For Bonnie Wallace, this special recipe has taken her around the world. But she didn't become a Pampered Chef kitchen consultant to earn trips. She did it out of financial necessity. With her husband leaving the Navy and heading for law school, Wallace, a stay-at-home mom, was thrust into the role of family breadwinner.
Unable to conceptualize the typical working mother's 40-hour drill, she decided to give direct sales a whirl and signed up with The Pampered Chef. Avoiding the corporate grind was nice. Being able to meet the bills was nicer. And finding out that she also garnered points toward vacations with Pampered Chef's incentive program was frosting on the cake.
She netted her first trip — a jaunt to San Antonio, Texas — in her first six months. After her first taste of incentive travel, Wallace decided she liked the perks that peppered her new career. New Orleans, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., followed.
In addition to short domestic vacations, mega-trips, with extended qualifying periods of 12 to 18 months, were on the menu. Wallace earns “trips galore” by hosting six to eight shows and recruiting one beginner each month. “I earn one point per dollar sold and a thousand points for each recruit,” she says. While Wallace says that the average Pampered Chef kitchen consultant sells $450 per show, her median sales are considerably higher, in the $600 to $650 range.
Last year's sun-soaked reward was Cancun, Mexico. To get there, Wallace had to earn 2,500 points per month for seven consecutive months.
The trip was taken in waves, with five different groups attending at separate times. Wallace and her husband attended in April with several hundred other qualifiers. They stayed at the Moon Palace resort, and Wallace describes the experience as a sabbatical. Shunning most tourist activities, she and her husband, Don, lounged pool- and oceanside, savoring the sun on the Yucatan Peninsula for all four days.
“The swimming pool complex is so huge — acres and acres of blue water. It took me a half hour to swim the whole thing!” says Wallace, who is also a competitive diver. “I spent as much time in it as I could. I ate an awful lot, too.” The Palace's famed buffets are stocked nearly round the clock.
The incentive travelers' all-inclusive wristbands gave them guest privileges at five other Palace resorts in and around Cancun, so when they did venture into town, they didn't even have to spring for their lunch.
“Our room was elegant. It was all marble, with a two-person hot tub. They were much nicer accommodations than we could afford if we were paying our own way.”
Traveling to Munich in July 2000 was a big achievement, requiring 80,000 points.
“We stayed in the Hilton; the room was beautiful with a view of the city. Our welcoming dinner took place at a large beer hall with German dancers,” she says. The Pampered Chef sponsored castle tours, a day to visit Salzburg, Austria, where The Sound of Music was filmed, and other siteseeing opportunities in Munich. Seeing the Passion Play in the Bavarian village of Oberammergau was a big lure for Wallace. The world-renowned religious performance is held once every decade.
In 1998, Wallace found herself in the heart of old Paris, in the historical, cultural, and shopping area. “The first day, they loaded us onto busses and showed us the city,” she says of her introduction to the Louvre, the Opera House, and other historic Parisian monuments. “We went up into the Eiffel Tower at night and looked down over the city.”
A gala welcoming reception took place at the Hotel Inter-Continental Paris, where the incentive winners stayed. The Pampered Chef farewell parties, according to Wallace, are always formal. “It's fun to get gussied up,” she says.
In February 1999, Wallace and her husband set out for Barcelona, Spain. “We went a week early,” Wallace says. “We rented a car and explored the countryside.” They discovered a resort in Andorra, between Spain and France, where both hit the slopes. “It was nothing like skiing here. Some … slopes took me 45 minutes to ski down — it was the best ski trip of my life.”
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Arts Barcelona was the setting for a vacation that, in Wallace's mind, stands out as the most elegant of the trips she has earned. “We had a suite with elegant marble bathrooms, his-and-her glass-shelved closets, huge beds and television sets, and a great view of the Mediterranean.”
Winery tours marked day excursions, and flamenco dancers entertained at the farewell party.
'C' You Real Soon
Wallace gets a choice for each incentive trip she earns. “In 1997, I got to choose between Hawaii for two, a Caribbean cruise for two, or Walt Disney World for the whole family. With three kids, of course we chose Disney.”
The family stayed at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort and was treated to an incentive program with all the flair and panache that The Pampered Chef could offer. A “Wet Day” at Typhoon Lagoon water park — which The Pampered Chef group had all to themselves — was a high point, according to the Wallace kids. Attendees and families were treated to free souvenirs and all the dessert and ice cream they could eat. Each family got three-day park-hopper passes to visit EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and MGM Studios.
According to Wallace, each trip is complemented with elegant parties and dinners featuring cutting-edge cuisine and personalized gifts at every plate. Wallace welcomes the opportunity to hobnob with company founder Doris Christopher and her husband, Jay, at company functions as well. “They are such nice people,” Wallace says. “Of all the thousands of consultants Doris has, she never forgets my first name. She is amazing.”
“If I have one recruit a month, I can halve what I have to do for sales that month and still meet my incentives,” she says. She says that Pampered Chef offers a double points month annually, and by working extra hard and doubling or tripling her shows during those two months, she can devote plenty of time to her first priority, her husband and three children.
“It's simple division: I just figure out how much time I have left to earn each trip. If I have a bad month, I just re-divide and re-goal myself.”
Kelle Larkin is a freelance writer based in Portage, Mich., and a frequent contributor to CMI.