CULTURE: Cold Cream and the Hard Sell
Think your friends are inviting you to a party? Think again—and bring your wallet.
A few months ago, a beautifully and professionally printed invitation arrived in the mail. The invite promised two of my favorite things: facials and cocktails. Though it’s been my experience that most spa employees stress drinking water rather than, say, a whiskey sour after a treatment, I was game. I rsvp’d yes and asked the hostess what I should bring, and the darling told me not to worry about a thing. I thought, What a delightful lady—providing facials and cocktails for her poor, downtrodden friends. Classy.
Spa night arrived, and I showed up promptly at 7 in my yoga clothes. I made my way through the sea of tall, hip, blond women collected in the foyer of the University Park manse. We chugged wine. We visited about the kids. We talked politics. Okay, not really—we talked about other women. And, eventually, we drifted into the formal dining room and took our places.
The lucky ones found refuge on the sofas and armchairs. Others dragged in chairs from the dining room. Late arrivals got stuck with a seat on the hardwood floor. A more observant person would have noticed the resulting shape was a horseshoe formed around a coffee table littered with brochures, body wash, sugar scrub, some sort of Gold Glimmer Body and Face Gel, and a variety of lipsticks.
We excitedly waited for our facials. "I really need this. You could drive a truck through my pores," I told my friend Claire.
"You don’t need this more than I do. I have the acne of a 14-year-old combined with the crow’s feet of a 40-year-old," Claire said.
"My pregnancy mask makes me look like Kenny Rogers," our friend Sheila whispered.
"A facial won’t fix that, friend," I said.
We began looking around. Where was the facialist? What was the deal with the Glowing with Happiness Miracle Set apparently for brides-to-be (the message: it’s a miracle you’re getting married!), laid out so professionally on the coffee table? Why did the hostess looked so nervous? The pieces started to fit together. This party had a purpose. These facials weren’t free. Our hostess was peddling goods.
She stood before us and nervously confessed to her crime. She refilled our wine glasses and explained that she was selling this stuff because she "really believes in the product." We began passing the cleansers and the night creams around the horseshoe. We patted masks on one another’s faces. We listened politely as she explained how the soap we currently use is going to kill us and/or probably killed some puppies when it was made. Fueled by wine and guilt, we bought stuff.
If anyone was surprised that the creams and lotions cost as much as some of the goods at Neiman Marcus, no one said anything. And we didn’t blanche when our "friend" gave us the hard sell: if we were to sign up to peddle makeup ourselves, we could win cars and maybe make so much money that our husbands could retire. (Why this would be appealing, we weren’t sure.) And whether it was the wine or just naked greed, we began dreaming about our new makeup-mobiles, sizing up the ladies around us, wondering how to dupe them into coming to a another "party" just like this one.
Push parties are the latest craze. Stay-at-home moms with luxurious homes everywhere from McKinney to Lakewood to Arlington have suddenly become very passionate about discussing financial and tax advantages of an at-home business. And you need to get onboard. Book club is over. Bunco is past over—it’s 1990s. Playgroup is for suckers. The bottom line is this: if you’re going to get together with your friends, you might as well make some money.
But you need to hurry. You don’t want to be the last one on your block to hock lip masks and eye gels. Most of these things are pyramidic, and people at the bottom typically lose. (A tip: don’t use the words "pyramid" and "scheme" at these gatherings. One consultant threatened me with bodily harm.) Some brave ladies go the do-it-yourself handicrafts route, selling hand-made diaper bags and crocheted scarves. Too risky and too much work. Go for one of the big three:
MARY KAY. Okay, we know what you’re thinking: absolutely not. But hold on a minute, sister. We’re getting invitations from a lot of really cool people who are selling this stuff. By the transitive property of all things cool, that means Mary Kay is cool again. The Dallas-based company claims to be the No. 1 selling cosmetics and skincare company in the world. And this is a company that is all about the empowerment of women. They were among the first to reward salespeople with jewels, fur coats, and cars. We all know about the pink Cadillacs, but they actually reward less-than-hip cars like the Pontiac Vibe or Grand Prix on the way there. A friend asked me, "Why would I give up my 300 ZX for a Grand Prix?" (We were stumped.) Price point: TimeWise Age Fighting Eye Cream, $26. Why you should sell it: It’s so 1980s. It’s retro and so cute that you, a smart, educated, flat-haired woman would sell such a thing. Why you should think twice: It’s so 1980s. It’s weird that you’re selling it.
BEAUTICONTROL. For whatever reason, we thought this company was out of business. So imagine our surprise when we received an invitation to a BeautiControl party. Based in Dallas, this company certainly knows a thing or two about the home distribution parties—the Tupperware Corporation owns it. The company promotes itself as "committed to helping each individual woman discover and celebrate her unique essence and project a positive self-image." Funny that anyone might suggest you could find self-esteem in a bottle. To be fair, though, the bartender at the Old Monk promises the very same thing. Price point: Eye-X-Cel, $19. Why you should sell it: You don’t hear too much about it, thus it might be a good time to get in, get some consultants under you, and "win" a Lexus or Mustang. Why you shouldn’t sell it: As stated earlier, for whatever reason, we thought this company was out of business.
ARBONNE. This is the Rolex of the at-home skincare businesses. Forget promises of Pontiac Vibes and pink Cadillacs; these people want to put you in a white Mercedes. The all-natural (no mineral oil!) products were developed by a Swiss chemist, and every woman we know in Dallas is selling them. Here’s why: the presentations are slick, the packaging is pretty, and ladies are sold on the idea of making thousands of dollars a month in mad money. (Just ask those gals in Oklahoma who are already cruising around in their fancy rides.) The web site assures us that Arbonne is not "a fad that everyone seems to be jumping into, only to be replaced with the next opportunity and promises of great wealth." And if the company’s web site says it, it must be true. Price point: Bio-Hydria Eye Cream, $25. Why you should sell it: We keep hearing Oprah is going to feature it on her show. Why you shouldn’t sell it: We’ve been hearing that Oprah rumor for a while. Also, unless you move, you don’t have a chance in hell of making a dime. Everyone sells it already.
But that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying. Get out there, ladies. Sell! Sell! Sell!