Sunday, June 25, 2006

In your face

A few weeks ago, Tupperware HQ sent out some recipes for a Tupperware Spa party: face packs made in the Happy Chopper, and foot balm made in the Quick Shake. Seemed like a fun idea, and I added the info to my website. Tonight's hostess Laura plumped for a spa party, so I rocked up at the little flat above a shop in North London, and set out my stall.

Tonight is another fundraiser for The Food Chain. Laura is the Chief Executive of the charity, and in her other life she is a Lib Dem councillor. A dozen or so Lib Dems troop in, and we are off.

The face packs are easy and fun to make in the Happy Chopper, and everyone has a turn with it. But I am not sure that a rambunctious Tupperware party is a relaxing enough place to actually apply the masks. We have a go applying the apple, honey and sage mask to Laura's face with the Kings Sceptre, but I think in future I will leave the hostess her face packs to cool in the fridge and apply at her leisure after everyone has gone. For a treat, and to show off the MicroPlus Pitcher, I also melt some chocolate in the microwave and dip some English strawberries in it. We add these to Laura's buffet.

Guests ranged from Margot, a Tupperware fan who chipped in with some excellent selling points, to Pippa, who was was extremely sceptical about pretty much everything. But needless to say everyone including Pippa finds something they wanted in the catalogue. Laura donates her 15% reward to The Food Chain, which came to £60. To this I added another £18 which I raised by raffling to chance to buy items at half price, another reward donated by Laura.

Remember the bath mat I won last week for my sales? I have just noticed this morning that it has a Tupperware logo woven in!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Temple of Tupperware

No parties for the last week or so. Lucy has to cancel her party, which is shame because she lives on a houseboat, and we were going to make cocktails on the deck. Maybe later in the summer.

I deliver a Tupperware order to Sandie, who used to be a Tupperware consultant herself. I catch a glimpse of her kitchen cupboard and ask if I can take a photo. I don't know whether I am impressed or terrified.

Later in the week I take a train out to Leamington Spa, home of Tupperware Central where Riitta has organised some training. As you walk in to the lobby of the very modest offices, there is an set of MiniMaxes in a glass case in front of a window. With the summer sunlight streaming through them like stained glass, I feel like I have entered the temple of Tupperware

Everyone is charming, although I hear my late mother's scolding voice in my head when a milk bottle is placed on the table at coffee time. It is quickly snatched away and replaced with a milk jug! I come home laden with gifts as well as ideas:

  • * a posh bath towel set for being a Top 10 seller during a promotion period last month
  • * some sandwich boxes (no longer in the catalogue) for having dated the most parties of all the consultants there. I decant some pork and leek sausages into one of them when I get home.
  • * a selection of FridgeSmart boxes from a raffle

On the subject of FridgeSmarts, Greg from Sydney is quoted in last week's Space supplement in The Guardian singing their praises. He says how trendy Tupperware is in Sydney these days. So I google and email him, telling him my mission is precisely that -- to make Tupperware cool and desirable to my urban customers. Turns out he is an interior designer who designed his own kitchen, so he knows his stuff, and he gives me some good tips and contacts.

Apparently Sydney has several drag queen Tupperware ladies, who juggle their stage work with selling the plastic, and sometimes combine the two. I am intrigued by Dixie Longate (say the name out loud...), a American drag performer who has an off-Broadway show this summer. Her show is a real Tupperware party, with Dixie telling her tragic white trash tale while she earns her margin. I found some videos of Dixie's parties on YouTube: here she is talking about how she got started:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

At home with Miss Eleganzia Bowle

I volunteer for The Food Chain, a London charity that supports the HIV community through good nutrition. Through their weekly newsletter I have offered to run fund-raising parties. At a charity party, instead of the host earning rewards in free Tupperware, their chosen charity gets the money. The host still gets their half-price allowance.

I have three charity parties coming up in the next few weeks, including a Tupperware Spa experience where I will be preparing face packs and foot scrubs. But my first charity host is Adam. His complexion is flawless already, so we have gone for a chocolate almond cake in his kitchen a short walk from Clapham Common.

It's another baking day, in every sense, but certainly not one for turning the oven on. So our microwave cake is very welcome. Adam's buffet is fantastic, and looks especially good decanted into some of the products I have brought. My Expressions pitcher is filled with Pimms. His colleagues, who all work in the area of IT support for arts organisations, take to the demo with gusto, and by the end I think I had demonstrated everything on the table. I am Tuppered out.

Sales give The Food Chain £22, which Adam's employer has agreed to match. The resulting £44 donation will pay for almost 30 delicious home cooked Sunday lunches delivered direct to service users homes. And Adam got a half-price baking sheet for himself.

After this party, I will never think of one Tupperware product in the same way again. Someone pointed out that "Eleganzia Bowl" sounds like a drag queen!

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's fete

Something different today. My local residents association is hosting a summer fete as part of London's Garden Squares weekend, and I have been asked to run a Tupperware stall. Armed with a vinyl banner I bought online, a Tupperware branded polo shirt in a violent shade of turquoise, all the ingredients for salsa, and my body weight in tortilla chips, I set out my stall in Merrick Square between the bric a brac and the tombola. I have to say, my stall looks sensational. The vine tomatoes from my local Turkish shop sitting in a green Mini-Max bowl look amazingly good. Check out the photos, tasty or what?

My friend Susan joins me to help field enquiries and to fetch me Pimms and samosas when I get a craving. I run a free prize draw for a Fresh n Pure Ice Tray, and give out lots of catalogues. It's hard to tell, but at least 6 people seem really keen to host a demo, and I got most of their contact details on the prize draw tickets, so I will follow those up next week. Many people are intrigued to see me there, it's clear that they are pleased to see that Tupperware is back.

A beautiful afternoon in a London garden square, a funny and vicacious friend on hand to help me and gossip with, a soothing guitarist strumming away to my left, and friendly people who want Tupperware. It's not like work.

The World Tup

Another scorcher in London, and off I go to Highbury to Lorna's World Cup Tupperware Party. I haul my trolley bag up the four stories to Lorna's top floor kitchen, and set everything out. As I expected, most of the guests do indeed want to watch England's first World Cup match which is scheduled to start at 2pm, the same start time as the party. Lorna and I have a chat and we decide to delay the demo until after the final whistle. One guest, Gill, is not amused by the football focus, and sits in the kitchen with a face as long as a gas man's mac. She is also in "difficult lady customer mode" for most of the afternoon, but the next day she follows it up with a very sweet message via my website apologising for her grumpiness.

We make the quiche without pastry in the Princess flexible silicone form, then reconvene in the living room. Towards the end of the cooking, I hear a gentle shriek from the kitchen, where Lorna had gone to check on the quiche. I wander in to find the oven door open and the Princess silicone form face down on the floor, quiche-side first. She had tried to lift the pan out of the oven on its own, without a baking tray, panicked when it flexed, and dropped it!

With staccato whispers we discreetly scoop and flip the quiche back into the tin and back into the oven. Lorna was mortified. I just remember Julia Child's words when she dropped a Thansgiving turkey and put it back on to the platter and served it "Remember, you are the only one in the kitchen". I suggest to Lorna that we display the quiche, but don't actually eat it. She decides that what her guests don't know won't hurt them. Until they read this.

Lorna chooses a Mini-Max as her free item, and for her half-price item, a flower silicone form. I bet she will always use a baking tray with it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bend it like Tupperware

I am happy to report that I had the third highest retail sales of all consultants in the UK in May 2006.

I am less happy to report that I have accidentally scheduled a Tupperware party for the exact 90 minutes of the England vs. Paraguay game on Saturday. What was I thinking? I liaise with the hostess to check that she wants to go ahead, and she does, although she says that she and her guests would like to watch the football too, so we will have it on in the background. This will be interesting. Watch this space.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Working it

A party at someone's home usually lasts two hours or so, with plenty of time for browsing the catalogue and ordering. Today is an experiment: how can I run a lunch-hour party in an office setting without it being rushed or cutting any corners. I am doing a lunch-hour demo at the university where I work part-time, with my colleagues as the guests. Some of them have been to one of my home parties, so they will have helpful feedback on how today compares.

The first useful thing (although it didn't feel that way when she told me) is that Laura, my manager, friend and hostess, almost forgot about the event, and she didn't do the required shopping until the last moment. I do always remind hosts a few days before, but with an office-based party I think I will do it the day before. It makes sense: if you are in the commuting routine, it is easy to forget you have to take groceries to work one day.

I heave the microwave from the communal kitchen into the biggest shared office, and assign one desk for food preparation and another as my shop window. I drop most of my normal intro about the history and background of Tupperware. Instead, after the briefest of introductions, I cut straight to the cooking demo. As we go through the demo I just chuck in the occasional bit of info about Tupperware's significance in history, economics, gender, design, science and sociology! Hey, you really learn something at my demos, you know.

The microwaved chocolate almond cake is becoming a bit of a regular, but that's because it works, it is quick, it wows the crowds as it pops out of the silicone form, and it tastes good. And who doesn't love an unexpected slice of chocolate cake placed on their office desk when it's not even anyone's birthday.

As we cook, and I tell guests about the products we are using, I field questions about some of the other products on the display and pass them around. I also ask the crowd for their own Tupperware anecdotes. It seems to work, and because I know all the guests, I don't mind taking some chances in this trial run.

We started 10 minutes late while everyone fetched their lunch and found a seat, but we still finish with a few minutes to go before the end of the lunch hour. I work here, so I leave the display up until the end of the day. There is time for people to take a catalogue away with them, even take it home, and give me their order tomorrow. For other office parties, I won't have this luxury, so I now need to figure out how to include enough time for people to order, without pressurising them. I certainly need a good half-hour to pack my bag too, so perhaps I will have to assign a full two hours to an office party after all. We'll see.

A big weekend is coming up. Two home parties, one of which is my first charity party in aid of The Food Chain, and a stall at the residents' association summer fete in Merrick Square.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Out in the sun

It's a glorious day in South East London and I am glad I don't need to go very far for today's party. A few weeks ago I got chatting with Canadian ex-pat Jason on the gay community website OUTeverywhere, and I was delighted that he was keen to host a Tupperware party for half a dozen friends. He would have a new bathroom to christen, and his kitchen needed replenishing. I was even more delighted that he lives just 10 minutes down the road.

In the end, Jason's builders took slightly longer than planned (isn't that unusual...) and we had a last-minute change of venue to his friends' place round the corner. Ed and Blake hail from the southern US (of course they do, they are called Ed and Blake) and are stalwarts of their mothers' Tupperware parties back home. Their lovely open plan kitchen-diner with its sunny terrace is the perfect setting for a very gay summertime Tupperware party with built-in cigarette breaks. Their dining table becomes my shop window, and the central island food prep area gives our demonstration the look and feel of a TV cooking show. Although it was definitely more Fanny Cradock than Jamie Oliver.

Jason was having fun with his retro buffet, complete with a cheese-and-pineapple hedgehog and some curried tinned pears which are his mother's speciality. They are astonishingly good. He fills my green Expressions Tip Top pitcher with pina colada, and one guest David takes the theme to its limit by bringing bottles of Black Tower, Blue Nun and Mateus Rose. All the guests muck in to make a chocolate almond cake in the microwave. Grown men, and strapping ones at that, coo and purr at the precision of the silicone spatula. I had promised Jason I would complete the picture with an authentic 1970s Tupperware cake server that I had picked up on eBay, and it is a big hit.

But it isn't just a campy nostalgia fest. Jason, Ed, Blake and guests have fun with their memories of Tupperware, but they also really engage with the fantastic new products. Blake pounces on the Expressions Round Server with its carrying handle: he is a big pie-maker but complains that he can never take his pies anywhere. The Pina Colada must have hit the spot too because almost everyone bought an Expressions pitcher for their own home cocktails. Most peoples' orders stretched over two separate order forms and when I calculate their rewards, my joint hosts come out with over £100 worth of free Tupperware.

I leave with the sun still blazing and the Tuppered-out guests lazing shirts-off on the terrace. Giddy with the sun, I accidentally leave my tablecloth behind. I will collect it from Jason when I drop the orders next week. Although looking at the order forms in front of me now, I may need to hire a truck.