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

Why I Had a Huge Inventory Stash


Written by PinkPeace

I had THOUSANDS of dollars in  Mary Kay inventory when I was a 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. MLM Radar

    Thanks four your insight, Pinkpeace.

    Reading through your post, at the beginning, way back when, you were in a geographic area that had few Mary Kay consultants and lots of potential customers. So you sold a fair amount of products.

    However you also built your unit the Mary Kay way, so by the time you resigned you were surrounded by Mary Kay consultants, and had few potential customers remaining. So you and the other consultants ended with lots of unsold products and few sales. And so it remains to this day.

    Looking back, you might compare the situation to a feeding frenzy for predators, with the apex predator being the Mary Kay Corporation and the bait being your inventory. With ample prey the predators breed and grow fat. But when predators breed faster than prey, they all wind up starving to death.

    So glad you saw the light and crossed over to the side of truth. Thank you.

  2. kay

    A girl who sells mary kay told me she makes $10K a month on commissions alone plus 50% profit on whatever she sells with mary kay and wanted me to join. Is she lying? do women really make that much or what? How could they fake having a car, how could they fake buying a nice house and having nice things like you say? I want to know because I don’t know what or who to believe after reading this post thanks!

    1. TRACY

      Yes she’s lying. No one actually makes 50% profit on what they sell. In theory, you buy something for $1 and sell it for $2. Except you rarely sell it for $2. You have to do promotions, sales, and incentives. Then after you sell at a discounted price, you have all sorts of other costs that eat into your profit. So right there, you see she is lying.

      As for the $10k commissions a month… that can be verified. If she is really making that, she’ll be in Applause magazine each month with her commission check listed. WHat is her name?

        1. TRACY

          Sure, RECENTLY there were 2 months in which Jamie’s commission check was $10k. All other months it has not been. It averaged $6k per month last year. This year the average is higher, but still under $10k So to represent that she makes $10k per months is a lie.

          Also, you need to know that the commission check has to pay all sorts of business expenses, so that is not what she keeps.

          So there you have it, both of the things she told you were lies. Is that someone you want to do business with?

    2. MLM Radar

      Mary Kay Directors are told to show off their highest check, and pretend it’s their monthly check. Chances are, you saw a “highest check” which was never repeated.

      Also, that commission check is BEFORE expenses: rent, MK clothes, prizes to consultants, gas, phone, credit card bills on previously ordered inventory, much and more, seminar and conferences, car co-pays, and (most importantly) money handed right back to Mary Kay to “top off” unit orders when her recruits fail to reach the monthly ordering quota.

      I don’t doubt that she has a Mary Kay car. But if it’s not a Cadillac she’s not making $10,000 a month in commissions. Period. Also, if she fails to consistently meet ordering quotas she has a hefty car co-pay slapped on her (see above about topping off unit orders).

      If she’s living in a nice house, it’s for one of three reasons: (1) She’s a Mary Kay National Sales Director (one of fewer than 400 out of the millions of consultants). (2) Someone else is paying for it, typically her husband or ex-husband. (3) She has a regular high-paying job.

        1. Char

          Kay, have you considered HOW she actually makes the money – regardless of the net amount? Do you realize she must lie to people like you, and tell you it’s a business opportunity so you’ll make a bigger purchase? You know this is about her and not about you, right?

          Is this who you really want to be? A lying Hunbot that is laughed at and avoided, attempting to scam friends and anything that breathes 24/7? The only people that respect MLMers are other MLMers. It’s not only embarrassing, but also a losing proposition UNLESS YOU’RE AN EXCELLENT CON ARTIST. Remember, a con artist doesn’t appear obvious; otherwise, they would simply be a thief.

          Sometimes MLMers are innocent victims repeating lies, but these are not the successful ones, of course. Also, you realize reformed Cadillac directors have come clean and post here admitting to their past transgressions for the sole purpose to warn people like you. They do this free of charge not expecting monetary gain from you – unlike your recruiter!

        2. BestDecision

          Next question: Did she go on the Prestige level Top Director Trip last month? If she didn’t, she isn’t making that much money because her unit would’ve been producing $40,000 wholesale a month to give her that commission.

  3. rater

    No matter the MLM, it’s the distributors who are the real customers. I came across an old (2011) board with former Arbonne consultants (including NVPs). They gave reasons why they left Arbonne:
    — they could no longer encourage front-loading knowing their down-lines were struggling to pay household bills
    — the stress of trying to look successful when they were not
    — the lies and back-stabbing
    — knowing that NVPs and ENVPs were ordering large amounts of inventory to maintain their titles and status, and then selling it on eBay at discounts.

  4. J

    Thank you for sharing. I hope my old director reaches where you are with reflection. PT has truly been a type of therapy for me–knowing that I wasn’t the only one who bought into the dream (nightmare? lol).

    Since mk, I’ve moved states but occasionally go back to my former home. And it NEVER fails that someone brings up the dreaded subject of how I used to do mk.

    When it’s appropriate, I talk about the side I finally saw and why I left. But often my queasy stomach gets the best of me, and I change the subject. It’s hard to say to a former best hostess “I lost money every time you helped me by hosting parties.”

    I only ever had a few consultants; all were the typical buy the starter kit then get smart and run (anyone else buy the red jacket and never get to wear that hideous thing because you were a independent consultant by the time it arrived?)

    Nonetheless, I bought well over 7k in inventory as the loyal consultant my director could always count on. After all, I owed her for not recruiting more bots.

    I hate my mk history like a bad face tattoo. I’m really grateful that I’m not surrounded by the people who know I was once so naive. I’m interested in hearing others’ stories of transitioning back into their neighborhoods.

    How do others manage the dreaded subject?

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