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

The “Good Old Days” in Mary Kay

Written by Raisinberry

I can remember when things were much different in Mary Kay. I think that for the most part, that old school mental image was in our minds when we conducted every recruiting interview, every career talk. We were selling an idea of Mary Kay that doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe it never did.

Things are not the way we thought they were, and even if we could be returned to the “good old days,” we would still be riding the back of a MLM pyramid scheme long past its “start up days” and still requiring the consumer to be the consultant. The dirty little secret that none of the NSDs want you to find out is this: the old ones got in early. Those who got in within the last 20 years, did it by all manner of dubious activity.

I will never forget Phyllis Sammons saying at Emerald Seminar concerning becoming a national, “It don’t have to be pretty, it just has to get did.” I loved Phyllis and always wished her the best. But she revealed in a twinkle of an eye, that it didn’t matter how it came together. Gettin’ it done was the goal.

She fell to the bottom of the NSD commissions. This can only mean one thing in my mind. She knows she finagled her National Area… it was weak because it was not “waited” for. Only she and Kathy Helou will know the details… but I am guessing that Phyllis regretted her meteoric rise, done by hook or by crook. Sometimes you can have a reasonable goal, but not a reasonable time frame. Mary Kay doesn’t teach reasonableness anymore. Maybe Phyllis reaped that… or maybe she grew a conscience and stopped frontloading.

Could be that all those directors and NSDs who show low commissions are actually the most ethical? Getting it done quickly can often mean a whole lot of people who believed in Mary Kay got scalded by the goals of somebody else! No matter. We march on. If “she who was scalded” isn’t around today, we rationalize she never would have been. “Church Lady” would say, “How convenient!”

Back in the day, you worked your business by learning everything in your kit and watching 3 classes of your director or recruiter or both before you would ever hold one yourself. That was the rule. You took your recruit with you on your appointments to assist, and sometimes before you even signed her. Everybody did a perfect start. There were no exceptions – You did a perfect start, only there was not a director there to recruit your customers before they ever held a class for you. The advent of the “business debut” made recruiting happen fast. Unfortunately it also killed the new consultant’s show lines.

When you wanted to move up you started with earning your car. You held 3 to 5 classes a week for that because you had to show you were a master consultant. You went on target for your car with 5 women and $4,000 in production in my day and you finished with 12 and 16,000. Meaning NOW you went into DIQ… with hopefully 12 real consultants. Momentum was huge because all the ladies could see your CAR.

Only you couldn’t just sign a card to get into DIQ. You had to be recommended by your director with a written evaluation of your skills! That evaluation had to be approved. You HAD to know how and prove you could both sell and lead. Most of your 30 consultants were called and verified legitimate! Even with this tighter system, there were cheats and breakdowns. Why would MK loosen the demands of the job by lowering DIQ to 8 and requiring less documentation on the skills of the applicant? Didn’t they know they were setting the consultant up to fail?

Cheating to finish qualifications has always existed… all the way up. You simply are not going to do 4 months of work and find yourself on the last day, short people or production. You aren’t. In fact you are encouraged not to start over. To start completely all over again because you needed one or two more people is out of the question. If you have any means at all of finishing yourself, you will most likely do it.

In “Car”, if you don’t make it you can drop off the first month and use one more to finish as long as you maintained $4,500. If you are at $3,300 at 10:55 pm, on the last day, what will you do? Lose one month perhaps? Or lose it all? You will cough up the $1,200 and rationalize that you will sell it next month. “How convenient.”

What this does along with other Mary Kay accepted deceptions, is slowly erode your ethics for the sake of the goal. From the very beginning, consultants are slowly being “trained” to “find a way or make a way.” And this is praised as “leadership.” But this is really boot camp for greater goal-reaching atrocities.

There is only one reason requirements would be reduced and cheating ignored. Mary Kay needs more directors to fill that pipeline as they know there is a massive attrition rate as orders slow down and minimum production requirements are not me. The director “position” they are always trying to sell you is actually the engine of production for MK. That’s why they can look the other way. That’s why they “allow” curious relatives and strange ordering habits.

They need women to facilitate incoming revenue and monitor it under certain requirements, topping off production with their own money as needed to hold that $4,500 minimum. It is the national’s job to sell how great that position is and where it leads, to keep women from running off the hamster wheel.

Mary Kay continuously offering contests and incentives that allow quicker paths to directorship or “double point” components in order to get more women into the DIQ and director positions.

There are surely veteran nationals, right this minute, fighting for a return to old ways. And likewise there will be ones who are panicking at the loss of income, who are furiously moving people up by massive recruiting and frontloading. What they fail to realize is that no matter what they do… either one is a house of cards!

As long as Mary Kay does not care about the sale to the RETAIL CUSTOMER, but relies on the wholesale sale to the consultant, and continues to operate with inflated prices that cover the commissions of the top of the pyramid, Mary Kay will be an old, aging pyramid scheme, coming to a slow, total collapse in the US. You can see why overseas markets are so important. Mary Kay’s numbers have been dropping in the U.S. for more than a decade, but they made that up by pushing hard in countries like China. Notice how they stopped reporting U.S. numbers (consultants, sales, etc) and only report worldwide numbers?

Back in the day of 5 step customized skin care, consultants knew something. “Consulting” meant they could talk intelligently on products and were not scaring customers off with non-stop recruiting attempts. We didn’t stalk. We didn’t warm chatter other than what came out of friendly natural conversation. We didn’t have bogus model searches and bait and switch guest nights. We didn’t try and get every dime from our customer on the first sale with a roll up bag, or convince her that a roll up bag was not as good, as a starter kit! We never took someone else’s customer because reputation was important to us. And even with all that, the slow erosion of ethics begins anyway as pressure and manipulation to reach the top is placed upon you. Find a way or make one!

Consultant training is not director training. Real director training happens by ignoring your conscience.

Maybe it is a sign of our times. Or maybe Mary Kay is a training ground for deceit by its current practices. The erosion of rules of conduct in Mary Kay are symptomatic of the greater breakdown of ethics in our world today. But the hypocrisy of Mary Kay is that they tell us they are the better world. The whole system of praise and recognition depends on women who will seek out that recognition while slowly being trained in deceptive practices.

From the first deception, praising new recruits for retail they have not sold (and will not sell), through earning cars and units by less than honest means, Mary Kay teaches that RESULTS are the only thing that matters and any way you get there will be your little secret. While holding up high ideals to our faces, calling ourselves “women of excellence” and parading the notion that this company is being blessed by the Almighty, they are corrupt in secret.

Maybe the “good old days” were perceived as “good” only because we never knew what was really going on. This new breed of consultants and NSDs who create National Areas in record time inadvertently reveal how corrupt and ill-equipped consultants truly are. Since corporate clearly prefers this method of building National Areas because they are exciting and draw big bucks, I think it is safe to assume you can kiss the “good old days” goodbye… even if they were only a figment of our imaginations.


  1. Ruby Slippers

    Good article!
    Tracy, Does anyone know why NSD commissions are not listed in applause anymore or is it that I can’t find it ?
    This is my last month to look because I am 12 month T (finally)

    1. TRACY

      NSD commissions are still listed but the pages with the sales director commissions have been missing from our online sources for the last couple of months. I don’t know any details about why.

    1. Phoebe's Mon

      When my oldest and dearest friend was heavy into MK, she did it by selling the products and I was one of her customers. We were actually talking about her days as a Kaybot not too long ago and she never recruited anyone. Her director tried really, really hard to recruit me under the guise of ‘helping’ my friend into a hideous pink car, but I backed out when she started pushing me to spend a ton of money on inventory. That was during the 90’s.

    2. raisinberry

      Yes there was…we worked to build a customer base. But the era came when some were rapidly racing to Directorship, and NIQ’s were pushing speed to the top. Be the fastest! be the first! Thus was born the “Business debut”, where Directors recruited out from under the new IBC, with her not even knowing what damage that would do. They PROVED the belief that production comes from new recruits and their start up inventory. They CUT HER (The IBC’s) THROAT to build their own monthly production numbers. Mary Kay Said nothing. Mary Kay Inc. lauded the super Directors and super NSD’s. They were without ethics for the sake of the production dollar.

      1. NayMKWay

        Building a true customer base in Mary Kay just isn’t a viable option anymore. There was a time when Mary Kay and Avon were the only sellers of make-up and skin-care products in much of the country, but that time is long gone. And both Mary Kay and Avon made the same change to their corporate strategy: “Sell the Dream, Not the Cream.” (I just made up a rhyming couplet to make a point; I don’t know if anyone actually said that.)

        They followed the lead of Amway (“Sell the Hope, Not the Soap”; and that is a quote). Tracy covered Avon’s history awhile back in a PT article. If I remember correctly, it was in 2006 that they bought Super Bowl ads that pitched the Avon “opportunity” hard. Avon was publicly traded, so their sales were available for public scrutiny. But the pitches Avon made to analysts emphasized how much they had grown their “sales force,” which implied better sales would surely follow, I guess. It didn’t work out for Avon in the long term, and they put themselves up for sale after a few years. The Brazilian MLM Natura scooped them up, and immediately started crowing about how the acquisition had added 6 million members to their “sales force.” Sigh.

        Anyway, my point—and I do have one—is this: Mary Kay’s big strategic moves lately have been toward luring more people to sign up. They’ve clearly decided the only volume buyers are the recruits, and that continuous product changes work best if you have a captive consumer group, so it’s time to pour gasoline on the recruitment flames. Two rather obvious recent moves come to mind:

        1. “Hey, DIQs have to recruit like crazy in a limited time to make Director, so let’s lower the barrier to DIQ. More DIQs means more front-loading, eh? Eh? We’ll say it’s for a limited time, and then keep pushing out the end date till everyone forgets it was supposed to be for a limited time. Eh? Eh?”

        2. “I’ll bet we can rope in more if we pretend they can get in for $30. Let’s do that!”

        It’s a bit more subtle than Super Bowl ads (what isn’t?), but it’s still in the same direction. Is it working? My Magic 8-Ball says “Signs point to ‘no’,” which is odd because it never used to say that. The evidence is pretty clear that Mary Kay is in a long-term downward slide, whatever bump they may have gotten from exploiting the pandemic notwithstanding. Abrupt closure of Australia and New Zealand, recent lay-offs, closing distribution centers, fewer income reports in Applause. Not looking too good.

        I wonder if Natura is in the market for a few million more reps? (I hope not.)

  2. onegative

    Phyllis Sammons had a traumatic brain injury and has a hard time working the business. In addition to that, her son died. I don’t think it’s fair to assume anything about her or her conscious.

    We can assume her area died though because she is low on commissions. She has a NSD under her but that NSD has 2 first line and 1 second line.

    1. BestDecision

      No, everyone knew she debuted with some hanky lanky. We all raised our eyebrows, and even her NSD, Kathy Helou, thought of quitting when she debuted.

      Optimism is good, but there’s a lot more negative in MK than it appears.

  3. BestDecision

    The new Suite 13 for MK is the cheesiest waste of money I’ve ever imagined for MK. It’s like Embrace Life on crack.

    They’ve lost complete touch with reality and what made MK the brand it was. If I were still in, I’d be furious.

    1. NayMKWay

      Having zero clue what Suite 13 meant, I had to look up what it was. Found a press release from last April. Color me unimpressed; I fail to see any value added, here. The press release contained an interesting tidbit of information:

      “Suite 13(TM) was initially launched in Mexico earlier in 2021, followed by Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Colombia and Peru. The Company expects to launch the platform in most of its markets by the end of 2021.”

      The company is based in Texas, yet they start out by releasing it everywhere but the U.S. They act like they’re nervous about it being accepted, or even taken seriously.

      1. BestDecision

        It’s been that way for 10+ years. When they told us in a Director meeting that Mexico was our top market, I knew we were no longer a priority. Everything changed. They got attention, and then China really took off.

        One of the many reasons I left and happily so!

  4. Lazy Gardens

    The Suite 13 is not even real 3D! You have to go from point to point, following the marks on the floor. It’s just a series oz zoom and pan images.

    So not cutting edge! It’s 90s computer game level graphics.

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