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

Sales Director Ethics

Written by Raisinberry

One of the common denominators shared by “career path consultants” on Pink Truth is how they know they are responsible for the decisions they made in Mary Kay, yet they still feel as if they were “led” and manipulated, by the “do what your director says” training they absorbed “sitting at the feet” of their upline.

Some people want you to think that our concerns here at PT are abnormal and do not reflect the “opportunity” that the majority of Mary Kay directors have experienced. This has intrigued me on many levels, since so many want to blame MK directors for what has happened to a great deal of them as if they hadn’t an ethical bone in their bodies.

It wasn’t like we (former directors) did unethical things all throughout our careers. It isn’t that we wanted to succeed without working for it. We certainly didn’t want to become directors to hurt anyone, nor did we want to let anyone down. For the most part we did what we could to have good months, and when it looked like it wasn’t enough, we sucked it up and started over.

We knew our jobs. Hold appointments to present marketing, to present inventory, to present prize programs and move people up using the “big picture” motivation of company events. We supported our NSDs to do guest events and keep the ball rolling. We were hunting for recruits and the orders to hit goals set by ourselves and those above us. And we soon realized there were all kinds of ways to get things done.

This is the information that the average beauty consultant does NOT have… When many of us came out of the fog, and could no longer press for orders when we knew our people hadn’t sold what they already had, and the “numbers” started dropping, a return to clarity, integrity and truth was manifested. You cannot be a leader over a pseudo-small business that offers only pin money profits from actual sales, and also sell “the Mary Kay opportunity” which has been self described as executive level income part time from home!

Directors who want you to believe they are comfortable with the income they make from Mary Kay have relinquished all responsibility for the 85% of their consultants who ordered and ordered and then fell into attrition. In fact, I would challenge every Director out there to gather up her old reports and COUNT how many consultants have come and gone over your tenure. Count up your production YTD over all your years.

Do you really want to say that all that merchandise was SOLD at retail? No, you know who buys and buys because she likes recognition. You know who has not held a class in months. You know who “stretched” to meet some qualifying contest you dangled in front of her… and now you pretend that we who have admitted it all are “unethical” whereas you are not. Like I have said before, if God opened up all knowledge about the secret deeds done in the dark concerning each director’s journey, each National’s journey, there would be none left standing.

So can we assume you know that thousands of dollars of merchandise purchased by all your past consultants went unsold? And yet YOU still got paid?

There is some “special” training that you get when your NSD or Senior Director has a goal that you are associated with. This is the “secret training,” made up of things you never thought of, that reveal themselves only in the presence of other girls who put on “big girl panties.” Since we have come clean ourselves, and revealed some of these little known atrocities, we are periodically accused of making bad decisions with finances and ethics.

Other directors apparently have convinced their crew that none of what we talk about here has EVER been a part of “their world”. Makes me laugh out loud. We are left holding the bag, shaken out of our denial and facing the very same questions that Miss Ethical consultant wants to ask us. “Why did I order more? Why did I activate those last 5 people for DIQ? Why did I go to Seminar on credit when I had no money? Why did I “qualify” that last recruit just to walk on stage? Who really cares about name badge ribbons? Can I afford to lose all this production to start over again? So what if I don’t qualify for the luncheon? Should I lose my car for the sake of a $1,000 order?”

A million questions. And apparently there are directors and consultants out there who think each of these crises of conscience could all have been answered with a resounding, “Suck up the failure and start again.”

Oh if it were so easy.

In cult systems, members are groomed to conformity (Why do you suppose you have a ridiculous uniform to aspire to?), holding an unshakeable belief in the authorities above them. Every objection has a scripted response that soothes the concerns of the members, and each member is urged to simply trust and obey, (Do what your Director says and all will work out.)

When sophisticated manipulation systems are perfected and used on the “masses”, along with a directive to never be negative, the members find themselves unable to speak of the thing that bothers them, or to get a true answer or feedback as to whether the course they are pursuing is right.

Should they know what’s right? You would think. But in peer dependent situations where you are told to believe in an unseen outcome, in order to “bring it about”, the mind lets go of the practical for the supernatural. “What you think about you bring about” are the words often spoken on the last 3 days of DIQ, along with, Believe and achieve, find a way or make a way, if it is to be its up to me, and “the pain goes away when you win”.

With that “counsel”, would any of us expect that our DIQ would not exhaust herself with every “idea” possible to make it happen? So she calls her director for help. And what do you know. There IS “special training” available. Back in the day, I was given the phone number to the distribution lobby to call and see if I could get a director out of the waiting line to take down my newest recruit’s information and walk the order in. Yes they were willing to do it. As directors they experienced the terror of the last day of DIQ and were happy to help. Otherwise there was no way to get the recruit’s information in for the month.

After our 7pm cut off, there was also the time that our NSD suggested a west coast director walk the order in. We loved our west coast director who would have to print off orders and forge signatures of course, in our grand goal of gettin’ her done for the month. All of this was applauded. Each director giving the “wink-wink” for knowing the secret way to make it happen.

Years after becoming a director, I was made aware about re-signing old consultants and getting them new consultant numbers so they counted as brand new. I just didn’t think that way, and kind of went “wow” when told all about it. Others had been doing it for years and I was apparently clueless. There was a time when we had to have 30 to get paid commission, so if we fell short because at the last minute a woman who promised to activate, failed to answer the phone, what could we do, but “find a way or make a way.”?

See the set up? Will you lose hundreds of needed dollars to live on or pay off debt, for the sake of another $225 order placed in Betty Busy’s name? Unethical? Or smart business? All the bait to “stretch” is firmly in place from new beauty consultant all the way to National.

It is so easy for people who are not in the position to judge whether we made ethical decisions or not. But it is hard to judge or determine what is ethical when the lines are blurred. Between visualizing your success, believing in what is not seen, faking till you make it, finding a way, helping with the goal, qualifying for the recognition, not letting the area down, not embarrassing yourself, speed of the leader, saving the unit, you’ll sell it next month, product is an asset, you have to be there! And of course, jumping your personal commission from 9 to 13% if you only place another $200 to hit $600… the things you do that seem to make sense today, become one stupid decision after another in hindsight.

The problem is all of Mary Kay’s marketing plan, for career path consultants, will place them at some time, in a position to hurt themselves, hurt their area, or pretend that everything is alright. Since we cannot consistently bank on sales from consumers, and the business DEPENDS on what other people do, and if you are at their mercy, will you let the dam burst, or will you find a patch and hope against hope that you can find real cement next month to make it solid again?

That is what a director is trained to do. That is why she makes the decisions that she does. She is always working, always trying, always asking, always interviewing, always holding her meeting and always waiting for her guest to show, or your guest to show, so she has another way this month to stop the bleeding.

The reason is because the direct selling home party model is one that exploits family relationships and friendships, and is for the most part resented. The hit and miss income soon becomes discouraging for the masses and they stay only as long as it takes them to figure out they are losing money. Career Path consultants, who are accustomed to “living on morsels” and are convinced the real money is in Directorship, press on.

And it’s a perfect symbiotic relationship because the Senior Director NEEDS the DIQ and red jackets to drive the production. Periodic classes produce some income and frankly the director is so happy to have a venue to meet others to recruit, she hardly notices that she has a pretty crappy customer base. (After all, if you keep recruiting you keep adding competition within your own market! This fails to pierce the pink fog, however)

When you sift the whole thing together, you have women pretending they do better than they are, chiming platitudes and sayings, pressured into performance and encouraged to do things outside normal ethics to “make it happen”, with a *wink wink* “we all did it” understanding. Anything to keep the director on the Career Path, “STRETCHING” for those dollars, that Caddy, that Unit Club, That trip, that head table, that name badge recognition, that reception and that throne.

Knowing how common this is, I can not say that all the decisions that directors have made, that have gotten them into financial hot water, belong squarely on their shoulders. They got a whole lot of help to go overboard from people who benefited from those financial decisions. They got the emails that listed every Director who ordered or qualified, in a thinly veiled attempt to guilt them into being on the list. They heard the conference call where bottom director did a $2,400 order to make up her own production, and yea for her commitment! Oh the manipulation… polished and perfected aimed at the heart of the director trying to fit in and be a part and a team player… until the coffers go bare.

And when the washed up directors bail, there is nobody who cares. It was, after all, her decision. So yes, I have heard all about being unethical and making decisions that were stupid. And I have also heard Directors share how their NSD turned the blame on them, fully knowing that they were acting on the NSD’s counsel, or subtle manipulation. (“Speed of the leader!”)

It is funny how I have never heard that accusation from a director in the same position. You really don’t know what you are talking about until you walk in another’s shoes. You really won’t know what you’ll do, when all eyes are on you, when your failure will be observed and obvious, when your colleagues promote a secret way to save face, and when your “leader” (and God) expects “your excellence”. (The definition of “excellence” from your NSD speaking for God, is making it happen and working till the final second because that’s when the miracle appears).

As phony as that is, I have also discovered that all those directors who appear so “ethical”, have simply not come clean. I can assure you there are other ways to be unethical… like frontloading a woman who hasn’t a chance in hell to make money at this, encouraged a new recruit to sign up with their consultant rather than their relative in another state, coercing customers from other consultants who appeared to not be “servicing” the customer very well… and on and on.

The “opportunity” is set up to turn well meaning women into predators, rationalizing all manner of behavior to hit the goals, win the prize, make the name. So when you are criticized here or on other sites, Miss PT Director, for sharing your sordid past, just remember, they are still doing it, and you are no longer, so who really, is the more ethical?


  1. Juliet

    Ethics. Are they like trying to hold onto jello, or a fistful of sand? They do best when woven into your daily sense of who you are, but when you get shocked repeatedly by having unethical positions placed in front of you, it’s like that shock wears off the shiny veneer and while you may not compromise your ethics at all, life isn’t the same without that shiny veneer.

    I miss that patent leather shine. I can’t restore it even if I never did behave unethically, but having done so, the disappointment in myself further roughens the leather and ensures there won’t ever be that shine again.

    But what I have not only learned, but have actually worked to put into practice, and I measure myself regularly to make sure I am not backsliding, the practice of “the best apology is changed behavior”. It is such a great statement, it sounds so beautiful and ACHIEVEABLE, but without my working at it, it will join my violated ethics in the burning barrel. And oh boy I do not want that to happen. Keep it sane and simple – oh boy how hard that is lol.

    Thank you, as always, for such meaningful and relevant articles, Raisin.

  2. NayMKWay

    Reading Raisin’s account of her own morals being compromised reminded me of the parable of the touch-me-not plant. It’s a weed that grows natively in Central and South America with a reflex to wither and droop when touched. But if you repeatedly touch the same spot in the same way, it soon ceases to respond. Purturb it in some novel way, and it will again respond for awhile, then go numb to the new stimulus.

    It can be like that with our own moral compasses. The first breach hits us hard, and we question whether we’re doing the right thing. But with repitition comes acceptance, and what was once anathema becomes our new normal.

    Then we again flirt with a gray area (maybe it was once black, but now…), and get used to doing what used to be unthinkable. And so it goes, one little compromise at a time, until we have given over so much of ourselves we’re no longer the person we used to be.

    What I’ve just described should be news to no one; what’s more important is to understand that many MLMs know and exploit this. Amway, for example, trains their bots to keep certain details of the “business” away from new recruits, under the pretense that they’re “not ready to hear it,” or that too many details would “overwhelm” them. The truth is far less altruistic: they realize few would join if they knew ahead of time how much they’d have to lie to and manipulate others to get ahead.

    Mary Kay may not have any formal training in truth-hiding, but it’s most certainly ingrained in the culture. “Better not let them know what goes on at the higher echelons, lest our shady goings-on scare them off. Better to get them used to a little moral compromise first; that’ll get them to widen their boundaries a little.”

    If you’re in the lower levels of Mary Kay and think this site is full of beans, it’s because you don’t know what you don’t know. Contributors like Raisinberry are here because they achieved a high enough rank to see firsthand what goes on behind the curtain, and want to warn you of what lies ahead if you choose to try to make a career in Mary Kay. Are you thinking you can do Mary Kay “the right way”? Forget it; it can’t be done. It’s built into the system that 1) there is only so much room at the top, and 2) cheaters are taking up all the available space.

    Just say no, kids.

    1. Juliet

      NayMKWay, you have such a great way of putting things, as so many here on this board do. You each have your styles and that alone is worth popping in here lol. I loved what you were saying about the gray area, may have been black…..but one little compromise after another and …….you may recognize yourself but be wishing you weren’t.

    2. raisinberry

      You did a good job describing the widening of boundaries…start small (“Tell her we’re having a model contest”) and each small little white lie mixed in with “Godly women and a Pink Sisterhood jam, means larger lies get way more palatable.

    1. TRACY

      He disappeared last year. It is likely that his name was not even Ethan Vanderbilt, even though everyone generally believed it was. No one seems to know why he disappeared.

      1. NayMKWay

        He spelled his name Vanderbuilt (with the added “u”), which led me to believe he was using an alias. But I don’t know what happened to him either. Maybe he tired of receiving threats from scammers and lawyers.

    2. Lazy Gardens

      If you search for him under “Vanderbuilt” … he’s left a big trail. And then POOF he vanished in 2018 or so. Website not responsive, Twitter account gone, YouTube account gone …

      But he really riled up the MLMers while he was active.

      1. TRACY

        My research suggests Vanderbuilt was completely made up. He did have a picture of himself all over the place, but I suspect it was a fake. I suspect someone found out who he really was, threatened him with exposure, and he quietly went away and deleted all the things the person wanted gone.

        1. NayMKWay

          Come to think of it, all his YT vids were voiceovers. There was only ever that one still image of a bald guy. The (made up) last name was probably a typo, and he couldn’t fix it after it was out there.

            1. NayMKWay

              Hey, great find! Any idea how old this video is?

              OK, so he is a real guy. I doubt his name is real, but the video face on the screen matches the still shots.

              And if you check the video comment, you’ll see who I am on YouTube. I typed in random characters for a username; now I’m wishing I had put more thought into it. Oh, well.

    1. NayMKWay

      Ethan Vanderbuilt [sic] was a fairly prolific reviewer of shady “business opportunities,” both in print and YouTube videos. His write-ups were pretty well done, in my opinion. Most of his headlines read “Is XYZ a Scam? Yes, in my Opinion.” Then he’d explain why.

      One day I went to look up one of his write-ups so I could send someone a link, and… he was gone. Poof, without any announcement or anything. Maybe he’ll see this and clue us in on what happened?

      1. Char

        I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Dr. Jon M. Taylor passed away in 2018? I don’t know the timeline of when EV went dark; but if it was 2018, it could be a possibility. Just a wild thought.

        1. TRACY

          Having known Jon Taylor personally, I’ll just say he wouldn’t have been able to do the social media the way Ethan did. Also, I just don’t see him creating an alternate persona.


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