Harper’s Calls Mary Kay a Pink Pyramid Scheme

Executives from Dallas-based Mary Kay Inc. gathered a few days ago at Tootsies, where they kicked off their foundation’s annual campaign to donate gently-used clothing to domestic-violence victims. Hard to argue with that kind of good work. This week, though, Harper’s Magazine is out with an “expose” saying that Mary Kay itself is a giant ripoff — a straight-up pyramid scheme that doesn’t deliver what it promises to its hundreds of thousands of saleswomen. You’ve got to have a subscription to read the whole Harper’s piece, but here’s an American Public Media synopsis/author interview, including a response from Mary Kay at the end.


  • You can also listen to yesterday’s Think program from KERA 90.1. We talked to the journalist who wrote the article and a Mary Kay corporate spokesperson:

  • Stacy L.

    I had a friend who got sucked into the whole Mary Kay thing several years ago. They sure did wine-and-dine her…found babysitters so she could make meetings, told her she was awesome and amazing, yadda yadda. Sadly, she was suffering from pretty low self-esteem and sucked it up like a sponge. I worked in IT for a multi-level marketing company for almost five years after that interestingly, and I gotta say that Mary Kay is definitely a multi-level marketing company. The worst part is it is just like high school. The cheerleaders, football captains and student body presidents are at the top, and everyone else works their collective asses off to try and be as popular, successful, etc. as their upline leaders. It’s really predatory…and quite sad IMO.

  • TLS
  • Kelly

    And tomorrow we discuss water being wet?

  • james

    Mary Kay is definitely a multi-level marketing company, which is not at all the same thing as a pyramid or a Ponzi scheme, not that many would care.

    I happened to catch Jeff’s program on Think and found it quite usefully informative, particularly the corporate spokesperson. You sell, you make money; you don’t sell you don’t make money. One of Mary Key’s unspeakable cruelties, of course, is that unlike most jobs these days if you spend your time surfing the net and commenting on blogs or playing Angry Birds, you don’t make any money. Now that’s just mean.

    You have to wonder how we as a species ever managed to get as far as this blog if, as Stacy suggests, so few are able to create a job for themselves based on their own initiative alone, while the remainder in order not to starve must either have someone else create a job and then supply them with it or else be kept and fed by the government like domestic animals.

    What do you suppose our economy and our society would be like if more companies were like Mary Kay? Fewer human kitty cats?