Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

One Way to Introduce Your Friends to Pink Truth

Written by Robin Peters

This letter is an example of one way to explain the Mary Kay opportunity to potential recruits… and to introduce them to Pink Truth.

I visit a site called Pink Truth virtually every day. It’s a site designed for former Mary Kay consultants and directors, and it is very anti-MK. These ladies feel shortchanged by their experiences in MK, and I can’t blame them. I investigated MK when I was first married, and chose not to sign a consultant contract. I’m glad I didn’t.

Mary Kay Cosmetics is a cosmetic company based in Dallas, Texas. Mary Kay Ash founded the company after finding that she was working for competitors with similar business plans, only to see men promoted over her who had far less experience in the business world than she did. She allegedly got the formulas for her initial skin care products from formulas which helped to keep farmers’ skin soft. Also, she allegedly wanted to give women business opportunities she never had while working for various direct sales companies (those which would put relatively inexperienced men in supervisory positions).

Theoretically, in MK, you make a fifty percent profit on your sales. That means that for every two-dollar lipstick you sell, you get a dollar. Much of that dollar is eaten up by business expenses like gasoline, your own professional outfit (MK has a strict unspoken dress code), brochures you show your customers to get them to buy more product, business cards from approved MK printer affiliates, and so forth.

I think MK’s business opportunity sucks. For one thing, you don’t have to be a trained makeup artist to sell MK. You just have to sign the agreement and cough up the dough for a starter kit and professional outfit meeting MK’s unspoken standards. People are paying good money for gas to get to your skin care class, and good money for the MK products you provide, and you’re not really qualified to teach them how to use the product.

Secondly, the market is saturated by companies that have been in business for a long time, like Maybelline and Clinique; women willing to pay the price can get makeup advice from a trained professional at a counter in a department store. Or, they can go to a drug store and buy makeup made by companies like Maybelline, Max Factor and Physician’s Formula. One can even buy makeup online or through infomercials on TV. One does not need to buy makeup from a consultant who is being pushed to buy products she does not need. In short, just about everyone who wants makeup can get it from a variety of suppliers.

Thirdly, one is restricted both in what one can wear and in how one promotes one’s MK business. One can only go to approved printers for business cards. One cannot sell product at flea markets, leading to disappointed customers looking to buy mascara or foundation or lipstick. In short, one is restricted to a variety of shady methods to get that booking or sale – chasing after potential customers in department stores, cold-calling perfect strangers (and even families and friends) until they refuse to pick up the phone when they see your name on the caller ID, and using methods I don’t know about.

Fourth, actual retail sales are not tallied. In other words, consultants aren’t sending their sales information (sales slips indicating how much they actually sold to each customer, or a computer disc with the same information on it) to corporate headquarters; therefore, any information MK corporate headquarters has on sales figures actually are wholesale sales from consultants. In other words, the only way MK corporate headquarters can gauge how popular a given product is (or whether a product should be taken off the order form due to lack of sales) is to take a look at what the consultants are ordering on their order forms. If a given consultant is sending orders in for products that she can probably never sell (having been told that she cannot sell anything if she has an empty shelf in her MK store), the company is led to believe that a product is more popular than it really is, while genuinely popular products are taken off the order form because they are not part of the suggested inventory directors want new consultants to buy, thereby creating the false impression that genuinely popular products aren’t selling well.

Finally, those who have attended MK-sponsored sales events designed to help them sell product (like Career Conference, Seminar in Dallas in July of each year, and so forth) report that these events amount to little more than pep rallies. One does not receive substantive business advice at these meetings, just a bunch of parroted phrases memorized by the speakers. One also hears something called “I stories,” stories told by sales leaders such as national sales directors about how they got to the top of the MK sales pyramid. These stories are designed to inspire you to imitate them. After all, if they did it, so can you. (The only problem is that perhaps the consultant knows that the NSD got there through unethical business practices. There is also the minor problem that someone might not be suitable for MK or any other type of sales, about which more later.) Tapes, CD sets and other motivational materials are often ones implicitly approved by MK, even if they do not explicitly recommend them. The materials themselves have a pep-rally feel to them as well.

The company is at the point at which virtually everyone in the US either has an MK consultant or buys another brand of makeup (if they wear makeup at all). Also, not everyone is a born sales person; some people will never succeed at sales, even though the recruiting pep talks suggest strongly that everyone is a potential independent beauty consultant and can succeed at the opportunity if they really tried. They like to tell the story of the bumblebee – a creature aerodynamically unsuited for flight, but which can fly anyway. They even spell the word “believe” as “beelieve” in order to indicate that they believe that even those who are unsuited for a career in sales really can make a go of it in MK.