Social interaction for suburban women and sitting room sales of storage and preparation products all make up a Tupperware party.
Selling the dream of an affluent lifestyle and being the ideal housewife and mother, Tupperware parties are also an important social contact for many women living in large suburban housing estates.
Tupperware, the plastic food storage, preparation and serving line is doing a brisk trade in the suburbs of Irish cities. The products are sold only from authorised Tupperware demonstrators (also called dealers) in homes.
A Tupperware party is organised by the hostess who invites friends and provides light refreshments. She also collects the money and delivers the items to the buyers.
The hostess is crucial to the success of a Tupperware party.
The hostess receives a gift based on the number of sales generated. The dilemma that frequently arises is that while she is inviting friends and neighbours into her home, it is in the expectation that they will spend money, and not everyone has it.
You don’t want to be putting people in that position that they’re arriving, they don’t have the money, and you’re forcing them to buy.
Former demonstrator Kay Deegan from Dublin was at one time working at three parties per week. She believes that people are aware that they have come to buy Tupperware, but her job was to up-sell.
This was not an issue when she demonstrated at parties in well-off areas, but later on, qualms of conscience started to surface, and she eventually gave it up,
I was selling items of Tupperware to women who given the choice would not even dream of buying it.
Kay Deegan acknowledges that what she really was selling was the dream of a well organised kitchen, being a good mother and housekeeper, regardless of what else may be going on in one’s life,
I think a lot of women still harbour the idea of being the perfect housewife.
At a warehouse in Bray Tupperware dealers attend a weekly Monday morning meeting and pep talk. Sell more Tupperware, win more prizes is the message, with incentives such as owning the latest models of televisions, microwave ovens and toys. The women are trained in sales techniques to ensure that the money does come in.
The upside to all this, however, is the opportunity for the dealers, the majority of whom are at home full time, to be financially independent. Giving that up however is difficult,
You feel the loss of the independence...this is my own money, I can do what I like with it.
This report for ‘The Women’s Programme’ was broadcast on 7 December 1984. The reporter is Doireann Ní Bhriain.