Let’s Talk Real Pyramid Schemes, Brother


The Wonderful World of Business

By Jim Penn


I was visiting my favorite attorney, Jack Exemplar, when his secretary reminded him that his ten o’clock had arrived.


“Oh, yes,” he responded and motioned for me to stayed seated.  “This Peter person called me out of the blue.  I don’t know what he wants, but I have a few minutes to spare this morning.”


He pressed the intercom button.  “Shelly, please show the gentleman in.”


A knock at the door, a quick and easy move, and Peter Onzie was inside with his traveling case.


“Oh.  You have company.  The more the merrier.  I’m Peter Onzie,” he said as he handed each of us a business card which read, “P. Onzie, Investment Advisor.”


“Why did you call me?” Jack inquired.


“To show you the best investment ever invented.”  He opened his case and displayed a pyramid, which also appeared to be a three dimensional puzzle.  “I sell pyramids.  But they’re more.  As you can see, they’re puzzles and an investment.”


Jack and I didn’t know what to do.  Smile?  Laugh?  Feign interest?  We just remained motionless.


“Well, uh, very interesting, but I invest exclusively in mutual funds,” Jack shot back.


He turned to me, “How about your friend here?”


“Oh, I’m just a writer; I don’t have investments.  Tell me more.”  I avoided eye contact with Jack, who was signaling to cut off the conversation.


“They’re three dimensional puzzles,” Peter continued.  “They sell for $49, and your cost is only $30.  The secret is to get others to sell them; $300 for every representative you signup and $2 for every sale they make.


“You want to get as many people working for you as you can.  And,” pulling five more pyramids from his case, “most people buy six at a time because they can build a larger pyramid by putting them together, like this.  Look, a real work of art! You can create your own Egypt.”


“Wow.  What a great idea,” Jack faked enthusiasm.  “Do you have any other products?”


“The company is working on sphinxes, but the shape limits its possibilities.”  Lowering his voice, “Some people say, ‘The sphinx really stinks.’  But that hasn’t stopped our design department from more research and development.”


“How much does it cost to get started?” I asked.


He pulled out a pricing sheet.  “This week only, representatives get a 20 percent reduction.  It’ll only cost you $1,600 plus $450 for the starter fifteen pyramid kit.  Just sell the opportunity to six friends, and you’ve paid for your investment.  You can do that in two or three days.”


Jack looked at his watch.  “Will you look at the time?  I have to get a contract out by 11.  Why don’t you leave some literature and a pyramid, and I’ll get back to you.”


“Oh, I can’t do that, but I can come back anytime.  And,” turning to me, “where can I contact you?  I’d like to tell you more.”


“I’m visiting from out of state.  I’ll touch base with Jack on this.”


Peter was not a man easily put off.  “What state?  I’ll just refer you to a rep in your state.”


Jack began to display real irritation.  “I really need to get to work on that contract.”  Pushing the intercom, “Shelly, would you please show Mr. Onzie out?” 


She appeared, and Mr. Onzie bid his farewell.


“It looks like his pyramid has some investment potential,” I suggested.


Jack was horrified at my suggestion.  “Jim, it’s a pyramid, a pyramid scheme!”


Trying to keep the smile off my face, “How can you tell?”


Jack lit up, “His name for one thing.  Peter Onzie.  If this isn’t a POnzi scheme, I don’t know what is.”


It’s hard to fool an attorney; they’re bright.  Leaving his office, I turned to his receptionist, “Jack was really interested in that fella.  Did he give you his card?”


“Yes, he did.”


“Good.  Maybe you should call him and set up another appointment.  Jack wants to see him again.”


“Yes, I will.  Thank you , Mr. Penn, for clueing me in,” she said.


I felt very satisfied knowing that I had probably helped Jack retire early.