10 Big-Girl Panty Issues: A Prospect’s Perspective on Mary Kay

Written by The Scribbler

I’ve never been in Mary Kay Cosmetics. I’ve sat through recruiting attempts and attended a unit meeting once, but never signed the dotted line. I can thank my most recent recruiting attempt for helping me stumble onto Pink Truth, but I didn’t stop there.

Over time I hit as many director and NSD websites as I could and studied the teachings they had to offer. The more I read, the more bones I uncovered: a rampant abuse of God, the degradation of husband and family, and the smothering of rational thought in favor of blindingly pink bee-lief, just to name a few.

To assure you that I didn’t base my findings on “a few bad apples,” my research has taken me through 370 NSD and director training documents, 3 years’ worth of Applause back issues, the training material in a Starter Kit, and a dozen training CDs from various NSDs and directors.

What I lay before you today is a list of ten hard-hitting issues that could be brought up by any prospect, provided she were given more than 24-48 hours to properly pick apart whatever marketing materials were given her. Let’s begin!

1. “The market’s saturated – LOL!”

I recently had an IBC tell me via YouTube that “There is NO way that the market is saturated!” Consider this: A 2006 letter from Mary Kay to the FTC cited 40,000 new MK consultants each MONTH, taking into consideration the recruiting/turnover cycle. That’s 480,000 new IBCs each year. Even though the numbers are surely lower, there have still been a massive amount of women involved in MK over the years, and there’s still a lot of competition no matter where you are.

2. The folly of turning my own customers into my competition.

Let’s say I spend hours upon hours on social media, passing out business cards, and warm-chatting everyone except the fire extinguisher. My efforts yield me 10 active customers. Now you want me to turn them into “team members” so I can get a promotion? No thanks – the tradeoff simply isn’t worth it. First, I’m giving up a potential maximum commission of 50% on the sale of product, and in exchange I get 4% commission on whatever she orders. My recruiter will say that I stand to make much more because she will order more as a consultant, and she may build a team, which will help me if I enter DIQ. But the numbers aren’t in my favor. She’d have to order exponentially more. And if I stay away from recruiting and stick with sales, I need never worry about the commissions I would have to pay back to corporate if my team members decided to return their product. And speaking of team members…

3. If I own my own business, why does my promotion depend on other women?

When a director friend tried to recruit me, I asked her, “Doesn’t it bother you that the only way to get promoted is to pull other women into the system with you?” She replied slowly, “You get used to it.” That told me that at one point, she was not cool with what she was doing, but since it’s the only way to get to NSD (which was her goal), she had to compromise her ethics and choke it down.

If you own your own business, you are its CEO, which means you don’t need no stinking promotion. Granted, you won’t be making CEO pay off of sales alone, but at least you’re not running yourself silly trying to recruit the leopard geckos down at PetSmart.

4. If I own my own business, why does corporate control so much of it?

Beauty consultants are technically “Independent Contractors,” but that all depends on how you define “independent.” Corporate dictates a lot, from setting ordering quotas, to telling you how you can advertise, to making it clear that they can terminate you with 30 days’ notice. They can terminate you for a laundry list of reasons, or for no reason at all. Last time I checked, people that owned their own businesses advertised any way they pleased. Not so with Mary Kay.

5. “Free” means “Pay for it.”

I’ve seen the word “free” appear a great deal in MK-related literature, namely in the claims of “Drive free!” and “Free training!” I quickly learned that the word “sometimes” needs to be tacked onto both of those claims. If a beauty consultant does not make production, she pays a co-pay on that “free” car. What kind of screwed-up logic says that you have to continue to pay for something that you already “won?”

As far as “free” training goes, I’ve come away with the impression that the only “free” training in MK comes via an e-mail or a website. Seminar, Career Conference, workshops, videos, books, and the charges for weekly unit meetings are all must-have expenses. You’re going to willingly shell out for all of them if you’re truly serious about your business, which brings us to…

6. The high potential for your ethics to go belly-up.

The acquiring of every title, trip, diamond, or car in Mary Kay ultimately depends on two things: The number of women recruited and how many of those women you can convince to come in “qualified,” that is, coming in with an inventory order of $600 or (preferably) more. You can see how this leaves the door wide open for the temptation to use all sorts of less-than-savory practices to get (and keep) qualified recruits, keep the production quota up, and thus “win” whatever you happen to be after. It IS all about you, despite what the latest NSD e-mail tells you. Keep that in mind as you go see the hot new summer flick called…

7. Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Inventory Talks.

Does it bother anyone else that the issue of inventory isn’t given the time of day until after a recruit signs on? Once you sign that agreement, you best strap on a helmet and some shoulder pads because sister, you’re going to get hit hard. One inventory document I’d reviewed was five pages of solid 10pt Times New Roman. As rough as it was to get through, I got a bang out of “hearing” the director’s tone change as she discussed the various inventory levels. She was sooo excited when explaining Emerald star, but by the time she hit the $600 package, she came off sadder than a Day One dieter watching the Twinkies truck drive by. Viva la manipulation!

8. Mary Kay logic is strange when you’re a stranger.

If I had a dollar for all the times I came across head-scratching logic in MK documents, I could pay off my mortgage tomorrow. One of my favorites is “You can do everything right and have the wrong attitude and fail, but you can do everything wrong with the right attitude and succeed.”

Let’s say I’m your dentist. You need a root canal. Root canals happen to be my modus operandi, but today I also happen to be feeling a bit vexed; no thanks to a bubbly Arby’s trainee who gave me a diet Sprite and a handful of Horsey Sauce packets when I specifically asked for a Pepsi and a French Dip. Going by this snippet of MK logic, if I did your root canal, I’d fail because I had the “wrong attitude,” even if I did everything right. If the Arby’s trainee did your root canal, however, he can do everything wrong but because he had the right attitude, he’d succeed.

Uh-huh. You go first. And when you’re done meeting with Chef Curly Frye, DDS, come see me. I’m well-versed in jaw reconstruction, too.

9. Family is Second…waaaay second.

It didn’t take long for the veil to fall on this one. I was shocked at how often the family is shifted to the back burner in favor of MK. One particularly disturbing training document proclaimed: “Did my family whine? Yes! Once they all knew that meetings were a weekly event without exception, it became a part of our lives. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries around them.”

I don’t know about you, but if my director or NSD told me that going to the unit meeting is more important than celebrating my child’s birthday, I’d be telling her to take a flying leap into the La Brea Tar Pits. Children need Mom’s presence way more than they need Mom’s MLM.

10. Here at Motel MK, you better darn well leave that light on for us.

This aspect of MK bugged me the most. Even though Mary Kay Cosmetics is touted as taking third place in the chain of command, it has an uncanny tendency to bleed over into every aspect of a woman’s life. It never gets turned off. One director says in Applause magazine: “It’s important to look like a professional, whether you’re going to a unit meeting or out running errands…you never know where you’ll meet your next customer or team member.” Another document advised, “Your self is not fooled by your dressing down,” implying that you need to be in NSD togs 24-7.

I’m a writer by trade. I relish the fact that whenever I wish, I can click “save,” put my laptop on standby, and go outside with my child. I can chat with my neighbors across the street, pet their dog, ask them how life’s treating them, and not once have to bring up my writing. I don’t have to perpetually look like I’m attending a book signing in two hours, either. The freedom is immense, as life can be when one is not lugging the MK ulterior motive with them wherever they go.

If you’re not in MK and you’re reading today, this is a small sampling of the gold that lies beneath layers of thick pink ore. You, too, will discover it on your own if you take the time to chip it away.

If you’re a consultant, Director, or NSD reading today, you cannot argue that “I didn’t work my business.” I’m just a plain ol’ prospect who dared to ponder beyond the hype and subsequently shout what I found.

Someday – perhaps today – I hope you allow yourselves to do that, too.


  1. BestDecision

    I’m so glad I didn’t give up my weekend for Career Conference and am not unpacking from a hotel stay. Instead, I slept in my own bed, without my feet hurting from heels, without having to fake a smile to my unit members on how “awesome” everything is, didn’t have to worry about bringing home bed bugs or other DNA-infested things on my luggage, and actually spent quality, undivided time with my family and friends.

    Now here comes the push to register for Seminar. Hellacious hot days in Dallas. No, thank you.

Comments are closed.