Investigating Mary Kay: The Truth Behind Mary Kay Inc.’s Claims on NPR’s On Point

Written by The Scribbler

The pink veil of Mary Kay Cosmetics was ripped from top to bottom this month as freelance journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, “The Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Preys on Desperate Housewives” screamed the truth from the August 2012 cover of Harper’s Magazine.

In turn, Forbes released a damning article titled “Mary Kay Preys on Women,” and earlier this week, Ms. Sole-Smith and her findings were featured on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. After witnessing so many Mary Kay leaders play the Dodge/Deny/Be Too Dumb to Doubt game when they were asked tougher questions about the business, it was most refreshing to see these issues openly addressed on the program.

Among them: Mary Kay Corporate’s hawking of the opportunity as a profitable full-time position (when the accounts of former consultants, directors, and even NSDs suggest otherwise), the underhanded practice of discouraging new consultants from utilizing Mary Kay’s 90% buyback program, and the sobering fact that Mary Kay Corporate does not track retail sales, meaning that Corporate is profusely rewarding its consultants for ordering makeup, not for actually selling it. Even National Sales Director Pamela Shaw admitted this in her inventory-based CD, The Next Step: “The company always rewards wholesale ordering.”

Mary Kay Inc.  deployed Vice President Laura Beitler to represent the company in the On Point interview. I was hoping to hear some solid answers and explanations from Beitler regarding the business, but unfortunately, the responses I heard sounded like they came from someone who was either A. Completely ignorant as to what was going on in the field or B. Creatively spinning scripted catchphrases in a manner that attempted to skirt the real issues, perhaps in an effort to preserve Mary Kay’s carefully-crafted facade. I’m going to go with the latter, since it’s unlikely that a company that’s been around for 50 years would be blind to its own workings.

Let’s take a closer look at three of Beitler’s claims.

Beitler: “Different people start a Mary Kay business for different reasons. Some are looking for just a little income…a new career…social aspects.”

Reality: Ms. Sole-Smith pointed out that Mary Kay’s website markets the opportunity as a “lucrative full-time career opportunity,” while Ms. Beitler gave the impression that most women who join Mary Kay are doing it to “simply supplement their income.”

It’s no secret that claims of better-than-average income make for some of the stinkiest bait in Mary Kay’s tackle box. Statements such as “Be a stay-at-home mom with an executive income!” “You can have a couple extra hundred in your pocket for just two hours each week!” and the oh-so-manipulative “Are you being paid what you’re worth?” make it clear that money is the real trick in MK, not making friends, losing shyness, or growing closer to God. It’s not to say that those reasons aren’t mentioned in recruiting interviews, but when it comes to the MK List O’ Supposed Benefits, the almighty dollar receives an unhealthy amount of emphasis and adoration.

Page through a copy of Mary Kay’s magazine, Applause, and you won’t find lists of “Women Who Flourished Spiritually This Month” or “Top 500 Ladies who Gained Self-Confidence.” You will find, however, lists that show the monthly commissions of Mary Kay NSDs and the top 500 commission-making directors for the month, along with plenty of goading towards pink cars, jewelry, and prizes/recognition for anyone who’s ordered $1800-$3600 worth of product.

Beitler: (speaking of directors placing pressure on/discouraging consultants from taking advantage of the 90% buyback option) “…that kind of pressure is unacceptable…”

Reality: Now that we know a Mary Kay Corporate representative finds director pressure “unacceptable,” I’d like to know how Corporate intends to fix the problem. Beitler explained that Corporate provides materials to new consultants that describe the business model and what options are available to them, implying that Corporate is doing all they can from their end.  Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen in five years of researching Mary Kay culture, Corporate’s methods do not appear to be doing much.

Let’s face it, the greatest amount of influence a new consultant receives will not be from Corporate, but from her new Mary Kay sisters: her recruiter, directors, and NSD. Knowing this, suppose you got recruited into Mary Kay by Executive Senior Sales Director Heather Carlson. Carlson sends you to her website for training, and on this website you see a New Consultant Oath which reads: “I promise to give my Mary Kay career one full year before I decide if it’s for me or not, because short of one full year, I will never realize my God-given potential!”

What’s that mean? It means that if you got conned into buying a $3600 inventory package (which is a very real possibility, since the $3600 package is the only package discussed in Carlson’s “New Consultant Checklist”) then you – having been encouraged to wait a full year, lest you be cursed with never being able to realize your God-given potential – will miss the 90% buyback window. You will be stuck with $3600 worth of product, and any commissions Carlson received on your order will be hers free and clear. She gets paid, you get screwed. If that isn’t unacceptable, I don’t know what is, and yet Corporate allows “unacceptable” practices like this to continue. Why?

Beitler: “The majority of the product ends up with end consumers.”

Reality: False. Ms. Sole-Smith was quick to remind Beitler that “Mary Kay doesn’t track their retail sales. She can’t tell us how much they’re actually selling to the retail market.” while Beitler tried to suggest that “…when you look at all the beauty editor mentions we have in magazines regularly, being named as a top beauty brand, you don’t get there without having a significant number of end consultants, consumers in the mix.”

Beitler’s logic is fractured, as she assumes that because Mary Kay gets beauty editor mentions or gets named as a top beauty brand, this must mean that that the majority of the product is being sold to end consumers. Again, without proof of retail sales, Beitler cannot accurately make this claim. It is interesting to note that often, new consultants are told to give their bathrooms and purses a total Mary Kay makeover. One new consultant checklist says, “You want to make sure you are wearing 100% Mary Kay products from head to toe! Don’t hesitate to throw out all of the non-Mary Kay products in your bathroom and purse. Take products off of the shelf to start using now!”

In 2006, Mary Kay Cosmetics reported that in the United States, 40,000 new recruits came in per month. The new consultant checklist I used for reference listed 33 different Mary Kay products. If even a fourth of those new recruits followed the checklist’s guidance to “take products off their shelf to start using now,” I’d say that’s plenty of fodder for the beauty editors/survey takers to work with, to say nothing of the thousands of other consultants and directors who aren’t new but are using all Mary Kay, all the time. Don’t forget to include anyone who received Mary Kay products for free or at drastically reduced cost via Craigslist, eBay, thrift stores, or that overloaded box in the Teacher’s Lounge with “Take all you want” scribbled on its side.

In closing, I want to point out something quite revealing in Beitler’s statement, “…you don’t get there without having a significant number of end consultants, consumers in the mix.”  Beitler originally meant to say “consumers,” but that’s not what came out. At or around the 27:40 point in the interview, Beitler stutters just after she says “end consultants…,” catches herself, and attempts to recover by stammering out, “consumers.”

That surprising little slip left me wondering if Beitler didn’t just subconsciously reveal Mary Kay’s Meaning of Life to everyone in the at-home audience. Think about it; the reason behind Mary Kay’s big numbers, the reason why Mary Kay exists, the reason why it’s persisted for almost 50 years; it’s not because lipstick was sold to a neighbor, even though lipstick may have been the vehicle used to get the recruiter’s foot in the door. Mary Kay exists because of end consultants, a term that aptly describes who needs to be continually recruited, who needs to be loaded up with big inventories, and who will end up being stuck with pallets of product in their closets and spare bedrooms when all’s said and done.

26 Comments

  1. Ginger1819

    Just another point in response to the claim that a majority of the product MUST be going to end consumers because of all the beauty awards and mentions in top beauty magazines…

    Retail sales of a product have absolutely nothing to do with beauty magazine awards or mentions. Most beauty editors are doing a job and oftentimes a product mention in a magazine is really no different than purchased advertising for that product. When Mary Kay does new product launches, they are making sure that this product gets in front of the beauty editors. The beauty editors are not taking a survey of product retail sales and consumer satisfaction results.

    1. Keyta

      “When Mary Kay does new product launches, they are making sure that this product gets in front of the beauty editors. The beauty editors are not taking a survey of product retail sales and consumer satisfaction results.”

      So true. This was just what I was thinking.

      I am so happy that they are feeling the heat. I hope this has an impact on there overall image. Up until this year, I had the impression that MK was a Christian company with wonderful values. I had never heard a bad word until I became a consultant and was put through the paces. What an eye opener.

      Beitler may be right in one regard, Mary Kay does have a large consumer base. However, this consumer base is found on Ebay not in the Preferred Customer database.

      I decided being a personal use consultant was riducious when you can buy it on Ebay for wholesale or less than wholesale. Buy when ever you want. No worrying about raking up $200 to get the discount and be active. I have bid on twenty auctions for MK products in the last two months. I have won 3 of them. I have been outbid 17 times. So yes, Ms. Beitler, your products are going to an end “consumer” but not in the “Mary Kay Way”.

  2. exIBC78

    I wonder if after we have Laura Beitler on record saying that the pressure is unacceptable should we bomb her e-mail with all of the high pressure website and material from SD and NSDs? I mean that is almost an invite to educate her on what kinda full court press is out there.

  3. JOB4me2

    Beside the fact that in the magazines I read I’ll see a Mary Kay product featured once or twice a year, it really doesn’t matter WHAT a beauty editor thinks. It’s just an opinion. I couldn’t sell that garbage for retail AT ALL. It was all drastically reduced or practically free. The women around here want QUALITY, and to them Mary Kay doesn’t qualify.

  4. Lazy Gardens

    Beitler was doing what all company and political spokespersons do when asked a question where the true answer would be devastating to their position. Answer a tangentially related question that has a softer answer.

    Spin, Laura, SPIN!

    ““…when you look at all the beauty editor mentions we have in magazines regularly, being named as a top beauty brand, you don’t get there without having a significant number of end consultants, consumers in the mix.””

    Few, if any, of those “editor mentions” involve an editor buying products full retail as a consumer and loving them soooooooo much they squee all over their pages about how great they are.

    I know how products get “editor mentions” because I hung out with marketing people for real Fortune 500 companies. The marketing people ship out a boatload of freebies to the influential editors and columnists and others who are influential in their industry. They take them to lunch. They schmooze. They make fake air kises when they meet them.

  5. raisinberry

    What is really amazing is the difference of opinion on what Mary Kay is. There is denial at work here, that stuns the senses. It’s as if they have severely invested in what they want Mary Kay to be, rather than what it is, and no amount of true-life stories can pierce that armor.

    Doesn’t the sheer volume of Ebay product and liquidators testify that retail sales at home parties are a thing of the past? No, Mary Kay Inc and NSD’s tell themselves. These are just women for whom Mary Kay was not a good fit. We march on, committed to “the Mary Kay way” in total pretense that this was EVER a viable business model.

    Scrib, your article is brilliant. And it still amazes me that the core of the cult is mind control…and a sorority-style “play business”, that never fully educates, never fully tracks or records, never fully accepts or realizes the tragic consequences of Pretend Business leaders gone amuck.

    They encourage ordering inventory to win prizes, awards and recognition, bump commission levels, and gain favor. Recruits order because a woman pretending to be a business mentor tells them this is best. They do it because they trust, in blind faith, a woman who is never asked to prove her own results, but who instead, is parroting all the scripts and methods passed down to her since 1963. And since the entire pyramid depends on no one breaking ranks, the “support” of sister Directors we are oathed to defend, kept us all quiet and questioning our own ability and focus. We struggled onward, convinced that the OTHER Director was achieving, and she believing the same of us. The only ones the wiser, were the National Sales DIrectors, skimming their incomes off the credit card debt of their downline.

    And Mary Kay Corporation? They are the background administrators of this grand financial hoax. They are only the product suppliers. How can they be held accountable for the misbehavior of their elite sales leadership? Since no one admits the truth about their “business” and no one checks or verifies, ignorance is truly bliss.

    Today, this minute, if every team leader, DIQ, and Director had to open her books and admit the real condition her “business ” was in, how much debt she is carrying, how afraid she is, how much like a fraud she feels, how much denial she functions with concerning her book-keeping, and this information was exposed to the world, Mary Kay would be the largest corporate incarnation of Bernie Madoff conceivable by the human mind.

    Corporate just wants you to know that One Woman can make a difference! And by that they mean, your next recruit.

  6. enorth

    1) As for the “unacceptable” practices, the corporation was no fool when it included the word “Independent” in each and every title of its contract sales force.

    2) In my opinion, “editor picks” are simply advertising that has been purchased.

  7. gotheart

    Scribb, I especially liked your wording here with your article.

    “The pink veil of Mary Kay Cosmetics was ripped from top to bottom this month as freelance journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, “The Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Preys on Desperate Housewives” screamed the truth from the August 2012 cover of Harper’s Magazine.”

    Very good symbolic wording.

    As the Forbes and Harper’s articles have appeared I have been in an emotional whirlwind of how I was feeling.

    The word veil was always used in describing how to apply the creams, foundations in mk, well back in the day, 1978.

    The word veil is used when Christ died to redeem, I will say me. I am just speaking for me.

    I was texting my 30 year old son who is in Atlanta, I am in San Diego, telling him about the articles that have come out.

    He said, “Mom, you must feel redeemed. I am so happy for you.”
    My son was born 2 yeas after I joined mk. For him mk was another member of our family. Her poster picture was always lurking behind all of our family pictures. Much like a TV set is, ya know what I mean? I have actually cut her out of our pictures. The day he came home from college and so gently showed me that mkc was a MLM. He said, “mom this is why mk never worked, it was not you Mom it is a scheme.” We cried and hugged and then. Well a lot of ya know the fall out of emotional OMG.

    After texting to, “have a good day,” I opened to PT and there was your first sentence. it brought tears to my eyes, still does as I write to you.

    Redeemed, I have been redeemed, that is exactly what I feel. I am no longer a hostage to my own error of choosing to join this god forsaken company. I am no longer emotionally confused with the way I think about what has happened to me.

    I especially like how you said,
    “Page through a copy of Mary Kay’s magazine, Applause, and you won’t find lists of “Women Who Flourished Spiritually This Month” or “Top 500 Ladies who Gained Self-Confidence.” You will find, however, lists that show the monthly commissions of Mary Kay NSDs and the top 500 commission-making directors for the month, along with plenty of goading towards pink cars, jewelry, and prizes/recognition for anyone who’s ordered $1800-$3600 worth of product.”

    “Keep the dollar signs out of your eyes.” was what mk, the woman preached. In the Applause magazine I’d read about a boat lady showing up on the shores of the USA and being the Queen of Personal Sales. Dang I’d chide myself to as what was wrong with me? Look a few pages over and there would be her total “Sales” for the month. I’d figure her pay check, it would just chap my hide that I wasn’t doin the same. What is wrong with me? Purchased not sold. I was being deceived.

    The veil has been ripped, the stinkiest bait has smelled, (loved that)
    I and a lot of other women have been redeemed.

    “Alleluia!”
    gotheart

    Scribb, I especially liked your wording here with your article.

    “The pink veil of Mary Kay Cosmetics was ripped from top to bottom this month as freelance journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, “The Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Preys on Desperate Housewives” screamed the truth from the August 2012 cover of Harper’s Magazine.”

    Very good symbolic wording.

    As the Forbes and Harper’s articles have appeared I have been in an emotional whirlwind of how I was feeling.

    The word veil was always used in describing how to apply the creams, foundations in mk, well back in the day, 1978.

    The word veil is used when Christ died to redeem, I will say me. I am just speaking for me.

    I was texting my 30 year old son who is in Atlanta, I am in San Diego, telling him about the articles that have come out.

    He said, “Mom, you must feel redeemed. I am so happy for you.”
    My son was born 2 yeas after I joined mk. For him mk was another member of our family. Her poster picture was always lurking behind all of our family pictures. Much like a TV set is, ya know what I mean? I have actually cut her out of our pictures. The day he came home from college and so gently showed me that mkc was a MLM. He said, “mom this is why mk never worked, it was not you Mom it is a scheme.” We cried and hugged and then. Well a lot of ya know the fall out of emotional OMG.

    After texting to, “have a good day,” I opened to PT and there was your first sentence. it brought tears to my eyes, still does as I write to you.

    Redeemed, I have been redeemed, that is exactly what I feel. I am no longer a hostage to my own error of choosing to join this god forsaken company. I am no longer emotionally confused with the way I think about what has happened to me.

    I especially like how you said,
    “Page through a copy of Mary Kay’s magazine, Applause, and you won’t find lists of “Women Who Flourished Spiritually This Month” or “Top 500 Ladies who Gained Self-Confidence.” You will find, however, lists that show the monthly commissions of Mary Kay NSDs and the top 500 commission-making directors for the month, along with plenty of goading towards pink cars, jewelry, and prizes/recognition for anyone who’s ordered $1800-$3600 worth of product.”

    “Keep the dollar signs out of your eyes.” was what mk, the woman preached. In the Applause magazine I’d read about a boat lady showing up on the shores of the USA and being the Queen of Personal Sales. Dang I’d chide myself to as what was wrong with me? Look a few pages over and there would be her total “Sales” for the month. I’d figure her pay check, it would just chap my hide that I wasn’t doin the same. What is wrong with me? Purchased not sold. I was being deceived.

    The veil has been ripped, the stinkiest bait has smelled, (loved that)
    I and a lot of other women have been redeemed.

    “Alleluia!”
    gotheart

  8. gotheart

    “What is really amazing is the difference of opinion on what Mary Kay is. There is denial at work here, that stuns the senses. It’s as if they have severely invested in what they want Mary Kay to be, rather than what it is, and no amount of true-life stories can pierce that armor.”

    I respectfully disagree with you Raisin.
    You personally have wrenched your heart and soul with incredible article after article here on PT.

    You have in part been personally responsible for piercing that armor for the healing and recovery of many women. Women that are NOW being interviewed. Women that use your words and many others to be able to express what has happened to them. Just as the scripts we were taught in mk to repeat, and manipulate. Your words are being used to untie the knot of emotional confusion the battered ibc and sd feel.

    I feel certain the “Lolly-Pop Kids and Munchkins” that work for the wicked witch, mkc,, will be set free soon.

    Their armor has been pierced.

    Sincerely.
    gotheart

  9. Embracethis

    EXCELLENT article Scrib!

    “Beitler: (speaking of directors placing pressure on/discouraging consultants from taking advantage of the 90% buyback option) “…that kind of pressure is unacceptable…”

    Really? Is she really denying that Corporate doesn’t know/doesn’t advocate “exit interviews?” All the NSDs teach how to avoid consultants returning their inventory. Is corporate saying that they don’t know what their beloved NSDs teach in their training documents?

  10. lily

    Yeah, “Independent” when it suits them, but they want to tell everyone how to run their business all the way down to what they wear. Who has a “director” or a “national” if they own their own business? And what “business” orders inventory so their director can “win” a cadillac? Sick and twisted.

  11. Freefrmpink

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I can’t say enough. Great article Scrib! I wonder what corpse will do to fan the fire. Robot calls to directors perhaps? After receiving a call from a director friend on yesterday, I told her to be sure to read Harper’s, MK is on the cover. Lol!

  12. Nelope

    Scribbler, you have a gift! I’ve been scouring this site for a day and a half after reading that fascinating Harper’s article, and your articles especially crack me up. I’ve no affiliation with MK other than my fascination with the company’s utter depravity, which you characterize delightfully. Yay! Thank you!

  13. Pingback: Pink Truth » Women Join Mary Kay Just to Make a Little Extra Money

  14. Bethany

    In MKC’s mind the consultant IS the consumer. They could care less if we ever sold off our shelves to a “customer”. WE bought in. MK got their money so of course they don’t track retail. No wonder they never taught us how to sell in all those dang meetings.

  15. Awakened

    Raisinberry said, “Doesn’t the sheer volume of Ebay product and liquidators testify that retail sales at home parties are a thing of the past? No, Mary Kay Inc and NSD’s tell themselves. These are just women for whom Mary Kay was not a good fit. We march on, committed to “the Mary Kay way” in total pretense that this was EVER a viable business model.”

    Raisinberry, this is an EXCELLENT point. I was fortunate enough to sell back 90% of what I had (which by the way is only inventory dated back to a year within the time that you purchased) which totalled approximately $1,000 back. Thankfully I had sold most of my merchandise that I originally purchased. Ebay helped to recover some funds from leftovers and supplies, so overall I lost about $1,500. That was nothing compared to one of my “team-mates” who lost an unrecoverable amount of $17,000.

    Mary Kay also continues to change products, most likely because the new consultants keep filing through and they need to keep on “buying” inventory. It doesn’t matter if the old inventory gets left on the shelves. It’s too bad the government had not followed through on their findings; companies that continue to destroy so many families (emotionally and financially) should be held accountable. Perhaps that day will come.

  16. Pingback: Fraud Files Blog Multi-Level Marketing or Pyramid Scheme? » Fraud Files Blog

  17. Pingback: Fraud Files Forensic Accounting Blog » Is Usana Running an Illegal Pyramid Scheme?

  18. Pingback: Pink Truth » Mary Kay Offers 90% of Your Money Back

  19. Pingback: Herbalife Victims Video: Almost Everyone Loses Money in MLM | Fraud Files Forensic Accounting Blog

  20. Pingback: Almost Everyone Loses Money in MLM – Fraud Files Forensic Accounting Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *