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Sunday, February 28, 2016

So you want to be a retail Demonstrator

Hey, who here wants to be a retail demonstrator: you know those people who work in grocery stores and give out food samples, coupons and other promotional materials?  Here is a review about the field.  I have been doing demos myself for over 11 years now (first with New Concepts in Marketing and now almost exclusively with Advantage Sales and Marketing).
Here is a picture of me demoing Oreo Cookies at Albertsons (now a Haggen) in Clearview (Snohomish), WA
Picture of me doing Ludor Chocolates at Fred Meyer in Snohomish around Valentines weekend
Ah, it has been a while since I have posted last hear.  Been really busy, especially after getting hired onto Crossmark as a retail rep.  While it is technically a part time job, it definitely feels like a full time job given all of the jobs I do for them.  Anyways, have you ever thought about doing demos as a job or career.  Maybe you are looking for a summer job to earn some extra income.  Maybe you have a job, but need a way to earn extra income.  As a veteran retail demonstrator myself, I will share with you what I know about the industry. 

1.  Choosing a company to work for:

The first thing to do when looking to work as a retail demonstrator, you will need to know what agencies hire demo people.  Costo hires demo people (you can probably visit their website for the lates jobs available)

I used to do demos for New Concepts in marketing.  It can be a good one to start with, though 1) you are an independent contractor with them, and 2) schedulers will usually call you or email you if they have demos for you to do.  Sadly, I haven't received calls or emails from them in recent years, especially after getting hired on at Advantage Sales and Marketing, and I think they may have been bought by Crossmark.  Not sure what is going on with NCIM.  Ideally, when hiring independent contractors, they ought to let demonstators book themselves for demos considering that schedulers rarely call or email reps (you can literally go weeks or months before getting demos).  Also you usually had to supply your own supplies and equipment (such as microwaves, skillets, etc).  When doing demos, there are paperworks you had to fill out and mail in and you usually get paid 2 weeks out.

I might recommend Advantage Sales and Marketing over NCIM.  Unlike at NCIM, you are a regular employee and they do schedule you for demos regularly based on your availability and retailer needs.  I get a lot more hours with Advantage than I did with New Concepts in Marketing and they usually give you the equipment and supplies needed for the demos.  Also, reporting and checking schedules is done almost exclusively online.  If you want to work for Advantages, you can look them
up either at ASM.com or I can give you my boss' phone number (tell them that Ryan Jones sent you) for information on how you can apply.

2.  Typical days and hours - Friday through Sunday
Anytime between 10:00 am and 7:00 pm ins fair game for demos (usually).  Some agencies do demos during the week too, but weekends tend to be more popular for demo agencies.

3. General requirements:
- Must be socialble
- Self motivated (you will rarely see your supervisor face to face and the store managers tend to function as your "boss" while doing the demos)
- You do have to be able to stand for long periods of time (up to 6 hours).  I know that feet can get sore after a while, but sitting down is usually frowned upon during the jobs
- Must be somewhat knowledgeable about the products you are promoting as the retailers you are working at
- Must be able to handle rejection well (many shoppers will say no when offering samples and products)
- Must have open availability on weekends
- Know that every store, along with the customers, associates, and managers are different and you will likely work with people with multiple personalities.  Some stores will be easier to work with than others.
- Having a car or reliable transportation
- Food Handler's Permit (can be done via taking a food safety course)
- Optional: Alcohol serving permit (if you plan to do alcohol related events)

General wages: varies by company, but when I first started, it was $9.00 per hour, but now it is about $11.00 per hour.  Sometimes you can earn more on holidays as well as when doing alcohol demos (I understand they tend to have higher wages).

Pros of doing demos
- Can be a good way to get some experience in the retail business, especially grocery store setting
- Does give you something to do on weekends
- Can be a good secondary job to have
- Lots of variety. I know for me, ASM usually moves me around to different stores (can be a Walmart, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, or QFC store, possibly Safeway too).  I also usually do different products too each time (don't normally do the same products twice).  I could do a cooking demo (such as making soups, quesadillas, sandwiches, pizzas, etc), beverage demo (such as Cascade Ice beverages), coffee demo (most notably: the Keurig demos I have done), or even a non food demo (such as promoting shampoos, shower cleaners, toys, or evan health and beauty products.  Rare demos for me includes: doing cat litter, literally dressing up as Super Man and selling tickets for the first Man of Steel Movie (Superman Reboot), health fairs they have at Walmart (helped with cholesteral screening one year) and even had an event where I helped with a calender autographing event by former Seattle Mariner player, Jamie Moyer (though events where you are working with a celebrity or famous figure is rare in my opinion).   This list can go on, but you will likely have lots of variety
- Can be a good way to meet new people and interact with fellow shoppers

Drawbacks of demos (definitely not for everyone):
- Can eat up your weekends and rotating schedules.  For most people, the typical work week runs from Monday to Friday, with weekends off.  With demos, you could work on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or all 3 days.  At New Concepts in Marketing, schedulers will usually call you or email you they have demos for you.  At Advantage Sales and Marketing, scheduling is usually done online (though sometimes they will call you or email you for last minute demos or if they need a person to sub in for another demonstrator) and will vary from week to week.  Some weekends you will have days off, while others you might be working all weekend.  You might even get weeks where you don't get demos at all (for example, during slower seasons).  Working on weekends might work for some people, but I am sure it might not work for everyone (for example, you have a family where everyone else is home when you are at work) or if you have plans for weekends.  You can also get scheduled for demos during the week too (which is rare), so it is good to be straight forward about scheduling restrictions.  The sporadic scheduling can make it difficult to plan ahead for weekends too, since for all you know, you may have to work on the days when you have plans (such as family picinic, birthday parties, sporting events, etc).
- I don't recommend demos as a primary source of income.  It is definitely better as a secondary job since schedules vary each week.  I rarely get more than 20 hours per week with Advantage and there are weeks you might get scheduled for only one demo and weeks where you might not gets scheduled for demos.  I remember when I was doing demos for New Concepts in Marketing, it could be weeks or months before I was scheduled for a demo again.  It is all based on store and client needs.  The best time for demos tend to be in the fall, during holiday seasons (such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentines day, Memorial Day weekend, etc).  I wish I could average at least 4 or 5 demos per week (probably wouldn't need my other jobs if that was the case), but getting scheduled for more than 3 demos a week is rare.  One good combination I find is working as a retail rep for Crossmark.  I could do demos on weekends and do jobs for Crossmark during the week (such as resets, audits and other jobs they give me).  Worked pretty well with my job at Snohomish Publishing too when I was working as a janitor for them (though there were some weeks where I didn't have any days off).  Perhaps if you are doing demos as say a high school or college part time job, then you might not need multiple jobs, but as you get older and you get more financial responsibilities, then having extra sources of income is recommended.
- You are not supposed to sample your own products or take home products with you.  Sure it can be tempting, but I don't recommend it (or if you do, don't get caught).  You can get in trouble or even fired if caught.
- Driving from one store to another does use up gas mileage, and you don't always get reimbursed for the drive.  At ASM, for example, if the stores you go to are less than 40 miles away, you don't get reimbursed for gas.  Though you might be able to claim gas expenses on taxes.  Gas might not seem so bad when it is low (around the $1.50 range), but when gas prices are high (say $3 or 4 per gallon), it definitely can get expensive after a while.  Sometimes you do have to drive into the city too (while most of my demos are local, I have had to go to Bellevue, Redmond, Everett, and even downtown Seattle for some of my jobs).  On the positive note, they usually don't send you really far (for example, I have yet be sent to say Tacoma, Bellingham, Wenatchee or jobs where you have to take a ferry, say Bainbridge Island). 
- Expect to stand for long periods of time (usually up to 6 hours with a 30 minute lunch break in between).  I know that the feet can get sore after a while and it can be tempting to sit, but sitting is usually frowned upon and you will have to get used to standing.
- Sometimes demos can get long and boring.  Sure if you are at a busy store and people are sampling and/or buying the products you are promoting, time can go by fast, but some stores can be slow and you can have products nobody sees to want (has happened to me on various occasion) which can make some demos long and tedious.  One can get bored easily when standing around with nobody to interact with, which can happen at least some stores and events.
- Sales and distribution quotas can be high and unrealistic at times.  Some goals can be more doable than others.

General overview

Doing demos can be a fun an exciting career.  Lots of variety and you do become at a regular at various grocery stores (for example, I often do demos at the Albertson in Mill Creek, Walmart in Monroe, Walmart in Getchell Marysville, Fred Meyer in Snohomish, and the Fred Meyer in Monre).  You will likely get to know some of the store associates and managers too.  I remember at one time I was doing most of my demos at the Clearview Albertsons (before it turned into Haggen) and got to know some of the store associates there.  A few of them seemed to know me by name too.  On the flip side, I don't recommend demos as a primary job (unless if you just want part time work) given the sporadic hours and it can eat up your weekends too (can be a good or bad thing depending on what your weekend schedule tends to look like) .  You will definitely need a car to get to the stores as well as a valid food handler's permit to do the demos.  You will likely have