Alright, screw this -- I’m calling the Snapple Lady
Her full name is Wendy Kaufman, by the way. I tracked her down via Facebook, and my sense is that if you ever worked in the cubicle next to hers you’d laugh a lot, which is probably why the founders chose her to be their company’s face.
Wendy started with Snapple in 1992 and operated its one-person customer service department. “If you had a question, I was going to get you the answer,” she says. “I didn’t have children, so all of the Snapple drinkers were my babies.” She parlayed that into a starring role in Snapple’s TV ads. Sitting at a reception desk, Wendy answered fan mail in her 30-second spots. She helped the nice ladies at the Sassy Seniors retirement home hair salon in Sparks, Nevada, “flavor up their taste buds.” And she helped shy, nerdy Kevin from Wisconsin ask his dream girl out. “Dawn, grab him,” Wendy said. The spots were huge.
But Quaker Oats dropped her because it felt she was too Long Island for a national audience. Triarc briefly brought her back, then stopped using her too. Cadbury never used her at all. Still, Wendy made a lasting impression. “Whenever I go through an airport,” she says, “I hear ‘Hey, Snapple Lady!’ I am out in the world as the Snapple Lady, without a brand.”
I asked Wendy what went wrong. She says that Snapple strayed so far from its roots, both literally and figuratively, that it doesn’t have any sense of what originally made it great. “I am not sure that any of them running the business have any idea about the way that it was,” she says. “These people who are perpetuating the brand are the people who have cut off their connection to the past.”
“It’s like when the Tin Woodman lost its heart,” she says. “There is nothing in there anymore.”
One perk, though: Wendy was on contract through 2007, and was still getting paid even though she wasn’t being used. At one point, she tried to convince Twinkie to hire her as a spokesperson. More recently, she’s been doing “what I want to do when I want to do it,” crossing items off her bucket list. In May, she went to Nevada and shot a glock, uzi, and machine gun for the first (and last) time. “It’s not a bad life,” she says.
A final attempt at closure
Central Park on an 88-degree Sunday afternoon is the perfect place to look for people drinking Snapple. It’s got the right mix of locals and tourists and roasting, stinking heat. And Snapple says New York is its strongest market, home of its “most passionate fans.” For old time’s sake, I picked up a Snapple Peach Tea at a hot dog cart on my way into the park. I threw back the first sip, and it felt as if I had been smacked in the face by a peach sugar punch. A heavy, tea-leafy taste followed. It wasn’t like I’d remembered it.
Maybe you just had to be there.
As I walked around the park for 90 minutes looking for kindred souls, I saw only one more person with a Snapple. A woman carrying an empty bottle of Lemon Tea. I attempted to stop her, to ask her about Snapple, to ask her what it means, or meant, even going so far as to hold up my bottle to show solidarity. But she would have none of it. She gave me a wide berth and quickly walked away.
Matt McCue is a writer based in New York City. He writes about pop culture, business, and lifestyle stuff for places like Fast Company, Fortune, Delta Sky, and now Thrillist. Follow him: @mattmccuewriter.