Madison Colleen*, an ex-SeneGence distributor in America, has kindly offered to share her story with us. SeneGence is the MLM company that produces LipSense, as well as a wide range of skin care and other cosmetics. She joined in 2010, a lot earlier than most current distributors, so she has a really unique perspective on the company, and how it has performed over the last seven years.
When did you join SeneGence, and why did you decide to join?
Madison: I joined SeneGence in September 2010. I joined because a co-worker had begun selling the products, and was always doing videos, posting them on Facebook, and talking about them at work. However, I did not sign up with her, because I saw how pushy she was with people at work, trying to get them to place their orders every month, and trying to get everyone else at work to sign up. Everyone that wanted to buy products from her, she coerced them to sign up instead of just selling them the products they wanted.
I did not want that to happen to me as well, so I stalked around and found another lady in town who also was a distributor. I set up an appointment with her to sample some of the lip products. I went in to buy a couple of products with no intention of joining.
An hour later, I had a full makeover, was loaded down with the entire line of skin care and cosmetics from her stock, was signed up as a distributor, and had already placed my first order of everything used on my face to replace this lady’s products that she so generously let me get in advance. Plus she “helped” me order a few more products that we didn’t try, but she just knew I was going to love and would be kicking myself tomorrow that I didn’t go ahead and order the products, now that I had placed a big enough order to get it at 50% off.
I ordered over $1,000 worth of products that day, and all I went in for was a couple of lipsticks. Funny thing is, I didn’t buy from my co-worker because I didn’t want to be pressured into signing up, and here I was now with all this product and signed up “for personal use”. She assured me she would never pressure me to sell, even though she knew I would be a natural at it because I knew makeup. She could tell I was passionate about skin care, and she knew after I used this for a week I would want to share this with all of my friends — but, no pressure.
Wow! So, how did you feel in the weeks after joining? Did you start selling as well?
I had buyer’s remorse for sure. I was feeling really bad about signing up, but told myself that I was just going to buy for personal use. My upline was very persuasive. She would call me and tell me what big savings I could get if I just sold a couple hundred dollars’ worth every month, then I could buy my products for free, basically. And she would help me with parties and demos.
She had also talked me into buying the big demo kit for $275, telling me that I could sell whichever products I didn’t use myself. She also talked me into placing a big enough order to get my Fast Start kits, to give me even more free products.
I was so gullible. I wasn’t really looking at what the products were, I was just looking at FREE. And at the time, I did love the products. So, by now I had spent another $1,500, and over half the products I would never use. There were colors I wouldn’t wear, and skin care that wasn’t for my skin type.
So, after about six months, I decided to try to sell some of these products to get rid of the stock. I had a demo party, and invited about ten ladies. I held the party in the training center, which I had to pay to rent. My upline was there and totally took over the party. She was very good at selling products to these women. Since I had limited stock, she filled the orders out of her stock, and I had to place yet another order to replace all of the sales she made out of her stock.
By now, I was overwhelmed with this business. I was being pushed into sales when I never wanted to sell. I didn’t sign up under my friend because I didn’t want to ruin a friendship over stuff like this, and here I was, falling right into what I never wanted to be in.
My upline then talked me into becoming part of Jewel’s Royal Princesses* (JRP), where they would teach us newbies how to sell, and how to be successful. That’s when I became part of the cult of JRP hun bots. Every distributor within 100 miles was in the group. I paid my $50-a-month dues for them to teach me how to gently force my products on unsuspecting women, how to make videos that would make women want to buy, and how to deceive women into thinking my products could give you the same results as the Botox and Juvéderm that over half of these SeneBots were getting done. I hated it because I hate being misled or deceived, and cannot do that to others, but I knew I had all this product to move. So, I modified the training I received, to leave out the deceitful parts. I often got in trouble for saying that my smooth forehead was from Botox and not SeneGence’s wrinkle cream, and that no, their Lip Volumizer did not plump my lips. I was told to say it had helped tremendously. But I struggled to do videos and makeovers and sell it, for the next three years.
That all sounds horribly stressful. What was the tipping point for you? Was it a particular incident, or a gradual build-up of things?
It was a build-up. By year four, I had $5,000 on my credit card that I only used for SeneGence. I did an inventory, and I had over $4,000 worth of products just sitting there, and I hadn’t made any decent sales, other than a $50 sale here and there. But I was constantly being pressured to place orders, post more videos, host more parties etc. I was working a full-time job. Every weekend I was doing a stall at craft shows (which cost money, and I rarely made enough money to even cover the booth rental), or doing private parties that no one came to — or they would come to get the free samples and the door prizes, but not buy anything. I was also out of pocket for the refreshments for the parties, not to mention the time to do them.
I began to resent the company and their way of doing things.
My upline and Crown Princess were constantly telling us if we weren’t selling it, was our own fault, because the products sell themselves if we just tried harder.
But frankly, I got tired of looking like a trashy person with my arms painted up with products, accosting women I didn’t know in bathrooms and malls or airports. I got disillusioned. I started having sales, with greater than 15% discounts (which is the most allowed by the company), and got reported to SeneGence’s Compliance Department. After the third letter from Compliance I told Kelly in Compliance I was done, and told her to terminate me. And I quit that day.
That must have been a massive relief to you! As you were in for so long, and are aware of what SeneGence is saying nowadays, what things have really not changed at all since you joined, despite what they’ve promised? And which things have actually improved, if anything?
Madison: Nothing has changed for the better. It is declining, not improving. When I signed up, it was a “start-up company” [SeneGence was started in 1999, so by 2010, it had actually been running for 11 years] — so I was getting in on the “ground floor”. Supposedly.
It makes me chuckle to have the new girls say this nowadays, and then to defend it, because now it really IS on the ground floor and is fixing to explode.
The website has been “being redesigned”, to my knowledge, since 2010. It is still the exact same website that it was back then, with the same glitches and knock outs.
They still release new products one at a time to ensure you place a big enough order to get your percentage off, and then a few days later they will release another so you have to place yet another order to get it. Or they will release one day around the 25th of the month, then the next one on the 1st of the month with a limited amount of stock, so there will be an order frenzy — and then then cut it off for a few days to incite a panic — then release it again!
They have been doing this tactic from the beginning of time, according to another lady I know, who got out before I got in.
The quality of products has suffered tremendously since I joined. The foundation is not the same shade — for example, even though it says Porcelain on the bottle, it is more the same color as Cream Beige. (I wear Porcelain, and I had to stop, because of the color change, plus it made my skin itch and burn when I wore the newer formula ). I couldn’t wear the Advanced Anti-Aging formula foundation at all.
The LipSense lip colors could not be counted on to be the same color as before. (Mauve Ice is the best comparison. Every order it was a different color).
The packaging bottles are smaller now, and the prices went up by $5–10 apiece, even though they said it was the same amount in the bottle. The tubes that the lips used to be packaged in were stronger or more durable in the past than the current ones. These new ones tend to break easier, and the wand doesn’t screw on as tight allowing product to leak more easily in your makeup bag or purse.
A bottle of Anti-Wrinkle Treatment used to last me three months, but the newer bottles only lasted one-and-a-half to two months. And Climate Control went from feeling silky smooth, to oily and slick.
I have bought every new LipSense color that has come out on the market since I quit, except the purples and black. I have been so disappointed with the quality and taste. They have a taste that none of my colors I bought during my five years as a distributor had. They are so thick, and streak when you put them on, even after scraping off the wand. I am not a fan of any of the new shades except Sassy Z and Goddess. Those two I like. I hate Espresso, Hazelnut and Glam Doll — and I love brown colors as a rule. These ones are hard to work with. With the thicker formulas of lip colors, it is also harder to shake up or mix the colors.
Wow, that’s really disappointing, isn’t it .
What would you say to anyone who is considering joining, or who is a struggling distributor?
I would say don’t go into it thinking you are going to be making mega bucks in a month or two. Most importantly, if you don’t have a couple of thousand dollars of start-up money to put into it that you won’t miss, then don’t do it. If you are wanting this to be your business, it’s more than just buying stock. You need business cards, advertising, packaging bags, tester wands, makeup brushes, sponges etc for demo parties, refreshments for parties, time away from your own family for parties and so on.
You also have to recruit people to be in your downline in order for you to make money, and then you have to make time to train them and help them with their training. You really don’t make money from their sales, but from the team they are building up, and what they order. That was not explained to me up-front, since I was not interested in sales. And my upline was only interested in building her team and encouraging us to order. I found out the hard way.
Even though I sold some, I didn’t have anyone on my downline, so I didn’t make any money. After I asked a few other people on other teams how they made money, they explained it to me. Then I stooped to the level of tricking women to sign up to get savings for themselves. But even then, with them placing $500 orders, I was only getting like $10 credit. It was not worth the guilt I was feeling for coercing them into joining. After their initial orders, I never pressured them again to place an order.
I would also advise women to treat every aspect as a proper job. Keep a log of every minute you spend online marketing your business, making videos, sending emails trying to recruit people, doing live WebEx, and anything you are doing SeneGence-related, like packing up orders, or planning and running parties. Keep a tab of every penny you are spending on party stuff, such as party favors, hostess gifts, make up brushes, pallets, sponges, refreshments, gas for your car, as well as stock orders. Then decide on an hourly wage, what you would charge an employer for your services if you hired yourself out. Then use those numbers, along with your sales, and see if you are actually in the black or red at the end of the week. I never was in the black. Ever.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There’s one thing that I overheard early on in one of our training sessions. Our Crown Princess had brought in a couple of Crown Princesses from other areas to “teach” us. They were standing in the back of the room. One of the Crown Princesses was overheard to say that “Eighty percent of the women in this room will never make it, because they are not pretty enough or skinny enough, and we all know that is what sells beauty products”. They all laughed, then one of the other ones said, “They don’t have to be successful, they just have to place orders”.
I later asked my Crown Princess about this, and she said “Well, really no-one is going to buy beauty products from an unattractive woman”. And I said, “So, where do you think I fit in this business?” And she said “Are you selling anything? If not, there is your answer.”
So, my advice to SeneGence and the founder Joni is to market to all women. Beautiful, secure in your own skin, skinny, fat, young, old, mom, or never plan on having kids — we are all strong women who deserve good skin care and makeup no matter what we look like or our body type or how much we weigh. We all matter.
That is when I stopped going to the training meetings. I am overweight, and I love makeup. Fat middle aged women want to look good too.
I still have about $1,000 on the credit card, but I have sold everything that I won’t ever use. I have kept all the old LipSense colors and eye shadows that I like, so I am set for the next few years.
I have been out of SeneGence for a year now, and my old upline still contacts me and tries to get me to sign up again, cause she knows I “have what it takes to make it big”. Apparently I just have to believe in myself and go for it, and she will help me more than she ever did before, as she has more time to devote to me now (because now she only has five distributors in her downline, not fifty).
Yeah, like I am going to fall for that again …
Thank you so much for agreeing to talk with us, Madison, and sharing your experiences.
*Names have been changed