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The Apprentice Week 10: Selling Crap

Posted by Johanna on Jul 7th, 2011 and filed under TV. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

“I’m not lookin’ for bladdy salespeople,” says Sugartits in this week’s intro montage. We can only assume, therefore, that feelings are not cordial between the editors and the producers, because this week’s task is for the teams to take a bunch of market stall reject wares and sell them. “I want you to grow this £250 in value,” says the Lord, gesturing at rows of slightly fuzzy plastic crap, “by selling it and buying more of what has sold.” Get it? Of course you have. However, there’s six people who haven’t.

I look away for half a second and, when I look back, it seems that I have just caught a shot of Jim pulling on his knickers. Apparently, the editors don’t like me either, or they would not include such atrocities.

Off go Overpromising Jim and Natty Brent (who has fought off Suze to become PM) to sell tat to tourists in Covent Garden. Suze, meanwhile, is packed off to sell household linens (ahem, nylons, people) door to door in…Knightsbridge? Two problems with this. Firstly, the 400 thread count polyester sheet has yet to be invented, and secondly, the door-to-door hawkers market is already full of ex-prisoners and drug addicts, and frankly the entirety of London has learnt to pretend they aren’t in should such a person come to the door.

Helen and PM Melody have gone to the East End to visit some Pahndlands. Why? Indeed, for God’s sake, why? This becomes a bit of a sticking point later. Mainly because it sticks in Sugartits’ craw and nearly causes him to have an apoplexy.

Inventor Tom is on the South Bank to sell nodding bulldogs. And a power washer. Having sold the three bulldogs, to some under fives with too much pocket money, he is quite unnecessarily pleased with himself and feels he’s proved something. If he divests himself of the powerwasher to a passing German on his way to the London Eye, he may have a point. As it is, his sales skills still leave me slightly underwhelmed.

Natty and Jim have the best row ever. ‘You should step back,” says Jim, illustratively physically stepping back, “and think of strategy. ” “Can you think of why we haven’t done that?” suggests Natty, in the style of a particularly mean early years foundation teacher. “Because we don’t know what’s sold yet?” asks Jim? Bingo! The man’s a genius. But mean Natty, instead of giving him a gold star and being supportive of his self-esteem, snipes “That’s right, keep up.”

Melody and Helen finally manage to shift 9 duvet sets to some bloke in Hackney. Given a whacking big in – the retailer says he’d buy more if they had them – Helen offers him some more. Which will be fine, if the opportunity cost is… oh, screw it. They have no clue what the margin is, never mind the opportunity cost.

At the end of the first day, Helen’s team have made their money back and Natty’s team – who knows why? – have done slightly better. Back in the warehouse, both Mel and Suze (it’s a mystery to me why Natty decided to let Suze, whom she distrusts and derides, do the restocking) decide to reject the idea of selling more of what has sold, and go off road, Mel in the digital alarm clock and travel iron aisles, and Suze in the plastic bracelet world. Mel doesn’t pick up any more nodding bulldogs, which makes Tom practically cry.

Day Two, and Helen tries a coup with Mel, attempting to take over as PM. Mel’s way of dealing with this, instead of throwing the ‘You think I’m rubbish’ hissy fit I thought she would, is to say “I assume you must have a wonderful strategy then.” And then banish Helen to Canary Wharf with the digital alarm clock. Helen then discovers that the wholesaler of the one re-order they do have – the duvet covers – has shut. Regardless, she traipses across London to another wholesaler, hefts back to Hackney and…the retailer has shut. It’s a totally avoidable mess, but then you knew that already.

Jim – not entirely sure where he is – Goldhawk Market perhaps? – has actually managed to get a new fan while flogging his crap: Nick, who says he quite likes Jim “today”. Once again, Jim’s charm is quite resistant to the plasma screen and I find myself not liking him any more today than I have any other week. Suze and Natty take her bracelets to Portobello Market. Editorial spin or not, Natty seems to spend most of her time having a go at Suze, who is in her element as a market stall holder, chasing people down the street to make a sale.

Tom and Mel head over to Hammersmith Tube. If they spent more time selling and less time setting up new stalls, surely they would do better. Licenses, transport and stalls at all these places are, of course, totally free. It’s all straight profit.

Given half a second in the boardroom, Helen lays into Mel for having no strategy. Sugartits points out she didn’t need one as he gave them a strategy – buy stuff wholesale, sell it retail, sell the smelly stuff, or something. Not really listening, Helen says her strategy would have been to buy wholesale, sell wholesale. Sugartits starts looking like the ‘before’ case in a particularly vivid advert for an extremely powerful Gaviscon/Senokot /Preparation H combination product.

Natty “felt really hungry” to be PM. Jim lays into her for not letting him reinvest in more stock. To be fair, it wasn’t tricky, Sugartits did tell them exactly what to do, and he fines Natty £100 for lacking balls. Nat’s anatomy is neither here nor there, what was missing was any concept of what the task was about. Having been told that any stock they had at the end of the day would be taken into account, everyone assumed this would count as a liability – rather than an asset which could be sold in the future. Were this 1983, I believe the word ‘durbrain’ would be bandied about.

Despite the fine, Natty’s team still beats Mel’s. Getting his knickers in a right twist – perhaps he’s just discovered NOTW haven’t been hacking his phone – Sugartits then further punishes Natty’s team by refusing to give them the weekly winner’s treat. Which is much more enjoyable for the viewer. Instead of gratuitous shots of 3 annoying twats enjoying Goodwood we get Natty blaming her behaviour on Suze – “it was like having to look after a small kid”. Well, unless Suze was constantly wandering off, asking to go for a wee, whinging for Smarties, breaking the bracelets and then choking on the beads, it was not at all like having to look after a small kid. Suze, who has grown some backbone from somewhere, just says scornfully “you can’t handle the pressure.”

In the boardroom, Tom is getting quite experienced at stabbing people in the back, front, neck and any other part of the body he gets a passing glimpse of. As he spells it out, Mel spent too much time in Pahndland, Helen was obsessed by a ‘fool’s errand’ of duvets and Tom was a noble and righteous salesperson of nodding dogs who was cruelly prevented from fulfilling his destiny by Mel’s refusal to buy any more. This is followed by 10 minutes of dreary revision of the activities and rayzoomays of some very mediocre people whose best boasts are “I made the fruit salad!” and “I do a lot of talking!” It’s a tricky one, because really, Sugar has found himself in a position where he can go into business with a) a gobby self-promoter with an Al Gore fetish, b) a whingy child-woman whom everyone wants to slap, c) a bloke who is half way to being a mad inventor – the mad part anyway, d) a psychotic hypnotist, e) the female answer to David Brent or, f) a PA who’s unfortunately started to believe her own hype.

The mad inventor clearly thinks he’s going, as his lips form his usual silent plea as the hand of fate is extended. But! He once again lives to bobble his head in the boardroom, as Sugartits decides if he needs to call the Dalai Lama he’ll do it himself, and axes Mel.

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