Friday, July 21, 2006

Hot hot hot

It's the hottest July day ever, and what am I doing? Dragging my trolley bag down a cobbled street by London Bridge to a warehouse above the Clink Prison Museum. Then I haul it up five stories (there's no lift) through a warren of studio spaces to Daniel's office for tonight's party. Daniel came to my stall at the Merrick Square fete a few weeks ago and got the Tupperware bug. Tonight, 15 or so of his friends, colleagues and neighbours come to prepare Salsa and Chocolate Almond Cake.

A pattern is emerging at my parties. Hosts and guests often start amused (and a bit bemused) by the fact that they find themselves at a Tupperware party. There is often some good-natured sending up of the products, the party format, even my good self. Tonight sure enough there is a jokey "oooh" when I collapse a Mini-Max, and some fits of giggles when I enthuse about a FridgeSmart. But if I do my job properly, bit by bit the enthusiasm slowly becomes genuine. Someone will start making notes on their order form. Someone else will say spontaneously "Now that is good" and everyone will laugh, but secretly agree. I do milk it a bit too of course: I separate the two parts of the scissors with a bit of drama, and I ask people to describe the pleasing feeling of the silicone spatula leaving no trace of cake mix in the bowl.

Daniel's guests do him proud. With his free and half-price products, he ends up with £125 worth of Tupperware for £30. Even he is shocked at how well he has done.
I manage to accommodate some off-menu Mini-Max requests: delivery takes two weeks, but Amanda needs two Mini-Maxes tomorrow (fine, I have a couple of extras at home), and Gary wants his sent to Costa Rica, where he will be living for a while. Anneliese tells me that a friend has already booked a party with me next week. This turns out to be the American radio presenter I spoke to the other day. He mentioned that he has a stage in his living room "if I need it".

It's only a short bus ride home, but the long day, the heat and my eagerness to be home kick in, and I jump off the bus without my kit bag of Tupperware! The 343 bus disappears round Elephant and Castle with my kit in it. I stay calm(ish) and ring London Transport travel info. They connect me with the relevant bus garage, who radio the driver. I am instructed to meet the bus at a specific stop in 45 minutes' time. I am happy to report that I am now reunited with my well travelled kit bag.

I am off to Mauritius with my sister for a week. See you in August for more Tupperware.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From Old Kent Road to Mayfair

I live on the cheapest street on the Monopoly board. Today's party is on the most expensive one. Mayfair is far too posh for public transport, so I have to trundle my trolley bag along Piccadilly, dodging the crowds, and turn into Park Lane until I reach the bijou offices of Hanson Capital, a privately owned merchant banking firm. Annelise is PA to the Chairman, and a fellow volunteer for The Food Chain, and she has invited me to run an after-work party with her colleagues. It is another sweltering day in London, but the impeccably groomed young women look as cool as cucumbers in a FridgeSmart.

It might be my poshest location, but Heavens above, the communal kitchen microwave looks like something from Bruce Forsyth's conveyor belt in 1977. I have to adjust the power and the timing just to melt the chocolate for the Chocolate Almond Cake, let alone to cook the thing. But needless to say, the recipe and the flower silicone form are as reliable as ever.

The guests throw themselves into the Tupperware buying with gusto and good humour, and even the boss's delightful Filipina housekeeper has been chauffered in to equip her kitchen with whatever she wants. This turns out to be my highest spending party yet which, after an additional contribution from guest Jenny, and Gift Aid from the Chancellor, nets a donation of £220 to The Food Chain. What's more, three of the guests get to add a half-price item of their choice to their order, saving around £50 between them. If I add in Adam's and Laura's recent fundraising parties, my parties have generated around £320 for the charity, and as a volunteer I know this goes a very long way and is much appreciated.

During a quick visit to Blackpool at the weekend, I meet up with Marc, the only other Tupperware Man in the country. Younger than me, but an old pro when it comes to Tupperware (and pretty much everything else), Marc gives me the Tupper-gossip in his back garden over ice tea in Expressions tumblers. Sadly, it looks like holiday plans will prevent Marc from attending the Jubilee in September. This is the first gathering of Tupperware consultants from all over the country since the company relaunched. I will be the only man there, and will of course be reporting on it for my blog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Greek chic

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the terrible suicide bombings in London. Some reports at the time mentioned that the explosives were in a Tupperware-style box: it was actually a large empty plastic rice container. Memories of that awful day were on my mind as I haul two holdalls of Tupperware home onto the 25 bus (orders are delivered to my office, not my home). A year earlier, on that very bus I had been caught up in the chaos around the explosion at Aldgate station on my way to work. I was turfed off the bus right by the station, just minutes after the explosion. We passengers all had to hurry of the cordoned-off area, not knowing the seriousness of what had happened under the street.

I work in an area of London with a high Muslim population, and it occurs to me that sadly if it was one of the many young Muslim men on my bus who were carting large, mysterious and curiously light holdalls, he would attract some suspicious looks. I am happy and proud to live in a this diverse city, to where people from all over the world come to be themselves and live good lives.

Back to my parties. Last Sunday I take a short bus ride to Rotherhithe to Lia's house by the Thames. There is a cool breeze off the river, and at one point in the middle of my demo, a pirate galleon sails by, advertising the film Pirates of the Caribbean. It is the hottest day of the year so far. London is subdued and sluggish, and so am I. Put it down to the heat and England crashing out of the World Cup on penalties.

Lia and her two guests are vivacious young Greek women. Lia is a big Tupperware fan, and wants to se what's new. She reckons she already has 75% of what's in the current catalogue. It means I can leave some things in my kit bag and ask Lia to demonstrate her personal items. There is lots of laughter and chat (in English and in Greek) and nice snacks. All the guests' mothers back in Greece swear by their "Tuppers", especially the Quick Shake and the Jel Ring.

It's a small but perfectly formed party, and I feel sure I will see the ladies again. Sophia is taking a catalogue home and will make a further order after payday. Lia is a Tupperware fanatic of old, and will be reqesting the new catalogue in September. Theodora is throwing a housewarming party soon, and is keen to earn some free and half-price Tupperware by hosting a party. And I seem to have passed some sort of test, because she adds "when one Greek likes you, they all like you".

We make the Quiche without Pastry. I stick with broccoli and stilton but feel pleased with myself when my suggestion of using roast peppers and feta meets with a Greek chorus of approval.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

(Fridge) Smarty pants

Another training session at Tupperware HQ this week. One of the challenges I set myself is to sell more FridgeSmarts, the vegetable storage boxes with air vents. I have rarely sold one, probably because I haven't really used it much myself. The valve system seems a bit elaborate to me, and I think my demo was therefore a bit half-hearted. Greg Natale's recommendation in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago fired me up, and I put some carrots in a FridgeSmart in my fridge to test it out.

Wednesday night I host my Book Club at my house. Julie arrives a bit early while I was making the snacks, spots the FridgeSmart in my fridge and asks about it. We test a carrot (nearly 3 weeks old) and it is fresh, not sweaty, and snaps rather than bends. Success!

As it happens Julie is hosting a party the next night at her home in west London. My hands-on experience of the FridgeSmart plus Julie's personal testimony and visual aids (some week-old flabby carrots from her own fridge) does the trick: never mind selling one, I sell eight!

A few weeks ago I met Collette, a charming young South African woman who is juggling Tupperware with a full-time job as a social worker. Collette is looking for some inspiration and asked if she could come to one of my parties. She lives very close to Julie, so comes along tonight. The deal is that Collette helps out by doing some of the demo, and she does her own recipe. I supervise the Quiche without Pastry, and Collete supervises Raspberry Dreams. By the way, I have now added these and all my party recipes to my website.

It's a long leisurely party, and Julie donates her £50 reward to St Christopher's Hospice, a charity which is close to her heart. She takes three half-price items for herself, so she still gets nearly £60 worth of Tupperware for £30.

I receive a sweet email from Dixie Longate, the drag queen Tupperware lady in California (see the video two posts ago), who tells me she is currently the No. 2 seller in the US, having shifted $30,000 worth of Tupperware last month! She is taking Dixie's Tupperware Party Off-Broadway this autumn, so I might try to arrange a trip to visit friends in New York at the same time.