverFront

      Ugh. Don’t take this the wrong way friend, but I’m really sorry for whatever law school did to you.

  • Anonymous

    This is now the 124th comment on a moldy cake. Talk about a slow Friday.

    • Anonymous

      Ha! Was just thinking how many more comments on this v. the arrest of the attacks. Interesting.

  • CakeLover

    I think it’s pretty simple. Prime example of bad costumer service. OP was entitled on the refund of the cake only. But considering its a “moms an Pop” store they could have offered store credit or a new cake at no charge. I bet they must have been embarrassed too. So if they decided to only give you the bare minimum and their customer service is already bad when there is nothing order, then why are you going back??

    How long do they store their cakes, don’t they label it with a date? Either way, it seems that the owner is ready to move on to a new business and they should evaluate their staff. Mold, REALLY?

    I tried their goods once, but being from Europe I never went back…

    • CakeLover

      sorry small edit….

      “nothing WRONG WITH THE order, then why are you going back?? “

    • anonymous rex

      well, it IS a long drive from Eurpe, so I can see why you haven’t returned.

  • While I don’t think that Heller’s should be required to refund the OP his/her money spent on cookies too, as a matter of good customer service they absolutely should. This story makes me thankful I rarely went there when I lived in MtP.

  • J

    I totally agree the customer should get a full refund. In a place like Heller’s where their business is dependent on word of mouth and neighborhood people, making the customer happy by returning all of the money is totally worth the extra $18. Target and Nordstrom can afford to be strict about returns because they are national chains that have millions of customers. Also, being unhappy about a product from a department store that doesn’t manufacture all of its goods is different than spoiled food and beverages. While I’ve been to Heller’s for bfast on the weekend and they’re doing very well, they can’t afford all of this bad publicity. Especially for something like MOLDY FOOD. I think we’ve become accustomed to mediocre customer service – why is the customer any more entitled about demanding a full refund than “bob” is a bad manager for not being completely humbled and apologetic (and thus handling the customer’s every concern) about selling spoiled food?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Wow – add crappy cakes to the list of “things that get PoPville” humming :-)

    For whatever it’s worth, the OP is entitled to a refund of the portion of the bargain she paid for and did not get. She paid for cookies and a cake. The cake was putrid, the cookies apparently were fine. She’s entitled to a refund for the cake. Whether it would have been the “right thing” to comp the cookies for her embarrassment at presenting a putrid cake to her office is a different question.

    Not my blog but I think if you’re going to run this kind of complaint, there should be independent verification of its veracity and the store should be given an opportunity to respond.

    • It’s funny to me so many people assume I’m a female. I emailed Heller’s yesterday to let them know I was going public with what happened. They have my contact info. Also, there were plenty of witnesses in the store that can verify the story.

      • Marcus Aurelius

        Apologies for the reflexive and sexist “she.”
        My comment about verification was not meant for the OP (you), it was meant for the PoP. This kind of comment on a public board can be damaging to a business and I would think that the owner of the board might to reach out to the business involved to get their take on what happened, or did not happen, just for the sake of fairness.

        • classic_six


          “This kind of comment on a public board can be damaging to a business and I would think that the owner of the board might to reach out to the business involved to get their take on what happened, or did not happen, just for the sake of fairness.”

          I agree with this wholeheartedly.

        • Anon X

          All of the other people saying Hellers sucks can be very damaging too. So can their questionable health code record. However, they arent entitled to a response. Maybe they should think about how they dont get to respond in situations like this the next time they think about treating customers this way.

  • FrankyJ

    Why do people constantly tolerate crappy customer service in DC!? Why go to the local shops that charge twice as much if the employees are going to be just as horrible as any of the chains? Heller’s serves awful food and no charm. To the OP, screw all the people who don’t think you should be demanding all of your money back. If I hadn’t gotten the cookies I would have wanted more than just a refund, and I think you ought to just tell Heller’s it’s fine if they don’t want to refund the cookies and just dispute the charge with your credit card company (which is really the only recourse most consumers have with the kind of crappy service we seem to all expect now). Absolutely a neighborhood/local shop ought to have significantly better customer service and product quality than this.

  • JPG

    The OP should have eaten part of the moldy cake, contracted some illness, and sued Heller’s for everything they’ve got. Lawsuits are the best revenge.

  • Heller’s needs some real competition because right now it has a captive audience that it apparently feels it can treat like sh*t. For example my wife recently went there and got me a bagel with cream cheese and tomato. What I got was a layer of cream cheese so thin that it was barely visible, and two measly “slices” of tomato that were also cut so thin that they may as well have not been there.

    I live only a couple blocks away and I won’t go there there anymore. Just because the establishment has been there for decades doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to try to actually serve its customers well.

  • classic_six

    Dear PoP,

    Curiosity strikes me – what is record for number of comments to a PoP thread since its inception?


  • ilovelulu

    So this has become yelp pop? You ate the cookies, please pay for them and stop whining.

    • What gives?

      +1. Got you money back for the cake. You already got an apology. You ate the cookies. Pay for them. Go home. Done.

      Quit whining.

    • Anonymous

      NO way — you are way off …. obviously you don’t value customer service … I’d hate to be on the wrong end when someone finally screwed you over

  • me too!

    I feel bad for the OP- that is pretty disgusting. I feel comforted, however, that I’m not the only one who has asked to speak to the manager and is repeatedly told the manager isn’t there and then wait for a phone call that never happens. The customer service at Heller’s is HORRIBLE! No one behind the counter can be troubled to look you in the eye, give you a smile, and at least try to make sure the customer is happy. This does it- never again will I go to Heller’s (unless management and all staff changes)!

  • A

    (posted this upthread initially by accident)

    Reading how this went down, I think the part that would have infuriated me the most was how Heller’s handled the situation in general…. not the $18 for the cookies.

    As a customer if I came into a store and said, “Hey I bought this cake from you guys this morning, and it’s moldy” I would the shopkeeper/employee to be seriously embarrassed by such an egregious error, apologize, and offer me a refund immediately, not ask me to come back the next morning (!!)

    I can’t speak for the OP but I don’t think I would have cared bout the $18 or even expected a refund for them if they were fine and I ate them, if I had been treated with respect as a customer.

    Anyway, I’ve never been to Heller’s and now I never will…

  • Anonymous

    The guy deserves ALL his money back. I don’t care if he consumed the cookies or not. Something may have been wrong with them even if it wasn’t apparent to the people eating them. They could have been really old or incorrectly stored before purchase, who knows, anything is possible. And he deserves compensation for the humiliation.

  • Anonymous

    I am in TOTAL agreement with the author of this post …. customer service in local establishments is already at an all time LOW … if Heller’s Bakery does not realize that its the customers who buy their products that pay for their salaries then too bad for Heller’s …. after reading this I’m never going again to this place … and I agree with many other posts … the products actually suck big time. …. I’ve never had a bad experience at Sticky Fingers….

    • anonymous rex

      Except that their goods taste awful.

  • molly ruppert

    The Heller family who started and ran the bakery for so many years would be
    horrified that the bakery that has their name sold something so disgusting.
    I am more amazed about the willingness of so many readers to weigh in.
    PoP – what a following!

  • Annonny

    I know we can get to 200 comments, people. MOLLY!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I so want to like Heller’s because neighborhood bakeries are in short supply…but whenever I go in there, they are out of donuts, there are flies in the case, and the pastries are dry and not tasty. Visiting a really good bakery like Patisserie Poupon or Praline Bakery just drives home the lack of quality at Heller’s.

  • LC

    Put me in the “totally inappropriate post from PoP” camp. I don’t think posting a letter excoriating a local business without knowing if it’s true, without giving the business a chance to respond, and without any sort of editing or analysis is a good way to run a neighborhood blog. But PoP has simply been posting people’s letters and not doing any real work himself for years, so I’m not surprised.

    • BooHiss

      I do not like your comment. I like PoP. Why are you even reading this blog if it’s so unreliable to you, let alone commenting on it? Get over yourself.

  • jcmtp

    (Go to) Heller’s, as it is affectionately called by those of us who know this place should have ponied up the $18. They had MOLD in a cake and made this guy come back TWICE. They should’ve comped his whole order for the disgusting state of that cake.

  • Anonymous

    If this sort of incident/treatment was without precedent, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have garnered the number of comments it has.
    Not sure why PoP has any duty to verify a letter from the OP. Does yelp or any other review site verify their comments? No it’s monitored by the power of crowd sourcing. The people have clearly spoken

  • dgf

    Have you guys seen the most recent health inspection for this place with 8 critical violations, and 13 non-critical violations? They are very lucky they weren’t shut down.

    As to the OP, if i were him, embarrassed in front of my coworkers, forced to carry a smelly cake around all day, told to come back, and when I did come back, still not helped, I’d certainly be ready to let people know what was going on. Heller should be very embarrassed.

  • Anonymous

    It’s about the mold people!! Repulsive, this place should be SHUT DOWN!!

  • Yes, as an entitled money-hungry diva, I’ve already filed a complaint with both the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Health. :)

    • Diskothek

      Buddy, I’m totally with you on this one. … I walked into Heller’s once and (after 15 minutes of waiting) decided their food looked awful, line was too long and service rude. But moldy cake? Yuck…

      For the sake of the neighborhood, I hope they clean up their act. I’d be happy to give them another chance if they demonstrated that they could serve tasty treats with some good coffee, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • DF

      Good for you. As a manager and chef in a DC restaurant (and a pastry school grad), this type of stuff scares the crap out of me.
      I always make an effort to right any wrong with a customer no matter how petty. You wait way too long, comped. I go to Red Rocks frequently because their bartenders are really friendly; I talk with their manager about food and he asks me for tips on menus. I get free drinks or small discounts. It brings people back. If I have a bad experience somewhere, I will tell everyone.

  • Shawgirl

    That same thing happened to me, except the cake was from balduccis in georgetown. Got full refy
    Und. For a great local bakery, try chatman’s d’vine bakery near the convention center. Always fresh and delicious! Though not cheap.

  • JRo64

    Aren’t baked goods retailers supposed to thrown their product out after three days? That cake must have been sitting around for a while for it to grow mold like that. Eeeewwwww.

  • Danny

    I’ve also dealt with terrible service and overpriced, rotten food. I’ve also seen cockroaches all over Heller’s. That’s one place that I’ll never return.

  • Annie

    hellers must have a crazy mold spore problem… i once bought a bag of rolls there one morning and they were covered in mold by the time i got home from work that day.

  • Joel

    No need to yearn for a better bakery option. It already exists. Le Caprice is just a few blocks away. Cut over to 14th, at Newton, and you’re done. Real bakery with astounding quality and decent prices. Plentiful seating inside and out. Smiles and service along with the amazing food and coffee. http://www.lecapricedc.com/

    • Peter

      +1 on Le Caprice
      Can’t wait to try their new outdoor seating.

    • elp

      while anything surely sounds better than heller’s, i’m not sure the microwaved croissant at le caprice is much to speak of. we really need good bread and pastries in dc. perhaps once the cupcake revolution is done, those places could up the ante with some quality baked goods!

      • Peter

        I’m pretty sure that they make most if not all of their baked goods on premise.
        You may not like the croissants, but there’s something to be said for baking everything on premise, in the public eye. I think it speaks to a commitment to freshness and authenticity.

      • Joel

        Please don’t lie about a quality, honest family business. Le Caprice makes its own croissants (they are not “microwaved” as you suggest, unless perhaps you bizarrely asked them to put your’s in a microwave, unlike just about anyone I know who enjoys croissants). Le Caprice’s homemade croissants are, like everything else there, wonderful. The ONLY thing Le Caprice doesn’t make themselves are the bagels, that’s it. Everything else they make. Maybe you missed the GIANT WALLS OF GLASS on their kitchen side, so you can watch them crank out their stuff.

        • elp

          why in hell would i ask for a microwaved croissant? they did me the honor of their own accord. i never mentioned anything about whether they made anything on site or not. so please don’t read any more into it.

          • Joel

            Well clearly you know next to nothing about quality food, if you: a) stood there numb and mute while a bakery cashier commandeered your food order into a microwave (something I seriously doubt happened at Le Caprice or any real French bakery); then, b) decided to judge the quality of a real croissant on the basis of its taste and texture after being zapped (again, probably didn’t happen unless you asked, or the cashier was confusing you for another customer’s instructions). My waistline fights my affection for French pastries, from DC to France. Le Caprice has it nailed. (Not zapped.)

  • Former Hellers Customer

    As a Hellers customer I will now not be going back. It’s one thing to receive bad customer service, I can deal with that and have at Hellers. It’s a whole other to potentially have given my entire office food poisoning or worse because of the un-sanitary conditions of a restaurant. Forget the embarrassment. Someone could have ended up very ill. As for the cookies, you should call it a wash. You ate them. Move on. And never return. And thank you PoP for bringing to attention this issue.

  • Anon

    As a business owner, I not only would have refunded them for the cake and the cookies, I would have offered him a free cake. Yes, I’d lose money, but I’d do anything to make a customer happy to keep that customer’s business, and to keep the customer from talking about the experience to anyone and everyone who would listen (and I’d want to avoid the incident ending up in an online forum like POP).

    Also, sugar is a preservative, so if your cake is molding that means that cake is seriously old. Like, weeks and weeks and weeks old. I’ve seen pie crust mold in a couple days (because crust has no, or very little, sugar), but cake? That’s some really old cake. You really shouldn’t be serving cake that that’s old on principle, let alone because of the health risks.

  • Anonymous

    Seeing these repeat areas on the health inspections-
    13. – STORAGE OF BAKED PRODUCTS CONTACTING UNCLEAN SURFACES (Corrected On Site) 809.1 Food shall only contact surfaces of equipment and utensils that are cleaned as specified in Chapter 19 and sanitized as specified in Chapter 20.


    Being repeated even though they have corrected them on sight should tell you those dirty utensils could contaminate some of the food.

    I have lived in Mt. Pleasant for 17 years and went to Hellers for years, but after it was sold, the service and food quality went downhill after a year or two. I have stopped going in because the customer service is really bad. The owners should be told of this when you are in as sometimes they might seem oblivious to it. I have told the owners and they wont do anything about it, so I stopped going. Shame. Such a neighborhood fixture for years.


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