Tupperware nightmare leaving women 'desperate'
Devastated former Tupperware directors have lifted the lid on the iconic company, claiming they've been left "financially desperate" and "emotionally depleted" after years of service.
Speaking to news.com.au anonymously out of fear of legal "retribution", several former director couples who had been involved with Tupperware for decades told similar stories of a "failing" business model that has left them "traumatised" - and "hundreds of thousands of dollars" out of pocket.
The group said while Tupperware promoted itself as a company that championed female empowerment, in reality many women who climbed the corporate ladder ended up financially "destitute" with ruined careers.
And the couples also claimed to know of "many others" in similar situations following their involvement with Tupperware.
THE TUPPERWARE MODEL
The first Australian Tupperware party was held in Camberwell in Melbourne in 1961.
Since then, countless Aussies and New Zealanders - most often women - have risen through the ranks from selling the famous containers to directing their own territory or "distributorship", which is considered to be one of the top positions within the business.
Under the distributorship model - which the group argued actually mirrored a franchise model - Tupperware offers their top-performing managers territories around Australia and New Zealand.
These are financed through the company via a loan to the managers that allows them to purchase the "goodwill" for the area at one-13th of the territory's revenue over the previous year and take over as directors.
But according to the Tupperware insiders, while the party plan distribution model thrived in the past when it was still a novelty, it is now deteriorating - and leaving former directors "financially stranded" with "marriages in tatters" and "self-confidence shattered".
The insiders claim directors are gagged from speaking due to nondisclosure clauses in distribution agreements, the threat of legal action and binding settlements.
For that reason, they allege Tupperware has been able to re-sell territories that have failed as a result of poor performance, and the company often gave prospective directors just 24 to 72 hours to decide whether to accept the offer.
Training after ownership was transferred was also allegedly scant, with the insiders claiming head office also instructed them to simply "trade on" while their financial circumstances unravelled. They also allege they were given "misleading" figures, including inflated sales forecasts, understated business expenses and promised levels of corporate support, which dried up soon after taking over a territory.
They claim the end result for them personally had been "disastrous" and "traumatic" and flew in the face of Tupperware's image of supporting female empowerment.
Tupperware Australia and New Zealand managing director Daniel Wood told news.com.au he was not aware of the sources behind the claims and was unable to make "more case-specific comments".
But he refuted the allegations made by the director couples, claiming they "grossly misrepresent the company's policies and procedures".
"Although we can't comment on any cases in litigation, I would like to underscore that Tupperware Brands operates in compliance with Australian laws. We make every effort to provide business plans that are fair for our sales force," he said.
"The opportunity we offer is one of an independent entrepreneur and success or failure in the business depends on the individuals' business skills and capabilities.
"Since 1961 many directors in Australia have been successful in the business achieving both significant incomes and job satisfaction."
Mr Wood said the Tupperware brand had been "well-loved and trusted" around the world for more than 70 years "not only by our customers but also by our sellers".
"We provide quality, innovative products to consumers through a relationship-based distribution model via our sales force," he said.
"Our commitment is to justly support our Tupperware business owners around the world. The success of our directors and sales force is a strategic focus area of the company.
"Our global success and growth is based on the success of the opportunity amongst women with an entrepreneurial spirit."
The group said the debts they had racked up mostly arose from unpaid goodwill loans and trading accounts but did not include the personal financial cost of abandoned tenancies, staff entitlements and tax obligations, which were often paid by the directors long after the collapse of their businesses.
"I went from being really excited to slowly disillusioned until I got to the point where I thought, 'Oh my God, they've lied to us'," one former director told news.com.au.
"They waited months for any sort of formal training and were then only given a day-and-a-half of instruction on corporate systems, managing staff and sales force with no information on behind-the-scenes details," another former high-performing executive manager said.
"It was not until after the agreement had been signed by all parties that the previous year's historical sales and operational statistics was presented, showing a direct contradiction to the dream that had formally been sold only days prior," another former executive manager said.
They said high-performing directors were referred to within the company as "CEOs" and were "feted" and rewarded with overseas holidays and accolades - but quietly, many were "drowning in rising trading debts, unpaid goodwill balances and deteriorating personal relationships".