I’ve written about being accosted by a Mary Kay sales rep while innocently browsing the racks at T.J. Maxx. I’ve also had a sales pitch given to me on a train ride home, while collecting my things after a job fair, and after receiving a request for an interview while jobless. Many, many businesses are based on one person selling something to the next, and it’s not about the product, it’s about “joining the network.” It’s about buying the idea that you too can have your own little business empire if you persuade enough people to be a part of your team.
I hate it.
I could also never do it.
Sometimes the sellers are charming. They’ll throw a compliment your way and the next thing you know, you’re being herded into a room with twenty or thirty others, believing you were there for an interview, and not knowing until that moment, that you would be subjected to a presentation.
‘The first time it happened, it was Primerica. Some people call it “Crimerica.” If you run across someone who works for this company, they won’t tell you the name at first. Instead they tell you “it’s a subsidiary of Citigroup…”
Then you get to the office and you’re escorted into a room with a bunch of chairs. A couple of people are talking to each other with smiles and enthusiasm. Then the lights go down and someone pops in a video. What follows is a bunch of commentary about people doing well and making lots of money. Then the video is off, and the star of the show, rumored to be pulling in $45K a month struts in. “Make your money work for you,” is one of the lines you hear. All you have to do is recruit three people, and then they recruit three apiece and you’re on your way. If you don’t have a job and you don’t realize there just aren’t enough people in the world for that plan to actually work, you can get sucked in.
After the presentation, the person who invited me pulled me into her office. I’d be selling life insurance and investment plans. The big draw was that you could get a plan done for you for free. The catch was that you had to find other people and drag them in for the song and dance. While that may not be hard for some, the thought of scouring town for unsuspecting candidates was daunting. I can barely ask someone for directions. Am I really going to recruit people to join my business? For a short while, I believed I could.
The second time I got roped into a presentation, I drove an hour and ten minutes to an office, again, thinking I was going in for an interview. Instead I got to hear about selling supplements, shampoo and yes, in home water filters. It wasn’t long until they got into the development conferences around the country, or how someone was “on track” to make beaucoup bucks that year, or that every business is structured like a pyramid, if you think about it. I politely sat there, knowing I would not get that hour of my life back and then I tried to make my exit when the person who invited me cornered me.
“It’s really too far of a drive,” I said, hating that I couldn’t just be honest and say “It sounds like a sham.”
The person’s eyes filled with a combination of annoyance and desperation. “It’s not that far!” she snapped.
I extracted myself from the office before the rest of her cohorts surrounded me. After arriving safely at home, I looked for dirt on the business and found plenty. Not only did you have to buy your own inventory, you also had to buy business cards at a ridiculous rate, rent your desk, and pay for the “training materials.” Renting a desk? What kind of job doesn’t pay for these things? No wonder the interviewer was desperate. She had to find someone to help her pay for her to make money.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
The third time this happened, I got the interview scheduled, went into the room, saw the rows of chairs and promptly turned around and left. See? I’m learning.
The worst is when friends do this. Thankfully I have been left alone. I witnessed a Mary Kay rep bogart a friend’s Facebook status the other day. The status was something along the lines of not getting cupcakes and balloons for her one year anniversary at her job. It was a joke, intended to make people laugh at the visual of someone receiving fanfare for a year at the same desk. In pops the Mary Kay rep: You should join Mary Kay! We do that for real!
Can’t you just hear the sound of a record scritching to a halt?
I added to it, encouraging the friend to join because she’d be great at it while knowing this person had zero interest in such a thing. No, make that below zero—she had -1000 interest in such a thing. We have joked about it before.
Mary Kay didn’t get the joke. She kept on, explaining that her skin looked great, she won pearl earrings and even a watch!
Okay, none of those things are enough to sell me. I tend to go with the skin treatment that works, and if it can be found at the Target across the street, even better. Earrings and a watch? Well, I already have those, several of each, in fact. Let’s not forget that the famed pink caddy is also a great way to draw in the cops.
Here’s another one—Ardyss. What is that? The name tells you absolutely nothing! If anything, it sounds like someone who was trying to get creative when naming a baby girl. Ardyss. It’s a body shaper thingy—or, you know, what people used to call a girdle. “Lose 3 sizes in 10 minutes!” is the hook. “Whaaa? You think, that’s unpossible. But it got you thinking about it.
Every single one of these things is meant to advertise something you don’t have now but that you should want. Vacations! Pink Caddy! Pearl earrings! Cupcakes! Balloons! A skinnier you! A healthier regimen! Endless wealth! A better life! Then you’re supposed to believe that you can’t attain this without that product, or business venture. You’re supposed to feel bad about yourself and then be motivated to learn more. That makes sense; it’s a very basic sales method. If someone isn’t convinced that they need what you’re selling, then you’re out of a job.
The thing is, sometimes people get so aggressive with it, that it’s gone beyond selling and veering towards bullying. If you say no, you’re told that you didn’t really listen, or that you have to hear a story about some success story, or how you’re just being closed minded about this whole thing. If bullying proves to be ineffective, I imagine there’s a handbook out there endorsing chanting and reaching out zombie style as the next step.
“Balloons! Cupcakes! Pink Caddies! Skin’s never looked better! Buy Mary Kay! Sell Mary Kay! Join us! Be one of us! One of ussss...!”