Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Man with Two Lunches

I wouldn't bother selling Tupperware if I didn't like it and use it myself. And my own Tupperware is getting a particularly good work-out right now because I have decided I need to lose some weight. I have joined my local Slimming World class, and I want to lose about 20 pounds. I know from previous experience that the weekly weigh-in, the food diary, and not least the money I have to pay, are good for concentrating my mind on shedding a stone and a half.

So my fridge is rammed with vegetables in FridgeSmarts, and healthy leftovers in Stuffables. And I haul my healthy lunch to work in Mini-Maxes most days. Today I have an especially impressive stack (see photo) of five separate containers. I am not Mr Two Lunches though -- half of it is my dinner for later: I am going straight from work to see When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee's 4-hour documentary about Hurricane Katrina, and I will definitely need a good feed during the interval.

Those titchy little containers on top of the pile are fantastic. "Midgets" they are called. Not very politically correct, and unfortunately they are not in the current UK catalogue either. I snap them up on eBay whenever I see them. They are great for little gifts and prizes at parties, but right now I am using them myself to take salad dressing for my lunches, and my 28g grated cheese allowance. They are also perfect for measuring out 28g of porridge oats for my breakfast. A customer last Spring wanted some to store the reeds for her bassoon.

I run a party at the weekend for a sweet ex-pat Kiwi family. If I relied on UK customers, I would sell nothing. Daughter Jessica (right), 8, steals the show, and she is a girl not afraid to mix her looks. Today she is working a flamenco dress, jewelled tiara and sparkly Princess heels.

US Tupperware has just launched Tupper Tube, where consultants can upload videos of themselves demonstrating Tupperware products, with the best one every week winning $1000. This week it is Modular Mates, or what we call Space Savers in the UK, and next week's the food preperation range. Aunt Barbara (see last post) has duly uploaded her videos. I will probably borrow her observation that the no-slip rubber base of the Mix N Stor is great for stopping it from sliding around on her hostesses' faux-granite kitchen counters.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Don't mess with my Tupperware

Here's a couple of funny videos that have appeared on YouTube recently. First of all, Aunt Barbara, who is a real Tupperware consultant in Long Island, New York, demonstrates Modular Mates, which are what they call Space Savers in the US:

And don't go messing with someone's Tupperware -- you might end up on Judge Judy:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

All the world under one Tupperware

I am just back from lunch with my friend Peter at the Oriental City in North West London. "All Asia under one roof", they say, and the whole place is in the style of shopping malls you see in the Far East. The Food Court has food stalls selling Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian and Indian food. Most of the customers are London-based folk from these countries.

There is a Japanese pound-shop type place with a whole wall of food storage containers, which Peter points out to me with an eyebrow raised, saying "The competition!". I ignore him and add a stack of Tupperware catalogues to the mall's free newspaper area, but I don't leave one in the pound shop, that would be cheeky. I think the catalogues were the only thing in English. You never know, I may have to recruit some people to run bilingual Tupperware parties for me.

Next month New Piccadilly cafe in the West End of London closes its doors for the last time. This place is a museum of 1950s cafe style, with a menu to match ("tunny fish"), and it has been threatened with closure for as long as I have lived in London, which is nearly 20 years. I go to the New Piccadilly this week for one last time with my friend Paul, and leave a few catalogues by a pot plant, under a Sound of Music poster.

The British do seem curiously resistant to taking Tupperware back into their hearts, and it's orders from ex-pats that are keeping me in business at the moment, especially Antipodeans. Steph's Mum is visiting from Australia and orders her some key Tupperware pieces for her London flat. I deliver them to an intriguing Mayfair mansion block round the back of Park Lane. I am dying to see what it's like inside, but sadly I don't get past the doorman because Steph has taken the baby for a walk, and is not home to take delivery.

Another hostess, Michelle, is a Kiwi who works right next to St Paul's Cathedral, and since all her guests were colleagues, I can deliver all the orders straight to the office. It's a lovely London day, and now St Paul's has had a facelift, it's a magnificent setting for a delivery. Another regular customer, Ivana, who is originally from the Czech Republic, has ordered a couple of items that I hand-deliver to her new office in Holborn rather that post to her as usual, so I get to meet her in person for the first time. Finally, this weekend I will also need to drop off a few items to the Shell Centre on London's South Bank, where Collette works. She misses her Quick Shakes from back home in South Africa.

I offer the organiser of the 2007 British Cheese Awards a CheeseSmart so she can see how good they are. She says yes she would love one. A few days later I pack it in a box with the contents of my shredder to protect it, and give her a quick call to confirm its on its way. The person I speak with puts me straight through, but the organiser herself then tells me off for bothering her when I could have spoken to her PA. She is so shirty with me that I unpack the CheeseSmart and decide she can whistle for it. Politeness costs nothing, but rudeness has cost her a CheeseSmart.

Still no parties in the diary, but at least I am not the only one having a lean time. White trash diva Dixie Longate (say it out loud) posted this message on her MySpace page:

"Hey Hookers, it’s Me, Dixie Longate. I’m in a mess of a pickle. As many of you know, I have been doing my show, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” off-Broadway. It has been great, but the New Yorkers don’t seem to be buying the Tupperware like they should, so I have fallen from my position as #1 Personal Seller of Tupperware in the U.S.A. With the end of the fiscal year for Tupperware being this Friday, July 29th, I need your help desperately. If everyone I know just buys one piece of Tupperware, then I may be able to wrap this thing up. I am currently $17,288 behind the #1 Seller. Well, that is only 910 BBQ Specials or 494 FridgeSmart Specials! So, go to my site and place your orders now. Tell your friends; and make sure they tell their friends! Please help a sister out. You know I would do it for you. And I probably have! XOXO Dixie."

And what is it with drag queen Tupperware ladies? Pam Teflon is now snapping at Dixie's (high) heels:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dutch courage

A party this week for the staff at the Royal Netherlands Embassy near Hyde Park, and I am thinking of it as my last party for a while. On the outside, 38 Hyde Park Gate is your standard posh Kensington building, but on the inside it is a little piece of Holland: relaxed, airy and full of signs in Dutch, all lower case and Helvetica font. The hostesses are Daphne (the Cultural Attache) and Diana, both with impeccable English, wry humour and a tall blonde understated European glamour. There are Warhol-ish prints of the King and Queen on the walls, which perfectly capture the mix of laid-back and formal that you would expect from a Dutch Embassy.

The party takes place in the staff kitchen and is great fun, although I am hoarse by the end from talking over the chatting guests. The end of the working day is more of a chance for Embassy staff to chat over wine and nibbles than to listen to some bloke babbling on about Tupperware. But the orders come flying in. One lady confides hilariously that her ex-husband nabbed all the Tupperware during their recent divorce, and she has come along to restock. She gets the full range of Space Savers for cupboard storage. The FridgeSmarts (for salads) and CheeseSmarts (for cheese) are very popular, as my friend Caspar had predicted of his countrywomen when I rang him last week and asked for tips on which products to showcase at a Dutch party.

You never know who will be a fan of Tupperware. This week I had a message via my MySpace page from singer Elkie Brooks.

My friends Laura and Claire set off for their 6-month world trip this week. I took a similar trip 5 years ago, and wrote about it for The Guardian, so I gave them some things I wish I had taken with me: clothes pegs, soup cubes, business cards and a few chocolates to hide in your backpack then suddenly remember and enjoy when times are hard. I packed it all into handy Tupperware oysters, and I am hoping they might send me a few photos of the oysters in action, for me to include here on my blog.

I was in hospital last week for an arthroscopy on my left knee. I am all strapped up, and stuck at home for a little while. I can sort of get around, but slowly and awkwardly. Even so, because the Dutch Embassy is pretty much door-to-door on the 360 bus, I decide to do the delivery myself, knee permitting, rather than asking my nice neighbour Math to do it for me. I am glad I went back myself, because the security guard has been waiting to talk to me ever since he heard there was a Tupperware party, and he asks for six catalogues for his wife and her friends. As I wait for the bus back to Elephant and Castle from Hyde Park, I notice that the house opposite has a blue plaque saying Benny Hill lived there from 1960 to 1986. I shove a few catalogues through the door.

Not sure what the future holds for me Tupper-wise. Without my website I get very few enquiries now, and those referrals I do get via Head Office tend to be people who just want a catalogue or a couple of specific items. As I said in an email to previous customers this week, I am happy to take orders and run parties for them, but given that my main source of new leads has been shut down, and since I have decided to work full-time for the next months, I think that will be the extent of my business for the time being.

But who knows. I will keep my options open.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's raining, it's pouring

I am always interested to see Tupperware's regional variations. When I deliver Lena's order this week, she shows me her Lebanese Tupperware olive keeper. It is a sort of reverse-cafetiere, with a plunger that lifts the olives out of the brine that they are stored in. There is also a little pair of tongs built in, with which to select your olive once you have raised the plunger. I know there is a similar product in New Zealand for storing the pickled beetroot so beloved in that country, because Kiwi Londoners have asked me if I can get one for them (I can't). Anyway, Lena says she is moving this summer and wants to convene some of her expat Lebanese friends for a Tupperware party when she does. Meanwhile she is feeding her habit with occasional one-off orders.

The Heavens open moments after I step off the bus on my way to Glenn's Tupperware BBQ in North London. I have to shelter under a tree round the corner from his house, a river of rainwater coursing down the road towards Chalk Farm station. The rain became torrential and I practically climb inside someone's privet in my effort to keep myself and the kitbag dry.

The Cool Cubes is the big hit of the party. Glenn and his friends buy six of Tupperware's design-award winning ice tray, which you can read about here. What's more, when I get home there is a plaintive email from Paul, a design-conscious New Yorker, who asks if I can send him some Cool Cubes by Air Mail, since it is "only available is Europe. This is just not right." The Tupperware Politburo forbids me from selling outside the UK and from fielding enquiries by email -- yawn -- but the deal-breaker is really the exchange rate: the weak dollar and strong pound will make the Cool Cubes a deeply unCool $20 apiece.

Last summer I left my kitbag behind on a bus luggage rack in my post-party exhaustion. I do still sometimes put it in the rack, as you can see, but I now keep a beady eye on it at all times. I can just imagine my whole demonstration kit being detonated as a suspicious package.

A nice email arrives this week from Jonathan Guthrie at the Financial Times, who has that noticed my "entertaining website" has gone offline. He says he is sorry to see it go. Not as sorry as I am. I have not been able to generate any new customers without my website, and only have one more party scheduled -- at the Royal Netherlands Embassy if you please. Then that's it. Tupperware and I will be on a break.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Travels and troubles

My customer and neighbour Richard Reynolds has his fingers in many pies, and such green fingers: his Guerilla Gardening project is wonderful enterprise that brings plants and flowers in the dead of night to bleak spots in London.

Richard took a trip around Europe this summer, and took this lovely photo of his picnic on a French train, showcasing his collapsible Mini-Max bowls. His Flickr photo essay of the whole trip called Travels with My Tupperware really made me smile.

It's a few weeks now since Tupperware UK made me close my website, stop all
advertising and promotion of my business on other websites and in all media, and stop taking enquiries from new customers by email.

As explained to me by the Managing Director, I have been breaking three major rules of Tupperware:

* I infringed the company's trademark copyright by using the word Tupperware in my domain name, misleading customers by suggesting I am the Tupperware company itself, rather than an independent consultant.
* I used my own website to advertise my parties. With or without "Tupperware" in the domain name, this is not allowed.
* I promoted my business in other media and on community websites without permission from the Tupperware company to use their name.

Three strikes and I am out? Maybe... I accept that these are the rules (although I think thy are daft), but I really wish they had been clarified and enforced from the beginning, rather than a year into my enterprise when I have invested time, money and energy into bringing new-style Tupperware parties to London. I am the only consultant working in Central London, a huge potential market, and I have been consistently in the national Top 10 sellers since I started this enterprise last summer. Although interestingly, I have never been able to recruit a single new consultant to work with me, and have always had a lot of enquries from people who want to order from me direct, not by hosting a party, and these are also Tupper-no-no's. But mostly I think this says something about London, that it is a slightly different market to the rest of the country, for lots of reasons.

There did seem to me to be so many missed opportunities and so much unfulfilled potential for selling Tupperware to Londoners, and I felt I knew how to reach a London audience, particularly by promoting my parties and events through my own website and by marketing myself as the London Tupperware Man. I know now that was a big gaffe and has caused me trouble -- and apparently some bad feeling and bitching among other consultants. Though no-one has said anything to me directly, of course.

Anyway since my website and email were closed down, no surprise that I have booked no parties and have had no new customers. Thankfully, some people who contacted me before the website closed have been putting in direct orders, which I will be delivering this weekend. In future I can only stick strictly to the Tupperware party plan, and organise parties for people I have met at previous parties, or who approach Tupperware UK directly. In fact, this is how I should have been doing things all along. I don't think this will work for me, or for London, and this feels like a good time to start winding down.

I do have one long-booked party coming up in a few weeks at quite a posh London venue, which I am excited about, and will report back to you here about that soon.

Clearance sale to follow!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hot and wet

My website wings may have been clipped, but business carries on. Well, I say business. There are very few parties at the moment, and business mainly involves me swanning through various London parks in a long apron.

I have taken part in the annual Walk for Life for many years now, raising funds for HIV and Aids charities, and in recent years I have always walked with the team from The Food Chain. This year I decide to do it in Tupperware mode, and a few kind customers have sponsored me to do it. I raised just over £400 and our team altogether raised over £4000, which is quite an achievement. I didn't book any parties or sell any Tupperware, but it was fun and a fantastic cause. And my fellow walkers humoured me through an impromptu Tupperware demo during a rest stop (see main photo).

Global warming has a lot to answer for. Twice this summer I have slept out on my terrace, only to find the next night that not only did I need to sleep inside, but I needed an extra blanket. And at the Myatts Fields Park Fair in Camberwell this weekend I manage to get badly sunburned and soaked over the course of a few hours. The forecast was for heavy rain, and I equip myself for this, but I did not apply any sunscreen. Big mistake. Three times over four hours the heavens opened and drenched my display table, only for the blazing sun to come out and dry it off each time. Next morning my neck is as red as a Microplus pitcher. Here you can see the sun glinting prettily on my damp salad spinner.

Thunder and lightning did kick in later in the day, but I was back home by then. And at least it is better than being shit on by birds, like in Manchester last month.

The event had a French theme, partly because the park was laid out by Huegenots, and also because there is a large Francophone African community in this part of South East London. I am kept amused with Toulouse sausages, Ardennes pate, Senegalese singing and non-alcoholic coktails provided by the drugs awareness group at the stall next to me. I even sell some Tupperware and get a few definite Yesses for parties later in the summer.

Apparently WeightWatchers magazine features four key pieces of Tupperware in its July/August issue, in an article about packed lunches. I have not yet tried to work the weight-loss crowd, and I understand from other consultants that WeightWatchers are a bit funny about allowing third parties into their meetings. I will see if I can get away with leaving a few catalogues at my local group, which is literally across the road in the church attached to the Heygate Estate. Mind you, I have now gained back one-and-a-half of the two stones I shed at Slimming World five years ago, so maybe I will not be a third party after all.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bad news Friday

Two phone calls this morning, both with disappointing news.

First, and irrelevant to Tupperware, my dear friend Bo (right) has not achieved the grade he needs in the Economics degree he finished this summer in London. He has a conditional job offer with Ernst and Young, which includes a Work Permit, but he has just missed fulfilling the conditional grade. What's worse, Bo is currently incommunicado in Korea doing his military training, and is oblivious to the bad news that he will not be returning to the UK as planned.

I have only just put down the phone to this disappointing news, when the phone rings again. It's the Managing Director of Tupperware UK. She instructs me that I have to close down my Tupperware Man website, which has been live since May 2006, or face legal action! I am told I may not use the "Tupperware" brand in my domain name, but that even with a change of name I still may not maintain a website with the purpose of promoting my Tupperware business. I cannot field customer enquiries by email, nor can I even publish on any website my phone number or address contact details for potential customers to contact me that way. Websites are the devil, it seems.

I personally think this is a short-sighted and draconian policy worthy of King Canute. But for the moment I have no choice in the matter. I have asked for full details of the policy that I am contravening, and proof that I am bound by it. Assuming I receive these details shortly, my website then will stay offline and I will point the TupperwareMan.co.uk domain name to this blog. For now, I have replaced my site with a rather bitter message (a copy of this blog entry, pretty much).

My website has been central to attracting customers and visitors from across the London area, and I have used London's community websites to put the word out that Tuppereware is back in London. But I must now rely purely on contacts made through my parties and events, and on referrals from Tupperware Head Office. I get a referral perhaps once every three months from Head Office, compared to around 10 a week from my own website, so the number of parties and events is likely to drop off dramatically. Neither does Tupperware UK undertake any advertising or formal PR, that is up to we independent consultants to date parties and promote our businesses in our local area. But like I say, it seems that doing so with a website, or via any established online community, is forbidden.

I am annoyed and discouraged. I have not yet decided whether it is feasible for me to continue as an independent Tupperware consultant without my website. But meanwhile I will honour all parties, events and orders booked to date.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More photos from the Manchester Village Fete

RealManchester.com has published a set of photos that Rachel Coulson took at the Village Fete in Manchester last month, including some of me and my stall. At one point I asked Miss Whiplash to watch my stall (very EastEnders) while I was taking a toilet break, and you can see her below demonstrating the Salad Spinner in my absence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Miss Whiplash and Mr Tupperware

Queer Up North is an annual 3-week festival of films, theatre, comedy, visual arts and more, which takes place in Manchester's Gay Village. This year's festival ends today with a traditional Village Fete, complete with teas and cakes, bouncy castle, Test Your Strength, a coconut shy, a bake-off and, for one day only in the North West, yours truly running a Tupperware party.

I wouldn't normally go so far to run a party, or I would refer it on to my colleague Helen who is manager for the North West, but given the similarity to the Homo Homemakers event last autumn in London, and the fact that I haven't visited Manchester for years, I decide to go. The Festival has zero hospitality budget, and I am skint, so I travel up on the National Express coach (at £22 return, it's a quarter of the train fare) and stay in a backpackers' hostel (£18 a night). How the mighty have fallen.

It is raining and cold as mid-morning I haul the ailing trolley bag across the Canal Street cobbles into Sackville Gardens. The festival team are optimistically hanging bunting. They are also freaking out because the generator for the bouncy castle hasn't shown up -- it never does. With 2 full hours before the public can come in, I leave my bag with the team and slope off to Costa Coffee with my copy of The Observer. I am thrilled to see from the Observer Food Monthly that Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant where I took my dear friend Bo for lunch yesterday before he went home to Korea for two years, has been named best one in the country.

The rain does ease off, and eventually stops, but there is still a fair wind, and back at Sackville Gardens I lash my tablecloth and banner to the trestle with strong tape and string before arranging my display. I snag a spot under biggest tree, in case the rain starts again, but I come to regret this choice of location when my display is regualrly augmented by bird droppings throughout the afternoon. One gets me square in the face, and another splatters on the poor Cheese Smart. We will both need a good soak when I get home.

Earlier in the Festival, a representative of Culture for Tolerance, the gay festival in Krakow, spoke about the awful hard time the gay community has been having in that city. As hosts of my Tupperware party, the Queer Up North organisers are donating their rewards to Culture for Tolerance. Sales are slow though, and sadly I can only make a £10 donation.

For the bake-off, two of Manchester's premier drag queens Bobbie Dazzler and Miss Whiplash dress down in twinset and pearls to judge the cakes (see main photo). My Tupperchef chef's knife is called on to slice the cakes, although I had earlier been told to keep it hidden in my bag, since it would be considered a weapon, and could get the event closed down. Bobbie Dazzler has her eye on my Salad Spinner too, which she says would be perfect for rinsing out her tights. Later in the evening, I run into the ladies again, now in post outside one of the Canal Street bars, and looking a lot saucier than earlier. "Ooh, it's the Tupperware Man!", Miss Whiplash coos after me.

Back home in London, my trolley bag has really had it. One wheel is twisted round completely, so I am practically pulling the bag along the ground like a dead weight. I toss it into the big bin and order another.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Clapped out

This week I turn 43. But it's not me that's clapped out -- how very dare you? -- it's my poor Tupperware standard issue trolleybag. I think it's designed to be wheeled from the car to the front door, but mine takes a pounding as I haul it onto buses, off trains, across cobbles and kerbs and through potholes. My first one lasted six months, and my second one, as you can see above, is not in great shape and will need to be retired before long. I, on the other hand, am still boyish.

Because Tupperware is only a couple of years into re-building its sales force in the UK, there are still parts of the country without a local consultant. While this is the case, I am happy to take occasional orders by post, email or phone from far-flung customers who need their Tupperware, but who don't have anyone local to buy it from. Normally, this involves parcelling it up and sending it by post. But this week I get to deliver in person. The order came from Alison, who lives in the far north of Scotland, but is to be delivered to her son Tony, who is in London. She has been visiting Tony recently, and has decided that he needs Tupperware in his life, namely a CheeseSmart and Cheese Knife.

So I call in to son Tony's Soho Square office one morning this week to deliver. The receptionist calls him to the front desk, pronouncing "Tupperware" in a very odd way, like a female Russian spy in a film. Tony appears and I explain who I am, and to his bemusement I demonstrate his Cheese Smart right there in reception. Tony explains that his mum had been a bit horrified by his slovenly cheese storage, hence the gifts. The receptionist smirks throughout, and as lift doors close on me I hear Tony say "Don't tell anyone about this, OK?"

It's the season of summer fetes and fairs. Sadly I can't make it to my local one this year, the Merrick Square Summer Fete, because it is on the same day as the Walk for Life (please sponsor me). But the lovely Rachel, who I worked with on the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, has invited me to run a stall at the fair she is co-organising in Butterfield Green, Stoke Newington, a trendy middle-class part of North London.

It's a really lovely day, perfect weather to be outside all afternoon. I am a bit of a Nicole Kidman when it comes to exposing myself to direct sunlight, so I am pleased to snag a trestle table under the trees, with a panoramic view of the event. It's a very North London take on a summer fete: there are organic freebies, a stall with delicious Thai food, and a tug of war between the police, fire service and estate agents (with London house prices, they are practically an emergency service). I love the dog fashion show -- and only in Stoke Newington would the winning dog be dressed as Jean-Paul Gaultier. I could kick myself for not getting a photo taken with the Japanese swordsmen -- with their long ninja-style aprons, they were dressed exactly like me. But while they are wielding yard-long ceremonial swords, I have a Happy Chopper.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy birthday, unhappy German

This week Pauline invites me to run a lunchtime Tupperware stall at the Orpington offices of Southern Gas Networks. It's a bit of a shlep, but direct on the train from London Victoria, and I set up shop in their conference room. I commandeer a handy flip-chart to create this rather rinky-dink sign to bring the punters in. People drift in during their lunch hour, and I take enough orders to generate some decent rewards for Pauline.

I am always interested in what people use Tupperware products for, so I am intrigued when an email arrives this week from Sandra, a professional musician. She is trying to track down some small Tupperware containers. "They are absolutely perfect for soaking oboe or bassoon reeds. My mother bought me 2 dozen about 20 years ago, but over the years i've managed to leave them in nearly every concert hall in the North West and I am down to my last 2!" Tupperware Man has come to the rescue, and although the pots Sandra needs are not in the current catalogue, I have managed to source some for her.

On Sunday, there is a rare home party that I can walk to. Unfortunately it is pouring with rain, and my trolley bag has developed a dodgy wheel, so I have to get the bus anyway. Down the road in Bermondsey, Adam has invited me to run a party as a surprise birthday treat for his partner Chris, who is an avid baker and was thrilled to discover there is a Tupperware consultant in the heighbourhood. Chris is a serious baker. On the table there were home-made Oreo cookies. And he is a great sport when I make him act as my assistant, complete with garish pink patterned apron.

Adam and Chris's airy and immaculate flat is a great setting for a party, and their guests a charming bunch, who buy plenty of Tupperware. I agree to hold the party order open for a week, as they have a few friends who can't attend today, but who would like to order. The boys will end up with a nice set of rewards I think.

I am still doing my best to infiltrate ex-pat communities in London, and have been working on the Germans who are huge fans of Tupperware. I sent emails over the Bank Holiday weekend to several German churches in the region, offering to run a Tupperware party for them, or to hire a stall at any events they are running this summer. One reply arrives this week. It reads in full: "Hallo Andrew! We are not interested."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Do I crow camply?

I only just found out that two weeks ago, Financial Times columnist Jonathan Guthrie quoted from my blog in an amusing piece about people who blog about their work. You can only read the whole article if you are a FT.com subscriber. He opines that "professional arcana can be oddly compelling", then goes on to summarise my blog:

"Tupperware Man, a 40-something plastic container salesman, communicates equal enthusiasm for the “tower of Space Savers” accumulated by customers Leanne and Paul of Purley. There is even a photo. Another shows the blogger’s “shrine” to the culinary icon Fanny Cradock. “I am back up there with the big girls,” he crows camply. “In November I was Number Four Tupperware seller in the UK.”

Do really crow camply? Perhaps I do.

I take a little time this week to attach to my apron all the Tupperware keychains I have accumulated, and I have to say they look and sound fantastic (see main photo). At the end of the week I rattle in to the offices of Ascent Insurance Brokers in the City, to run a fundraising Tupperware party for them. It's a women's event for dress-down Friday, a fundraiser for the charity that support families of children with Fragile X syndrome. When I pop in earlier in the week to see the space I have been assigned, I find a huge boardroom table which is crying out to be covered in Tupperware.

My journey from home to the Ascent office in Fenchurch Street is a door to door 15-minute bus ride for me, so I take a lot products more than usual. Here you see them all respledent on the board room table. I set up shop for a three-hour chunk of the day, with people drifting in and out for cakes and coffee, and I add to the array with a microwave Chocolate and Almond Cake. Most people buy something, but I mean literally one thing, so although I take 15 orders, the sales are not that impressive. I can donate £38 as 15% of sales, and another £27 from the raffle, so £65 is an OK donation. But I think the organiser is a bit disappointed with peoples' spending. I work my apron off, but the customers are just not that thrilled with Tupperware as she had hoped. Although I have to say, the refrain I keep hearing, almost announced as a badge of pride, was that "I don't cook".

On Thursday I call in to the Vauxhall Tavern, scene of my bingo debut last week. My Tupperware cards are in the rack between the condom machine and the cards advertising the local police's hotline for hate crimes against gay folk.

A lady in Reading encloses a note with an order for a replacement Quick Shake: "The original was chewed up by a naughty dog in faraway Johannesburg and I have missed it ever since."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Sift-n-Stor, 54"

Tim was a guest at one of my parties last summer, hosted by BBC London presenter Baylen Leonard. A quiet and studious-looking young man, he is one of the team behind the House of Homosexual Culture and he recruited me to take part in their Homo Homemakers church fair in October. It was at the fair that I discovered that Tim is also Timberlina: singer, bearded lady, and hostess of the popular and innovative Vauxhallville, a cabaret night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which is one of London's most famous old-style gay pubs.

On Mondays, Timberlina runs Bingo Pub Night at the same venue, and this week she invites me to help out. The stage is dressed as Timberlina's kitchen, with Tupperware everywhere. I am on hand in my floor-length apron to demonstrate and talk Tupperware in an onstage interview, and to hand out prizes to the winners. Everyone gets a gift bag with a catalogue, a 10% off voucher, a Tunnock's Caramel Wafer and a Chocolate Teacake. The Full House winners take home a Universal Peeler (which I demonstrate onstage with a kiwi fruit) and the Jackpot winner gets a blue Mini-Max.

It always strikes me how much good will there is towards Tupperware. Everyone is in a good mood tonight and between the games, I work the tables like Fay Presto, doing close-up demonstrations of the Mini-Max, the Happy Chopper and the Cool Cubes. In another context, people may have been a bit bemused to be approached in their local pub by a man in a black pinny demonstrating kitchenware, but Timberlina creates an atmosphere of aderanged domesticity where it seems quite normal.

Two young women tell me they have come along tonight after seeing the listing in Time Out (above), and they confess that they are here for the Tupperware not the bingo. Isabelle, one of a group of French Londoners playing bingo pour le premier fois, wins three times and says she will definitely schedule a French Tupperware party some time soon.

Timberlina says it's shame we didn't get a (literally) full house, but I don't mind the small crowd. In fact I was glad it was small-scale for my first taste of performance. Not for me Dixie Longate's Tupperware Party, which opened off-Broadway this week.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of my live demonstration with Timberlina. So here instead is my fellow consultant Miss Hot Stuff demonstrating her rather splendid cleavage as she makes ranch dressing in the Quick Shake.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sell That Funky Tupperware, White Boy

This weekend I am invited to run a Tupperware stall at the Heritage Inn in Cricklewood. In fact, I am an official sponsor, since I am donating about £25-worth of Tupperware for the raffle table. The Heritage Inn is a Caribbean bar and restaurant, and today they are hosting a special family day with salsa dancing, cocktails, a raffle and a talent showcase. There is also a small market place with hair braiding, African jewellery, and a beautifully turned out woman from Mary Kay, a party-plan cosmetic company. Two enterprising young guys sell t-shirts bearing black cultural heroes like Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King (and Bruce Lee, curiously), and up on the balcony there is me in a pinny selling plastic kitchenware and making salsa. I am far too white and inhibited to dance the salsa, so I stick to making the salsa in my Quick Chef.

Knowing almost everyone else will be Afro-Caribbean, I wear my English Muffin t-shirt for a laugh, and it raises some smiles and some good natured mickey-taking by the compere at the end of the night when I win a CD of vintage Jamaican music in the raffle, which I am listening to as I write this blog.

The event starts in theory at 3pm but it is very quiet until the entertainment starts at 6pm. Me and the woman from Mary Kay keep primping our stalls and shooting weary glances at each other as the long hours go by with no customers. The lack of punters is partly due to the sudden glorious weather today which is keeping people outside, and everyone who is inside is watching the Grand National. What's more, the fine tradition of keeping "Caribbean time" means no-one is in a hurry. When the show does start at 6pm, Courtney the compere, a lanky Jamaican charmer, gets us all enthused for "this beautiful family day" with a showcase of "edu-tainment" for the youngsters. People have given their time to perform for nothing, and although not everything is my cup of tea, I don't suppose it is meant to be. I do love the Jamaican comedian who has some hilariously clever and cruel observations of Caribbean and English cultural manners and behaviours, but sadly Miss Ebony Queen is not the drag act I was hoping for, rather a fearsome woman rapper. Another rapper, Nicky Negro, does not seem quite in the beautiful family spirit to me, with his blunt declaration that the government "keeps you in the nigger state of thinking", but it mostly goes down well.

There has been a terrible toll of knife and gun crime perpetrated mostly on, and partly by, young black men in London over the last few months. Although thankfully it hasn't specifically affected the community here in Cricklewood, the violence of these deaths is mentioned several times today as the opposite of the peace, love and pride that the Heritage Inn promotes. From the sublime to the ridiculous, at the same time I am having my own struggles to keep the kids away from the blades. A group of five under-10s has latched on to my stall, and they are enthusiastically helping me make salsa. I make sure their fingers stay away from the cut chillies, and clear of the chopping board and Tupperchef knife while I prepare tomatoes, onions, chillies, limes and coriander for processing in the Quick Chef (that's it with the white handle in this photo, next to the chopping board). It is perfectly safe for kids as long as they keep their fingers out of it, and my helpers certainly give it a good work out, whizzing the handle round and pulverising the veg. The Citrus Wonder gets a pounding too (see main picture, top).

The Heritage Inn promotes black British cultural and culinary heritage with style and panache. They also do a fantastic rum punch, which keeps me going through the lean patches early in the day. I also have to take a big swig when one of the performing poets declares that his life is "being controlled by fags". "Not this fag", I murmur. I want to cover the children's ears at that one, but my hands were covered in chopped tomato.

My salsa is popular, I give away some catalogues and do a bit of product demonstration when the music levels permit. It doesn't feel like an especially sparkling day for increasing my Tupperware business, but who knows who may contact me in the coming weeks as they are leafing through their catalogue. My fellow consultant Tracie in the West Midlands does a lot of specificaly Afro-Caribbean Tupperware parties, and it's a market I have not yet infiltrated. Anyway, mostly my day at the Heritage Inn is a bit of fun, and an interesting opportunity to be the token English Muffin. After all the rum punches, it feels pretty fine to me. I even bought a Muhammad Ali t-shirt. Apart from all his obvious admirable qualities as a sportsman, entertainer, political figure, cultural giant, and gloriously handsome man, I have always had a soft spot for Ali since I was 13 and my German pen-pal's insane mother said to me over dinner at their house in the Rheinland, "You look like Muhammad Ali".

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Shoot me if I turn out like this

I found these home-made videos on MySpace and YouTube. Neither of them is especially interesting for what you see, to say the very least, but the Tupperware-related songs that they use as soundtracks were new to me. This first one is a home made video for the Soft Cell track Tupperware Party, which I had never heard before. It features images of Tupperware products, which then gives way to someone doing some absurd 1980s dancing.

The man in the second video clearly has way too much time on his hands, and it is no surprise that he notes "I got no wife or lady friend". But the song is interesting. It is a rewrite of the old Seeker's hit Georgy Girl, and they sing "Hey there, Tupperware...". It seems to be a a limited edition 45 produced for a Tupperware consultants as a motivational thing, because it talks about making 1968 "the greatest year in all of our history". Shades of Tupperware Brigade record I found and blogged about last year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The carpenter, the Zimbabweans and the gays

I enjoy hearing about non-food uses of Tupperware products. This week I meet Jim, who has ordered some FridgeSmarts not for storing his veg in the fridge, but for storing biscuits. And not edible biscuits either, but those little beechwood lozenge-shaped "joining biscuits" used in carpentry. When I deliver his order, Jim takes me on a tour of his workshop, where I snap this photo after he decants his biscuits into his new FridgeSmarts. They need to be kept away from moisture, lest their precision cut size expands, and Jim reckons that the FridgeSmart is ideal for this.

Jim is a former yachtsman, and says he swore by Tupperware on board. He reckons it protects food and equipment from salt, water, wind and knocks. He suggests to me that Tupperware targets the sailing market, and I pass this on to my distributor. Jim came to Tupperware via his ex-wife, who was a consultant many years ago. Mind you, he explains, she used her "Tupperware parties" as a cover for an affair, so it could have gone either way, with Jim developing an aversion to Tupperware instead of a penchant.

I wonder if my name is being passed around the ex-pat Zimbabwean grapevine? Or perhaps some Zimbabweans have been shopping in The Savanna, where I left some catalogues last month. Either way, this week I have had a sudden flurry of phone calls and emails from UK-based Zimbabweans all wanting Tupperware. One woman explained how she and her family had to leave Zimbabwe in some haste a few years ago, and without provision for taking their housewares with them. She was thrilled to track me down through Google, and I have provided her with an order form and catalogue, which she is probably marking up as I write this, recreating her lost African kitchen.

I am volunteering at the 21st London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at London's new BFI Southbank (the former National Film Theatre). Mostly I am involved in hospitality, making sure visiting film-makers, press and other guests are happy and catered to. This involves providing snacks, drinks and friendly chat at receptions and pre-screening events in the Green Room. So imagine my distress at finding a few drab dishes and plates for serving, and no storage at all. One quick bus trip home and, as you can see here, I have equipped the Green Room with Eleganzia Bowls, Mini Maxes and Expression dishes, all with Tupperware seals to seal up any extras and keep them fresh for the next event.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Tupperware Syndrome

Leanne is the first hostess to invite me back to run a second party. It's a bit of a haul for me to get out to Woodmansterne in Surrey by train, especially as today there has been a fire near Victoria, and all the trains are running late. But the journey will be a breeze compared to the stress of queueing for the ticket machines at London Bridge station. People barge through the gaps in the queue to get to their platform, and behind me, a man with Tourette's Syndrome keeps making me jump with his sudden primal barks. He also shouts "Minger!" at several women who pass.

It's worth the trip (and the queue) because Leanne and Paul have a syndrome of their own -- they are Tupperware crazy. Check out their box of seals (above) and Leanne's tower of Space Savers, brought over from South Africa (below). It turns out to be an even more successful party than their first, with Leanne and Paul earning £55 in free Tupperware and three items at half-price: that's about £120-worth of Tupperware for about £35. Leanne gives me and some other guests a lift to Purley station, so we can connect with the train back into London. We pass a church with a banner that reads "God Answers Your Knee Mail".

Earlier in the week I take the bus to Old Street to a very smart flat in a converted warehouse. Paul has persuaded his friends who own the flat to let him host a Tupperware party there. It's a fundraiser for The Food Chain, and like the three parties I ran for them last summer, it is great fun and a huge success. With a 20% donation, a raffle for some half-price items, and Gift Aid, they raise almost £250 for the HIV charity, which is a fantastic achievement. One of the guests is visiting from Yorkshire, and hatches a plan to invite me up to run a party for his mum.

I have had some interesting people contacting me recently, for possible projects of mutual benefit. An experimental music group called The Tupperware Party has contacted me via my MySpace page to discuss a possible collaboration, and the performer Timberlina (who I met as Tim at a previous party) has asked if I might offer some Tupperware as a prize in her weekly Bingo night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern pub. I am going to have a game of bingo at the pub this week, and see how it goes.

No shirt, no service

Catching up on the last few weeks....

It's a dark wet night when I travel out to Woodmansterne to deliver Leanne and Paul's Tupperware. On the way home, I am the only person at the station, the driving rain keeping me in the shelter. I am not complaining at all: Leanne and Paul are a lovely couple who hosted a fun party, and they have already booked another one for all the friends they couldn't squeeze into their flat last time.

It's a rare party that I can walk to. But my very near neighbour Richard, who runs Guerilla Gardening, is hosting a Sunday afternoon party at his flat. Everyone will have eaten so we go for a dessert recipe. At home, I test Tupperware's official creme caramel recipe in the microwave, and it doesn't work. Grainy on the outside, not set in the inside. There are alternative instructions for an oven-cooked version and since the Silicone King Form (i.e. loaf tin) is fine in the conventional oven, I decide to do that instead. Only that doesn't work either. Calling Tupperware HQ: your creme caramel recipe doesn't work and made me look a fool. Still, it was a good party, and I didn't have to trundle the kit bag very far. Richard's flatmate Meike blogs about the party, and she generously blamed the failure of the recipe on their oven. I am not so sure.

The catalogue has switched over to the new Spring/Summer 2007 edition, marked by a gathering of Tupperware consultants at the new distribution centre in Woking. Meanwhile I still have a stack of the previous catalogue, so while it still feels like winter in London, I decide to distribute them to South African shops in the Wimbledon area. I have done a couple of parties down there, and noticed how many Saffas live there, and I know from South African customers how popular Tupperware is with them.

I visit two branches of The Savanna and leave catalogues prominently displayed. In the tiny branch near Raynes Park station, I get the full cultural experience by buying a piece of biltong and queueing behind a man with no shirt on. It is an unusually warm March day, but really!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Can I open it? No I can't

Can a consultant somewhere please explain how the Tupperware can opener works? This week I make a tit of myself at Leanne and Paul's party, when I cannot open a can of mandarin oranges for the Chocolate and Orange Cake. I give up and switch to their pound-shop plastic can opener!

Leanne has a cupboard full of old-style Space Savers (see above). Paul keeps dredging up cool vintage pieces from the bowels of their kitchen, including some very cute little Freezer Square Rounds only like something from a dolls' house. Their party goes really well, with a rowdy crowd made up mostly of their walking group. Leanne and Paul end up with rewards of about £80 worth of Tupperware for about £25.

To get to their house in Surrey, I take the train from London Bridge station, where I have to queue at ticket machine. It is 7pm on a Friday night, and all human life is there. Just before I get to the front of the queue, my phone rings. It's my friend Koh asking me to join him for a drink up West. I explain that I am on my way to a Tupperware party, and the heads of the young couple in front whip round. Ex-pat Australians, they have been looking for a source of Tupperware in London, so I hand over a catalogue and promise a free gift if they book a party.

This encounter, and the fact that this week's hostess Leanne hails originally from South Africa, reminds me about the Antipodean penchant for Tupperware, and when I get home I fire of emails to a couple of websites, magazines and radio stations aimed at the ex-pat crowd, and research some South African shops over in south west London, where I intend to drop off a few catalogues. I am also sad to hear this week that Collette, charming fellow consultant from South Africa, has decided to take a break from Tupperware for a while, and maybe forever.

At the Tupperware training day last week I was named number 6 consultant for personal sales for the year 2006. Seeing as I didn't start until May, I am pretty chuffed with that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The last cake

I do a radio interview this week for BBC Three Counties radio about my adventures in Tupperware. A smart-aleck presenter, who thinks he is funny but isn't, pre-records the interview with me, and it is broadcast a few hours later. I listen to it online the next day, and I sound surprisingly lucid and knowledgable. It is no longer available to listen to, so you will just have to take my word for that.

The presenter, like everyone, asks what happens at a Tupperware party. is it really so complex? I sell Tupperware! Let Aunt Barbara explain it for you. S/he runs parties in Brooklyn and Queens, and you can cut that accent with a knife:

Training at Head Office this weekend. When my manager Janet invites me, I am not expecting to be actually delivering the training. But I get a call from Head Office today asking me to demonstrate the Chocolate and Almond Cake recipe to fellow consultants. I have decided I am a bit bored with that cake, so this will be its swansong. That's me above preparing it at Katherine's party a few weeks ago, looking very flushed. But then that was the party where I went to the wrong house. In the wrong street. In the wrong postcode.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On the top of the tree at Christmas

By some margin, in December I had the highest personal sales of any Tupperware consultant in the UK. So my thanks must go to my fantastic hostesses Chie, Katherine, Olga and Sara and to everyone who bought Tupperware from me last month.

In January there are some great special offers on the Space Savers kitchen storage range, and you can get this nifty little mini-FridgeSmart for only £1.50. It's great for storing chillies. And having reduced my hours at my day job from this week, I have plenty of availability for running your own Tupperware party, so let me know if you need me.

I will certainly not be doing the kind of presentation to your guests that this US consultant has filmed and put on YouTube for the benefit of her fellow consultants. Now, don't get me wrong, the Space Savers are great, I have them in my own kitchen cupboards. And in the US, the new super-sized versions go all the way to the back of your kitchen cabinets, which is a good idea. But mercy me, in her excitement for the new product, does this woman ever draw a breath? I think she was abandoned by her parents and raised by chipmunks.