Does anyone still hold sales parties at home? They used to be all the rage years ago. In the 1970s Tupperware parties were popular. In fact, I became a demonstrator. Off I’d trundle every evening with my suitcase packed full of it; it was certainly an art fitting it all in. Once you’d sold to the value of what was in the case, it and Tupperware were yours to keep – it was the only way back then how I could afford to buy any. I demonstrated for about a year, out one or two evenings a week. What finally made me stop was one client, having invited and expected 20 people to her home, had bought 20 fresh cream cakes to go with coffee. Not one person turned up, to the lady’s utter embarrassment. I felt so disappointed for her, and in those days no one had freezers so she couldn’t even store the cakes. I didn’t even own a refrigerator then! Tupperware is brilliant. I still have and use much of what was in that demonstrator case, so it’s at least 40 years old.
There were lots of jewellery parties too. I particularly remember the Sarah Coventry range and had bought some lovely rings and earrings, only to find out I couldn’t wear them as I had an allergic reaction to the metal and I can only wear gold.
When I moved from London to the West Country, some one hundred miles away, to a new and what was at the time the largest new housing development in Europe, I knew no one, and at first it was very lonely. Most people were in the same predicament, so house parties soon became popular, selling everything from Tupperware to Ann Summers sexy lingerie. There was a rival cosmetics range to Avon, called Vanda. I still have a glass bottle which held bubble bath, and is perfect for a single-stem flower. One of my favourite ranges was a brand of pottery including mugs and pot scourer holders, butter dishes, canapé dishes, vases and up to full dinner services. I still have one remaining item, a little flat dish that I use to hold rings and things when I’m working in the kitchen.
The parties were a great way to get to know neighbours and make friends but they ended up becoming more a competition of who could serve up the best and most innovative buffet, when really just a cup of coffee and a biscuit would have been suffice. It was the “in” thing at the time to make dips for crudities from dried soup mixes, and instead of tea or coffee, wine was the norm.
The last sales party I went to was in the early 1980s, for cubic zirconia jewellery, then fairly new on the market. I treated myself to a solitaire ring which I still wear on occasion. I remember at the time kidding my father it was a real diamond. “Let’s see,” he said, “only diamonds can cut glass.” And he promptly dragged it across their glass coffee table – to leave an enormous, deep scratch right down the middle of it. Mum was furious with him!
I suppose much of the demise of the sales party has been caused by the Internet, where it’s so easy to buy anything you want now. Either that, or I’m a Billy No Mates and no one bothers to invite me any more!