mary-kay-logo-NewAbout Mary Kay

Mary Kay is a direct sales and multilevel marketing company started in 1963 by Mary Kay Ash. It is based near Dallas, Texas, and according to its website, its consultants offer more than 200 products such as makeup and skin care in at least 35 countries. The company prides itself on helping women succeed and earn money, and redefine beauty. Philanthropy is important to the company, as it was to Mary Kay Ash.

How Does It Work?

Mary Kay consultants recruit other people to become consultants. In reward, the recruiters get a commission percentage as well as team-building bonuses when certain goals are met – a common MLM business strategy. The company urges consultants to attend weekly team sales meetings held by sales directors. For new and experienced consultants alike, the company provides ongoing training. High-selling consultants may earn rewards such as cars and trips. They sell their wares online and through direct venues such as parties. Party hostesses are eligible for rewards. Mary Kay makeup products are diverse and include concealer, undereye cover, lipstick, lip gloss and mascara. Skin care products include cleansers, sunscreen and hydrators. Customers can get free in-person makeovers; they can also get virtual makeovers while shopping online.

Cost/Price Plans

Mary Kay consultants must pay for their startup kits, and the company says they make about 50 percent of each item sold. For every $1,000 of product sold, a consultant may expect to earn $400. Consultants buy their products directly from Mary Kay at their own expense and then resell at a suggested retail price. So-called fine print in Mary Kay consultant agreements often add more costs to the process.

Refund Policy

For customers, not consultants, Mary Kay’s refund policy allows returns and refunds free of charge. Consultants have a very specific process to follow; in all, they should be able to get back 90 percent of what they spent. However, they are responsible for their own shipping costs and may owe commission chargebacks. Mary Kay generally does not allow consultants who have opted for product repurchases to become consultants again later.

Customer Service Contact Info

Mary Kay encourages customers to contact their independent consultants if they are still active. Its website has a locator tool so that customers can search for their consultants by name and state. The company also has online contact forms and is on social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The internal Mary Kay InTouch portal provides assistance to consultants.


Many people either love or hate Mary Kay. On the love side are many consultants who use and sell the company’s products. They’ve found tremendous financial and social success with the company and genuinely enjoy the work they do. On the hate side are consultants who did not understand what they were getting into and who resent the company for their financial losses. Many women also feel pressured from consultants to become consultants as well and/or to buy products. They have to say no repeatedly and risk their friendships. In some circles, Mary Kay is called a “pink pyramid scheme.” Its products have a reputation as good and effective, although they may be a bit more expensive than comparable goods.

Common Complaints

  • Unclear about the costs of becoming a consultant
  • Hidden fees
  • Unfair ordering policies
  • Pressure to buy extra to stay within the company

Editor’s Opinion

Mary Kay can be a positive experience for many women. They do need to understand, though, that the upfront commitment for success is substantial, at least a few hundred dollars. Mary Kay is like owning a business; the more you are able to invest in it, the more you may reap from it. Having proper expectations is the key to avoiding disappointment. Calling Mary Kay a scam is incorrect, but it is unlikely that a consultant will get rich quickly.

Final Verdict: High pressure sales tactics and fees make Mary Kay scam-like, but not a full-blown scam.