How I Got Into Mary Kay Debt

Written by Pinkpeace

How many times have we heard it or read it? “No one put a gun to your head to make you go into debt.” Well, technically Ms. Kaybot, that is a true statement. Years ago when I was given the inventory talk, I don’t recall my sales director pulling out her .45, placing it at my temple, and removing the safety.

But I do recall her insistence that the very best way to run a Mary Kay business was with a “full store.” That was a $3,600 wholesale order, and with tax and shipping, it was around $4,000.

Now, I had studied all the materials my director had given me about Mary Kay, and there was a lot. I started with the new consultant’s guide and perused dozens of back issues of Applause. I read the equivalent of today’s Advance brochure and I read ad slicks of testimonials by top MKers such as Gloria Mayfield (no “Banks” back then).

I really thought I was doing due diligence before I made a decision to start selling Mary Kay part-time. Back then, I had no Internet access (also there were no sites like Pink Truth back then to help women discover the other side), and as far as I knew, Mary Kay was just another cosmetics business, not a multi-level company.

I also respected my sales director and truly believed she had my best interests at heart. She told me that the most successful consultants in Mary Kay start off with a $3,600 order or more. She directed women at her sales meeting to tell me that they all wished they had started with the $3,600 order. She told me that I would sell through that in probably a month, since I already had about 8 skin care classes lined up.

She told me that she personally started with a $3,600 order and never regretted it. I was a smart woman, wasn’t I? Wouldn’t I take advice from someone who has been in the business a long time, was driving a Cadillac and was wearing Queen’s Court rings? Obviously she was doing something right, and I would be foolish not to listen to her.

So I went into debt for $4,000 to start my business. Yay! But I was sure I would sell it, and my director told me I would get a free lipstick from her for getting my order postmarked before the end of the month. What a deal!

I was all set to start selling these boxes and boxes of products, then realized that I didn’t have any business cards. I didn’t have any product labels. I only had 25 Styrofoam trays and sales tickets. It would not be good to run out of business supplies in the middle of my first month! So I ordered business cards, labels, a stamper, a beauty coat, trays, profiles, sales tickets, etc.

Oh, and look at all the cute things on Section 2! I should definitely have a Mary Kay money bag – that’s great. All my hostesses will want the brush set – better get 5 or 6 of those. Oh, and acrylic nail caddies! I love them! I’ll get a couple for me and a couple for my hostesses who will have follow-up manicure classes. And what if my customers want to try colors? I need at least two packs each of all the lipsticks, eye shadows, cheek colors, eye liners, lip liners, and eyebrow pencils. Whoops – almost forgot the fragrances. There, that should do it.

So those purchases added another $400 or so to my credit card, and I couldn’t turn around and sell them to recoup any of that money. I could only write them off as business expenses, but as my director kept saying, “You have to spend money to make money.”

I was selling products and replenishing my inventory, but it was never as simple as always having 6 cleansers on-hand or 3 of each color. Invariably there would be a week when 4 people wanted a Dusty Rose lipstick, and I’d have to place an order for them. Or I would book a skin care class for African-American women (I’m Caucasian) and would want one of each foundation in darker shades, so I would have whatever they would need.

This was back before the days of the Earned Discount Privilege. You had to make a minimum $200 wholesale order to get a 50% discount EACH TIME you placed an order, no matter how many times you ordered in the month or what size your previous order was. So I ended up ordering products I didn’t need, just to get the ones I did. And I ended up adding to my credit card bill to make that happen.

But the real credit crunch began when I went into car production, then into DIQ. Any time there is a contest or a commission involved in your business, there is a potential to run up your credit card bill. Read the following scenarios that I experienced and see if any apply to you:

  1. In a given month, 5 of my team members ordered, and I personally ordered $400. In order to get the maximum 13% commission check, I would have to order another $200. According to my director, if the difference between a 9% commission check and a 13% commission check is more than the $200, it would be foolish NOT to place the $200 order. Of products I don’t need or want.
  2. I am only $400 away from the Queen’s Court of Sales at my very first Seminar!! Oh my gosh, can I picture the ring on my finger, the walk across Seminar stage, the envious looks from everyone who sees my Queen’s Court sash? Obviously, I’m good at selling the product, or I wouldn’t have gotten this close in the first place. What’s another $400, especially when I can sell those products later on? When I get to Seminar, if I didn’t dig deep and go for that Queen’s Court, I would just kick myself the entire time I was there. Hey – I can have a 50% off sale and make sure I go across that stage with that ring.
  3. Yowza!! The company has just started a new program where you can earn the first car in 3 months instead of 4! And I’ve already broken unit records in months 1 and 2! I can go across stage at Career Conference and have that car all wrapped up if I only put in $300 more this month. For Pete’s sake, I’m going to have a free car and insurance. What’s $300 when I’ll recoup that and more when I sell my non-Mary Kay car.
  4. It’s. The. Last. Month. Of. DIQ……….. This has been harder than childbirth, and I never want to go through it again! I need two more bodies and $800 in production and I’LL BE DONE. I’m sure my sister-in-law and my cousin will let me use their names and I’ll just keep their $200 minimum orders. So that’s $400 in production, $200 in starter kits, and I just need to kick in another $400 in orders myself. What’s $1000, when I will be making those big director commissions starting next month?

There was no gun to my head. But there was the expectation that I would recoup money spent through future sales and big director checks. I also was expected to be “the speed of the leader” so that my team, and eventually my unit, would have a role model in this business. It’s so easy to think that a couple of hundred here and there don’t mean much, but they add up quickly for trouble down the road.


  1. They’re not putting a gun to your head but they’re certainly kidnapping your wallet for ransom. And no matter how much ransom you pay, they keep changing the terms so you have to keep on paying and they never have to give the darn thing back to you.

  2. I think it is fair to say that Mary Kay isn’t putting a literal gun to your head. But even the gun metaphor is designed to minimize the very real manipulation that goes on in Mary Kay, as Pinkpeace so wonderfully lays out.

    Your physical health and safety may not be immediately on the line, but these tactics are very cleverly chosen to exploit good-natured women by luring them into doing things they would not otherwise do, through small, incremental decisions that add up to significant financial actions that benefit Mary Kay first. Any subsequent financial benefit to the consultant/director is speculative at best.

    Thank you Pinkpeace.

  3. All of this is spot on, and it doesn’t even mention the guilt trips..”don’t you want a better life for your children?” directed at already struggling single mothers. “Don’t you want to be able to stay home with your kids?” directed at the already guilt-ridden working mothers. “Don’t you want to ease the burden of your husband?” directed at the stay at home mother who already struggles with feeling like a financial burden.

    No, there’s no gun held to anyone’s head, but there is certainly an absurd amount of manipulation by women who are TRAINED to play on the weaknesses of their “friends”.

  4. June is the month where all of the manipulation techniques will be kicked into high gear. Not only is it Seminar year end but it’s also the 60th anniversary celebration. The consultomers will be out in full force! RUN!

  5. I still remember her phrase to make me buy the inventory “it’s like if you walk into a shoe store and see that they don’t have any shoes in stock” They don’t put a gun to your head but 100% manipulate you to buy the inventory pack.

Comments are closed.

Related Posts