College Student Gets Recruited Into Mary Kay

Written by Emily

First of all, thank you for creating Pink Truth and helping others discover the truth about Mary Kay and MLM. I’ve always been a generally skeptical person, and even as a child had a strong distaste for MLM sellers preying on their friends and family to come to their “parties” and drop cash on overpriced junk, after seeing my parents having to fend off friends, coworkers, and fellow church members. And even still, I nearly became a Mary Kay victim myself as a young adult.

In my first couple years of college, I dated a guy whose mom was a Mary Kay director (unsure now of her official title, but she had a Mary Kay car at the time, for a while anyway) as well as owning a successful, legitimate small business. She and her husband are warm and intelligent people and respected members of their community. I worked for her during breaks from school while he and I were together, and a good chunk of what I did was related to her Mary Kay stuff: maintaining her website, putting together “rah rah” materials for her downline, upkeep of her inventory, working on many ideas for events that never happened, etc.

It culminated with her eventually trying to recruit me, and while her tactics were not particularly underhanded, they did reek of double-talk and what I now know to be the “pink fog.” She said I would be good at it because I was smart, well-spoken, and maintained a neat appearance (true, but I am extremely introverted, and while I am very good with people when I have to be, it’s unnatural to me and extremely exhausting, and I avoid interacting with people other than my close friends and family as much as I possibly can, because I HATE having to be “on”). I expressed this concern, but was told something to the effect of that I’d never get anywhere in life in general if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone.

I was a full-time student who also worked on campus, and was told that Mary Kay would be the perfect way to earn extra money and eventually replace my part-time job since I could do it in my “free time” and work it around my schedule (but that the more time I put into it, the more successful I would be… “X number of classes a week is Y hours and ANYONE can find Y hours!”).

I was concerned about the money I would need to invest in inventory (I didn’t have a credit card at the time), but was told that it was “only $100” (but that I would do a lot better to step up to the $600 inventory package, because people don’t want to buy what you don’t already have). I expressed concern that there were already a lot of MK sellers in the area (my former roommate being one, and at campus fairs and whatnot there were always several MK tables), but this was also poo-poohed. I was sold the idea of driving a nice new car for “free” (I was assured that I would only be on the hook for the co-pay if I didn’t recruit, and of COURSE recruiting is so easy that I needn’t worry). And so on and so forth.

It was suggested that I carry a basket containing MK product with me to my classes, where my fellow students would SURELY be asking me all about it and would SURELY want to buy the items (instead of looking at me like I was a weirdo, which they likely would have done had I actually gone through with it)! One of the consultant prizes at the time was a pink pashmina (actually really pretty), and I could incorporate it into my outfits every day and when EVERYONE complimented me on it, as they SURELY were going to, that was my cue to recruit: “Oh, you like this? If you want one of your own, ALL you have to do is…” (as if recruiting in a classroom was going to be tolerated).

I was to go out every day with a full face of make-up (did I mention that I usually don’t wear any make-up other than the occasional swipe of mascara and blush if I find myself needing a little boost?), and when EVERYONE told me how amazing I looked as they SURELY were going to (yeah, right), I was to pull out a little make-up bag holding the essentials for a “five-minute face” and show them the product while emphasizing how quick and easy it was. I was encouraged to recruit my mom and my friends and OF COURSE they’ll want to do it because they loved me and would want to help me and once they too saw how easy it was they would be so happy that they had been given the opportunity. I expressed concern that my friends too didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on pricey cosmetics, but DUH, that’s exactly WHY they need the MK opportunity!

While working for her, there were numerous “happenings” that seemed odd to me for someone as supposedly successful at MK as I thought she, a company car driving director with a pretty considerable downline, was. I just figured that there had to be something going on behind the scenes that I didn’t know… and there was, but I know now that what was really happening was that she was floundering.

  • the amount of product she moved was very skimpy (a Timewise cleanser here or a mascara there a couple times a month, if that)
  • she booked zero parties to my knowledge
  • her inventory was old enough that some of the products looked like they were separating and some of the cleanser/moisturizer tubes cracked when you squeezed them
  • her downline list included family members that I knew were not involved with Mary Kay
  • her downline list included fake names at the addresses of her relatives (well, male names tweaked to pass as feminine, such as Joe becoming Jo)
  • we once drove nearly 180 miles one way to sign up a new consultant
  • out of the blue, she no longer had her MK car (when I asked my then-boyfriend why, he said something really vague about it not working out any more)

The boyfriend and I broke up for unrelated reasons shortly after she gave me some start-up inventory as a gift, which I then returned to her. I am very happy that it didn’t go any further than that, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky.


  1. I remember college. Especially for 8 am classes people tended to show up in whatever rumpled clothes they could find that weren’t actually wafting stink fumes like Pepe le Pew. Ponytails and hats to cover bed head were de rigeur. I was a commuter student so I was at least awake and groomed, but a full face of makeup for a lecture on organic chemistry or French history or for dissecting a shark? When we did wear makeup I remember a lot of fondness for sparkly fruit-scented nail polish, tons of eyeliner, and color-changing mood lipstick,

    Little Pink Riding Hood with her basket of goodies and her pink pashmina and her pancake makeup shell would get laughed off campus.

  2. When I was in college, a co-worker at my part-time workplace tried to recruit me into his Amway downline. My job had me roaming the 7-story building on a regular basis, and he cornered me one day when I was on his floor.

    “I know a couple [his ‘mentors’, no doubt] making $30,000 a year doing this part-time!” he said.

    “Hmm. That’s a lot of money back now,” I thought to myself. Sorry. Dad joke.

    “You get out of it what you put into it,” he added—several times—never naming the scam outfit, er, company.

    My father had been recruited into Amway at a home meeting a few months earlier, but his “business” wasn’t going anywhere. He was just buying overpriced crap like the SA8 laundry detergent that my step-mom loathed. This home meeting I had been invited to was starting to set off alarms in my feeble college-age brain.

    I was saved by the fact that the meeting was a good 50 miles from where I lived. I didn’t want to drive that far, so I called the co-worker and asked him if it was Amway. He admitted it was, and I politely demurred. He didn’t bother me again.

    This co-worker wasn’t a bad guy; just deceived. Deceived to the point of trying to earn a few nickels off of a poor, already-overworked college student.

    MLMs can suck it.

  3. College student made/make for good prey. They lead to other prey…..

    “They have credit cards!”…….from my directors lips- Boulder CO.

    • I believe I read here about someone signing a college student who ordered $1,800 in inventory. When Dad got the credit card bill, he made her return everything and quit.

  4. It amazes me to hear that some of these ladies actually hire administrative staff. Can I assume this is only true for May Kay directors with another source of income?

  5. Another MLM company, Vemma, got into trouble for preying on college students and pyramid scheming. They are now six thousand kilometers under, not feet.

    “The FTC will be mailing refund checks totaling more than $2.2 million to people who lost money to an alleged pyramid scheme operated by Vemma Nutrition Company.
    The refunds are the result of the FTC’s settlement with Vemma, an Arizona-based multilevel-marketing company that sold health and wellness drinks through a network of distributors known as “affiliates.” Vemma allegedly targeted college students and other young adults with materials that presented its affiliate program as a profitable alternative to traditional employment, but failed to disclose that the program’s structure ensured that most affiliates would not earn substantial income.” – FTC. gov


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