Menzgold Customers Not Motivated By Greed, But Curiosity

Live from the Woods: Menzgold customers not motivated by greed, but curiosity.
If the movement of ants could stun a child, adults – educated and uneducated, could be gullible to shell out their cash for a piece of a scam.

Psychologists have got a handle of the two scenarios and classified them as aspects of the same pie - curiosity.

The source of this drive, which has the sting of hunger or thirst, has confounded science.

While the drive theorists believe curiosity originates within us, the incongruity theorists claim it is motivated when one is presented with a challenge that doesn’t fit into the order of things in the world.

Despite the trouble in fully explaining curiosity, one thing is clear that it is an urge that must be satisfied at whatever cost, much like we do to hunger by eating.

It is, therefore, normal to get curious when a company offers something more than simple interests to its investors.

And this curiosity is aroused particularly because the status quo could hardly afford us a decent interest on our principal.

So once you are promised a percentage on your capital at the end of every month for a particular period, you resolve to take the risk to satisfy that urge. This was the situation customers of gold dealership firm, Menzgold Ghana Limited, found themselves in.

I have heard some so-called financial analysts ascribe greed as the motive why those customers will invest with the company.

However independent their comment may sound, I disagree with the conclusion.

I think it is yet another simplistic way of addressing a complex issue that our nation has to grapple with over the past four years.

The customers of Menzgold, mostly educated and supposedly financially savvy, were not motivated by greed.

They were after the miracle that curiosity offers to those who would follow their drive.

You give away your money to a company that promises an unbelievable interest because you want to experience the miracle promised.

You first ask yourself one of these questions: Is this possible?

How is it possible?

The moment you attempt to answer any of the questions, however false conclusion you draw, you automatically become an investor.

This is the curiosity theory.

I am asked: How could high-flying, respected professionals and streetwise investors fall prey to a scam?

And I often reply: You mean like voting for a particular candidate on election day because of his pretentious promises?

However one looks at the election analogy, once the elements of deception are present, it is nothing short of a scam, just like it is being alleged about Menzgold.

It has been said that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Since 1920s - the days of Charles Ponzi - the man for whom the scheme is named, to date, nothing has really changed. Else, Bernard Madoff, a major Ponzi schemer, would not have conned investors out of over $65 billion over a 30-year period until he was exposed in December 2008.

Truth is, anyone can be taken in by such old ploy. Once your curiosity is provoked and you are shoved to the tip of the cliff by juicy offers - come on - you will go for the kill.


In explaining why people are drawn to Ponzi schemes, Stephen Greenspan in 2009 came up with the theory of gullibility.

He saw gullibility as a subtype of foolishness and concluded a foolish act happens when “someone goes ahead with a socially or physically risky behaviour in spite of danger signs, or unresolved questions which should have been a source of concern for the actor.”

He identified four factors that he believed explains the success of Ponzi schemes.

These are; situation (challenge presented to investors whether or not to invest in a foolish act); cognition (lack of clarity of thought); personality (trusting the story of a colleague investor); and emotion (strong desire to increase one’s wealth).

Also, Robert Cialdini in 2001 wrote extensively on how one’s behaviour is greatly affected by the influence and persuasion of others to subscribe to Ponzi schemes. He explained how intelligent people are sometimes persuaded into less intelligent ventures.

But the common strand that runs through both Greenspan’s gullibility theory and Cialdini’s principles of influence is blind obedience - that inherent quality of curiosity. We uncritically follow anything - it doesn’t matter what it is - that tends to hold our interest.


The unasked question is: would the Menzgold experience bring about the end of Ponzi schemes in Ghana? My response is: Did the DKM and God is Love saga drive away Ponzi schemers?

Well, James Walsh disagrees. He noted the remarkable thing about Ponzi’s legacy is that, no matter how many times investors lose money, new schemes keep coming forward.

And greedy, naive people of all sorts line up to throw good money after bad.

How sure are you that your other investment is not another Ponzi scheme?

The writer is a journalist, novelist and essayist, whose works focus on politics, migration, social situation, economic and environmental issues.