Money Mindset

Business and Money Trauma Is Real. Don’t Let One Bad Experience Stunt Your Future Wealth.

Trust yourself to deal with the next aggro customer like a champ

Mariko O. Gordon, CFA
4 min readMar 27

I grew up in Wahiawa, a dusty, sun-baked old plantation town in the middle of Oʻahu. It felt like the epicenter of the American war machine, as it was surrounded by an air force base (Wheeler), an army base (Schofield), and a naval communications center. I lived up in the heights, and my elementary school abutted army training grounds.

The soundtrack of my childhood was more Apocalypse Now than Mr. Rogers.

Because of the bases, Wahiawa also had more fast food joints, strip clubs, and cheap bars per capita than any other town on the island. But my latest visit has shown me it’s changing. Tucked in between the vape and pawn shops are wooden surfboard makers and brewers of mead (honey wine).

Mead!!! 🤯

Some things haven’t changed though, like Kilani Bakery, home of the legendary guava chiffon cake since 1959. Chiffon cakes were stacked high, and I saw no signs of creeping hipsterism. My teenage years flashed before me — hip huggers and tube tops, Bonne Bell lip gloss, embossed saddle bag leather purses, and the scent of patchouli and ylang-ylang.

But something was not right — Kilani’s aloha vibe was gone.

Signs bristling with exclamation marks that read “No Receipt. No Refund!!!” were plastered everywhere.

Who the hell tries to return baked goods, receipt or no receipt?

While was trying to choose between haupia (coconut pudding) and orange chiffon I just got too curious not to find out. I couldn’t picture a scenario that required an explicit return policy and such vigilance about receipts. “Do people changing their minds about the danish they just bought really try to get their money back?” I asked.

But something was not right — Kilani’s aloha vibe was gone.

Here’s what I learned.

A customer would buy pastries then return them 3 days later, claiming they were stale. After 3 successful stale pastry scams…



Mariko O. Gordon, CFA

Built $2.5B money mgmt biz from scratch. Coaching badass women to build & love their businesses, manage their finances, and make sure the thrill is never gone.