What I Don’t Like About Mary Kay and other Multi Level Marketing (MLM) Companies

By Mike

mary-kayAuthor: Mike.

Times are rough these days; if you have managed to keep your job so far, your neighbor, your friend or a family member probably lost their’s. You work pretty hard each and every day, no doubt you look at your budget periodically to make sure you are still on track. You navigate through a pleuthera of frugal ideas to help save a few bucks and ask God to watch over your family and possesions in hopes to avoid bad luck. You don’t really have any other choices yet this lifestyle can be stressful and tiring. Then, someone you know, a good friend, gives you a call and his voice appears as a ray of light over your head; he has found a solution, an easy way to make more money!

We are all looking for a sideline, an opportunity to make extra income and it would even be better if this source of revenue could become a source of passive income! Here comes your friend with a great opportunity to build your own business through Mary Kay!

Mary Kay is a MLM cosmetic company. Start with: What is an MLM company anyways? Multi Level Marketing businesses such as Mary Kay work through an aggressive recruiting process to build sales teams. Since everybody is paid on what they sell (no base salary), there is no additional costs to having an ever increasing sales force. Therefore, each Mary Kay representative is encouraged to recruit more folks “under” her so she can build her own team and become a sales director herself. In an MLM structure, when you sell something, a part of your profit goes directly to the person on top of you (the one who recruited you). If you haven’t heard about Mary Kay, you may have heard about Quickstar or Primerica. They have similar structures, the first business offers household products and the latter offers insurance and other financial services. I have actually done a full analysis of the Primerica structure over at The Financial Blogger.

I do not wish to discuss if MLM are good or not nor if Mary Kay is the root of all evil or the best company in the world. The MLM topic has been highly debated over the internet. However, there is something that still bugs me and it is rarely discussed. My sister-in-law was recently recruited into Mary Kay while keeping her day job. I actually really like her and we spend a lot of time with her and her fiancé. However, it has only been a month that she is promoting cosmetic products and I have already noticed a big change in her attitude.

It seems that Mary Kay, in her mind, is the best thing since sliced bread!

Every time I talk to her, see her or even hear about her, the words “Mary Kay“ are emphasized in the conversation. Since every MLM success is based on recruiting (over-selling the product), people starting out with these companies are drilled to talk about it incessantly.

When you meet with them, they will automatically tell you how great so and so product is or how they made a $500 sale in their cosmetic class last week or even what her latest client told her about their kids not having sunburns anymore”¦ thanks to the Mary Kay sunscreen!

As sales come with motivation, MLMs will usually organize weekly meetings where sales directors encourage their recruits and tell them to continue working hard. They will tell them that they are closing in on their dream of being financially independent and that they will be able to quit their full time job shortly to live from Mary Kay income alone.

I actually believe in team building activities within a company and that it is wonderful to consider and encourage your teammates. However, when it comes down to taking over your life to the point where it is the only thing you are talk about (becoming a fanatic), this is where I draw the line.

I have seen several people jeopardize their friendships by talking about their wonderful MLM project on a continuous basis. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that MLM is bad or that you should not join Mary Kay (I am not in the cosmetic business so I have no clue if they are good or bad products). However, if you get into a MLM business, please maintain a sense of balance in your life as well! There is nothing wrong about mentioning what you do for a living, once in a while (everybody does that) but you don’t have to plug the name 50 times a day either.

One is allowed to dream of financial independence and I am not there to tell anyone how to do it. I dream about financial independence too and I don’t drill my ideas and methods into the heads of relatives by mentioning my projects every time I talk with them”¦ Why does it have to be different with MLM businesses?

I would be curious to know if you have joined any of these companies and if it works well for you.

36 Responses (including trackbacks) to “What I Don’t Like About Mary Kay and other Multi Level Marketing (MLM) Companies”

  1. Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth Says:

    I tried Melaleuca a few years back, which isnt exactly MLM, but similar. The person above you does gets a cut of your profit. Never sold a thing, except to myself!

  2. Mrs. Micah Says:

    It’s funny. I knew a Mary Kay saleswoman growing up–and I’m still left with a distinct impression that she was a Mary Kay saleswoman from how she talked about it. I didn’t know anything about MLM at the time, and even once I learned about it, I didn’t put Mary Kay into that category for a while.

    I like to read up on MLM, scams, cults, etc, because the psychological elements they share in common interest me. One thing I’ve found about both cults and MLM (not that I’m trying to equate them), is that both tend to change how people behave towards their friends and family. It goes from normal relationships to relationships with pitches or even to all-the-time pitching. I read the story of a man who left Amway only to find out that he’d so badly irritated his friends and family with his sales attempts that he had no social structure.

    I have another friend who’s working so hard to make her Silpada Designs (jewelry) business flourish. And I hope for her sake that it does. It’s still a bit uncomfortable when she starts hauling out the catalogs–but we’ve established that I virtually never wear jewelry and therefore don’t buy it, so I don’t get pitched to anymore.

  3. HisHersMoney Says:

    I am Her over at HisHerMoney and I actually do sell Mary Kay. I truly believe you have to find balance. A lot of my friends probably don’t even know I sell it and others do. I have a number of customers who have bought the basic skin care from me for years and years and when they need more they call or email me. I NEVER call them and bug them to buy stuff, I don’t recruit new members, and I don’t hold any of the cosmetic parties at all.

    To be honest honest I make just a little bit of money and basically cover the costs of my own products. If I had to go to the store and buy all my stuff at retail it would cost quite a bit to get the good stuff so to me it’s worth it.

    Am I going to be able to quit my job and live off my Mary Kay income? No, and I don’t even begin to try to fool myself into making it more than it is. I don’t portray the perfect consultant that the company wants but I do what works for me.

  4. Mike Says:

    Mrs. Micah,
    I agree that most people entering MLM change their behaviors. Have you noticed that once they joined one of those company, their life seems almost perfect? Everything goes well all the time. They speak like today is always the best day of their life… quite interesting how they change their attitude!

    I think it is great that you found a balance in Mary Kay. I actually think it is a great idea to cover your own cost. Hence, you are saving money and you don’t bug the planet about it. Congrats on finding the right spot where you belong!

  5. Rob Says:

    “and ask God to watch over your family and possesions in hopes to avoid bad luck.”

    I’m responsible for my familiy and my possesions.

    “In hopes to avoid bad luck”? Thats kinda like the people who pray for their children instead of taking them to a hospital, and then they die. Sounds like superstition is alive and well in America.

  6. financia Says:

    “Every time I talk to her, see her or even hear about her, the words “Mary Kay” are emphasized in the conversation.”

    That’s the part that drives me crazy! How many times a month do I have to tell our firends were not interested? I love my friends and wish them all prosperity but do they really think a 30-something year old guy needs that much make up?

  7. DDFD at Defensive-Entrepreneurship.com Says:

    I am not a big fan of MLM either . . .

    Unless of course you are on the top of the food chain.

    More of my thoughts on MLM: http://defensive-entrepreneurship.com/2009/08/07/some-views-on-multilevel-marketing-and-franchises.aspx

  8. Sara Says:

    I joined The Body Shop at Home and was active and quite successful for 4 years (was able to supplement my family’s income when I was laid off, paid off my car 1.5 years early, earned an incentive trip to Aruba in 2008, was recognized at our national conferences). I did actively recruit people to my team, and talked about the business WHEN IT WAS APPROPRIATE. I believe finding balance is they key. Some of my “sister consultants” and team members did not know when they were being pushy, or needy, with their friends and family, and they did not have the success I found. Some people did push away their friends and family. In a training once, I heard somebody say “If you owned a pizza company, you wouldn’t expect your friends and family to eat pizza every day would you?” and I took that to heart. Just because I had my own business with TBSAH didn’t mean that everybody else needed to use those products exclusively.

    To clarify – the commission I received never diminished to pay my upline leader. I always earned at least 25% of my sales. The company paid my leader her bonus commission at the end of every month, based on my (and other team members) sales. Once I had a team of women I was responsible for training, leading, and supporting, the company paid me a bonus commission at the end of every month – my team always received at least 25% of their sales as profit to them.

    I found Mike’s comment really interesting. “Have you noticed that once they joined one of those company, their life seems almost perfect? Everything goes well all the time. They speak like today is always the best day of their life”¦ quite interesting how they change their attitude!”

    One aspect of being part of TBSAH that changed my life for the better was the emphasis my leaders placed on being positive, and visualizing success. It’s scary to talk to new people, to make follow-up calls, to stand in front of a room and give a presentation. But I found that when I visualized success, I was much more successful. Athletes and successful men and women everywhere do the same thing. The overall life lesson I took away from that was – what’s the POINT of being so negative? What’s the POINT of complaining all the time? I like myself much better when I’m focusing on the positive and working toward achieving a long-term goal.

  9. Wes Says:

    “Every time I talk to her, see her or even hear about her, the words “Mary Kay” are emphasized in the conversation”

    I am sure that somebody must have written a book on how MLM has ruined friendships and marriages. MLM is one of the reasons I left my ex. I tried morally supporting her for a few years. I went to the confrences. I put on a good game face, but in the end, it started to ruin friendships as well as our relationship. She tried pushing it on everyone, even when they kept saying no. Then the big thing that they push is that you are not supposed to have friends that do not join up in their scheme. The product was good, but should you drop your friends that you have had for years because they do not want to join up under you?

  10. Barbara Moore Says:

    I have changed because of my experiences with MLM. I love the products that I get using MLM so I still use them. But knowing that my life is about God 1st and people 2nd and I do not know where the money comes in. In MLM your business needs to be on top, or you do not get to the top of the business. I did though read the books that they suggested. Personal growth is always a good thing. Because of my non pushy nature, my business did not grow. I had parties where no one would show up. So I decided it was a great idea to get a website. That also did not take off. I did not have the training on how to get traffic to it. I realize that now while I am learning more about the internet and how it works. I wish my organization had the proper training to take advantage of the website. I joined “my profit site”, it is great training. Check out my web page http://www.3topmoneymakingplans.net and tell me what you think.

  11. Jin6655321 Says:


    I really liked the last paragraph of your comment. I can see how the skill sets taught by MLM companies would be very useful in your every day life.

  12. castocreations Says:

    I sold Avon when I was in my early 20s and really enjoyed it – though I was probably my best customer. My aunt sells it now but she’s completely non pushy about it and let’s people contact her when they’re ready to buy something.

    I think it’s like any other business – some people are just super pushy. And especially when they first start out. They can be super obnoxious. When I first started making and selling my own jewelry I was much more talkative about it and brought it to work to show people. Now I’m a lot more conservative…people KNOW I make jewelry and if they want something they know where to find me.

    I guess I don’t consider things like Mary Kay, Avon, or Partylite to be MLM. I love Partylite and am glad to know someone who sells it. I also use Avon. They aren’t just selling the opportunity to work, even though they could recruit you, they’re selling pretty good products too.

  13. GrannyAnnie Says:

    My husband was recruited into an MLM many years ago, and as a “good wife” I was strongly encouraged to ” support him”. We were actually told in one of the meetings by our District Leader that he and his wife had NO friendships outside this company, because anyone outside this company lacked the same vision and goals as they did. We were taken to places like Neiman Marcus and Jaguar dealerships and encouraged to try on the merchandise as “motivation”. I recognised brain washing for what it was and beat feet outta there, but I had a VERY hard time pulling my husband away. Never again. Never. Scary stuff to me.

  14. Gina Says:

    Horay Sara! You found a very positive aspect to MLM that I had never thought of … visualizing success. I also like the comment about “if you owned a pizza company …” – so true, so true! That is a good way to put it.

    Great post Mike!

  15. Watson1 Says:

    I enjoy reading your postings when I can. The MLM article gives me sound insight because I am about to venture into this arena for the 2-3-4th time. I was a MK rep. and it didn’t work for me the three times I tried, but consider this. When something excites us, we tend to react or over-react. Excitement about anything keeps the momentum going. When it’s not exciting to us, we can’t expect it to be something good to others. It’s almost like our Christian walk. I do agree though there should be a balance in everything.

  16. Rhonda Shasteen Says:

    I just wanted to clarify that as an Independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultant, none of your profits are ever paid to anyone else in the sales organization. The profits you make on the sale of your product belong to you. Any commissions earned by your Senior Consultant or Sales Director are paid to them directly by Mary Kay Inc. and come from Mary Kay’s profits.

  17. Ashley Says:

    I’ve contemplated doing Mary Kay and other MLM systems to make extra money on the side but know that my personality would not fit the job. Many of those that commented and have participated in MLM stated that they weren’t overly aggressive and made some money, but not nearly enough to quit their day jobs.

    The worst is “parties” that go along with the trade. Not sure when party became code for “pressure your friends into buying stuff they don’t need to you can get a free prize”.

  18. A Friend Says:

    I have been invited to so many buying parties that my response is now “no” to all. The reason I give is the truth: I cannot attend/purchase/host everyone, so I do not play favorites. Often the “buying opportunities” are for the same products.

  19. Rodricus Kirby Says:

    Part of the problem of network marketing and MLM in general is they prey on people that don’t have much business experience, desperate for money, or who are looking for “financial freedom.” I believe that some network marketing companies can work if you’re willing to invest your time and money into them, but how much more can you invest into your own business ideas? Why not build a sales force for YOUR own product and services?

    This week at my blog, The Success Center, we’re exploring “Should You Invest in Network Marketing?” in a series that looks at the good, bad, and ugly over the subject. I am not a network marketer and will never join one. In the series we take a look at why I am not and why you might join one. Take a look if you’re curious:



  20. Neas Nuttiness Says:

    Yes – you name it and I’ve tried it. Mary Kay, Tupperware, Longaberger Baskets…and I ways always my best customer, cause I just couldn’t bring myself to hound every person that I’d ever met in my whole entire life!

    I swear – I had a Tupperware Dealer, that would try to convince you that Tupperware could cure cancer and bring about world peace!

  21. Janet Carpenter Says:

    Interesting post! I am a Mary Kay consultant…have been for more than ten years. In some ways, I agree with you, it can be overwhelming for people around a new Mary Kay person. I’d ask you, though, to give your sister-in-law your support and patience. Let her show you the products and buy some! Help her out! She’s starting a new business – it’s not easy and the support of her family will be so valuable for her.

    Keep an open mind, when she “goes over the top”. Mary Kay is very exciting. It’s more than a product. The training that the company provides can help you do alot more than just sell. It helps women (and a few men) set goals, learn what to do to reach a goal, and then celebrates with you when you get there.

    Yes, it’s a little, okay, a lot, hokey. But in my opinion, the world could do with a little more hokey. MK pushes the golden rule, “treat others the way that you would like them to treat you”.
    Yes, it’s corny, but how can you argue with the philosophy.

    The training can give you the tools to learn selling techniques, book-keeping, inventory control, marketing. I’ve been to business school and Mary Kay gives you almost as much!

    Okay, now I’m sounding like it’s better than sliced bread which is what is driving you crazy. Sorry, I guess I do think it IS better than sliced bread.

    I’m going to end before I completely alienate you like your sister-in-law has done and just ask you one more time to support and help her. Listen and have patience, she’ll calm down – a little anyway. Let her know that even though you aren’t crazy about MK, you are crazy about her and so you’ll help out. It’ll mean alot to her.

  22. shelley Says:

    I agree with Jane Carpenter. Your sister-in-law is new and is very excited about her new career opportunities and the new products that she’s selling. She is starting a new business, so please give the woman a break! Maybe she’s a bit over the top now, but it will level off after a bit. In most any MLM, there are product that you can’t purchase anywhere except through their sales force, and if you don’t check them out, you may never discover a great product at a great price.

    I’ve sold Tupperware, Jafra, Avon, etc. in the past because the earning potential for leadership simply does not look attractive enough for me to invest the amount of work that it requires. I still am an Avon rep, but mostly just buy their exceptional products at a discount these days. My manager has been in leadership for several years yet she only makes about $2oo/biweekly for all the extra work she does in leadership. That’s not enough for me.

    I recently began with Monavie, and love the products! I am not held back in my earning potential by the level of achievement that my upline is at; I can exceed them in rank and pay depending on the amount of work I put forth. In less than 2 years w/Monavie, my upline became a Diamond making over $200,000/yr. She works at it, but she is totally in control of her time and her ability to increase to higher income levels if she continues to work her business. It helps to have her to guide me, to counsel me on what mistakes she made in her business along the way, so I don’t have to learn the hard way. If I were to start my own business the usual way, I wouldn’t have a business plan already proven to be successful available for me to plug into, nor would I have an entire team to encourage and teach me, as I do with Monavie. Plus, as with Avon, I’ve found product that I never want to be without, that I can’t run to Target to buy. The wrinkle creams from Avon actually do work, and are less expensive than the ones at the stores. The acai berry juice from Monavie has given me better health and more energy, plus the energy drink is great and healthy, so I feel blessed to have had the good fortune to have joined these companies and have access to their product lines.

    If you’re going to buy something anyway, why wouldn’t you want to buy it from yourself and get the tax benefits of a business owner! And, if I think an opportunity is outstanding, why wouldn’t I tell others about it? It could be just what they are looking for! As for your sister-in-law, maybe you aren’t interested in the product line that she has available, but you probably know other folks who would love to find out what she has to offer. Why not help her out and refer some possible customers/business builders to her? If your buddy opened an auto shop, you wouldn’t hesitate to plug his new business to others I bet. Why treat an MLM any different?

  23. Søren Egstrup Says:

    Why do I have a mentor and coach?

    EVERY Olympic athlete has a coach. The top ones hire their own personal coach.
    I’ve had my own mentor-coach in network marketing since 1991. One person actually once told me he thought it was a weakness for “people like you to admit that you need a coach to help you.”
    A weakness???
    I replied that having a coach was (and is) one of the smartest things I have ever done.
    A coach keeps you accountable and focused. There are just soooooo many opportunities in life to get sidetracked.
    Pro athletes like Tiger Woods, Bobby Bonds, Peyton Manning, all the big stars, have several coaches. Each coach teaches their own specialty.

  24. Cat Says:

    I have a cousin who’s doing it, but all she seems to do is market to the same group of us over and over. I think it might be a good sideline for some, but if you don’t have time to invest in finding new markets and networking with new groups of people, I don’t see how it’s sustainable.

  25. Amy H. Says:

    Thank you for this post. My best friend recently became a rep for Mila, which is a relatively new MLM product line/company, and every single conversation we have had since she joined up has included a reference (by her) to this product — if not centered on it. It makes me really sad, because I am concerned that I’m going to lose her friendship / she’s going to lose my friendship over it.

  26. antonio Says:

    i’m married to a marykay sales director so i know what you mean,i too get tired some times ,however i think the benefits we get out of it are worth mentioning,good paycheks(and getting better)free new car on the driveway,she’s never been an early bird and thought she works hard she does it at her convenience(gets up late but works till late in the evening and she ‘s got the freedom to change that any way she wants to)

  27. ck Says:

    Part of Your earnings do not go to the person above you, as implied. That is paid by the company, not out of a consultants cut, directly to the higher up (recruiter).

    “in an MLM structure, when you sell something, a part of your profit goes directly to the person on top of you (the one who recruited you)”

    Your profit in MK is always 100% wholesale (or 50% of retail). That never changes. If you are a director, MK corporate pays you a commission out of their corporate earnings- not your down lines.

    Get it right-this isn’t hard.

  28. Patty Hobbs - Selling Techniques Says:

    Wow I’m so happy for you. Anyway this was very informative I didn’t realize that that sort of job was called MLM. I’m very interested in this. Also I lost my job 3 months ago and I’m really struggling to pay the bills. Hopefully I can find success just like you did.

  29. Deirdre Says:

    Sales Directors do not make anything when a Consultants sells anything. Only when they ORDER inventory.

  30. sherry Says:

    this is what i know from experience…..nothing is easy or everyone would do it AND everyone talks about what they do and their successes! You only notice it more because they actually love what they are doing and are enthusiastic. Who remembers the conversation when the “talker” hates what they are doing?? I make 6 figures, love what I do and have a team of over 500. Everyone has a path in life, let each person live it. Really why would anyone else care what another person does if it is legal?

  31. John Galt Says:

    I have a young cousin who is like a daughter to me who recently got hooked into this Mary Kay scheme. She is very impulsive and never asks questions or does any investigating.

    Anyway, she has gone so overboard with this Mary kay obsession, that she has alienated many of her friends and her sister. When I tried to calmly talk with her about what I discovered about Mary Kay’s business practices, she went off the deep end and accused me and others of trying to undermine her dream. She was going to make $120,000 a year if she could just get more consultants to work for her.

    I simply wanted to tell her that Mary Kay sells its products via Amazon and at a substantial discount with free shipping. So cheap that it almost made no sense for customers to buy from her. But I never got a chance to fill her in since she went ballistic.

    I also wanted to explain to her about human nature and how we all fail at one time or another. She is setting herself up for disappointment when her consultants and buyers start quitting her team. At some point, that will happen. I guarantee it.

    Now I am just waiting for the crash to happen. I don’t want to be a person that says “I told you so”, but it really hurts that she was so negative to me, since I care about her so much.

    She is a hard, hard worker, so maybe she will be successful in the short term. Long term, I think Mary Kay is a losing proposition. I am praying for her.