Mary Kay, Amway And Other Scams

We hate to be cynics, but we’ve found an awful lot of work-at-home deals that turn out be scams—legal perhaps, but scams none the less. If you want to make money—if you need to earn a living—Mary Kay, Amway and others like them are not the answer.



Multi-level-marketing (MLM) for example, sounds like a great way to make money and meet new people. But over and over they’ve been shown to only make money for a few people at the top of the pyramid. Their ads sound great, but when you read the fine print, there’s a fee to join, inventory to buy, or lots of other out-of-pocket expenses—which, of course, is how the company or person promoting the “opportunity” really makes money.

Sadly, the people who run these scams often target people who desperately want a better income, but can least afford to gamble. The most common scams we’ve seen include telephone services, envelope stuffing, home and beauty products, jewelry, business and consumer loans, and toys. They sound great on the surface, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who can show you proof that it’s worked for them. Oh, sure, there’ll be a few people that did okay (and they’ll no doubt be filling the comments section with screams of protest), but most people don’t.

Unlike franchises, which are required to jump through all kinds of legal hoops, business opportunities, as they’re called, are largely unregulated. Ads claim you can add $3,000 to your monthly income while you sleep, for example. Yeah, right.

Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau won’t be much help because the worst ones frequently change their name and address. So no one’s really watching out for your interests. And the fact is some of the Better Business Bureau practices should be reported to the Even Better Business Bureau (but that’s a topic we’ll have to remember for another post).

Actually, things got so bad that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put up it’s own web page warning about MLM scams. [Added 1/15/2011] They also host MLM – A Litany Of Misrepresentations, a revealing comment on MLM.

Our advice to anyone thinking about any work-at-home program, or any other business opportunity that claims you can make an easy buck, check your state business opportunity laws and seek advice from an attorney or accountant before you sign anything. After all, if was all that easy and lucrative everyone would be doing it, now wouldn’t they?

If you can’t afford to hire an adviser, check with a local college and university. They often have free clinics and other resources for small businesses. At the very least do a good online search, and stop by your local library and ask the reference desk to find you what they can on the industry and company that will help you make a decision.

Sorry if we sound unusually cynical on these subjects, but Kate used to run an award-winning non-profit program aimed at helping low income single mothers start their own businesses, and she saw too many women disappointed by the false claims of business, loan, and grant promoters.

Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

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70 Responses to Mary Kay, Amway And Other Scams

  1. Shiloh says:

    Pardon me, I apologise if you assume that Mary Kay, Inc. is a scam. Maybe you need to do a little more research. No business worth working for is going to be a walk in the park, and if you want to succeed at anything in life, you have to work hard at it! I can assure you, you will not ‘earn money while you sleep’ with Mary Kay! Aside from Mary Kay cosmetics being the #1 selling cosmetics brand in the United States (thats right #1) for 12 years in a row so far, this company has helped numerous people out of poverty situations! This is definitely not a business for lazy people. It’s all about motivation, meeting new people, studying up on the newest products, and having a positive attitude about life! On a regular basis I hear touching stories of people who are in horrible situations, and were able to finally afford food for their families with the money they worked so hard for selling Mary Kay. The great thing about working with this company is that you do only have to work between 2 to 20 hours in a week, depending on how much money you want to make. It all depends on how successful you are willing to be! And the ‘pyramid’ thing you were referring to usually means you have to dish out money to your superiors before you get what’s left over. Well, Mary Kay absolutely does not work that way! You get to keep every penny you make all to yourself!!! Any ‘extra’ comission you earn from your rank is given directly from the company. They’re in it for the little guy! They want you to make money and succeed! Now, please, in the future, do a little more research before bashing a company you know nothing about. Thank you.

  2. Tom Harnish says:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion Shiloh, but we didn’t assume anything, nor did we suggest that any successful home based business can succeed without a lot of effort.

    We stick by what we wrote.

    Your claim that Mary Kay was the #1 selling brand for the last 12 years is an example of the kind of misinformation that leads us to identify Mary Kay as a business to stay away from. According to industry data Mary Kay sales were flat in 2006 at $2.2B, and it’s #13 behind the likes of Estée Lauder ($6.4B), Avon $6.1B), and even Limited Brands ($3.1B).

    Mary Kay may not be a pyramid scheme per se, but the issue is how much of that $2.2B in sales was to the general public, and how much to the 1.7 million “consultants” of the company? And why won’t the company report such figures?

    Motivation and happy stories are great, but a healthy business (and life) is about reality. For a serious dose of reality visit the Pink Truth website.

    Slightly off topic, but since were talking numbers here anyone contemplating a home based business would profit, literally and figuratively, from visiting a library and looking at Robert Morris Associates (RMA) Annual Statement Studies. From skating rinks, to ophthalmic goods, to cosmetics, the publication can give you a look at industry averages for receivables, inventory, fixed assets, payables, long-term debt, net worth, net sales, gross profit, profit before taxes, current ratios, debt/worth ratios, and the like. With that information you can assess how much you should be spending on advertising, for example, or what your profit margins should be. They’re a great source of reality you can use to plan budgets and track your performance.

  3. Tonya Toche-Howard says:

    I am an active duty Air Force nurse. I would say that my pay is equitable and that I have a very secure job. My cousin who sells Mary kay has a degree in physical therapy. She worked and made a good living as well. She stopped working (in physical therapy) and started her mary Kay business. She is by far not at the top of the “pyramid”, but sells over $35K in product only working about 10 hours a week. She makes her schedule around her family life. So I guess Mary kay actually offers more than just an income. It’s a very supportive business as well. They recognize your accomlishments and reward you, where with a lot of companies, you would be lucky to get a pat ont he back. I have started selling Mary Kay and with my crazy schedule and two gorgeous children (going for #3), my life is crazy and I am actually making a profit! You are encouraged to keep an inventory because it truly does make it easier to sell things when you have them on hand, but you are by no means required to nor do you have to. If you decide Mary Kay isn’t for you (and it’s not for everyone), the company will buy all of your stuff back at 90%. I think that helps comfort people when they decide to give it a shot. It’s retail sales with a more personal touch. People like the attention they get from their own PERSONAL consultant and the relationships they build with them. That helps build your business. So to be successful, you have to want it and work at it. That may mean learning new traits such as communication skills for those that are maybe not so gifted in that area, but it can be done. Communication is not just being able to speak, but to listen effectively as well. I have nothing bad to say about Mary Kay. I think the individuals that bash, complain or blog negatively are maybe those who went into it thinking you could be rich overnight or soon after. The business doesn’t present in that way (unlike some true pyramid businesses). It says you can be successful and that is simply the truth. Just like any consultant business (cosmetics, computers, medical, nursing, etc), it takes work, vision and skill, but anyone is capable of doing it. The resources are there. I wouldn’t tell people that it’s a scam because in all honesty, it’s not. I wouldn’t lead them to think that they can o nly work 4-10 hours a week and be driving a cadillac either. Some people have been able to do that, but not everyone. They can, however, make a decent living. The company supports you all the way through and if you find it’s not for you, they thank you for your time and buy back the products at 90% and wish you well. That’s it. I think it’s a good deal…if you go into it for the right reasons and without ridiculous expectations.

  4. Tonya Toche-Howard says:

    Oh, and excuse the type-o’s. I’m rushing to get out of the house and get things done. :) Hugs!

  5. Tom Harnish says:

    I’d be interested in what you have to say, Tonya, if it was first hand information and not about your ‘cousin’. Multi-level marketing is rife with such feel good stories, yet those stories always seem to evaporate when those involved are pressed for details. $35K a year working 10 hours a week, eh? Prove it.

    In any event, if everything you say is true how do you explain the fact that the company is unwilling to divulge figures on how much product is sold ‘down line’ and how much is sold to the public? Yes, I understand companies have a right to maintain certain information as proprietary. But an honest company would be happy to provide such data since it has been a persistent black mark.

    People can’t make informed business decisions on fuzzy rhetoric that suggests that “some people” can work 4-10 hours a week and drive a Cadillac. Nor can people “make a decent living” working a few hours a day either. It just doesn’t happen.

  6. Bill Pollard says:

    I agree with your assessment of the Better Business Bureau. I am writing a book about avoiding work-at-home scams. The BBB is a next to worthless source of information. Some businesses where I have found very serious and legitimate complaints are given satisfactory to excellent ratings by the BBB. In fact, in my book I plan to write about the shortcomings of the BBB.

  7. Kris says:

    Just because you may not know someone who is successful in Mary Kay does not mean that just a few can make it. I am a Mary Kay Senior Independent Sales Consultant. I make at the least $300/week, and I only work about 3-6 hours a week. A couple hours calling and a couple 2 hour parties if I have time. This is the same amount of money that I make in my 40 hour a week job. Tell me people can’t do it. I am. I go to a success event once a week with a bunch of wonderful women who also sell Mary Kay and they are even more successful than I. Mary Kay is a wonderful option for those who want to work for it. You can’t expect to just tell people you sell Mary Kay and instantly make money and get your career car. You have to work. I have only been doing this for 4 months and I’m on target to get my car in January. I work for it. Any other woman who wants to work for it with Mary Kay can.

  8. Kirby says:

    I find it humorous that after all these women have wrote in to tell you that you are wrong about Mary Kay you still refuse change your mind? Has someone you know been burned by the company? I can again testify that you are wrong about Mary Kay. I know three people that currently sell Mary Kay and I’ll tell you about them.

    One is my mothers best friend: She started selling Mary Kay when she was a stay at mom. She did really well for a while and helped out a lot with her families income while she didn’t work. Years later however, her husband makes enough to well support their family and she’s slowed down her selling to only close friends and her clients that she kept through the past 7 years, and yet she still makes a decent profit.

    The second lady is my best friends mother. She started selling Mary Kay because she liked the products and they sell them to you half price. Really her only clients are herself and very few of her friends, and yet she still makes about $50 every two weeks. Not much but it’s enough to have some fun with.

    The third individual is my cousin. She’s young, energetic, and she has a sweet personality. She decided to start selling Mary Kay three months ago and as already become her district’s number one sales person, and is already making enough money to quit her job and support her husband in his ministry by only working 6-12 hours a week! If that isn’t a success story I don’t know what is.

    You and other people really should actually do research on a company before you write negatively about it. They teach you that in high school.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m signing up Monday to become a Mary Kay Consultant.

  9. Tom Harnish says:

    What’s your NET income, Kris? How much of that is from the sale of products to people who are not downline? Not including stuff you buy for yourself, family, etc.

  10. Tom Harnish says:

    So far, Kirby, no has offered any evidence that Mary Kay can actually provide an adequate income for most people, including you. If you want to consider it something like golf, an expensive hobby, fine. I have no gripe with that.

    Writing that your best friend’s mother’s, “…only clients are herself and very few of her friends…” is a perfect example of the adled thinking that’s typical of the Mary Kay true believers. How the heck can she be her own client?

    So your cousin can support herself and her husband working 6-12 hours a week, eh? You might ask yourself why are there so many people working 12 hour DAYS trying to make ends meet.

    Do you know that according to a 2006 Mary Kay Canada press release, their own numbers, only about 2500 out of 34,000 Canadian “beauty consultants’ make more than $100 Canadian, and only 362 make more than $16,500 Canadian, that’s less than $13,500 US?

    Mary Kay doesn’t release such numbers for the US , but the poverty level for a US household of 2 people is $14,000.

  11. The New Girl says:

    I don’t know how all of that pyramid stuff works and I must say I am not concerned. I do know, however, that I have been a consultant for 6 weeks and I have no complaints. Yes there was an investment upfront, but I have more than doubled what I started with. I pay no one for anything. All of my clients are just that- clients. Not people under me that I sell to. I am a full time Nursing student/single mom with a mortgage and two children. Spending about 20 hours a week I am comfortable with how my business is growing. Not to mention the pride of not having to depend on a man or the government.

    So say what you want. Brainwashed or not my bills are all paid ON TIME!! And I am having a blast meeting wonderful CHRISTIAN women and MEN.

    Maybe YOU ought to try an item or two…..

  12. Tom says:

    Good for you, New Girl. I like your independent attitude. I just wish you had six months of experience and could say the same thing. By then all your friends who are buying from you to be nice will have dried up, and the reality of such schemes will start to become evident.

  13. Well, I do have over 6 months experience and can say that it is profitable. Like I said before, I am an Air Force Nurse and just love my career, but Mary Kay is FUN and profitable and I just love making my own hours around military obligations and family. I’m sure there are many individuals that do not put enough effort into it so they make what they put into it. Tom, you sound like you have done a lot of research and are very interested in Mary Kay. I’ll get you signed up immediately if you would like. What better way to find out than to try it. What do you have to lose. Come on, you’ll look great in pink (you would drive a Pink Caddy if you earned it, right?) If you start trying the lipsticks, well…whatever works. What would you have to lose? If you decide it’s BS, too much, not fun, too difficult, etc, the company will buy everything back at 90%. The starter kit with tax will cost you about $114.00 and the website for the year is $25 and they maintain it. You do not do anything except decide what you would like to show or not show on it. It’s that easy. Also, did you know that the Harvard school of business teaches the Mary Kay business plan? Don’t believe me, research it. It’s true. Did you watch the Country Music Awards last night? Didn’t Mary Kay have great commercials as the official beauty sponsor? And didn’t everyone look gorgeous in their Mary Kay?!?!?! Tom, just sign up and you won’t have to depend on all of us consultants to convince you of how easy and profitable this business can be. You’ll be the next person on her professing your believe to the next person with doubts. I do love your spirit and even if you decide not to try it out (LOL!) stay in touch!


  14. Tom Harnish says:

    You’re barking up the wrong tree here Tonya. I have done a lot of research, and I have 40 years of business experience that tells me the only people making money at Mary Kay are a a few top-level people and the company.

    And no, Harvard does not teach the Mary Kay business plan. Harvard Business School uses case studies on a lot of businesses, success and failures, honest and dishonest. The fact that Mary Kay is among them doesn’t mean that Mary Kay is “taught” or “studied” at Harvard. The case study that’s behind this lie merely addresses whether incentives are effective to encourage Mary Kay consultants to buy more product. (They are.)

    I recently wrote a piece here about how you can scam yourself by telling (and believing) lies. I love your spunk too, Tonya, so I hate to see you falling for such bunk.

  15. Tonya Toche-Howard says:

    Okay, I did my homework. Harvard does teach the business plan to include the incentive system and other ways to motivate, etc. Here is an excerpt from an article and the web address to get to it. This was on

    Excerpt: John Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita professor of leadership at the Harvard business school, calls Mary Kay ”an opportunity-generating machine” and Mrs. Ash one of the best business leaders in the U.S.
    Web address:

    Great article with interviews from individuals that went to Harvard Business School. They really are smart. I still love ya, Tom!! :)

    By the way, I now have a personal testimony!!!! Between 16 Sept-15 Dec, I was the top sales person for my area. Queen of sales! Like I’ve said before, I am a full time active duty air force nurse with two children (ages 3 and 2) and I only worked my business about 4 hours each week. I did incorporate it into my daily life (grocery store, etc) so if you add that, I worked it about 5-6 hours a week. I made over $4500 PROFIT. Can you imagine if I were able to devote a little more time to it. Yay!!

    Tom, you still need to sign up to become a consultant. I think you would be great at it. Who better to sell than a total skeptic who relizes by personal experience that he was wrong all along.

    Still love ya!!!

  16. Tom Harnish says:

    Hang on now, Tonya. Don’t let your enthusiasm cloud your view of reality. Just because you found a single 15 year old article that mentions a Harvard professor who thinks Mary Kay is “an opportunity-generating machine” (it is, but that’s not the same as income for the vast majority) and that “Mrs. Ash is one of the best business leaders in the U.S. (she’s worth over $300 million, but at the expense of how many disappointed women?) doesn’t in any way mean Harvard teaches the company’s business methods. That’s precisely the kind of half-truth that Mary Kay is famous for.

    As I wrote before, Harvard simply mentions the company’s motivational approach in a case study. Big deal, that’s hardly an endorsement, and that certainly doesn’t mean they teach students to run a company the way Mary Kay does. Harvard case studies also cover crooks, failures, and bad approaches to employee motivation, too, and that doesn’t mean they approve.

    As for your claim that you made a $4500 profit in the last quarter that’s amazing! You must be one in a million. In fact, if that’s true, and you can do it for a year, you’ll be in the same league as the 362 people in Canada that made over $13,500. (Only 2500, made over $100, remember.)

    But are you sure you’re not confusing income with profit? Remember, you have to deduct the cost of your supplies at the very least, and some portion of your gas, phone, taxes and other expenses. To produce $4500 in profit you would have had to sell something like $9000 to $15,000 worth of product. That’s a lot of lipstick in 90 days!

  17. Tonya says:

    That is definitely profit. I know it isn’t as much as my regular job, but it is pay and I didn’t do it full time so it could be more. We’ll see, I’ll keep you posted. Just remind me.

    How were your holidays? Mine we great! Got to be around family for most of it.(worked Christmas eve night and Christmas night…YUCK!)

    Hope you are doing well.


  18. Sally says:

    Mary Kay is a great company its flawed when it comes to some of the pushy directors who lie about income or talk about how easy it is. You have to work to get leads its not hard to sell its a great product and the name recognition speaks for itself. I think that there are good people in the company but those who lie weed themselves out. Im pro-MK but I do know in network marketing the turnover is high and if you dont mind finding new people to sell to you can make a good part time income and full time if you are willing to put in the hours that are desired.
    Earning the cadillac is not easy but if you can maintain the level you can do well.

  19. Charles says:

    Goodness, a year after and this site is generating comments and I’m only contributing to this.

    I had lived in America for over 25 years and not once had I heard of Mary Kay until I moved to New York City. If it was a major brand, I do not understand why not a single girl I have ever met has used the product or mentioned it (and quite a few are fashion students or work in the fashion industry, some work for YSL’s cosmetic division).

    The part that concerns me about this company is that if it is such a major company and has a well known brand name, why does Mary Kay not have its products for sale with major department stores? I can’t imagine a business not wanting to utilize all avenues of sales. More importantly, people need to be careful of companies. Even if a company has a large holding and a fashionable brand name, it could always turn out to be a scam–let us not forget Bernard Madoff.

    If you are an MK person that turns a profit on the sales end, best of luck to you. If you make your living recruiting, I wish you the opposite. Sometimes the people that get involved are desperate for anything and will pay for a chance at a future.

    And as for one of the earlier commenters who wrote about a Minister’s wife. I’m amazed for a lady that should be well aware of the line: “trust in the Lord with all of your heart and not on your own understandings and in all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will set your path straight” would go around selling Mary Kay to support her husband. Then again I’ve seen Ministers with Rolexes and 2 Lexuses and 5 people in a 2 bedroom apartment, so for different people different strokes.

  20. Susi Q says:

    Charles, no offense, but you must be living under a rock to never have heard of Mary Kay. But, in your defense, I’m asked almost weekly, “is Mary Kay a real person”? Which of course, the answer is “YES, however she passed away several years ago”. Google her name & read about the lady that started it all.

    Tom, someone must have burned you or someone you know to bash Mary Kay. But, in your defense, you really need to be a “CHICK” to understand the “girl power” this amazing company seems to offer it’s consultants. I guess that’s the lure of MK for a lot of gals… we offer HOPE to women that might not have anything else positive in their life.

    I’ve heard of people having bad experiences in Mary Kay… they’ll be the same people that join any “get rich quick” scheme & think they can sit on their thumbs & pull in 6 figures a year…. oh, wait… I think that’s the multi-level real estate guru’s that push that agenda.

    Perhaps there are some MK people that prey on weak individuals. But, I will tell you that’s not the norm in this business. You can only climb the ladder in MK if you groom enough of your team members to climb the ladder with you. What a concept to grasp… women helping other women grow their business. Sorry, but men will never understand this. It’s not the “corporate concept” of “last man standing wins”! We just aren’t wired the same… so, don’t get irritated by the comment.

    My personal story… $100 to join. I didn’t start with any inventory. Just sold to the gals I bumped into through work & my kid’s sporting events. Two years into joining, I decided I wanted to move up the ladder so I could quit my corporate banking job. Six months later I did & earned my first free car with MK. 5 free cars later… I do fine. I have a steady customer base & a loyal team. None of which will tell you they were ever told MK is easy. It’s not. It’s a relationship building endeavor that will take you far beyond your wildest expectations if you continue to WORK the business with integrity.
    Did I mention, I’m a single mom & I’ve paid for my child’s college education & I’m debt-free… thanks to my MK income?!

    I apologize to anyone who has ever had a bad experience in MK… I can tell you that I certainly don’t teach the “properity gospel” when I’m sharing the MK opportunity. I share the facts. They speak for themselves. Any adult woman has the opportunity to make the choice for herself. I’m glad I chose MK!!! We’re the sisterhood of PINK LADIES & I’m thrilled to be a member!

  21. offspringws says:


    You mention to someone in one post “Don’t let your enthusiasm cloud your view of reality.” I think you should be careful of the same thing. I am not going to tell you of some great success story that I have heard of (or have had, seeing as I am a guy I would never sell makeup) however I think that you really don’t understand how Mary Kay is really different than other MLM companies.

    First off, if you notice nobody on this forum has stated anything about Amway or any other company, but instead you have every single post defending Mary Kay.

    Second, My wife just started the program and they teach each person from the beginning that you are not going to be successful by doing nothing, they really teach them they have to work for any money they are going to make. THAT’S reality.

    And the third thing I want to say is that I do agree with you point in the respect that women have to be careful when they sign up for this stuff but it is no different that starting a “regular” business. If I was to start a Computer Retail store, for example, I would buy a bunch of computer parts, maybe advertise, pay my bills and hope to God that people come and buy my computer stuff. If nobody hears about me, or if nobody wants what I am selling then I am going to flop. It is the same with Mary Kay in fact in some ways it is a safer investment because if nobody were to buy the product you have, the company with buy it back for 90%. Better than the NOTHING I get in the computer store example, right? Are you then saying that nobody should ever take the plunge to open their own business.

    I work for a company that was started by man who was 17 years old when he started he now owns an ISP that makes millions of dollars a year, he did this with NO college at all. That is one hell of a success story but there are a lot of stories that probably start just like his, but they don’t make it and end up going bankrupt.

    These previous examples are “reality” and as you can see Mary Kay stories mirror that “reality”, to be successful you have to work hard, do good business and pray.

    The benefits that the women who join this get are not just fiscal but also emotional. It allows woman to socialize and meet new people and just have fun.

    Now don’t mistake my point with the previous arguments, I don’t think it is the greatest thing in the world but I think that if you are committed, and truly enjoy the work it is a good Job.

    To answer your question “if it is that easy why doesn’t everyone do it”, to that I would say it isn’t easy to be successful with Mary Kay, although you can be, and the reason everyone isn’t doing it is because they are not interested and those who are but want to “get rich quick” quickly find out that isn’t what Mary Kay is about.

    I think that you are improperly categorizing Mary Kay as a “get rich quick” Scam but that is not what it is.

    I understand that because you have 40 years of experience and you have done all the “research” you know more than me and everyone else on the forum but maybe you should look at from a different perspective before you are so critical.

  22. Scrib says:

    “You can only climb the ladder in MK if you groom enough of your team members to climb the ladder with you. What a concept to grasp… women helping other women grow their business.”

    Except that it’s rarely that cut-and-dry. I find it interesting that in Mary Kay, you could sell all the rouge in the world and not move one inch up the career ladder – what does that say? I know what it says to me: selling abilites matter little in Mary Kay and recruiting abilities mean everything.

    I have come across many a recruiting script for those in DIQ (Director in qualification) periods advising women to “use this script to get the recruits you need!” That tells me those moving up the career ladder can rarely say they’re recruiting “just to help other women grow their businesses.” The women recruiting NEED those women to “grow their businesses” (i.e. recruit) or guess what? No caddy, no promotion, no nothing.

    These scripts and teachings aren’t coming from “just a few bad apples”, mind you, but the leadership sitting at the top: the NSDs. What downline member’s going to question NSD Pam Shaw’s guidance of “Press through to a win!” regarding recruiting interviews, especially if that member is pushing to get where NSD Shaw is sitting now? Or what about NSD Kathy Helou’s script titled, “Responses From your Heart?” where Helou gets a potential recruit to say “yes” by snowing her with lines like, “When faced with any objection, the magic words are, “That’s exactly why you need Mary Kay!”

    I’ll mirror the sentiment previously expressed: if you are a sales-only IBC, I applaud you, love. But if you’re a career-path sort and into recruitment, I strongly encourage you to take a hard honest look at what you’re being taught by your leaders and to ask yourself, “If this is a God-first” company, would God really put His stamp of approval on what I’m being told to do in order to acquire “success?”

  23. Dutchess says:

    Hours worked: some of you write: I only work at it 3-5 hours… Let see: To do one party, surely your evening is wiped out? a weekly meeting? thats another evening. The time on the phone, to do your administration, driving to and fro, picking up the sitter so you can do your party…. add that to your hours. And… all the expense: babysitters for some, an extra take-out dinner because you don’t have the time?? Gasoline, phone bills… Now go add up your time and see if indeed you are ONLY working 2-5 hours or whatever. Don’t fool yourselves. IF you had to pay an assistant for her time to do all that you do… how many hours at… $ 7.00 / hour would you have to fork out? Not to mention the expense account: so many miles at so much/mile…
    And, is there healthinsurance, a pension plan, sick time, vacation time, maternity leave? No? Well, then its great as a hobby when you have a roof over your head already.

  24. Kirby says:

    You people are really ridiculous! I mean, this little site is really getting out of control. There are people out there who are happy selling Mary Kay and doing well at it. Mary Kay is not a business for everyone and it isn’t a product for everyone, but guess what? It’s selling! And for those who sell it, they make a profit! Even if it’s a couple hundred a week, it’s still extra money in their pocket. Mary Kay is a personal business, each beauty consultant makes their own hours. So sick time, YES, Maternity leave, YES, vacation time, YES! Also, the higher you rise in Mary Kay you are offered health insurance, and a pension – but I won’t lie, the women who work hard enough for that actual do work the hours that get them that raise in the company. Also seeing that each individual beauty consultant is running their own business – kinda like a chain – mile in your car, every time you eat out, that baby sitter you MIGHT need, anything that is in any way job related, gets written off in your taxes. Not a bad gig if you ask me.

    Why are you people so intent on trying to destroy Mary Kay? Honestly, you people not truly involved with the company have NO idea what you are talking about. So get over that someone you know spent $100 to get the starter kit and then never got off the couch to go and try to make the contacts to sell their product. If they aren’t putting in any time at all, I’d say it’s their fault.

  25. Tom Harnish says:

    Hey Kirby . . . chill!

    If you’d respond to the criticisms in a measured, business-like way, instead of ranting about “you people’, your response would be a lot more convincing.

    But even if you did, claiming that MK women are afforded sick pay, maternity leave, and vacation time makes it tough to take you seriously. You really aren’t suggesting that if someone stops selling product because she’s ill, pregnant or goes to Hawaii for two weeks, that’s the same as a company providing an employee paid time off, are you?

    Nobody’s trying to destroy Mary Kay. What people are trying to do is inject a little reality into the fantasy the company projects. It really is dishonest, that’s the only word for it, to lead people to believe that they can add a few hundred dollars a week to their bottom line when in Canada, for example, only 2500 people made over $100 in a whole year! And remember, those are your company’s numbers, not mine.

    So yeah, you can deduct those expenses from your taxes. But you have to have income first.

  26. Kirby says:

    Tom, everyone that is injecting your ‘reality into the fantasy’ of MK says it in a snide, rude and demeaning way. You’ve never once addressed their curtness. I am truly sorry that I used the phrase ‘you people’ I was in a hurry and couldn’t think of a better way to group you all together.

    The thing is you are only willing to see a bad side of Mary Kay, and you are not willing to look at it honestly. You mind is closed. No matter what people tell you, you’re just going to think of some way to come back at them telling them they are wrong.

    Every Mary Kay Consultant that has wrote to you on this blog has been trying to get this message across to you, one you just aren’t willing to get. Each individual person that sells MK products, a consultant, is responsible for their own business. Right from the beginning when you sign up, they tell you that you will have to work to make the money, it isn’t free. You can’t sit on the couch and expect people to buy from you, you do have to put in the effort. But what business isn’t like that? If anything the down fall of selling Mary Kay is that it’s easy! It’s easy and fun to have those parties so everyone thinks they can do it. The truth however is that a lot of people will get that starter kit and then they never do anything about it. The Mary Kay starter kit comes with tons of information on how to sell your product, and how to market yourself has a business woman. They give you all the tools you need to be successful. I hate to say it so bluntly but all those women in Canada who didn’t make any money probably put no effort into selling their product. So in reality that isn’t MK’s fault.

    It is possible to make good money off of selling Mary Kay, but you have to work your business. For some they only want some extra money at the end of the week to do something special. So they only do one or two parties to get that money and thats a total of maybe 3-5 hours. For some they want to work their business to hopefully one day quite their boring 9-5, those people probably work 6-10 hours a week. Women who sell MK usually have other jobs, unless they’ve worked their business hard enough to where they don’t need it. So Mary Kay probably 90% of the time is people just making some extra cash and having fun doing it. Hmmm, and what are they doing with that extra cash you ask? Going on vacations, taking care of that newborn baby, staying afloat when they can’t go to work because they are sick…You can do whatever you want with that extra income, spend it, save it, give it away!

    You know, when I first wrote on here about my cousin who has been doing very well with Mary Kay and that she is making enough money now to quite her job and help her husband’s ministry, there was a man who later wrote something very rude and demeaning about that, and you never once said anything about his behavior. People call us “bad apples”, to categorize us, and that’s ok on your site, because I guess the ones who take your point of view can do no wrong?

    Bottom line:
    A: I am very sorry that I wrote in an unprofessional manner
    B: You can earn extra cash in a week if you actually put in the hours – Mary Kay does not lie or ‘lead’ people to believe otherwise – I was told upfront that working my business was the only way to succeed – where is the lie in that?

  27. Tom Harnish says:

    Just so you know, I have and will delete abusive comments. But I went back and looked over the comments here, and I can’t find any comments that were rude or demeaning. Charles’ certainly weren’t. although I’d agree that ad hominem attacks are useless. What are you referring to?

    In any event, while more business-like, it’s still hard to take you seriously when you write, “For some they want to work their business to hopefully one day quite their boring 9-5, those people probably work 6-10 hours a week.” Do you really believe that 6-10 hours a week will produce an income equivalent to a full time job? Do you really believe those Canadian numbers are irrelevant, that the U.S. numbers aren’t similar? To do you really believe that the few dollars people make (most less than $100) is the same as company paid time off for illness, maternity leave, and vacation time?

  28. Kirby says:

    Actually yes, I do find what Charles wrote rude and offensive, but of course you don’t because he stands for your side of the argument. I also mentioned the work snide, Tom. By which I mean the attitude of you comments.

    I didn’t excuse the numbers in Canada – however I did address them, the people that aren’t making more than $100 a year are not working their business. If you don’t put in the time don’t expect to get rewarded. You cannot grow a business or profit by being idle. This is not to the fault of MK. They give you all the tools you need to be successful, and they do not lead you to believe that you can make a fortune by not doing anything.

    Lastly, I will say, you seem to be a very close minded person. No matter what anyone says you’ll still come back with some argument, not really reading or caring about what people are telling you. It’s useless to try and connivence you when you’ve already made up your mind. So I’ll just let you keep living in your fantasy world while I live in mine.

    Good luck.

  29. Tom Harnish says:

    My comments have been direct perhaps, Kirby, but not snide.

    So a company where out of over 34,000 employees only 7% made more than $100, and 1% earned more than the poverty level is just because they didn’t try hard enough? You don’t think there might be some other issues? And remember earnings and profits are two different things.

  30. offspringws says:

    I would just like to say something to Kirby and anyone else on the side of Mary Kay being a good thing.

    Posting on the forum is stupid and useless, If you honestly think you are going to get Tom to change his mind or see Mary Kay in some new light you are sadly mistaken.

    If you honestly in your heart and mind feel something that should be enough for you, you don’t need Mr. Harnish to approve, no offense to him or anyone else but their opinions DON’T matter.

    Like I said in my other post my wife is doing Mary Kay and I am supporting her so I guess I would probably be classified as being on the side of Mary Kay. I think that perhaps Mr. Harnish and the people who agree with his perspective may be uninformed but they are allowed any opinion they want and Mary Kay doesn’t need their approval so there is no reason have to win if know what you are doing is right. Besides if you are successful with Mary Kay than that is biggest argument against people like Mr. Harnish so there is no reason to argue hypothetical situations.

  31. Tonya says:

    Woo-Hoo!! Still having fun with it!!!! How are ya Tom? I still think you would look great in PINK!!!

    You know what everyone…it is true that we (consultants) do not need anyone’s approval for our business nor do we need to convince anyone of the great opportunity. It is what it is and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Some opinions are a little “different” than others, but who cares! If you are having fun…great! If you are working your business…great! If you just need a few extra bucks for McDonalds or the ice cream shop with the kids…great! You CAN make Mary Kay work to what ever level you wish. Just do what you want with it. Some people just love the product and sell it for the discount they get as a consultant. Hey, that’s okay too!! Just be happy doing whatever you choose to do.

    I’m gonna go have a margarita now. LOL!

  32. Christine says:

    Tom: This is the first time I have visited this site. I was online doing some research in what I need to prepare my taxes after a year of working the BeautiControl business, which of course, is on the same lines as Mary Kay. I started out very enthusiastic and by the end of the year, I realized I was putting more on my credit cards than I was acutally selling. This of course, lead to my downslide in the business toward the end of the year. I quit working so hard when I realized I was spending so much time working my business and less time with my family, as I already work a full-time job which I love. But the thought of making the amount of money that many ladies make intrigued me.

    I will go on now gathering up my tax information – but I am sure I lost money in this business venture. I should have done my homework. Thanks for the information.

  33. Allison Wall says:

    i have been using mary kay products for over 15 years. i have not sold mary kay, but have had a very similar business, or “scam” as you call it when i sold creative memories, .

    mary kay is not a pyramid. a person selling mary kay does not make money off what they buy from the company – they only make money off what they SELL to the customer. with mary kay you buy at one fixed price and sell at another price, of your choice, not to exceed a 100% mark-up, so you make a 50% profit, and that’s how you make money. which sounds a lot like retail to me, except, mary kay products are not horribly expensive and come with a full guarantee. and the markup for retail is MUCH higher, which is why they can always afford sales like 90% off, or 75% off, plus an additional 25% off.

    if you have downline, or a team, you receive a certain percentage of their sales as payment, and it doesn’t come out of your downline’s money . retail managers get paid higher than the regular retail worker, and they get a bonus if the store meets their goals – what’s the difference exactly – why isn’t that a scam according to you?

    i guess it’s better to pay $100 for some beauty products at a department store so that amount can be split up between the 100 people that touched it from creation to the final sale, with it being created overseas by some person that made $.20 per hour?

    mary kay isn’t a get rich scam, just like my creative memories’ business wasn’t a get rich scam. when i was committed to working my business, having classes and workshops and selling my product that was consumable (just like mary kay’s is), then i made a very decent salary of about $1000 per month. if i had meetings for my downline and continued to help train them and meet their goals, their sales were better and then my commission from that was higher. in retail – sales managers train their employees, have meetings, set goals, give prizes and bonuses for people meeting those goals, and then they in turn get bonuses – all of that is just like mary kay – why isn’t that a scam? how come an expensive retail store makes something “legitimate”?

    ridiculous! i haven’t bought makeup or skincare in a store or department store in over 15 years and i’m not about to start now.

  34. I can’t believe that I am jumping into the middle of this showdown but…

    I also am a consultant with MK and I can speak a bit for both sides…

    I spent my $100 on the starter kit and was so happy… I was going to make tons of money and drive a career car in no time… then I got lazy and didn’t do much of anything. HOWEVER, I am aware that the reason these things did not happen was because of ME not because the company is a scam or dishonest. Keep in mind that some people hear what they want to hear.

    A consultant schedules a class with a woman who invites Jane, Sarah, and Megan. She gets to the party and everyone is excited about the time they get to spend together with the exception of Jane. Jane has two kids, a mortgage, a full time job and a husband who just recently got layed off. With that said, the consultant (unaware of Jane’s situation) continues through her demonstration and she gets to the portion about the “MK Opportunity”. She says “After 6 weeks of training and about 10 hours a week you CAN make an average of $25.00 an hour.”
    (Keep in mind – Jane is probably looking for money to support her family in her time of need. So, she hears “$25.00 an hour”. Depending on Jane’s personality type she may ask herself if this is reasonable for HER.. she may not) and before you know it she is taking her check book any writing a check for the starter kit.

    Is it the consultants responsibility to dig deep into Jane’s personal life (after knowing her for maybe an hour) to fingure out if she is capable of handling this on her own or is it Jane’s responsibility to ask her consultant questions that she may need the answers to? Is it the consultants wrong doing to inform her clients of the benefits of the company?

    Yes, the MK business does require supplies (starter kit, pens, phone line…etc.) that are a cost to the consultant. Again however, everyone needs to remember that this is an independent BUSINESS not a handout. If anyone has come accross a business owner outside of these independent businesses please ask if he/she believed they were going to make a profit overnight…how about even in that same year. That is considering if they even made it through the first year. Which is a great statistic (what is the percent survival rate of a small business owner) to review if you happen to be a stats person. MK realizes the difficulties of running a business and offer an “out” to the people who do not want to continue (95% of woman who join stay involved after the first year).

    For those of you who are not aware of the companies mission please look into this. This company is ment to EMPOWER woman and to provide them with benefits beyond just the money. The product will sell itself… it is as simple as that. If people understand and need an overall improvement in life I believe these people with be successful (in my opinion). When a person can appreciate and respect the cause the rewards are much greater (again, my person opinion).

    A good consultant can make money with MK, do doubt. A great consultant will make great money and have an even better relationship with the people she is working with. Good money and Great money can only be defined by the individual.

    You get what you give. I beileve that and stand by it.

    When joining a company like this it it easy to seperate the postive and negative people almost immediately. I believe that is the seperation of everyone involved in this debate today, WHO is giving you this information that makes you feel that MK is a scam? Is he/she postive? Negative? Depressed? Happy? Lazy? A go-getter?

    On a personal level – I joined the company looking to make some part time income (at the time would have been an extra $300 a month). So, there I was – I took out my checkbook and ordered my starter kit. I got it in an didn’t do anything. I started talking with my MK manager and she informed me that I need to have fun! Not to be worried about the money, the product will sell itself. That weekend I had two demonstrations of the product, I sold a little more than $600.00 and made more than $250.00 in profit. I worked a total of 5 hours for the profit and I was psyched. Now, I work very hard for what I am trying to accomplish with my business and am more than happy with what this company has to offer.

    Again, you get what you put in.

    This is my personal, first hand, opinion on the Mary Kay Opportunity. If you think negatively about this company, I am sorry.

    **Please note – I say this in defense to the MK company only, not other party planning companies.

  35. Tom Harnish says:

    Tracy Coenen is a forensic accountant and fraud examiner in Chicago and Milwaukee who investigates white collar crimes, including cases of financial statement fraud, embezzlement, tax fraud, and insurance fraud. She is the author of Expert Fraud Investigation and Essentials of Corporate Fraud and more than 100 articles on fraud featured in industry publications. See also blogs at The Fraud Files where she posted this (used with permission):

    We’re often asked whether someone can make money with Mary Kay Cosmetics. After all, they’ve got a product that you can retail, and you don’t really have to recruit, do you?

    In theory, you can make money with Mary Kay. In reality, most women (upwards of 99%) actually put more money into MK than they ever get out of it. There is a tiny fraction of women (something like five one-hundredths of one percent) who make an executive income with Mary Kay. There’s another fraction of one percent that make a little money, typically in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

    Most everyone else is spending more money stocking up on inventory that they have little hope of ever selling.

    But what about that retail product? Aren’t women buying it? Not in significant enough numbers to generate a real income. The recruiters push big inventory packages, telling you to “think like a retailer.” Except you’re not like a real retailer. You’re one person with tons of restrictions on how and where you can market and sell the products. You have no foot traffic like a real store. You don’t have any window shoppers who can be drawn in.

    It’s extremely difficult to build a client base to a size that will offer you a somewhat stable, livable income. “But I’m willing to work hard!” You might be willing to work hard, but you should know that there have been millions of women who came before you who were willing to work hard and couldn’t build that base.

    It’s not just hard, it’s next to impossible, for a variety of reasons:

    • The common opinion of women outside of Mary Kay is that the products are overpriced for their quality. The products are okay, but they’re about equal to drugstore brands. The quality is not up to the level of department store brands, although the reps want you to think they are.

    • Many women are wise to the Mary Kay game. They know if they buy from you, they’re going to have to put up with you asking them to hold skin care classes with their friends, as well as trying to recruit them into MK. They’d simply rather not deal with it. If they need make-up, they’ll pick some up at Sephora, where the employees won’t try to recruit them.

    • The home party business model is out-of-date and a turn-off to most professional women. They don’t want to waste time on your sales pitch. If they need girlfriend time, they’d much rather do something fun with their friends instead of getting your hard-sell about “giving their opinion” on the “business opportunity.”

    • To generate a real income, you’d have to sell in excess of $1,000 a week every week. That just doesn’t happen in Mary Kay. Oh, they pretend it does. Unfortunately, that one $1,000 week the director had five years ago doesn’t count. I dare you to find anyone in Mary Kay who is selling more than $1,000 a week every week and is willing to provide proof.

    • Everyone knows the real money is in recruiting. The product is just the front for the recruiting scheme. Recruiting and frontloading inventory is the name of the game. Get you in, convince you that you need thousands of dollars of inventory, and hope you don’t send it back to the company for a refund. But in reality, most of the women who have recruited aren’t making a whole lot either. Most of them are creating credit card debt for themselves, hoping that “next month will be the month” in which they break out into the “big” income and can pay off the debt they’ve accumulated.

    • If you get to the point where you’re making that $20,000 to $25,000 a year that I mentioned above, you should know that you’ll easily be spending 50 to 60 hours a week to do that. That’s less than $10 an hour. Not an executive level income, if you ask me.

    The bottom line is that if you want to make a little extra money… say a hundred bucks a month, you could do it by selling Mary Kay. If you want to make a real income, run the other way. Find a real job, with a real salary, and real benefits. With Mary Kay, you’ll be lucky if you even get to that $20k or $25k level. And even then, you’ve got self-employment taxes and no benefits, which make that income look even worse.

  36. HS1355 says:

    of course i dont have much to say,
    my earnings and buisness expenses are mine and i will not post them so a man can belittle them… Mk isn’t about the money to me, its about encouragement, and confidence, and to never have to feel insignificant.
    All i have to say is
    Miss Ash would roll over in her grave if she could see things like this…
    and its very petty to attack a company when the founder can’t protect it…

    why should we allow someone to make us feel like we have to protect mary kay?
    as consultants we know the joys of the company, and the wonderous results of the products, our JOB is to share what we think on the product with other women. and for those of us that LOVE our MK buissness, we cannot be moved, you cannot convince us that miss ash created a scam. because its worked for us thus far…

  37. Tom Harnish says:

    Wow! People call men chauvinists, and many are. But you take the cake.

    Did you happen to notice that the post right before yours, offering the clearest evidence against MK, was written by a woman?

  38. Suzanne James says:

    I have been with MK for over 30 years. I became a sales director early and have won many cars, queens court rings and hundreds of quarterly prizes. I have had multiple offspring directors. I have had newspaper artlicles written about me in my home town and have appeared in a local magazine. Wow, doesn’t that sound like success.

    Well, my accountant told me for years that I was deceiving myself about how much I made. My husband complained about the hours I was away at night and on week ends, and the money I spent on seminars and meetings.

    I believed that I was helping my ladies as I praised thenm to success, and I never frontloaded because I wasn’t in it for the money. I spent money on prizes and awards and they all loved me. It fed my ego and maybe filled in for something missing in my marriage. (or maybe it caused it)

    Well, after 25 years of marriage I am now divorced., I am still in MK because I need what little I make and I’m too old to start over., I will have to work until I die. I have no real retirement, no health insurance and I can’t sell my business or pass it on to my children. Last year I had to declare bankruptsy. I no longer feel successful. I gave
    everything I had to this business and lost everything in the process,.

    It’s a nice hobby and you can make a few dollars. The top ladies that make the big money have to constantly be selling the lies to new consultants and keep everyone ordering. I’m sure if you get big enough you could sustain it and live well, but I think the guilt of how I would have to get there would kill me. I know many directors who quit with tons of debt and hundreds of consultants,

    I hope this helps someone who is considering this. I know it helps me to finally be honest. If you need a little hobby enjoy it but be prepared to spend money like all hobbies. And then be honest and don’t lie to people by making them think you’re making money that your not.

    I believe that Mary Kay Ash was a good woman with high moral standards and love in her heart, but she was a business woman too, and a very smart one. Since she has passed away the company is more corporate and less feeling. I miss her.

  39. Elizabeth says:

    I must say that Mary Kay is awesome! It’s one job that won’t lay me off! I was laid off from a job that I thought would never go away, but it did! Now I am working my Mary Kay business full-time. Sure, I am not making enough yet to cover the loss of pay, but let me tell you, it won’t take much. It’s really great to know that Mary Kay doesn’t need you to have a college degree to succeed! I’m tired of working for minimum wage at my age and watching person after person get promotions and jobs that I deserve just because I don’t have a piece of paper proving what I know. I believe that unless you are willing to walk a mile in my shoes, don’t bash what we do. We love selling Mary Kay and helping women feel great about themselves! Well, I gotta go so I can brighten women’s lives with Mary Kay!!

  40. Tom Harnish says:

    A 2006 Mary Kay legal document submitted to the FTC reveals that company turnover is almost 70% per annum (68.6%). In other words, about 3 out of 10 Mary Kay “consultants” stay with the company every year.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the average turnover rate for US companies was less than 5%. In other words typically 9.5 out of 10 employees stay with the company they work for.

  41. Tom Harnish says:

    The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos

  42. Marisa says:

    Ok….so it seems that all you are doing is pulling up stupid paper reports! Not all companies are all about the paper side of it. I am 20 years old with an Accounting degree, I sell Mary Kay and making more doing Mary Kay than accoutning!!!! I am making around $1500-$2000 JUST FROM SALES TO OTHER PEOPLE. If you would get off your but and off the the computer and actually went out there and did REAL research I bet it would change everything. When it comes to Mary Kay you get out of it what you put into it, its that simple. Those people that have had problems is because they didn't work for Mary Kay NOT Mary Kay didn't work for them!!! You make 50% on everything you sell, right on the spot. The comission is just what you get for helping the people under, but it doesn't take from their 50% they get. How can you not get that??? Mary Kay consultants are consultants who decided to go againts the normal life and for that you just can't understand. We decided to give our families a better life and go on amazing trips, win cars, and diamonds. Who would not like that??? As women we are always wanting to give our families the best and some are willing to REALLY change their lives. I think you need to take Mary Kay off of your bad list, this is the best company out there you just can't get that.

  43. Tom Harnish says:

    That’s right, all we do is look at (and report) the facts. The comments tell us a lot too.

  44. Name says:

    HHHHHHH (long deep sigh), okay, I see we are still at it here. Tom, you are having too much fun with this. I know you are sitting back chuckling. I know that you are getting email reminders to tell you there has been a post to this forum (I do too, LOL!) I am still enjoying Mary Kay. I am truly learning and not just hearing that it offers more than just $$ (which is a great part, just not the only one). It HELPS you meet so many amazing women and the networking is great!!! I have built some wonderful friendships through this (other consultants and directors as well as my customers). I have such a good time when I'm around them. You know how when you have dinner with people from work, you tend to talk about work (AKA “shop talk”)? Mary Kay is no different, we talk about “work”, but no one is griping or being negative or fake. It's so nice. We are all smiling, laughing and talking mainly about how we are doing, getting advice when we hit a dry spell or bump in the road. No one is “after our job”, because we are our own boss. No one has anyone to “kiss up to” or “look good in front of”, we are just ourselves and so proud. I love it!!When I go to dinner with people from my other job, it is fun and they are good people, but get too caught up in what is “wrong” all of the time and it's not always such a positive and motivating atmosphere though I enjoy the people themselves. I love nursing though, so I will always be medical, but I'm not quitting Mary Kay. There is more to it then just the little I have mentioned. Can you believe it's been a year since my first post to this forum. I disappeared for a while though. It got to redundant and negative and frustrating. I hope all that do not agree with Mary Kay continue to be happy doing whatever else it is they do and that all who are with Mary Kay continue to have fun and be successful. Tonya

  45. angelaromero says:

    this is the silliest thing. First of all Mary Kay is not Multi Level Marketing. Second tell me one business that you can start without any investment! Can I open a Jack in the Box or Mc Donalds Franchise with no investment? Not only does every busines venture have a price but I want to add that in Mary Kay the investment is FAAAAARRRR lower then that of any other business. $100.00 plus tax can change your life in Mary Kay, I see it happening everyday and it has changed mine and my families lives as I speak. Maybe next time before you speak you should do a some research before making assumptions! Making assumptions only makes an ass out of you!

  46. angelaromero says:

    those making money that percentage are probably the actual consultants working the business. Remember it still does take HARD WORD! the old fashion way, referrals, parties, marketing….. ARe you serious????? How can you say all of these awful things you have issues! Mary Kay is still a FAMILY owned company! Hello! You think what you want hating on others. All I know is I was in corporate America and working my business now since March mind you it is only september and I have replaced my old Corporate America income. That is off my sales. Yes, I get commission but only because I work hard and I train and motivate my team to work hard and to set goals to get what they desire and their families needs as well.

  47. Tom Harnish says:

    Yet another comment from someone who claims to be a proferssional business woman running a real business, but who resorts to name calling when facts are presented that contradict her views. Classy.

  48. Scrib says:

    “Yes, I get commission but only because I work hard and I train and motivate my team to work hard and to set goals to get what they desire and their families needs as well.”

    Quite the vague job description, isn’t it? “I get commission because I work hard and train and set goals and motivate!”

    Let’s be realistic, here. You get commission from recruiting and convincing those recruits to order big when they first come in. It is no secret that the biggest source of production comes from new recruits. Why would women who know the LEAST about the business be ordering the MOST makeup? It’s kooky logic, I know.

    You also get commission by convincing your current troops to keep those orders coming so you can make your monthly quotas. (Dialing for dollars at month’s end, anyone?) I don’t doubt that some women do sell off their product, but I do doubt that women in MK are rapidly selling it without offering decent (and often sizeable) discounts. And then there’s that whole “Let’s turn my customers into my competition by recruiting them!” thing…always a pain booking when you have to drive two counties over to look for prospects because your subdivision has 3 IBCs per block.

    My laugh-out-loud moment of the day: Tom quoted an MK legal document and someone fired back with “You’re just pulling up stupid paper reports!” It reminded me of that one Simpsons episode which featured the talking Malibu Stacy doll:

    “Thinking too much gives you wrinkles!” Yes, let’s ignore those nasty numbers and silly documents and go back to having blind bee-lief! Now let’s forget all our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!

    Way to go, Tom! MK drones don’t care much for documentation or being confronted with the words of their own leaders, namely because they can’t address it with a canned answer like, “It works when you work!” ;)

  49. Kate Lister says:

    Interesting perspective, Scrib. Thanks!

  50. Unfill says:

    Hi There

    i’ve just joined here and wanted to say hi to all of you!I really hope to give something back to this board…


  51. Anon says:

    Enjoyed every bit of your article post. Awesome.

  52. Lorraine says:

    I was wondering if you could help me, in finding out if my Senior Sales Director in Mary Kay(Malaysia) is still getting her amway commission from her ex-company . I remembered her telling me that she was someone of a high position there before she left the company and joined Mary Kay(Malaysia).

    I also know that Mary Kay will not allow her Beauty Consultants to be in another direct selling company when doing Mary Kay .

    Could you help me on this ?

    Her full name is Selina Tan See Lin – she was from Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia, but resides now in Penang with her new husband and kids.

    Please advice .

  53. Chris says:

    If only more women were educated about the dangers of Mary Kay. Some might make it, but most don’t. I mean, how do you tell a woman this? If she has invested a lot of her time into the company, she’ll find it offensive, but reality is reality.

  54. Kas says:

    Mary Kay is not a scam just like selling Avon is not a scam. At least it is not illegal. If you see it as a scam that is your opinion. I wasn’t good at selling Avon and would rather work out of the home myself. But there are a lot of scams out there. Such as those fake news sites talking about work in your area and all the fake comments that are closed and not allowing you to comment due to supposed spam. Or I once applied for a job at one of the trusted job sites online (like and expected to hear back in email if I got the job and information on what the job entailed but what I got instead was a letter in the mail saying I got the job and enclosed was a fake money order and instructions to cash it and mail back the rest to “evaluate the postal system”. Those are scams. But Mary Key and Avon and AmWay are not scams if you know the proper definition of the word scam. You do not send money out of the country, you can get your money back, and you do get the product you paid for and the phone number of the company does not change like fake jobs do.

  55. Kim says:

    For someone who writes such an article you might want to make sure your links to the FTC and states sites are working… makes me wonder what your motive is.

    Have you ever been in an MLM? Have you ever WORKED in an MLM? While this is a country where we have free speech, for which I’m thankful, I believe that if you are speaking you should do so responsibly… have you?

    For what it is worth… while there ARE some MLMs out there that are NOT legitimate per the FTC guidelines many of the MLMs you listed, Mary Kay, Avon and Amway are legitimate home businesses. In 1978, Amway (the American Way) won a statement from the FTC that is was a legitimate way (albeit unique) of doing business. That information should also be included in what you are saying or it is one sided and maybe even liable.

    You are entitled to your opinion. And IF you have not succeeded in a home business I’m sorry. But, having worked in several LEGITIMATE home businesses over the years (all being successful to the limit I chose to work them) I might challenge you with this question… Are you just sucking on sour grapes because one of them did not work for you? From past experience I can say that it was probably you NOT the “opportunity” that did not work. Respectfully, Kim

  56. Tom Harnish says:

    A broken link to the FTC makes you wonder about our motives? Weird, but thanks for the heads up, it’s fixed. There’s no problem with the link to our page on state laws that I could find, but if you could be more specific I’ll fix that too.

    In the process I discovered an interesting collection of chapters from a Consumer Protection Institute book on MLM on the FTC site that explains the risks and deception involved in many MLM schemes, so I added that to the blog post above too.

    No, our caution to readers about the dishonesty in the vast majority of ‘home based business opportunities’ isn’t sour grapes. We’ve run several very successful home-based businesses. All very profitably, thank you.

    By the way it’s ‘libel’ not ‘liable’, and what we’ve written is not more libelous than your accusation that in some bizarre way our broken link motives were dishonest. What’s more, what we’ve written is based on a wide collection of facts from business and government sources (including Mary Kay’s own press releases). Your rant seems to be based on nothing more than personal opinion. Yes, it’s free country and you’re welcome to your opinion, but that doesn’t make them accurate.

  57. Belladida says:

    Wow! Three years later and this topic of debate is still going strong! It makes for a very interesting read!

  58. Charlie (I am a woman) says:

    I do not sell Mary Kay. I tried it once when I was 19 to supplement my part-time job but I was young and not ready for that committment, though the people were wonderful (albeit a little flamboyant and possibly a little too happy-go-lucky for my taste).

    I’m not here to defend Mary Kay. I’m not here to attack it either. I’m here because Tom–don’t take this personally (or do, I don’t care)–you are stubborn, pretentious, arrogant, and narrow-minded.

    If this were about any other topic and you were responding and behaving the same way, I’d say the exact same thing. You have no respect for anyone else’s opinion and your sole purpose in life seems to be to pick apart others’ opinions for the sake to prove (probably to yourself) that you’re right.

    I hope you don’t die of a heart attack or a stroke or a stress-induced disease. You seem to have a pretty negative view.

  59. Colleen says:

    A scam is where you buy something and product is being sold and a transaction takes place. Some people may not like MLM and that is fine but the author of this article is a little confused. I understand what he is trying to say about the manipulation, and the lies that are involved but that involves some of the bad apples these companies are not scams.

  60. Colleen says:

    I made a mistake I meant to say a scam is where you invest your money into something and no transaction has taken place and there are NO goods being purchased. I realize that when it comes to stocks and bonds that is different but these companies are not scams because although the product is sold wholesale to the rep and then sold retail to the consumer that is how ALL things are sold in stores and in MLM businesses. Yes there are some bad apples but when you are talking about companies that have been around 40 some odd years they cant be labeled as scams.

  61. Samuel says:

    Pink Ladies, I salute you all! Although I am an Amway IBO, I applaud you all for pursuing your dreams and independence. Remember there will always be naysayers for whatever reasons, there will always be those who can throw a stack of statistics proving why it won’t work and why you should remain an employee all your life. I understand that the easiest way to keep a crab from crawling out of a bucket is to put another in with it – the one will always pull the other back in. There are those who swear the moon landing never took place, there are those who swear that Elvis is still alive, and there are those who swear multilevel marketing businesses are scams. Meanwhile, look at the people who support the MLM principle – Robert Kiyosaki, Warren Buffett, and Donald Trumps – all of whom, I’m sure have their own naysayers – but let their results speak for themselves. Robert Allen says that a MLM business is critical for a well-rounded portfolio. Finally, for a bit of fun, check out this video – and keep living your dream!

  62. tailspin45 says:

    Oh pah-leeze. Same old half truths. But I admire your enthusiasm.

    Yup, I’m one of those that “throw a stack of statistics proving why it won’t work.” And you’re one of those that ignore facts. And that’s you’re privilege. But, in my opinion, it’s dishonest to suggest the statistics are inaccurate and should be ignored, especially when it looks like you want to take money from the people who are thus misinformed.

    Kiyosaki wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Big deal. He couldn’t get it published, it doesn’t mention MLM (much less Mary Kay), but he did get Amway to endorse/distribute it. For details go here.

    The book he wrote with Trump, We Want To teach You To Be Rich was trashed by Kiplinger’s Magazine and the Wall Street Journal:

    …a thinly veiled infomercial for more financial-advice products from Kiyosaki, Trump and their minions. They sell positive thinking and can-do haziness — specific details cost extra.

    Up to $45,000 extra, apparently, if you’re gullible enough.

    Warren Buffet? Yes, he likes network marketing, and so do I. When it’s honest. 50,000 out of 71,000 of Pampered Chef (only 3 levels in the downline) received commission checks according to CNN Money. Less than 10% of Canadian Mary Kay employees, sorry consultants, made over $100.

    And who cares what Robert Allen says about anything? The IRS has been after him, he’s declared bankruptcy, and continues to sell snake oil. Don’t believe me? Read this.

  63. Matt Christensen says:

    By the way, plenty of successful and honest modern companies don’t share information that many of us might find useful and enlightening, not just Mary Kay.

  64. Matt Christensen says:

    And does anyone besides Tom write this blog, or is it just Tom’s personal opinion. He may have it backed up with what he calls evidence, but so does Mary Kay.

  65. Mrs. Brown says:

    Well I find it nearly impossible not to comment. I am a little worried though because I am seeing so many comments that are being twisted around to make it look even worse. I am not sure why everyone keeps comparing MK to being an employee somewhere. Compare the number of people that opened a franchise last year and made money. That is way more accurately representing what happens in MK. You are starting a business not working for MK. Tom if someone starts a McDonalds in your hometown because the franchising co-ordinater told them its a no brainer and they will make millions so go ahead and invest hundreds of thousand isn’t that the same thing? If that now McDonalds owner doesn’t network, advertise, and work does he then get to call McDonalds a scam because he stocked his business with hamburgers and french fries but the world didn’t flock in to buy them? The reason MK doesn’t share info about how much they sold to the public is because MK doesn’t sell to the public directly. MK corporate doesn’t have accurate numbers on anything except what their business owners are purchasing. Asking MK to publish how much the public bought would be like asking a food wholesaler who sells cheese to Mcdonalds how much Mcdonalds makes off their product. The wholeseller doesn’t know nor does it matter they are there to provide the cheese for their own profit. I hope that makes sense. So to be fair Tom how many people took off on a small business venture last year and failed? That number should be compared to the Canada numbers because that is the same situation. They are not employees of MK Canada they are business owners. People set off everyday to “find a need and fill it” that is the American way. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t that doesn’t make it a scam. There are companies out there that operate just to take advantage of others but I know that MK is not one of them. They are just a company with a different way of doing business that is hard for some to understand. BTW the reason MK doesn’t sell to the public directly is to protect the millions of sellers. The idea behind Mary Kay is to add a personal touch to the sale of their product. How could they then put their product in a retail location? That would make it impossible for the girl next door to book an appointment because it is much easier just to go to the store and get it. MK is not about going around the business owner to make money. They are there for the owner and the fact that they don’t take the easy road and sell on the shelves at Walmart proves that they are not out to just make as much money for themselves as possible. I hope I have represented MK appropriately and in a way that makes sense. Tom I am open to your opinion and glad to hear your response with an open heart. Thank you for hearing mine!

  66. tailspin45 says:

    Your thoughtful, polite comments are refreshing compared to some here. Thanks for taking the time to contribute. But comparing Mary Kay with a franchise, while interesting, is, I’m afraid, an ‘apples and oranges’ comparison.

    A Wayne State University study showed the average capital investment by franchisees in the U.S. is $500,000, for example. Not much like MK. The study also shows they have something like a 30% failure rate, which also isn’t much like MK which has a much higher failure rate based on money spent vs money made. And regulations require franchisors to publish extensive details on the financial costs and performance of their franchises and industry norms, and MK refuses–their privilege as a privately held company. (Actually, if you want to really learn a lot about an industry, get a copy of a franchise package.) So no, it’s nothing like McDonalds–a “franchising coordinator” would go to jail for suggesting is was a no-brainer and someone would make millions. Yes, that would be a scam.

    You suggest that MK doesn’t publish sales figures because they don’t sell to the pubic. That, of course, is precisely the problem with the business model, and what makes MK both a huge success and a ripoff in my book. The people who spend the most money on MK products are people who have been led to believe they’ll have a business. But the point to a successful business is to make more money than you spend. You can’t ignore the fact that most people spend more than they make with MK, and the vast majority make less then $100. In any case, wholesalers are very interested in sales figures to the public, not just their buyers, so no, your cheese example doesn’t make sense. Kraft knows exactly what Safeway sells.

    To suggest the reason MK doesn’t sell to the public is they don’t want to complete with their representatives is a red herring too. Of course they don’t, neither does Sony and Ford. (Actually, that’s not strictly true, there are some car stores owned by the factories. Usually happens when the dealer doesn’t perform. But I digress.)

    The idea behind MK is to add a personal touch? No it isn’t. The idea is to sell hope and as much product as possible to eager but naive people, whether they’re able to resell it or not.

    The fact that MK doesn’t sell retail isn’t because they don’t want to complete with their representatives (although it is true they don’t). It’s because they know MLM is more lucrative than retail because, for example, they don’t have to have a huge ad budget–you are their advertising, and they don’t have to pay for it, you actually pay them.

    You’re right about business failure rates, they’re outrageous. But isn’t that that like saying “It’s okay, everyone does it?”

    I’m afraid I’ve come off sounding gruff and disagreeable, when your comment was measured and even sweet. I don’t mean to sound grumpy, but my biggest gripe with MLM is that they take advantage of people’s eagerness and naiveté. You obviously are smart and have good intentions, but your explanations aren’t based on good business principles.

    When MK and other MLM businesses makes every rep an owner that shares in company profits I’ll shut up.

  67. Earlene says:

    I sold Mary Kay years ago, and here is my issue. First I can care less if anyone goes into this thing about laziness, or I didn’t want to try, etc. I am simply going to tell my experience and leave it at that. I got into Mary Kay because I was trying to finance another business I was in. I decided to give up that business and just work in Mary Kay. I did not get any help from my recruiter. I did not get any help from my director. Both of them were just concerned about moving their behinds up the ladder and earning their pink cadillacs. I was not interested in working my tail off to push them up the ladder, while they had no interest in helping me. They were only interested in helping the consultants who were making them money. Many of the consultants are hipocrites. They have no intentions of doing onto others as they would have them to do unto them. And they will steal each others customers. And I had a really bizarre incident where another consultant called me up and told me to leave her customer alone. I had asked the customer did she have a consultant. It turned out that this consultant was related to the customer. Wow, was this anyway for a professional to act. Then I got into trouble because I said something I shouldn’t have and it was reported to the company and they threatened to cancel my agreement. I eventually quit anyway, so it didn’t matter. I didn’t like Mary Kay anyway.

  68. Pommom says:

    The Canadian numbers referred to……. “when in Canada, for example, only 2500 people made over $100 in a whole year! And remember, those are your company’s numbers, not mine.” ……can only be recruiting commissions earned from the company. The company pays them, they would have the numbers to report. However, many consultants choose to never recruit, and make their money only through sales to their customers, which the company can not track. In fact, I would bet the top Canadian Sales Consultant, (MANY years in a row), makes little through recruiting, as she has never chosen to move up the career path that way. Just wanted to comment, as those Canadian numbers were bugging me :-)

  69. PinkLadyJen says:

    Funny. I make less as a teacher and get less benefits as a teacher than many other jobs, including Mary Kay. If I would put more time into calling people and getting sales and a few recruits I could probably be much better off as a Director than as a teacher. And I wouldn’t have to deal with the crazy kids and their crazy parents…

  70. tailspin45 says:

    Absolutely, I think you should. The folks at Mary Kay would be better off and so would your students and parents.

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