Does Mary Kay Know Their Products Aren’t Being Sold?

With the recent spotlight on Mary Kay thanks to Virginia Sole-Smith’s eye-opening article about Mary Kay Cosmetics in Harper’s magazine, the company has repeatedly said it doesn’t know how much is actually sold by consultants. But is that a lie?

With the tremendous number of eBay auctions for Mary Kay products (often with multiple items sold with one listing), it is easy to draw the conclusion that there are lots of products that consultants haven’t been able to sell face-to-face.

At least as recently as 2007, Mary Kay knew full well the amount of products being sold. They did it with a “research study” every other year. I have no idea whether the company has kept up with this, but I’d venture to guess they  have.

Mary Kay boasts $3 billion in wholesale sales of products to consultants each year. And while there are certainly some products sold, the astronomical number of auctions on eBay featuring Mary Kay products suggests much of what consultants purchase from the company goes unsold. My best guess is somewhere between 10% and 25% of products actually get to real retail customers.

Here is the company’s request to consultants in 2007 regarding the survey:

Input from the Mary Kay Cosmetics Ltd. independent sales force is extremely important to the growth and strength of our Company. The insight we gain from Independent Beauty Consultants and Independent Sales Directors is used to help simplify – and support – all facets of your business.

Every other year, a research study is conducted with randomly-selected independent sales force members, regardless of career path status or production. However in Canada, the last time we conducted this research was 2003 … and we believe the business has evolved significantly, to the point where participation in this study is now warranted, with the results sure to help in future planning.

You have been selected – at random – to participate in the 2007 Independent Sales Force Research Study. If you choose to participate, it will be necessary for you to track your independent Mary Kay business through to the end of February 2007, including number of new customers added, number of team-building appointments and amount of sales from all avenues of income such as skin care classes, On-The-Go appointments, collection previews, online orders, etc. You may find it helpful to use Weekly Accomplishment Sheets or other sales records to track your business as a handy reference when you complete the online survey that will be sent to you via e-mail in early March.

And the first 1,000 independent sales force members to fully complete the online survey (within the specified deadline) will receive a free gift from the Company, which will be sent to you with the first Section 1 product order you place between April 1st and June 15th, 2007. It’s just our way of thanking you for your participation and invaluable time.

Of course, your feedback is very important as we strive to ensure the best business opportunity available for women today – and it’s valuable to us regardless of your career path status or amount of sales. All the information you provide to us will be kept strictly confidential and used only for research purposes. Your information will not be viewed individually, but rather will be combined with other responses in order to analyze trends over time. By participating in the survey, you acknowledge and agree that Mary Kay Cosmetics Ltd. has permission to use the answers you give to conduct further analyses.

Watch for complete online survey details coming in early March 2007!

Warmest regards,

Lynda Rose
Vice President of Sales & Marketing

If you’ve ever received such a survey request from Mary Kay, please tell us in the comments section below what year it was, whether you participated, and what your results were.



  1. To qualify for the “free gift” you have to place a product order. IOW, you have to buy your own gift. Again.

    WTG Mary Kay. This little tactic removes the randomness from the survey and skews the results in your favor, by self-eliminating anyone who is sitting on a “full store” of slow-moving inventory and seldom ordering.

    AND you have to wait 30+ days after the survey ends to place that “free gift” qualification order. The gift is not automatically shipped based on current or recent orders. This self-eliminates would-be survey participants who have decided to quit, again skewing the statistics in MK’s favor.

    I’m curious. What was the gift? More “free” product?

  2. I took the survey – they free gift was a microdermabrasionset (And I already had 8 on my shelf) which LOL I had to pay the “sales tax” on because NOTHING is free in Mary Kay. I actually lied and gave the survey numbers I felt they wanted to hear. Afterall I had to real belief that the survey was randon, I only know of SD and higher that received it. No one in my unit received the survey.

    But I will confess to BLASTING my NSD and MK Corp last August with the survey about seminar. For me that was the beginning of washing the pink out of my eyes.


    • You had to pay the sales tax on it? Wow!
      I wonder if MK could be convicted of any tax fraud? When they started taxing the shipping and handling fee, I looked up to see if that was legal and it was. But I’d love for them to get audited.

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