Friday, April 27, 2012

When I grow up I want to be a Tupperware Lady

When I grow up I want to be a Tupperware Lady Part l

I didn’t grow up with Tupperware, so I hold my mother responsible for the fact that you won't find any in my kitchen, except a partial set of measuring cups and spoons that were gifts many years ago. I think a few of them were taken out to the sandbox when I wasn't looking, because they're missing. Mom used, washed and re-used aluminum foil and shower-cap bowl covers, and yes, we lost track of leftovers. However, the amounts that went into those makeshift containers were usually quite small.She also washed and re-used plastic bags, pickle jars and cottage cheese containers. Never threw ’em away. She would never have bought a Tupperware food container. It was out of our price range.  

Utah State University, just a mile down the road from me, used to host Tupperware Jubilees, the stuff from which many legends came. Tupperware held two conventions, each a week long, to accommodate everybody, and each ended with fireworks on Saturday night. We got to step outside and  enjoy those free of charge. Everything else was closed to the public, and I wonder if the caterers had to sign non-disclosure agreements. It appears that what happened at Tupperware stayed at Tupperware. However, there were a few leaks over the years, and I learned that top sellers and lucky door prize winners went home with refrigerators, freezers, televisions, mink coats and cars, and that the last night's festivities resembled a "Let's Make a Deal!" frenzied bash. Maybe the winners didn’t exactly carry the appliances or cars home with them, but I’m sure the real thing was on display to be admired, and vouchers were awarded.

Clever local entrepeneurs cleaned up at convention time, too. All they had to do was design something around a Tupperware theme and set up a card table in the student center, and those enthusiastic Tupperware ladies would buy whatever they’d made. One woman made beautiful cloth dolls and embroidered “Tupper” on the boy dolls and “Ware” on the girl dolls. She couldn’t keep up with the demand for her "Tupper Twins." After a couple of Tupperware conventions, she started taking cruises. 

I learned to avoid the campus during those two weeks, though, after I was nearly flattened by a brigade of determined Tupperware Ladies on a crusade, marching ten abreast  (pun intended) through the Taggart Student Center. I don’t know if they were on their way to take over a men’s room or if they’d heard about a new product. I never asked. I just got out of the way before it was too late. I didn't want to mess with a Tupperware Lady. 

Research shows that after these annual Jubilees, national Tuppwerware sales take a dramatic leap upward. Ya gotta hand it to ’em. 

Then the Jubilees moved to another location. I never heard why. Perhaps they outgrew our facilities. Our valley was quieter (and poorer) as a result. 

I was invited to my share of Tupperware parties, and I even went to a few. There is an unspoken rule at these affairs: You don’t go without planning to buy something. The hostess is your friend, or your friend’s sister-in-law, and she needs her share of the profits from the party to pay the orthodontist. The Tupperware Lady wants to pay her kids' orthodontist, too, or make it to the next level, or become a manger, or maybe even win a trip to Hawaii. So you go, gamely, and coo over the latest products, to support your sisters and friends. 

I should state  that Tupperware’s quality is unmatched. It’s great stuff. Clever, ingenuous,  and made to last. They make good kids’ toys, too, last time I checked. Those shape balls will take centuries of teething and other forms of abuse by many generations of children. And those  alphabet blocks - - - each opened and had a small object relating to the letter on the outside, if I remember correctly - - - I’m sure they supported preschool literacy. 

Tupperware is pricey, too, but probably pays for itself over time. I can appreciate a good investment when I see one. I just never invested. It’s the principle of buying something you don't really need so someone else can earn money they really need, and that instills some guilt on my part. The obligation makes me uncomfortable. But I'm in the minority, which is why Tupperware is a multibillion-dollar business. 

But back to the parties. Well. I’m just not into the parties. I remember a few where grown women played silly games. The refreshments were always good, though, and recipes were shared, and friendships forged over Lettuce Keepers. The climax came when the Tupperware Lady demonstrated the “back burp.” Then, we knew the moment had come, the reason we'd been there for two hours: the order forms were distributed and we showed our true colors. I usually left in a hurry after ordering something small.

Several years ago my husband and I went away for a weekend to celebrate my birthday. Well, he had meetings part of the time, but that was all right. I can always lose myself in a good book. Strolling through the hotel, though, I heard some commotion in the theater, and curiosity overcame me. I opened the door and one peek told me all I needed to know. I had struck gold; it was a full-fledged upper eschelon Tupperware Convention. I found an inconspicuous place to sit and settled in to enjoy the pageantry. This one even had a slide show (we didn’t have Power Point then) that showed the new products, and each was met with excited gasps of approval. The announcer was a pro and whipped the crowd into a state of excitement as he introduced the new fall line. The loudest cheers, as well as a standing ovation, went to the Brand. New. Salad. Set!

Upon seeing this item, the Salad Set, the Tupperware ladies broke into a cheer I hadn’t heard since high school. “Way to go Tupperware, way to go!” they sang, and repeated it many, many times with claps, hand movements, and bodies swaying in unison.

It was a spectacle. I loved it.

When my husband returned to our hotel room he found a beaming wife.

“Thanks for the birthday present!” I said.

He looked confused.

“I found a Tupperware convention!” I told him.

He still looked confused.

I gave him a play-by-play account of my evening and he was soon laughing with me. My evening with Tupperware easily trumped his dull meetings. When you’re on the outside, some of the things we grown people do are really very amusing. Seriously. I know I’m poking fun at fine folks and a fine product and I do beg your pardon. It’s still funny. People are funny.

Tupperware is even older than I am. If you weren’t around in the early days of Tupperware, you can experience them by watching vintage commercials on YouTube; if you’re If you’re nostalgic, you can go to YouTube and revisit the good old days of Tupperware, as well as some truly dreadful hairdos.

This is an old commercial and actually shows a Tupperware Lady demonstrating the famous patented back burp. It’s a must-see.

Here’s a 1972 French Tupperware commercial that needs no translation, because Tupperware’s a universal language and bridges all cultures. If you think about it, Tupperware points the way toward world peace.

There’s even a segment on Judge Judy involving two women and their Tupperware. If you have a weak stomach, skip it.

Heck, just go to YouTube. It’s all there. Judge Judy’s about as American as you can get, along with American Idol, baseball, apple pie, flag waving, and Tupperware.


Pam Williams said...

I've always thought that planning and executing a mid-week Relief Society meeting was a lot like holding a Tupperware party--almost requires the same tenacity and salesmanship.

JoLynne Lyon said...

I enjoyed this! My theory is that social selling really doesn't do a lot for the local economy. It just passes the same $50 from Tupperware to Mary Kay to Pampered Chef back to Tupperware.