Teri’s Story: Mary Kay Cosmetics’ Smoke & Mirrors Pop the Pink Bubble

Smoke & MirrorsFirst Name: Teri

State: Illinois

Experience With Mary Kay:

Divine Intervention… I Think Not.

My very first experience with Mary Kay Cosmetics was in the mid 1990’s. I was working in a medical lab at a doctors office and one of the nurses came in to tell me we were having a Mary Kay party the next afternoon and I needed to be there.

Apparently, one of our patients was a Mary Kay lady and the nurse just couldn’t say no to her, so our office staff was going to have a Mary Kay party.

My only issue was that this was happening on our only afternoon off! I have to admit, we had fun that afternoon.

When I left that afternoon I was sporting way more make up than I was used to wearing. I can remember stopping at a gas station on the way home to wash my face because the foundation was so uncomfortable. That should have been a warning to me.

Later that same night, the Mary Kay lady called me at home.

I hadn’t bought anything because finances were tight and she wanted to touch base with me and let me know that she had a way to help me not only afford the products but to make some money as well.

She talked me into attending a Mary Kay meeting with her. I was halfway interested in what she was saying, so I was willing to go.

She was insisting that she had to pick me up and take me there but that was a deal breaker for me. I had to have my own vehicle. We went back and forth on this for a little but I think she realized that if I didn’t drive myself there, I wasn’t going.

She finally agreed to let me meet her at the hotel where the meeting was taking place. Then she dropped a bomb on me. She told me I had to wear a dress.

I worked in a medical lab where I wore scrubs to work every day. I am not the kind of person to “dress up” unless there is a good reason. This should have been the second warning…

So I get to this hotel and walk into the meeting room and it was like there was a party going on. There were probably 50 women there and everyone was happy and singing and having a great time.

I felt uncomfortable because I was wearing a dress. Everyone else was dressed up in their “Sunday best” and there wasn’t a person in slacks in the bunch. Dresses, heels and hose. I hated it. That should have been the third warning…

The meeting lasted a good three hours. I was told it would be two. I needed to get home. I was married to a rather abusive man and I knew I’d be in trouble for being so late.

In all fairness, the actual meeting was only two hours. The last hour was spent trying to recruit me. The starter kit at that time was $85.00 and that wasn’t money I could spend without permission from the husband.

I wasn’t sure if he’d go for this or not and I couldn’t sign on right then. I was told that since I had a great job, I should be able to spend money I made without talking to my spouse.

There was pressure to just sign and not tell him. I knew the repercussions of doing that. I left without signing.

Of course, when I got home and spoke to my husband about it, the answer was a resounding NO. He actually saved me from myself that night but I would need saving again.

Fast forward about 10 years. I’m divorced from the abusive husband and remarried to my soul-mate.

I live in another part of the country. I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness and underwent 48 weeks of chemotherapy to combat it.

I am putting my life back together after this brush with death. I am physically battered after the grueling treatment I went thru and I am unable to return to work.

I have not thought about Mary Kay since that unit meeting I attended all those years ago. And then it happened. My husband and I were driving home from Wisconsin one Saturday afternoon and a pink Cadillac passed us.

I had not seen one of these cars since that unit meeting all those years ago. For some reason I was excited about seeing this car and I felt the need to point it out to the hubs.

“Look a Mary Kay car!” His response was classic. “Huh?”

I then babbled to him about what I knew about Mary Kay Cosmetics and the pink cars!

We actually had a good laugh because the driver of this particular car we saw was a man, with long gray hair blowing in the wind. Did I mention it was a convertible?

So the very next day, I get this e-mail from someone I had never met before about a business opportunity.

Now, I’m in a position where I cannot return to work as my brain no longer cooperates with me but I’m trying to find SOMETHING I can do to bring money into the household. I needed something I could do from home.

I had searched online and everything I found appeared to be a scam. But now I get this e-mail… the opportunity was Mary Kay. I had seen a pink Cadillac the previous day. DIVINE INTERVENTION! Or not.

In my head, at that moment, it was just that, divine intervention.

I went back and forth with this girl thru e-mail. Not only had we never met, but she was in Atlanta and I was just outside of Chicago.

Our e-mails eventually lead to phone calls and for some reason we hit it off quite well.

I told her what my situation was. I was broke. I couldn’t afford that starter kit for $100 and it might be awhile before I could. She offered to pay for my starter kit. I asked her if there were any additional costs. She said NO.

I talked to my husband about it and he said that as long as we didn’t have to put any money out, he was fine with it. Little did I know, he knew what I was getting into… He just wanted me to have SOMETHING that I could do because at that time, I was pretty depressed about the state of my health.

That 48 weeks of chemotherapy had pretty much turned me into a hermit so he thought this just might help. And with that, I signed my agreement. I was a Mary Kay Consultant.

My starter kit arrived via the big brown truck. The UPS guy brought the sacred relic to my door. I was excited. I was an idiot.

Within a day or two of getting my kit, I got a phone call from my Sales Director. She was excited for me. She sounded so genuine. She was leaving town for a week but she set up a time to call me when she got back. There was SO much she needed to tell me.

She was going to send me a packet of information and she wanted me to read it before our call the following week. The packet didn’t come. She didn’t call when she was supposed to… Should have been a warning.

It took almost 6 weeks for me to get that “packet” from my Sales Director and by the time I did get the packet, my director was frantic.

Among other things, this packet, it contained information on purchasing inventory.

I was about to get “The Inventory Talk” from her. She had me do this worksheet on how much money I wanted to make. The results of that worksheet would indicate how much inventory I would need. Or so she said.

Now wait a minute, I asked if there were any other expenses to get started and I was told NO.

I was hearing about paying for a website and ordering business cards and now purchasing inventory. Should have been a warning.

So, we have this inventory talk and I am quite clear to her that I was broke. I explained my situation quite clearly I thought but she had an answer for everything.

She asked if I had a credit card, I told her NO.

She asked if I could get a bank loan, I told her NO.

She asked me if I had a relative or close friend who could loan me the money, I told her HELL NO.

She told me about the Mary Kay Credit Card and I told her NO again. I wouldn’t be applying for a credit card.

We had just cleared up our credit card debt and I wasn’t going back into that.

So she told me there was another way of getting my first order in and getting some inventory on my shelf.

It involved giving discounts. The idea was, to sell 6 different people $150 worth of products for $100 or to sell 12 different people $75 worth of products for $50. That was something I was willing to try.

My Sales Director put a lot of emphasis on my order being a minimum of $600 because of all the free stuff that you get once you hit that mark. What she didn’t tell me about was that it was better for her if my order was $600 or more.

My first order was a little over $700 retail, almost all of it was already sold. I thought I was doing great!

Shortly after I placed my order, I was asked to get on a conference call with my “National Sales Director” and this was supposed to have been some kind of honor.

This was an orientation kind of call and the participants were “hand selected” by the SD’s to be the best of the new recruits. I was bestowed this honor because of my “finding a way” to place that first order.

I called in and my NSD introduced herself and told her IStory. She claimed to have had a medical problem and that her Mary Kay business allowed her to work around it.

I connected with her because of this since I too had a medical issue. I sent her an e-mail during the call wanting to know more about how she was able to work her business with the medical issue. She told me that the issue wasn’t exactly hers but that her son had medical problems when he was a baby.

It appeared her IStory was a bit of a stretch on the truth. Should have been a warning.

On that phone call, the subject of Seminar came up as it was only a few weeks away. My new NSD told me that I needed to go. It was 4 days in Dallas.

I told her that wasn’t something I could afford at the time. Her response was that I couldn’t afford NOT to go. I was firm in that it wasn’t something I was going to be able to pull off on my own but if they wanted to pay my way, I would be glad to attend… and with that, the matter was dropped.

I placed my order the last week of July so I was quite surprised when mid September I was told that I’d need to place another order for $200.00 worth of products to maintain my status as an IBC.

We had come a long way from the initial statement that the $100 starter kit was my only expense.

At this point, I had paid for business cards, a website, my initial order which after taxes was over $800. and now I’m hearing I have to order more? I hadn’t sold what I had yet.

I did think I could use some Section 2 items but I was told that unless it was retail product that I could sell, it didn’t count. When I told my SD that I really didn’t need anything, she asked me if I was using all the products… all of them.

I told her I was using some. She told me to go into my bathroom and if there were things in there that Mary Kay had a product for, I should throw them away and replace them with Mary Kay stuff.

I should be able to order $200 just by doing that. I needed to love all the products to be able to sell them she said… So I did what she told me to and threw a ton of non-Mary Kay stuff away. I placed the order but it should have been a warning.

About this same time it was announced that Mary Kay was changing it’s Signature Make Up Line. It was going away. Thank GOD I didn’t have any of that on my shelf.

They were replacing everything with mineral make up and it would be available right after the first of the year. Compacts were changing… EVERYTHING was changing.

One of the girls who had signed up in our unit just after me had placed a LARGE inventory order before this announcement was made. She had so much make up on hand and it was about to be replaced with a new line. It appeared she was stuck with this stuff. It should have been a warning.

I called all my friends and tried to get them to book parties. None of them would do it. Everyone had an excuse of some sort. It never occurred to me that this was not something that people wanted to do.

I was getting orders from people and re-orders on the products I sold to initially get started so I was encouraged. Everywhere I went, I took Look Books with me. When we went to a party, I was trying to sell Mary Kay.

It got to the point where people were avoiding me at get togethers and then we stopped getting invited. I had no idea I was alienating so many people.

I went to my first event that October. My NSD was having a Fall Retreat in Michigan and as a gift, my son paid for my hotel room so I could go.

I took the train from Chicago to Dearborn and for the first time met my SD and my recruiter. They had flown in from Georgia to meet me. The trip was great. The weekend was awesome. I felt so much a part of this amazing Mary Kay world. I was “in the pink bubble” as they said.

On the way home from that retreat, I called my SD and told her that I wanted to be a director.

I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband all about my weekend and my epiphany that I wanted to become a director.

His response to my enthusiasm about being a director was “Make some money at this first, then you can go on to become a director.” Wise words.

My director had suggested that since she was in one state and I was in another, that I get connected with an adoptive director.

That was easier said that done. I met the first possible adoptive director at my first Career Conference. She was the preferred choice since she was part of my NSD’s unit.

She seemed sweet, we exchanged numbers and I never heard from her again. I called, I left messages and nothing. Several months later, she had lost her unit.

I met and attended meetings with another local director. That lasted about 3 months. She was rude and downright mean but she is a top director in Mary Kay. She is also schlepping some other MLM product now.

The third adoptive director was the biggest joke of all. Her weekly meetings were in a local nursing home. In the 6 months or so that I spent with her unit there was only one time that she had guests at the meeting and it was only because she had accidentally scheduled a skin care class during her Monday meeting night.

She was supposed to have 8 people at that class. Two showed up. Apparently she was having issues as well. This particular director was adamant that I go to Seminar.

In the few years I had been in Mary Kay, I had still not gone. I had invested money in product that was not selling and she wanted me to spend more to get to Dallas. I told her I did not have the cash to do that.

She informed me I was embezzling from my business! How could that be? I had never made back the money I spent on the products that I had ordered but I was being accused of embezzlement.

Needless to say, that was the LAST time I put myself in her presence. Should have been a warning.

I found myself in the hospital with serious issues several times over a 6 month period of time. My legs and feet were swelling and they couldn’t find the cause.

Because I had just recently had a life threatening battle with liver disease, I was fearing the worst each time this happened.

During one of the times that I was laid up, my director called me. She told me that “Since I was just laying there, why didn’t I have a hospital sale!” WHAT? Was she kidding me?

She also told me to try to sell to the nurses and hospital staff. REALLY? This is why she was calling me? I honestly thought I was going to die and she wanted me to sell Mary Kay products! I believe I was yelling at her from my bed in the emergency room. I hung up on her. She sent me a get well card… Should have been a warning.

I plugged along trying to book, sell and recruit. I usually placed orders to stay active even when I didn’t need anything, except for a few times when money was real tight and nothing was selling. For the most part, I ordered about $300 wholesale in product every 3 months.

During my time in MK I placed two orders that were on the large side. The first one was $1,500 and I placed that right after I got back from that first Fall Retreat.

The second order was about a year after that and that order was $2,300. Before I placed that second order, I spoke to my director at length. Most of this order was Time Wise Skin Care products. I told her EXACTLY what I was ordering. She encouraged me to place the order. (Well, of course she would.)

Imagine my surprise when the day after all that product showed up at my house, Mary Kay Corporate announced to the consultants that they were changing the packaging of all Time Wise products!

I was sitting with a ton of product in the old white and pink packaging that was being replaced with a sleeker pink and black packaging! THAT totally took the wind out of my sails.

What bothered me the most was that my sales director KNEW this was happening and still let me order that product. I was stuck with products that wouldn’t sell.

My customers saw the new product packaging as it came out and they asked for that stuff. Telling them that the formula had not changed did not change their minds.

What kind of company does that? What kind of company does things to screw their sales force?

Mary Kay Corporate does it and they do it regularly. That, my friends, was a warning that I acknowledged.

A couple months after that fiasco, I was sitting in what was my 3rd or 4th Career Conference. I was lucky enough that this event was close enough to my home that it didn’t involve an overnight hotel stay although that was recommended. Given the choice, I will pick my own bed over a hotel bed any day.

I got to the event Friday evening and found seats with my friends. As the night went on, I got more and more restless. Something wasn’t right. That pink bubble…. it was losing air quickly.

I realized that every single I-Story I heard that night was the same. Not identical but the same basic concept.

There was always a struggle that was overcome… it always ended up beautifully with wealth and diamonds and cars. That is NOT the real world. Then I realized that every single I-Story I ever heard was the same thing.

As the pink fog started lifting from my brain, it occurred to me that this was all smoke and mirrors.

Halfway thru Friday night’s events, I got up and walked out. I got in my car and I drove home knowing that I would not be getting up at 5 in the morning to make it back there for the 8a.m. classes. I was not going back at all.

Very shortly after I first signed my consultant agreement with Mary Kay, I found this website called Pink Truth. When I asked my director about it, she told me to never, ever go to that site. Tell me NOT to do something and I’ll usually do it.

I had read a little on that site over the years and kept in mind the things I had read but I didn’t go there often.

That Saturday that I didn’t return to Career Conference I read the Pink Truth site all day long. I continued to read on that site over the months to come and to this day, I am still very active on Pink Truth.

You would think I got out of Mary Kay right away then, wouldn’t you? No. I didn’t. Not yet anyway.

About a month after I walked out of that Career Conference my director flew out to see me. She was going to hold a debut for me (something that should have been done right after I signed up) almost 4 years after I initially signed up. This was going to be a two-day event on a weekend.

We planned this to the last detail. I invited EVERYONE I could think of and actually had 75 confirmed people over the two-day period.

NO ONE SHOWED UP. Not one single person. NO ONE. Should have been a warning? It was. I saw it.

As soon as my director left, I was back on Pink Truth reading.

I never placed another order. I went inactive. I received several calls from my director wanting me to order.

There were several calls when she was in jeopardy of losing her unit and she needed my help. NO. I didn’t order.

I did, however, feel like a failure. I couldn’t do this. Everyone else appeared to be making money and I was just a loser and couldn’t do it.

Part of me still wasn’t ready to give up so I kept reading on Pink Truth and found out it wasn’t me. I found out that the entire Mary Kay culture is built on lies and deceit. I found out that they are all faking it. I found out what they REALLY make.

It’s not the executive income they brag about, it’s more like less than minimum wage. I now had proof it wasn’t me.

In the 4 years that I was active in Mary Kay, I did everything as I was supposed to. I made the cutesy little bags with the samples in them. Probably handed several hundred of those out and never got a customer out of it.

I did draw the line when one of the adopted directors scheduled her Monday night meeting in the parking lot of a local Target. She wanted to stalk people in the parking lot. Here, where I live, that’s illegal. I checked.

I asked everyone I knew to book a skin care class, I was never able to get one to hold.

The total amount of people that I sold product to in the entire time I was in Mary Kay was a whopping 34. I had 34 customers after 4 years. Some of those customers had only purchased once and in hindsight, they were pity purchases. I had a total of 5 people who were on the skin care routine and ordered and reordered.

In 2008, when I was 2 years into my Mary Kay career, the recession hit. Here in the Chicago area, it hit HARD.

All of my regular customers either got laid off from their jobs or their spouses did. In some cases, it was both.

When paychecks stopped and unemployment ran out, one of the first things people cut were the luxuries.

Mary Kay products are far from luxury products, although the upline at Mary Kay would like you to believe differently, that they are on par with department store cosmetic counters, but they are not. They are just overpriced.

It has been said that alcohol, tobacco and make up are recession proof and this is true. However, this does not apply to Mary Kay products.

A woman will go out and get a $2.00 lip gloss from WalMart when times are tough rather than spending $18.00 for a Mary Kay lip gloss.

She’ll also find out that there’s really not that much difference in the two so why pay $18.00? Any woman in her right mind would not. She’d also find a comparable skin care set at WalMart for less than half of what she was paying for Mary Kay products… and they do the same thing.

I had a lot of money in Mary Kay product sitting on my shelf. Contrary to what they tell you, that stuff doesn’t fly off the shelves… It just collects dust.

By the time I was really done with this Mary Kay adventure, it was too late for me to send any product back. I had a “Going Out of Business” sale and got rid of a good part of it. The rest I sold to a liquidator for a loss. I took a loss but at least it was something.

My family and friends are glad I am out of the business. We are getting invited to events again! My sales director, she struggled to maintain her unit for awhile. This past January, she lost it. She is now an IBC.

The woman that recruited me, she has been a good friend since that very first phone call the day after I saw that pink Cadillac. She is still a good friend. Because of my Mary Kay experience there are 2 women who I would never have otherwise known that I am friends with today. My recruiter and a woman from that last adoptive unit.

Because of my Mary Kay experience I have a new circle of friends. The women at Pink Truth. I am honored to work along side of them to try to keep others from falling into this predatory trap called Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Note: With the exception of formatting and minor edits, the content, comments and opinions expressed in testimonials are from the original submission.

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