How Mary Kay Trains Recruits to Blame Themselves

quit-mary-kayWritten by Raisinberry

I’ll have to admit I bought into this hook line and sinker. Anybody with a Sales Training background is conditioned to believe that sales is a numbers game and so it requires more calls, more leads, more effort to make the numbers work. Striving is success. Never quitting. Press on. It’s all about being that one who goes forward with laser like focus on the goal. Who wouldn’t want to be this person? Aren’t we part of a greater society that rewards the champions? Don’t we love the “beat all odds” stories that supposedly show our greatness?

In Mary Kay, we are bathed in “if it is to be it’s up to me.” Teachings like these are part of a very dark environment that I really did not realize until years after I got out. At first blush you might think I am exaggerating.

Each of us are influenced by those around us, and sometimes we take in and trust people who have limited knowledge or depth. Many times people just grab an idea and take it in without even processing its ramifications, and then pass it along…particularly in this arena of sales, sales trainers and motivational speakers. It’s a world of quippy sayings and feel good platitudes that can really camouflage what’s irrational and downright wrong about the actual environment of Mary Kay.

In most other work world environments, your success is measured by what YOU do. How timely your reports are, how many widgets you assembled, how your students are testing. For the most part, “if it is to be it’s up to me” is a slogan that can only apply to someone who doesn’t have other people contributing to or creating barriers to the work product. This is never questioned in Mary Kay. We readily adopt the teaching and the responsibility that we are solely to blame for not hitting our targets. Never, at any time, is it the Mary Kay culture, structure or conditions that add to our obstacles. By teaching this “method” of thought control, the beauty consultant who experiences lack luster results will immediately take the hit, and absolve Mary Kay entirely. And believe me that is intentional. Any one with any ability at analysis can easily determine that IBC’s, and Directors have less control over their results than ever before!

If you believe that you just couldn’t cut it…that perhaps you didn’t try hard enough or that life just handed you lemons for which no aid was available, you will likely hold to the hope that some day down the road when you fix you, you can try again. Result? You keep your inventory. Mary Kay keeps your money.

In real life, selling Mary Kay has a mountain of outside obstacles that have nothing to do with you. These are things that no amount of platitudes will reverse. Let me ask you a few questions:

1. Can you make your appointments hold?
2. Can you guarantee that you’ll get a guest to meeting?
3. Can you guarantee attendance at your class?
4. Can you control what people buy?
5. Can you make her sign?
6. Can you make her return your call?
7. Can you coerce a Star Order every time? Can you guarantee production from your team that does not require you to top off?
8. Can you change the perception of Mary Kay in the marketplace?
9. Can you enforce customer loyalty?
10. Can you make team members do what they said they would do?

With all these outside uncertainties or influences affecting your so called business, how do you expect that success is “up to you”? Sure they’ll tell you to do “more”. But how much more is the magic? Do you realize that they can forever hide behind “more”? If you aren’t at the 24 hour grocery store stalking targets at midnight, you didn’t do enough!

Here’s the damage as I see it. Because this is an intentional teaching, and goes unchallenged, it significantly affects the self esteem of the women who fall victim to it. That’s why it’s dark. That’s why it’s a study in hypocrisy and corruption of some significance.

Mary Kay gets away with this, under the Pink Banner of enriching women’s lives. What is enriched is the owners, the exectuives, and the Top Dogs who crack the production whips with nice soft pink gloves.

They have an entire volume of trainings that make it SOOO EASY. Tracy has illuminated many of them over the years, and none of these teachings address the real live conditions and aspects of trying to conduct, much less grow, a cosmetics business. It’s fraud. It’s pie in the sky, and soon another flyer will be emailed to you, telling you how to get into a red jacket for the big Seminar contest, or how to debut, or get your keys on stage. Since its up to you, and you are to find a way or make a way, when the “consistency” you have to demonstrate does not cooperate, because no one returns your calls, wont even answer, won’t say yes to being a guest, wont book, wont buy, doesn’t want to be affiliated, has no credit, you will be left holding the bag of your failed responsibility to follow the just-so-simple instructions of striving to success.

My fear is you’ll wander away, fall off the pink radar, and tell yourself you failed again. I really hope you don’t do that. I really hope you see this for what it really is: a well honed mlm which uses manipulation and bait, distorts the truth, hides the negative, and expects to collect $1,000 minimum from you personally that they never have to refund.

If you get caught up in the career path scam, it will years before you figure this out and they will have extracted thousands of dollars, with the same result, and you will have wasted your life-at least the part that ran pink. Don’t forget, that there is a reason for the endless contests, the Career Conference, the Seminar, The Retreats, The Brunches, the Meetings. It is because this scheme needs a constant pump up or it fizzles. You have to be indoctrinated into anyone else’s success story in order to think it is just around the corner for you. This is how they USE people.

You will never hear about their failures or disasters, so you will always be comparing yourself to their grand tale… that may have happened once, and with many of the details missing. All that striving, racing, turbulence is a complete misdirection off reality, a grandiose trap to use women and abuse women who just want something more out of life. They play to your weakness, stir up your discontent, offer you the remedy and rob you of your riches, self worth and peace. And what they really want is your striving.

Striving keeps you in the game, producing, trying to get somewhere as the bottom continually drops out. Ask any Director at month end, if you dare. Oh she’ll show up at Monday Night Success Meeting and do the rah rah dance about the Miracle Month or the “all came together” story, for your benefit she’s told. Nobody follows a leader who looks stressed. But she’ll know how it happened. She’s been slowly getting more comfortable with fraud since she stepped on the wheel.


  1. pinkpeace

    This is brilliant.

    “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” and “the speed of the leader is the speed of the gang” are two of the most insidious slogans in Mary Kay. Aside from just being false, these beliefs teach women to ignore the deadly MLM business model and focus blame on themselves when they fall short of success. It can never be Mary Kay’s fault – it’s the perfect business plan! The only way a woman can fail at Mary Kay is to not work hard enough! Your success is just around the corner, if you only keep going!

    If you’re still in Mary Kay right now, step back and try to look objectively at what you’re being taught. Why are you still struggling day after day? You know how hard you really do work. Is it really your fault? Or is it the fault of a company that will do anything to string you along for just another month to keep your orders rolling in?

    Think about it.

  2. Iescaped

    All I can say is WOW! Another spot on piece.

    The little lines you hear over and over are so very damaging, yet so hard to realize.

    The only other ones that comes to mind right now are the infamous “the only way to fail is to quit Mary Kay” or “Mary Kay doesn’t fail you, you failed Mary Kay”.

    Both of those are directed at the IBC or SD into feeling that they have to stay with the Company, the Proven Programs, or they themselves are choosing to fail. You are made to believe that you are the one that has chosen to walk away from greatness, walk away from success. Most of us who really wanted this to work, who foolishly believed what we were being told, were already hard working successful women in other areas of our lives.

    We would never just quit or walk away from a challenge, so we stayed (longer then we should have) and did things that even today we are to embarrassed to fully admit. Mostly because of those horrible little MK sayings that lingered in our heads.

  3. truthwins

    I hope my sister reads this latest post. “Believe and achieve, or doubt and do without. It’s your choice” is the advice from her dictator…um director. If she isn’t blaming herself, she blames me and others who don’t “support her business.” This definitely creates awkward tension at family gatherings.

    1. Iescaped

      Truthwins- Family tension is what I am most ashamed and embarrassed about. I can’t believe how much I pushed away family and friends. Told that they were negative, but they just weren’t chugging the Pink Kool-Aid of Life. They could be the reason for why I was struggling, they were holding me back from greatness.

      Constantly told to surround yourself with the 5 women who you wanted to be like (funny how everyone picked other MK women). Shun the negative people holding you back. You know, there is a “different Devil at every level!”.

      Oh why would I believe that my family and friends would WANT me to fail? Why would I believe that God Himself actually care about makeup?

      The horror and embarrassment that we can still to this day, beat ourselves up with.

      1. raisinberry

        You can now start to see the cult-like mechanisms they train the upper sales force to use to bond recruits to them. This is the really sick part of all this. We’re smart people! How could we fall for this kind of brainwashing? When your family and friends become your problem, and your Mary Kay sisterhood becomes your family of influence, you have stepped into classic cult think.

        And it wasn’t really that hard, was it? Steady indoctrination into ANYTHING will erode objective thought and cloud judgement. The minute some group or entity tells you you “must” attend or you will “lose” focus and slip/fall/backslide, they are INDOCTRINATING your beliefs.

        This is a thought for personal examination in all areas of life.

      2. truthwins

        Iescaped, may peace and grace replace the horror and shame! Enjoy your freedom.

        I have nothing to financially gain when I try to reason with her.

        Raisinberry, you put my thoughts into to words.

    2. Lazy Gardens

      If she isn’t blaming herself, she blames me and others who don’t “support her business.

      So it isn’t really up to her, then. She’s at the mercy of the decisions of strangers.

        1. pinkpeace

          Oh yes, and I’ll tell you for a fact that her SD is thrilled that she is no longer in DIQ. She got the benefit of all that extra production and now she has a brand-new crop of fresh consultants to last at least a few more months. Unfortunately, what’s worse is that she’ll try to convince your sister to try again, and the cycle will continue.

          I wish your sister could step back and look at the situation without the emotion. If she were doing poorly in any other kind of sales position, she would take a look at the factors why: outdated or inferior products, inequitable sales territories, poor management, bad customer service. It would NOT be because others “aren’t supportive” of her business or are being negative.

          (If you ever think she’d be willing to talk to someone who’s been there-done that, I’d be happy to get on the phone with her and be as gentle as I can. PM me.)

  4. gotheart

    Thanks Raisin. “You will never hear about their failures or disasters, so you will always be comparing yourself to their grand tale… that may have happened once, and with many of the details missing.

    Oh my goodness. I’m remembering the first season of Voicemail, I’d say 1994. It was a “if it’s to be” Linda Tupin’s screaming “I am so excited,” message from my speaker phone recorder.

    Her never ending deluge of brain washing messages comparing “what are you doing with your Christmas opportunity” to some gal in her Unit who had just sold thousands of MK limited edition gift boxes to some corporation.

    I’d been out and about knocking on doors and couldn’t even get a come back tomorrow. They just flat out didn’t want to see my Christmas opportunity. Of course I beat myself with “what the hell is wrong with me.” I laugh now but it wasn’t so funny then.

    Just like Raisin said, I just wouldn’t give up. I even stood at the entrance to a shopping center on Christmas Eve, bundled in a heavy coat and hat, freezing, pink car trunk opened with gifts wrapped shinning in cello. Not even a pity purchase. I had to get rid of the stuff. I’d ordered two boxes, I believe about 190. each, just didn’t sell for me. The image makes me sad.

    The day before that I did the same out on the driveway of a factory where every employee had to pass me in order to leave the factory. Not a purchase.

    Come to find out a year later the gal who sold the thousand? Her mother was in charge of their corporate Christmas party. Purchased a gift set for every employee.

    No wonder Linda was so excited. How wicked was her deceptive message? Manipulative to the core, just like Linda’s, “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”

    1. raisinberry

      gotheart, you just woke up thousands of readers here! That is EXACTLY the type of missing detail that never quite makes it to the FABULOUS SUCCESS STORY! So, so true…and you never hear about this kind of insider content till months and years later. Everybody has to keep the pink secret.

      So they bloviate a scenario that a consultant doesn’t have a chance in hell to duplicate, which does nothing but keep her in the game, trying and trying, and has no other outcome than to cause her to see herself as a failure when she can not duplicate the phony tale.

      And remember, THIS company supports women! THIS company cares for women. THIS company enriches women.

      In a pig’s eye. They enrich themselves at a woman’s expense.

      Realistic outcomes for realistic efforts are just not as grandiose as what Mary Kay needs to hook the next generation of recruits and DIQ’s.

      Wouldn’t you all love to see the 50 weeks of Summary Sheets from your Sales Director or the Queen of Sales of your Seminar? Shouldn’t you be able to ask her to see them??How about your recruiter? Hm? Hey I have an idea…next Monday why not publicly ask your Recruiter, Sales Director, Senior Sales Director to see a years worth of Summaries??

      What do you think will happen? Wait, we saw this on 20/20.

      1. dxr

        “What do you think will happen? Wait, we saw this on 20/20.”

        I just finished watching that. How incredibly pathetic and insulting that the consultants (or Directors, or whatever they were) did that interview and went on that show claiming to not know what they made the previous year.

        1. raisinberry

          Well, when you aren’t allowed to be negative, you have to ignore your financials and cling to “your best week” or “your highest month” and forget all about expenses.

          Most of us Directors really didn’t know what our profit was other than in ballpark realms!! And of course the whole time, they are advising that everything we do is practically deductible, so we are supposed to feel SO GOOD about “losing money” that can go against our family income before taxes!

          I was at a guest event where a Director “above” me, told the audience that her business allows her to take many legal deductions that causes her to be able to get refunds back from the Federal government for her family withholding tax! Yippee.

          ***Facepalm*** Here again is an example of those fabulous business leaders in Mary Kay.

          1. Honeybeige

            Isn’t there still a limit on how many years your Schedule C can show a loss? A tax deduction is different than a tax credit. I once calculated that after being told “to make money you have to spend money” i would reduce my taxes by $15 for every “deductible” $100 of expenses. Or about 15%.

          2. MLM Radar

            It’s called the Hobby Loss rule. You can look it up on the IRS website.

            Basically, if your “business” shows a Schedule C loss more than two years out of every five years it’s considered a hobby, not a business. That means you can’t use “business” losses to reduce your taxable income any more.

            In a nutshell: You’re right, Honeybeige. If you’re in Mary Kay for LESS than two years, you reduce your tax bill by about $15 for every $100 you lose. The other $85 is gone forever.

            But if you’re in Mary Kay for more than two years, you’re totally screwed at tax time. You can’t reduce your tax bill one cent no matter how much or how little you lose. The best you can hope to do is show that your Mary Kay expenses exceeded the value of that Form 1099 Mary Kay dropped on you for that “free” car.

    2. J

      Omg, I just got to relive the awful memory of going around to Home Depot parking lots the night before Valentine’s day trying to sell lip glosses attached to stupid little stuffed animals like a complete moron. Some woman in my unit had told me she did it on Christmas Eve and sold like $600….a complete fabrication I’m sure. Oh, the embarrassment. The more I read this site, the more I am ashamed of the last few years. I’m so glad my kids are too young to remember this, and my husband is a forgiving man.

    3. “Come to find out a year later the gal who sold the thousand? Her mother was in charge of their corporate Christmas party. Purchased a gift set for every employee.”

      Yowza! Talk about a lucrative connection…

  5. pinkhaze

    Reading this makes me so sad and angry. Gotheart – thanks for sharing your story too.

    It’s not your fault. This business model has always been about enriching the corporate folks and a few at the tip top of the pyramid.

    If you are blaming yourself for not “making a way” please stop. Talk to a trusted friend/advisor who is not in MK. A pastor, a former teacher or a family member you KNOW has your best interest in mind.

    Be willing to be honest with yourself. About everything. How much you have spent. The debt. The time you spend vs. the money you make.The fake it till you make it story you tell on FB. All of it.

    It’s not your fault.

  6. Lazy Gardens

    And the obstacles Mary Kay puts in the way of treating it like a REAL business.

    1 – Can’t advertise locally
    2 – Can’t do co-op marketing with local business
    3 – Can’t sell at local events
    4 – Can’t send back current product and swap for something you can sell
    5 – Give no indication of local competition

    1. That’s what I never understood about MK or these other MLM outfits. How can you call it a “business opportunity” and then refuse to allow the participant to treat their venture like a business (especially the advertising ban. How can you possibly expect people to know about your product if you cant advertise it?).

      There is literally no other way to look at this other than fraud!

      1. raisinberry

        The real reason Mary Kay doesn’t allow consultants to advertise is because you would soon discover how saturated your area is. Even when they were advertising for consultants with the locator, you had to be a Star Consultant…so they effectively limited the number of IBC’s in any area. An IBC who had too much inventory and refused to be a “star” anymore, had no help from MK to move her product. You got no help because you weren’t ordering. Period.

  7. Iescaped

    gotheart, you are so right about the tiny bit of important information that is always left out. Most of the time you can’t even catch the lie or the half truths.

    Recently, in my former Area, a SD re-qualified for her “not free” MK car. A huge deal was made by the NSD about how she had her “best month EVER” in MK. All of the hoopla was done to misdirect anyone from noticing that she went from driving the Mustang (higher $$ volume of orders) to the bottom level Chevy Cruise. Most of the IBCs will likely never realized that this fabulous SD was actually demoted in car levels because of all of misdirection and fanfare made about her glorious month!

    They will only try to go out and sell more products, meet more people and try again and again to reach success levels that never really existed to begin with.

  8. Cindylu

    I am glad Lazy pointed out just how limited IBC’s truly are. I remember reading about dovetailing and thinking wow great option. Since we’re all supposed to be able to sell tons of this product easily wouldn’t there be a lot of dove tailing? I never saw any dove tailing going on in my unit or any other unit in my area. MK thought territories were unfair because somehow they would harm women (Instead no territories means too many IBC’s in one small area). Additionally, MK instituted an adoptee program. I spoke with adoptees and it took them a while to find a Director who would even want them at her meetings. There really is no where to properly advertise these over priced products. Technically the IBC is not allowed to touch the face of a client because they are not certified make up artists. MK likes to make fun of real careers calling a job a journey of the broke…making fun of decent work that provides real extra income is shameful. All the lies and slogans. Directors going up on stage with their fake I stories and fake one time barely noticeable check from years ago. NSD’s spending years building and losing units (using hundreds of women and putting them in debt along the way). All the fake accolades, ribbons, crowns, cheap pins etc. The fake stories about MK herself and how wonderful she was. The wonder woman who supposedly sat down and wrote out a company that would help and support women. The only thing she supported was her family and the first 20 original directors who were brow beat by her. That story of the sainted MK reaching down to women and helping them up. More like putting women on guilt trips and not giving them a proper way to actually sell those dozens of products (changing monthly for no real reason but greed). Yes we were to pretend. Fake it till you make it. Fake putting a meal on for your husband by cooking onions as you finally make it home. Fake it with a housekeeper and assistant whether you can afford it or not. Fake it with no quotas…oh yes…car payments are a quota and so is having to place orders every other month. Also don’t forget the go give option of dovetailing. I don’t recall any dove tailing ever going on in my unit or in any other unit. Heck my SD wouldn’t even trade product with anyone and took the recruits of two of her failed DIQ’s. Here are more gems of advice from MK herself which probably helped put many in debt or on guilt trips: No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important. Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway. Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life. Give yourself something to work toward – constantly. Yes work even on Christmas eve or every other holiday. Ignore your family. When I got a real job. A real career…I realized that MK was more evil than good.

    1. J

      Saying things about working holidays (like annoying your family at a holiday gathering)would drive me nuts! My NSD used to get all snotty and say “I don’t understand when women tell me they can’t because of a holiday, a holiday is just one day, not a week, not a month, one day”.
      Well, maybe in NSD land you have someone else to do all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, planning, etc for something like, say, Thanksgiving. But most of us do not. Furthermore, in terms of IBCs, there’s a lot more than 2 hours going into a “skin care class”. It’s just insulting that she’d think we only participate in the day of and zero prep! Also, what about Jewish women? Their holidays rarely last just one day.

    2. “Fake it till you make it”

      Ugh, I used to hear that phrase at my call center job all the time. If I hear someone spouting that line of BS now, it takes every ounce of strength to keep me from punching that person in the face. That line is so toxic!

      I’m convinced that the management there got more than a few ideas about running the place from MLMs.

  9. hobby girl

    I have a question: Where did the catch phrases come from? Are the taught at Director Training? From Mary Kay herself. They are so regurgitated. The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang, you have to show up to go up, nothing is sold from an empty cart/wagon, stars equals cars equals bars. Or something like that its been so long since I have heard that BS at a so called meeting. They all seem to say the same thing. Nothing is ever original.

    1. Iescaped

      No, nothing is original, even if at the time you thought it was.
      Of course I knew that some of those “catch phrases” were borrowed. Especially when they were attached to the all mighty Mary Kay Ash. But just hearing someone else from Anywhere, USA use the saying or training I thought could be original makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up!!
      I just realized today, almost a year out of MK, that the training on “a holiday is only one day, not the whole month” wasn’t even paraphrased, it was plagiarized!!!

  10. Lazy Gardens

    MK thought territories were unfair because somehow they would harm women (Instead no territories means too many IBC’s in one small area).

    In her autobiography, she mentions that she had recruited a team in Dallas or Houston when she was with Stanley or World Gifts – I forget which – and lost them when “her husband**” was transferred to St. Louis because she left her territory. She was reallly pissed off that the new area manager reaped the benefits of her work.

    She thought that was bad, so when she created her dream business, she decided there would be no territories. She didn’t think through the implications of unlimited recruiting and no territories for the IBCs, which is no limits on your competition and area saturation with sales persons.

    **not named, but it was probably Charles Weaver

    1. MLM Radar

      Initially, I’ll can see her very shallow explanation for no territories. It was a short-sighted, bitter decision based on ignorance.

      But she certainly lived long enough to learn differently. She took steps to hide the oversaturation of sales reps from her sales reps. She endorsed slogans designed to keep them distracted from reality. I’m quite sure that from her throne she saw and fully realized the implications of that policy. And, as far as she was concerned, those implications were making her rich.

      Of course, most of the sales force doesn’t understand those implications either. They think they’re learning how to run a sales business from successful directors. Yet the “training” is a rotten sack of empty promises that they too will be successful if they just follow the program. Repeat, repeat, repeat. “I’ll succeed if I just follow the program.”

      The program doesn’t work past the “perfect start” because you only have so many friends and family who will make pity purchases to get you started. If you’re typical, you realize the program isn’t working any more, so you start adding your own personal flair. But flair doesn’t make a rotten sack of lies less rotten. It just gives your director an opening to blame you for your failure because you deviated from the program.

      1. Iescaped

        This is such a great article and topic that has many spin offs as too why women in MK beat themselves up about not being successful.

        1. What is success?
        It takes most people quite a while to realize that those BIG commission checks were a one time fluke that happened forever ago. We also never knew how much personal $$ went into that “great month” either.

        2. All those catchy phases!
        Who would think that the “find a way, make a way”, ” if it is to be, it is up to me” and “fake it until you make it” were slowly eroding our ability to see reality.

        3. The statistics given out to sway you into believing anything!
        Women that needed the concrete facts were given made up statistics that would sound credible. Who knew in the these were just more made up slogans thrown out to convince the IBC, DIQ and SD to just keep going. My all time favorite is that an area can have as many SDs as it does banks, churches and schools. Really? Who did the statistical analysis on this? But it sounded good at the time and why would you question someone who is here to “empower and enrich women’s lives”?

        4. The ONLY way to fail is to quit!
        And the best of all, blaming any lack of financial success right on the IBC/SDs back! Never mind that your area was over saturated, that at least 1/2 of the potential base of customers had already been harassed well before you signed up. That the Company rules on advertising and selling will really stiffle you. Everyone is made to believe that success is right around the next corner, so don’t give up! But the reality is that the ” elusive corner to your success” just keeps moving and that no amount of hard work, effort or time will ever matter.

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