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

Mary Kay’s Truth Versus the Pink Truth

Written by Raisinberry

Have you noticed the big difference between the “story” told by Mary Kay Inc. and its representatives, versus the real truth here at Pink Truth?

It occurred to me that “consulting” was the best part of the Mary Kay business. You know, the “one on one” with a real client. That happens every now and again. You get a chance to connect with someone you just met who is interested in skin care. If you left it there, all might be well in MK land. You would make your 50% gross profit, give her a gift with purchase (which reduces your profit), offer her a discount as an incentive to purchase (also reducing your profits, if any), make a friend, and be on your way with a referral or two.

Along the way, a class could be held, but it would be with people who wanted one and loved getting women together. It wouldn’t be with dragged in in-laws who were there to keep family peace… or other consultants’ customers.

The comments here by women who are pro-Mary Kay show complete disbelief that we would order more product that we hadn’t sold, or order just to gain recognition and acceptance. These pro-MKers, it would appear, aren’t necessarily going for big goals. Selling the product means you book when you want to make some money, hold a facial instead of a class if you want to, handle reorders and provide good service. Selling $150 or $200 a week is fun. On a rare week of $500 or more, that’s more fun. But running your own business doesn’t mean you are racing with month-end deadlines or pressure from uplines. You are doing your own thing.

Contrast this with the life of the sales director on the hamster wheel. We probably did well when we first started. Directors usually are wired to achieve, suited to leadership, and respond to appreciation and praise. We want to do well so we take the advice of the leaders around us and do what they say.

That is a vulnerability that appears to be lacking in the pro-MK crowd. They are incredulous that we would find ourselves in MEGA DEBT being manipulated to “achieve,”  when it appears we didn’t want to “work the business” with all its ups and downs. Because we meet here for a daily dose of healing, we are criticized as “negative” and out of touch with the real mission of Mary Kay Ash herself. How did so many of us get in this career path mess?

One thing I think the pro-MKers are failing to realize is that we all were working the business or we never would have made it to directorship. We started the career path recruiting one consultant, possibly to get our pearls of sharing. We were encouraged along the lines of a full circle business… holding appointments and inviting guests to our meetings. For the most part, it wasn’t until we got in range of Future Director status that things started getting questionable. If you haven’t “won” a car yet in Mary Kay, you have no room to criticize anyone who is sharing their “negative” struggle. You have no clue.

At that point in your career, when the minutes of the month end are ticking down, you will be placed in a character revealing moment. To Mary Kay, you must find a way or make a way. That’s Mary Kay Character. But I really wonder what kind of character is really being revealed? When your Director asks you to find a good customer who would be willing to “help you win your car,”  and to tell that customer “you only need one more,” when you need three, and you go ahead and DO it… you have stepped over the line. A line that will be tested again and again and again.

In Mary Kay career path growth, this is entirely okay. In fact it is applauded. And you slowly learn that the moment will be passed quickly as the next goal is placed before you. You have no time to reflect on what you have done, no time to evaluate, no time to concern yourself with ethics because its 1, 3, 5, 8, 16, 24, 50 recruits. Each of those numbers represents a “goal” in Mary Kay.

You will become a future Director with 8 active, possibly doing that last $225 activation on your own credit card, and you will get your FACE on the cover of the newsletter and your NSDl will snuggle up close to you, and you will be praised to success, and all eyes will gaze at your celebrity, and your fraud will become a dim memory. Until the next time you need it.

I am noticing that sellers of Mary Kay products, real sellers, aren’t rabid recruiters. Naturally they wouldn’t be. They figured out that customers buy at a 100% markup. (duh!) Recruiting commission will never be 50%, so the very basic simple math is sell to consumers and leave the career path alone. If you can handle intermittent sales at a 60/40 split, and know that that is not ever going to be a “living wage,” Mary Kay is no problem for you. Mary Kay is a helluva problem for those of us who were coerced up the career path, believed our directors, and found a way or made one…

Once we learned to “maneuver” reality for the sake of the goal, were applauded for it, and whisked to the next goal so we never had to really face the fact that we were doing many unethical things, or let’s say, “expedient” things, the rhythm of the business became ingrained in us. Every move choreographed to one focus. Grow the Unit.

Years went by. No one the wiser about what we did to reach the constant challenges. Didn’t matter, the next one was already in place. And this could go on forever because questioning our ethics was never a part of MK directorship training. It was NEVER a topic at a NSD meeting. Why? Because they simply could not fake that level of hypocrisy. Getting the JOB DONE was what was celebrated… whatever it takes. And as long as no one talked about it… no one knew just how bad it was. Piling up years of questionable activity, and teaching offspring, DIQs and Team Leaders to do the same, never had to be faced.

Those of you who come from the pro-MK world, are either oblivious to the “insider” world of the directors, or in denial about what your current situation really is, or too new to know better. For career path consultants it is just painful to face what we really have done to get where we are. It is painful to realize we trusted in innocence, followed in blind faith, cauterized our own consciences and then became the predator ourselves. An old Indian proverb states “You have not earned the right to criticize me, unless first, you have wept for me.”

Oh, and one more thing. Before you spout off again how easy it is to sell Mary Kay and how fabulous your sales are, can you at least make Court of Sales a few times? It would go a long way toward giving you some actual credibility. (And YES, you have to actually sell those products that got you to Court of Sales. )


  1. Frosty Rose

    “At that point in your career, when the minutes of the month end are ticking down, you will be placed in a character revealing moment.”

    Excellent points, Raisinberry. I would add that by the time you reach this point in your career, the character that you brought to MK has already been eroded/corroded to the point where it’s a given that you’ll step over this fine ethical line. Of course, in breeching this moral boundary, you further corrode your character. What seems very black and white from outside the pink fog bleeds slowly to gray with every questionable decision that your senior director and national applaud you for.

  2. Popinki

    “Those of you who come from the pro-MK world, are either oblivious to the “insider” world of the directors, or in denial about what your current situation really is, or too new to know better.”

    Raisinberry’s articles are always great, and this one’s no exception. This line especially highlights the disconnect between the average Friday critics and the veterans. A lot of the critics seem to be n00bs who just joined. Sure your director doesn’t pressure you to buy inventory at first – because a new recruit counts towards the enforced purchasing… I mean production… that lets her keep her car without a copay. You can say you’re just going to sell on-demand to a few loyal customers and yourself for the 50% discount.

    Give it a try and keep an eye on your director. Did she bother to tell you that you have to spend at least $225 wholesale every 3 months to keep that discount? Is she urging you to stock up on your favorites so you’ll always have them, and your customers’ faves so you have them ready to go, and stuff to have on hand for gifts and whatnot? In fact, with the purchase of a $600 “store” think how many more people you could make happy?

    That’s the pressure people talk about, and it’s simply because you’re not making her any money if you don’t spend at least $600 a month. If somehow you manage to withstand the pressure, and don’t care about paying full retail for your MK (lolWUT) watch how fast your friendly, supportive director ghosts you.

    Another critic is the one who has either been an IBC for a long time, or on and off over the years. They might have vague dreams about being a director someday, but have no idea what it actually entitles. These are the ones who like to sound off about how “sales isn’t for everyone” and “you didn’t work hard enough” and a million variations on “it’s not the company. It’s you.”

    Yet the stories of those who have been through the directorship grind are similar enough that those arguments are just silly. Is everyone just bad at sales, even though there are those here who have made lucrative, successful careers in sales? Are there no hard workers, when their stories are full of exactly how hard they worked and tried, and plenty of folks here are continuing their educations, owning businesses, and doing very well at non-MK careers?

    Are you repeating that because it’s just what you’ve been told and you never bothered to think about it, or do you honestly believe it? Or do you not believe it but say it anyway because you want it to be true? That would put you into the “delusional” category, and unfortunately nothing anyone can do or say will matter. But try exploring those feelings and why you’re having them. And hopefully, if your pink bubble pops, you’ll be floating over a mattress and not the sidewalk.

    1. Data Junkie

      Great points Popinki about Raisinberry’s great post. I just wanted to clarify that the $225 wholesale actually costs the IBC closer to $250 after “double sales tax” and shipping. Why do I call it double sales tax? Because you are paying tax on 200% ($450 full retail) of the price of your purchase, not 100%. If your local tax is 5%, your effective “retail” tax is 10%, meaning you will pay $248 for that $225 wholesale. Add $18 shipping and you are up to $265. This is your quarterly minimum cost just to stay active.

      It is accurate to say that “staying qualified” in Mary Kay costs an IBC/SD over $1000/year (depending on local sales tax), whether or not they ever sell a single item. Multiply that by the number of MK consultants/SDs and you can see why Mary Kay Corporate is so profitable. With 3.5M consultants worldwide, if all stay qualified, would generate the $3.5B in gross revenue for Mary Kay annually, all without a single product sold to an outside customer. (Note: data from Wikipedia, for what it’s worth.)

      Meanwhile, MK claims you don’t need to purchase inventory to start and run a Mary Kay business. But without the $1000 minimum annual investment, you have no discount, so you will have no choice but to sell above full retail if you want to make any money. SDs are on the hook for this $1000 as well to qualify for commissions on down-line orders.

      Good luck selling above MSRP…only your grandma is likely to pay that much!

      Bottom line: Plan on spending at least $1000/year on your MK “business”, then hope and pray you can sell those qualifying purchases to cover these minimum business costs!

      1. Frosty Rose

        “MK claims you don’t need to purchase inventory to start and run a Mary Kay business.”

        All respect for the commenters who haven’t been directly involved in MK–you bring a level of research that I, for one, have not done. And I think you understand the manipulation that goes on in MLMs from a more clinical perspective.

        But almost anyone who has ever been in Mary Kay will tell you that “you don’t need to purchase inventory” is not the conversation that happens AFTER you sign up as a new recruit. Rather, it’s the first half of an extraordinarily manipulative conversation. “You don’t HAVE to purchase inventory, but good business women find that it’s a much better investment of your time and money to have products on hand. You do WANT to be a good, smart businesswoman, don’t you?” as she makes an uncomfortable level of eye contact and probably has her hand on yours. Followed at regular intervals (almost always at the end of the month) by calls to be a good “team player” and to “stretch” and to grow your “deserve level.” And a bunch of tripe about being the kind of follower you want to have when YOU’RE a director.

        1. Data Junkie

          So true Frosty. And being the geek that I am, I love revealing the underlying math that exposes MLM lies. But I was also trying to show that even the simple statement “You don’t need to purchase inventory…” is itself an outright lie. You simply CANNOT run the business MK is promoting WITHOUT committing to at least $1000 per year in personal outlays, regardless of any opportunistic front-loading. Even a $1000 initial order will only hold you over for one quarter. Next quarter? You still need to shovel out $250 to stay active.

          But onto the manipulation you wisely mention. The benefits to maximizing front-loading go WELL beyond those qualifying minimums. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as they say. If they can’t get an IBC to buy hundreds or thousands up front, they will get it anyway if they can get the IBC to stick with it for a year or more. But that is the rub. SDs may only get one chance to squeeze a big order out of most new IBCs, so there is great pressure to “get while the gettin’s good”.

          Once IBCs get a handle on the ridiculous requirements to stay qualified, I have a feeling most get a bad taste in their mouth and start working on their exit strategy, which likely includes, “How do I return my MK product”, which just happens to land them on Pink Truth. But for those poor ladies who choose to stay in, the pressure to order comes back again and again, each time with an increasingly bizarre invocation of guilt and/or other forms of manipulation.

          It’s crazy that this company is still in business.

          1. Frosty Rose

            I hear you, DJ. I saw what you were saying. It’s really common for people to only focus on the $1,000 minimum when the reality is much much higher. Star consultant prizes are awarded at $1,800 w/s (excluding tax and shipping) per quarter. Director and nsd “consistency contests” award prizes for $1,000 w/s per MONTH! Unfortunately, many new consultants are fueled in the early months by pity purchases from their family and friends who want to be supportive. And by then, if they’re following their director’s guidance, they’re fully immersed in the pink fog.

      2. Mountaineer95

        I’ve always wondered about the sales tax that MK collects from the consultant on that full retail price. To what entity does MK Inc pay it? Texas? Or do they send it to the state of residence of the consultant who buys it? Either way, we know that so much of the product is sold below “retail” if even sold at all. So the states (or state of Texas) are receiving sales tax that wasn’t actually “sold”, I guess. How is that lawful? Especially if it all goes to Texas…that’s a LOT of money they’re receiving that they shouldn’t be.

        1. Data Junkie

          Sales tax for online orders is paid based on the delivery address. It is actually possible to get a sales tax overpayment back from the government if you sell below full retail or if the item was for personal use.

          But I can’t see many of these Mary Kay CEOs taking the time to file for this credit. But it is available to them.

        2. Lazy Gardens

          Prepaid sales tax goes to the state, county and/or city … usually the state gets it and distributes it to the others.

          MLMs have to do this because so many of their reps were FAILING to collect proper tax.

    2. Coralrose

      I’m so glad you mentioned the pressure to order, & what it looks like because at first it might not feel like pressure, or that you’re being convinced to order. At first it felt like “coaching”. You think your director is helping you be successful. Your director can’t come right out & tell you you need to order this month, even if you won’t sell it, so she gets a bigger commission. That would never work! So she presents it like ordering is benefitting you. That somehow having product on your shelves will equal more sales. Also, the pressure starts mild & gets more intense the longer you’re in MK.

      1. Char

        “You think your director is helping you be successful. Your director can’t come right out & tell you you need to order this month, even if you won’t sell it, so she gets a bigger commission. That would never work! So she presents it like ordering is benefitting you.”—

        That is one of the most manipulative lies in MLM companies like Mary Kay. To sum it up, “It’s not about you; it’s about them.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *