False Earnings Claims in Mary Kay

One of the most frustrating parts about Mary Kay Cosmetics is the deception during the recruiting process.

“Doesn’t this look eeeeeeasy????”

“All you do is squirt and smile! Squirt and smile!”

“I just know you’d be great at doing what I do!”

“Unlimited earnings, full-time pay for part-time hours, replacing your income…”

There are literally hundreds of standard lines that the scary Mary Kay ladies use to draw women into the pink bubble. Typically, they downplay the time and effort needed to sell Mary Kay products, and exaggerate the amount of money earned from Mary Kay activities.

Here is a typical flier that makes all sorts of exaggerations about your Mary Kay business. Oh wait! These numbers are possible, aren’t they? Well of course they’re possible. The problem is that they’re presented as the average, when there isn’t even any credible market research to back up these “averages”.

The claims include:

  • At each skin care class, there ranges 3 to 6 people (an average of 4). That may be true. The unfortunate reality, however, is that skin care classes with guests are very hard to book and hold.
  • The average sales are $250 per class. With 4 people, that would mean each is spending over $60. That is not the average. Not by far. Oh sure, you’ll hear of the person who had a $1,000 class with four people. But it’s not the average, and neither is $250 per class.
  • We retain 85% of our customers. Really? And exactly where is this documented? And how does one define a customer? As someone who bought once? As someone who buys regularly? How regularly? I don’t know of anyone in Mary Kay who has that high of a retention rate.
  • The average reorder per customer each year is $200 when they are introduced to additional products to sample. Really? $50 per customer, per quarter? Again, I don’t know anyone in Mary Kay who has that high of an average.

So all of these things are presented as facts, and then the sheet goes on to use lower numbers. Why lower numbers? If they’re the average, then let’s use ’em! In the end, the claim is made that with:

  • 5 classes per week, you’ll profit $48,347 per year
  • 4 classes per week, you’ll profit $38,748 per year
  • 3 classes per week, you’ll profit $29,061 per year
  • 2 classes per week, you’ll profit $19,375 per year
  • 1 class per week, you’ll profit $9.687 per year

Doesn’t that all sound fantastic? Gosh, just a couple hours a week to do 1 class, and you can make nearly $200 profit per week! Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that Mary Kay takes much more time than a couple hours a week, even if you’re only doing 1 class a week. The fact is that you’ll likely make much less that the projected numbers even if you are able to book and hold as many classes as you want to have.

So what’s my problem? This sets up unrealistic expectations from day one. And it’s simply not true.


  1. coralrose

    I still feel a bit stabby when I recall how my director made me feel like a lazy loser for not quitting my professional job to work MK full time. Thank God I didn’t! SHE was the one who said part-time hours for full-time pay and that I can work as much or as little as I want when I was recruited, but once I signed up all of that flew out the window. She acted like I was not holding up my end of the bargain by not spending more time on MK. The thing is, I never intended to work MK full-time, anyway. I think it’s the false earning claims and obvious emotional manipulation that angers me.

    The awesome thing is, by maintaining my credentials, I now have a part-time job with a steady paycheck, VERY flexible hours, and my main job is being a mom to my kids. I basically reached the goal I hoped MK could provide, but without spending any of my money upfront, without any MLM, or guilt-tripping anyone to buy from me or join my team.

    1. Erica Lelle

      The thing that I remember the most about my short stint in MK back in 1990 was how quickly “you can go at your own pace” turned into “you must do more each week!”. My director certainly was a pushy little ball of fire. Twenty-eight years later, I still feel a pang of resentment about that. Even at 22, it didn’t take long for me to realize what a stinker of an “opportunity” MK was (and still is). P. U.

      1. BestDecision

        And anyone believing becoming a Director gives you oodles of time soon finds out you’re pushed to work 40 hours/week to make Cadillac, trip, and beyond. It’s never enough, and it never stops.

  2. TRACY

    I fell for this stuff when I signed up so long ago! Oh, I can hold 3 classes a week and make enough to support myself. I’m willing to do that!

    No one told me how hard it would be to hold 3 classes with people who bought enough on a consistent basis. They didn’t tell me you’d have to book at least 6 and it’s tough to find new victims to have the classes. They didn’t tell me that the inflate the amount that people buy at classes and reorders.

    But I believed them and ordered a really big inventory package….

    1. Shay

      If a forensic accountant can fall for it—it’s def a scam and something needs done about it.
      Lularoe got in trouble with the FTC for paying bonuses by the amount of what people ordered supposedly according to “Sounds Like An MLM But Ok” podcast part 2 of the rise & fall of Lularoe which is a very sad podcast) and can now only pay by what the bonuses by customers that go through their new billing system which is also suspicious. Then you have Herbal Life that was hit by the FTC who can only pay bonuses off of sales. When will MK be held to same standards?

        1. TRACY

          Nope, MK came after forensic accounting was already going. I was working for a company and wanted “something of my own”…. MK was that. I left the company I was working at a year later and started my own forensic accounting firm. I worked solo, but found I couldn’t do that AND the MK rat race. Also, I became wise to the deal with recruiting and frontloading and the absolute futility of trying to make a career of MK. So I decided to stop actively doing MK, but continue to sell down my inventory. My director ridiculed me and told me I’d never make anyone feel good about themselves via my forensic accounting services.

          After about 19 or 20 years in MK, my director finally lost her unit. She was going to be a national, you know. She never got more than 1 offspring director. Always struggled to make any sort of living. Now works full time in a jewelry store in sales.

          I happen to have a seriously thriving business. And I make people feel good about themselves when I help figure out where their money went so they can get it back.

          1. Lazy Gardens

            And I make people feel good about themselves when I help figure out where their money went so they can get it back.

            Or explain how to prevent losing it. That’s even better.

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