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Monday, September 20, 2010

Candle ladies have the best stories...

Good afternoon!

 It's that time of year again when more and more of us host direct sales parties because we promised a friend six months ago that we would.  It's a night out!  It's a reason to see your friends!  It's time to pamper yourself!  Get a jump on the holiday shopping!

Sound familiar?

Admittedly, I am addicted to Partylite candles.  I sold them for more than four years.  I had to stop because I couldn't NOT sell them.  I had to win every sales contest, I had to book the most parties, I had to have the most in sales.  Every month.  The end result was, of course, a house full of more candles than I'll ever burn, more candle holders than most big box stores, and enough Styrofoam packing material to send even the most moderate environmentalist into a convulsion.  Oh, and I have stories.  Boy do I have the stories.

Now, more than two years after quitting, I still host the parties.  Oh I host other parties, but there's just something about candle parties that bring out the best and the weirdest, in people.  Candles seem to go hand in hand with alcohol,  (Fire, alcohol and a roomful of crazed middle aged women who want to pretty up their lives.  What could possibly go wrong?) so maybe candle ladies do have the best stories. After all, when was the last time you heard of a fist fight breaking out at a Pampered Chef brunch?

The story I have today, as I promised last week, involves working out mother issues at a party.  This is something you just shouldn't do.  Period.  To that end, if you HAVE mother or mother in law issues, you should not EVER EVER EVER host a party with the object of your issues. 

It started out completely innocently.  It always does.  I was the unsuspecting candle lady, in my first year of sales, going to the home of a friend of a friend of one of my mom's neighbors.  See, that's how these parties work.  You start with people you know, people you love, homes in which you know where the bathroom is.  A few weeks later, you're walking a block down a dark street, lugging $800 worth of candles and glass, convinced you're going to be the headline on the late news.  "A forty year old candle lady was crushed to death early this morning...witnesses say she wouldn't stop trying to convince everyone at the party to start their own business selling candles, so party goers dropped her plastic crates on her head." 

In this case, I wasn't nervous about the neighborhood and the woman who booked the party with her mother in law seemed completely free of mental hang ups.  I wildly incorrect of my assessment, as we shall later see.

When I got there, hostess number one, let's call her Jane, told me to set up in the front room while she and hostess number two, we'll call her Bindi, because it amuses me, put together the food.  I rolled my two carts into the front room and started setting up.  Meanwhile Jane's four year old son, the ever so precious genius we'll call Dexter, decided it was a good time to "help" the candle lady.  Jane said, "Oh, isn't he so precious.  He's a genius, you know.  Now, Dexter, you be a good helper and help the candle lady."

Yeah, the candle lady doesn't need a four year old's help, thanks.

But even early in my career I'd learned that children, like pets, were something to be worked around.  So I handed Dexter my box of scent samples and said, "Here Dexter, you sniff each of these for me, okay?"

Who's the genius now?

Oh, that would still be Dexter, who decided the scent samples weren't arranged properly.  Instead of being in their cubbies by NAME as the candle company intended, he sorted them by color.  And then, for good measure, he dropped everything on the floor, adding complete randomness to everything else.

I don't know if you're familiar with Partylite candles, but there are times of the year when most of the candles are different shades of maybe three colors.  As I stared at the pile of white candles ranging in color difference from pure white to a subtle dark beige, I realized that I hadnt' even sniffed all the candles, this being a new scent box.  So I stood there, staring, as Dexter danced his little dance around the pile of candles.  Then that little cretin looked at me and said, "I made a mess.  You have to clean it up."

Jane looked up from her food making and said, "Dexter, sweetie, are you helping the candle lady?"

Dexter said, "Oggyy booooog mama."

I decided I was just going to put the candles in the box and if I sold a vanilla candle that was actually a french vanilla candle or a vanilla bean candle, the world was just going to have to deal.

Now it's time for the party!  The woman who introduced me to Jane showed up....and no one else.

Yes, there I was.  Two hostesses, a woman who had just earned $500 worth of free product at her own magnificent party a week ago, and Dexter, boy genius.

Still, I was certain, mostly because Jane promised me, that there would be plenty of outside orders and this would be my BEST PARTY EVER.

So I did my sales pitch.  Mentally I figured out how to make it work for Jane and Bindi  (It should be noted, Bindi did not open her mouth once, not even when I was introduced to her.  I had no idea if she could talk.) provided they had the bare minimum in orders.

So I get done with the sales deal in record time, given that Bindi didn't speak and Dexter didn't read.  And no one was going to order anything.  Now was the time when I sit down with the hostesses and look at the orders they gathered prior to the party.

Jane handed me a stack of...

Two orders.

Two.

Grand total for the party:  $75.60.

Not to fear, I told myself, we can keep this party open.  They can get more orders.  It will still be fine.

I explain this to Jane and Bindi.  Jane is nodding.  Yes, she knows the drill.  She wants the gigantic candle stand.  She needs to sell roughly $924 more to get it.  Gee, I could have done that for her, had she actually had people show up.

Bindi, however, chooses this moment to speak.  "I did not invite people to my house to buy things.  I said I would have the party and get the free items and that was it."

So if just one of you books a party tonight, Mary here is going to earn an extra $100 in free candles!
Apparently no one explained to Bindi how this worked.

What ensued, for the next hour, was a shouting match between Bindi and Jane.  I didn't catch all of it, while I packed up my candle crap, as  I always referred to my display items.  I think at one point they slipped into a different language.  What I did catch was the fact that Jane thought her husband, Bindi's son, was a no good deadbeat keeping them living in his mother's house.  Bindi, on the other hand, was not impressed with Jane's credentials as a human person and questioned whether or not Dexter was even her sons' kid.  Jane questioned that as well, since, as she put it so daintily, "Nothin' smart was ever gonna come from anything related to your stupid a++."

The other lady, the former hostess, sipped her glass of wine  (It was her fourth.  See, they opened a bunch of wine bottles in anticipation of a huge party.  And you know once that bottle is opened....)  "They do this all the time, " she tells me, pouring herself another glass. "I probably should have warned you."

Oddly enough, the party eventually turned out okay.  Like three weeks later, after Jane gathered enough orders to get to the minimum and she emailed saying she was done.   As for the candle mix up, I never did figure it out, and I never did tell any of my other customers.  They just all thought they really liked Vanilla way better than they liked French Vanilla or Vanilla Bean.

So that's just one of my candle lady stories.  Happy Birthday to Skippy, who is 17 today, and to Julie, who is younger than I am, so she should be happy about that!

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