This week I hosted a direct sales party in my home for the first time. I’ve never done it in the past because it combines two of my least favorite things: deep cleaning my house and asking my friends to do something they might not want to do.
I only host parties two or three times a year and every time I do the cleaning and prep fills me with rage. I start scrubbing one thing which makes me notice something else and pretty soon I realize that I must be very good at blocking out the sight of my children’s fingerprints because they are EVERYWHERE. If I could see my house on a regular basis the way I see it through potential guests’ eyes, I would be driven to madness. On the other hand, I shudder to think how disgusting things would look if I didn’t have parties as a reason to put on my nitpicky goggles once in a while.
I balked at the idea of hosting a sales party because I know what it’s like to be invited to one when I don’t have a specific budget category allocated for Guilt Money and I didn’t want to put anyone else in that position. I realize that the sales party is a viable business model for many companies and is an attractive option for stay-at-home moms so it won’t be going away anytime soon. And I also understand that for many women, an invitation to a sales party is a nice excuse to get out of the house and spend some girl time with friends. But I also know from my own experience that the merging of business and friendship can sometimes create awkward feelings of obligation and guilt which can lead to unwanted purchases of overpriced merchandise.
I decided to try hosting a party, partly so I’d stop being such a curmudgeon, partly to see what the fuss is about, but mostly so I’d have something to write about this week. When deciding which company to work with, I went straight to the obvious choice, the grandmother of all in-home direct sales parties: Tupperware.
Tupperware parties began in the 1950’s and grew in popularity at a rapid pace. As Jon Kelly describes in BBC News Magazine:
“The famous Tupperware parties, at which the containers were sold, were prototype girls’ nights in, as much about getting to know one’s neighbours as they were about commerce… Briefly liberated from their domestic routine, guests would play games such as ‘Waist Measurement’ or ‘Write An Honest Advert To Sell Your Husband’ before being sold Wonder Bowls and Ketchup Funnels.”
And the Tupperware party is so much a part of the American experience that it even got its own episode of American Experience. It is as much a part of our collective memory of the 1950’s as Elvis Presley, Leave it to Beaver and Jello molds.
Because it’s been around for so long and because there are still many loyal customers, I decided to have my sister-in-law hook me up with her Tupperware dealer, Tricia Dunstan (I don’t know what her exact title is, but I’ll call her a dealer because I think my sister-in-law might be an addict). Tricia made the planning process really easy for me, which is good because I’m lazy and I was a little apprehensive about inviting my friends.
On the day of the party, I was overscheduled and feeling stressed out. I was seriously annoyed about a time-wasting doctor’s appointment and was scrambling to get my floors mopped and vacuumed in time. My husband had a work conflict and my oldest two had a school conflict, so my 10-year-old was left to help me with the last minute cleaning and the babysitting during the party. I was starting to regret the decision to host this thing and was secretly wishing I could just take a four hour nap instead.
But then the party got rolling, my friends came (many of them were recovering from equally crazy days), and my mood changed. Tricia was very professional in her demonstration and she also made us dinner, which was good because I had forgotten to feed my children. In spite of the fact (or probably because of the fact) we didn’t measure anyone’s waist or play any other silly games, it was a lot of fun. There’s something about being with other women (and chocolate) that can be healing, and I’m such a hermit that I sometimes don’t recognize the value of spending time with friends once in a while. I hope they enjoyed themselves and I really hope they didn’t feel pressure to buy stuff.
I was having so much fun, I forgot to take any pictures at the party, but trust me – it was JUST like this:
After everyone left, Tricia tabulated the totals and figured out my host credit, which was then doubled because we chose an auspicious time in the Tupperware calendar to schedule the party. I was shocked to learn that I got to choose $170 worth of free merchandise and could get half off two additional items. No wonder people host sales parties – the payoff was definitely worth my time and effort.
But then I had guilt. Guilt because I was really only doing this for a blog post. Guilt because I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured into buying something. And guilt because I didn’t think I deserved all the new stuff I was getting. I’m pretty sure I would be a terrible salesperson. I’m very excited to try out my new Power Chef and mandoline and I hope everyone else is excited about their orders. And I did try to assuage my own guilt by going to my friend’s Norwex party the next day. And thus the wheels of suburbia go round and round.
As we were wrapping up the party, Tricia said, “You have good friends,” and I have to agree with her. I really do have good friends. Maybe I could even talk them into doing the Tupperware Party Dance with me some time: