Ten o’clock Monday morning and the sound of Perry Como singing the Lord’s Prayer flows through a new warehouse on the east side of Farmer’s Branch like old honey.
“Our faaa-therr. Who art in heaaa-ven. Hal-low-ed bee thy naaame.”
It is one of those industrial park buildings just beyond the end of Dallas North Tollway, its single-storied facade pretending Mediterranean. Blond bricks arch over concrete steps, a hint of red tile and then concrete block walls run all the way to the alley.
“Thy king-dom-come. Thy will-be-done. On earrth, as-it-is, in heaaa-ven.”
The sound oozes across a large rectangular hall within the building. The hall will hold about 400 people but is now occupied by fewer than 200 women, seated in folding chairs and wearing, most of them, multicolored pants outfits. The low ceiling is criss-crossed by red, white and blue crepe paper streamers with large collapsible red, white and blue crepe paper liberty bells hanging from each intersection. Little plastic flags adorn the walls and plastic banners proclaim “Spirit of 76.”
“Give us this day our daaaaaily bread. And for-give us our debts, as weeee for-give-our-deeeebt-ors. And lead us not in-to-temp-taaay-tion, but de-liiiv-er-us from eeee-vil.”
The sound spreads across the room, above the heads and into the ears of the women seated in row after row and facing the front. Every head is bowed, every eye closed.
At the front of the room is a raised stage flanked on the left by an American flag and on the right by a blue flag trimmed in gold and with a golden globe outlined in its center. A pulpit of heavy blond wood stands on the right half of the stage and is nearly obscured by a table stacked high with identical little metal sculptures, plastic spoon sets in three colors and several advertising posters. On the left sits another, larger table loaded with colorful plastic containers of every reasonably imaginable shape and utility.
And now the singer is into his big finish, which he accomplishes with much rising and falling of voice signifying the infinite divinity, and at the point at which he ends his “aaaaaahhhhhh-mennnnn” and the seated ones’ eyes begin to resume focus, a middle-aged woman in a black and white skirt and blouse crosses the stage and, mike in hand, says, “Okay, everybody up.”
Lifting lids, lifting heads and before they themselves can know it they are blinking their eyes and lifting their Blue Monday bodies out of their chairs. One hundred eighty women of all ages who have fixed their faces and driven in from Garland, Richardson, Denton and even Durant, Oklahoma, are up, smiling, clapping their hands and . . . bursting into song.
“We’ve got the spirit, the Tupperware spirit, the Tupperware spirit of ’76! Tell everybody we’re proud of it too! Proud of the red, white and blue!”
Another Tupperware Monday morning assembly is under way.
It is a sales meeting, actually. A session the regional executive, or in this case distributor, holds with his lower and middle level personnel. It serves to disseminate to the troops the policies and programs of Tupperware World Headquarters in Orlando, Florida. But it is more than that. It also is the chief implement used in the weekly resurrection of the spirit of loving, sharing and working that Tupperware believes lives in the heart and soul of each of its disciples. The Tupperware spirit. And as such it is at the heart of the tremendous and, so far, sustained burst of energy and devotion that has made Tupperware Home Parties and Tupperware International the hottest in-home sales company in 30 countries.
In the next two hours assembly will be funny, silly, sentimental and amateurish, employing motivational techniques that are at times embarrassingly obvious. But it also will be friendly, informative, reassuring, inspirational and, ultimately, it will be effective. For as its participants laugh at skits, cheer new products and listen to advice and testimonials, they will do so with the assurance that maybe a quarter of a million women around the world are doing the same things. Oh, the flags might be different or the Tupperfeeling song (“I’ve got the Tupper feeling up in my head, deep in my heart, down in my toes!”) that gets them bobbing like calisthen-ists might sound differently in Mexico City. But they know that Tupperware is the same from Rio to Rome and from Sydney to South Africa, and that there are women just like them out there working in those 279 other distributorships in the United States and probably an equal number overseas. And they know, and this is by no means the least important, they know that they are surrounded by happiness and fun and reward for work well done. And that today is a new day. The start of a new week. A new chance to succeed. And they know that for as long as they can keep it alive, there will be no Blue Mondays with Tupperware.
Shirley Hughes said I wouldn’t get anywhere with World Headquarters, and she was right. Shirley’s a former California carhop who liked her work. Even today she bemoans the demise of so many really nice drive-ins out there. But she has moved on to better things. Shirley and her husband, Glen, who was a milkman and a cook, now head PAR-ATA Sales, one of the two Tupperware distributorships in Dallas. The business is located in a warehouse near other warehouses in a park behind the Lev-itz warehouse on Stemmons. PARATA stands for Parties And Recruits Are The Answer. The question is “What makes Tupperware run?”
Shirley is cordial, even friendly at times, as she shows me around the assembly room, a large room obviously similar to the one at D’Ann Sales, the other local distributorship owned by Glenn and Ann Drake and located out beyond the end of the Dallas North Tollway. Trophies of indescribable variety decorate a shelf. Inspirational slogans and hundreds of candid photographs from Jubilee, the annual nationwide whoop-it-up for Tupperware managers and their spouses, line the walls. She is cordial, but Shirley can exhibit a classic no-bull attitude, as if some jerk in a 55 Chevy with spinner caps had asked what time she gets off work. She wouldn’t, for example, tell me how many dealers work through PARA-TA Sales.
“Tupperware doesn’t want us to tell that,” she said.
“Now why would they be afraid to tell something like that?”
“Well they just said we needn’t tell anyone about the business,” she said, “and if that’s what they want, it’s all right with us.”
Such loyalty born of success is not uncommon. It permeates the company, in fact. One writer claims she spent a year just trying to talk to Joe Hara, a former Chicago Tupperware dealer who is now the company’s president.
“Well, I’ll just write Orlando,” I said.
“You can write them,” said Shirley, “but they won’t tell you either.”
She was right. After sending a letter and making four telephone calls the best I could get was a letter advising me that just about everything I had expressed interest in was, sorry, confidential.
“Because of our success,” said Harry Welch, vice president for public relations and advertising, “we are hesitant to identify the factors which we feel have been the key elements in our marketing program.
“In view of our reluctance to advertise salaries, figures, sales quotas and the number of distributorships, managers and dealers nationwide, I am wondering if your magazine would prefer not to cover the story of Tupperware.”
Tupperware. Ah yes. That little company that duPont chemist Earl Tupper started in 1945. Little molded plastic bowls and containers with patented re-sealable lids. Canisters that stack. Salt shakers that don’t clog. Rolling pins that hold a dozen eggs. Knives that won’t turn your lettuce brown. Toys for the kids and here’s a little something to put your nuts and bolts in. Cups. Colanders. In seasonal colors. Or the good old red, white and blue.
Tupperware, yes. Sold to Dart Industries, Inc. in 1958, it has become that conglomerate’s biggest little moneymaker. With just 30 percent of Dart’s annual sales, Tupperware accounted for 51 percent of its earnings last year. And that was not the first time. Since 1971 Dart’s direct sales division, of which Tupperware is undisputed king, has increased its annual pre-tax earnings figure two and a half times. And it’s a high profit company. Pre-tax earnings of about $90 million last year means Tupperware cleared about a quarter on every sales dollar.
Tupperware, around the world. Plants in 15 countries, sales in 30. Half of every earnings dollar comes from abroad. The women of the world sold $382 million worth of it last year, up 19 percent from the year before and up a rocking, socking 65 percent from 1973 to 1975. And you can’t buy it in the stores, remember?
And in Dallas those women, most of them from middle to lower income families and many of them suburban, were busy out there with their family cars and a product they could really believe in. Those mothers who wanted dance lessons for daughter and soccer shoes for son, those retired secretaries and shy housewives, those lonesome widows and women whose husbands work nights or not at all and the young brides whose groom can’t afford livingroom furniture, they were all out there . . . between 800 and 1,000 of them . . . racking up about $120,000 in sales a week . . . every week . . . steady as the sunrise. One hundred twenty thousand dollars a week. Six million dollars a year. Way above the national average.
Now that kind of money coming in soon fosters the idea that somebody, maybe a lot of somebodies, is getting rich off Tupperware. And somebody is. The distributors, the successful distributors, make a good deal of money. They wouldn’t be financing new houses, college educations and Lincoln Continentals if they weren’t. (Nearly every distributor in the country owns a Continental. Since distributorships are husband-wife teams, that’s two Continentals per. The Hugheses’ are matching white. His with a maroon interior, hers in white. And they trade them in every other year. Ann Drake was, at last report, awaiting delivery of her ’77 Mark V.) Managers and dealers make money too, but on a much more modest scale. Yet, as the company keeps insisting, Tupper-ware is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Nobody makes money without first working at it. The best dealers and managers make the most in money and prizes. The Hugheses have been in Tupper-ware for 19 years and became distributors only after Shirley put together a manager unit that was No. 1 in the country in sales. The Drakes got their first distributorship in 1961 after Ann won similar recognition. Nobody buys into Tupperware. Every distributorship was once a successful dealer, then a successful manager. The chain extends all the way up to Mr. Tupperware, Joe Hara, the president.
So how much money can be made? How is that $382 million in annual sales divided up? Well, we can make some educated estimates.
Plastics is an industry that enjoys a low production cost. Once you’ve got the molds and are turning out identical daffodil yellow or apple green canisters they get cheaper with every million. Business analysts say it costs from 10 to 20 percent of sales to produce such an item. We’ll say 15 cents of every dollar. In addition, we know from Dart Industries reports that Tupperware’s pre-tax earnings amount to about 25 percent of its sales. That’s another quarter of that dollar and that figure alone indicates what a fantastic moneymaker Tupper-ware has been. Most American companies are quite happy, thank you, with pre-tax earnings of 10 percent. Tupperware’s impact on Dart is so great, say Wall Street analysts, that the conglomerate has grown flabby, its executives lulled into a reluctance to lop off some of their more unprofitable ventures.
The remaining 60 cents, then, must go chiefly toward a massive marketing effort, since low cost products usually require a much greater sales effort. In commissions and discounts it works out this way. The dealers take home 25 percent of everything they sell. The average sale per party is a bit over $100 so a dealer stands to net from $25 to $30 per party for about three hours of work. Dealer activity ranges from less than $100 and one party a week to from 10 to 15 parties and sales of nearly $2,000. Parties can be held morning, afternoon and evening. Any dealer who can find recruits and hit $1,500 in sales each week will not, if she so desires, remain a dealer long.
The next step up is manager. Managers are better at their jobs, work harder and have more experience. They are responsible for the care and stroking of all recruits they can bring into their unit and for reinforcing the spirit of Tupper-ware. For this the manager receives the free use of a new Ford Torino wagon, insurance benefits and the 25 percent commission on her own sales plus 3 percent of all sales in her unit. She also achieves select status within the distributorship and is now in a position to compete via sales and politicking for the next distributorship opening. A top manager, one who really makes a business of it, might take home $500 or $600 a week, often more than her husband makes. A super manager with a unit of 40 dealers and lots of energy can top $1,000.
Take off another 10 cents for the gifts and prizes dealers and managers use to enliven their parties and reward their hostesses and that leaves something in the neighborhood of 22 cents. Out of this must come the operational expenses and profits of the 280 distributors, the maintenance of managerial, research and development staffs and the cost of an inundating promotional barrage mounted continuously by World Headquarters and aimed directly not at its customers but at its dealers and managers in a frenetic attempt to keep them motivated and active. This attempt consists chiefly of various gift and recognition schemes but it also includes such items as Tupperware’s new headquarters auditorium dedicated just last April, the Friendship Fountain there which contains water brought by distributors from around the world and looks like the “puffball” of water near the entrance to Six Flags, the Walk of Fame which contains the shoeprints of top recruiters, and the Garden of Loyalty in which every distributorship has its tree and from which, in a neat bit of symbolism that is lost on absolutely no one, ambitious managers often take clippings to nurture back home. Then there is Jubilee, that annual phantasmagoria that by common admission approaches the indescribable. The best short description on record may be a passage from a poem written by D’Ann’s Peggy McNiel, a young woman who recently moved from Sulphur Springs and whose husband repairs wooden industrial pallets for a living. “Jubilee,” she says in her first and only poem to date, “is the Academy Awards, Let’s Make a Deal, Hollywood Squares and the best restaurant in town all in one.”
The distributors’ share of the final 22 cents can only be guessed at since they are sworn to secrecy and traditionally do not find out themselves until after they have proven their sincerity; in the case of the Drakes it meant selling their home, a car, going into debt and moving their family to an apartment in a distant city. It was an impressive display of faith, and one they made on the assurance from Tupperware that “If you work as hard as a distributor as you are working now as a manager, you’ll make more money than you thought possible.” They have not gone unrewarded.
If the distributors get half of that 22 percent, in Dallas they would share $300,000 annually, before taxes and expenses. In the case of D’Ann Sales, the Drakes must pay the obvious expenses of an office-warehouse staff of 15 and the construction of their 20,000 square foot facility, and maintain enough working capital to fill the warehouse. Actually their agreement with Tupper-ware is in the form of a discount price at which they are allowed to buy the products from the company in order to supply their dealers. Eleven percent of the original sales dollar may be low, but whatever they gross and whatever the amount they get to take home to their fattening bank accounts, it is a lot more than they have ever made before and probably more than they ever dreamed. Shirley Hughes says that if they hadn’t got together with Tupperware, she and Glen would have made a success at something. That may be true, but there aren’t all that many private business opportunities open to waitresses and milkmen, telephone linemen and housewives that will gross them a third of a million a year. Whatever that percentage is, it allows the Hugheses their Mark IVs and a good long vacation fishing for blue marlin off Hawaii each year. And it is enough to let Glenn and Ann Drake put a son through SMU Law and build a 4,000 square foot, five bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, swimming pool, den, gameroom, customized English style two-story home in Lochwood. And that is why there is fastened on the door of that house on the northeast side of White Rock Lake, down there right under the doorbell so no one will miss it, a small brass plate. And on that plate is written: “The House That Tupperware Built.”
But to dismiss Tupperware only in terms of such lucre is to miss the point entirely. Tupperware is a phenomenon of finance, but it is also one of emotion. Listen:
“Tupperware is love and caring. Tupperware is sharing.” “Tupperware is helping each other.” “Tupperware is family fun.” “It’s kinda like church.” “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Tupperware,” says Glenn Drake, “is the happiest, cleanest, most wholesome way of making money you can imagine.”
Next to money emotional involvement is the most important factor in Tupperware sales. What people will no longer do for money they will do for a coveted prize, the recognition of their peers or the assurance that they are helping to keep alive an enjoyable, and perhaps increasingly necessary experience.
“Money and recognition are the two main motivational tools,” says Ann Drake. “And a lot of people will work just for the recognition.”
It is a solid confirmation of our needs.
The hostess has no official connection with the company. Most often she is a woman whom the dealer has met casually at another party. The system begins when she, at the urging of her dealer, recruits ten or so of her friends for coffee, cake and Tupperware in her own living room. In effect, she supplies the customers and the selling site while the dealer supplies only the product. The hostess also collects the money for sales and makes sure the items bought are distributed from the dealer to her friends a few days after the party. Why does she do this?
Well, perhaps it is for the few small hostess gifts she receives: a pin cushion, a notepad that looks like an owl, or some measuring spoons. Or perhaps it’s the West Bend Slo-Cooker she receives if her party sells more than $115 and dates two other parties. But I talked with one hostess, Crystal Steele, a young mother of a 4-month-old boy who lives in a small, neat home in Richardson, north of Arapaho Road, and who quit work recently to care for her child. She had held her first party that day, she said, because she was lonely, only she didn’t use the word “lonely.”
“I like to entertain,” she said. “I like to have people come into my home.”
Eight people came to her party that day, most of them young mothers and many members of the same church on nearby Waterview Drive. They were nicely dressed and several brought young children who were, generally, well behaved. They talked of children, sewing and the church. Nettie Phillips, a thin, blond former executive secretary from Garland, was the dealer. Nettie is one of D’Ann’s top managers. She averages from 10 to 12 parties a week and regularly tops $1,000 in sales. She has a thick calendar book in which she lists all her parties and she’s booked weeks ahead. “I’ve got a list of every hostess and every party I’ve ever had,” she says. She says her entire house is furnished with Tupperware prizes.
Nettie’s demonstration table is already set up and in front of her are arrayed the guests who already are leafing through Tupperware order catalogues which she has placed at strategic points before the party began. Nettie starts with a few warmup games, getting them to see who can name the most unusual pie, who can recognize scrambled words the fastest. Everybody wins some small piece of Tupperware: an egg separator, a cake knife or a toothbrush holder. She follows with a demonstration of a piece of Tupperware they might not have seen (many have been to the parties before), in this case a large sealable mixing bowl that will accommodate, among other things, seven entire pie crusts.
She gives a quick rundown of perhaps a dozen other items in her display, pointing out where they can be found on the order forms and how they can be used around the house. And that is it. No pressure. No hard sell. Her chief aim is to make her listeners aware of how they might use her products and make those products available to them. No pressure is a cardinal rule at Tupperware. They believe they have a great product that will save the average housewife time, space in her kitchen and money by keeping leftovers better than any other product. They pride themselves in the knowledge that they are not peddlers.
The emotional needs are continued within the company. There they are more obvious and the fulfillment or manipulation of them is more certain. Permeating the company is a system of gratification based on monetary and merchandise rewards, peer recognition and the exclusivity of rank. There are more than 600 dealers at D’Ann, for example, and only about 60 managers. The Drakes are one distributorship out of only 280 in the country and last year their performance was near the top in the country. The dealers are not aware of all the benefits that accrue to managers and managers don’t know exactly what the distributors receive, but they repeatedly are assured that attaining them will be worth it.
It is a system that does not work for everybody. Tupperware has something like a three out of five dealer dropout rate, yet those who remain are loyal for a long time. Most of those who drop out, says Ann Drake, do so early because they don’t enjoy it or because their personal goals were strictly monetary and easily fulfilled. They got the dishwasher, paid off the car or repaired the roof. But that’s how Tupperware is, she says. It’s keyed to helping the participant get what she wants as long as she is willing to work for it.
A lot of this emotion, though certainly encouraged by World Headquarters because of its power to increase loyalty, seems to emanate from Tupperpeople themselves. Probably the greatest purveyors of it are the distributors, if for no other reason than it is in their best interest to do so. But there probably are other reasons. Each distributor, it must be remembered, was once a dealer. And each one undoubtedly is readily aware of what Tupperware has done for him. At D’Ann Sales, for example, the Drakes have as much reason as anybody to believe in the magic of Tupperware.
In 1960 Glenn Drake was a $7,000-a-year foreman with Dallas Power & Light. Ann was a housewife and mother of two young children. They lived in a three-bedroom, water-cooled home in Casa View and were barely making payments. Ann got into Tupperware, just a party a week, because she wanted what many women want; a few little extras, dancing lessons, a little green space between the income and the outgo. The more parties she dated, the more parties she wanted to date. And the more money she made.
“I remember one night there was a problem at the plant,” she says. “It was a stormy night and Drake had to go out there. Well, I had a party so I went on. I got a babysitter and went and had the party.
“Well, the party finished and I came back, took the babysitter home and came back home and he still wasn’t back. It turned out that I made more money than he did that night and he was on double overtime and he still wasn’t home.”
It wasn’t long before Drake was a $7,000-a-year DP&L foreman watching his wife bring home more money than he did. It was at that point that Drake began to consider a career change; not to a better paying job, but to Tupper-ware. He had supported Ann’s involvement in the business from the beginning, cooking and babysitting when necessary. Everybody had, in fact. The kids, Nancy and Glenn, packed orders Ann’s dealers would deliver to their hostesses. But now it became more serious. Ann soon ranked among the top managers in the country and when they were offered a distributorship, they took it.
“We had felt all along that sometime we would like to get into some sort of business for ourselves,” says Ann. “And when this came up we decided that Tupperware might be it.”
But “it” wasn’t all that easy. “It” meant selling everything, borrowing a good deal of money and moving to New Orleans, a city they had never even visited. It took a lot of faith.
“We weren’t even told what our discounts would be,” says Drake. “We didn’t find that out until we were already set up in New Orleans. That’s how much faith we had.”
They crowded themselves into an apartment and their business into an unheated warehouse. The name D’Ann is a contraction of Drake and Ann designed to capitalize on New Orleans’ French heritage, and it is perhaps indicative of the lengths to which they went to make the distributorship a success. They were successful and a few years later when a distributorship came open in Dallas they were given first chance at it. They took the chance, even though it meant leaving all they had built up for a smaller business in Dallas. They haven’t regretted that move either. D’Ann Sales is now one of the top distributorships in the country.
And the Drakes seem intent on passing along their success. On setting an example of helping others to duplicate their achievements. They have “graduated” seven sets of distributors from D’Ann’s, seven wife-husband teams that currently hold distributorships in the Southwest. In addition, the Drake children, Glenn, 24, and Nancy, 22, are in the business.
Glenn Drake, big and burly and with graying sideburns, is up there on the stage now, mike in hand, and everybody knows what is coming. The visitors, about half a dozen of them, have been greeted by the group’s chorus (“What’s your name? Gloria. Hi Gloria.”) and now it’s time to find out just how everybody did last week. “Sharing” and “helping others” are important words at Tupperware, but competition underlies the system. Ostensibly, distributorships in the same city do not compete for customers, (“There are plenty to go around.”) but there is a great awareness of a distributor’s sales rank in the nation and in the region. Within each distributorship recognition comes by out-achieving others, but the company tries to blunt the destructiveness of competition by reducing dealer vs. dealer battles and orienting everyone toward a wide array of prizes and awards based on dollar sales, not rank in class. And it works hard to emphasize that the Tupperware spirit includes not only achievement but also feeling joy at someone else’s success.
“All right now,” Drake says. “We’re gonna start our spelldown. Everybody who had $100 in sales last week stand up.”
Nearly everyone does. And the count goes on.
“$125. $150. $175. $196-97-98-99-$200.”
Clap Clap. A few sit down.
Clap Clap Clap. A few more go.
At $500 about a dozen are left and when the count reaches $850 the high dealer, now Queen Dealer for the next week, a black woman named Dorothy, falls to much applause. At $775 Nettie Phillips is found to be Queen Manager and she stays up until $1,700. At every pause there has been applause, with rhythmic clapping at the $100 marks and a small uproar when a long stander finally sits down. When Nettie goes the applause is considerable.
The unit spelldown follows. The procedure is repeated except that the top 20 units stand in a ring around the hall until the top unit is found. This week Bettye Sloan’s Sloan Rangers beat out such names as Maxine Hiller’s Maxi-mums, Mary Murr’s Murrmaids and Nettie’s Hi Netters. The Rangers will occupy the front row center seats at the next assembly. In this case the next assembly will be a night affair and at times like that the house is packed and the spelldown is even more boisterous. In addition to a free piece of Tupper-ware to use in their parties, the top 20 teams will see their team names placed on a board at the front of the hall.
So much for recognition. Now for the prizes.
There are cash prizes for top-unit sales starting at $5,000 a week. Vanguard. Crown Vanguard. Gold Crown Vanguard. Diamond Crown for those over $14,000 in sales. Some units reach $20,000 and count more than 40 members.
And houseware prizes. New ones in each new six- or eight-week promotion dreamed up by World Headquarters; each with a completely new theme, bouncier than the previous and all featuring the latest in items to use around the house.
Those are the rewards available to managers and dealers. Surprisingly enough, distributors are limited pretty much to what they make on their discount. Perhaps this is in acknowledgement that there is little need for remuneration here, that the relationship they share with Tupperware transcends any further need or desire for money. A simple “thanks” and a cute gift will do. Gold painted plaster dragons, chrome shovels, plexiglas replicas of Friendship Fountain, baseball caps, tiny bats that say “homerun sales,” low budget theme embodiments that strain the imagination with their variety. But for the distributors they are all weighted with meaning, like family heirlooms, and valued far in excess of ordinary appraisals.
Ask Ann Drake what the family received for being “real tigers” and having the country’s top distributorship in 1974. It wasn’t a cash bonus. Not a car. Not a surprise trip to the Bahamas. Not anything, really, just a large, fluffy, orange and white tiger with a red felt tongue and a silly expression.
“A lot of people,” says Ann, blushing and perhaps remembering the adulation that came with the award at Jubilee, “will work just for the recognition.”
Lewis Hollweg is an industrial psychologist. He was recommended by a member of SMU’s psychology department for an opinion on the group motivation-direct sales phenomenon.
“Sales managers find it extremely difficult to maintain an emotional high in their salesmen,” Hollweg said. “That’s one thing they keep trying to do. It takes a lot to keep going out in person or on the telephone and bashing your head against a brick wall trying to sell your property or books or Tupperware.”
This is no less a problem with Tupperware than with the other companies. Thus the recurring avalanche of prizes, bonuses and gifts in addition to the basic commission. A product prize undoubtedly is worth more in motivational effect than a commission increase of equal value.
The key moral concern involved in all of this, says Hollweg, is whether a company, in its manipulation of the needs and desires of its salespersons, induces them to perform tasks that are not in their interests. Regrettably, no one in psychological or sociological research has yet determined the detrimental effects, if any, of a hard-earned microwave oven or the newfound ability to speak before more than three people over the age of six. Perhaps the best guide to understanding this in Tupperware is Nettie’s comment about load setting. No one does more than she wants.
Yet, there remains one more factor and it is not an insignificant one. What happens to these women when the stimulus, the system to which they are devoted, is removed?
“It is very important for the company to try to get its employees to identify with it,” Hollweg said. “It makes them a more loyal work force. If the company ceases to function they will probably take whatever skills they have learned and go back to what they were doing. Or they will go on and get involved in some other similar program.
“After all, now they should be more confident and better able to handle themselves.”
But what about this willingness to accept the standards of some group and repeatedly seek reward by fulfilling those standards? What about this emotional dependency on something that is, essentially, a profit making mechanism? Doesn’t this go deeper than just company identifications?
“Eric Hoffer has some interesting things to say about that in his book The True Believer,” Hollweg said. “Generally, those who need to identify with a group will do it whether it’s a church or Tupperware or whatever.
“But you’re too cynical for that, too independent. And probably so am I. We probably wouldn’t dream of getting involved in something like that. But others find it a normal thing.”
Perhaps manipulation is not of itself bad when the subject is aware of the manipulation and its direction is to his benefit. Ann Drake says Tupperware simply makes money by helping women acquire the material goods they desire. And as for the abrupt removal of the stimulus and its rewards, the removal of the chance for emotional dependency on the company, well, Tupperware people, to a woman, have an answer for that.
“What if Tupperware were suddenly outmoded by some technological breakthrough and it just wasn’t as good as something else?” I asked.
“But that can’t happen,” they said. “The seals that make them better than anything else are patented. Nobody else can use them.”
“Well then what if you finally sold everybody in the country, in the world, enough Tupperware?”
“There will always be a market for Tupperware,” they said. “Every Tupperware mother is teaching her daughters and sons about it and they will grow up and create new Tupperware families.”
“But what if it did collapse?” I persisted to Ann Drake. “What if for some reason you couldn’t sell Tupperware to anybody? What if nobody wanted it? What then? What would you do?”
“But that won’t happen,” she said,raising her eyebrows and leaning forward from the orange Mediterraneansofa in the managers’ lounge. “Don’tthink like that!”
Ten o’clock Monday morning and the sound of Perry Como singing the Lord’s Prayer flows through a new warehouse on the east side of Farmer’s Branch like old honey.