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The Faux Hospitality of Product Parties

I routinely receive invitations to “parties” for Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Premiere, etc. I have an array of feelings about these kinds of “parties.”

A short version is this:

1.  I don’t mind (and will sometimes attend) if a good friend or someone I regularly socialize with invites me, although they’re basically asking me to pay for what they will receive “free” or discounted–couldn’t we all just go out to a nice dinner together instead of paying for all this overpriced stuff? I know that some of my better friends genuinely believe that I will find something I just LOVE…but, friend or not, having this kind of party all boils down to some level of greed.

2.  I do mind when someone I don’t know very well invites me, because it’s an obvious ploy for their hostess gifts.

3.  I hate that the invitations to such events encourage that you bring your own friends to this party where they won’t know the “hostess”, because it will increase the amount of her sales, and therefore her discounted and free items. bleh.

But the worst of these invitations is one I received via Facebook, inviting me to an online “party” to buy overpriced “gourmet” food mixes from an old co-worker I haven’t spoken to in at least 3 years. So not only does this party extend NO hospitality, but the “guests” are expected to buy various items, like an $8 bread mix (which I’m sure I could purchase an already-made gourmet loaf of at a smaller price) so that someone who hasn’t called, written, e-mailed or text messaged, and didn’t even post “Happy Birthday” on my wall (Facebook notifies you of people’s birthdays) will receive free stuff? Did I mention that, when we did work together, we never socialized outside of work?

I didn’t even decline it (as if an RSVP were even necessary for something with no actual party). I just removed myself from the event altogether. So unbelievably tacky. 0718-11

I’m with you on this one.  I absolutely never attend any sales party if the hostess has no track record of offering regular hospitality to me.   If sales parties are the only hospitality someone offers, they are a gimme pig engaging in faux hospitality for the sole purpose of reaping a financial benefit.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lkb July 19, 2011, 4:29 am

    It cuts both ways. I once made the very foolish attempt at trying to start one of those type of businesses. I held my launch party in the local library’s meeting room as it was convenient for all concerned. I sent out my invitations to those who I honestly thought would appreciate the items.
    I arranged the event for early afternoon on a Friday — so that those I invited could attend briefly and walk across the street to get their little darlings from school down the street. (The products were mom-and-kid related.)

    I did everything right, except…..
    Not one showed. Even those who RSVP’d didn’t show.
    Humiliating? Yes.
    Rude? Yes.
    Am I in that business still?

  • The Elf July 19, 2011, 5:42 am

    I hate sales parties. Period. It could be my best friend hosting it and I still wouldn’t go. I don’t like shopping anyway, and now you want to combine shopping with my another despised activity, small talk with people I don’t know? Ugh. This is the stuff of nightmares. Keep your gourmet food, your tupperware, your expensive make-up, and your adult toys. If I want any of those, I’ll buy them on my own.

  • QueenofAllThings July 19, 2011, 6:45 am

    I must disagree with the poster’s first point – that hosting of such a party boils down to ‘some level of greed’. I have never hosted a product party, but when the product(s) are something I might like OR it’s a good chance to socialize with girlfriends, I will go. I’m not obligated to buy anything. Additionally, I fail to see the hostess’ greed. She has cleaned her home, gone to the expense, time and trouble of providing food and drink (usually wine), and must clean up afterwards – and the rewards are small.

  • lnelson1218 July 19, 2011, 7:08 am

    Okay I admit that I am not a fan of these parties and have actually attended a few. At one I didn’t bother to buy anything. However, the host did make it that this event was a combo of the sales event and two of us had birthdays so it was also a B-day party. In response to what the admin mentioned, the host had had other non-sales parties.

    Having said that the wife of one of my co-workers (who hosts several parties through the course of the year. I hate it when I miss their Memorial Day BBQ) did a Pampered Chef party. I did have to replace several things in my kitchen at the time. Did I pay a little more? Probably. Everything that I bought was/still is well used. And we all did have a good time.

    Would I go to a house of someone I barely knwo who is clearly trying to get free loot? No. Will I go to one of those when I actually want to buy something? Sure.

  • --Lia July 19, 2011, 7:09 am

    I am reminded of something I learned in high school. We put on children’s theater and went around to the elementary schools performing. The smallest kids really thought the actors in costume were wicked witches and fairy princesses. The older ones enjoyed the show knowing that it was play pretend. Learning the difference between reality and fantasy is an important lesson that will serve us well in life.

    Thus with business and friendly relationships. The saleswoman in the department store is a nice lady, but she is not your friend. She is interested in your daughter’s graduation but in a professional way so she can sell you the right dress for it. There’s an important difference, and the sooner you learn it, the better off you will be. Sales events given by commercial businesses may be called parties, but they are not parties. They are not freely given by hospitable people who only want your friendship and company in return.

    It’s the same with people who seek to make money off their “friends.” They’ve confused business and social relationships and are the worse for it. They might as well think that the lady in the witch costume rides around on a broom after Halloween is over. You do not sell to people at a party. As soon as you introduce sales into it, it’s not a party. You’re now running a store. I can only wonder what these people’s most personal relationships are like. I wonder if there’s anyone in their life that they don’t view as a customer. Their mothers? Their children?

  • Angeldrac July 19, 2011, 7:13 am

    I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed Tupperware parties, Nutrimetics parties and lingerie parties with a group of close friends – it’s been a chance to be quite silly and fun (and I DO like some of their products). BUT the key o’s having it with a group of friends that are actually friends.
    I used to work with a lady who would throw a product party once a month inviting her pick of the office (she was not a nice lady, and liked to let it be known who was her “friend” and who wasn’t).
    She would even leave the catalogues on the lunch table so that anyone who wasn’t invited could still order something I they liked (charming).
    I commented to her once about how frequently she held these parties and she said with a smile “It’s my
    social life, plus I get lots of goodies for myself”.
    On one occaision, when I did actually go to one of these parties (I did need new Tupperware), I was introduced to her numerous friends as her “work daughter” (funny, I don’t remember having that close a relationship to you?). When I got talking to these other friends, who I assumed were her usual social circle, it became clear that these women were mainly school mothers and others who barely knew my colleague, and only really saw her whenever she invited them to one of these parties.
    The killer was when she left our office to work elsewhere (for which we all were somewhat grateful – she was also the office bully, but that’s another story), she invited half of us to a “Celebrating my new job” party, which would also be selling cosmetics. I declined that one.

  • JS July 19, 2011, 7:49 am

    I didn’t know these were ever even considered “parties,” or any other type of gathering where one would expect hospitality. I’ve always treated these “invitations” (even if from close friends) as advertising circulars, and disposed of them accordingly.

  • Enna July 19, 2011, 7:56 am

    I knew someone who was thinking of throwing a party for jewellary but changed her mind – it was nice stuff just very overpriced and very fashionable, considering it was silver jewallry too. It’s one thing if you’d normally spend that much money on jewellary and had that kind of circle of firends who like collecting that can’t of thing. $8 for bread mix? Sounds like a right rip off.

    A neighbour’s firend trained as a beatuicain and she decided to advertise “pamper parties” as it was a bit sill for her to go to someone to do £5 woth of make-up/eyebrow-shape. I remember seeing a leaflet of her prices and so on – they weren’t extitionaite or over priced: “pamper party” is the kind of thing a group of firends might do before going out for somene’s birthday or some event. She’d also do make-up for weddings too.

  • Xtina July 19, 2011, 7:57 am

    Right on, poster (and admin). The ladies in my former (very large!) Sunday School class used to go round and round inviting people to various product parties and baby showers. For the people I knew and were friendly with, I enjoyed going and socializing with them because we were friends, but it was obvious when I got invitations from people who couldn’t have identified me in a lineup that some of the people had just used our class list to increase their sales and put bodies in the seats, and I declined those invitations.

    I am also still appalled at a former co-worker who got in touch with me years after we’d lost touch. We talked by phone a couple of times and then (ta-da!) she invites me to a baby shower she’s throwing herself. I wasn’t able to attend–it worked out that I was truly busy the day of the shower although I suspect I probably would have declined the invitation anyway since we had not been particularly close back then–and I have never heard from her again. Some people!

    As for online parties–horrible idea. Just horrible. I’m sure there are people out there who tout those as a perfect solution that’s “no work for anyone” and you can enjoy each other’s company without having to leave the comfort of your own home (um, no thanks). Nothing more than a poorly disguised method for someone to prey on unsuspecting people for gifts and provide absolutely nothing in return. If that person really wanted to “get together” with everyone, they would set up a chat room time or suggest meeting up IRL somewhere, not create an event where buying something was the excuse.

  • Harley Granny July 19, 2011, 8:06 am

    My personal opinion is this is being over-thought.

    Of course you’re being invited because they want to increase sales.
    Nobody is forcing you to attend any of them. I only go to the ones that interest me. If I had ignored or got offended at all of the ones from people I don’t know very well, I would have missed out on a product that today I truly enjoy.

    A simple “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to attend” takes care of it.

  • MegC July 19, 2011, 8:18 am

    I’m with OP and admin on this one. I will attend if it’s a good friend hosting that I interact with on a regular basis. One of the best I went to was a jewelry party a good girlfriend hosted. She provided brunch and there was NO sales pitch(!). The items were simply laid out for us to look at, we could leaf through a catalog and sit and chat. The sales lady was really nice and laid back and not pushy at all, making it quite a pleasant experience and I ended up with some nice pieces that I love wearing.

  • AS July 19, 2011, 8:24 am

    I hate these parties. My mother didn’t like them either, but a good friend of her often hosted, and she used to attend.

    A friend of mine hosted a pampered chef party, and provided delicious desserts for the guests. I couldn’t go, but it sounded like fun – enjoy the desserts, and buy some items if you feel like. Given that there are a lot of food connoisseurs amongst our friends, this didn’t seem too tacky.

  • Saucygirl July 19, 2011, 8:59 am

    A coworker of mine decided she didn’t want to work full time anymore and that she would support herself by throwing these types of parties. A year later (with no contact occurring during that year), she had a mutual friend ask me to host a party. When I declined, my friend told me I was being rude. I told her there was nothing rude about me not wanting to subject my real friends, family and coworkers to a party whose sole purpose was to earn money for a person I hadn’t seen or spoken to in a year. I was never asked to host or attend again.

  • 8daysaweek July 19, 2011, 9:01 am

    I had a cousin recently invite me to one of the “online” versions. Didn’t buy anything. I have a couple friends who are constantly shelling in their Facebook feeds. I hid them from my newsfeed.

  • Just trying July 19, 2011, 9:18 am

    I never attend sales parties, even if I am friends with the hostess. If I am close enough to the hostess to even consider attending, then I am close enough to say, privately, “I never attend sales parties”.

    If I am not at all close to the hostess, then phooey. I don’t send a note to Smith Chevrolet telling them thanks for inviting me to their “sales event”, but I am unable to attend due to a previous engagement.

  • Hemi Halliwell July 19, 2011, 10:14 am

    I have been invited to a couple of these “parties” and declined them. One was a lady I worked with who I did not socialize with outside of work and barely knew. I did hear from a few who attended that the “party” was actually hosted by a different lady, not even the co-worker who invited us!
    Another one I remember was from a former neighbor. We worked different schedules so we did not know each other very well. The”party” was held on a day I had to work so I could not go anyway. My husband called me and asked if I told the neighbor her friends could park in our driveway and on our lawn. I said no, why? He said that 5 people where parked in our driveway and an additional 10 or so were parked all over our front lawn. When he went out and asked the first few ladies why the were parking in our drive/on our lawn, they told him the neighbor told them if her driveway was full they could park in OUR driveway and LAWN. So not only was trying to sell me things disguised as a “party”, she told her “party” friends they could park in our yard without even asking!
    I think if a *true* friend invited me and I had enjoyed their hospitality for parties that *did not* involve a sales pitch, I might go if the products were something I truly needed or wanted.

  • NooraK July 19, 2011, 10:35 am

    I admit it, I’m a direct sales consultant. Yes, we coach the hosts to invite everyone they know. But I agree with Harley Granny. No one is going to force you to attend these events, so if you don’t want to, just politely decline. There are plenty of people who do like the products the various companies sell, and want to attend. No need to be rude about it, and no need to send a letter to all your friends that says you don’t want to be invited (like a recent article I read suggested).

    One thing on the “overpriced” comments. Yes, the products we sell may be higher priced than the ones you might get at a big box store, but there will probably be a quality difference as well. Also, if you find a consultant who truly embraces the customer service aspect of his business, you will find that her desire is to truly help you find the products that suit your needs. I don’t ever want to sell someone something they need just for the sake of getting a sale. And if your needs would be met with a lower priced item than what you’re looking at, I’ll let you know. Have you ever chosen to patronize a more expensive store over a less expensive one because of the service you’ve received?

    The sales model of these companies is such that the funds that many companies spend on media ads, they spend on their consultants and rewarding their hosts. Sure, the money you spend subsidizes the free gifts the host receives, but do you really believe what you pay for a soda at the store is only minimally more than what it costs the company to produce? It’s just a different way of selling and advertising your products.

    My friends and family do buy from me, but only when they want to. I do have a Facebook Page dedicated to my business, but it is separate from my personal profile. I have a newsletter I send, but it is opt-in. I might mention my business at a social gathering, but only if you ask about it.

    Just like with everything else in life, it is the few bad apples (the DS consultants that spam and stalk their contacts) that create a bad name for a very legitimate industry. I’m sorry if I come across as a bit upset about this, but it is a very personal issue to me, one I have to defend against constantly.

  • Molly July 19, 2011, 11:07 am

    I agree with Harley Granny that this is being over-thought. These aren’t actual parties, they are sales pitches. You only go to see the products available and maybe do a tiny bit of socializing. I have a friend who does a couple of these at-home businesses and is friends with others who do different ones. I have been to “adult toy” parties and tupperware parties and jewelery parties and have had a good time at all. It is a chance to see a product before buying. You aren’t forced to purchase anything and if the hostess gets some discounted items as a kickback for providing a venue and some snacks, big deal. As long as it isn’t my apartment. 😉 I’ve also been to open houses where several of the businesses gather to sell pearls and candles and ugly handbags and didn’t feel the need to purchase anything. It was nice to see the stuff to know that I didn’t need it though.

    I also don’t see a huge problem with inviting casual friends and acquaintances to them. If they are interested in the product, they will have a chance to view it without having to host their own party and if they aren’t interested in what is being offered, they can decline. I even invite other friends to the parties if I think they will be interested in the product. They too can decline if they don’t want to go. No harm, no foul.

    The friend who does Tupperware often sends out facebook notices for parties (online or physical) and sales and they are easy to ignore if I am not interested. Of course, my friend isn’t pushy and overbearing as many of the people in the stories featured in the comments here seem to be so perhaps that makes a difference.

  • NotCinderell July 19, 2011, 11:22 am

    I have a friend who sells Mary Kay. I happen to really like Mary Kay products. I also hate shopping for makeup in a store. I buy Mary Kay from my friend.

    She is the only MLM person I buy from. If a person is not selling something I am interested in buying, I will not buy it no matter how much I may love the person. Period.

  • SHOEGAL July 19, 2011, 11:35 am

    I would never host a party like that but if it is for products that I think I might like – Pampered Chef is a good one – and if it is for someone I feel I can’t say no to – a close friend or relative, I will attend.

    I usually do feel obligated to purchase something though – I feel like it is an unspoken rule – because the hostess usually gets a kick back and I would want my close friend/ relative to benefit.

    I was invited to a sales party by a neighbor that I never really met. I didn’t want the purses that were being sold but I thought this was a grand opportunity to introduce myself and to get to know her better. Well, it was all a bust – I barely spoke to her – she was busy running around attending to things and socializing with the other people there. I eventually left with a purse I didn’t really want.

    I agree that these events are not parties – and shouldn’t be viewed that way – they are for selling purposes only. Simply decline if you have no interest in the products being presented.

  • Lilac July 19, 2011, 11:37 am

    I have been the hostess of every type of party of which you can think, gone to many parties, and been a consultant for a home business so I have seen all sides of this issue. As a hostess my feeling is that you should only invite close friends, family, and people that you might think are interested–not random people on Facebook. These semi-friends won’t show up anyway so why make yourself look like Gidget Gimmee. My motivation is not the free products. I just like to have an excuse to have people to my house and maybe show them something new. I usually am the first one in my circle to have a party from a new company to our area. It’s fun to have someone come in and basically put on a show for everyone and maybe give away some free things to your friends. If the consultant comes off as too pushy or boring, she usually doesn’t get bookings and it ends there. Some consultants I see over and over because we all liked them so much.
    As someone who has been invited to many parties, I go when it is a good friend/family and I know I will want or need to buy something. Since I know what the party is about ahead of time–purchasing something to help the hostess–it really is good manners to attend with the intention of making a purchase. If I REALLY don’t think I would buy something, I usually don’t go.
    As a consultant for a home party business I have a somewhat different feeling. I would actually rather have a few not interested people come than only have one or two interested guests–even if they don’t intend on buying. Here’s why–a good turnout always makes the hostess feel better. I have had some sad and embarrassed hostesses in my time as a consultant. I have also done parties for relatively small groups where only a couple people have really been interested. If the hostess is surrounded by friends, she’s happy. We all have a great time. It has also been my experience that hosting too many people doesn’t make a great party for the hostess. If the hostess just invites people she knows well and/or who will be excited about the product, she will have a better party than having a room full of people to which she and the consultant cannot pay proper attention. Nothing can topedo a party like an inattentive hostess or a guest with nothing good to say. It’s also important to choose a consultant that makes the party a party! If you like the product, find a consultant that makes attending the party more than a sales pitch–even if it’s just goofy games or giveaways. When I was an active consultant I thought of myself as an entertainer. My company offers more than just sales–it sells stamps and scrapbook supplies–so I was able to demonstrate new techniques and have people make things to take home. It ends up being more like a class than a sales pitch which is a little different than jewelry sales, etc. but the core idea was still the same–encouraging people to purchase something that they might not know they needed 🙂 in order to help their friend get some fun free stuff! The important part was making it so much fun they didn’t mind the sales pitch–and in fact wanted to invite me to their home too. So in a nutshell, I would encourage people to support consultants that are good at their jobs by patronizing their businesses and to attend parties to support their friends–but not their acquaintances. If you enjoy yourself enough to buy something–bonus.

  • Jillybean July 19, 2011, 12:01 pm

    Just wanted to give a shout out on the side of liking these parties. And I do consider them parties. They are shopping parties. The point is to shop, but you get to socialize, eat, drink, etc. while you shop. If you don’t like to shop (or don’t like the type of product offered), you simply decline. I’ve been to many (and hosted a few) and had a fabulous time. For the ones I’ve hosted, I’ve insisted on skipping any formal presentations. Nothing kills a gathering faster than a sales pitch. I limit mine to no fuss events. There is stuff there for the buying if you want it, otherwise, kick back and have a great time. I don’t view it any differently than asking my girlfriends if they want to head to the mall for a day of shopping (I’ve actually had a shopping event where I had a few different product stuff – jewelry and food), except in this case the shopping comes to them, and I provide snacks, drinks, and music, and no one has to stand in line or deal with mall parking/traffic. 🙂 Of course, I only invite those nearest and dearest to me, and those with interest in whatever the product will be.

    @Lia – don’t assume that anyone that hosts these views their friends and family as customers and has bad personal relationships. My personal relationships are just fine, thank you. These parties are very popular in my circle of friends and family. We socialize and host plenty of events that are not shopping related, but we all actually enjoy the shopping gatherings as well. There are a few people who don’t dig them as much. They know they are always welcome to come and enjoy the social aspect and not buy. Some do so, others choose not to attend at all, and that’s ok, too.

    As for the online “parties” – well, I’ve never seen one listed as a “party” – the only version of this I’ve seen is more on the lines of, “I sell these products. If you are interested, here’s my link.” It used to be for a lot of this stuff you HAD to go to a party to get the products. Some people hate the parties but like the products. So, they are happy to just buy online like they would any other number of things they would buy in their lives. But, yeah, I wouldn’t call that a party of any sort.

  • Kat July 19, 2011, 12:03 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Sales parties might not be to everyone’s taste, but they’re pretty above-board about what they are. We use the term “party” here, but in fact this is a shopping trip and everyone who attends knows it. If you don’t want to shop, don’t go to the store, but don’t get on a pedestal and berate the store for selling things. Besides, there are plenty of people who really do enjoy Mary Kay and Pampered Chef products. Setting up an opportunity for people to purchase these things doesn’t count as greed or rudeness in my book, unless there’s dishonesty or misleading involved.

  • Ashley July 19, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I dislike sales parties. I use Mary Kay makeup because they do offer a quality product, but I avoid all Mary Kay parties like the plague. I have my representative, and she tries not to heckle me too often about hosting a party, so at least I can count on her not to talk me into anything. If I want Tupperware, one of my mom’s coworkers sells it so I just tell her what I need, give her the money, and she orders it at work. No parties there either. I agree totally with admin on this one. She hasn’t talked to you in three years, but she saw an opportunity to try and make money off of you via $8 bread mixes. All you are to her is a paycheck. I would have deleted it from my requests as well.

  • k2ysuzu July 19, 2011, 12:21 pm

    Oh boy do I have a few stories for this category!

    I was first invited to a Mary Kay party 4-5 years ago. I’d never been to any “parties” like this before. I was invited by my sister and didn’t know exactly what it was and for some reason agreed to go. Turns out my sister had been invited by a friend to a previous party and was now having her own in order to get free products by getting a certain number of her own friends to come. I was actually wowed by the products. They did seem really nice. I know, gullible much huh?

    I hope that you’ll all forgive me as this was before my ehell days but I did end up hosting a party of my own in order to get free products since they were a bit expensive. I was only able to get 2 people to come, probably because everyone else already knew better. But one of my friends that was invited and that I had known for years and also gotten her a job where I worked, we both loved the products. And we would comment on how great each other looked at work and be like “Are you wearing your Mary Kay?”

    I kept up a relationship with the sales lady and would place replenishment orders online. Every once in awhile she’d ask me to come to a Mary Kay event and said if I did she’d give me so much worth of free product. They were pretty much other “parties” but it was a whole presentation by a bunch of Mary Kay sales ladies, each having brought women that they had barely met somehow and convinced them to come. They were pretty awkward. Each time I saw her she’d always try to get me to become a sales lady myself but I know myself and I am NOT a sales person at all. I hate it. I’m sure she would’ve gotten a nice bonus had I decided to become one though.

    A couple of my friends got into Mary Kay and would post about it all the time on their facebooks and tried to invite me several times. I always politely declined. By this point I obviously knew what the deal with Mary Kay parties were and I did not want to enter into any sort of business/money related relationships with these friends. I preferred my strictly business relationship with my own sales lady. Luckily we are still good friends so they obviously understand me wanting to decline.

    Last story: I used to fix my old babysitter’s computer. My sister rudely gave her my phone# saying I knew computers when the two of them got back in touch. Me being so naive and nice agreed to help her and that lead to many more calls. She lived out of the way and barely paid me for gas, going on and on how her and her husband were struggling and could barely afford to pay their mortgage. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know. I think she definitely used it to take advantage of me. That whole ordeal is a totally different story. Anyways, she sold Mary Kay on the side too and would mention it hoping I’d bite and buy from her. I had even admitted to using their products. I always said “Sure, maybe when I run out of some stuff I will.” I never did. Why should I buy her products and let her make a profit when she was barely paying me to help fix her computer? That’d be like taking what little money she did give me and giving it back.

  • Lilac July 19, 2011, 12:26 pm

    This is a fun topic for me so I thought I might offer a little story from my years as a consultant concerning etiquette challenged attendees at a party. Let me start out by saying that for the most part the ladies I encountered at parties were extremely nice and thoughtful. I did parties for some groups of women over and over–I think there were three or four groups for which I did 20-30 parties each over the years. Very nice women. I do have many stories of weird hostesses (Christmas tree still up in July) and rude guests (don’t get me started) but only one really still burns me to this day.
    My very, very close friend booked a party and had about 5 people attend. Sometimes the small parties were the best because I really could work with each guest to find out what she needed or get her enthused about the product. Unfortunately, two of the guests sat and talked about the church choir the entire time–at a dining table in close quarters, with everyone having to listen, while I was demonstrating the products and showing people how to make things. They would not be dissuaded from the subject. Everytime something else came up it was quickly dismissed and then back to the choir. It would be one thing if they were sitting at the back of the room having their own discussion. We all had to listen in whether we like it or not. I wanted to hit them with my embosser. But the person who took the cake was the sister in law of hostess who I knew her beforehand as we had attended many events together for my friend. Since no one else was interested (choir!) I ended up spending most of the evening showing her how to use various stamping techniques and advising her on the best choices for a beginner. I basically gave her a one on one scrapbooking class. She placed a fairly large order, thanked me profusely for all my time and was totally excited about everything. Her order helped the hostess qualify for the lowest amount of gifts because, of course, the two choir junkies purchased nothing. So the next day she cancels the entire order, goes to Michaels and purchases similiar products there–basically sticking it to the hostess and to me. I know it happens but I have to admit I was shocked. I had spent a ton of time with her and we knew each other beforehand–and would be seeing each other in the future and she had to know that this would kill her sister-in-laws party. It was pretty obvious no one else purchased anything. I could definitely see if she had buyers remorse and wanted to cancel because she spent too much or didn’t think she would use the products. It’s not like the stuff was cheaper or better at Michaels. She probably paid the same. She just wanted it NOW. Because she was so excited that *I* turned her on to scrapbooking. How do I know that? She TELLS me this the next time I saw her. She actually made a point of stopping me and going on and on about how great I was to show her how to scrapbook and says, “Thank you so much! I was so excited about scrapbooking that my daughter and I went out the next day and bought tons of stuff at Michaels. We just love it!” Well, you’re welcome. Fine, screw me over–but don’t brag about it! She’s lucky I didn’t have my embosser.

  • k2ysuzu July 19, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Oh and most recently this year my sister invited me via facebook, along with ALL her other facebook friends, to a Scentsy party. Thank goodness I wasn’t singled out and she wasn’t trying to individually pressure me to go. I quietly removed myself from the event. I wasn’t touching that party with a 10ft pole! My relationship with my sister is an entire saga and combining that with a Scentsy party? NO! I try to see her as little as possible to begin with.

  • OP July 19, 2011, 1:10 pm

    @Xtina – oh, no, there was no “enjoying each other’s company” implied in this “invitation.” It was literally a link to the representative’s website and instructions to please place the “hostess” name in the indicated box at checkout.
    I almost wish I hadn’t deleted the event so that I could copy and paste the text.

  • SV July 19, 2011, 1:11 pm

    I don’t think the parties are rude in themselves- some people really enjoy going and like the opportunity to buy products in that way. I am not one of them, however. Unless it is a party both being hosted by a close friend and with a product I specifically wish to purchase, I don’t attend. And that means I very rarely attend 🙂 A simple “Sorry, can’t make it! ” suffices.
    However, a different spin on things- last spring my girlfriends and I rented a cottage for a few days (as we do twice yearly. ) We had recently been talking about having an adult toys party but no one really wanted to host. So we threw it while we were away – the salesgirl came out to our cottage, we all had a good time with absolutely no pressure to purchase anything, and in the end we held a contest to see who won the “hostess discount.” A fun afternoon for all concerned!

  • The Other Amber July 19, 2011, 1:34 pm

    I’m really of 2 minds on these things. If it’s a product line/company that I like and use and someone that I’m friendly with then I don’t mind the party thing. As others have mentioned it’s a chance to socialize with friends, and usually the host goes to a lot of trouble to actually act as a host and provide refreshments and food etc. I don’t feel taken advantage of at those. If it’s something I’ve never expressed any interest in, or someone that I don’t know well (or at all) then that’s entirely different. In recent months I’ve had to go to 2 different parties that I didn’t want to – one because it was hosted by a family member (starting her “new business” that she’ll never make money on) and one because it was hosted by the wife of my husband’s business partner. In both cases I felt obligated to buy something not because I wanted it, but because it was expected and not playing along would have caused more trouble than it was worth. In each case these people got 1 attendance from me, but I won’t be going to subsequent parties.

    Online invitations – only if it’s for a product/company that I’ve purchased before and it’s from someone that I’m close to, otherwise no.

  • Wink-n-Smile July 19, 2011, 1:40 pm

    Harley Granney – you’re right. And if you are interested in the products (some of them are actually quite good, and hard to find in stores), but not interested in the social aspect, you can always just ask for a catalog.

    I have a frew friends who sell the products, and while I will not host a party, if I want something, I know who to call, and they just add the order to whatever party they’re doing at the time. Some random hostess gets the benefits. The closest I’ll come to hosting a party is getting some of the catalogs, and leaving them out at an actual social party. If anyone asks about the products, I’ll just say, “The consultant’s contact information is on the back of the catalog. Feel free to contact her, if you want something. More cake?”

  • PurplePenguin July 19, 2011, 1:59 pm

    I stopped attending these sorts of events after a particuarly bad experience. The stuff was priced WAY beyond my budget, and I knew it having seen the catalogs. I was unemployed at the time and had initially declined, but the hostess insisted it was all “just for fun” and I shouldn’t feel obligated to purchase anything. (Hostess knew of my financial situation.) So I went, intending to listen politely, mingle, have fun, and simply enjoy the evening.

    To my horror, after the presentation, the presenter decided it would be easier to call people by name to collect the orders. So now, instead of just hiding in the crowd, I was going to have to decline to purchase anything right to this woman’s face. When my name was called, I walked over, smiled, and recited what I had planned to say: “I enjoyed your presentation, your products are lovely, but I’m not going to be purchasing anything this evening. However, I’ll keep you in mind if I find myself in need of X.”

    Oh, no, that wasn’t good enough. Suddenly I was being bombarded with what I thought was a rather hard-sell, including calling over another woman (who I think was a plant) to give glowing customer testimonial….it was really embarrassing. Finally, I stood up and simply walked away. (Rude? maybe. But she would not give up.) I was so uncomfortable at that point, that I gathered my coat, made my excuses to the hostess and left.

    I’d like to think this woman was the exception and not the rule, and that these companies do not encourage such tactics, but once was quite enough for me.

  • ItGirl July 19, 2011, 2:03 pm

    A few years ago a friend was out of work. She was really struggling. After many months of unemployment she signed up with one of those companies and most of us bought from her as a way to help her out. However, now that she has found a position I believe she has abandoned the sales.

  • A.J. July 19, 2011, 2:14 pm

    I’ve both attended and hosted some of those parties. I really don’t think I’ve ever been to one where I didn’t have fun – spa parties you get to sample the products so its like a mini-spa day, cosmetics are like a makeup tutorial, and the food product ones you always get to sample. At all of them, there was never a big crowd, it was a small group of a few friends and we got to socialize/have snacks, etc. A friend of mine had an “adult toy” party for her bachelorette party and we all had a blast.

    But I’ve had to tell people now I don’t mind taking a catalog or even attending a party (if its something I’m interested in) but I’m not hosting anymore. I’ve had one too many friends and colleagues decide they are going into business for themselves and want me to host parties or want me to become a “consultant” as well. And I got tired of having someone bugging me about it all the time. I understand letting me know that you’re doing this, great, I’m aware now, and if I decide I want to have a party or sell, you’ll be the first to know. Trying to guilt me into it actually has the opposite effect.

  • Shannon July 19, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I was invited to a “bridal shower” jewelry party. No, I’m not invited to the wedding. And, no, I will not be attending.

    Instead of sales parties, my girlfriends and I get together every few months for a fashion swap party. We bring stuff we don’t wear or use anymore, and shop each other’s closets while drinking wine. No pressure, and everyone usually scores a few new outfits.

  • OP July 19, 2011, 2:42 pm


    I have absolutely no problem with the line of business. It’s great for people with an entrepreneur mindset, children, as a second job, etc. My issue lies with the people who invite every person they’ve ever met to their parties in the hopes of walking away with tons of swag.
    I doubt I even would have sent this in, had it not been for the incredibly tacky, online “party” event. I’m aware that no one is going to force me to buy anything, but it still struck me as greedy, especially since I barely knew her 3 years ago.

  • boxy July 19, 2011, 2:49 pm

    I was invited to an “exciting” party by someone I barely knew. I actually believed this woman was interested in me as a friend. She promised me a free lipstick (Mary Kay) if I listened to a phone call and then answered some questions. She explained I could earn executive income while working part time, have new and positive friends, and most important – the ability to run my own business.

    So I signed up then met with the sales director who told me to trust the company, it had been in business over 40 years and if I “worked it, it would work for me.” She recommended a $4,600 inventory package. Thank God I didn’t have the money and refused to open the credit card she tried to pressure me into getting. I settled on a $1,200 inventory package.

    I went to a weekly meeting, one she claimed would provide me with training. What I got instead was a lecture from a woman I had NEVER met because I wore pants that night (turns out in 35 degree weather I was expected to wear a skirt). The training meeting was a creepy worship/applauding service. I have NEVER seen professional women dawn plastic tiaras, ugly red coats, and dance to crackling music from a boom box. Three times I attended these “training” meetings and not once did anyone give lessons on how to apply makeup. It was all about inviting more women and recruiting them followed by the tiara (and once a feathered boa) service.

    We were given challenges. When I failed to meet the challenge of 5 parties in 2 weeks I was called a “lazy loser.”

    I finally begged a friend to hold a party, of 8 people invited only 2 showed. One had no money, the other kept saying she could find better quality products for much less at Ulta or Sephora.

    No one in Mary Kay talked about all the expenses involved – ranging from a paypal account to samples, hostess gifts, gifts-with-purchase, demonstrator products, weekly meetings, conferences, gas driving to parties (assuming you can get them to actually hold), etc. Turns out Mary Kay doesn’t pay for those things, the consultant does.

    When I told my sales director I had to quit because I was losing money and wasn’t able to sell my inventory she said, “well, no one held a gun to your head – you didn’t have to buy all those things!” Basically she blamed me for buying the inventory SHE recommended.

    And that was the problem. Promises were made but when I failed and lost money I was blamed. They tell YOU never to be negative but as soon as you utter the words, “this isn’t for me, I’m not making money” they get defensive and downright nasty for you having the audacity, the sheer negativity, for questioning how things are done.

    As for the promise of “owning your own business”? Well, in Mary Kay you can’t advertise, they severely limit where you can sell (you can’t sell out of a store, at a craft fair, yard sale, basically anywhere except in your home), you can’t have a website of your own choosing, you have to follow a dress code, you are expected to attend ALL Mary Kay functions – it’s really quite cult-like.

    If you want to see for yourself what it’s like just politely ask to see a copy of their Schedule C, that’s the tax form (US) that shows income after expenses. It’s possible you’ll be called names, told defensively, “I don’t have to prove anything to you!” etc.

    I just stay away from anything direct sales related. It’s just not worth it. I mean, I’m not nasty, I just politely decline.

  • Hemi Halliwell July 19, 2011, 2:58 pm

    I think most commenters agree that if it’s a real friend and a product they like or use, they have no problem attending. When it’s obvious to you that it’s only for the hostess gift or discount and you are just a warm body to help up the attendance count that is what makes people upset and feel a bit used.
    There are some unscruplous hostess out there who try to mask the event as a party. There is a story in the E-hell archives about a man and his wife that were invited to a house-warming party for a co-worker of the man and it turned out to be a sales party. Not that all hostess would do that but it is that few “bad apples” that make people very wary of these type of parties.
    It makes me angry when people I barely know do not have any desire to socialize with me except when they want me to come to a sales party/event and purchase/order things that will end up with them getting a prize or gift. You don’t want to get to know me, but you want to get to know my money.
    It’s similiar to the obligatory work shower where you are expected to chip in or buy a gift for someone you barley know and never socialize with.

  • Clair Seulement July 19, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I hate to say it but I just don’t respect this. One could say that these parties are usually “above-board” as to what they’re about, but that’s really subjective–*I* always know what the deal is, but I’ve noticed that some hosts do try to play down exactly why you’re being invited to their house, and the stories of people who feel guilted into attending these things are legion. It may be harsh, but I can’t help but think to myself, “why can’t you get a real second job instead of embroiling yourself and by extension, your ‘friends’ in what is essentially a multi-level marketing scheme?” I cringe to hear close family and friends sounding like insincere, gushing shills for a fad income source. In this day and age, I fail to see an excuse for a company to not just have a website and cut out the strong-arming middle-man; I don’t know a single person who prefers to be guilted into buying something after being plied with contrived hospitality, rather than simply buying the things they need when they need them based on descriptions and consumer reviews.

  • Lime July 19, 2011, 3:17 pm

    I think it all depends on that host and the sales consultant, it can be fun and if it’s crap you’re not interested in don’t go.

    I went to a makeup party once (I in general hate those, they all say their products are safe for all skin but I’ve seen tons of people have reactions, from all the different companies) where at the end when you place the order the consultant actually said to me “you know not many people bought stuff, your friend isn’t going to get any hostess gifts, can you help her out?”. Uh no, if I want her to have a gift I’ll buy her one. I did not order from that sales consultant.

  • angelito July 19, 2011, 3:21 pm

    It all rather depends doesn’t it? We have a friend of the family who sells premier jewelry. Whenever she gets coupons or whatever she stores them away and gives them out at her parties so people can purchase the jewelry at a more budget-worthy rate. I’ve actually never bought myself anything, but it’s nice to go socialize, and she always says, “I know you’re not jewelry people, but if you’d like to come, please do just so we can spend time together.” She actually bought me some rather nice pieces for my graduation as well.
    It all depends on the hostess. If they’re not pushy and are practical about what you may like, then it’s fabulous. Or, if they are like our friend and love to serve people, even better.

  • Miss Raven, cringing July 19, 2011, 3:21 pm

    My Mom has friends who do this sort of thing… Lia Sophia, Mary Kay, etc. She has been known to host a party or two, but she goes all out with hors d’oeuvres and wine, and only invites friends close enough to her that I’ve known them since birth. They usually turn out pretty well, but my mom doesn’t do it for the hostess goodies so much as she does it to help out her friends’ business. I can’t imagine her ever inviting someone who wasn’t a very close, personal friend.

    However, I’d say worse than jewelry, make-up and kitchen gadgets are the sex toy parties. Ugh. Ugh. No. How completely inappropriate and screwed up. I consider myself a very liberal woman and believe what I do (or use) in the bedroom is my business, and same to you. It’s not the products themselves that completely put me off, but the “sales party” atmosphere.

    I was invited to a party by a former co-worker that I had never really gotten along with, after she became the SIL of a friend of mine. Apparently she had started doing sex toy parties and was having a big one as a birthday party for another friend (which is screwed up on its own.) I would rather spend the night repeatedly poking myself in the eye than sit around with a group of women I don’t know (and a couple I don’t care for), giggling about (and purchasing!?) vibrators. How this is supposed to be acceptable is completely beyond me, and I am the least conservative person I know.

  • Ellie July 19, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Ah, just received my latest ‘party’ invite yesterday.
    A Facebook invite created by a teenage niece, subject ‘Pearl Party’. Time, date & location provided (this Saturday, 1-3 pm). No mention of what this party actually is. Someone posted a message asking the nature of the party and this was the reply:

    “A pearl party. You come and by jewlery tht has a real pearl in it and you get the pearl by getting it out of an oyster haha”

    While the concept is pretty cute, and I looked the company up online and they appear to have nice enough stuff, I feel that this one is extra sneaky in that nowhere in any of the online materials (let alone the sparse invite) does it mention that if you would like to participate in the party you have to shell out (oh, punny) an undisclosed amount of cash to purchase the oyster that your pearl will be extracted from at the party. The amounts are unclear, but you pay one amount if you just want to take the pearl home, or another amount if you choose to have it mounted in one of their settings. But hey, you can open as many as you care to purchase products for!

    My distate for Multi-Level-Marketing sales parties is even greater when they are planned for the middle of what promises to be a glorious weekend afternoon and at a location 45 minutes from my house. I can excuse the uninformative invite that a naive teenager sent out, sort of. Oh wait, no I can’t. Sorry.

  • S July 19, 2011, 4:02 pm

    When I was a member of a wedding party the maid of honor invited all the bridesmaids to her home for a “get to know you” party. Seemed like a lovely idea. Of course we all attended. We arrived only to discover that the maid of honor was really having a skin care party. Expensive skin care.

    Our lovely evening turned into all of us seated around her dining room table declining the consultants urging for us to give ourselves facials. We’d all dressed up and worn nice makeup for the “girls night”. None of us were interested in pulling back our hair and scrubbing our faces clean. We politely followed along, using the products on our hands but still, it was a boring evening being stuck at a table, forced to listen to the consultant.

    As I said it was expensive skincare. Since all of us had to throw showers, purchase gifts, purchase our dresses for the big day, not many of us had the funds to spend on lotions. She wasn’t offering the makeup that evening so making a “pity purchase” wasn’t even an option. One by one we apologized and said we weren’t interested. Only the bride purchased because she felt bad about the whole thing. WOW, that consultant was mad! She left in a huff.

    Then the host acted like the consultant was the rudest women ever. She told us that the consultant had begged her to have this party and promised her it would be a wonderful evening. So then our host was in a huff about the whole thing.

    What could we say? We felt like we were duped. We felt bad that the bride felt obligated to buy skincare that she didn’t want. We felt disappointed because we didn’t get to chat with the other girls. We felt uncomfortable because we’d upset our host and the consultant. Just a terrible night all around.

    The host grudgingly served some pie and we all quickly left.

  • Hellbound Alleee July 19, 2011, 4:15 pm

    Sorry, my credit card will not be able to attend your party.

  • Bint July 19, 2011, 4:55 pm

    It’s not about whether one likes these parties or not that’s the issue. It’s the point being made here that some people only ever invite people to sales parties – parties where they will make money from you if you buy. Whether you go or not isn’t really relevant. It’s that this doesn’t truly count as hospitality and the hosts are portraying themselves as reciprocating/extending hospitality when you’re the one funding their new stuff.

    The equivalent are those people who moan nobody stays in touch with them, but if you ever email asking how they are etc, you get nothing back and then a Facebook invitation to read their blog eight months later. Nope, this is not staying in touch.

    Sales parties – nah. I used to be an Ann Summers rep at university (adult toys) and the parties were hilarious but nobody ever pretended they were more than a shopping trip.

  • Catvickie July 19, 2011, 6:05 pm

    Ha–this is where I can envy men–they never have to deal with this stuff!

  • mediacoach July 19, 2011, 6:10 pm

    Before the Internet/World Wide Web, at-home parties were a great idea. Now if I want something from Pampered Chef I go online and order it.

    A couple years ago I went to a candle party. I was the only person who showed up. I felt so bad for my friend because there were at least a dozen other people besides me to RSVP’d yes. I spent more money than I had planned to do because I felt bad for her.

  • ellesee July 19, 2011, 7:04 pm

    I’ve never attended or heard of these types of parties before. I would prefer to invite some friends to go to a mall to shop–at least there are sales and varieties and I wouldn’t feel trapped in my own home.

    I’ve seen vendors with beautiful display cases of pearl jewellry with the gig of opening a small oyster and setting it too. I decided to give it a try when I was in Vegas and it was (I think) $15 to open the oyster and keep the pearl. However, if I wanted to set the pearl into something, the settings were quite pricey!! I came out spending over $100 for a pearl pedant (no necklace chaing, just the pedant!) It was not worth it…..dept stores have better prices. The price is really for the experience of opening an oyster….
    http://www.pearl-factory.com/ (the vendor website. you can see the price range they have if you’re interested)

  • Mary July 19, 2011, 7:32 pm

    “No one in Mary Kay talked about all the expenses involved – ranging from a paypal account to samples, hostess gifts, gifts-with-purchase, demonstrator products, weekly meetings, conferences, gas driving to parties (assuming you can get them to actually hold), etc. Turns out Mary Kay doesn’t pay for those things, the consultant does.”

    This is why I quit Mary Kay. I determined pretty fast after buying the sample start up kit (fortunately, no inventory) that I did not have the personality to do parties. I also stopped going to any MK gatherings after 3 months. Plus I was supposed to pay admission to these gatherings! I was also not told that I needed to buy a certain amount each year to stay a consultant. For a few years, I only purchased items for myself and if my friends contacted me to order any items. After a few years, I just gave up.