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Mr E orders a cake for his wife's birthday at a bakery on his street. On the bakery's window, a sign is up that says, 'Today's special offer! Any customised cake for £50!' Mr E orders a customised cake for £50 at 1 p.m., and he is told by the baker that he will complete his order by around 3:30 p.m., and that he should pay the cost when he returns. Mr E is given a ticket with the approximate time and his order, and he is instructed to bring this ticket with him when he returns to collect his order; Mr E takes the ticket back home with him. After Mr E leaves with his ticket, the baker begins making Mr E's order.

At 3:20 p.m. on that same day, Mr E's friend contacts him and shows him a picture of a cake for £45. He thinks it is vastly superior to his order. So, at 3:30 p.m., Mr E calls up the baker, and the baker has prepared his order and is now waiting for him to come and collect it. But Mr E, over the phone, says he will not pay and that he doesn’t want the cake anymore. The baker claims that Mr E verbally entered into the contract at the bakery earlier that day, after Mr E made his order and received the ticket, which was before the baker began making his order. Mr E disagrees.

Is Mr E in breach of contract?

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    Sure Mr E is in breach. Where are your doubts even coming from?
    – Greendrake
    Jan 24 at 1:21
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    the very existence of the ticket is the nail in the coffin.
    – Trish
    Jan 24 at 1:23
  • @Greendrake Looking back at this question, I'm honestly not sure. I guess this is what happens when a layperson asks too many questions. I had seen a mooting problem similar to this where the trial court had found in favour of someone in a position similar to Mr E, which now seems a little confusing.
    – Tolga
    Jan 24 at 1:57
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    @Tolga Without knowing the details of the case, it is impossible to speculate. Why not ask about it?
    – user40839
    Jan 24 at 11:41
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    Is this straight out of some book called "How to be an a$$hole 101"? Mr. E better not show his face in that bakery again. If the baker does not know the whereabouts of Mr. E then there isn't much of a way that the baker could make him pay. The baker can rightfully shun Mr. E by plastering what a heinous moron Mr. E is in his shop. At best, Mr. E could have checked if he can cancel the order before the baker got started so like 1:15.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 24 at 16:16

1 Answer 1

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The contract was made the moment Mr. E asked for the cake, the baker agreed to make it, and (while or shortly before) the baker created a receipt ("ticket") at around 1 PM. The receipt is the evidence of what was agreed upon and likely contained the descriptor and the estimated finish time of the cake as well as the price1.

This means that the contract is not just verbal, it is in writing. The contract stipulated:

  • Mr. E will, at 3:30 PM, pay £50 to the baker as specified on the receipt.
  • The Baker will, at 3:30 PM, give a custom cake to Mr. E as described on the receipt.

The contract is enforceable, so even if Mr. E does no longer want the cake, it is his (to dispose of in any way he wants) and he owes the baker £50.

So if Mr. E does not pay, he is in breach of contract.


1 - The contract was formed by the meeting of the minds the moment both agreed on the price and service. This can be during or while putting it in writing on the ticket, which merely is the evidence of it, or shortly after said formation as JBentley does note. It is not material that neither party did sign: Mr. E got a copy of the ticket and the baker got a copy (so they know what to make)

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    Note that strictly speaking the contract was made the moment Mr E. asked for the cake and the baker agreed. The receipt, (assuming it was issued afterwards), merely acts as evidence of a contract which already existed.
    – JBentley
    Jan 24 at 9:57
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    @JBentley it is unclear from OP when the ticket/receipt was made, and from my experience in bakeries, those tend to write down the text for cakes as one talks about what is wanted. In any case, the evidence of the contract was put into writing almost contemporarily to the verbal agreement, at worst few minutes apart.
    – Trish
    Jan 24 at 10:39
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    @MSalters I would still stand by my original assertion. Consider the scenario where the baker refuses to fix the the typo; or he says he will print a new receipt and mail it to the customer but then never does. Consider also that it wasn't even necessary for the baker to give any receipt at all; the customer's refusal to "accept" an optional receipt with a typo cannot have any bearing on the matter. Agreed that in this case it is largely academic (but with the caveat that timing issues can be quite critical in other scenarios (e.g. purported acceptance close in time to withdrawn offer)).
    – JBentley
    Jan 24 at 12:31
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    In the US at least, the baker relied on Mr. E to fulfill his part of the bargain, and put forth his materials and work to make the cake. He is entitled to reliance damages (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliance_damages). If I recall, this is an old principle of contract law that also applies in England.
    – Wastrel
    Jan 24 at 13:58
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    @will Damages is not the only remedy for breach of contract. Consider e.g. specific performance in the case of sale of land. But even with damages, there's a distinction between the timing of contract formation itself and the timing of when contract formation is disputed. E.g. contrast a baker who is told by the customer that they repudiate the contract immediately upon receipt of the faulty receipt vs. the baker who is told the same after they have already baked and delivered the cake. In the latter, the question of whether or not a contract exists is material.
    – JBentley
    Jan 24 at 14:21

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