Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Apprentice: Top Shop Flop Dropped

So the only Jew left standing on The Apprentice is now the sorcerer himself. Freedmanslife has known this since Monday, when Veggie Tuna, Freedmansister and Freedmansistersboyfriend joined me for our second visit to "You're Fired!"

Samuel, Samuel, Samuel. What were you thinking, wearing that checked shirt outside Top Shop? And what on earth was that coat you were wearing at the end?

This week's task consisted of the two teams using their pitches in a flagship Oxford Street store to each sell 2 of the 4 main ranges on offer.

The winning team had Paul on it, and this was a sales-driven task. Nuff said. Well actually, they won via some mediocre leadership from Tuan, and some PMT from Sharon who threw her toys out of the pram a few times because the boys wouldn't listen to her (judging by previous performance, not too surprising). Eventually though, she prevailed to such a degree that Top Shop reported back and said they would hire her. Well done ya wee scunner. Highlights from their team also included Syed sleazing all over the young girls in the changing rooms, although I concede that one of them was very fit indeed, and the usual plethora of smooth Paul lines (although nothing can top "the noodle is made of poodle").

Meanwhile, the other team, under Michelle's leadership, fell apart. She designated herself as the VIP dresser, sipping champagne and trying on clothes in the VIP room, and spending nearly 2 hours selling £30-worth of skirt to 3 underwhelmed BCBG teens from Paris. Ruth ballsed up by being overwhelmed when Philip Green pitched up and offered to buy £100-worth of clothes. Being full of chutzpah, I knew immediately that I would have brought him as much clothing as my puny muscles could manage.

Seeing as Ruth is a carthorse, she could have carried at least a couple of grand's worth. Instead she flapped over what outfits matched, and sold him £66-worth. Sugar commented that he would have "done a Freedman" and ramped it up - Greenie can afford it, and I expect he may get a staff discount anyway.

While this was going on, Ansell looked rather like a gay Lawrence of Arabia in his pink open shirt and kaftan, and sold a few bits, whilst generally keeping his head down and being diplomatic, a tactic which has kept him in so far and did for Tim last year.

Which leaves Samuel, the marketing expert, who thought that handing out bottled water to passers-by would in some way bring in the punters. Whilst Paul even forewent the water, the difference was he had charm and funny lines, chose his timing for when the store was quiet and the external sell was required, and accompanied key customers into the store to hand them over to the rest of his team. Samuel just looked and sounded feeble and out of place.

I thought that Michelle was lucky not to be fired, for her total lack of direction of the task, failure to adjust the team roles on the day, and overall blandness so far in the series (rumours of some canoodling with Syed apart).

But for the first time in weeks, I ultimately agreed with the Big Koala. He had warned Samuel to step up to the mark and show his skills, and had made plain his dislike for the constant hiding behind others being better salespeople. In a team of 4, everyone needed to sell.

Most importantly, I think it was a failure to transfer knowledge and skills from task to task that cost the whole team, and him in particular. In the last task, the candidates were taught about the need to "qualify the sale", the part of the interaction with the customer where you establish what they actually want from you. Yet nobody on Michelle's team had really sussed this, except for Ruth, who had already worked it out the week before in being the top saleswoman. Frankly, this underscores the point that few candidates show the learning skills that are surely required to be an apprentice.

I think the key factors Sugar might be looking for this year are cunning and a win-at-all-cost attitude. Samuel pointed out that he had felt uncomfortable selling unnecessary extras on last week's car task; that kind of honesty does not make for a "close" on a sale or a pat on the back from Sir Alan. One by one, the candidates with integrity are being knocked out, whilst the bitches, liars and manipulators are biding their time. On this logic, next to be fired will be Tuan and Sharon; then the claws will come out.

For some real Apprenticeship, check the American version, where seriously high-calibre people do much harder tasks that aren't all about selling. The bitchiness is very high, the Yankee melodrama factor is way up, Trump actually tries to teach the candidates something, and for some reason all the women are really attractive. Strongly recommended.

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