Tell me about Mary Kay.
February 16, 2004 9:36 PM   Subscribe

My wife is considering getting into Mary Kay. The sales pitch sounds good, and everyone she knows who's involved with it has said it's a good thing. So naturally I'm suspicious that it's too good to be true. Is there a catch? Anyone had personal experience with Mary Kay?
posted by oissubke to Work & Money (20 answers total)
Mary Kay is MLM / Pyramid Scheme.

Basically, that means unless you are going to be *D*E*D*I*C*A*T*E*D* you will be the runt, and you'll be screwed over as bad as they can make it happen. Yes, my mom was the runt. As a side business, it's absolute crap. But you do get to keep all the cosmetics inventory you buy, even when you quit. That could be considered a bad thing...

Think Amway, but with Pink Cadillacs.

posted by shepd at 10:20 PM on February 16, 2004

All of the home-party-selling-stuff companies are a MLM scheme in one way or another. By recruiting others to sell and selling over and above a certain level of product you will advance to a higher and higher levels of management. However, that doesn't change the fact that you will make money, you will be selling a product with a good reputation and an actual value and if you have been recruited in by someone who isn't a psycho about it you can be left alone to sell in the way you're most comfortable. Or so I've experienced -- a roommate of mine sold Mary Kay just to help with her expenses when we were in school, and I don't think she was under much pressure about it. It was definitely a sideline to her education, but she did a decent business. I think she even sold to a couple of profs.

ObDis: My perspective comes from my mom's experience selling Avon (A little less rah-rah-rah than Mary Kay by all reports.) and my sister's experience in Tupperware. We spent about an hour discussing this just this past weekend. Neither of them are making a career out of it, they just let people know "You can buy from me, want a catalog/link to my dedicated website?" and the products sell themselves, and their "uplines" don't bug them any more than regular cheery e-mails encouraging them to come to optional training meetings which they blow off. (The optional meetings are where you drink the Kool-Aid. The mandatory meetings are so hokey that anyone with individuality or dignity just sits there rolling their eyes until it's over.)
posted by Dreama at 2:52 AM on February 17, 2004

My wife got into it briefly, based on the statement from the local rep that, "you can start without spending money". Which translated a week later into, "but you need to put your car back up as collateral"....something my wife didn't want to do. Sure it was rah-rah, but then started to clash with what they're really pushing.

In Mary Kay, you're only making the top level people, ie pink caddy's, richer. You're not gonna get a car, unless you have people under you plus making $20k a year. Think about how many wives, single mothers, etc are selling Mary Kay and then divide that by trying to get into an already diluted market.

It also depends on the group she wants to join. Some insist on keeping a stock (more $ for the pink ladies) while others do not have a problem with trading products with the other reps to get the client's product.

So be careful, because it can be a frustrating thing that could eventually cost you more money than what it's worth.
posted by mkelley at 6:23 AM on February 17, 2004

I forgot to add that my wife has been a registered cosmetologist for about 5-6 years and attended cosmetology school before that, so she's already in "the business" and just wanted something to supplement her income. She has a lot of resources at her disposal, along with her training in hair, nails, and makeup. However, the shiftiness of the Mary Kay group, to which she belonged, made her pull back.
posted by mkelley at 6:35 AM on February 17, 2004

Everyone I know who was involved (in either Mary Kay or Avon) quit after a year or so. Several of them were stuck with boxes and boxes of merchandise. Be careful.

Speaking as a consumer, why would I be dependant on someone to order cosmetics for me when I can go online and do so myself?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2004

everyone she knows who's involved with it has said it's a good thing

Yes, they have to say that, in order to A) minimize cognitive dissonance, B) try to rope your wife in, and C) maintain the "think successful" mantra that's a huge element of all these schemes (if you're having doubts about the program, you see, that's only because you're not succeeding, and if you're not succeeding, that's only because of your negative attitude about the program—nice circular logic there).

She should talk to someone who was involved with it and no longer is.
posted by staggernation at 6:40 AM on February 17, 2004

She should talk to someone who was involved with it and no longer is.

Or, conversely, she should talk to people who are involved with it and like it. Such vitriol! There are two sides to every story, obviously, and every work-from-home opportunity comes with both an upside and a downside.

From what I know on the business side, Mary Kay is reputable and rewarding for those who get into it and enjoy it. If your wife is the kind of person who is easily discouraged and won't be motivated to clear out boxes of pre-ordered merchandise, she should consider looking elsewhere.
posted by werty at 7:07 AM on February 17, 2004

I once looked into Mary Kay. The thing that turned me off was the pantyhose part of the Mary Kay Image.
posted by LeiaS at 7:20 AM on February 17, 2004

I'm currently working in a weird offshoot of the whole MLM/work from home/informercial world, and I can confirm the basics of what people are saying above. Mary Kay...Tupperware... etc... It would be incorrect to describe those companies as scams, but it's very, very common for people to get involved, spend a bunch of money, then discover that they aren't really as fond of pushing these products on their friends and families as they thought they'd be. As a consequence, people tend to drop out within a year. There are, of course, exceptions -- some folks, for whatever reason, do very well. But it ain't easy.

By the way - for shepd... mlm <> pyramid scheme. Of course, there are parallels, but an organization like Mary Kay's primary focus isn't the recruitment of new members, which is where you can draw a distinction.
posted by ph00dz at 7:38 AM on February 17, 2004

Or, conversely, she should talk to people who are involved with it and like it.

Yeah, I guess my point was that people who are actively involved with it have various reasons to say they like it, even if they do not. That's not to say they don't genuinely like it, but simply that their claiming to like it may not be a useful data point.
posted by staggernation at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2004

By the way - for shepd... mlm <> pyramid scheme. Of course, there are parallels, but an organization like Mary Kay's primary focus isn't the recruitment of new members, which is where you can draw a distinction.

Perhaps, but it is similar to a pyramid scheme in that the more new members you sign up, the more money you can make.
posted by shepd at 8:01 AM on February 17, 2004

I have worked with a few women who sold Mary Kay and enjoyed it well enough to keep at it. They weren't totally drawn into the business, and definitely did not subscribe to that scary Mary Kay image liked above by LeiaS. These women basically sold to the make-up wearing women in our office and in neighboring offices in the same building as a little bit of side money and a way to get cheap/free cosmetics.

I actually considered taking over one woman's business as a consultant under her when she moved to Ohio. I would have a ready-made client base and she assured me that she would take the same casual attitude with my involvement as she took with her own. (I'm about as far from the MK Image as it's humanly possible to get. I hardly ever wear make up, even. I just like to own it. And it would be a cold day in hell that I'd exhibit the Stepford saleswoman look and attitude in LeiaS's link. Yick.)

I eventually decided not to do it because I didn't have the $200 start up fee, I was concerned that I wouldn't have time to follow up on the very basics, and, mostly, I felt ideologically at odds with the whole purpose of Mary Kay, which was developed to give good Christian women an opportunity to contribute to the financial success of their households without risking the abandonment of their womanly duties or Christian values by working outside of their home. As a feminist atheist who thinks a woman's working decisions should be based on her personal choice and circumstances and not tradition or religous values, I just couldn't do it.

So, I think YW(ife's)MMV. If she gets along with her... whaddayacallit... director or whatever, and has the same goals for the endeavor, she'd probably have a good time. If she wants a casual way to make a few extra bucks and pick up some free Mary Kay, and her director wants a pink Caddie, she might have problems.

I saw an article somewhere about lesbian Mary Kay reps that I wish I could find (googling "Lesbian Mary Kay" at work yeilds dubious results). It was an interesting perspective.
posted by jennyb at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2004

...And, of course, some people think MaryKay, Amway, and their ilk are simply evil organisations dedicated to the unapologetic plunder of the credulous and the ignorant.

P.T. Barnum is smiling in his oversize grave.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:04 AM on February 17, 2004

Surely it would be oversensitive of me to assume that you are calling me credulous and ignorant, right, adamgreenfield?
posted by jennyb at 1:21 PM on February 17, 2004

Well, I'd say she shouldn't do it, simply because I hate hate HATE it when "friends" try to sell me things and/or draw me into their pyramid schemes. I used to work at an office where this stuff ran rampant-- Mary Kay, Amway, Pampered Chef, Longaberger, Weekenders, etc. Holy Christ, it was annoying. I swear I was the only woman in the whole building who wasn't peddling stuff. If you are trying to sell me your overpriced crap, then you've decided I'm not your friend, I'm your mark. I've got no use for "friends" who are more interested in lightening my wallet than actually being my friend.
posted by Shoeburyness at 4:14 PM on February 17, 2004

I got dragged to a Mary Kay event whilst in grad school by another one of those so-called "friends," and somehow managed to win the free $200 start-up kit when they drew my name out of a hat of other suckers -- er, friends of "friends" who had come to an Exciting Motivational Event that would Change Our Lives! ANYhoo, within a week, when I was desperately trying to get out of becoming a rep by explaining how much work I had to do (what with that silly master's thesis and teaching three classes and being on the steering committee of our nascent union), I was strongly urged to quit my program and take out a loan to finance my new and exciting career in preparation for raising a family, because how on earth was I going to find a husband and have babies if I just spent all that time in school or rabble-rousing with a bunch of tacky unionists who would never ever love me as much as my Mary Kay sisters who could see the beauty shining out from my very center, and did you bring your checkbook with you, dear?
posted by scody at 4:43 PM on February 17, 2004

None of which is to say that getting married and having babies is a bad thing, of course. Just that in my experience, I felt very much disrespected by several women in the Mary Kay organization for prioritizing other goals.
posted by scody at 4:46 PM on February 17, 2004

jennyb, yes it would. No such implication was made by me...but I'm not so sure the same could be said for the management of these charming institutions.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:07 PM on February 17, 2004

Okay, thanks adamgreenfield! Ice cream for everybody!

PS Oh my stars, scody... that story pissed me off and I'm just reading a quick second hand account of it. Quit school and sell Mary Kay???? Oy vey.
posted by jennyb at 6:12 AM on February 18, 2004

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