Saturday, August 26, 2006

Market forces

The new Autumn/Winter catalogue will be launched in a couple of weeks' time. I still have a big pile of the Spring/Summer edition, so today I start to distribute them in my neighbourhood with my contact details stamped on the back, and hopefully I will drum up some local parties.

First I leave a small pile of catalogues in a rack by the mailboxes at Metro Central Heights, a huge residential block down the road. Then I take half a dozen more to Borough Market, a real foodie hang-out which is only a 15 minute walk from my house. I was just going to just leave them on a random bench, but while shopping I spy a perfect spot on this vegetable stall and arrange the catalogues between the mushrooms and the asparagus.

I check at the Paul Smith shop at Borough Market. As I wrote a few posts ago, they are selling Tupperware Mini-Maxes for an eye-watering £12 each. I have now sent two friendly emails to the buyer at Paul Smith, offering to run a party if they want one, but they haven't replied. I don't quite have the brass neck to leave some catalogues in the shop, but it occurs to me that Tupperware Head Office would not be happy that they are selling Tupperware in their shop at all, let alone at such a mark-up. I might just have to tip them off.

I stumble across this US television ad for Tupperware, from sometime in the 1960s. Given the nature of the free gifts, there is absolutely no ambiguity that all guests and hosts were expected to be women:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Home boy

Redcar, the town where I grew up, is used to invasions. Geordies descend for the races, pensioners pile off coaches for a picnic on the beach, and hordes of local youngsters fill the pubs every Friday night done up to the nines. This week, Hollywood is in town. A stretch of the sea front has been dressed as 1940s Dunkirk for the new film version of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement. Hundreds of locals have had 1940s haircuts for £50 a day as extras. Then as if it couldn't get any more exciting, I hop on the train from London Kings Cross and rock up at Redcar East station with my Tupperware kit bag for some hometown parties.

Sadly, my friend Nicky has to cancel, but my sister Lois has friends and family coming over to hang out in her new kitchen and see what I am up to with this Tupperware lark. My cousin Emma, Auntie Sue and grandma Benny form a 3-generations tableau in one corner, all looking fantastic and years younger than 30, 60 and 90. My brother Martyn brings his daughter Devan who falls asleep on the couch before I even start. My nephews Oliver and Charlie are too busy skateboarding to come along, but Oliver poses for a photo with his mum and four Mini Maxes (above).

Given that I travel by train, I decide to leave a lot of kit behind in London. But the guests keep me busy with questions and repeat demonstrations as we make fresh salsa in the Quick Chef. The Happy Chopper is today's big hit, I sell four of them. Lois is rewarded with £60 worth of Tupperware for just over £20, so she is very pleased with that.

Auntie Sue is keen for her own party some time soon, so I agree to talk dates and come back up to Redcar before long. Nicky wants to reschedule her postponed party too, so it will definitely be worth my while to bring back the Tupperware roadshow in the next month or so.

There are two weeks to go until the Jubilee meeting in Luton, when all the UK TUpperware consultants will be getting together. There are no monthly league tables for July and August, just one combined league table for the whole summer which will be announced at the Jubilee. I am doing OK I think, but have had a quiet few weeks. I might scrape into the Top 10, who knows?

I come back to London to a very alarming voice mail message from my manager Janet. She wants me to take the role of Prince MiniMax in some sort of Tupperware panto. We'll see...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tupperware takes the stage

I have often heard Baylen Leonard's Tennessee tones on BBC London 94.9, so it was a nice surprise when he emailed me asking for a Tupperware party. And even better that he only lives 5 minutes from me. With not so far to drag the kit, I decide to take absolutely everything: two big bags of Tupperware. And just as Baylen had promised, he did indeed have a stage in his living room. Centre stage and spot-lit, my Tupperware has never looked so glamorous (photo above).

Baylen's is an ideal Tupperware party household. His aunt was a Tupperware lady in Tennessee, so it's in the blood. He has a German flatmate (they love Tupperware, that lot), and his mostly American guests are very funny, loud, enthusastic and camp. The Happy Chopper and Fresh and Pure Ice Tray are especially well received. Baylen is rewarded with a free pair of Stuffables and a half-price Happy Chopper.

My gay and lesbian customers have always been really good to me, so I agree instantly when guest Tim invites me to run a Tupperware stall at an Autumn Fayre run by the House of Homosexual Culture on Saturday 30 September. This event will be "a celebration of the domestic arts, exploring our hidden identities as “homo home-makers” and asking just why we're so damn good at these things". Looking forward to this one.

During the week I had a message via my website from Nicole, a German Tupperware Lady who is passing through London this week. She wants to see a UK catalogue so I agreed to meet her and her husband Michael for coffee on Saturday morning and to exchange catalogues. Our waitress snags one of catalogues for herself ("My mother was a Tupperware Lady at home in Brazil") but we still manage an exchange. I am totally amazed to learn that there is a Tupperware consultant per 1000 people in Germany. For 5 million Londoners, there are probably about six of us at most, with only me covering central London. And still I can't manage to recruit anyone to work with me!

And Tupperware is about to hit the road. I am visting family and friends in the North East, and I have agreed to run a seaside Tupperware party for my sister next weekend in Redcar. See you there.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Paul Smith in £12 Mini-Max rip-off scandal

When they hear about my fancy summer holiday in Mauritius, people say "Wow, you must be doing really well with Tupperware". It's true that I am doing pretty well, but not that well: in fact I won the holiday in a competition at Harrods last summer.

It is sometimes a pain using public transport to get myself and my kit bag to parties. So I am pleased to discover a direct train from my local train station, Elephant and Castle, to Mill Hill Broadway where Stephanie has requested a Tupperware party with her friends. On the phone, Stephanie told me it will be a group of pensioners, and I fear the whiff and dead hand of the nursing home. On the contrary, I arrive to find a feisty, noisy and vivacious bunch who jostle each other to get into Stephanie's conservatory to admire my display table.

Two weeks after every party, I have to haul the orders back to the host's place. Every Thursday, the Tupperware orders from the week before last are delivered to me from France. I work on Thursdays at the university, and there is no-one back at home to sign for the delivery, so it all arrives at my office. I stay back after work to unpack the huge cardboard boxes, sort everything into separate parties and individual orders, and pack them into Tupperware carrier bags ready to deliver to the host. The products are light, and for most parties, I can get everything into several oversized heavy-duty carrier bags from Aldi and Lidl, which I can easily shlep onto the train, bus or tube. For bigger parties, or if several people have ordered large items like a Salad Spinner, Bread Box or Cutting Board, I have to take a taxi.

On Friday this week I deliver all the orders from Daniel's party (see Hot Hot Hot below). This is definitely a taxi job: three large cardboard boxes, all brim-full, and one of them just containing Daniel's free and half-price rewards. I use a local cab firm and my driver can neither drive, speak English nor even find London Bridge, never mind the small side-street off Borough Market where Daniel's studio is. At one point we are stopped by the police when he tries to do a U-turn in rush hour traffic.

Daniel has reconvened a follow-up party for guests to drop in for a drink and to collect their Tupperware. I hand out the bagged-up and labelled orders, and adult men and women clap and rip open their packages. I feel like a 21st century Tupperware Santa Claus.

Daniel tells me that he has noticed that the Borough Market branch of Paul Smith, round the corner from his office, is selling Mini-Maxes. This seems odd, surely he is mistaken. I pop round to check. As well as his own range of clothing and accessories, Paul Smith's shops also sell an eccentric selection of toys and other products that have caught the designer's eye, or "products that Paul has found on his travels" as the website says. Sure enough, there are two Mini-Maxes there, the smallest 700ml size but in orange and green, not the yellow that I sell:

I over-casually quiz the chap behind the counter about them, wondering out loud if people ever ask about other colours and sizes. He admits that no-one has ever bought one, and at a whopping £12 (twice the catalogue price) I am not surprised. I glean that all Paul Smith shops have the same non-Paul Smith products, so it is someone centrally, maybe Paul Smith himself, who chose to display the Mini-Maxes. I leave a couple of catalogues and my contact details, in case the Tupperware fan in question wants a party.