Mary Kay Inc. Has Always Been Bad

Written by Raisinberry

Contrary to popular belief, the abusive state of affairs in Mary Kay didn’t start with the record breakers in the last 10t to 15 years. These were ladies who figured out where to concentrate their time, and selling skin care wasn’t it. Women like Dacia Weigandt and Jamie Taylor and other “do it fast” directors and NSDs simply exposed a long term problem.

If you want to be enlightened, stop attending unit meetings for 3 weeks. Women who are away from events long enough to lose some of the hype have a better chance at being restored to sanity. Then take a look at what I have to say here.

Let me prove my case that Mary Kay has always been a bad company:

1. Mary Kay Ash knew and accepted large turnover. She is the one who said, “If you don’t recruit 10 monthly, you are going backwards.” What does that say? If the opportunity was so great, wouldn’t every new recruit add to your numbers? No? So less than 10 means you are losing recruits. So, from now on, you are in a never ending churn of personnel who you get very excited about, but who will quit because success in MK is not as “easy” as they make it appear. Mary Kay knew this from the beginning.

2. You must get an average $1,000 per recruit on start-up inventory. Since so many will not activate at all, and most will come in with something and be gone in 6 to 8 months, you MUST get star orders IMMEDIATELY with whomever has the means or credit. So this business of starting smaller at $600 or multiples of $200 isn’t really going to get you the overall result, is it? Frontloading is a NECESSITY, to make the turnover numbers work. Wonder why you are spinning your wheels? You are probably a more ethical Director who doesn’t take advantage of women outright.

3. Now bringing this up to your NSD will get a great “overcome the objection” response that will sound like, “Every retail company has turnover…” But what is the reality of Mary Kay? What do you think would happen if every company in America lost 50% of its retail sales force every month, as Mary Kay does? How much “skill” would be flushed and wasted? They quit because the promises are not real, and so that is why there is no real reason to train anyone…in anything other than “book, sell, book, recruit” and how to warm stalk new potential leads. UNITS are built on a continuous flushing in and out of personnel, racing ahead of attrition with hopes that you can snag one or two to commit to the car or DIQ, where you can extract another year out of them before they wise up and save their financial picture.

The ones like me, who didn’t wise up but were naive enough to believe what my NSD was selling, keep pressing on to MAKE IT to directorship in order to hopefully make enough money to pay down their credit card debt. Since no one knows that this is the hidden reality behind the stage, with probably 90% of all directors, we suffered in silence and ignorance.

4. Since 50% leave, 50% must be recruited to stay dead even. Your National NEEDS you to “move on up” to keep the replacement drones rolling in. A typical newbie will give 3 months to 2 years. It is expected that she will wash out, so nobody is that concerned with attrition. It’s a numbers game, ladies! We need the numbers! (Also a Mary Kayism).

5. Every year at Seminar, a number of women wise up and come home more aware than ever that Mary Kay is a legal pyramid scheme. They sent their product back for 90% repurchase. It was their right, but every director with advance warning tries to head that off at the pass. This also was taught by Mary Kay Ash. “Don’t close the door forever!”

Back in the day, I am sure Mary Kay Ash expected women to be more ethical, with abuses at a minimum, but she also expected that you would average 2 recruits a month and hold 5 to 10 classes a week. With all that activity, she STILL knew about attrition! Imagine the financial wreckage of holding only 5 classes a MONTH, and still losing personnel at the same rate!

More than 55 years later, the grim reality is that customers are scarcer than ever before, the reputation of consultants is that of chasing recruits, the product is seen as an average product with high cost, and few women overall think that a Mary Kay party is a new and fresh idea when compared to other ways to spend their time.

Will Mary Kay change or accommodate the perceptions of the consumer today? It doesn’t appear so. The company can pretend to the media that they are so on-trend with recruiting the younger generation, but they are still doing things the same way. The sales leadership force still trudges on with the same tired scripts and relies on the tried and true ability of the NSD’s “I-story”, told by a savvy National, to snare and trap their prey. Why change what works? They aren’t interested in consultant sales to consumers.


  1. Well said Raisinberry. Just one thing…

    “Back in the day, I am sure Mary Kay Ash expected women to be more ethical…”

    I disagree. I believe those women were just more polite about screwing you over back then. Mary Kay Ash was actually able to make people feel good while being exploited.

    • Yes … Mary Kay, in her various books, reveals the unethical things she did: using the church membership list to sell her books to, telling an IBC to lie about being in a contest to get sympathy bookings, pressuring employees to have their wives book sales parties for her, lying about her dad’s health for sympathy, concealing her marital history to make her look like a single mom overcoming odds instead of a married woman living near the country club with her son in boarding school and her 2 other kids married.

      It’s a loooong list of shady practices going back to her early years.

      • She strikes me as one of those fortunately rare charismatic shitheads who could say night was day and have people wearing sunglasses at midnight and fumbling around blindly at noon. She knew how to exploit the scruples of others (“Be polite and don’t make a scene. Humor your husband’s boss so he won’t catch hell at work. Church is a big part of my life and I can’t risk my standing there.”) while having none herself.

        None of her successors have had the same kind of pull, but by the time she died, the spin she gave her life had replaced the reality and she’d become this perfect plaster saint with no mention of the woman she really was allowed.

  2. “Why change what works? They aren’t interested in consultant sales to consumers.”

    Great article as always, but that line really hits the nail smack on the head. As long as the same tired old scripts can get newbies to frontload, and keep IBCs buying production to chase directorship, and directors trying to buy NSDship, the dollars will keep rolling in to corporate’s pockets. They don’t care what happens to the stuff as long as it’s bought.

    Added to MK’s culture of toxic positivity, peer pressure, and hiding the truth to keep people from speaking out or taking advantage of the 90% buyback, Corporate is sitting in the catbird seat. And everyone else gets to sit on a patch of stinging nettles and pretend it’s a throne.

    Speaking of the buyback, dear lurkers, that only exists because it’s required by Texas law. It’s not something MK does out of the goodness of its heart no matter what they tell you.

    • Speaking of the buyback policy, MK Corp does everything possible to hold onto as much money as possible and for as long as possible. I hear it takes at least six weeks to get a refund.

  3. Well said! This paragraph truly stuck with me, especially after a weekend conversation with friends about cosmetics, what we wear at work, how to apply color…

    “More than 55 years later, the grim reality is that customers are scarcer than ever before, the reputation of consultants is that of chasing recruits, the product is seen as an average product with high cost, and few women overall think that a Mary Kay party is a new and fresh idea when compared to other ways to spend their time.”

    There is nothing elite about MK products. They are average at best, and they are not trendy. The weekend conversation focused on products we could buy at Target, Walmart, Ulta, and Amazon. My friends were only interested in expensive products if they were the holy grail. Who wants to spend $20 on a lipstick you’ll only wear once or twice a month when you can buy a NYX lip gloss for less than $10 and wear it every day? They don’t want the MLM hun chasing them down, shoving samples for overpriced items at them.

  4. Do you know why college students and recent graduates are targeted? Because they haven’t lived life enough to know about legal pyramid schemes like Mary Kay, the now defunct Lularoe and the like. Ladies, remember, recruiting a customer turns them into YOUR competition! Why? As a customer, you made up to 50% profit from them. As a part of your downline, you might get 4% if you get into a red jacket. 0% if you don’t.

  5. I’ve long believed Mary Kay (seven last names) Ash was not the saint she is presented as. She knew EXACTLY what she was doing.

  6. Raisin, you are so right. I once had a very wealthy customer who loved Satin Hands. She was wonderful, so kind, so wise, she had escaped Germany during the war. The stories she told me! She took me to lunch at THE club in our city one day, it was grand and glorious and everything I had imagined a lunch at the club could be. There were two women at a table next to us refreshing their Estee Lauder makeup. I was so humiliated. That was a huge flag that I could not ignore! These women would use MK? No way in hell.

  7. This really hit home with me when I saw the documentary about Lula Roe on Prime. It struck me that the tactics were exactly the same. The personalities were extremely similar. The only real difference was that MK had time to adjust to the market before the explosive power of social media selling. With limited reach in the 60’s, the growing pains weren’t as dramatic with Mary Kay because growth was limited to the reach of a one-on-one phone call.

    MLM is MLM is MLM. The product is irrelevant (if you listen long enough, hardcore MK’ers will tell you so). What matters is the opportunity. The dream. The chance to own your own business for the low, low price of a star consultant order. Until you stop ordering, of course. And then you find out what your director really meant when she said she’d match her time with your effort.

  8. That picture of MK is terrifying. For someone selling “image”, a series of bad decisions happened in letting that into public domain. Thanks for the nightmares, Tracy.


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