Williamson and Levene are sitting in a booth at a Chinese restaurant (where the entirety of Act One takes place). Levene, a real estate salesman, is trying to convince Williamson, his boss, to give him the desirable sales leads for the Glengarry Highlands development, which are the newest and best leads in their office—the prospective customers most likely to buy. Levene tries to convince Williamson that although he has himself had a streak of bad luck lately, he is still a master salesman.
Levene cites his record, regaling Williamson with tales of his success selling lots at another development, Glen Ross Farms, back in 1965. Levene suggests that Williamson ask Mitch and Murray, the heads of the company, about his record. Williamson, however, tells Levene that he cannot give him the Glengarry leads before the end of the month. Levene needs to make a sale before then, to get on the board—the chalkboard where the office keeps track of each employee's monthly sales. Levene knows that the two worst performing salesmen will be fired at the end of the month. If he does not make the board, he will surely be one of the men who loses his job.
Williamson explains to Levene that giving him better leads would be a violation of company policy. Williamson can only give the best leads to the salesmen who are making the most sales. Of course, as Levene is not on the board, he only gets second-rate leads, which will make it very difficult for him to make a sale and get back on the board—a classic vicious circle.
Desperate, Levene offers Williamson a ten percent kickback on his commissions if Williamson will give him the hot leads. Williamson makes a counteroffer: he will give Levene the Glengarry leads for a twenty percent kickback, plus fifty dollars cash per lead. Levene agrees, anxious to go out on sits (sales pitches) right then, but Williamson insists on the cash up front. Williamson will give Levene two leads for a hundred dollars. Williamson refuses to split them, perhaps for bureaucratic reasons, though the only explanation he offers is "Because I say so." Levene does not have that much cash on him.
Levene makes his last pathetic attempts at persuading Williamson. He begins to say something about his daughter, suggesting that he is going to tell a sob story about needing to keep his job for her sake, but Williamson cuts him off. Levene then lashes out, telling Williamson that it was not too long ago that he could have called Murray and had Williamson fired. Williamson gets up to leave. Levene realizes that he has lost this battle, and asks for one of the bad leads from the B list.
Mamet provides only sparse stage directions in this scene, a sparseness that persists through the rest of the play. We know that Levene and Williamson sit in a booth at a Chinese restaurant, but we have almost no other physical description of the scene. Mamet's lack of interest in anything beyond the bare minimum in stage direction demonstrates his belief that—particularly in business culture—action happens primarily through speech.