[Inside the Pink Pyramid] But You Aren’t Required To Buy the Inventory…

Industry Claim #1: Nobody is required to buy inventory. 

This is true. Antonella even told me so when we did my official Mary Kay orientation: You’re not required to purchase a single thing from Mary Kay beyond your $100 starter kit.

“But,” she said. “There are some advantages.”

Just because you aren’t required to buy inventory in Mary Kay, doesn’t mean you won’t get the hard sell about why you’d be crazy not to buy inventory. My experience and the experiences of the women in my story suggest that you’ll be pressured heavily to buy inventory “if you’re serious about your business.”

In fact, Mary Kay is set up so it seems like the only way you’ll ever make money is through large inventory purchases. If you’re not spending enough on products, the company finds other ways to cost you money, like charging you shipping and only shipping to your house — meaning you spend time and money traveling around to deliver your orders yourself. As Lynne explained on yesterday’s edition of NPR’s On Point, to stay active in Mary Kay, you have to place $200 in wholesale orders every month. [EDIT: Per Lynne's comment below, it's once a quarter, not once a month. — VSS]

If you aren’t ordering that much, you can’t buy products at the wholesale price — all you can do is pay retail (plus $8 shipping!) and then pass it along to your customer with 0% profit (in fact, an $8 loss).

During the course of my reporting, I interviewed another former Mary Kay lady who didn’t want to use her real name, so I’ll call her Lisa. She told me that most of the time, she couldn’t move the inventory she purchased — but people would call her up and say, “hey, I need another bottle of face cleanser.” If Lisa didn’t have the face cleanser in stock (and she usually didn’t because she was trying to avoid the giant inventory debt trap), she’d either have to pay retail and make no money or try to put together $200 worth of sales so she could buy it all at the wholesale price. Most of the time, she couldn’t get enough sales to make the wholesale minimum, so she’d just buy extra inventory for her own stockpile to do it. Which then wouldn’t sell. Meaning Lisa lost money on most of the retail sales that she made. 

So no, you aren’t required to buy any inventory in Mary Kay. But they sure do have ways of making you feel like it isn’t much of a choice.

[Photo: By Misty Keasler for Harper's, August 2012: "The Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay Preys on Desperate Housewives," by moi.]

Filed under Beauty Labor, Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, Makeup, Mary Kay

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  1. Lynne
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify, this is (or was as of 2 years ago) the weird rule about the $200 order.

    You are Active in the month that you place a $200 wholesale order ($400 retail) and for the following 2 months after that order. For instance, if you order $200 worth of wholesale products on July 1, you are Active through September 30. Once you are active, you can make any order of any amount for the wholesale price, though you pay the same shipping amount whether you order $5 or $5000 in products. If you do not then place $200 in wholesale orders in a calendar month, your Active status will run out and you will then have to become Active again (by placing a $200 wholesale order) in order to maintain your wholesale discount.

    Only consultants who maintain Star Consultant status ($1800 in a calendar quarter) are eligible to send products directly from the company to a customer. Everyone else must have their orders shipped to their own homes and then deliver them (by mail or personal delivery).

    Finally, even with all of that inventory on my shelves, someone invariably ordered something that I did not have. In many cases, other consultants will trade product with you if they have something you need. This practice is considered against the rules by Mary Kay and is discouraged by most sales directors.

    • Posted July 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Lynne! I’ve updated the info in this post per your great points.

  2. mlank64
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to point out in regards to the 50% discount that the 3 months for the 50% discount is calendar months, not 90 days from the day the $200 dollar purchase is made. For eg. if you put in an order today July 24, you will get the discount for the remaining days left in July which is the 24-31st. You will get the 50% for all of August, and all of September. Not 90 days from July 24 which would put you into the latter part of October. I just wanted to make that clear as it is another example of the lies of omission this business has a habit of committing. Most women are not aware of it until they try to order products and realize they are paying for retail instead of wholesale so soon from their last $200 dollar purchase. Of course the recruiter/SD will not make this distinction, in fact, most consultants confuse the 50% discount with the $200 dollars needed to remain a consultant for the year. Two totally different things. But this is the kind of stuff you have to contend with when you are involved with this business.

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