On the road with Tupperware

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BOOMER LIFE 1Okay, Boomers. Do you remember Tupperware and Tupperware parties?

The harvest gold and avocado green colors of those food storage containers, toys, and the oh-so-important sippy cups for your kids? The parties your friends held that their friends felt obligated to attend and spend money on occasionally useful items to make life easier in the kitchen? In fact, do you still have some old Tupperware items in your kitchen storage areas? (I admit to a mauve-colored strainer still in use and some Tupperware toys in my house.)

Well, way back in the last century (the late ’80s, early ’90s), with two toddlers, I needed those dang sippy cups (officially known as bell tumblers with seals) Not a one of my friends had ideas of where to get them (this was before the Internet, remember) or were willing to part with their own unused set). 

All I needed were sippy cups — and I ended up Tupperware manager. A friend of a friend of a friend knew a dealer (Tupperware, that is) and I was talked into accompanying her to a Tupperware distributor meeting (this one was in Revere, MA, but there was also a distributorship in Greenland, NH).

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Yes, it was rah, rah all the way. Lots of excitement among Tupperware consultants and managers, with the distributorship owners on stage urging on the crowd, introducing new products to screams of delight from the mostly female audience, bringing up successful managers to the stage to share stories and selling ideas, and presenting new managers (and their poor spouses) to the crowd. (my poor husband.)

I did it all: started as a consultant, nearly fell over in my chair when a party guest asked me how she could sell Tupperware, became a manager with my own little team and drove the Tupperware car, which at the time was a white minivan with wood trim (the door of which I slammed closed on daughter #2’s fingers; but that’s another story.)

But wait, there’s more!

All the Tupperware I sold for however many parties I held that week was delivered to my house in big, big boxes. My living room was no more: It was a Tupperware warehouse. I had to sort them all by party and customer while my kids had a great time playing in the boxes. And then I had to deliver tons of Tupperware (has a nice ring to it) to the party host so she could distribute them to her guests. I guess that’s why we had a minivan.

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Depending on how much you sold, there was a catalog from which you could redeem your points for great gifts — from kid sheet sets to large televisions (that needed three strong young men to move and finally dispose of), to dining sets and more. I had them all. (The dining set is still disassembled in my basement looking for a home with one of my children.)

The deal with being a Tupperware dealer sounded good. At the time, consultants paid 65% for the product, which to the everyman/woman, meant you got 35% of the gross! Right? But then, after my husband realized I was spending an enormous about of time, gas, and costs for catalogs and other collateral, was I really making any money? I didn’t consider this a home business with deductions (I was young, naïve, and had two sippy-cup-kids). Could that have made a difference? I don’t know. 

But what I do know is that I nearly fell on the floor when I received a Tupperware form on what I owed the IRS for personal use of the “company” car (considered a ‘benefit in kind’), the trip I ‘earned’ to Puerta Vallarta for my husband and me, and the television and dining set and other things I earned. They were taxable income with tax consequences! Did I ever even consider this when I signed up? Of course not!

So, following that first year, after seeing the evidence on a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, I quietly left my Tupperware enterprise. Giving the car back was the hardest part — we had to get something to replace it.

image6Over the years/decades I gave my Tupperware away (or tossed it in the trash). I recently looked at the Tupperware of today. Don’t want to hold a Tupperware party? Don’t have to! Order on the website. New, exciting products and colors! Recipes galore! And did you know that Tupperware is sold in countries all over the world, including China and Russia?

And before I leave you, a few more pieces of trivia: Earl Tupper designed his first line of polyethylene kitchenware in 1947, called it Tupperware (Duh!). House Beautiful marveled at its simplistic, yet chic, design and TIME magazine gushed about the plastic that could “survive almost anything.”

Brownie Wise really nailed the “hostess party” idea
Brownie Wise really nailed the “hostess party” idea

Unfortunately, selling it from retail locations wasn’t attractive to its target demographic, the American homemaker. (Although you can find Tupperware at Target and other places nowadays) It wasn’t until the late 1940s when Detroit divorced, single mother Brownie Wise really nailed the “hostess party” idea, complete with the proper “burping” of Tupperware to provide the airtight seal, making her the face of Tupperware. 

Oh, and as a final thought, perhaps the funniest part of selling Tupperware for me was that I couldn’t cook a thing. And there I was sharing recipes and touting how one could use each Tupperware item as if I used them to make dinner every day. Should’ve gone to Hollywood.image5 e1676785969522


 

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About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”