“But that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.” -Willy Wonka
As related in this excellent article on puffingcigars.com, Gene Arganese of Arganese cigars is running a pyramid scheme which preys directly on his most valuable commodity- his customers. From time to time, we’ve all seen various “Cigar of the Month” type deals of dubious distinction. Usually, these types of things amount to little more than an autoship program for overstock cigars. The customer pays a slightly discounted price for a few lackluster cigars and the process is repeated on a monthly basis until he or she absolutely could not stand to see another Rocky Patel Fusion robusto hit the mailbox. Unsteady moral ground is crossed when a contract is involved and the customer is locked into these purchases for a time that exceeds his or her interest.
What Gene has done here crosses the boundaries of taste, morality, the ethic of the cigar smoking community, and infringes upon what many of us view to be an unspoken trust between cigar smokers and cigar producers. Essentially, Gene’s pyramid scheme runs as such: an entrance fee of $89.99 is charged. For this no doubt hard-earned ninety bucks, the victim purchases the ability to purchase a fiver of six dollar cigars for $29.99 monthly. Each year, the entrance fee is exacted again- albeit at the generously discounted price of $59.99. While this is going on, said victim is expected to recruit other “members” for this “club”. If the quota of new recruits is not met, the unfortunate participant in this scheme is booted from the “club”. This arrangement differs slightly from a classic pyramid scheme which typically lacks an actual product. This difference, however, does little to ease the nausea that should arise in the pit of an intelligent cigar smoker’s (my apologies for the redundancy) stomach, as it is a fairly insignificant product that is in question. The real meat of this scheme exists in the multi-level-marketing approach to membership. Perched precariously atop this pyramid is our pal Gene of the likely soon to be defunct Arganese Cigar Company.
During a time in which cigar smokers are virtually pinned in a corner by unfair taxes, undemocratic freedom-restricting legislation, and increasingly hostile public sentiment toward cigars; Gene has decided to prey on the very people who helped to elevate his name from a place of total obscurity to gracing the pages of important industry periodicals. This is no ordinary widget wielding, catalog carrying, pink Cadillac driving pyramid scheme which provides equal opportunity to be taken advantage of across all demographics of the willing population. This scheme is directed toward a group of consumers who place their trust in the manufacturers of their chosen product. We place this trust in cigar companies and other related concerns to use their resources to defend our ability to exercise the freedom to enjoy a cigar. When those resources are instead used to extract money, like blood from a stone, for no other purpose than to pad the pockets of a failed cigar magnate; there can be no other response than to take great offense.
Because personal freedom is necessarily a hallmark of our community, I cannot call for any response other than for that community to come together to remove this type of behavior from our midst. Parasitism will always have its place in the natural order, loathsome as it is. We must respond to this type of leechery in kind. I am advocating a boycott of Arganese cigars until such time as Gene Arganese publicly acknowledges and apologizes for violating the trust of his community with his pyramid scheme. While I suspect that market forces and other economic factors might act to remove this tick from the collective belly of the cigar smoking community before any such boycott makes an impact; I hope to set a precedent that will prevent this type of predation from recurring in the future.