November 3, 2009

I subscribe to several feeds of varying nature: some of them are strictly for boredom-curing (Savage Chickens, anyone?), some are hobby-related (The Kitchn, ftw), and some are information-based (Daily Blog Tips, ie).

One of them is a frugal-living blog.  I like spending wisely: it keeps me with a car to drive to work, food to eat, and a little extra when I want to splurge – all at the same time.  Sometimes, the advice is good, and I have run with it; sometimes, it seems a little more cheap than frugal, but hey – some people get off on being cheap (making your own detergent- really? I don’t know about you, but my time is better spent doing other things than making laundry detergent).

But this is the second time that I’ve been offended by a frugal living blog (and their community of commenters) because of the negative things that they’ve had to say about Direct Selling businesses.  For those not in the know, Mary Kay is a member of the Direct-Selling Association.  It is not a pyramid scheme – which is illegal in the United States (MK wouldn’t have celebrated it’s 50-year anniversary if it had Bernie Madoff’d it’s way there).

At any rate, this blogger basically went on to say that these companies, like Mary Kay, Advocare, Longaberger, and Pampered Chef, use duplicitous marketing techniques that emotionally blackmail customers into buying products.  In the frugal community, direct selling is used as a perjorative: associated with dirty materialism and the worst that capitalism has to offer.  I have marketed my wares to potential clients, just like any other business would: I have offered deals, coupons, and incentives to buy – just like any other business has.

The long and short of it is that there are some consultants – not just in MK, but in every business – that can make the whole bunch look bad.  But the reality is that when you buy from a direct-seller, you directly support the person who is selling to you.  I am lucky to work in a district of women who have worked their way from independent consultants to directors – of their own merit.  These women have earned cars, jewelry, gifts, trips and pensions – by working hard.  If they didn’t work, they didn’t make money.  These are all professional businesswomen.

If you don’t like my product, fine – a "no thank you" isn’t going to kill me.  But don’t get on your high horse about "buying local" when by boycotting your local MK consultant’s party you are shitting in the shoe of that ideal.

And for those in the frugal community who think that somehow they are above the marketing – well, good for you, I guess.  You are able to demonize a group of people who are working their own businesses into nothing more than succubi looking for their next dollar.  I defy you to find a business that never marketed, that never advertised, that never asked for a referral for their products. Mary Kay Ash went from being a single mother to a multi-billionaire whose product is now being sold in over 50 countries. 

I suppose it’s all in what you want to support.  Frugalists who want to find better deals on cosmetics by purchasing from a drugstore are also buying products made outside of the United States for pennies.  They support companies that use saved profits by underpaying their outsourced labor to pay faceless shareholders in a company could care less about supporting women who want to start their own businesses.  Hey, if that’s worth it to you to save a dollar and not feel "emotionally blackmailed" – well, I suppose you have every right.  It is your dollar.