March 19th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

To: PartyLite. Re: 21st Century, Dammit.

For the love of God and all that's holy, I wish to holy fucking hell that PartyLite would enter the god damned 21st century.

PartyLite, for those of you who've never heard of it, is both a product line and a multi-level marketing scheme. The product line consists of candles made from a proprietary mix (that varies from form factor to form factor) of wax and food-grade paraffin, and their own line of (mostly unremarkable) decorative candle holders and other home decor accents. The candles themselves are, still, an entire product generation ahead of anything else that calls itself a candle. I'm talking tapers that don't drip unless they're exposed to a steady breeze, pillars that burn completely, tea lights that burn at such low temperature you can use them to decorate even the smallest ceramics safely, and votive candles that not only burn completely, but that leave little residue (or more often, no residue at all) to be scraped or washed out of the candle holder. And if some wick malfunction or external accident does result in a PartyLite candle spilling wax or leaving a residue, because it's food grade paraffin it washes right off with tap-temperature warm water. They even come in a remarkable and pleasing line of scents.

PartyLite is also, unfortunately, a multi-level marketing scheme that is solidly and inescapably mired in the middle of the 20th century, right after World War II. The company mistakenly believes that their only actual buying customers are bored middle class and upper class stay-at-home moms. Believing this, they have crafted a state of the art solution for moving a product whose advantages are not obvious at first glance to the, oh, I don't know, maybe couple of hundred remaining middle class and upper class stay-at-home moms in America. Nobody actually is allowed to buy candles from PartyLite, or from any store under any circumstances. Instead, they have to be contacted by a friend who is a registered PartyLite Consultant, who is herself (and the company virtually insists that it must be "her" self) is prohibited from directly selling the actual candles. Instead, any want-to-be buyer must host a company-designed "party" for all of her (and the company always assumes that the customer is "her") friends (which, to the company, goes without saying means "other stay at home moms") at which the consultant will lead them all in company-designed party games, work in the sales pitch for why these are no ordinary candles, and then and only then take their orders ... for product that neither the company nor the consultant will ship to them. No, the product must be shipped only to the hostess of the party, who will distribute the candles and decorative accents to her friends who ordered them.

I love the product. I hate the sales model with a growing, grim, determined, and fiery passion that is only being made worse by the fact that my last PartyLite Consultant flaked on me and, for the second time, went out of business, without so much as filing the orders that were taken at the last PartyLite party I was invited to, which was itself four months ago.

Earth to PartyLite, can you read me? It's not 1952 any more. We have this thing called the Internet, now. Perhaps you've heard of it? Well, yes, they've heard of it, they have a website. It sucks warm sick through a short straw. It's coded to not work with anything other than Internet Explorer, is flash heavy, and almost completely content free. Mind bogglingly, it doesn't even have the product pitch or their catalog on it. I gather from my consultant and ex-consultant friends that if you have a consultant log-in and a Windows-only PC running only Internet Explorer, you can access the online catalog and place orders ... through a system that would have been seen as dodgy, arcane, poorly designed, and unreliable by the standards of 1995. For the rest of us, all it will do is play some Ethan Allen furniture commercial look-alike Flash animations in pop-up windows, none of which actually explain why the product is any good. Oh, unless you also have a Windows PC running Internet Explorer, in which case there is a semi-concealed Active-X only web form that will take your contact info ... and send it to a randomly selected PartyLite Consultant in your area as a warm lead, not so she can sell you candles, but so she can try to get you to volunteer your home for this stranger to come in and use it as her place of business.

Not being a bored rich 1950s housewife, I wish to holy hell they'd simply sell the damned product.