A Mary Kay Sales Director Faces Failure After 30 Years

This is the story of a senior director who has been with Mary Kay for almost 30 years. And what does she have to show for it? No retirement savings.

I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and I think it’s time I tell you all my story. I may alter a few dates to protect my identity since I’m still in Mary Kay.  I am a Senior Sales Director and have been in Mary Kay close to 30 years.

When I joined Mary Kay I was a depressed wife of a professional man who didn’t want me to go back to work.  I wasn’t very good at the housework thing but I did enjoy spending the time at home with my two small children.  I decided to join Mary Kay against my husbands advice.  He was worried that people would think he was failing if I had to go peddle cosmetics.

I think it was his doubts that made me want to succeed. I was so desperate for some approval and I think that is what lures a lot of women into this company. Getting all that praise for even small amounts of accomplishment made me feel great. It also made the distance between my husband and I grow larger.  He resented the fact that I loved going to Mary Kay events and I loved my work.  I became a director within my first two years and even though he acted proud of my out in public, he reinforced his doubts about this company at home.

Right from the beginning I started to borrow money and I was not telling my husband how much I was spending.  There were no credit cards for orders back then but I had worked in a bank before so I was able to get money loaned to me.  I wanted to build up my inventory and I was doing 3 classes a week so I was turning over the product really fast.

After I became a director I was really hooked.  I was not ever pushy and never brought in consultants with any more than they could afford.  I worked hard to teach them to sell and actually I still have a few of those ladies with me after all these years.  My unit has never missed production in all these years but I can’t say that I’m making money.

For years I traveled all over our state holding meetings for out of town groups and actually developed up to three offspring (I only have one now)  What I found out was that everyone thought I was a super success because I drove a pink car (they had pink cars that were not Caddys back then)  My unit never got over 90 people so I never really made it to that Caddy level. I attribute that to not frontloading consultants with a ton of product.

I truthfully believe I was a good director.  I gave prizes, didn’t charge for meeting rooms, sent newsletters and worked long hours.  As long as I was married and had someone else paying the mortgage, taxes, utilities, etc., I could spend all that money on my business expenses and it didn’t matter that I didn’t really make much.  I actually have been in the queen’s court of sales for the past 20 years running.  Wow, it sounds like I should be a success.

Well, about 15 years ago I left my husband since we had grown so far apart.  I was a Mary Kay Senior Sales Director so of course I could make it on my own.  Well, that is where I was so very wrong.  No one knows how many expenses there are to being a director.

The checks look good but that is before taxes.  Then you have all your gas, office supplies, postage, phone calls, prizes, insurance, directors suit, seminar, career conference, leadership conference, and on and on.  When you get done paying all the expenses there isn’t much left of that commission check.  The money from my personal sales pays for the mortgage, utilities, health insurance, cloths, food, taxes etc.  Wow, when it’s time to place an order it goes on the credit card.  There isn’t any money left from those sales to order inventory because there are so many bills.

I have slowly gone in debt about $8,000 a year for the first ten years that I was on my own.  These past 5 years I have tried to work part time jobs and even full time jobs to try to get out of this huge hole.  I’m in my late 50’s so I am not at the age to be starting a new career.  I have a good client base so I don’t want to dump Mary Kay but my pink bubble has burst and I see just how so many people go into debt and how so many marriages break up over this business.

I don’t have a lot of choices right now.  I must keep this business going in hopes that I can someday retire but I also have to work other jobs to try to get out of debt.  I was told that I should go bankrupt when I went for financial advice but I don’t want to do that.  With interest rates eating up so much of my payments, it is almost impossible to get out from under this weight.

I currently have around 70 consultants and we average over $8,000 a month in production, but since the company hasn’t given us any substantial raise in many years, my income has not kept up with inflation.  I have cut out the prizes, except for year end. I cut out the newsletter and I don’t travel much any more because I am working all the time.  This is the time of my life when I should be looking forward to retirement like all my friends.  Actually I will probably never be able to retire and I am working more now than I ever have.

So for those of you who want to be a director, my advice is to stay married because no matter how successful this looks, there isn’t much profit.  That’s why the ones making the real money are tricking consultants into frontloading and continuing to order even if they aren’t selling.  I could never feel good about being successful on the losses of others.

It makes me sick when I hear the horror stories and then consultants are also persuaded not to send the product back because they might want to get in again.  Actually directors do that to save themselves from lost commissions and production.  So the director keeps winning while the consultants keep losing.  I am proud to say that it has been so many years since I had anyone send back product that I can’t remember.  It doesn’t happen when you don’t buy production with cheap prizes and just keep rewarding ordering and not caring about selling.

So, in my community I have am looked on as being a success.  I tell everyone I am working another job just for the health insurance, but I am barely making all my payments and I worry every day that I will go under. My children are grown and married and I have a granddaughter now, but I don’t have the money or time to see her very often.  (she’s hours away from me)

My advice to anyone who has gotten out is to send back your product right away and don’t fall for the guilt trips.  Don’t feel that you failed, because failure is staying in and not seeing what it is doing to you and your family.

For anyone reading this who is in the company, be honest about what money you are really making and don’t lie to others in order to line your own pockets with commissions or prizes. It is a fun business but the marketing plan  rewards only a small percentage of people with big money and funds that with the ordering done by the large percentage of people.

Well, that’s my story.  I will keep reading yours and hope no one ever gets in the situation that I have found myself in.  Thank you for letting me get it all out.  I hid these facts for so many years because I didn’t want to believe it and I was in that Pink Bubble.  It feels good to be truthful and let it all out.  I hope it is helpful to someone out there.

Getting old and broke. (but I look great–ha ha)


  1. CaliforniaGal

    Hi there, gal friend! Welcome to Pink Truth & thanks for sharing. I, too, am a former director who lost tons of money, and I also stayed in for 12 years to sell off my huge inventory so I could pay off most of my debt. If you are in your 50s, I would think it’s not too late for you either. Assess your skills, then find a job that you cam work at to make a retirement income.

    I would think that you’re pretty much working yourself to death. Plus the emotional burden of trying to look good when you are financially struggling is huge! If you were to declare bankruptcy and come clean to your gals, that’s honesty at its best. How many gals stay in because they aspire to be you. They don’t know the real truth. You are recruiting gals to a dream that is a financial nightmare. Why not, just take those hard steps and begin again. Whatever you decide, we all wish you the best.

  2. ww1971

    How did you have enough personal sales to pay the household expenses? Did I read that wrong. When the average customer only spends very little per month. I thought the sales were just to the IBC in MK.

  3. NoMKCryBabies

    “…but since the company hasn’t given us any substantial raise in many years, my income has not kept up with inflation.” You are an Independent Contractor not an employee, therefore “The Company” cannot give you a raise. I’m sorry for your experiences but why would you continue to do something that would ruin your marriage and bring you to the point of bankruptcy? The problem with all of the complainers on this web site is YOU YOURSELVES. If you don’t have a head for business then you should get jobs where you are employees and CAN earn raises. No one forces you to sell Mary Kay or continue if you don’t like it. Mary Kay WILL buy back your product. Read your agreements/contracts that you sign. If someone tries to talk you out of returning your product DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. That is not Mary Kay trying to talk you out of it, it is some selfish person with only their interests at heart. Listen to your inner voice and take care of yourself. The only person you can rely on in life to take care of yourself is YOU. If you are insecure and need validation and praise go see a counselor, go to church, get a hobby.

    1. TRACY

      There are lots of problems with your statements here.

      1. Mary Kay is not a business. It is an elaborate scam. It doesn’t matter if you have a “head for business” or not when you’re involved in a scheme like this.

      2. No one forces you to…. OF COURSE NOT! No one forces. But everyone in MK coerces, lies, deceives, and otherwise tries to con you into joining and staying in.

      3. Mary Kay will buy back product for a PORTION of what you pay for it. Mary Kay will not reimburse you all of the many other costs you have incurred, including but not limited to supplies, fuel, postage, clothing, training, events, marketing materials, etc. This idea that MK is “no risk” because of the product buyback is a complete farce.

      4. Take care of yourself indeed. And apparently don’t ever believe anyone who makes it appear as though they’re helping you and have your best interest at heart. That’s why Mary Kay is so evil and so dangerous: It’s a con game that has been mastered by corporate and its shills. It is a very well oiled machine, with very good intelligence on what works when trying to con women into joining and staying. If only it were as easy as you make it seem.

      1. If Mary Kay was so evil why would they be a part of the Direct Selling Association for over 50 years? Why wouldn’t they have been “busted” for being so reprehensible? Why? Because they are doing nothing wrong. They supply you with the tools to run your business. Period. Whatever costs you incur on your own, as a business owner, are the same as anyone else that owns their own business. All business owners have expenses. If it’s not for you then quit. You have no one to blame but yourself if you do not like it or feel uncomfortable. Tracy you can spend your life hating and writing every day how horrible Mary Kay is but it’s pathetic. You are wasting your life being consumed with your hate. You got out, it wasn’t for you, move on. Why do you think Virginia Sole Smith’s article didn’t hit anywhere? Because Mary Kay is doing nothing wrong. Why did you only get a few minutes on 20/20 after hours of you crying about how mean they are? Because Mary Kay is doing nothing wrong and frankly you sound sad. You are your own boss. You control your own life. Pull up your big girl panties and move on.

        1. TRACY

          The Direct Selling Association is a lobbying group that exists specifically to stop our government from enacting laws that would stop these scams from operating. All MLM companies are corrupt, our government just chooses to do nothing about it.

          MLM is not a business. So none of your ranting about “owning a business” is relevant here.

          Who is consumed with hate? Certainly not me. I’m just here to help educate women on the evils of MK. They can take the information or leave it. Either way, it’s fine by me.

          Why did I get a few minutes on 20/20? Well… I actually got NO minutes on 20/20. I wasn’t mentioned and I wasn’t on screen.

          There is nothing for me to “move on” about when it comes to Mary Kay. I run a real business and have a happy life. One teeny tiny part of my life is maintaining this website to help educate women. And it is more than worth it.

          So, mean girl, please go bother someone else. Your insults and inaccuracies aren’t going to stop me from maintaining this site. 🙂

        2. Silvia deBerry

          “They supply you with the tools to run your business. Period. Whatever costs you incur on your own, as a business owner, are the same as anyone else that owns their own business. All business owners have expenses.”

          Oh freaking please. A real business owner can advertise wherever they please, sell wherever they feel appropriate, KNOW whether or not the market is saturated, and most importantly, they HAVE a formal business plan.

          1. gotheart

            You are correct Silvia, and I want to correct our 30 year SD.
            You purchase the supplies from MKC to operate the scam you were conned into. By doing so MKC makes a tremendous profit off of these supplies they sell to you.

            You pay to perpetuate and assist MKC with their scam. Any profit you think you earn, I am referring to the 50%, that is really40% is eaten up in the supplies you are coerced to purchase so your customers you think you have will not be doing without. Such as the GWP and the PCP mailer.

            I say the customers you think you have because at any moment another IBC will service your customer by offering her a better deal, with the purpose of bringing her in on the scam. Recruiting her. You know what I say is true because you have had it done to you and you have done it and are aware of your Unit member having it done to them or vice versa.

            Your customer you think you have goes to Amazon and realizes she can purchase MK at a much cheaper price.

          2. Honeybeige

            You also cannot pass your “business” on to someone else or sell it. MK can find all kinds of reasons to pull it out from under you. Read the consultant’s “agreement”. You do not own your own business.

        3. Lily in NYC

          Hi Crybaby, since you are so sure about this, do me a favor. Go to the MK Math articles here and refute them point by point instead of just spewing vague statements like “you just didn’t try hard enough” that you heard at one of your team meetings. And enough with the “big girl panties” comments. It’s demeaning to women, yourself included.

        4. gotheart

          Why wouldn’t they have been “busted” for being so reprehensible? Why?

          “One reason is because…….
          In the 1990s, the Amway organization was a major contributor to the Republican Party (GOP) and to the election campaigns of various GOP candidates. Amway and its sales force contributed a substantial amount (up to half) of the total funds ($669,525) for the 1994 political campaign of Republican congresswoman and Amway distributor Sue Myrick (N.C.).[49] According to two reports by Mother Jones magazine, Amway distributor Dexter Yager “used the company’s extensive voice-mail system to rally hundreds of Amway distributors into giving a total of $295,871” to Myrick’s campaign.[49][50] According to a campaign staffer quoted by the magazine, Myrick had appeared regularly on the Amway circuit, speaking at hundreds of rallies and selling $5 and $10 audiotapes.[49] Following the 1994 election, Myrick maintained “close ties to Amway and Yager”, and raised $100,000 from Amway sources, “most notably through fundraisers at the homes of big distributors”, in the 1997–98 election cycle.[50]”

          Wikipedia resource.

          Another below.
          There are many more.


          1. Well well well! Ain’t that something!

            Sadly not surprising given that wealthy people bribe and buy politicians of both parties all the time (Republicans, being the party of wealth, are more open about it). That’s why our economy is so messed up, which creates a good environment for these sleazy hustlers like MK, Amway, etc to prey on desperate people

        1. TRACY

          Absolutely NOT true. It is ONLY on the products purchased in the last 12 months. And it is 90% of wholesale value, less any discounts, free products, or prizes. It is almost never 90%.

        2. donewithMK666

          I feel soo sorry for you NoMKcrybabies!!! You are so full of the PINK KOOLAID you cant even see straight……….. my question to you is: Are YOU a director???? If not then you have NO IDEA what directors have to go through to maintain a unit……& if YOU ARE a DIRECTOR then you know but you refuse to admit the truth because you believe all the CRAP you have been taught………. just like everyone else!!! You need to realize that on this site are some of the BRAVEST WOMEN because they choose to face the truth and no matter what it cost them they LIVE THE TRUTH!!! You should NOT Judge these women and their bravery commands respect………….

        3. mlank64

          Tracy is absolutely right…in regards to the 90% percent buyback. It only covers products from the last 12 months. Look at your contract again before you start spouting off nonsense you heard from your recruiter/director. Aside from all that, you know full well or you should know full well that the directors will contort themselves into a pretzel to prevent, discourage, influence, dissuade the consultant from taking full advantage of the 90% percent buyback simply to avoid a charge back on their “profit”. The irony of all this is that the 90% percent buyback is heavily promoted as a recruiting tool to lure you in…but, when its time to cash in everyone is whistling a different tune. I don’t know how long you’ve been in MK, but it sounds like you probably been in a hot minute or you’ve been in for years and can’t mentally divorce yourself from the group think that is MK. There’s no point arguing as its right there in the contract if you really bothered to read it instead of taking on face value the BS passed on to you from your recruiter/ or director. Cautionary tale was presented, don’t wait 30 years like the writer and find out you have no savings, no 401k, no real retirement or real health care plan when you reach those golden years because you’ve been on that endless treadmill to no where. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. Ladies here have absolutely nothing to gain or lose by you staying in the MK matrix. You have every right to jump of that MK cliff if that’s what you desire, but, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

        4. BestDecision

          Former Director here. You’re very incorrect. They refund you 90% of the value of things purchased within the last 365 days. Then, they subtract bonuses Directors earned on those months your own order pushed you into a bonus area.

          As for being a person who hasn’t “moved on”, I have, in fact. To a much higher paying career with health, dental, vision benefits as well as 401K, life, and disability insurance. I used my product refund to pay off a luxury car, and I’ve never been happier. I’m only on here now, after initially doing so to see if I was way off base before resigning, to help those souls that are struggling to figure out if they’re crazy for feeling like they’ve been misled.

          And the 20/20 interview of Laura from MK Inc revealed there IS wrong being done. Why else did she lie and say the company “absolutely” intervenes when they discover the “rare” occasions people buy their way to a luncheon, Star prize, or to keep their title? Because it benefits them to have people ordering massive amounts of product!

          Smarten up. You’re way off base.

    2. Cynthia Brown

      I have been reading on pink truth over the years. I appreciate this comment so much! I have met and work with really great Sales force members in Mary Kay who had integrity and did not force me to do any unethical thing or violate my values. I also appreciate pink truth for allowing those whose pink bubble to burst to have a way to express themselves. Thank you all for your heart felt stories and experience.

      1. TRACY

        No one “forces” anyone to do anything in MK. That being said, it’s not a business. It’s an elaborate scam. There is no way to recruit anyone into MK if you tell the whole truth.

  4. Jexalt

    I read your story and I wanted to cry. I’m so sorry for you have endured. You sound like a good person. People here will tell you to get out now and drop everything but DO WHAT YOU have to do and know you’re supported.

    This story resonates with me because of 2 things.

    1. There are plenty of ethical Mk people out there. It isn’t easy, but they are there.

    2. Mary Kay, and a lot of mlms, have the potential to make you a “sucess” when you have a wealthy spouse bankrolling the family. Look at the tip directors and nsds. What do they have in common? Wealthy husbands. If your Mk money doesn’t contribute to the house, then you can be ethical and make some pocket money even though you are working beyond hard for the little money.

    Everyone who I know who does mlm full time has a wealthy husband. If they don’t, they Peter out.

    1. J

      Yep, one by one I noticed all of those SSDs and NSDs who had huge houses and drove pink caddys also had husbands who were doctors, bankers, you name it. MK has nothing to do with the possessions, it’s the wife’s little hobby.

  5. Welcome to pink truth and thank you for sharing your story. 30 years is a really long time and it sounds like you are a kind, ethical woman who tried to work MK in a way that you could be proud of it. But you are right that with all the expenses you have barely anything to show for it. It’s never to late to get out, 50 is the new 40! Lol. You can get an office job with benefits and spend time with your granddaughter. No one at MK cares that you are working harder than you ever have for barely any pay. The time with your granddaughter will be gone before you know it. Remember you don’t need to give all your MK ladies your entire reason for leaving. You can say you want to spend more weekends with your granddaughter. It’s not fun to work yourself into exhaustion. It’s never to late for you to begin again! It’s definitely your choice, just wanted to present the other side. Whatever you decide we are hear for you 🙂

  6. Lazy Gardens

    ” I’m in my late 50’s so I am not at the age to be starting a new career.”

    Yes you are, because what you have now is not a job or a career, it’s a money-sucking swamp.

    If you stopped the financial bleeding of being a director and drop back to just selling stuff your expenses will go down. Or ship it all back and go get a regular job, something that pays the bills and doesn’t add to your debt. Something that will pay you social security later!

    Declare bankruptcy if you have to, but get OUT of the swamp.

    1. gotheart

      It is never too late.
      Like you I was conned for 27 years.
      It takes a good few years to defog your mind. I am not kidding.
      It is evident your thinking is not right by some of the corrections the others who have “replied” have helped you to see.
      When you can think for yourself use the same persistence you used in MK, as in never giving up, to redesign yourself.
      Then persistently start your own business.
      I’ve done it you can too.

  7. BestDecision

    Oh, you’re terribly wrong! Employers won’t admit this or become an HR nightmare, but women over 50 are actually beneficial in the eyes of a lot of bosses because you won’t miss any work because of small children. Trust me, you’re more sought after than you think!

  8. SuzyQ

    BestDecision is 100% correct! I was 63 when I was approached by my current employer. They sought me out for my experience. Imagine that, a career shift at 63. If I can do it, you can too!

  9. donewithMK666

    Thank you for sharing your story!! I was in for 20 years and it was everything to me but once I was ousted I have to say that I’m so thankful not to be under all the pressure and stress to hold the title Sales Director……… I hope you will be able to let go and find peace!!!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. You sound like a sincere person who was trying to make it in MK the ethical way. Please do get away from the pink beast as soon as possible. If you have to declare bankruptcy to start fresh again, do so. They’re not worth your time or stress.

  11. raisinberry

    truthwins makes a great point. All of our years, even decades of silence, pretending that we were “making it” are precisely what women who get drawn in to this are relying on. They think we are telling the truth, while we are “selling the dream”. What we are selling is only the potentiality. We stay in, pressing onward, because our Upline is painting the picture of their success as well, hiding all the true conditions.

    Positive mental attitude is the great bandaid over the reality. “Never be negative” is the great silencer meaning never speak about debt, attrition, lack of profitability, lack of results, feeling fraudulent, and dishonest.

    If you recruited a “race horse” or two…you can sit back and sing the praises of the mary Kay opportunity. You are making money on the backs of your worker bee’s. But if you haven’t, and your Unit has no “superstars”, you will have to recruit endlessly till you find them, and try to keep them…and it will ALWAYS degenerate into this: Excited hopeful women who were frontloaded and over order product because they trusted their trainers and or to get recognition and sold to friends and family until the pipeline dried up, and now make up the “base” unit-one or two minimum orders a year.

    So go ahead, lie to yourself, and tell yourself this is a “business”.

  12. siobhan taylor

    To: NoMKCrybabies

    I think you saw the 20/20 segment and had a lot of uncomfortable feelings. That, and no doubt you’ve been hearing about “that evil website” called Pink Truth. Either way — something brought you here because your curiosity (or doubt or questions or fears) could no longer resist. You may not admit it now — or ever — but I’d make a Vegas bet that you’ll be visiting and reading here A LOT more in the weeks to come. You may never admit it, but you will see yourself in many of the experiences shared here, over and over and over. That’s when you’ll really need to come to terms with yourself. Good luck.

  13. ww1971

    Also MK is not a real business because they recruit anyone. Its like Sephora opening a store on every street corner. Would they? no because they are a real business and know that the stores would be fighting for every customer….just like signing up ten IBCs who live in the same street. There is no business plan in MK, because MK is not a real business.

  14. Carmen Hicks

    Hello, I started reading PT about six months ago and have found it to be very “comforting.” My MK journey began over 20 years ago. It took me a long time to “finally” become a Director, primarily because I did not “consistently” work my biz. HOWEVER, after achieving directorship, I did not stay a Director very long. I realized that it is a CONSTANT rat race hustle and you pretty much have to CONSTANTLY stay in MK work mode. I am now convinced that the picture painted is not a reality. I have no desire to stress myself out every month about trying to find new recruits and making production. I actually earned the use of the consultant car and I knew if production wasn’t made a co-opt payment of $375 would be due, HOWEVER, what people don’t realize is that the cost of insurance ($90) IS NOT included in that $375, so basically you’re making a $500 car payment on a car that’s not worth it. Not to mention the $20,000 in production that it takes to earn the car and the additional $5,000 every month to maintain it!

    I am convinced that more Directors (than not) are buying their positions by over-ordering every month and building warehouses of product! I’ve never felt comfortable trying to convince new recruits to start with huge orders. I personally know several Directors who push newbies to start with $5,000 in inventory.

    As a Director, I met and became friends with other Directors who live in other states but share a common thread which is, EVERY MONTH they are stressing out about production and are personally putting in between $1,800 – $2,400/month just to maintain the position of “the suit!” Their credit cards are screaming STOP!!!! One of them, this is her second time as a Director. She nearly bankrupted her family the first time and getting close again this second time around.

    In my opinion, MK should be presented only ass something to earn a little extra cash, UNLESS the individual wants to work LOTS of hours and constantly hustle, they can earn more income, however, it will cost you, in more ways than one!

  15. k

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have been a IBC for exactly one year and I am married with a full time job so I do MK mostly for personal use. I have 2 young adult daughters and other family members who use MK and they keep me in business. I only buy products that my girls and I love and if someone wants anything else, I will order it. I am in my 40s so I knew what I was signing up for but it’s good to hear other’s perspectives. I do try to find potential customers but it hasn’t been easy. I googled ” I failed at selling MK” and found this article. I will not let MK come between my husband and I, I have a great job and can afford the quarterly minimum for now. I plan to buy the minimum while I can and then I may quit in a year or two. I do enjoy many aspects of MK but refuse to drink the kool-aid, I have no problem staying grounded in reality. Again, thank you for sharing. check out Dave Ramsey if you haven’t already… he has pretty good advice, I think. I wish you all the best!

    1. pinkvictim

      Every dollar you pay to MKult is used to perpetuate a product-based pyramid that preys on women and separates them from their families.

      It matters not if you think you won’t let MKult destroy your marriage or you think you have no problem staying grounded. You are assisting a predatory company that abuses hundreds of thousands of women every year, destroys many of their relationships, and puts most of them into debt.

      Dave Ramsey is a MLM shill and actually promotes the more detrimental part of product-based pyramids: Recruiting. Last time I checked with the FTC, greater emphasis on recruiting is a no-no and what practically defines a pyramid scheme. So, no, Dave Ramsey does NOT have pretty good advice.

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