Why I Had a Huge Mary Kay Inventory Stash


Written by PinkPeace

When disclosing the thousands of dollars in inventory that I maintained as a Mary Kay sales director, the most frequent question I get is… Why?

  • Why did I have so much product?
  • Why did I think I was going to sell all of that?
  • Why did I keep ordering, even when I clearly had plenty of product on my shelf?

Reason #1 – I thought Mary Kay was a real business.

Everyone had heard of Mary Kay Cosmetics and that sweet old lady, Mary Kay herself. She was like your grandma – if your grandma had big hair and had built a cosmetics empire. We knew about the pink Cadillacs and fur coats, and if we hadn’t already been to one, we’d at least have heard of Mary Kay parties. It seemed so innocent and kind of fun. Go to a makeup party to “try before you buy” and shop from the convenience of home. Who would have suspected that there was a dark underbelly to the whole pink enterprise? Not me.

I began my Mary Kay business in the mid-90s when there was hardly an Internet, much less anti-MLM websites or blogs. The only information available to me was the various company-provided brochures, videotapes, cassettes and Applause Magazine. In the magazine, I marveled at the monthly checks the women were apparently making, and the feature stories assured me that anyone could be a success in Mary Kay, if she only worked hard. I was a very hard worker, so there was no reason that I couldn’t climb to the top, too.

I had no idea that hard work had very little to do with success in Mary Kay. I assumed that, as in the corporate world, my efforts would take me steadily to the top. Not so in Mary Kay. You can “do it the right way,” follow all directions, and still you will not be successful. Look at the thousands of sales directors who fail to turn a profit or make minimum wage.

Reason #2 – I was told I had to have inventory to be successful.

My director, who I trusted as my business leader, told me I should have as much inventory on hand as possible, because I would always have product for quick delivery, resulting in more customer satisfaction. I would be motivated to get out and sell, because I would see all that product and want to move it off the shelf. I would get prizes and rewards from her and from Mary Kay for making the smart decision to “stock my store.”

I was given the analogy to opening up a grocery store that only stocked applesauce and paper towels. If a customer came in wanting milk and hamburger, she was out of luck and would go elsewhere. Did I want to be that business owner? Or did I want to invest in my own success and have the products that people wanted?

There was no reason for me not to trust my sales director. She was a good Christian woman who drove a pink Cadillac and had diamonds on her fingers from Mary Kay. It was in her best interests to make sure I was the best-equipped consultant possible, because the more successful her unit was, the more successful she was. She obviously knew what she was doing, so why wouldn’t I follow her advice?

Having inventory on hand did increase my sales from time to time. Some women were impulse buyers who wanted their products immediately. But more often, I simply had excess products on my shelf that I knew I’d never sell. This is mainly because a strong retail business is nearly impossible to develop and maintain.

Reason #3 – I had a lot of customers.

When I began my stint in Mary Kay, there were very few women in my area who sold the product. I was able to take advantage of that and accumulate quite a few customers over the years. Yes, these customers ordered products from me, and I wanted to have their products on hand.

Mary Kay was constantly adding new product lines, debuting limited-edition products, and switching out colors and shades. These changes would be highlighted in the Look Books that I sent out to my customers, so they were aware of everything that was new. And in case they wanted the new products, I had to make sure that I was fully stocked. It was a point of pride for me that no matter what someone would call and order, I would have it on hand for them. It never occurred to me that they could wait for their products. I wanted to provide that instant gratification.

Reason #4 – I had a unit to train.

I became a sales director quickly, and I took very seriously the mission of training my unit how to sell. When new products were released, Mary Kay never provided directors with these new products to display and demo. The cost for these products always came out of our pockets. With new product changes happening at least quarterly (and usually more often), I had to spend hundreds of dollars for each new product line to show at my unit meetings. I couldn’t expect my consultants to sell – and order – products they’d never seen or experienced. I felt it was my duty to display full product lines for my consultants and for the guests they would bring to our meetings.

Reason #5 – The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.
I believed 100% in leading by example. I never asked my consultants to do something I wouldn’t do, and I made sure that if I threw out a challenge to them, I did it as well.

Did I want them to hold skin care classes? Then I’d better fill up my date book. Did I want them to recruit? Then I’d better bring in a couple of new women each month. Did I want them all to be star consultants? Then I’d darn well better have at least a new sapphire star to add to my ladder each quarter. I was afraid my consultants would think, “If a sales director can’t even be a star consultant, how can I?” I didn’t want to give them any excuse not to meet that star consultant goal.

If that meant topping off a little production at the end of the quarter, I looked on it as the cost of doing business in being a leader for my unit.

Reason #6 – I had a unit and a car to maintain.

We all know that Mary Kay sales directors have strict ordering quotas for their units so that they can remain being sales directors and keep their career cars. What happens if your unit doesn’t order much in a given month? Or what if there are no new consultants to place big initial orders that month? “If it’s to be, it’s up to me . . .” The director coughs up the missing production to make those quotas. No director wants to lose her unit and go through DIQ again, and no one wants to lose her Mary Kay car. This is especially true for those who have quit their normal jobs and only have a “trophy on wheels” left to drive.

Before topping off production for my unit, I rationalized that it would cost me more in the long run to miss production, in losing my unit and/or my car. I was a good seller, and even if I sold that extra product at a big discount, I would still break even. But if it weren’t for having to meet my quotas, there was no rational reason for me to stock all the inventory that I had on my shelves.

Reason #7 – I had to maintain my image.

Never underestimate the pressure put on directors to keep their positions and project a facade of success. It is absolutely crucial that no one know of low production or a director’s money troubles. Otherwise, why would anyone sign up for Mary Kay? If a consultant questioned my Star Consultant status quarter after quarter, I just told her that the product was just flying off my shelves and it was impossible for me not to be a Star Consultant.

I had to drive that Mary Kay car, which was such a symbol of success in the business. I had to be able to talk about it and create a desire in my consultants to want one for their own. Consultants all knew that if a director wasn’t driving a car, she wasn’t setting the pace for her unit. I had to maintain that car so that my unit thought I was being a Mary Kay leader. It all took production, which I had to supply if my unit wasn’t going to.


That’s what I was thinking.


  1. Shay

    The theory of buying something at wholesale and reselling does work – people do it all the time. The reason why it don’t work in MK and other MLM’s is the products are overpriced.

    In MK what the consultant pays for the products are already overpriced.

    Crush up a blush or eyeshadow. It’s chalky. It doesn’t have that silky feel like good products do.

    Notice how MK doesn’t even use the word “wholesale” ? They call it a discount. Yes, MK does pay almost 26% from recruiting. So what. If the products “sold themselves” like the kaybots sat, you would have women fighting to get in the door to sell them.

    Makeup is cheap to produce. MK doesn’t spend millions a year to advertise like other cosmetic companies do- there is no reason for their products to be expensive.

  2. “Never underestimate the pressure put on directors to keep their positions and project a facade of success.” All in the name of frontloading of course!
    It never ceases to amaze me what is possible within the law when it comes to business especially ‘power trips’ among and to many players.
    ‘Saw this quote & thread earlier which is good advice!
    If you want to free yourself from status games, you have to completely ignore the opinions of those captured by them.
    Happy New Year and may all of your endeavors be fun, real and profitable!

    1. Ann H

      Thanks for the honest info regarding your experience in Mary Kay. I have been a consultant for 19 years and kept most of my customers in that they are still with me . I don’t call and bug them to purchase. They get a look book maybe three times a year. I used to try to keep product on the shelf but found that many times when customers ordered again they would change and purchase something different than they got the first time. LOL. I never followed the MK rules because a lot of it was common sense to me . I don’t order for the sake of ordering because if it does not sell I am stuck with it. I was never interested in rising to the top because I did not want the pressure of keeping up. I almost made DIQ once and then the persons I recruited dropped off. You also have to help them along they way and I really didn’t have that much extra time. When my customer get low they call me. I use the customer delivery service order their product and have it shipped directly to them. I keep mascara, lipstick cleanser and moisturizer on the shelf.

      It never made sense to me to purchase 600.00 worth of product to get a $10.00 bracelet or ring etc. You have to really be your own boss and run it like it is your business. I hope some that are still in the game can make it their own.
      I remember one year at seminar one consultant was queen of sales and was not even a red jacket so that’s when I made up my mind to service my customers and keep them happy. Everyone have a great day

      1. BestDecision

        Gone are the days of having unit members asking me to come help them set up their Starter Kits. And then taking weekends to hold their Business Debuts. Itwas never ending until I ended it, and I’ve not regretted it one bit. Home when my family is home. Guaranteed pay when I put in the hours and not hoping for miracles anymore. And not associating with egotistical, unethical people anymore, and not having to change out lipsticks over and over for customers. Driving all over the place to get to them when THEY want it and not when it was best for me. Zero regrets!

      2. MLM Radar

        Hi Ann. I have a few questions. I’m interested to get the perspective from someone who really has been a steady seller for years.

        When you file your tax return Schedule C every year, are you making a steady profit year after year after taxes?

        Do you track the hours you spend on Mary Kay every week? If not, would you mind tracking your hours for a month or two to get a baseline?

        If you divide your MK Schedule C profit by the number of hours you spend, are you earning more than minimum wage?

        If you had no other source of income (including your husband’s) would you be able to pay for your basic needs just selling Mary Kay?

        Do you consider Mary Kay to be something you do for profit? Or would you describe Mary Kay more as a hobby and a way to keep in touch with people?

        As I said, I’m honestly interested in your perspective as a long-standing consultant who likes what she does.

        Thanks in advance for your reply.

  3. Heather

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up! I’ve never read an article where the MLMer explained their reasoning so well. I’ve never quite understood why someone would keep on ordering and I never bought into the sunk-cost fallacy as being the issue. I figured the women were either too terrified to look into their finances and didn’t realize how bad it was, thought things would magically get better or…I really don’t know. I feel rather stupid and ashamed about my assumptions because your reasoning here makes perfect sense! You weighed your choices objectively and made a rational decision that you thought was best for your unit, your job as a director, and your business finances. I completely understand where you were going with this. What’s amazing is that if you were running a real business on your own, your skills and leadership would have likely led to success.

    I’m going to share this article with everyone I know. It’s easy to assume that hunbots don’t understand or care to know how selling/marketing/financing works when in reality I’m sure they’re weighing the pros and cons like the rest of us do in a manner that makes sense. If only they didn’t post on Facebook with a million emojis.

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