The Mary Kay “Sales Tactics” Are Evil

The debate rages on between the “pro” and “anti” sides of the debate about Mary Kay Cosmetics.

On one side, we have women who claim Mary Kay has a wonderful opportunity that has enriched many women. Everything in Mary Kay is optional, and only lazy losers who didn’t work hard enough and couldn’t say no to the occasional unethical director failed.

On the other side, you have women who have the ability to apply logic and reason to the situation They realize that since 99% of women lose money in MLMs, this isn’t a wonderful opportunity. They know that Mary Kay has put millions of women in debt.

They understand that manipulation and dishonesty is rampant in Mary Kay, and that women are pushed to their limits and skillfully guilted and coerced by their corrupt uplines. They see that almost no one succeeds in Mary Kay for obvious reasons: It’s a recruiting scheme that relies on the constant recruitment of new blood, who bring with it fresh credit cards, dreams of staying at home with their children, and the eagerness that allows inventory frontloading.

But you say that the women themselves are to blame for being taken advantage of by the millions of millions of Mary Kay recruiters who regularly misrepresent the “opportunity” in order to get recruits? You say they should have said “NO” to anything they weren’t comfortable with? You say they should realize that sales tactics were used on them, but the whole world is for sale and they should have said “NO”.

The problem is that the “sales tactics” employed by Mary Kay consultants and directors are dirty. They’re not just any old sales tactic. They’re crafted and taught in a way that will put most leverage on the potential recruit. Guilt and shame are powerful motivators, particularly when they relate to your family. No tactic seems off limits to Mary Kay recruiters.

An analogy of a car dealership is sometimes used to by the pro-Mary Kay crowd. They say sales tactics are used there too, and consumers just have to say “no” if they don’t want to buy a car. Plain and simple.

But let me show you how Mary Kay is different by applying a few common lines to the car dealer theory. These lines and techniques are used in recruiting, and when trying to coerce consultants to purchase unneeded product or do other things in pursuit of the Mary Kay dream that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Use your children as your reason, not your excuse: Imagine test-driving a car, looking thoroughly at the numbers, and deciding that the car isn’t right for your family. It’s too expensive, uses too much gas, and just isn’t practical for your family.

But the car salesman tells you to do it for your children. You tell him that your children deserve a financially stable family, and that an expensive purchase like this won’t meet that goal. And he tells you that you’re just using your children as an excuse. Don’t they deserve a nice car like this? Sure, you’ll have to sacrifice, but one day they’ll thank you. You can’t keep using them as an excuse to not get out there are look good in that car! They’ll resent you for that. They’d want you to make the most of this opportunity to own a wonderful car like this.

You see, it’s clear that these manipulative statements have no place in selling a car. Using your children as a guilt tool? Making it seem as if your children deserve to be proud of a car?  Making you feel as if you’re just making excuses for not buying this car that you want.

Yet these are exactly the type of statements that Mary Kay directors use to get you to “do” Mary Kay, or attend more events, or try to move up the “career ladder,” or order more products for the sake of your “team.”

Even after proclaiming that God comes first, family comes second, and career comes third, the Mary Kay consultant is told to set her family’s needs and desires aside. To do it “for them,” even though you’ve already said that what’s best for them doesn’t include Mary Kay.

Don’t listen to negative people: Imagine sitting at the car dealership and telling the salesman that the car really isn’t for you, and that your husband agrees. And he says, “Your husband is just trying to sabotage you. He doesn’t want you to feel good about yourself. He’s unsupportive. He knows how good you’d look in this car and how wonderful you’d feel each time you drove it. But he wants to keep you down.”

You squirm a little at the salesman’s statements and assure him that it’s a joint decision and that you and your husband talked it over and agreed. The salesman says, “You shouldn’t listen to negative people. All they want to do is take away your dreams. They don’t know what you might be able to accomplish if you drove this car. You owe it to yourself to give it a try and not let these other people influence you.”

“This is your life and your car. Stop talking to the people who only want to ruin it for you. Oh sure, they sound like they’re trying to help by talking about economical alternatives to this car that might work better for your family. But what do they know? They’re just negative people who don’t want to see others succeed. You can show them what you’re made of by getting this car!”

The silliness of such statements is clear when you think about it in terms of buying a car. And the silliness of a Mary Kay director applying it to doing Mary Kay or trying to move up in Mary Kay is no different.

How dare she insult your relationship with your husband, and how dare she say (not imply, but say directly, and often) that your husband is trying to keep you down and doesn’t want to see you succeed. That is not only disrespectful, it is despicable to use such things to try to get someone to buy into the Mary Kay dream.

No doesn’t mean no. It just means she needs more information: Mary Kay women never want to take no for an answer, and they’re taught religiously that they should not ever accept your “no.” No is just a request for more information.

Imagine a car salesman taking every “no” he receives and pretending it’s a request for more information.

“Are you interested in test driving this Mercedes?”

“No, I’m looking for a more economical car.”

“Well let me show you all the wonderful features the Mercedes has. It’s really a bargain when you consider what you’re getting.”

“No, it’s really not right for my family. I’m looking for something a bit different.”

“Really? Well what if I gave you a free coffee mug for test driving the Mercedes? I’d really like your opinion on it.”

“No, I really need to devote my efforts to looking for a car that’s really right for my family.”

“Oh come on. My sales manager challenged me to find five people today who could give me their opinion on the Mercedes. It’s just a short test drive.”

“Really, I can’t. I want to look at some other cars.”

“Let me tell you about some of the features of the Mercedes, of which I’m sure you’re unaware. How can you make a decision about the car when you really don’t have all the facts?”

You can see how ridiculous this gets as it goes on, and no real professional uses these types of tactics. Sure, there’s usually some attempt to overcome some objections, but not to the point of silly where you keep pushing something on someone who keeps saying no.

But in Mary Kay, this is okay. Keep wearing her down until she says yes… and hopefully signs up to do Mary Kay.

But just remember that someday the pro-Mary Kay crowd will likely tell you, “You just should have said no if you didn’t want to do it. No one held a gun to your head.”


  1. Lazy Gardens

    No doesn’t mean no. It just means she needs more information: Mary Kay women never want to take no for an answer, and they’re taught religiously that they should not ever accept your “no.” No is just a request for more information.

    Would Mary Kay reps like being the target of “don’t take no for an answer” from a man at a cocktail party, professional conference, or at work?

    The tactics are harassing and abusive, and differ only in their objective from those annoying guys in hotel bars.

  2. coralrose

    I think another important distinction is what they’re selling. It’s obvious that car salesman are selling something, and they have a *product* to buy. MK recruiters are selling something too, but potential recruits don’t realize it. Potential recruits think the recruiter is just “sharing facts about the company”. People expect salesman to use sales tactics and try to get us to buy something, so we expect/ can prepare ourselves for that, but we don’t realize MK ladies are *selling* us a chance to sign up with MK, so that makes potential recruits more vulnerable to the manipulation.

  3. Colleen

    I’ve always found it telling that when A&E did that Making a Living Show years ago they featured a MK sales director and a used car dealership GM. Would have made a great compare and contrast assignment for school.

    1. Tsu Dho Nimh

      Did they ever have that rule?

      You have to have one to be counted in their income stats on their website, but that’s just because they are trying to make things look as good as possible.

  4. Joe McNew

    I am a Salesman for a Major Wireless company, and I have to say that you have a childish view of what sales is. No matter what you are selling you are taught to “overcome” objection. A successful sales person in ANY sales field will never take NO for an answer. NEVER! How do you think we get paid?

    1. TRACY

      You have poor reading comprehension skills, Joe. Nowhere in this article did I criticize overcoming objections. I identified three separate tactics (none of which are overcoming objections) and explained why I believe they are unethical.

    2. BestDecision

      Does your company’s leaders quote scripture and later lie to your face? Do they say they make $x but then are caught lying about their net profits? I don’t have a problem in the world with sales, but MK people have been BANNED from stores because of their tactics in chasing people down.

  5. Cindylu

    MK is not advertised by any main stream magazine. Duel Marketing isn’t real. MK is an mlm. Most wouldn’t join Amway so why would they join MK? MK corp makes the majority of the profits, constantly changes products (increasing costs for IBC’s etc), and charges for almost everything. Training is NOT free, seminar costs, conferences costs, co pays on cars costs, packaging costs, suits cost etc.

  6. kkm1012

    Recently, a Mary Kay Director tried to recruit me at church. I told her that I was currently pursuing other dreams and left it at that. She had absolutely nothing to say in response.

    1. BestDecision

      Recruiting at church. Like trying to sell to women in domestic violence shelters or to cancer patients. All the ploys to make you trust them. My Senior has used things like that. Funny…she’s no further along than she was over 15 years ago when I debuted!

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