1 My Boss Tried to Get Me to Join in on Her Beauty Pyramid Scheme (It Kind of Worked) | The Billfold

My Boss Tried to Get Me to Join in on Her Beauty Pyramid Scheme (It Kind of Worked)

I was her first mark.

The first time she mentioned the all natural beauty products, she was sharing a new discovery. She came out of her office and leaned on my desk. Casual, just shooting the breeze.

“You know how I’ve been really into health and wellness lately?” she asked.

I did. She had been very into health and wellness for the past six months. We’d worked together a year, she my boss, I her assistant. I got her coffee, and then, after the switch, green tea. I answered her phone. Edited her blog posts. Signed her up for spinning classes. She’d always been healthy, one of those people that takes care of herself, loves to run. Didn’t want bread with her salad. Always wanted the dressing on the side. But then she started ratcheting it up. Juices instead of salads. Marathons instead of 5Ks. And then, PrettyFace.

“So I’ve been doing some research, and it’s just crazy how toxic a lot of things that we put in our bodies are.”

Yeah, I read the internet.

“Do you know makeup contains heavy metals?”

I did.

“It’s just awful,” she said. “We are poisoning ourselves trying to be beautiful.”

I told her that was the reason I don’t wear makeup, because it’s dangerous. I laughed after, because I’d made a joke. I don’t wear makeup, because I don’t care to wear makeup. I am unmotivated to paint my face. It’s not for me. She told me this was really serious stuff. And it’s not just makeup. Facewashes, face creams, body creams—it’s all killing us. I don’t use those things either, but I smiled and nodded. Terrible.

She wasn’t done. “We are literally leeching poisons into our bodies with every product we put on our skin, in our hair, on our nails. It’s really upsetting,” she said. I kept nodding. “And that’s why I’m so excited I’ve discovered PrettyFace, a chemical-free, all natural, European line of cosmetics and skincare products.”

She sounded like a commercial.

“In Europe, they have strict regulations about what can go into products that go on our bodies, and so these are the most natural and safe products on the market. I’ve been using them for a few months and I’ve seen such a difference. I’ve decided to start selling them.”

She was a commercial.

“You really should look them up.”

Two days later she sidled up to my desk again.

“Did you have a chance to look at PrettyFace?” Beat. Did I lie or did I tell the truth? I lied, and told her it seemed they had a lot of really great stuff. “Did you happen to notice their anti-aging line? I think you would really like their anti-aging line.”

I’m two years younger than she is.

“It all looks really great,” I said.

“I’ve been using their rejuvenation line for months. Doesn’t my skin look great?” It did look great. I said, your skin looks great. And then I said, but it’s always looked great. Wrong. “No, it was terrible before, dark circles, wrinkles, dullness. It’s only since I’ve been using these all-natural products that I’ve seen a difference. I feel like me now.”

The phone rang and I answered it. She walked away.

A few days later I came back from lunch and a stack of printouts about PrettyFace’s anti-aging line was on my desk. She’d printed out pages from the website and stapled them together. A Post-it note on the top said, “Just wanted to share this with you! I really think you’d love it.”

On her way out that evening she paused at my desk. “Have you had a chance to look over that information I gave you?” I hadn’t. “I really think you should.”

So I did. The products sounded great? They looked pretty in their little jars? The branding was very well done? I was not going to buy an anti-aging skincare system from my boss.

The next morning she had an idea. “I just realized you are probably reluctant to inquire more about the products because they are costly. But they really aren’t, they’re cheaper than a lot of products on the market today!” Then, the real pitch: “You know, I could get you even more of a deal if you wanted to get some friends involved. Just call up some friends, tell them about this great line of products you’ve found. All you need is a few people to buy it and then you’ll get such a great discount. I mean, I’m selling these products because I love these products. Sharing them feels so great. You’ll see.”

I told her my friends didn’t have money to spend on fancy skincare products.

“You’d be amazed what people spend their money on.”

I decided I was sick of talking about PrettyFace. I missed the days when we didn’t talk except for her to ask for more green tea. I decided I’d buy a lip balm or something, get her off my back. I told her I had $30 to spend and wanted to try something, what did she recommend?

“That’s tricky, you know, we have so many great products. You know, right now we’re having a special, on the anti-aging line, and it’s the whole kit for $150. It really is an amazing savings, crazy even. Like, it should be like, $300. But it’s only $150.”

Yeah, I don’t have $150.

“You just have to prioritize. I mean, is having beautiful skin free of toxins and poisons and heavy metals important to you? You have to decide what is important in your life. What’s more important than your body?”

I said okay. I couldn’t say no anymore. I was too tired. She went and got her order form. I went and got my credit card. My products will come in a week. “And then we’ll get you on the makeup.”



Molly Lorz lives in New York.


24 Comments / Post A Comment

la_di_da (#1,425)

Ugh. That’s kind of unethical. I mean you can’t tell your boss, hey, I don’t want to buy anything go away and leave me alone. Manipulative bosses are the worst.

sherlock (#3,599)

@la_di_da I know, so inappropriate, and on so many levels! It’s already unethical for the boss to be putting pressure on her subordinate to spend money on things she can’t afford. The fact that the products in question relate to her appearance just adds to the ick factor.

Megoon (#328)

@la_di_da It’s SUPER unethical!! I think it’s weird even when bosses send around a “I’m doing this race for charity, no pressure but if you want to donate…” email. Don’t ask for money from your subordinates!

guenna77 (#856)

your line:

“it all looks great, but i’m just not in the market for any new products right now.”

repeat ad nauseum if necessary.

NoReally (#45)

“I decided I’d buy a lip balm or something, get her off my back.”
That is not how these things work. A thing that does sometimes is to present as though you are even more fanatical about some other choice. Like, “I only use La Prairie. It is the only stuff that touches my face, even though I spend more than rent.” Or, “I am so allergic to every skincare product sold in a bottle that I make my own in the kitchen out of ingredients from the farmers market. You should try it! I will email you the recipes!”

WonderlandK (#5,036)

@NoReally Ha! That’s exactly how I escaped one of these pitches. She broke down in the face of it and did not want to trade recipes and research sources with me. The. End.

ThatJenn (#916)

@NoReally Yesssss I tell everyone I make all my own products and cleaners and usually then they just… stop wanting to have the conversation with me. (I really only make SOME of my stuff, but it is 100% worth it to pretend I make it all.)

bgprincipessa (#699)

Any time my boss veers dangerously close to asking me to pay for something that I don’t think I should have to pay for (this is not like makeup; I’m saying work-related things), I come dangerously close to saying “you know how much I make right?”

francesfrances (#1,522)

@bgprincipessa YES. That’s how I feel about air conditioning and in-unit laundry. GASP “You don’t have air conditioning?” No, I don’t have air conditioning. I am your receptionist.

EM (#1,012)

I got a facial the other day and almost had a fit at the aesthetician who kept saying totally incoherent things about toxins. “Applying eye cream in this motion helps remove toxins that build up in your eyes during the day,” et cetera, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT.

Anyway, this is so uncomfortable, look for a new job and then report your boss to HR.

blueblazes (#1,798)

We have a guy in our office who has a “side business” doing ACN. He has been relentlessly trying to get people to come to his house and learn more about this wonderful opportunity. It got to the point that he made everyone so uncomfortable that one person printed out a copy of our company’s solicitation policy and left it on his desk. The shilling stopped for a month or so. Then, just the other day, he brought me a survey “just for market research”. I might have believed him if the survey hadn’t asked me for all my contact information. Call me at home? I don’t think so. It might be time to print out that solicitation policy again.

I think the thing that he doesn’t realize is how much this is hurting his image around the office. A lot of us are really squicked out by the endless sales pitch and avoid working with him because of it. (Also, doesn’t it show pretty bad judgement on his part to get involved in a pyramid scheme?)

Kimberly Alison (#4,465)

By the description of the European/All natural/emphasis on toxins, I’m assuming your boss is selling Arbonne.

I just had a friend of a friend get into it and I’ve heard her sales pitch SO many times. I’ve purchased a few items, but none were worth the ridiculous prices (even with my hostess discount).

I’ve started scheduling work committments so I can avoid social situations where I might have to see her and listen to her badger me about how I must be out of foot creme by now and surely I would want to buy some more?

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@Kimberly Alison I assume so as well. A good friends mother sells it and is relentless! It is lovely, but I can’t. Her daughters mentioned that I couldn’t buy it…I didn’t (then) have a job! Well the obvious solution was to make a career of selling Arbonne. This, despite the natural barrier of being friends largely with other poor 20 somethings (and a lot of dudes, who I can promise don’t want fancy face cream). I now have a real job and wash my face with soap. Toxins be damned.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Kimberly Alison Ohhh my god I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection! Yeah, I mistakenly got roped into hosting an Arbonne party a few years ago. What a mistake.

atruck (#1,312)

Can you speak to her first and just explain that you’re not interested in any of their products? Then if it doesn’t stop, consider telling her supervisor. It’s unprofessional for a supervisor to pressure their employee into buying something they are selling, and for her to do it repeatedly isn’t okay. That said, it’s helpful for you to tell her in a straightforward way that thank you, but you aren’t interested, and if it continues after that, you can say something to her superior.

garli (#4,150)

Gross. Just super gross. I don’t wear make up or creams or anything and when people start in on me I just give them the blank stare and say “this is just what I look like”.

atruck (#1,312)

And I’m really sorry she keeps pressuring you. That is no good at all, and it’s very unfair that you have to be the one to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation just because she’s being inappropriate and unprofessional.

On the other hand, people in my office aren’t even allowed to sell their kids’ Girl Scout cookies, forcing me to roam the wastes for a mixed case of Samoas and Tagalongs.

Megs (#644)

@cuminafterall I once saw a “Girl Scout Cookie Signup Sheet” in the women’s bathroom once at an office I was visiting and thought it was GENIUS.

Fig. 1 (#632)

Friends don’t ask friends to buy their shit. Unless you have expressed an interest in buying said shit. This goes double for workplaces.

OTOH several of my acquaintances are getting into Arbonne, Partylite, Tupperware et al, so any advice on establishing Firm Boundaries would be helpful.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Fig. 1 I don’t want to be flip, but remember you can literally always say no to anything you want, at any time, for any reason. You don’t even have to say the reason. “I don’t want to buy jewelry/housewares/whatever right now, good luck though!” If you really can’t or don’t want to be straightforward, invent an unseen scold and blame that person, or invent a fictional savings goal and slavishly adhere to it.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@aetataureate Right, I am forgetting my Ask Polly advice. Say “No” and don’t give reasons why.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Fig. 1 Yeah there is an uptick in MLM in my life recently too, and I finally just had to put my foot down and decide I wasn’t going to any more direct marketing parties unless I had a shopping list of stuff I actually wanted. Not worth it and I hate being guilted over not buying stuff because I am relatively good with boundaries.

Allisonkara (#5,048)

Its really very very bad, your boss is an unethical person , and so is the activities. As no one can force you to do things you don’t want to do. Like your boss can’t force you to bye things that are too expensive , or else you dont want to buy.You must do something for that, its your life what if they are your boss or anybody , you must shoo them.

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