The real face of Mary Kay

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Guest post by Hannah

I had been in an abusive relationship. I got out in April. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have any money, and my ex had convinced me that my mom was the real abusive factor in my life. So, when I had no option but to move back in with my mom, I was desperate to move out as soon as possible. I started looking for jobs, but I was having trouble. I’m a 21-year-old college dropout, which mostly limits my job options to retail, but I also have health issues which make working retail difficult.

Fast forward about a month. My best friend asks if I’d be willing to go to a Mary Kay (MK) party with her. She had been invited to one, and was being pressured to bring more people. I agreed to go because when I heard the word “party,” I assumed there would be free food and free stuff.

So, I got to this party, and it’s not at all what I expected. Turns out, it’s just everyone my friend invited sitting around a table, listening to some lady talk about how great Mary Kay is. I’m sitting there thinking “Oh great, she’s trying to sell this shit.” But somehow, despite the fact that I’ve known for a long time that MK is a pyramid scheme, this lady’s pitch was so good that I started thinking that maybe everyone is wrong about this company.

She emphasized that you work on your own terms and that ANYONE can do it, and anyone can be great at it. She also touched on the Mary Kay Foundation, which supposedly supports women in abusive relationships. (I’ve since found out that the foundation is pretty shady as well, but that’s a whole another subject.)

I agreed to meet the lady for coffee the next day. I told her about my life, the position I’m in, and so on. She quickly picked up on the fact that I wanted to move out of home. She did some math to show me that by working just five hours a week, I would earn enough to move into a $1,000/month apartment! I had no idea where she got any of her numbers from.

I ended up buying the starter kit a week later. I had to borrow most of the money from my mom, who was just glad I’d found something that would have me out and socializing.

As soon as I placed my order for the starter kit, the lady started pressuring me to buy product. I told her I was not comfortable getting a credit card because my credit was already deep in the hole, and I wouldn’t be approved for one anyway. But she pressured me into applying for several cards, saying that multiple inquiries in one day just counted as one. Well, the next week, my credit report showed about 15 new hard inquiries, and my score had dropped. However, I did get approved for a card with a $300 limit. The lady didn’t want me to place an order until I had at least $600 to spend, since that’s where all the incentives were, but we’d place one at the end of the month either way.

The only person I managed to sell to was my mom. The lady was definitely frustrated that I couldn’t get to $600 in less than a month, and was even more upset when I told her that my cat had an emergency and I had to put about $80 on my credit card. We placed the order anyways. It was almost entirely products I’d tried exactly once.

I played around with the products that were ordered as testers and the set I ordered for my personal use. All of the eye makeup made my eyes water, so I decided to just not use it. No point in using it when I could use other makeup and just say it’s Mary Kay.

I had gotten the acne line for myself. After a week of using it just at night (it’s recommended to use it morning and night), and using a different MK set in the morning, my skin was the worst it had ever been. I had pimples deeper than I had when I was in the bad stages of puberty, and my face was red and peeling.

I had also been going to the weekly “success meetings”. Turns out, everyone there was extremely competitive, which was something I most definitely did not need in my life. They also were all Christians who talked about how much they loved God and how #blessed they were, every chance they got. Well, I’m an ex-Catholic. I’m not going to go into my personal beliefs, but I know they would not have been welcome in that environment. I felt very uncomfortable there, and had I explained why, I would’ve been preached to and a lot of the girls there would’ve thought I was a horrible person when I refused to convert.

In July/August, I explained to my upline that I was having bad reactions to MK products and could not sell them in good conscience. She tried to convince me to keep selling, saying that most people wouldn’t have those reactions and maybe I just needed to use different products. Ultimately, though, she did stop the pressure when I refused to give in.

I thought that was the end of it. But of course, you can never truly run from Mary Kay. My upline stepped down about a month after I left and gave her unit to another MK lady. This new lady immediately started harassing me and trying to get me to start selling again. She wouldn’t ease up on the pressure at all. I just started ignoring her and she finally stopped sending me multiple messages a day. Now I still get a “Just checking in!” text every few weeks.

TL;DR — I only lost a couple hundred dollars, but the behavior of Mary Kay uplines is absolutely appalling. I was in a very bad place and they preyed on it, then tried to pressure me into staying when the products made my face fall off.

Cover photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

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  1. Wow! I’ve been a Mary Kay consultant for over 20 years. I was an “upline” at one point but I didn’t pressure my recruits or convince them to buy products or spend money they didn’t have. EVERY business has pushy dishonest people but that doesn’t mean ALL people in that business are that way. I was able to pay off a $13,000 debt with just my Mary Kay business. Don’t think it’s all bad because it isn’t!

    1. Sure, Karen, that’s what they ALL say. You didn’t make enough to pay off $13,000 without pressuring people. No one actually LIKES MK products.

      1. Cat, I’ve heard enough success stories in MK to know that $13,000 profit is not impossible. Secondly, my wife is in MK and loves the products she uses PLUS her regular customers love what THEY buy. I signed up for my own MK business this past New Year’s Eve and, when one of my business acquaintance friends heard, she bought MK products from me more than once, zero pressure. Carl

  2. Girl, I’ve been there but unfortunately spent much, much, much more. Now I have all this product that I will never use or be able to sell. But, that’s my bad for falling hook, line and sinker.

    1. Kristin, are you aware of Mary Kay’s buy-back policy? It’s to protect people (women) from consultants who are poorly trained and excessively pressured by their upline for recruiting. If it’s not a good fit, I’d rather talk someone OUT of joining.

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