Things I Wish I Knew About Mary Kay Inventory

When I first started Mary Kay, oh so long ago, I bought into the hype. I heard about inventory, was told I NEEDED it in order to be successful, so I bought a bunch. After all, who in their right mind starts Mary Kay with the intent to fail? We all start with the intent to succeed, and if that’s what we NEED, then we’ll do it!

Back then, I was given a sheet from my sales director that outlined how many classes per week you needed to earn so much, how much the supposed average sales per class were, how much the supposed average reorders were… Little did I know, all of that was total fiction. Made up.

These days, Mary Kay Inc. has an official inventory worksheet. It has looked like this or this in the past. I read those sheets, and I realize that just about everyone “needs” $2,400 or $3,600. Heck… You even give yourself extra points on your worksheet if you plan to attend weekly “success meetings”. What? You need more inventory because you’re going to waste your Monday nights at rah-rah sessions? At a minimum, the company “recommends” $600 for everyone. Wow!

Give yourself more points depending upon how many appointments you’re going to hold each week. Don’t forget that you’ve been lied to about how long an appointment will take, and you don’t yet realize that no one wants to have classes. No big deal. If you don’t know these things right away, you’ll give yourself a zillion points and you’ll “need” more inventory.

Now look at the “goals” toward the bottom. I think a lot of women get involved in Mary Kay and have those goals up front, because they have no idea what it will take to get there. (i.e. They’ve been mislead in the recruiting process like 95% of the recruits are.) But if they have those goals… voila!… they automatically have 8 points and “need” $1,800 wholesale.

So what do I wish I would have known then?

  • All the guidelines about how much inventory you “need” are inflated. No, Mary Kay Cosmetics and your sales director are not looking out for YOUR best interest. They are looking out for their own, and that means pushing you to buy as much as possible.
  • $600 is the magic number for inventory, and will the be the lowest option that your recruiter offers to you. This is because the contests run by Mary Kay Cosmetics all depend upon “qualified” recruits, and qualified means that they have ordered at least $600 wholesale.
  • The company changes the products on a regular basis. Products are discontinued, formulations are changed, and packaging is changed. They do anything they can to change the product so that yours is outdated and no longer listed in the catalogs (and therefore harder to sell). You’ll need to “invest” in the new products because that’s what’s in the catalog.
  • Your sales director will try to convince you to stock inventory because women won’t buy if you don’t have it on hand. That is not true. Those who have inventory do not get significantly higher sales. They might have a few extra items sold here and there because they have it on hand, but it’s not enough to justify sticking thousands of dollars into inventory.
  • Your sales director will try to convince you to stock inventory because it will cost you $9(ish) for shipping each time you order from the company. It is not that big of a deal. Even if you placed an order with Mary Kay Inc. every single week, in a year you would spend less than $500 on shipping. That is still less than the interest on a credit card or loan. Do you want a few thousand dollars out of your pocket and into inventory, or would you rather pay a little shipping fee when you need something? Oh, and they always forget to tell you that even if you have inventory, someone always seems to order something you don’t have on hand. You need to place and order and pay shipping for that too. So why not avoid inventory and order on an as-needed basis so you don’t get stuck with any outdated products?
  • In order to receive your products at wholesale (50% discount off suggested retail), you must be “active”. Active status is achieved in the month you place a minimum $225 wholesale order (A1) and the following 2 months (A2 and A3). Example: You order $225 wholesale on April 6. You are considered active in April, May, and June. After June, you must place another minimum $225 wholesale order to receive your discount.
  • Your consultant agreement prohibits you from buying products from anyone other than Mary Kay Inc. Why? To force additional purchases from corporate. If you were free to buy products from another consultant, you would both benefit when you need a couple of products to fill an order. By forcing you to buy only from corporate, Mary Kay Inc. profits from another wholesale purchase, especially if you must purchase the minimum $225 wholesale.
  • Your director may tell you that it’s against the rules to trade products with other consultants. That’s not true.  The consultant agreement only specifies that purchases of products must be made from Mary Kay Inc. It does not address trading between consultants. Your director has told you it’s against the rules in order to try to force you to order from the company and pad her commission check. You should ignore her, and trade products if you can find a consultant with what you need.
  • The lure of  “free products” when you first sign up is available during your first AND second month as a consultant. Sales directors try to get you to purchase an inventory package of $600 wholesale or more during your first month in order to get product bonuses from Mary Kay Inc. Those bonuses are available when you make an inventory purchase in month one or two. Example: You sign up on September 20. If you purchase an inventory package of $600 wholesale or more in September or October, you can receive free products. If you wait until November, you will not receive free products, no matter how much you purchase.
  • You can use Mary Kay’s product repurchase” option at ANY TIME. Mary Kay will buy back from you an amount of products equal to your wholesale purchases from them for the last 12 months. (Many recruiters and directors will lead you to believe that the repurchase option is available ONLY in your FIRST 12 months with the company. This is not true. It can be done at any time.)
  • In the U.S., the amount you receive back for your products in the product repurchase will be based upon the most recent wholesale price of the products, which could be lower than what you paid for them. Example: You purchased a limited edition item for $10 wholesale. Mary Kay has put it on the “pink sale” at a reduced price of $7 wholesale. You will only get credit for a return of $7 wholesale. (Some consultants have successfully gotten their actual purchase price back on items that went pink sale, however, by providing copies of their purchase receipts.)
  • Limited edition items almost never “run out”. If they do, it is only because the sales directors scared everyone into thinking they’d run out, so everyone bought more than they needed. This tactic is often used on the Christmas items. Sales directors want you to buy, buy, buy to help pump up their commission checks. The bottom line is that limited edition products do not sell as well as they’d have you believe. And if MK really does run out, you’ll be able to find plenty of limited edition products on eBay!

Oh, how I know that the Kaybots are seething because we’re telling their potential recruits about this. They are able to frontload much more when the whole story isn’t out there!


  1. Lazy Gardens

    … the contests run by Mary Kay Cosmetics all depend upon “qualified” recruits, and qualified means that they have ordered at least $600 wholesale.

    Qualified: the RECRUIT has ordered enough for the RECRUITER to qualify for bonuses (paid for by the recruit’s order) and prizes.

    The recruit gets nothing for this, just the director and upline.

  2. Pinkfreesince2015

    Just this past weekend a picture was being posted around Facebook of two eye makeup removers. One was purchased from a consultant and the other was purchased on Ebay (probably from another consultant who wants to get rid of her inventory and MK corp wouldn’t take it back.) There were a few hashtags attached to the picture that had to do with it being illegal selling online. I love how MK bots just fall in line.

    There is no need for inventory! Do not waste your money. Better yet, don’t even do MK! Go get a job with benefits and a great legit retirement plan.

  3. morningstar

    Good post! Spending 500.00 a year for shipping to get stuff as you need it is MUCH better than holding rotting inventory of several thousand dollars.

    Place and order with MK and have your customer recoup some of the shipping cost. That way you can hone your selling skills and see IF you can make it in MK sales.

    This also again sheds light on the fact that directors, NSDs, are not about sales it is about warm bodies spending 600.00 plus to keep them elevated in that position.
    It drove me nutz in MK, who am I working for? Myself or the director/NSD who begs for end of month orders?

    If you focus on sales and are good at it, you will see that MK is not a viable mainstream product. Remember you are competing with amazon and ebay for a piece of the pie.

  4. BestDecision

    Trying to keep up with the product changes was insane. MK re-formulated TimeWise without preparing for us, and that’s when the shoe began to drop for a lot of people. I personally saw a Top Trip Director return her inventory after that. She had BOXES of TimeWise shed bought at year-end and was stuck with it while our websites and MK promoted the new and improved formula.

    We were all stunned that MK would treat us that way, and that memory stuck with me throughout this very day. I still won’t wear MK, even if it helped another person or was discounted. Beyond the fact that it’s technologically behind other brands, I don’t have any desire to support a company that shoved so many of us down overnight with poor judgement on how to change into a new formulation.

    Also, MK doesn’t own up to it, but they test on animals. They are heavily trying to build up markets like China, so they have to follow their laws that require animals to be used for testing. In this day and age, it’s not necessary to do so. This is another example of how deep MK’s roots run in doing what is best for them and not their sales force. All they care about is the potential revenue they get from China, not the people here that built the MK brand.

    1. morningstar

      Ah- Who can sell the MOST timewise sets aka product dumping on the sales force.

      I remember this was a contest for seminar and much hype for the winner and I felt like such a loser as to why I could not sell xzy timewise sets. As I recall someone from Nevada won and it affected me deeply at seminar (added to all the other ills of seminar). I was in the fog not getting that this person purchased 200 + sets (without the customer base).

      The real losers were people who entered and the person who won, as the NEW improved timewise sets rolled out to the sales force. Ugh!

  5. Joelyn

    I just saw two Mary Kay represents attempting to sell their inventory near a CVS store in my neighborhood. At least it was a nice day to be outside but it didn’t look like they were doing any business. I feel empathy for them.

  6. Lily in NYC

    I am cracking up at the inventory worksheets – the lowest order would be if you totaled your answers and got 2 – 4 points. But there’s no way to get fewer than 4 points on the worksheet even if you answer the lowest possible number for each question. And the questions are so loaded – they might as well have this as a question: “give yourself 4 points if you want to be awesome and 1 point if you are a lazy loser”.

  7. MSgtK

    In the 80s helping each other by trading product to full fill orders was considered part of the go give spirit. Now days its seems each woman is out for herself.

  8. cindylu

    Yes in my unit, we traded products. Our SD though frowned on that. Funny that most of the women in my unit were really nice. Two were brainwashed kaybots who had shelves full of yellowed products. One redeemed herself by collecting the weekly fee to pay off the room rental. So much for things being free. The NSD’s were just plain creepy and repetitive. It was all about dreams. The dream that the NSD’s kept alive with embellished I stories of the glory days during the early 1970’s. Sadly for decades they’ve forgotten just how fed up women are about the con of past home parties. All those mlm’s taking advantage of women: Amway, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Cutco, Weekender clothes, Jewelry parties, Avon, etc. Hundreds of women wasting time and money on inferior or costly products. We were kept brainwashed with the rah rah expense of seminar, costly conferences and meetings where checks from years ago were paraded as proof that our dreams could come true. The dream that this company founded by a woman for women really really cared. Except the dream was actually a nightmare. Like the Wizard of Oz, none of it was real. It wasn’t dual marketing. It was an mlm. It wasn’t a career with flexible hours. Products did NOT fly off the shelves. We couldn’t be there for our families. We were out on weekends and evenings. We had open houses during Christmas time. We couldn’t enjoy any outings without looking for our next customer/recruit/victim. We couldn’t properly advertise the embarrassment known as MK. The competition was fierce with hundreds of present and past consultants. We weren’t certified make up artists so technically we weren’t supposed to apply the make up. Finally most women avoided MK when we did set up a costly table decorated for the season. The only ones who bought were the other venders who often also weren’t making sales either. Mostly just pity sales of a lipstick or eye shadow. (or the decoration, but rarely the expensive MK products). Yes changing the products was the proof that MK Corp did NOT care one iota about the struggling women unable to sell the mcrap. Don’t break the basic. lol…Just sit idly by watching the products aging and collecting dust. Book a class, watch it get cancelled. Book a class. Watch no one buy anything. Show up at a sketchy neighbourhood, waste gas and time. Then have your vehicle stolen (probably planned by the young woman who booked the facial). Fortunately I did get the vehicle back relatively intact when the joy riders ran out of gas. The cost though took its toll. A very unsafe business model. Door to door sales isn’t something I enjoyed or would recommend.

  9. Leila

    OK so I bought a big inventory package, and I’m regretting it. I don’t want to quit, I just want to massively reduce my inventory to only those things my clients (I’m a style coach) buy and use, and that I recommend on a regular basis. Any advice on how to do this without leaving the company?

    1. MLM Radar

      It doesn’t work that way. If you return your products, you’re out. That’s a good thing, really.

      If you stay in longer, you’re going to be pressured to buy even more unwanted inventory to stay “active” and get the so-called discount.

      Mary Kay products are the cheapest possible quality for a huge price, and they test on animals. What’s worse is that they don’t seem to pay attention to the testing results. You’ll find Mary Kay sellers pushing products that are harsh and cause acne, by telling their customers that their bad skin reactions are just “your skin getting rid of impurities.”

      Given the very bad quality reputation that Mary Kay has, if I ever found my beauty salon lady selling Mary Kay that would be the last time I ever used her services.

  10. Tanya

    I cannot even tell you how floored I am with everything I have read on this site. I wish to God I had found it before i signed up. Everything happened word for word. I signed up, went through the ‘interview’ and just coming off a horribly run MLM I decided that MK would be OK because everyone has heard of them. I went to every meeting, found I basically couldn’t sell it anywhere unless it was a party, and was so sick of the fake Christian stuff. The SD encouraged me to buy a ton of inventory and suggested I open a credit card to pay for it all. She then kept contacting me to recruit everyone and use deceptive tactics by putting out a fake raffle jar to get leads and to just make sure everyone wins.

    SD and immediate upline were pissed when I saw what they were really about when I quit 2 days into seminar. Another girl did too. They were all like ‘oh that’s OK’ when I told them I just want to be a customer. They even had a little prayer circle thing for me. Telling me how much they loved me, etc.

    Then it happened. I asked about the 90% buyback program. I was a ruby star too, which means I front loaded a ton of stuff. I returned just about everything and just kept a few things for myself. No problem, right? Nope. I get email after email from SD telling me to hold onto inventory for a year, how MK is taking a loss because of my return, how my immediate upline’s car goal will be affected negatively, can’t I just keep the inventory as gifts, she can show me how to sell what I have left so I don’t lose that extra 10%, and the great one about how it’s my last chance to order everything I need for the next three years at a discount price because that’s how long the products last.

    When they found out I returned everything, they unfriended me on Facebook and blocked me from their groups. I got my check and am thrilled. I really don’t care that I lost a little. Better than having several thousand dollars worth of unsaleable merchandise!

    I told her that unfortunately, all was sent back. She

    1. ran4fun

      Wow, Tanya! Glad you found us and stood up for yourself.

      Since you had a bad MLM experience before MK, and MK has turned out to be just as bad, I hope you realize all MLMs are bad. They are all barely legal pyramid schemes. Keep sharing the truth!

  11. enorth

    “MK is taking a loss because of my return” — LOL Cry me a river! Mary Kay, the multi-billion dollar company that is “debt-free” and “the Number 1 cosmetics and skin-care brand” is “taking a loss” on your piddly inventory and you’re supposed to feel sorry for it?

    “my immediate upline’s car goal will be affected negatively” — not your problem. After all, she is a “top-2% leader” in Mary Kay and a “smart business woman” how needs to put on her big-girl panties and figure it out.

    “just keep the inventory as gifts” — in other words, give it all away.

    “she can show me how to sell what I have left” — Yes, she’ll show you how to sell it at an 80% discount plus BOGO.

    “my last chance to order everything I need for the next three years at a discount price” == News flash! It’s all available right now on eBay, dirt-cheap. No need to be a consultant.

    1. MLM Radar

      The Director wants you to have a “going out of business” sale, which means that she wants you to sell that entire Ruby Star inventory below cost. In other words, she wants you to flood the market with dirt cheap products, so that she won’t have to repay her commissions.

      So where does that leave all her other recruits? In order to break even in this business, they have to sell at or near “full retail” price. Then here come you and your Director, and anyone who wants to buy gets all they want at a huge discount. Thanks a lot.

      One fire sale leads to another and another and another. She keeps the commissions, but in the long run she loses her recruits.

      By returning your inventory you actually did her a favor.

  12. Tanya

    Sorry for the delay. I found they were pushy with me telling me they were coming to my state and coming to visit my home and see how I have my inventory stored. I’m my area, it’s considered very rude to invite yourself over and over to someone’s home and basically expect me to host her my sd and team leader. I own a very small cottage in a pretty bad neighborhood, so no one comes in unless I know them very well. They insisted on coming and staying with me to visit and i told them it’s not happening and to get a hotel room . I just wonder if forcing themselves into consultant homes is common

    1. MLM Radar

      It’s not common, or it shouldn’t be.

      What they were trying was to intimidate you into not returning inventory. If you’d let them in, no matter how nice your house was, they’d have told that your products weren’t properly stored and that they’d be reporting back to MK Corporate that you were trying to send back nonreturnable items.

      Lies lies and more lies.

  13. Sarah P

    I stopped doing Mary Kay about 10 years ago when it wasn’t working out for me at all. I never knew I could return all my inventory. I wish I found this website when I was getting rid of everything. I still have a few things that are unopened, I think….is it really true I can still return them even though it’s been so long?

  14. jasmine r

    OMGosh I am soooo happy I have fallen onto this page as I was seriously thinking about joining MK!!! I work for a medical device facility so I have a fairly good job I just truly wanted to help a friend :(. 1) I had no ideal that they test on animals (as I never thought to ask that question). 2) One of the main things I heard in the meeting I went to tonight was “FAITH”. I am a Christian woman and they seem to return back to this word anytime I felt like they thought they was losing my focus…..
    Unbelievable and you have no ideal how much I just want to play with them just to see how they respond to some things LOL. But I won’t I am just thankful I saw this before I committed myself.
    I must however say that attending this meeting and watching the interaction felt a little robotic and the pressure was completely there to get the women that attended to know “QUICKLY” how to respond to someone not wanting to buy or for those that insisted on buying a cheaper package 🙁
    Shame Shame MK for preying on women

  15. Shannon

    Wow, I wish we had found and read this before my daughter invested. Yes, she was told she was required to purchase the $600 wholesale. Needless to say, we are stuck with a lot of product we don’t want, need, and can’t sell! What a scam! I am at least going to put it all on Facebook now and try to sell it at a discount; I am not a consultant. 🙂

    1. BestDecision

      She can call 800-272-9333 and get the Repurchase Department to refund her for the inventory. You’ll have a harder time selling it anywhere rather than getting a refund. It’s pathetic that this happened to her, but it happens a lot.

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