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Saleswomen Becoming Health and Beauty Counselors

Posted December. 03, 2005 04:48,   


“It felt really rewarding when I bought a 25-pyeong apartment with the money that I had diligently saved,” said Korea Yakult call saleswoman Cho Kyung-ja.

“I told my husband that my monthly pay is two million won, and that I am saving the other three million,” said Amore Pacific call saleswoman Oh Soo-young.

These women from Korea Yakult and Amore Pacific are synonymous in their occupations.

This job calls for women to be within the average age range of 41 to 45 years, and to have “ajumma” (the Korean term for married woman between 30 and 50 years old) power. These women’s five-to-six hour work days, everyday, still remain unchanged after all these decades.

The number of Yakult “ajummas,” which amount to approximately 12,700, accounted for 77 percent or 700 billion won of all of Korea Yakult’s sales last year. Thirty thousand Amore “ajummas” accounted for 590 billion won in cosmetic sales (42 percent of Amore Pacific’s total sales).

Ajummas in Charge of Sales—

Forty-year-old Cho Kyung-ja, who has been selling for Korea Yakult for 15 years now, said, “Before I got married, I worked as a hospital clerk, but after I got married, there was no place that would accept an ajumma.”

Pacific Amore Ilsan branch head chief Oh Soo-young, 42 years-old, has been in the business for nine years. She commented, “Once, I was worried that the only jobs available for full-time housewives were multi-level merchandising or call sales jobs.” However, both of these women are satisfied with their current lives.

Cho usually delivers about 600 bottles of yogurt, which amounts to about 250,000 won. She manages about 350 customers, and earns about 1.8 million won per month. She was offered a job at an insurance company, which offered a two million won salary plus bonuses, but she turned it down.

“I don’t envy a high salary because I can work happily here without experiencing stress,” she says.

Oh’s monthly salary is five million won, two to three times higher than the average. She said, “While working, my personality has changed to become more active, and by changing my mindset, my life has become more prosperous.”

Oh regularly visits about 200 customers. She carries a PDA and drives her own car. With the regional quota system abolished in 1997, it is now difficult to find Amore ajummas carrying their cosmetic bags and roaming through the streets.

Call Sales Will Continue—

In 1971, Korea Yakult adopted the call salesperson system, in order to deliver beverages that required refrigeration, in a time when refrigerators were scarce.

When Yakult ajummas are deployed to their respective areas, the company sets their sales areas. It is an unwritten law not to intrude into other people’s sales areas.

There are no ranks or posts. The team leader at each operations branch is chosen by popular vote. The leader receives an extra 100,000 won and the authority to punish team members, but seldom is it exerted.

“I never implore customers to drink our product. I work with the mindset of delivering health to my customers,” says one Korea Yakult saleslady.

Amore Pacific adopted door to door sales in 1964. All Amore ajummas are registered as private businesses, and earn their money through sales fees. Since the regional quota system was disposed, they have been able work throughout the whole country, and their sales will increase with increased efforts.

The cosmetics are ordered by PDA and logged to the company network. When the cosmetics ordered by the customer are available, they deliver it personally or by parcel.

“If I carry an account book or cosmetics, people will probably think, ‘This ajumma is trying to sell me something.’ I am satisfied if people consider me as someone nice to be next to.”

In order to increase the competitiveness of ajumma salespersons, Amore Pacific and Korea Yakult plan to try out diverse ideas.

Amore Pacific will try to establish them as beauty and information counselors, while Korea Yakult is seeking changes to present their ajummas as friendly health management counselors.

Seong-Yub Ra cpu@donga.com