Glengarry Glen Ross is a two act play that examines the impact of capitalism and greed on people's ethics. The play is critical of common business practices. A team of three salesmen and one office manager regularly try to sell unwanted land at inflated prices. One month, their bosses introduce a contest. Whoever has the highest sales wins a car, while the others are fired. The team stoops to low levels to make sales, including stealing the list of leads from the office and selling it to a competitor.
Setting: a Chinese restaurant
Scene 1: Shelly Levene tries to convince office manager John Williamson to give him some of "the Glengarry leads" (names and phone numbers of promising potential clients for expensive properties). Williamson is willing to sell some of the prime leads, but demands cash in advance. Levene cannot come up with the cash and must leave without any good leads to work with.
Scene 2: Dave Moss and George Aaronow hate the pressure management has put on them to succeed. Moss tells Aaronow that they need to strike back by stealing all the Glengarry leads and selling them to another real estate agency. Moss's plan would require Aaronow to break into the office, stage a burglary, and steal all the prime leads. Aaronow wants no part of the plan, but Moss intimidates him, claiming that he is already an accomplice simply by listening to Moss's pitch.
Scene 3: Ricky Roma delivers a monologue to James Lingk. Roma does not bring up the real estate he wants to sell to Lingk until the very end. Instead, Roma preys upon Lingk's insecurities, and his sense that he has never done anything adventurous with his life.
Setting: a real estate sales office
The burglary is discovered. Williamson has called in a police detective. Shelley Levene is happy, because he has finally sold a large plot of land to a couple named Nyborg. James Lingk enters the office, looking for Ricky Roma. Lingk's wife has ordered him to cancel the sales contract he signed with Roma. Roma attempts to smooth-talk Lingk into not canceling the contract, informing Lingk that his check has not yet been brought to the bank; this begins to have its intended calming effect on Lingk, who is clearly agitated. Levene supports the ruse, but Williamson, thinking Lingk is worried about the safety of his check, accidentally ruins Roma's ploy when he tells Lingk that his check has just been deposited. Lingk abruptly leaves, telling Roma he's sorry for letting him down.
Roma is furious at Williamson, who has blown a big sale. Levene picks up where Roma left off, and begins insulting Williamson. Mid-rant, Levene accidentally reveals his knowledge that Williamson made up the claim about the check being cashed, information he could not have known unless he had been in Williamson's office. Williamson accuses Levene of robbing the office. Levene quickly folds and admits that he and Dave Moss were the thieves. Levene tries to bribe Williamson, offering half of his future sales. Williamson reveals that the Nyborg sale is worthless, as the couple is elderly, mentally ill and just like talking to salesmen because they're so lonely. Levene asks why Williamson wants him turned in, and why he would give him the lead in the first place. Williamson simply states he doesn't like Levene, for the years of verbal abuse, and the old man's flippant nature. Roma comes back from his interrogation and Williamson goes in the back room to speak with the detective. Alone with a devastated Levene, Roma proposes the two men work together. The door opens and the detective demands to speak with Levene, shoving him into the back room.
Roma, unaware of Levene's fate, reveals his true intentions behind the partnership. Roma orders Williamson to not only continue to hand him the best leads, but to add half of Levene's commissions. Williamson tells Roma not to worry about it but Roma won't listen. Aaronow enters the office, desperate to know if they found the perpetrators. Roma says no and heads out to the restaurant.