When I came to my rather frightening conclusions about Mary Kay, I did so in the course of other musings about multi-level-marketing in general as well as Mary Kay in particular. While neither as big nor as hairy, they are still substantial and hirsuit.
The first and obvious thing is that multi-level-marketing simply does not work. I’m not sure if it ever did, but the internet has blown it out of the water altogether. Lovers of irony are delighted that Mary Kay’s mansion is available on ebay. One of the fascinations of Mary Kay Sucks (now moved to www.pinktruth.com) is that it gives such insights into an imploding world. Train crash. Slow motion. Cannot take my eyes away.
The second thing is that there is an unresolvable tension in the business. The consultant wants to sell retail, but every single other person higher up in the organisation wants her to buy wholesale. The business model is not about selling retail: the reward model is based on wholesale sales. If the reward model was changed so that retail sales were rewarded the great big lies about how easy or hard it is would be exposed. Yes, the schpiel is that it is about selling retail, but it seems that the only person who benefits from retail sales is the consultant herself. It is no surprise that the consultants are at odds with the rest of the organisation, the rest of the organisation really is out to get them.
This also means that the true customers for MK Corporation are not the public at large. The true customers are the consultants. Most business models are based on fair exchange: I get softer skin, you get money. However this business model is based on exploitation: I use my credit cards to buy wholesale and you get money. The product is irrelevant, to be honest.
This highlights what is so deeply shocking and exploitative about the MK model. People are encouraged to go into personal debt to finance inventory. It really is a scam. Some friends of mine who were involved in the multi-level-marketing of water filters in the 1990s invited me to join them on the basis that I could make umpty thousand a year. Fortunately at that time I had just started a real business which actually was netting the sort of money they were talking about, so I passed on that ‘opportunity‘. Hustlers and con-artists say that you can only con a greedy person. Well, the situation I was in meant that I did not need to feel greedy and so I was protected. But MK are working a con. Some of the women they draw in may be greedy, but I suspect that most are just aspirational. The schpiel about ‘executive level incomes’ simply does not work when people are ok with their situation in life. Not only is it a con. It is worked like a con, and I keep on coming back in horror to the thought of tens of thousands of women who are in poor financial circumstances to start with who then take on debt to finance inventory. Doing that to people is wrong. The hypocrisy of doing that and claiming to be doing it in a Christian way sticks in my throat so badly that I cannot bring myself to discuss it.
MK’s use of cult techniques has already been discussed extensively so I won’t add to it other than to say “what she said” and point you at the original.
As I said, I find the whole thing deeply shocking. I was relieved not to be involved in the MLMing of water filters in the 1990s, but far more relieved that my ex husband did not become involved in the selling of fake perfumes in the 1980s. I was desperate that he should not. It felt seedy. My skin itched. The reason he did not was pure chance. At about this time we threw a 75th birthday party for my father who was a particularly clear and honest man. Talking to my father’s friends, my ex realised what a greedy-seedy world MLMing is, and decided not to plunge into it. I was grateful for that throughout my marriage