A. Throw open anyone’s kitchen cupboards from Andorra to Zimbabwe, and you’ll find colourful plastic products for the preparation, serving, and storage of food. Chances are, some of these are Tupperware.
B. For many people in developed countries, Tupperware is redolent of the 1950s when grandma and her friends bought and sold it at ‘Tupperware parties’. Some would even say Tupperware became a cultural icon in that decade. However, these days, while parties are still popular, online sales are challenging the model. Indeed, since 2000, more Tupperware franchises have opened in China than anywhere else.
C. Take the Hundred Benefits shop in Hangzhou, one of China’s fastest-growing cities. Located in a chic part of town, it’s full of twenty-somethings who haven’t yet had a child but are building a nest. They’ve got plenty of expendable income, and they’re picking out items to reflect their new- found optimism. China is undergoing a home-decorating revolution after years of dull, unreliable products.
Furthermore, the average size of living space for urban Chinese has almost doubled recently, so there’s room for lots of stuff. But why choose a Tupperware? It’s functional as well as fun. It’s sealable, stackable, durable, microwave-and-freezable, dishwasher-friendly, and culturally sensitive: four-layer traditional Chinese lunch-boxes, revamped in bright sexy colours, grace the shelves of the Hundred Benefits shop.
D. What is the Tupperware story? The special plastic used in it was invented in 1938 by an American called Earl Tupper. The famous seals, which keep the air out and freshness in, came later. Tupper’s company was established in 1946, and for more than 40 years boasted every success, but, recently, Tupperware Brands Corporation has been sold several times, and its parent company, Illinois Tool Works, has announced that declining American prospects may mean resale.
E. Until the 1990s, Tupperware relied totally on a pyramid sales model. In this, a person buys products from a person above him or her, rather than from a wholesale company or retail shop, and after-sale of the new product to a third party gives a small percentage of the money to the person from whom he or she originally bought. In turn, when the person on the lowest level recruits more vendors, those people return percentages to the person above. Initially, Tupperware operated like this because it was not available in shops.
A more direct line between the manufacturer and the buyer results in cheaper products, and, as Tupperware is largely sold in the home, women suddenly have an independent income. A disadvantage might be that since people typically buy from and sell to friends, there are pressures at ordinary social gatherings to do deals, which some people may consider unethical. This raises the question: am I going for a pleasant dinner at Alison’s; or am I expected to buy a set of measuring cups from her as I leave?
This pyramid model is prohibited in China and has lost favour in many countries like Britain, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, where once it was all-pervasive. At present, most US sales are still on the party plan, but online and franchise sales are catching up.
F. Tupperware became fashionable after World War II. During the war, large numbers of women were in paid employment outside the home while their men were away fighting. When the men returned, the women mostly resumed their household duties. There are widely divergent views about Tupperware’s role at this time. Some feminists propose that the company promulgated an image of women confined to the kitchen, making the female pursuit of a career less likely. Others say that the pyramid sales model allowed women to earn, promoting autonomy and prosperity. In particular, those who were pregnant and at home could enjoy some extra cash.
G. Effective rebranding of Tupperware has taken place in the East, but what about in America? Well, the Tupperware website there has developed a ‘Chain of Confidence’ programme to improve sales. In this, women reinforce the notion of female solidarity by purchasing Tupperware and swapping true stories. Over a million dollars from this programme has also been donated to a girls’ charity.
H. What the future holds for the pretty plastic product is uncertain. Will Tupperware become a relic of the past like cane baskets and wooden tea chests, or will online social programmes and avid Chinese consumers save the company?
The text has eight paragraphs: A-H.
Which paragraph, A-H, has the following information?
Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 14-17 on your answer sheet.
14. The benefits of Tupperware in the kitchen.
15. Opposing views on Tupperware and the position of women.
16. A sales model which might spoil the friendship.
17. Worldwide availability of Tupperware.
Look at questions 18-22 and the list of countries below.
Match each statement with a country.
Write the letters, A-D, in boxes 18-22 on your answer sheet.
List of countries
18. Consumers here are now less keen on the pyramid sales model
19. Tupperware buyers in this country give money to help others
20. Young women here lead the way in the purchase of Tupperware
21. The writer uses this to represent many countries
22. Just after World War II, Tupperware was established here
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 2?
In boxes 23-26 on your answer sheet, write:
• YES if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
• NO if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
• NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
23. Keeping food fresh is something Tupperware does well.
24. Tupperware was responsible for a negative image of women in the 1950s.
25. Rebranding in China has been unsuccessful.
26. Tupperware containers are good for the environment.