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!