Tony May


Ice-cream sales contractor for Tip Top




Working hours:

About 45 hours a week over summer, but four-to-five-hour days over winter.

Pay scale:

$50,000 -$70,000 depending on region and contract, comparable to many middle-management roles

Describe what you do

I head out in my ice-cream truck around 6.30am, making about 20 calls a day. Many of my stops are only 100m apart. My Tip Top ice-cream run covers Parnell, Epsom, Remuera, Newmarket and the waterfront, including Mission Bay and St Heliers. Dairies make up 60 to 70 per cent of my clients. About 20 per cent are service stations and the rest include movie theatres, cafes and places such as Kelly Tarlton.


I put through a reload request about 11am, then return to Tip Top between 2.30 and 5pm to load the stock on to the truck, ready for the next day. My truck is then parked and plugged into power overnight at the loading bay.

Everything is computerised. I invoice as I go, using a hand computer, which means the warehouse system sees what needs replacing immediately. Through our system we pick up on individual shops' sale trends and encourage them to concentrate on product that is selling well so they don't end up with stock that isn't moving.

So you sell as well as deliver?

We own the truck and deliver product for Tip Top through a commission structure, so I'd say the job is 50 per cent sales and 50 per cent delivery. We become the ice-cream "expert" and many clients rely on us to recommend products and tell them what is selling well in other places. Tip Top has four or five new products every year - a few get removed as well.

How seasonal is the work?

Over summer we average a nine-hour day. During winter I work five half-days - some of the others prefer to do three nine-hour days. Places such as Northland and Coromandel do a huge business over summer and very little over winter so they have to be careful to squirrel away [funds] for winter.

What are the most popular Tip Top products?

Our best sellers are Choc Bar, Popsicle, FruJu, Jellytip and Trumpet. However, Kapiti white chocolate and raspberry ice-cream sells best around the waterfront. Kapiti is a brand distributed by Tip Top. I think when people head out to the waterfront they enjoy having a special treat.

Your history?

My first job was building swimming pools. Then I also took on a milk run franchise. The milk run operated between midnight and 7am, so a number of us had two jobs. After five or six years I dropped the pool job.

I had my franchise nearly 20 years - when I started milk was still in glass bottles. About six years ago I wanted a change and sold it. Shortly after, a friend needed someone to drive his ice-cream truck for a couple of months. When my friend got back I stayed on and got my own contract and truck.

What is the most satisfying part of the job?

I enjoy developing relationships with clients and I enjoy selling Tip Top ice-cream. I have huge loyalty to the brand because it is iconic Kiwi, produced in New Zealand and is innovative. I'm also the contractor rep on the Tip Top marketing group committee looking at innovations. I really like that.

What experience prepares someone for this job?

You need a good work history, preferably experience in running your own business with an understanding of budgeting and GST. You also need the funds to purchase a truck and you need a goods service licence.

What skills are essential?

People skills and communication skills. Every day I'm communicating with lots of clients, trying to anticipate their needs and encourage them to try new product and buy core product.

Most challenging part?

Trying to find a park while driving a 13-tonne truck through Newmarket in the middle of the day.

Advice to someone wanting to do the same thing?

It isn't easy work to get into. There are 43 drivers in New Zealand; 10 are in Auckland. I've been here six years and I'm the second-newest driver.

What keeps you at it?

I like the independence and the driving - and the product! I like having to think on my feet and sell as well as deliver. I also like having down time in winter to do some other things.

My truck has "I drive an ice-cream truck, how cool is that?" written on it. I think that sums it up for me.