EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 90 - March 09, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 7

Mary Kay Cracks Down on eBay Sales

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Mary Kay products are popular on eBay. But there's something you may not know. If you are a Mary Kay Independent Consultant, you may not resell any of your stock on auction sites. Many people are selling Mary Kay products anyway. A recent search on eBay found 12,636 auctions with the words Mary Kay in the Title.

What about the Consultant that leaves the company and has a glut of supplies left? Many of their cosmetics come sealed in plastic, and selling the inventory is a booming business, according to one active Consultant, who wished to remain anonymous.

Randall Oxford, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Mary Kay Inc., said Consultants are independent contractors who sign an agreement. According to the terms of the contract, they are not allowed to sell on eBay.

Oxford said they take violations on a case-by-case basis. There are no hard and fast rules, and they will often remind first-time offenders, who may be unaware that they are violating their contract.

If auctions are posted by individuals who are not active Mary Kay consultants, Mary Kay can exert control through eBay's VeRO program eBay's Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Program "works to ensure that items listed for sale do not infringe upon the copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights of third parties. VeRO Program participants may identify and request removal of allegedly infringing listings."

Laura Beitler, a staff attorney in Mary Kay's Legal Resources Department, said they are particularly vigilant about photos that are taken from Mary Kay's Web site and added to eBay auction descriptions. She said there is a team that monitors eBay daily to look for violations.

"We don't recommend purchasing Mary Kay products on eBay, because you may not be buying from an active consultant, and you don't know if the product has been opened or used," Beitler said.

Oxford added that when buying on eBay, "You don't get the personal service that Mary Kay consultants offer. And the only way to ensure the integrity of the product is to buy from a beauty consultant."

So what do the Consultants who sell Mary Kay products on eBay think? According to the anonymous Consultant, there is not a lot of concern about Mary Kay tracking them down. "It's an easy way of making money without leaving your home. I don't think that's going to change, unless the company sees more Consultants thumbing their nose at the warnings."

"The consultants in my unit don't like to talk about eBay sales, they feel as if it's somehow cheating," she continued. "But there are others I've dealt with that use it as a means to get rid of extra product. It's something that's kept hush-hush by the gals who do continue this practice. They know they're not supposed to."

The Consultant admitted that she had sold Mary Kay products on eBay. "There is always an element of caution, particularly when you are buying and selling items that are used on the face. But as long as a user's feedback is excellent with no negatives in the past 6 months, you usually can buy (and sell) with confidence."

Are there any particular Mary Kay products that are especially popular online? "Satin Hands sells very well on eBay." Explained the Consultant, "It's a 4-piece set that functions like a spa for the hands. Priced right, they sell like hotcakes."

So buyer beware: Mary Kay items on eBay may be used, and they are not supported by the company. And seller beware: if you are selling Mary Kay products on eBay, your auctions may be pulled.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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