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

Uncomfortable Questions About Mary Kay

Written by Frosty Rose

Oh, dear. The worst has happened! Maybe a friend caught you in a weak moment. Maybe you really thought you were going to get a free eyeshadow or mascara. Whatever the reason, you’ve agreed to go to a Mary Kay meeting or event with your consultant. Or, worse, you’ve signed up for a “practice interview” with her director to “help her with her training.”

You could just cancel. Back out at the last minute. You’re coughing, the kids are sick, or your neighbor’s best friend’s aunt’s goldfish died and you have to attend the funeral. Or… you could go and have some fun at the director’s expense. And spread the Pink Truth gospel while you’re at it. Either is a good option, but if you choose the latter, prepare yourself with these questions. Then sit back and watch the recruiter squirm.

What is your average monthly take-home pay? She’ll answer that it depends on your effort! You can make “play money” or work your way up to an “executive income” within a few months. Keep asking this question until she answers with an actual number. Likely, she’ll tell you her “highest monthly check.”

Ask how many months she’s earned that much. Ask about her lowest monthly check and how many months she earned no commission check or even owed the company money due to her downline’s chargebacks. Ask how many consultants in her unit are earning any money—she won’t know, because she doesn’t dare ask.

Fun fact, well over 99% of consultants and directors in Mary Kay don’t earn any money from their business. Many even lose money. According to the FTC, this is typical of all multi-level marketing companies and Mary Kay is not the exception. If you’re feeling really feisty, bring up this statistic.

How much time do I need to spend on my business? This is a good one because she’s going to have a nice, scripted answer for you and she’ll think she has the upper hand. She’ll tell you all about being your own boss, working when you want, and being off whenever you like. She might tell you that most new consultants will hold an average of two to three parties a week to launch their business the right way and build up their customer list. That will take you an average of 4-6 hours.

Dig in. Ask how many people you’ll need to talk to in order to book a party (she’ll say 5, it’s closer to 20 or more). Ask how many parties you need to book to hold 2-3 (she’ll say 5-6, less in your “warm circle,” it’s closer to 10-12). Ask how you’ll find more people to talk to after you exhaust your “warm circle” (she’ll go on about booking from bookings, she’ll conceal information about stalking people in the cosmetics aisle at Walmart).

Make her show you her activity from the prior week. I guarantee you it won’t reflect the activity levels that she expects you to have as a “brand new, part-time” consultant. And even if the activity (dials, bookings, etc.) are there, the results will not be. Ask about the amount of time she spends on her business away from customers—how much time does she spend booking those 2-3 parties per week, maintaining her inventory, running to the post office, and keeping up with paperwork? Those 4 – 6 hours will quickly turn into 20-30. Ask how she keeps her business and personal life separate (she doesn’t).

How do you manage your business when you take time off for vacation? She’s going to stutter on this one. Truth is, she doesn’t take a vacation. She works from her phone all. The. Time. And she has to schedule vacations to not fall at the end of the month or it’s even worse.

Are people really having parties since COVID? I don’t have any data on this one because I quit before COVID kicked in, but I can say that party bookings have been in decline for at least the last decade. When I started my business in 2006, it was pretty easy to get people to book and buy products. If I had any frustrations around it, I was assured that it was just me, I needed a new circle, I needed to freshen up my booking script or my skills. And after all, Mary Kay had written the playbook in 1963 when most women stayed home during the day. The principles remained, but we needed to adapt somewhat!

She’ll likely tell you some drivel about how women love to have other women in their home, and the home-based party is really the perfect solution for COVID—after all, you’re inviting your close friends and family into your home, not shopping with some stranger at the mall who could have who knows what. Ask her how many parties she’s held in the last month and how that compares with 2019.

Do you recommend that I keep an inventory? The wording here is key. Don’t ask if I have to have inventory. She’ll chirp, “No, of course not, it’s your business to run as you see fit!” and move on to the next thing.

Ask what she recommends. She’ll demur. “Well, that’s something we’ll talk about in your training once you get started. It really depends on your goals for your business.”

Spoiler: it doesn’t depend on your goals for your business. It depends on hers. If she’s working for a big goal, she’s going to tell you that you need a full store of inventory, $3,600 wholesale or more. But not until you’ve already joined as a consultant. It’s a bait and switch. “You don’t have to have inventory, but women who want to be successful always start with product on hand. Don’t you want to be successful?” If she dodges the question or won’t answer with a clear yes or no, don’t let her off the hook. Ask her to explain her inventory recommendations right there, in detail.

How do you track your income? “This is all covered in training,” she’ll say. Insist on an answer. She’ll punt because she doesn’t. And she doesn’t teach her consultants to track their income, either, because they’ll catch on faster that there simply isn’t any income, just a lot of expenses.

Can I see your Schedule C? This is the tax document that a director should be filing to show her sole proprietor business income. She won’t let you see it, and she’ll likely get offended that you would even ask. That’s personal and private information, after all! And her income/level of success has nothing to do with yours! Everyone in Mary Kay runs their own business and reaps the reward for her own level of effort.

How many questions do you think you can ask before she shuts you down completely? My guess is not very many. Mary Kay directors are not generally equipped to deal with people who want hard facts, because they’re not easy targets. Likely, she’ll write you off pretty quickly and move on to easier prey. But, hey, at least you got that free mascara!

14 Comments

  1. Data Junkie

    My favorite questions:

    “How many consultants in your downline are able to sell all of their minimum qualifying order every quarter?”

    “Do you have any consultants in your downline producing a true net profit from selling product without a downline?”

    “How many consultants would have to be losing money in my downline for me to clear $1000/month in true net profit? To qualify for a car? What is their average and aggregate operating loss to make these things possible?”

    “What percent of your consultants leave every year?”

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  2. Parsonsgreen

    What percentage of products do you sell at the full recommended retail price?

    If you own your Mary Kay business, can you sell it?

    Why can’t you earn a Cadillac just on product sales?

    Why is it better for you to earn a commission off my orders as part of your downline as opposed to 50% of the profit on a sale to me as a customer ?

    Have you watched the Jamie Taylor video were she admits to having her down line place orders they didn’t need so she could finish NSD?

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  3. Char

    Frosty made some great points and helpful points. But, some of those questions and answers play right into the MLM Mary Kay narrative. So, in addition to Frosty’s questions, I’d like to see ones that dig deeper about the MLM system itself. Data Junkie and Parsonsgreen hit the nails on the head above.

    It is also known that I have a particular beef with simply asking to see their Schedule C. Sure, what Frosty wrote is absolutely true, “She won’t let you see it, and she’ll likely get offended that you would even ask. That’s personal and private information, after all! And her income/level of success has nothing to do with yours! Everyone in Mary Kay runs their own business and reaps the reward for her own level of effort.” BUT,

    If that Schedule C doesn’t show that the majority of their income is generated from reselling/retailing products to NON-affiliates, they’re a pyramid schemer! It would be similar to asking a drug dealer for their Schedule C because you suspect they are lying about how profitable drug dealing is.

    Why would we want proof of how much a pyramid scheming scammer does or doesn’t make?! These are the details we need to push to gain a complete understanding of the MLM scam system.

  4. marren1961

    Anyone who’s considering buying Mary Kay or who has purchased it before knows it is an ORDERING business. You know that going in. For these dishonest Directors to try to encourage new or impressionable Consultants to build up an inventory, is not only wrong. It is immoral. So much for a Company that states “God first.” The whole operation is a legit joke.

    1. Data Junkie

      Well said. Also, the term “production” in Mary Kay ultimately refers to “producing” cash flow up the pyramid. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sales to outside customers. If not a single product ever lands in the hands of an outside consumer, production still serves is purpose…which is to enrich the company and the tippy top of the up-line.

      I really, really would like to know the exact percentage of Mary Kay products produced by the corporation that actually end up donated to shelters or ultimately end up in the landfill. Anyone care to prove it is less than 90%? In other words, can anyone show (anecdotally or otherwise) that more than 10% of Mary Kays products produced ever get used?

        1. Enorth

          Did you notice there are are tens of thousands of MK listings on eBay? You were not only competing with other IBCs and with major retailers, but with behemoths like eBay. You didn’t stand a chance.

          The only way to make decent money is by selling the MK dream, not the MK product.

      1. marren1961

        I left as a Consultant a while ago – recently I’ve sold quite a bit of my MK products on eBay. I have had to sell them at a discount, significantly lower than what I paid. The market on there is flooded – I’d say the majority are former Consultants looking to get back at least…something.

  5. Shay


    What is your average monthly take-home pay? She’ll answer that it depends on your effort! You can make “play money” or work your way up to an “executive income” within a few months. Keep asking this question until she answers with an actual number. Likely, she’ll tell you her “highest monthly check.”


    She will never answer the simple question ever.

  6. MakeUpLover

    Assuming I order inventory, how often does the company change formulations of core products or change packaging? How soon does the catalog reflect those changes? How will I sell my inventory that is no longer current?

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  7. ElleBee

    I remember at one ‘Success Meeting’, my senior director J (my director was her daughter G) telling all of us in G’s unit that we were on target for the car so we should really be working our business to help G earn her car. I innocently asked J how far ‘we’ were from earning the car. J answered “Why do you need to know that?” I don’t know, I guess if we’re a team who is earning a car, we should have a goal? I should have turned tail and run right there.

  8. marren1961

    I left as a Consultant a while ago – recently I’ve sold quite a bit of my MK products on eBay. I have had to sell them at a discount, significantly lower than what I paid. The market on there is flooded – I’d say the majority are former Consultants looking to get back at least…something.

  9. Mountaineer95

    Frosty, this is so good! I have dreams of getting the opportunity to be invited to a meeting about “The Opportunity” so I can troll the tar out of the director running it, in much the same way you describe.

    We would be a good tag team for such an endeavour; any chance you could come to northern West Virginia? (The weather is lovely this time of year). We have a local Caddy director (with a vanity tag reading “YES U CAN”) that I’ve never met but have seen around a few times.

    Maybe we can find out where she holds her “free” unit meetings and go make some new friends?

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