Friday, December 13, 2013

Theory 25: Dang you Tupperware ladies, dang you. But I do love your products.

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Last week, in Theory 24: Teachers are money hustlers, ya’ll, I closed by quoting Downtown Queen. She said, “I was so happy when I retired from teaching so I didn’t have to buy any more junk from my colleagues! If other teachers are so broke they have to sell stuff, what makes them think their teacher friends can afford to buy it? Every time I went in the teacher’s lounge there was some product or some catalog laid out by the microwave.”

Don't we all have a Tupperware drawer?

Here is a related quote from Wikipedia. Yes, students, I am quoting from Wikipedia. I don’t have time to find a journal article, identify evidence in the text, and use MLA citation to credit the source. I’ll save that for my master’s thesis. Remember, I’m busy hustling. Anyhoo, here’s what some unknown but, in my opinion, totally accurate contributor says: “Tupperware pioneered the direct marketing strategy made famous by the Tupperware Party.” Who doesn't love a dish that can fly? Well, Tall Child, actually. 

Thanks so much you direct marketing pioneers. Yes, you’ve liberated some housewives but also forced us to sell and shop by capitalizing on three issues (urges) women constantly struggle to balance: being good mothers, shopping, and guilt.

I totally understand the three components of the Trifecta.

1. Time for Family - Women want more time with their children. Tall Child backs out of the driveway to deliver Sharky and Gnome to their respective schools early each morning. I pick them up. We are apart MOST of the day. That stinks.

2. Shopping – We are gatherers. Ya’ll, women are very different from men. We are talkers. We need to say lots of words and gather lots of things. We are (most of us) service-oriented. Why not shop, talk, and help our friends all in one man-free location?

3. Guilt - Most women work. When I was a housewife, I felt guilty for not helping Tall Child pay bills. I concocted schemes (see Theory 24), sold flowers, substitute taught, and hammered his real estate signs into the ground. I wanted to contribute, but I didn’t want to sacrifice time with Sharky and Gnome. Catch 22 guilt – not uncommon for modern working mothers.

This Trifecta of female characteristics has made Tupperware a legendary household name and made millions for the companies who followed suit:

Pampered Chef
Rodan & Fields
Mary Kay
Thirty-One Gifts
Matilda Jane
Park Lane
Arbonne International
Southern Living
Stella and Dot
Tastefully Simple
Creative Memories
Discovery Toys
Stampin' Up
Cloud 9 (intimate apparel)

Whew, and these are just the companies with which I’ve had direct marketing contact. By the way, my friends have sold this stuff and I wish I could afford to buy more of it. Why? For one thing, I love the products. They are high-quality, aesthetically pleasing, functional, and they last forever. Plus, I am a contestant in the battle of the Trifecta! I want to support my girlfriends’ independence, I love to buy stuff, and I feel guilty when I can only order the cheapest thing in the catalog. But, remember, I’m a teacher hustler. One day my ship will come in! Maybe you readers can buy my book, The Eye of Adoption, and help my ship set sail! Ooooh, maybe I could host a book party! Hmmmm, this teacher hustler has an idea.

Delicious and I talked one day about how teenagers “go goth” to be different but then find themselves in hundred-person packs of black-clad, silver-studded gothness. They conform to non-conformity. Kind of like all those “individualistic” mountain men in Asheville, NC who have the exact same facial hair-do’s.

I particularly like the conforming to non-conformity explanations we women give when we pick up the direct marketing banner. Here are a few I’ve heard or, ahem, said:

I’ve had an epiphany.

I really wanted to contribute to the financial security of my family.

This product has changed my life.

I love the products and get a huge discount.

I enjoy spending time with my friends and talking about household products.

The Lord called me to sell _______. (Did not hear this from the intimate apparel saleslady).

Honesty is refreshing and actually a really good sales strategy. Maybe “direct” saleswomen should be just that—direct. They could say:

I am tired of hearing my husband gripe about the grocery bill. I need my own cash.
I want Dollywood Gold passes. Every year.

I miss working but I don’t want to get up at 6:00 a.m. and put on panty hose and have a boss.

I want any reason to hang out with my buddies, drink wine, and shop. 

Simple math. If twelve women come to my house, one man will leave.

I’m saving up for a divorce.

Of course, there’s also the super guilt, guilt component. Let’s call it G2 (Guilt Squared.) I go to the party even when I’m broke because I’m afraid no one else will go to the party and I buy something because I don’t want the hostess to think I’m a mooch. So confusing. Teachers get paid once a month. Delicious says, “I just don’t feel right until I’m almost broke.”

Once, I asked her, “Do you ever balance your checkbook?”

She said, “No. I like living on the edge.” Direct salesladies, if you are marketing to teachers, host the party on a payday. Hustle smart. Ladies, doesn’t it seem like we get invited to these parties when we are flat out of money? 

Also, “market” your products appropriately. A work buddy told me that his Sunday school classmates were telling praise and prayer requests when a fellow Christian said, “I’d like to give praise to my four-year-old son for bringing me my morning AdvoCare Spark.” Not cool. Can I get an “Amen”?

So, say you are a “living on the edge” and down to your last dime and get the party invite. How can you conquer Guilt Squared and regret the direct marketing party with pride and with respect to your friend/cousin/co-worker hostess? Stick with the theme. Be direct. Maybe say:

You are serving alcohol and I’m only three weeks out of rehab.

My boobs are too big for those blouses.

My butt is too big for those skirts.

I have edema. Can’t wear boots.

I’m not smart enough to figure out how to complete your order form.

My husband is a tightwad.

[Child’s name] has basketball/baseball/football/ballet/guitar/unicycle practice.

My mother-in-law buys all my children’s clothes.

I’m allergic to latex.

~ ~ ~

I have deduced the ultimate, sweetest, most considerate, tricking-of-the-Tall Child solution to the problematic Trifecta and Guilt Squared: I buy all my Christmas presents at these parties!

I shop efficiently and guilt-free. I support my friends. And, I score some high-quality loot for my family. One day, when (not if) the zombie apocalypse finally happens, you’ll all thank me for those Pampered Chef pizza cutters.

Bring it on.
You are no match for this shopper!

Why don’t men shop in little parties? Couldn’t they all drink beer and watch a friend do a grill set demonstration? Maybe they could cook nachos in rubber dishes and try on different designs of belts. Don’t they ever feel guilty? Even at Christmas time? Which brings me to Theory26: In the Christmas season, men just need to do what they are told.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...