Monday, March 12, 2012

This curmudgeon doesn't want ALL the details

I try to avoid voicing opinions here that might step on someone's toes but today I am venturing into that possibility. Today's topic isn't religion or politics. It isn't about Coke versus Pepsi and it isn't about the right way to hang your toilet paper on the spindle. That is a silly debate anyway. Everyone knows it should over the top of the roll and down the front.

Today's topic is direct sales parties. We've all been to Tupperware parties and I bet most of us have been invited to Mary Kay and other cosmetic brands, cooking parties from Pampered Chef to Tastefully Simple, jewelry parties and let's not forget PartyLite. All present nice products, some have individual items that some of us might even swear by, and home sales presents a way for many women to work part time to supplement an income or perhaps even full time in a job they prefer over all others. I have no problem with any of this.
Where does my problem begin? When the demonstrator tells all in attendance that by becoming an ABC (my generic brand name for the gizmos sold in this hypothetical example) sales associate, you will make 50% off of each home sale! And then she goes on to say how much the hostess makes! (Exclamation points necessary here because you know a sales pitch has to be peppy and positive!) And how the area manager above the demonstrator makes her money, and the district manager above her!!!!!!!!!

I'm not naive about business. I know that the hourly labor charge at a car dealership or your local repair facility doesn't all go to the mechanic doing the work. Built into that fee are his wages, worker's compensation insurance that his employer must have, perhaps medical coverage that his employer hopefully offers his employees, rent and utilities. Clerical personnel and maintenance people have to be paid also, and the corporation itself has to make a profit or why be in business?

Why does this bother me when it comes to home parties? I choose where to have my car serviced or where to buy my next refrigerator, pair of shoes or haircut. The nature of home parties is to encourage the hostess to invite her friends, relatives and coworkers into her home, have a snack and some fun while the demonstrator does her best to convince us to buy ABC's gizmos. Most of us feel obligated to buy something after being in the hostess's home for a few hours. I can live with this concept and often decline parties if I know I truly can't use anything in their line or if the hostess is a neighbor who otherwise doesn't speak to anyone on the street until she is hosting an Exciting Opportunity to Shop!!! Photobucket

Years ago, the demonstrators encouraged us to shop or to book a party so that our dear hostess could earn the Gizmo Deluxe. If we were interested in exciting sales opportunities, she spoke to us afterward or called us within a day or two. Now the financial breakdown is often given during the main presentation. THAT is where my mind starts clicking away and not in a good way for the ABC company.
Recently at a home party I looked at an item priced at $72 What??? 'I don't think so' was my first reaction. I've seen similar items in brick and mortar stores for much less. After the profit breakdown was given, I learned that the demonstrator would make $36 on the sale of this item. Her "mother", "grandmother" and "great-grandmother" would each make 10% off it (these terms were for the woman who brought her into the company, the woman who brought that woman in, etc) If the ten percents were off the $72, that is an additional $21.60 being paid, or $10.80 if it comes off the $36 after the demonstrator makes her 50%.

It is a given that the hostess will receive products or a percentage off of products based on sales. She should earn something, that isn't a problem, but we all realize that the company has to pay for that somehow, and it does so in pricing the items we buy. If I spent $75 at the ABC party, I could get a $40 for free. Huh? By the time you figure out all the cuts taken out of that $72 item, including corporate profit whose percentage was never mentioned, the item itself was probably produced for well under $10.
Years ago when most of us were buying lipstick for much less than $10, a home party sold theirs at $16 and was the first company I experienced who gave so much detail about the profit structure. I figured the tube of colored wax cost 94 cents by the time everyone made money off of it, and that was without knowing what the wax, dye and packaging cost. The demonstrator's supervisor, a woman I had met many times, surveyed me a few days later about the presentation as the demonstrator was new. I told her what I had figured and said they should probably keep those details out of the presentation, saving them instead for individuals truly interested in becoming part of the company. She sputtered. She was insulted. But she never refuted my calculations. I did not intend to upset her. She asked for opinions and I gave them. I assume the company she represents still handles things the same way as many other lines are following those guidelines now.

I do most of my shopping in stores where my purchase comes home with me right away. I know that the clerk's wages, the distributor of the product, the manufacturer, insurances and store utilities are all built into the price but I am not looking into the face of someone making 50% and feeling bothered by it. 

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I've reached the age of Curmudgeon-ness.
I will come to your party, especially if it is a product that hasn't saturated my community already. When it comes to the Exciting! Sales! Opportunities! that I could be part of though, I will excuse myself and go use your powder room but if your bathroom tissue is hanging incorrectly, I will have to fix that while I am there. Photobucket


Debbie said...

OK, I'll bite. If you stick a juicy morsel out there in front of me, I usually do. I'm gobbley like that.

Frankly, I just don't like home parties. I am like you in that I don't like the details, and I really don't like the fact that I'm expected to pay too much for a product to support those very details.

More than that? I am the kind of person who doesn't have the stinking spine to just say "NO" to purchasing something that I don't want when I'm at at home party. If I'm in the store, I can easily walk away, but when it's a party? Well...

I readily admit that I'm a cheapskate. That's how I have afforded to be a SAHM for so many years. Unfortunately, I'm a jellyfish cheapskate, and jellyfish cheapskates do not need to go to home parties.

One other note: It sort of bugs me when friends embark on a home party business venture because they inevitably start pressuring me to host and leave a hanging implication that a "good friend" would help them out. No. A good friend would not expect others to spend money that they otherwise would not spend.

There, I said it.

Kelli said...

I agree with your views on both home parties AND toilet paper. ;)

These 'direct sales' companies are making a HUGE comeback in my area, too. Longaberger and Home Interior (they go by a different name now...I just can't remember what it is) have always had a strong foothold, but some new ones have recently joined the fray. Thirty One came around a couple of years ago and it's still doing well, but recently Vault Denim has made an appearance. In the last month I have gotten no less than a dozen invitations to their parties. My daughters have both bought these designer jeans and love theirs, but I don't find myself needing bling on my bottom. ;) Most of their designs have lots of rhinestones, fancy stitching and sparkle, mainly on the posterior. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid. Everyone else around here seems to be gobbling them up and I'm happy for my friends who are consultants. I also hope they realize that with the way the area has been completely SATURATED (they've taken on so many locals wanting to sell them, too) that it is sure to burn out soon. Very, very soon.

Chatty Crone said...

I admit I say no to them too - I just don't want what they are selling! sandie

SkippyMom said...

Don't touch my toilet paper missy.

Not that I would ever host one of these godforsaken parties, but you are always invited for a cuppa' if you get the chance :D

I refuse to go to the parties too. I do like some of the products offered by some of the companies, but back when they were priced reasonably [Avon - I Am looking at YOU!] but I don't like to feel under obligation to buy at least a little something and living in an area of the US where the economy is steady and the median income is 90K - I don't feel like keeping up with the Mrs. Jones when she hauls an SUV full of product out in her Mercedes.

And I am with Debbie on when friends start these businesses. I have one who just did and she continually sends me emails to buy, buy, buy - the stuff is expensive and not something I need or will use. She really didn't have the money to invest in her starter kit of home show stuff and now I feel guilty because I am not helping her out by purchasing her product. [or pimping it to my friends and on my blog] Sigh.

I never thought of it they way you presented it [about the money breakdown] but now I really won't attend these parties. Wow.

PS - I couldn't email you, don't have your email, but wanted to thank you for the suggestion on the sea salt. I checked it out this afternoon and was sorely disappointed that it has a higher sodium content then table salt. Anyway, thanks again.

SkippyMom said...


Sewconsult said...

Are you sure you aren't my twin? I'd say evil, but you aren't any more so than I am! Gosh, I wish you lived in my neighborhood! You make me smile.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i hate them all... i recently went to a jewelry party. jewelry!!! i sell jewelry online myself. buggers if i didn't have to buy something. grrr...

smiles, bee