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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Top 13 craziest, bizarre and interesting demos I have done over the years

Did you know that as of this year, I have been doing demos at grocery stores (primarily Albertsons, Walmart, Fred Meyer, and sometimes QFC stores)?   From 2005-2010 I primarily did my demos for New Concepts in Marketing and from 2010 to now, all of my demos have been done through Advantage Sales and Marketing (interestingly, NCIM stopped giving me new demos to do sometime after getting hired on to Advantage).  Anyways, in all of my years I have done some rather interesting and unusual events.  Here are some of the most memorable events.

Event 1: Oreo Cookie Stacking Contests (especially the one at Walmart in Marysville back in 2005)
Company: NCIM (though I have done a few other cookie stacking contests for Advantage Sales and Marketing)
Who likes oreos?  
Did an oreo stacking event at the Albertsons (currently a Haggens) in Clearview (Snohomish, WA) 
You know, I am not an expert when it comes to hosting contests (never really learned how to do them).  Anyways, back in 2005 I had to do a demo at the Walmart in Marysville (back then, the one by the casino was the only Walmart Store in the Marysville area, long before the Getchell one was built) where I was hosting an oreo cookie stacking contest.  At the time, I was new to the demo business and had no real experience hosting contests (nobody trained me) so it was a whole new experience for me.  During the event, I had a stop watch and had to get people to try an stack oreo cookies as high as they could before the timer expire.  They also had a medal for me to give to the person with the highest stack (I think customer service was the one that did that if I remember correctly).  That event was definitely quite a learning experience for me.  Making thins more challenging too was that many shoppers just wanted to eat the cookies too.  I've done similar events since thenl like the one in the picture above where I was giving out cookies and collapsible oreo cups at an Albertsons store (presumably the one in Monroe, long before it became a Haggens).

Event 2: Jamie Moyer Calendar Signing event at the QFC in the University Village (December 2006?)



Have you ever met a celebrity before?  If you do demos at grocery stores, there is chance you might meet one or more of them (not to say you will meet a celebrity, but the chance is there),  I did this event for New Concepts in Marketing.  For thus event, I had to go to the QFC in the U Village at the University District near downtown Seattle.  Back then, I was attending Northwest University (can't remember if I was living on campus or not that year) and the U District was literally right across the lake from where I was and is a quick drive across the highway 520 bridge (back then, there were no tolls on the freeway too).  This event marked my very first time meeting a local celebrity in person.  Never met any other celebrities before or since (never met Bill Gates, even when my father was working at Microsoft, Paul Allen, hollywood celebrities or other Seahawk or Mariner players), so this demo was a unique experience.  Initially I was going to be serving sparkling cider, but I was paired up with several other demonstrators in the store and was ultimately assigned to work as a "security person" for former Seattle Mariner, Jamie Moyer.  He seemed pretty nice and I mainly worked with him during the event as well as working with shoppers who wanted an autograph.  Marked my first time meeting a celebrity and haven't done any events quite like that one since then.

Event 3: QFC Open House events (most notably: the one in Montlake Terrace)

Almost every year (not sure if they still do them or not), QFC stores have done "Holiday Open House" events usually around Thanksgiving or Christmas times.  Back when I was working for NCIM, I've helped at some of these events, serving up treats such as cookies, hot chocolate, cake, and even egg nog mixed with sprite and ice cream (egg nog punch).  Lots of stations for customers to visit and lots of customers to serve too.  I haven't helped with these events as much since switching over to Advantage.  Interestingly, when I was at Albertsons in Mill Creek last Saturday ( 11/14/2015), they were having their open house events with multiple demo stations working, wine tasting events, and all too

Event 4: Fred Meyer Free For All events

(no pictures available)
I remember when Advantage Sales and Marketing started doing Fred Meyer Stores (at least when I started doing demos at Fred Meyer stores for Advantage Sales and Marketing), before they had the "delighful discovery" events, they had what were known as Free For All events, where at least one or 2 days a week, at least some of the Fred Meyer stores had free items that demonstorators had to give to shoppers (such as chips, sodas, etc).  I remember doing several of these kinds of events at the Snohomish Fred Meyer where I would be there for about 5 hours and passing out freebie items to shoppers.  2 events that stood out for me were the lays potato chips (where I was promoting the chicken and waffles variety along with several kinds of varieties) as well as one where I was giving out free cokes to shoppers.  Back then, Fred Meyers did not have the Delightful discoveries event carts like they do now, so usually I had small carts and tables to work with during those events.  Not sure if Fred Meyer stores still do those free for all events after the transition to delightful discoveries.

Event 5: Always Fresh Event at the Walmart in Mount Vernon


In all of my years as a retail demonstrator, I've had a few events where I had product that I had to try and sell to women shoppers (where the products and promotions are geared towards female shoppers) with the most recent one being a cosmetics event where I had to try and sell health and beauty supplies to shoppers (particularly women).  By the way, I am not an expert when it comes to selling to women, so those kinds of events do tend to prove challenging sometimes (I imagine that female sales people might be better when it comes to selling products catered to other women considering that they can relate to each other more).  Anyways, perhaps the most bizarre event where I had to promote womens' products was when I was promoting Always Fresh (similar to tampons) at the Walmart in Mount Vernon (btw, I don't normally do demos at that particular store).  For the event they had free sample packs of the always fresh pads that I had to give to shoppers.  Interestingly, I remember that some of the ladies felt sorry for me when I was doing the demo.  Sure it was extra income for me, but it was definitely one of the more awkward events I have done.

Event 6: Showing off Remote control helicopters and trucks at the Fred Meyer at Totem Lake in Kirkland


and
not sure if those were the exact products I did, but they were similar.  Anyways, for this event, I actually had to buy a remote control helicopter at the Fred Meyer in Snohomish a few days before the event and try practicing with it, which proved challenging since the helicopter crashes easily and does tend to stop working after a while (especially if you crash it one too many times, which can happen for typical novices like myself).   During the event, the easier of the 2 products was definitely the monster truck (easy to drive around in the store), though I was sure to show off both products.  The helicopter did takes some practice though I did seem to get better over time, having it fly around the area I was set up in (though I did go through at least 2 helicopter since they tend to crash easily).  I probably would recommend the monster truck over the helicopters (especially kids) since the monster trucks were easier to control.  However, some people will probably like the experience of being able to fly remote control helicopters (of course, now days, drones seem to be replacing those).  Sadly, I wasn't able to keep the products I was given to promote (had to give them to customer service) but they were fun to show off nonetheless.  I did this demo at the Totem Lake Fred Meyer in Kirkland for Advantage Sales and Marketing back in December of 2013.

Few tips and warnings about using helicopters and monster trucks:

1.  Monster trucks:
- make sure you have plenty of space to drive the trucks around
- keep them out of the way of people, cars, etc (otherwise they might break them)

2. Helicopters
- Make sure you have lots of open space to fly the helicopters (such as out doors, garage, gymnasium, etc)
- Helicopters do seem to crash easily so patience will likely be needed.  Should get easier to use with practice and skills
- They can go up too high and can be harder to control that way
- In my experience, helicopters can and do break if you crash them too often (especially on hard surfaces).

Haven't done any demos quite like that since then.

Event 7: Doing a back to back demo: Cascade Ice for NCIM at QFC in Mill Creek and breakfast pizzas at Albertsons (now Haggen) in Clearview.


I did these 2 demos around the time I started transition over to Advantage Sales and Marketing and was still getting jobs at NCIM.  One challenge of working 2 or more jobs is that sometimes, schedule conflicts can happen and one day, both NCIM and Advantage had me scheduled for demos on the same day.  Not only did I have to do a demo at QFC promoting cascade ice drinks for NCIM, I also had to do a demo where I was promoting these breakfast pizzas at the Albertsons in Clearview (Snohomish).  Obviously, I can't be at 2 places at once (only God can do something like that), so my solution: do both demos.  First I went to QFC in Mill Creek and promoted the cascade ice drinks and was there from about 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (if I remember correctly) and later, I drove to the Albertsons in Clearview and did the breakfast pizza demo.  It was definitely a long day to say the least.  I liked the cascade ice one more since the QFC was significantly busier and the cascade ice drinks were easier to work with (at least I didn't have to cook anything).  When I was doing the pizzas, by the time I got to Clearview, it was already evening and the store traffic levels were dropping and eventually, I was able to leave early since it was so slow there.  Now days I do demos almost exclusively for Advantage Sales and Marketing (haven't had any new demos for NCIM in years).

Event 8: serving cereal on Super Bowl Sunday (NCIM)

You know, a word of advice for Store Managers: if you are going to host demos and food sampling events, Superbowl Sundays are not really the best days for them (unless if you are willing to schedule the events long before the games).  Why?  Once the game starts, most people will likely be watching the game and less likely to shop (with vendors literally getting paid just to stand around and look like they are trying to promote your products).  Of course, some stores seem to schedule demos anyways (hey, it's their money) on super bowl Sundays and I've done demos on Superbowl Sundays on a few occasions (not always).  Perhaps the most bizzare demo I did during a superbowl Sunday was when I was at the QFC at the intersection of 145th st and 15th ave in North Seattle.  For that demo, they had me giving out samples of cereals to shoppers from 11 am to 5 pm (much of it during the game).  You would think on superbowl sunday, they might have me pushing potiential superbowl snacks, like nachos, chips, hot dogs, maybe even buffalo wings or even beer if I had a liquor license, but they had me giving out samples of cereals to shoppers.  It was pretty slow that day (if I remember correctly), but at least I got paid to stand around and at least try to promote cereals.

Event 9: Keurig Coffee Maker demos - 


Above is a youtube video I made of me showing off a Keurig coffee maker I was working with at the Albertsons (long before it turned into Haggens) in Snohomish.  I've been a "barista for a day" doing these kinds of demos.  When I first started doing Keurig coffee makers, I had 12 ounce tullys coffee cups and brewed fresh tullys style coffee using a Keurig coffee maker to shoppers.  Didn't have a tip jar or anything (I thought about it though), but if shoppers wanted fresh coffee, why pay for coffee at the nearby Starbucks coffee stands when you can get a cup of coffee for free?  The hard part with these demos was selling the machines though since they were not cheap (at the time they were selling at $75 each and seem to have done up).  Sadly I wasn't able to keep the Keurig coffee makers I was showing off (usually had to give them to the store at the end of the events) but they were pretty innovative and defininely revolutionizes the way people make coffee in the morning.  They definitely could have been useful to have in my dorm when attending college since then I could get some "coffee on the go" for free, rather than getting coffee in the cafeteria or buying coffee at the on campus coffee shops.  Eventually, my parents got me a Keurig coffee maker last year (an older model of the Keurig coffee makers), when I had this short lived job as a temporary warehouse worker at Wet Noses in Monroe where I was helping to prepare and package doggie treats (at the time they were making these cup cakes on a stick for dogs, though I am not sure they are still donign those or not) and usually had to get up at 4 am for the job (ended up getting let go there since I wasn't fast enough, plus there was a station that I had a hard time getting down, where you had to wrap the cup cakes on a stick, which was tricky to do and that probably triped me up there).    

Event 10 - Kraft Superbowl Snack ideas at the QFC in Downtown Everett (back in January 2015).


First half of the demo: doing Velveeta bowls

Cheesy Hot Dog Crescents
This demo was insane in my opinion.  Sure there are times where I may have to promote more than one product a demo (for example, doing juice and crackers, multiple varieties of the same product,  coffee and biscotti, etc), however the one and downtown Everett takes demoing more than one product to the extreme.  During the first half of the event, I was doing velveeta cheesy bowls (using a microwave for that) and during the second half, I had to set up a toaster oven and make hot dog roll ups using pillsbury crescent rolls and cheese too.  In addition to those, I also had to give out samples of chocolate pudding and strawberry jellos.  I also remember having coupons and handouts to give to shoppers too.  This demo definitely could have been either a 2 man or 3 man event (one person doing the hot dog roll ups, one person doing the velveeta bowls, and one person doing the jellos).  However, I was tasked of giving out samples of all 4 products.  Obviously, you can only fit so much on a cart and while I wanted to use a second cart or table (even have fold up card table of my own that I use for some of my events when needed) but there wasn't enough space for 2 so I had to try and make the most out of the space I had on the cart.  I also remember that the weather was unusually warm outside that day, being in the 60's (which is unusual for the Seattle area at that time of year).  I got through as much of the products as I could, but there were definitely alot of products to try and get through in the 6.5 hours I had.

Event 11 - Breakfast Muffins Event at the QFC in downtown Seattle.




This demo marked my first time doing a demo right n the heart of downtown Seattle (near Seattle Center).  For this demo, I had to bake these breakfast casserol muffins (eggs, sausage, cheese, and rolls).  In addition, I also had to give out samples of sparkling cider.  Took a few hours to set up, but once it was fully set up, it was a hit for shoppers though.  I don't normally do demos in downtown Seattle, but there is a first time for everything I guess.

Event 12: Turkey Burgers at the Fred Meyer in Totem Lake


This is a demo that I almost had to turn into an "educational event".  I had to do this demo at the Fred Meyer in Totem Lake Kirkland where I was supposed to make turkey burgers.  That seemed to be simple at first, but it turned out that another event specialist was assigned a similar event and both events required an electric skillet (there was only one at the event carts in that store).  They probably could have had me working along side with the other person, but mine wasn't quite the same as hers, so that demo ended up getting delayed significantly.  Thanks to sheer determination and help from ASM field support, I was able to buy a new skillet, put it together and serve up turkey burgers.  However, it ended up taking well over 3 hours to get set up for the event and I even had to buy screw drivers to help put the new skillets together (it was somewhat tricky finding one that worked with the skillet I bought).  Fortunately, I was able to get the demo up an running, but man I definitely hit alot of obstacles to getting that demo going.  Almost had to turn that demo into an educational event (just passing out coupons and answering questions).

Event 13: Man of Steel (Superman reboot) promotion event

Picture of me dressed up as Superman at the Walmart in South Everett
Did any of you watch the "Man of Steel" movie when it came out a few years ago?  That was the first Superman movie since Superman Returns and featured Superman taking on the evil General Zod (who basically wanted to kill Superman and destroy the world as we know it).  Anyways, Walmart seemed to have a partnership with the movie producers and as a result they had a special promotion for a special screening of the event (which people can watch before the official opening of the new movie and had a special message/interview from Henry Cavill, them an who played Cal El superman).  Anyways, for that special promotion, they had demonstrators like myself literally dress up like superman (comic con cosplayers would probably love this kind of event) and try to get people to buy tickets for the screening of the event.  This was a high pressure sales event where I had to try and get people to buy tickers for the special screenings.  Surprisingly, the response rate of shoppers was relatively low, with lot of people refusing the tickets.  You would think there would be more fans that would have liked to buy those special screening tickets, but in my experience, some people just don't want anything you have to offer them, which is sad (which can also make events like this one more stressful since I was expected to try and sell alot) in my opinion.  By the way, I actually bought tickets for myself and my brother (along with one of this friends) and was able to watch the movie when it first came out.  By the way, it will be interesting to see if Walmart stores do similar events for other movies coming out, such as Star Wars Force Awakens (which will mark the first new Star Wars movie to hit theaters since Revenge of the Sith) or when the Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice is released.  Btw I am suprised they did not do any similar events when Avengers Age of Ultron came out or when the new Spider Man movies were made.

Well, that is all for now.  This list could go on, but I will stop here.

Honorable Mentions:
- Doing Ludor Chocolates at the QFC in Capitol Hill Seattle during the May Day Protests (cancelled demo).  Almost had to do a demo at QFC at Capitol Hill in Seattle where I would have had to do a food sampling event where I gave out chocolates to shoppers.  Of course, the date of the demo would have been on May 1, same day as the May Day protests.  Apparently, there were riots going on in Capitol Hill and I probably would have been caught in the middle of the demo was executed as planned.  Luckily I was able to get out of that one and do a demo at Walmart in Arlington instead.  Doing a demo in Capitol Hill during the May Day protests would have been insane in my opinion and hairy too.
- Pigs an a blanket corn dogs at Fred Meyer in Monroe.  I had to do these pancakes on a stick at the Fred Meyer in Monroe a few weeks ago.  However, the Fred Meyer in Monroe is unique in that the event carts are in the upstairs level of the stock room and I have to get a forklift operator to get it down.  On that particularly,  the event carts were blocked in by several pallets of products and one had to use a bulky pallet jack to get them out of the way (which was difficult to use).  Eventually, I was able to get set up for the event, but I almost had to turn it into an educational event as a result.  By the way, there have been a few times where I had to dojust that too where the demo cart was out of reach and I had to perform an educational event as a result.
-  Doing Quesadillas for the first time at the QFC in Juanita.  I remember during my last year of college I had to do this demo for NCIM where I had to go to the QFC in Juanita (near Kirkland), and there I was making quesadillas.  Prior to the event, I had no experience making quesadillas, so that was quite the learning experience.  Also, I remember I had to do a presentation on the Truman show for a class I was taking at the time (Faith in Film) which was lead by a hard grading professor (where you are more likely to get Ds and Cs instead of Bs and As unless if you are extremely good at writing papers and giving presentations) that was due that Monday and was under the gun to get the presentation set up. If I had to do that weekend over again, I probably would have said no to the demo to ensure I get a better grade on the presentation (got a C if I remember correctly).  Almost got a tardy too that day too (which would have been bad since I was giving the presentation.
- Demoing automated shower cleaner at the Richmond Beach QFC store.  Had to show off these automated shower cleaners at the QFC store.  You pressed a button and after a short delay, the nossle would spin around and if there was shower cleaner in it, it would spray the shower area an presumably help clean it.
- Microwaving Jeanie O turkey meat at the QFC in Richmond Beach (had to retrieve a microwave from home and then drive to the store).  Happened during my 3rd year when I was at Northwest University and I was living in the student apartments that year.  I got scheduled for this event where I had to cook up turkey meet.  Unlike demos for advantage where most of the equipment is provided for me at the store, for NCIM, I usaually had to supply my own equipment and for that event, and the event kits were usually sent to my house here in Snohomish, so for that event, I had to drive home, pick up my event kit and a microwave, and then head to the store.  Lots of things to do for one demo that day.
- QFC in Sammamish (miscommunication between companies, namely faxes that never arrived to the store).  This was also when I was doing demos for NCIM.  There were a few occasions where I was scheduled for demos on short notice and my scheduler was supposed to have the paperwork for the event faxed to the store (back then, to get paid for events, I had to fill out a form and mail it in, though now days demo reporting is done exclusively online).  However, there were a few occasions where I would show up to the store and for whatever reason, the store did not get the faxed paperwork.  Not sure how much coordination the store had with NCIM back then.  Definitely made for some wasted drives and cancelled events. Luckily now days, the event kits are sent to the store's recieving and reporting is all done online.
- Fred Meyer in Issaquah.  This was definitely one of the farther away demos I have done.  For that demo, I was giving out holiday candies to shoppers.  Had these peppermint chocolates to give to shoppers.
- Fred Meyer in Marysville- passing out Lancaster Cremes to shopper on October 31 (halloween).  The store was having a trick or treating event during the time I was there, which actually worked to my advantage.  Halloween is definitely a good time to pass out candies.  Interestingly, the next day, I was passing out doughnut holes to shoppers at the Walmart in Arlington (lots of people were candied out by then, especially kids).
- Short lived job working as a courtesy clerk at the Walmart in Marysville (by the casino).  When I first started doing demos, initially did them at the Walmart near the Tulalip casino in Marysville.  Interestingly, that same year (summer of 2005), I applied for a job at the Walmart in Marysville and was hired on as a courtesy associate.  I did the orientation, completed the CBT training excercises and started working with fellow associates to retrieve carts.  Everything seemed to be going well at first, but for reasons unknown, the store decided to lay me off (basically about a week after I was hired on, I was called into the office and was told I was being let go, no explanation why, though I found out later that a bunch of other people were laid off too)  Maybe the lay off was a blessing in disguise considering that was the same year my last living grandfather passed away and God might have wanted me to be there for him (a well as being able to attend his funeral in California).  If I was working at Walmart, I might not have been able to go to his funeral (depending on whether or not I was able to get vacation time).

That is all for now.  Have any of you done or seen some bizzare demo events?  Feel free to like and share this post.  You can leave comments below if you like too.