Mary Kay can be a wonderful business opportunity for some women. For others it can be a nighmare. For me, unfortunately, it was the later. This is my story.
I was first approached by a co-worker to buy Mary Kay. Word had gotten around the office that she was selling it and I made the mistake of asking her about it one day. It is a very nice product and you can only purchase Mary Kay through a consultant, although there is a black market of sorts for it on Ebay these days.
My co-worker was more than happy to share a current catalogue with me and invite me for a free facial. When I agreed to a facial she thought for a moment and suggested that as long as I was going to try the product out why didn’t I invite several of my friends. At the time I had no idea that this was part of the sales pitch. The theory goes that once a customer gets the product on their face that they can feel the difference and thus, the product sells itself. Plus the fact that it helps the consultant build a huge network of customers. This is the reason for all the Mary Kay parties, or Skin Care Classes as they are also called.
As it turns out, I had a couple of friends over one day so that we could have facials. During that time, my co-worker, whom I will call Michelle, went over the Mary Kay business plan briefly. She told me that as long as I was ordering from her I may as well make a profit on it too. I could save 50% just by becoming a consultant-all I had to do was to pay $100 for the consultant’s kit and place a small order every quarter. She convinced me that over time it would be well worth the money. This was actually true since consultants receive a nice discount for their products, at which they sell at retail value. I was assured that there would be no pressure to actually sell the product to other people.
Almost as soon as I signed up I was contacted by her director, who lived in another state. She told me that since she lived elsewhere she had arranged for another director to take me under her wing and allow me to attend her sales meetings. At this point I was wondering what I had gotten myself into since I had no plans on even selling the product. She convinced me that I should at least go to one meeting just so I could see what it was about. It would only be an hour or so of my time and I just might find myself embarking on another career. She related a story or two of women who had unintentionally fallen in love with the products so much that they had to share it with other people and in just a matter of time they were driving pink cadillacs.
Against my better judgment, I did go to that meeting. I also fell prey to the consultants there who just couldn’t get enough of sharing how much money they had made selling Mary Kay cosmetics. Being easily persuaded because I didn’t have my guard up, I thought if these women can do this maybe I should try it. The extra income was enticing. Quite possibly I already knew a few friends who might be willing to help me out some and recommend the makeup to other friends. These ladies made it seem so easy. And they were so supportive of each other, cheering each other on.
The next thing I knew I was purchasing a product showcase that the director assured me I could move really fast if I booked just a few shows with some of my friends. “The product sells itself after they put it on their face. You’ll see.” She kept telling me. I really believed this because at the sales meetings I learned all sorts of tips and tricks to move product faster. I learned techniques for approaching complete strangers and discussing their skincare regimen with them. I learned how to turn every friendship and acquaintance I had into a business venture.
It was nearing Christmastime and the director was giving tips for how to create pre-made Christmas gift baskets filled with makeup or skin care products or fragrance sets and market them to men. She even suggested going to car dealerships and car garages and other places where men are the dominant workers and reminding them that Christmas was fast approaching and I could help them with their shopping for wives and girlfriends. All they had to do was look at some of the gift baskets I had already made up. This was a complete stretch for me because I am shy by nature and I felt like a fool going into these places under this pretense. But I did it because the director said it was a good idea and would help to build my business.
My own director would call at least once a week to find out how I was doing building my business. When I would express my frustration that I felt all my friends were getting annoyed with me because I was pressuring them to help me and allow me to meet their other friends explicitly for the purpose of pedaling makeup, she would encourage me and say that it was only my perception. She would say that it took time to learn the business.
I did manage to get some business from some of my friends. Several co-workers ordered from me, particularly the men who did need gifts for their significant others. Somehow I did manage to sell that first product showcase but instead of hanging it up there and saying that I was finished my director called and convinced me that if I had done it once, I could do it again. And she promised that she would throw in several free skincare sets if I did place an order. She was making a cut from the Mary Kay cosmetics that I ordered and I knew this. But money was talking. Maybe she was right …I had done it before and could do it again. Besides, she said, I had yet to make my debut as a consultant so what I really needed to do was host an open house where people could drop in and try the product at their leisure. This sounded like a good idea so I went ahead and ordered the Mary Kay makeup and made up tons of flyers advertising my open house. Sadly, not one person showed up. Not even the friends that had assured me that they would come and support me. I was so discouraged because I was stuck with a bunch of products, out a ton of money, and cringed when I though of approaching anyone else-friends or complete strangers-to ask them to try Mary Kay products.
The next week my director called to see how my open house went. I was almost in tears because I was stuck with hundreds of dollars in products that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell. There is a loophole where you can send the money back to the headquarters and get a portion of your money back. The “catch” is that you can never be a Mary Kay consultant ever again. Also, since the director has already been paid a commission on the products that you have purchased, she has to have that money taken out of her next check. For this reason, directors never want you to send products back.
For the next three weeks I asked my director for instructions on how to send the makeup back to headquarters. She ignored my request each time, instead challenging me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get that product sold because she knew that I could do it.
I decided to take matters into my own hands. I looked up the contact information for the Mary Kay corporate headquarters and called to ask how to return products. Soon I had everything packed up and was hauling it to the post office. I didn’t give my director the courtesy of telling her that I had gone over her head and returned it anyway. Maybe that I should have, but I didn’t feel that she had given me much courtesy and respect in my short business relationship with her. Instead I believed all she had done was manipulate me. I certainly wasn’t feeling remorseful that I could never be a consultant again. That was the very last thing I ever wanted to do.
Within days I had a very nasty message on my voice mail from her. I was told that what I had done was disrespectful and low down and that she hoped that I knew I could never sell the product again and that she felt sure that one day I would regret it. From her perspective, Mary Kay cosmetics was a gift that had been given to me and a business opportunity that I would never be able to get again. From my perspective I was glad that I was finally washing my hands of that financial mistake. I finally had my self respect back, part of my money back, and my friends didn’t turn and run every time I approached them anymore.
This is simply my story. There are lots of others like it. Then there are also lots of other stories of women who have the gift of selling Mary Kay makeup and are quite successful with it. If you are approached by a consultant to sell the makeup, weigh your options carefully, take your time making the decision and don’t feel pressured. Make the decision with your head and not with your emotions when you hear what can be yours if you just sign on the dotted line.