Virginia Sole-Smith has an article in Harper’s about Mary Kay, which amounts to nothing more than an Amway-style pyramid scheme for women that “preys on desperate housewives” who think they’re going to get rich selling makeup to their friends.
Most of today’s Mary Kay ladies are struggling, though, even as the company flourishes at their expense. Tracy Coenen, a financial-fraud investigator and the founder of the online community Pink Truth, estimates that Mary Kay consultants can hope to clear $25,000 per year, at best. Most who make money earn about minimum wage, while fewer than 300 of the 600,000 Mary Kay ladies in the United States net a six-figure income. The women I interviewed for “The Pink Pyramid Scheme” told me stories about struggling to patch together daycare or to survive high-risk pregnancies while working long hours scouting prospects and hosting parties without any guarantee of a sale. Debts mounted, marriages failed. They couldn’t have it all because Mary Kay’s business model (like that of any multilevel-marketing enterprise) is designed primarily to profit from, rather than enrich, its workforce.
Because I have lived near Grand Rapids all my life, I’m very familiar with Amway. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. My best friend likes to refer to it as the “friends and family program” — first you lose your friends, then you lose your family. My stepmother actually got into Amway for a little while about 15 years ago and she tried to sell me on the idea. She even brought in some emerald or diamond hotshot from her upline to give me a pitch; let’s just say he didn’t have a very good day. Multi-level marketing is a scam.