I’m Over Product Parties

are those free snacks REALLY free?


Mary Kay. Thirty One. Celebrating Home. Premier Jewelry. Lia Sophia. Tupperware. Uppercase Living. Longaberger Baskets. Pampered Chef. I swear, if I get one more Facebook invitation to one of these parties, I’m going to pull someone’s hair out.

For the uninitiated (lucky!), I’m talking about product parties. Companies that hire people - usually women - to shill their products at “fun” social events. They feed their “consultants” all kinds of crap about earning money in their spare time, setting their own hours, and spending more time with their families. While all those things are technically true, I have yet to meet anyone who sells this stuff full time. And I’m not sure the money is worth what you have to do to earn it.

If you aren’t a consultant for any of these companies, you probably have a friend who is. Which means you’ll be hit up to host a party, beg all your friends to attend, and get discounts on products! So…basically, I can bust my ass cleaning the house, buy and prepare a bunch of snack foods, then cross my fingers that all my friends spend hundreds of dollars so I can get a free tube of last season’s lipstick? Wow. Sounds like a fun time.

Why Product Parties are BAD for Overspenders

I distinctly remember going to a Celebrating Home party, back when it was still called Home Interiors. It was hosted by a frenemy who just loved rubbing her perfect life in my face. I was determined not to look like a cheapskate, so I broke out the credit card (after sneaking off to the bathroom to call and make sure I had available credit left). I spent nearly $300 on junk for my kitchen.

A few weeks later, when I received my fake plant, 2 prints, and coordinating potholders, I was so mad at myself. I could have bought similar items anywhere else for less than $100. But because consultants for these companies typically receive 20-50% of the purchase price, I paid extra just to impress a girl I didn’t even like. And she probably saved $40 on her thousand dollar purchase or something. It’s not like she ever even saw the things I bought.

Once I had those items, though, I wanted ALL the matching stuff!

So I spent the next year or two crashing product parties (no one ever minds because they want more freebies) on a quest to get the entire set. I charged over $700 to a credit card before the collection was abruptly discontinued. And you know what? Now that I think about it, that stuff was ugly as hell. Proof that overspenders and product parties do not mix, because we lack the impulse control to keep it simple.

The Grandaddy of Them All

As if all the hoopla about product parties wasn’t enough, I’ve noticed a new trend in the last few years - sex toy parties. Oh yes. You can wear penis-shaped tiaras and eat cupcakes with penis-shaped sprinkles, all while watching demonstrations of various objects you can shove up your hoo hoo. Then, just in case you weren’t uncomfortable enough, you can place orders for your favorites while the other attendees gossip about your unmet intimate needs!

I’m sorry - well, okay, I’m not - but REALLY?!?! I know we live in a social age, but is there nothing we won’t share with others? I’m not going to sit on my friend’s couch next to her mother-in-law, listening to some “consultant” talk about the features of one rubber penis over another (buy them both and get a free sample of lube!). NOT DOING IT.

Why would anyone want to do that when you can just log on to a site like Vibrations Direct and order them discreetly from home? I think online shopping was created for the things that are too embarrassing to buy in public. If you have made a purchase at a sex toy party, this is me judging you.

The Bottom Line

The economy still sucks. People are still broke. Personally, I think people should feel guilty for asking me to buy crap I don’t need just so they can earn discounts on cookware or jewelry. And to my real friends who know how hard I’m working to stop overspending, yet STILL choose to invite me? The next invitation you send could save you money on anal beads for life, courtesy of my right foot.

Do you feel obligated accept invitations to product parties? Are you a consultant who thinks I’m a horrible person for not playing along? Let me know what you think!

  • http://chipsforsupper.wordpress.com/ Bekki

    BTW, at a sex toy party you don’t usually purchase in front of everyone else. When I had mine, she had a display in a different room and could order from her secretly.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s the way it’s been at the ones I’ve attended, too. But still, everyone knows why you’re going in the other room and (in the case of the ones I’ve been to) gets a good laugh out of what you may or may not be buying.

  • Laura

    I have a draft post written about product parties too. I can’t stand them. It’s guilting people you know into buying things they either don’t need or can get for a better price. I just don’t go to them but the Facebook invites are out of control!

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I haven’t been to one in a long time. I wish there was a way to block invitations without blocking all invites from a certain person. I also hate the fact that I can’t just remove the invite - now I have to RSVP “no” and I’m always scared of hurting someone’s feelings.

  • http://www.momdropbox.com Audrey

    YES. I often just say no thank you.

  • http://www.myyearwithoutwastingmoney.com/ Ella

    I never go to them. I find myself pressed to buy something if a friend is hosting so better not to go.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I agree. It’s easier when it’s someone I don’t know that well, but when it’s a friend (and especially if I know they’re struggling financially) I always feel like I MUST buy something.

  • http://www.librarianhousewife.blogspot.com Megg

    I’m the idiot who made the mistake of buying into Mary Kay. Yeah, it was a big mistake. I’ve never been suckered into product parties, and thankfully don’t have many people I know who do them so I don’t get invited a lot. In the past I’ve usually felt obligated to buy stuff but I think now I could easily say no, especially because I know how they work! But I agree, sometimes it’s best to politely decline.
    Oh and about the sex toy parties? I had a new “friend” (my husband’s coworker) who was a very uptight person, who invited me to a sex party. It was so awkward just being INVITED that I quickly made up an excuse as to why I couldn’t go, even after she assured me that you order privately, and that they have lotions and things. Awkward. No. Thanks.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Wow, I can’t imagine calling up a coworker’s spouse and saying, “Hey, come to my house and buy sex toys!” WEIRD!

      • http://www.librarianhousewife.blogspot.com Megg

        Yeah. Thank goodness she moved so I don’t have to pretend to be friends anymore. HA!

  • Marissa

    I totally agree with you. I have several friends who do these parties and if I go, I always feel obligated to buy something. In our area, there are even organizations that group many of these vendors together now for fundraisers (my org did this in December) and many of the vendors then hit up the guests to host their own parties later. It’s a vicious cycle.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’ve always managed to refuse to host parties, mainly because I hate cleaning my house. But I do hate that feeling of being ganged up on when several friends host together.

  • Tanner E

    I had never been in one, interested in one or wanting to attend one. But I got tricked into attending one by a customer and I couldn’t say no (well, I DID say no, but had to attend anyway). I didn’t buy anything. I was embarassed the whole time and I am not sure, but we both knew I wasn’t gonna buy anything… I still respect them. I mean, it is some people’s job, and if it works for them, fine. I’m just not their type of customer. (Am I the only one that has to work hard at posting a comment here? Usually have to refresh a few times, log in, log out, re-open the post…)

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Someone else has trouble with comments from their work computer… I think Disqus just doesn’t like some people. I do appreciate the effort you’re willing to go to, though!

      I think it would be horribly awkward to attend a party hosted by a customer - you don’t want to offend them, yet you also don’t want to buy stuff you don’t need.

  • http://bogofdebt.wordpress.com/ Bogofdebt

    I avoid these like a plague-in fact I was shunned by a “friend” because I told her I would not be attending ever. She made some crack about me being poor and I just let it go. Thankfully that was all the way back in college. Now I just make up other commitments when I’m invited-it works out really well when I’m a few states away. I don’t feel as guilty.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Wow, I cannot imagine having the balls to call someone poor, even when I was in college! What a bitch!!! I really hope you are no longer friends with that loser.

      I just usually ignore the invites, or say, “Sorry, I’m broke!” Luckily most people understand, and the ones that don’t can kiss my butt.

  • http://lorakathleen.com/ Lora Kathleen

    My roommate’s sister-in-law does the jewelry product parties (Stella & Dot I think?) and kept bugging my roommate to let her have a party with all her friends. My roommate told the SIL that her friends are young and broke so they’d only come for the free food (mostly true). SIL stopped bugging her after that

    But yes, I always say no as well. After a bad experience in college with a salesman, I avoid people trying to convince me to purchase something I don’t need.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think that’s what I’m going to start doing - just focusing on the free food and whether Friend A is making that dessert I really really like. Maybe if I go stuff my face a few times without buying anything, people will get the hint.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNQTITGQC3L7GHWAKXTTBRIDVA Rachel

    OK I was seriously laughing at my desk at work. I can’t imagine getting all my friends together to sell them sex toys at a party and then expecting them to buy stuff regardless of how private the ordering process was. I don’t think I could effectively sell the stuff while that drunk. I think I’ll stick with my local store or online ordering venue.
    I was suckered into attending a Lia Sophia party once. Given the fact that I wear one set of earrings and no other jewelry. I drank the liquor, ate the snacks and avoided the fat sales pitch. There was a lot of pressure to buy stuff. Thank God I was broke, and all the stuff looked tacky.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I really like jewelry, but Lia Sophia is SO overpriced. And I agree that it’s tacky. If I want gaudy jewelry, I can get that at Claire’s in the mall.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNQTITGQC3L7GHWAKXTTBRIDVA Rachel

        Apparently I was the only one who thought so, at least at this party. So nice to know there’s someone else out there.

    • http://www.donnafreedman.com/ Donna Freedman

      Possible tactic: Take cell-phone photos of your friends holding/looking at the various F-ckerware products. Threaten to post them on Facebook or mail them to parents and pastors unless purchases are made.
      It would work at least ONCE, anyway.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNQTITGQC3L7GHWAKXTTBRIDVA Rachel

        Most of my friends would retaliate with the sort of revenge that gives people nightmares. Although some of them might make purchases on their own, blackmail would be a bad idea lol.

  • scarr

    I hate product parties and product pushers. It would be one thing if my friends on facebook would post that they are selling “Product Wonderful” but they make post after post after post about “become a team member now and win 8 million candle warmers!” or “buy 8 today and join our team for $100 and recruit 100 people and all will be great!!!!” pyramid scheme. there I said it.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Totally agree with you. I have hidden so many people from my feed, I don’t know how I have any friends left. If I wanted to sell any of that crap, I could post a status and I’m sure someone would fill me in within a minute or five.

  • http://www.thedebtprincess.com/ Jessica

    I may or may not have some experience in this area. And I may or may not have made plenty of money off parties like this. IF this happened it would have been over a decade ago.

    I don’t buy from them at all. ever! Most of it isn’t worth the cost.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Some people are naturally good at selling, so I could see where it would be possible to make decent money. None of my friends are good at it, though!

      I would fail miserably - I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from telling people things like, “You know, I saw this same thing at Target a lot cheaper!”

  • http://edwardantrobus.co.cc/ Edward - Entry Level Dilemma

    I go to them (product parties in general, not sex toy parties!) because my wife would buy a lot more if I wasn’t there. She always wants to sign up as a host, but we only have about 5 friends!

    One of my coworkers hosted a sex toy party over the weekend, which she thankfully didn’t invite me (although that was probably because we only actually have seen each other half a dozen times since Christmas). Apparently the attendence worked out that there was 1 cop, and everybody else had spent at least 1 night in jail. #Awkward.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think that’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. Awkward for EVERY SINGLE GUEST at the sex toy party, and not even because of the products!

  • Debgemologist

    I refuse to attend those parties. The one time I went to one I had no idea it was a product party until I got there, and because I rode with a friend I couldn’t leave. But even then, I made it clear that I did not realize it was a product party and I was not buying anything. Period.

    What I can’t figure out is why people feel like they have to have a “reason” for not going. Hating those parties is definitely a good enough reason not to go, why not just say so? By saying you’re busy, or you just know your cat will be sick that day, or whatever, all you’re doing is indicating that there is some kind of circumstance where you will in fact attend. Intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful reinforcement of all and so you will be invited again. And again. And again. And…then you’re worn down and you go, even though you hate it and it pisses you off.

    Just say NO!!! State clearly that you would rather trim your lawn with a pair of manicure scissors and that you will never EVER go to one of those parties, end of story. If you lose your friend over that, then you know they were never your friend in the first place. So you have a better idea of who your friends are and there was no possibility of being put in that situation of overspending on crap you don’t need. Win Win!!!

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s actually a really good approach. It would help prevent future invitations, too, once enough people are like, “Andrea told me she hates parties and refuses to attend. What an asshole!” I may have to try it.

  • http://www.brokeelizabeth.com/ BrokeElizabeth

    I’m young enough that I’ve never been invited to one of these parties… if I were, I would probably decline right away, rather than go and feel pressured into buying something I don’t need.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Ugh, be glad the onslaught hasn’t started for you yet! It will come - trust me. Be prepared to run away!!!

  • http://twitter.com/pinchthatpenny Bryan

    My ex-girlfriend is now working full-time for Mary Kay. She’s doing her best to make herself a director. I’m not sure how much she’s making, but I’m guessing she’s doing okay as her husband works part time while going to school. (It is worth noting that they moved away from San Diego to Texas, which was closer to home and where it’s cheaper to live).

    So, I guess, working full-time at one of those places can be done (though it depends on how much you want to irritate everybody you know).

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I know there are people who manage it (like all the old ladies with their pink Cadillacs), but I don’t know anyone who is (a) that annoying and (b) that persistent. Most people I know give up pretty quickly, especially with Mary Kay because of the cost to get started.

  • Kacie

    OH boy. Yeah — I’m taking a “no home sales party” policy. I’ve been to a few and they aren’t fun anyway, and the stuff is overpriced. The “real” money is getting people to sign on as consultants under you, but it’s a lousy business model. See pinktruth dot com for more on the Mary Kay aspect.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I LOVE the pinktruth website! Ten years ago I was heavily considering selling Mary Kay, and I found that site. After reading all the horror stories, I have managed to survive all this time without getting involved with such a crappy organization.

  • http://www.thepennyhoarder.com/ Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder

    LOL! You crack me up Andrea.

    I agree. I don’t care how much cheap, Walmart wine they’re giving away… I refuse to go to those things. If I really want to get drunk and overspend, I’ll do it on Amazon.com sitting in my own living room.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Good point. Though I don’t even want to talk about Amazon spending any more for awhile!

  • RestlessBBWoman

    I hate these parties! I’ve just made it part of “me” and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t go to home parties.” That way I’m not ever expected to go. Because really, the purpose is for your friends to make money off of you (no matter how much they say “you don’t have to buy anything, just come have some snacks.”) I can get home decorating things at the TJ Maxx or Marshall’s stores so much cheaper, or great smelling candles at Ross Stores for way under $10! There are so many discount stores out there now that I’m surprised the home parties are still in business!

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      It cracks me up how EVERYONE says, “Oh, you don’t have to buy anything; it’ll be FUN!” Yet when the little presentation is over, everyone pulls out their checkbooks even though most of them are griping under their breath. No matter what people say, we all know we’re expected to buy something. And it’s usually crap.

  • http://twitter.com/DebtChronicles Travis Pizel

    I’ve been a huge sucker for Pampered Chef in the past….then see the same freakin’ product at Walmart for less than half. We’ve also hosted product parties where we spend more on hosting the party than we “earned.” Someone in the house goes balls out when she throws an event. Not dropping any names, but her name starts with “V” and rhymes with “Connie.”

    I may, or may not admit to being willing to take on additional part time work, give blood, or even get a paper route to earn additional income for the same nameless person to attend one of those sex toy parties. You may continue judging, I don’t mind at all.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That anonymous person sure needs be grounded! I hope you weren’t talking about yourself because that could get embarrassing.

      The thought of taking on extra work to pay for sex toys is beyond my comprehension. I will just say you are a dedicated husband and leave it at that!

  • http://carefulcents.com Carrie Smith

    I actually like attending the product parties. But I have never been one to give into impulse spending and such. I kind of do the rebellious thing, and do the OPPOSITE of whatever people are pressuring me to do. If they want me to spend, (unless I really want to) I’m not spending a dime. More free food and drinks for me please!

    But I do understand the annoyance with constant party invitations and requests to attend parties to spend money. My least favorite are the Mary Kay “makeovers” also known as, taking all recently applied makeup off and looking pale-skinned to slap some random products on your face. Ick!

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I went to a MK party one time where the consultant INSISTED we all take off our shoes and socks to try this home pedicure set. I hadn’t shaved my legs in about 3 weeks and I seriously didn’t want to do it. Finally she made me mad, so I pulled my pant leg up to my knee and said, “There! Want to rub the exfoliant on for me?” Come to think of it, that was the last MK party I attended. Can’t imagine why….

  • http://www.balancingmoneyandlife.com/ Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife

    Ugh - I got sucked into being a consultant for one of these companies when money was really tight - I bought the whole “added income” pitch. DUMB! It didn’t last long.

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I know a lot of people who have done it. A LOT. And nearly all of them quit after a few months because they learn how obnoxious you have to be to guilt people into buying from you.

  • Misha

    Ok…here’s an opinion from the “other side”. I’m a … *gulp* Creative Memories Independent Consultant…scrapbooking and photo solutions in case you were wondering. Please don’t throw rotten fruit at me….
    Listen, to each his/her own. I love going to product parties….not really for the products but more because it gives me a chance to get out of my house and away from the kids for a couple of hours, drink wine and hang with some great people. I occasionally buy something if I have some extra cash to spend…but like everyone, money is tight. I don’t feel bad saying “no thank you…not this time”. 99.9% of the hostesses understand this and won’t think twice. I decided to become a consultant for Creative Memories because I love to digitally scrapbook….I did it more for the 30-50% discount. I work full time at a 8-6 job. Of course my dream would be to make enough money from the Independent Consultant gig so I could stay home and play on the internet all day. I make some decent money as a consultant and if I were to work this HARD full time, then maybe I could be bringing in some serious dough. I know a lot of people who do (both men and women in this one) .but I’m not a “party” kind of gal and I refuse to hit up my friends and family to have parties. If someone asks me then by all means I’ll be happy to….but I hate asking people to. It’s just not me. So I rely on word of mouth. Luckily most people that scrapbook love Creative Memories products, so it kind of sells itself. Anyway…the point is….yes…I can see where these product parties suck…but on the flip side - it helps ladies get out of the house and have a good time. I see nothing wrong with that. And for the record, I once sold sex toys and it was a BLAST. The laughter and fun that comes from these types of parties made it all worth while. I had friends who told me flat out, i won’t go cause it’ll make me uncomfortable…and that was fine. If you aren’t comfortable don’t go….but if you want to have one of the funniest, silliest, pee-in-your-pants-from-laughing-so-much times, then go. It’s truly a great time and your partner will be THRILLED to see what you bought :).

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      It sounds like you have a good approach where many people don’t (i.e. NOT pressuring your friends to host parties). Plus you’re selling a product that I’m sure does very well on its own merit - I’ve always wanted to scrapbook, but I could see myself becoming absolutely obsessed and spending every dime I have. I will agree with you that it’s great to get out of the house, but I’d rather do it in a situation where I can just drink the alcohol without feeling like I’m expected to buy something.

  • http://moneymamba.com/ JT

    My sister totally sells that Scentsy stuff. She’s a terrible sales person/business person (which she would admit) so it’s always pretty much low pressure. She’s also doing it part-time, and I think it’s one of those things where it is a hobby above all else. People who do it full-time probably have a lot more incentive to sell that stuff like its a used car.

    As for a sex toy party - LOL. That’s the most awkward thing I could ever imagine.

  • http://www.moneyaftergraduation.com/ Bridget

    I had one of the sex toy parties for my 26th birthday and it was a riot.. and I didn’t overspend because I got a discount after everyone else bought haha

    I went to a jewelry party a few months ago… seriously a jewelry party… I didn’t buy anything, so it was pretty fun.

  • http://findmefrugal.blogspot.com/ Frugal(er)

    The worst!!! God, I get all fired up just thinking about them. AND, I have had so many co-workers who still try to sell me things despite there being an explicit ban on such activity in the workplace. Of course, I had another job where they actually had a product party during the work day: http://ladyandria.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/is-everybody-selling-something/


  • Kimjadezoe

    This was from a girl on my facebook today that made me die laughing: “My ‘ah ha’ moment: I’m not selling make-up. I’m selling the dream of Mary Kay. Providing women with a great opportunity to be successful, Christian women.”

    • http://www.sooverdebt.com Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      WHOA. Seriously? That’s hilarious. So apparently if I want to be a successful Christian woman, I need to buy my makeup from Mary Kay? No wonder it hasn’t been working for me!

  • http://twitter.com/USMBlogger UltimateSmartMoney

    My wife gets invited to these types of meetings. Many times she does not want to go but still goes because her close friends may be hosting.

  • angie

    When my son was born 9 yrs ago part of the deal of me not going back to work was no going to parties and no having parties. Had to watch what we spent and did not need to spend our money on things we did not need. It has worked well and everyone understands in order to be a stay at home mom we have to watch our $$$. My mil and her sister started selling 31, bought a few things but i am done and over that, did not go over board but did help them as my husband thought i should. The funny thing is they both have enough funds they do not need to be doing this and I am the poor one. lol

  • http://www.americandebtproject.com/ American Debt Project

    I’ve never been invited to one but my mom definitely has! We used to laugh at the ridiculous catalogs for one of the food ones, can’t remember the name. I used to know someone pretty high up in Herbalife…they gave me a couple boxes worth of product. I’d STILL never pay for the stuff. I can’t stand MLM!