Trapped by the Mary Kay “Opportunity”
Year after year, as new consultants signed on, and old consultants disappeared, I started getting used to having heightened expectation for them, my unit, and my goals, only to watch all that crash and burn months later. It became apparent that of the independent beauty consultants that were going to attempt the “career path,” believing the stories they were told.
There would be a series of “try and fails,” and try again, and then a slow fade away. For them, their Mary Kay “dream” would become an occasional $225 order as they needed something, or to avoid termination. With mountains of merchandise on their shelves, but not wishing to “close the door permanently,” I started to worry, at what cost was their participation?
The reality of their stint in MK was that the so called “opportunity” was just that – only a “chance”…a long shot, to realize for themselves, what was dangled in front of them at Guest events. Certainly it was not the reality for most. Even the most hard-working among Directors still lost offspring, consultants, customers, and found themselves endlessly repeating the motions of recruiting, and encouraging, and training, and losing.
Imagine if your concern and questions to your NSD about the viability of this business, and what was really happening in the field, were met with a “blow off” answer minimizing your recruit’s “commitment.” Imagine that over and over you believed that assessment because your National knows best.
In over 10 years as a Senior Director, I watched quality women come and go, “hitting the wall” and stepping away from pursuit of “building a Mary Kay business,” only to be replaced by others in a seemingly never ending parade of women moving up the career path. What they have been “sold” is a dream. And like dreams, it is fiction. Mary Kay has never been called to account for this fiction because Mary Kay does not sell a viable, tangible business to its consultants. What it sells is an “opportunity,” and that “opportunity” while failing thousands of women all over the world, will always leave the consultant holding the bag concerning her success or failure.
Mary Kay will never be held accountable for false advertising, misleading statements, lack of full disclosure, manipulation, or fraud, because Mary Kay never promises “Success.” Mary Kay doesn’t even promise good results! Mary Kay makes no promises whatsoever. By selling you and I an “opportunity,” Mary Kay Corporate hides behind the actual and tangible and real knowledge that 98% of the sales force will wither on the vine. That the average nationwide monthly skin care class, at the time I left, is ½ of ONE. Consider this: there are hundreds of thousands of United States consultants and the AVERAGE CLASS HELD in a month, is ½ of ONE.
Mary Kay doesn’t sell you the success of your business through the vehicle of the skin care class. Mary Kay sells you the “Opportunity” to believe that there is success in this business holding skin care classes. And there is – for a while. And then the “opportunity” changes completely!
You will have success in your first month selling to family and friends. You will have a smattering of classes that follow, booked from a few women you meet, and you will then have a small reorder following and intermittent sales. Even if you dial it up a notch and work to earn a car, you will be recruiting more than selling, while still having to maintain the appearance of leadership. Meaning- you will have to order that STAR LEVEL of product regardless whether you sold it. You will be told, ‘the speed of the leader is the speed of the gang” with the purpose of that saying being you must be a star to be a “leader.”
You have the “opportunity” to continue to appear successful, so you can recruit. And you will have the “opportunity” to be fawned over and recognized for moving up. The “opportunity” to hob knob with the Directors and NSDs will present itself, and you will have the “opportunity” to be included, hanging “with the big girls.” You will have the “opportunity” to purchase your director suit, and the “opportunity” to top off production every month trying to hit bonus levels or keep your Unit. And if you fail, well, you didn’t work your “opportunity.” After all, the “opportunity” is the same for everyone, but not everyone chooses to “work” the “opportunity.”
It’s interesting that being an “opportunist” means capitalizing on every possible way, method or means, to take advantage of your “opportunity.” As a consultant, it means having a guest at every event, being out and about warm chatting, with every human you come in contact with, as an “opportunity” to book, or interview. We all know we worked our profile cards till there was no “opportunity” left, and then scoured the countryside trying to create “opportunities.”
For Directors, our “opportunities” to get additional orders were cleverly disguised as every manner of “reason” to act now. Our opportunities were:
1. Going inactive? Get that $225 in. Don’t lose that earned discount privilege.
2. On target for the Consistency Club? Don’t lose that!
3. Going for STAR? Chip away!
4. Losing recruits? Better get active!
5. No more Applause Magazine! Oh no! You won’t know what’s going on!
6. Bump up your percentage! You need a $600 personal order to get the 13% commission rate.
7. Our Unit Goal! We are so close!
8. On target for the next car… can you help?
9. New products! Limited Edition! Your customer will see them in the look book…what if you don’t have them?
10. The website will be advertising products you don’t have!
11. You could make it to the Princess Court…you are so close!
12. Did you know you were almost in the TOP TEN for year end sales?
13. My Goodness, you could be on the court of sales with just $3K more ordered (you can always sell it!)
On and on the “opportunities” present themselves. But the “reality” is that none of these reasons to order have anything to do with a sustainable, actual business “opportunity.”
The Mary Kay “opportunity” is an elaborately contrived system of ordering “reasons” which are designed to sell product to the consultant, without regard to an actual customer. The Mary Kay “opportunity” will present consultants with an “opportunity” to be recognized yearly in Dallas on stage. The recognition will NOT be for actual retail sales although that is what the company will call it, by virtue of the fact that the UNIT CLUBS and Queens Court of SALES are supposedly “retail” achievements. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is no actual celebration of real sales achievement anywhere in Mary Kay, because there is no real honest tracking of results. Facts are, the actual results would cause Mary Kay a huge problem with the FTC. Direct Sellers have to be able to prove that something is being sold. Since less that one class is held per consultant per month, it is clear that few women are making money from sales.
No, there is no real retail business here… there is only “opportunity.” And by selling this as an “opportunity” only, Mary Kay never has to face the responsibility and the reality of consultant failure rates. The “o” word becomes the grand trump card. The “o” word makes Mary Kay corporate, Nationals and Directors guiltless, and individual consultants guilty, because after all, it’s only an “opportunity” and it is exactly what YOU make it.
Clever? Absolutely. By not tracking consultants results, Mary Kay can hide behind the “o” word indefinitely. The minute they track actual sales performance, they would have to admit that there is no business. And the “opportunity” will be exposed for what it really is.
The Mary Kay business is simply an “opportunity” to recruit more “businesswomen” who will order up and eventually quit, or become an “Achiever” who will recruit more “businesswomen.” There simply is little consumer business to end users, except the consultant, herself.
By the use of the “o” word (opportunity), consciences can be wiped clean and women can press on, because after all, it is only an “opportunity” and an “opportunity” can both erase responsibility for selling false hope and hide the lack of real results. It is pie in the sky, a vapor, an intangible. It is an “in your mind” belief, that someday, way out in the future, you will have run into enough women and their credit cards, to place enough wholesale orders, to finally have “worked” the “opportunity” enough to make it. You will finally have taken full “advantage” of this “opportunity” and become what a woman who takes advantage of women, pursuing this opportunity, is!
You will be selling nothing more than a long term financial trap recruiting women to replace other women who have gone down the financial drain before them : a never ending sea of replacement bee’s, believing it is an “opportunity” and completely prepared to blame themselves when it does what all multi-levels do.
The “o” word has provided protection and balm for the Corporation and those at the top of the pyramid, who otherwise might feel guilty that their riches have come at the expense of their consultant’s finances, self esteem, and subsequent self doubt. After all, if you could have done “more,” you could have made it. They count on the consultant not returning product, (or not returning quickly enough) to cut their losses, because after all, they would never want to permanently lose the “Opportunity” to try again. This is Mary Kay’s true “product” and provides cover for never accepting responsibility for the reality of a 98% failure rate among consultants.