Tupperware® is an icon of American suburbia and the Tupperware Party as classic as Jello® salad. But I had never been to a Tupperware party. So when a friend handed me an invitation, I eagerly accepted, even though I don’t generally like the “come to my house and buy stuff” type of gatherings.
This was a chance to take my rightful place among American housewives. I may live in a housing development, hold regular cookouts in the yard, drive a beat-up minivan and live off prepackaged convenience foods, but I could not call myself a real housewife until I had been to a Tupperware party.
Whether I wanted to call myself a real housewife never quite entered my mind. Because this was not an ordinary party, this was an “auction party” and there was all kinds of ways to win (fake Tupperware) cash and (Tupperware) prizes. My head was swimming with plastic possibilities.
Before any of the action started, of course, we got treated to a fabulous spread of food and wine for which Tupperware can take no credit whatsoever. The hostess provides these at her own expense either because she (a) likes her guests (b) doesn’t like her guests but wants them to think she has great taste (c) wants them to get drunk so they’ll spend more. I think it’s usually a combination of these.
So while we sipped our wine from non-Tupperware glasses, the Tupperware consultant told us about the history of the company and how much she loves working for them and how much more she would love it if we would work for them too so she could be our boss and get a free car.
At about that point, I decided I needed more wine and a few more shrimp and some mysterious hot appetizers wrapped in bacon.
Tupperware was developed by Earl Tupper in 1946, so it’s about as old as plastic itself. The Tupperware party as a direct sales mechanism was developed by a female employee, Brownie Wise, in the 1950s. She also instituted “jubilee” celebrations rewarding top sellers with lavish parties and prizes. Tupper fired her in 1958 allegedly because he disapproved of the extravagant sales parties, but it was later revealed that he fired Wise because he wanted to sell the company and didn’t think he’d be able to do it with a female in an executive position of power. This is especially ironic considering that the success of Tupper’s company was due in large part to its appeal to females who wanted to work but were pushed out of the traditional working world when GIs returned from WWII.
I did not learn all of these details at the party, of course, but the Tupperware consultant did tell us about “Mr. Tupper” and ask if we had any funny Tupperware stories (for which we would receive “Tupperbucks” to use in the upcoming auction). My friend Elizabeth told us when she was in high school, she babysat for a Tupperware dealer and that at the end of her outing, the woman proposed paying Elizabeth in Tupperware “for her hope chest,” rather than in cash. Elizabeth is way too polite to say what I would have said to the woman, but she did end up getting paid in cash.
And Elizabeth received a Tupperbuck for her story.
We all got Tupperbucks for various accomplishments, such as walking into the room and breathing. Anyone who asked a question about Tupperware products during the demonstration got a buck. Anyone who asked a question about selling Tupperware earned two bucks. And anyone who signed up to have her own party I think got a photocopier to print pages of Tupperbucks. So by the time of the auction, we all had at least a small stack of bucks to bid with.
The auction was simple and sightless, like “Storage Wars” if the competitors bid on the contents of storage units without opening them at all. We were using our Tupperbucks to bid on the contents of gift bags with only a cryptic clue to guess what might be inside. Using my the logical powers of deduction honed in three years of law school, I was able to hypothesize that the contents of the bags might be items manufactured by the Tupperware Corporation. But Elizabeth went to law school, too, so she had already figured this out and I had no advantage over her.
The first item up for bid was described as “small and purple.” Bidding started at 300 Tupperbucks and I think topped out at 900. The prize turned out to be…a Tupperware container. The next item up for bid was described as “blue and used to hold things.” Bidding started at 400 and topped out around 1,100. This time the prize turned out to be…a Tupperware container.
Bidding continued for a while and though I bid on a few items, I always dropped out when it got much over 1000. But finally I realized that there were a limited number of bags and Tupperbucks had a street value less than Monopoly money, so I decided I’d better bid heavily on something. I needed to go “all in.” I decided the next item would be the one. It was described as “yellow and good for holding sliced cheese.” How could I go wrong? When bidding crept past 2,300 I yelled out “all in” and shoved my 2,900 Tupperbucks onto the table. My opponent, who’d already won two bags’ worth of plastic treasure, was out of money and no one else challenged me. I was now the proud owner of…a Tupperware container. It was yellow, as advertised, and had a handle so you could hang if from the shelf of your refrigerator. I think it would be very popular with the dogs, because they would be the ones eating the cheese after I knocked it off the shelf and onto my filthy kitchen floor.
So that was my first Tupperware party. I ate lots of bacon-wrapped miscellany, drank Pinot Grigio, and went “all in” to win a hanging cheesekeeper/dog feeder. And somewhere along the way, I decided it would be a good idea to order an overpriced microwave cooker, refrigerator storage unit, and a “crystal” plastic pitcher. Then I’d have something to serve drinks in at my own Tupperware party someday.
If you’re feeling the need for more plastic in your life and you don’t want to wait for me to get around to organizing my own party, my friend Jackie is holding one this Friday and she’d love to have you as a guest. And my friend Bernadine will hold one next month. You, too, can gamble for Tupperware. Live the dream!