Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sales

Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sales

Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sales

Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sales

Synopsis

On any given night in living rooms across America, women gather for a fun girls' night out to eat, drink, and purchase the latest products--from Amway to Mary Kay cosmetics. Beneath the party atmosphere lies a billion-dollar industry, Direct Home Sales (DHS), which is currently changing how women navigate work and family.

Drawing from numerous interviews with consultants and observations at company-sponsored events, Paid to Party takes a closer look at how DHS promises to change the way we think and feel about the struggles of balancing work and family. Offering a new approach to a flexible work model, DHS companies tell women they can, in fact, have it all and not feel guilty. In DHS, work time is not measured by the hands of the clock, but by the emotional fulfillment and fun it brings.

Excerpt

In an interview with a CBS Evening News reporter, a former psychotherapist turned Mary Kay makeup sales representative (frequently dubbed “consultants”) explains the paradox of the “lipstick indicator,” a notable increase in sales of personal care products during economically tough times. She explains: “A woman can’t afford to go out and buy a new suit or a new outfit or weekly therapy, but she can afford a $13 lipstick.” Beyond the emotional and therapeutic work a good lipstick can do for a paying customer, the consultant insists that working for a direct home sales company also has an important financial payoff for her and other sales representatives. When a reporter asks the consultant how the economy looks from her husband’s perspective, she replies, “Wonderful. My husband and I joke sometimes that there’s a recession happening, but not in our house” (Schlesinger 2009).

Two months later, Nightline follows suit, investigating so-called “makeup moguls” and other women who make six-figure salaries selling products from direct home sales companies. Going straight to the heart of the industry, the Nightline segment begins with a sweeping view of a packed convention hall during a cosmetics conference in Dallas, Texas. While women jump to their feet, scream enthusiastically, and dance a conga line across the stage, a multiple-choice question appears on screen: Are these women gathered for a A) motivational speech, B) cheerleaders’ reunion, C) mega-church service, D) beauty pageant, or E) all of the above? (If you guessed “all of the above,” you are correct.)

One motivational speaker at this seminar/cheerleaders’ reunion/mega-church service/beauty pageant heads the company’s largest sales team in Texas. With an almost sermon-like delivery, she asks the audience, “Have you ever heard anybody say, ‘I’m gonna cut back on my mascara?’ Have you heard anybody say, ‘I’m going to use my moisturizer every other day … just to kind of ration it?’” She and the crowd simultaneously cheer “NO!” Dressed in a coral suit, a visual signifier that she ranks among the top sales representatives in the company, she points out that she drives an $80,000 car (a “trophy on wheels”) and lives in a house that is almost paid off. Other consultants interviewed by Nightline share how they measure success by . . .

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