It began innocently. Someone’s friend was selling Pampered Chef kitchen goods, and someone else told me that I couldn’t LIVE without the mini spatula, and despite the fact that I bake about as frequently as I compete in Ironman Triathlons, I nodded gamely and made the purchase.
(Confession: It’s a remarkably handy utensil that allows me to flip eggs like Al Pacino in Frankie and Johnny. I really don’t know how I lived without it… apparently I spent most of my twenties serving my house guests ragged brownies and dented pancakes. No buyer’s remorse here!)
Within a week, the emails began sneaking in, undeterred by my spam filter and piss-poor attitude.
Saturday Only! A Tastefully Simple Holiday Extravaganza!
Harsh cleaning products are putting your family in danger…
Straight from Scandinavia comes a new hope!
Can’t Miss: PartyLite + Cabi + Thirty-One + Rendi Open House! Makeover your world!
Translation: Grab your checkbook and we’ll help you create the story-boarded, luxuriously tailored, neatly organized, sparkling cranberry-scented existence of your dreams!
The invitations to spend came from friends, friends of friends, and a couple random colleagues I’d only ever “met” on conference calls. Without a doubt the most egregious offender was a family acquaintance I hadn’t seen since college, who started dropping off samples of $90 Arbonne moisturizer and (no lie) bottles of miraculous weight loss water on my front porch when I wasn’t home.
As a financial reality, these women-to-women sales schemes suck. (And I do mean women; seriously, how many middle aged dudes do you know who shill Stella and Dot to their Facebook friends?) These companies almost exclusively target women—mostly financially strapped young moms—with “it’s easy and fun to sell to your girlfriends” messaging.
Naturally, these pyramids are designed to fail. Plenty of smart people have written about this already. Jezebel did a great feature article, which you can read here. Harper’s Magazine published an epic take-down of Mary Kay. Social selling clubs prey, in the worst way, on women’s desire to contribute to their household, to stay connected with friends and colleagues, and on some level to develop sales skills with a product they believe in. A handful of the cleverest companies even have the balls to traffic in the language of female empowerment.
The promises don’t bear out. The vast majority of these earnest entrepreneurs are destined to find themselves, months later, crashed out on a pile of shipping boxes, clutching receipts that don’t measure up, wondering how the fuck they’re going to unload 1800 sheets of Jamberry nail appliqués.
Less significantly, the sales tactics and the email blasts and the online parties are annoying. (Really, you want me to put on my jammies and pour a glass of wine and “hang out” with some virtual strangers in a Facebook event at 9:00 on a Wednesday night, browsing for a new miracle moisturizer? Do people do this now?) I don’t have time for real parties, with real people and real alcohol. But this… it’s all artifice. If our friendship depends on my Younique eyelash extension order, then you probably don’t know me all that well to begin with, seeing as how the last time I wore eye makeup was on a total fail of a Valentine’s Day blind date in 2003. (He reeked of stale smoke and kept asking me if I was into spankings.) In other words, if you’ve offered me discounted Jockey Person-to-Person yoga pants for half a decade and I’ve never acquiesced, take the hint.
If you want to be friends, let’s be friends. Don’t be my consultant, my style guide, my image curator or my aesthetician. Woo me via the traditional methods of friend courtship: spontaneous lunch dates, drunken late night texts, and endless support in response to my equally endless complaints about how my baby is, once again, teething. Let’s keep it real, girl.*
*None of the previous applies to Scentsy. I love that shit and will buy it anytime, anywhere, from anyone.