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Sweet Lady Jane's

Another Chowhounder posted a topic about "Best Dessert Places In Los Angeles" several days ago and I responded with a recommendation for Sweet Lady Jane's. I was surprised at the number of critical responses relating to rudeness of their service which I had experienced as somewhat brusque but never outwardly rude.
After this afternoon I have completely changed my opinion.
I visited Sweet Lady Jane's this evening to pick up a cake. The line was about 6 persons deep. What I witnessed from the three people working the counter (including Jane herself) was nothing less than unprofessional - unacceptable and outwardly and unacceptably rude by any standard.
I don't care how good I think their desserts are (for the record I do believe they put out consistently "good" confections for the Los Angeles area). But the way in which they treated the several customers in front of me (rushing them - not having time to answer questions - and in the case of one customer where they admittedly acknowledged they had made a mistake in his order but then quickly brushed him off) was nothing less than astounding.
I have been to and seen much busier bakeries on the East coast where the line went at least 50 people deep for goods that I and Jane both could only wish she had the capacity to recreate -- and in each of these cases the staffs of those bakeries handled their customers professionally - competently and with respect. I am amazed at how this can continue and can only explain it as a lack of competition in the LA area of competent bakers and bakeries that have like or better goods. But as I don't have much of a sweet tooth and Sussina and Al Gelato are each relatively close by to their location - I will never go to Sweet Lady Jane's again as I would rather frequent and respect those establishments with my patronage instead of going somewhere that may know how to bake but doesn't know the first thing about dealing with their customers in a professional manner.

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  1. Sure their food is good, but I'll never be back because of awful servce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rednyellow

      A few years ago, there weren't that many choices for high end desserts and SLJ was a place we always met for birthdays. Last time I was there, I took my wife for her birthday and she liked the desserts but thought the service was very surly. The people behind the counter sighed every time we asked what something was. Most places have signs that tell you what type of cake/pie it is.

    2. How did they treat you?

      1. I prefer a Susina berry blossom cake to the SLJ triple berry cake any day. I've never been to SLJ, only had it brought to me. But I love Susina's interior. It's a comfortable place to sit, or even to just walk in and look. The staff is lovely, helpful, patient, and professional.

        SLJ's space looks dark and cramped to me; I've never wanted to go in. And after one time when the cake my sister brought over had frosting that smelled, I quote, "like sewage," never again.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Pei

          Maybe someone needs to drop off some cards from Boule, Lark, Jin, and Susina to remind them that they're not the only pastry game in town. I've gotten much better service for tastier desserts in all of those prettier stores.

          Susina especially is the closest competitor in style to Sweet Lady Jane, and in product, service, and atmosphere, they just clobber Sweet Lady Jane. The interior at Sweet Lady Jane definitely needs a revamp; it's got a stale, cramped, dated, very 1982 look about it - not at all like the delightful honey-colored Art Nouveau decor of Susina. The line at Sweet Lady Jane moves at a snail's pace, and the attitude is very dismissive. But I've had such professional treatment from Susina, and they're a joy to work with, producing consistently beautiful, delicious desserts. Sweet Lady Jane is almost like the evil, ugly, misformed Susina - the Bizarro Susina, if you will. "Me am Sweet Lady Jane! Me make flavorless cake and treat you like garbage!"

          1. re: Woolsey

            LOL, well said! Flavorless, dry, overly sugary cake with stiff chemically frosting!

            1. re: Pei

              some people love service with an edge. there is no explaining that sort of sado shopper. but others should avoid it if they find it offensive.

              1. re: peterboy

                I've had/seen and enjoyed service with an edge and that would be Musso & Frank's in Hollywood - Peter Luger's in New York or even the Wiener Circle in Chicago - Sweet Lady Jane's is 100% service with an "assh*le" - and the only way I could describe that kind of shopper is unknowing that there are better bakeries in Los Angeles that also know how to treat their customers and can handle the pressure of running a service oriented business.

                1. re: chowpuppy

                  There's a fine line between laconic (à la Musso's) and rude, and Sweet Lady Jane constantly catapults their bland cakes across said line, right into the faces of their customers.

                  1. re: Woolsey

                    We have just stopped going there. And, with the exception of triple-berry (which is delicious), we don't think SLJ sweets are all that great.

          2. re: Pei

            And I'm another huge fan of Susina's berry blossom cake and of their very fine customer service!

          3. I first discovered Chowhound by Googling to see if anyone else had been treated as badly as I had at SLJ.

            Hoo boy.

            When service is this consistently nasty, it's obviously deliberate. As peterboy says upthread, there's a perverse pleasure some people get from this level of service -- it's as if they think the product must be really, really good if the attitude is that horrible.

            Well, it's not.

            2 Replies
            1. re: maxzook

              I use to love SLJ when i first discovered it 10 years ago. I was put off by the sometimes dimissive service , but I remained firmly convinced that they had the best deserts. Slowly over the last few years I realize that their deserts aren't that great--i.e. sometimes the cake part tastes stale. The only cake that I truly delight in is their triple berry. Now that I have read about Susina I will definitely give it a try.

              1. re: sweetteeth

                The people I know who prefer SLJ's berry cake to Susina's uniformly prefer a more sweet cake, so bear in mind that Susina's will be lighter and fluffier. And if you're ordering a whole cake ahead of time, there's a $5 extra berries option that's totally worth it!

            2. I am blown away that the line was 6 deep. Who are these people? The desserts are mediocre (on a good day) and seriously overpriced, and the service is intolerable. Susina beats it on any day of the week. So does Boule, despite the high prices of its items. Boule's fruit tart puts any item in Sweet Lady Jane's filthy case to shame. How does a place like Sweet Lady Jane stay in business?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Faulkner99

                I personally think it's part location, and part "urban myth" that they are excellent- that's why SLJ's is still around. Haven't they also been featured on multiple Food Network shows? Their location is pretty good, if your in that part of LA anyways. I went there only once, but it was more than enough. I wasen't "wowed" in the least by what SLJ's had to offer, and taste-wise it was confirmed. The dissmissive attitute by the staff reeked of "be thankful your getting to try us!" and really grated on my nerves. Life is too short to eat bad cake, served by snotty waitstaff!

                1. re: Honeychan

                  as i mentioned in the thread before that woolsey links to, they have great PR. every month they're featured in mags like "in style" as the bakery for the celebs and tv shows on food network etc. in fact, they're a small blurb every month in some widely circulated glossy. people read it then the masses blindly follow. then it happens over and over and over...yawn! it's ok with me. they can keep going to SLJ. more for me at susina and boule!

                  1. re: Griller141

                    This is an interesting observation, as I've lived in both NYC and LA and have found customer service in general to be more courteous in LA.