Friday, 29 October 2010

Life's a pitch

Week 4: 27th October 2010

So, y'all got the memo right? The one about how we're in tough economic times (though London porn remains a growth industry, fnar fnar), so Lord Sugar (or Sralan as he will always be known to me) summoned 16 of the country's brightest business prospects to London. Well, 15 plus Melissa, anyway. They're here to compete for a job with a six figure salary (though due to the aforementioned tough economic times, those six figures are now approximately £1000.00. Either that or the big twist at the end of the series will be Sralan telling us that we've been mishearing him all these weeks, and the remuneration he was offering was actually six figs, and celery.) They must work as teams but shine as individuals, as they demonstratively have not been doing so far. And all but one of them will be fired [much like the rest of the nation, in these TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES it seems - Rad]. Hooray!

Last week: they had to make some serious dough, tee hee. Melissa and her self-applause were appointed temporary leaders of Synergy, despite her mistaken belief that you can charge £64 wholesale for a solitary bread roll. Luckily for her, Shibby's team were even worse and fucked up their corporate order, and didn't manage to beat them on street sales. Synergy won, though Sralan suspected this happened in spite of Melissa's leadership rather than because of it. Sandeesh was a lazy undermining sow, but Shibby was a crap manager and a terrible human being, so he was sent home.

So what's happening this week? Well, we begin with the phone ringing, and it is answered by StuBags, in his dressing gown. The Disembodied Voice Of NotFrances tells him that cars will be arriving in half an hour (natch) to take them to the Science Museum. I went to a massive party at the Science Museum once. It was excellent, and I was sick in the toilets. In the Apprenticars, noted intellect Jamie thinks the task will be something to do with science or museums. Seriously, even the contestants on America's Next Top Model are better with cryptic clues (such as they are) than this lot. What a sad day for British enterprise. Melissa, tellingly, is asleep. Since the alternative is listening to Jamie, I suspect this will be the best decision she makes all episode.

Sadly, there is no party awaiting the Apprenti on their arrival at the Science Museum - just a series of display cabinets filled with inventions, Karren and Nick, and eventually Sralan himself. He informs the teams that the building is full of objects that have helped to transform the world we live in, but they all started life as someone's crazy idea. I scan the room for any sign of the Cüüli, the Book-Eeze, Coco Electric or even Pantsman, but nothing doing. Sralan has lined up 10 manufacturers who are looking to reach a wider audience - the manufacturers will pitch their products to the teams, and the teams will then pick two items apiece to try to flog to commercial buyers. Everyone will have individual order books, and Sralan expects everyone to sell. He sends Alex over to Apollo to balance the teams, and then sends them all on their merry way.

Sralan provides us with the obligatory in-car interview about how selling to commercial buyers is way harder than selling to the end consumer, so he's lined up some appointments with "some of the country's biggest retailers". The trick will be matching the product to the retailer so they can take advantage of the leg-up he's giving them.

First things first: time to pick team leaders! When the preliminary match of kiss chase fails to yield an obvious winner, Syngery opt for their second plan - nominating themselves. Melissa nominates herself, saying that she feels that she has something to prove (boy howdy) and that this task once again "speaks to [her] skill set", and I don't know where she's hearing all these voices in the first place, but they do not appear to be conveying the same message to her teammates. Jamie also wants to be PM, so Joanna asks who's got the relevant experience. Melissa makes a hilarious "me, duh" face and puts her hand in the air, and Jamie says "Mel has," sounding entirely unconvinced, while he has "just got 12 years of property experience and absolute business savvy". It goes to a vote, and everyone except the two nominees votes for Jamie. Jamie gives a little celebratory arm pump, because he's kind of a tool.

Over at Apollo, Chris nominates himself, and appears to be running unopposed, so he becomes their PM for the task. In a mousse-tastic talking head segment, he tells us that he's proven already that he's very good at pitching and selling, so he's ideal for this task. Except for the part where he was so appalling at pitching on the beach products task that Stella tried to take it away from him, until he pouted and sulked like a toddler. You know, like all the best businesspeople do.

The inventors are waiting outside, and the first man to meet Apollo is pitching Fine Light - "the no-knife facelift!" He asks for a volunteer from the crowd to try it on, and Paloma appears to get the short straw, ending up looking like she should be standing behind Kylie Minogue. Nick pulls a lemon face in the background, demonstrating that he would've been the ideal test candidate for such a device. Chris thinks there's a lot of money to be made in cosmetic surgery type products. Synergy, meanwhile, are shown the Back Pal, which is a small device contained on a strap that you slip over your shoulders, and basically it beeps at you when you're slouching. Essentially, it's like a tiny, portable version of your mother. Jamie pulls a face of non-comprehension. StuBags thinks they should file it under maybe.

Over at Apollo, someone's making my favourite pitch of the episode - a sort of home gym contraption (aieeeee) which Chris demonstrates by getting on his back and sticking his legs in the air. And really, there are all manner of disgusting, puerile, sexually suggestive comments I could make about just how porntastic it looks, but for once I'm going to take the high road and not say any of them - although the hilarity is compounded when the inventor says that Chris has "never done anything like this before" and Chris is all "how do you know I don't do this at home?" While lying on the floor with his legs in the air. OH GOD, THIS IS KILLING ME. Laura makes an appreciative face, though whether it is the product she appreciates or Chris's buns of steel is left to the viewer's own interpretation. Sadly, Chris does not think this product is a good fit for any of the retailers they're scheduled to meet, so it looks like a no for the Buttsex-O-Matic. A sad day for all of us, I feel.

Synergy are now being pitched at by an American lady who has a male model (I assume) in tow to market the Rip-T, which is one of those devious pieces of clothing designed to make you look far more buff than you actually are. It's a nice idea, but it's somewhat ruined to me by the incredibly obvious piece of stitching that runs across the whole thing just below the nipples, and basically screeches "THIS IS A FLAB-MOVING GARMENT." Jamie asks what the RRP of the product is, and he's told that it costs £50 retail. StuBags thinks that he might stock it as a gimmick item if it were £10, but he doesn't think the units will shift at that price. The same woman pitches the same product to Apollo, and Liz notes that "all that stuff like men's grooming" is big business right now. She's got a point, but I'm still not convinced that the sort of metrosexual, fairly vain male she's presumably envisaging is going to be that interested in this product, because they'd probably already have spent a lot of money on gym memberships to make sure they didn't need it in the first place. Trust me, I'm something of an authority on vanity. They all examine the product very closely, and they appear to say yes to the t-shirt.

Synergy are being shown a two handled gardening fork to prevent back pain, as the voiceover informs us that one of the appointments will be with a DIY chain. Stella thinks it's a good product, "but is it something that will fly with B&Q?" Well, so much for the no-names-mentioned thing, then. Next up is a water- and energy-saving showerhead, which the inventors claim can save up to £240 per year for a family of four, and should retail at £24.95. Jamie thinks it's an easy sell. Stuart agrees that it's a no brainer, because you're essentially selling "free money". Just like those people in Nigeria who keep e-mailing me! Synergy snap up the eco shower. The inventor tells them that the wholesale price is £12.95, but they'll go down to £9.95 if they can convince someone to take over 1000 units.

The final invention of the day (which is the seventh - so what happened to the other three Sralan promised us?) is the Babyglow, a sleepsuit for babies that changes colour if they get too hot. The manufacturer demonstrates this by blasting a doll wearing the suit with a hairdryer, and frankly, if you're going to do that to your children, you have bigger problems than you can solve just by purchasing a new sleepsuit. Liz's face lights up, though, so we know this is a hot product (no pun intended). Chris thinks it's "the best thing I've seen today." Synergy are equally keen, and Stella tells the manufacturer that they have quite a few parents on the team, and Jamie interjects that they've had five children between them, to which the manufacturer responds "Have you? Excellent." in a tone that suggests this is the most useless piece of information anyone's been told on this show since Saira Khan made everyone reel off a list of their favourite colours in the art task in series one. StuBags asks if a baby would be dead if it reached 39 degrees celsius [I hope not, my 4 year old was that hot last night and still seems to be alive - Fiona], and the manufacturer lady says that that would be "dangerous", and Stuart clarifies that you don't wait for the whole Babyglow to turn white before wondering if maybe something is wrong with your child - any hint of colour change should be enough to alert you to a problem. There are shots of the other members of the team here looking uneasy, and the implication is that StuBags is asking too many questions, though I don't necessarily think the questions themselves are inappropriate - but he could perhaps have worded them in a slightly less SIDS-obsessive manner. The product sells at £9.95 for trade and retails at £24.95. [! I always knew these products trade on the fact that parental terror is limitless - Fiona] Stuart asks if the trade price is negotiable for bulk sales and it apparently is not. After the manufacturer leaves, the team talk excitedly about the product while Stella berates StuBags for the way he spoke to the representative. Jamie intervenes and says that there is a fine, fine line between love and a waste of your time. Sorry, that should be "between making a hard-nosed commercial decision and being rude", and he's worried they might just have lost the product because of that.

It turns out one of the pre-established appointments is with the country's leading online baby shops, so both teams plump for the Babyglow. Now, this is where I get a little confused, if you'll permit me a sidebar. Was this appointment scheduled for both teams? If so, we only saw one product that was at all baby-related, so unless you were planning to give your child a facelift or teach them how to have anal sex, the team that didn't get the BabyGlow would be guaranteed a wasted appointment. Or is there just one appointment available with the online baby retailer, and whichever team represents the BabyGlow gets it? It would've been nice to have had this explained a little more clearly.

Anyway, back to business. Chris speaks to the inventor, and Apollo win the commission. Synergy make the same call, and as soon as they hear the words "thank you for your offer", they know that it's a no-go. With the BabyGlow off the table, Christopher and Jamie suggest they take the shower head and the spade, since hardware stores would be likely to stock both items. Stella, however, is concerned about their appointment with Debenhams (and this appears to be a mandatory appointment for both teams, hence my confusion above), because she thinks it's not the sort of place you'd go shopping if you were looking to buy some gardening equipment. (I was considering a "do some hoeing" joke there, but decided against it on the grounds that the leg exerciser alone has almost entirely swallowed my allowance of sexual jokes per individual recap, and I'm only 13 minutes in.) [They really have cranked up the innuendo quota this series haven't they? - Fiona] Jamie's adamant that they have a gardening section ("they have tables and chairs" - like, that's PATIO FURNITURE, you dink, that is not gardening equipment), so a vote is taken and the team selects the twin-handled spade and the showerhead.

It's 3pm, and Apollo are heading for their first appointment. Laura crows that they have the best product on the whole list. Jamie, meanwhile, is in the Synergy Apprenticar with Christopher and Melissa working on the pitch, and confuses John Moores University with the non-existent (as far as I know) John Wayne University [John Wayne University would be great! As Survivors taught us, gun-toting will be an essential skill when the TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES get so bad that we need to fight over the last tins of beans in Netto - Rad]. This is the appointment with Debenhams that Stella mentioned earlier, and Jamie, Melissa and Christopher are first to pitch. He falters a little in the introduction to his showerhead pitch, and when the Debenhams buyers see the product, they point out that they don't sell showers, so it's "not necessarily in keeping with the rest of the offer we have." This, by the way, is business-speak for "you are wasting your time." Melissa attempts to salvage the pitch by saying that it's something unique that would be well-launched in the stores and people would appreciate it. The Debenhams buyers are still all "...but we don't sell showerheads." [I read that in a Trevor & Simon style - that shows my age doesn't it? - Fiona] Jamie attempts to give in gracefully, but Melissa's not finished yet: "it's not completely obtuse, I think it does fit in somewhere there, and it would bring you different buyers." Karren interviews that Melissa never listens, she just talks and talks, and she's basically just winding the client up at this point.

They move on to the spade, which Melissa pitches. What we hear of her pitch is reasonable enough, but they hit the same wall: "we don't sell garden tools." Alternative line reading, "we don't sell garden, [you] tools." Melissa's response? "You started with the shower, you could always expand your hardware store and end up with the spade." Yes, except THEY HAVE ALREADY SAID THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BUY THE SHOWERHEAD FROM YOU. Sweet baby Jesus. Head buyer asks why this product would be in Debenhams. Melissa says that if they were looking to launch themselves into that market... "--but we're not," Speaking Buyer tells her firmly. Synergy pack up their sad soil and their shower and depart, with Melissa complaining about the heavy load she's been left with, while Jamie and Christopher are, no doubt, silently complaining about the heavy, Melissa-shaped load that they have been left with.

In somewhere that looks like a lunch/break room, Chris is practising his pitch, which is some godawful bollocks about "metrosexuals" and "the GQ generation". Still, at least it isn't "the non-body-sculpting t-shirt is DEAD!" I guess they're saving all the death talk for the Babyglow pitch. He says he'll be better at it when he's in there; Alex lies that he's doing well as it is. Liz makes notes. They go in to meet the Debenhams buyers, and Chris begins by pitching the Rip-T. I would say their first mistake is that they haven't got anyone actually modelling it, and therefore there's nothing in this pitch to suggest why someone would want this product, because it's clearly the sort of thing you sell visually. Instead, Alex is just holding it up and rotating it occasionally. He'd have been better utilised refilling everyone's water bottles, quite frankly. Lady Buyer asks whether they intend for it to be sold as Men's Clothing or an Undergarment. Chris thinks it's an undergarment, and Lady Buyer thinks £50 is a bit pricey for underwear. Liz pitches the Babyglow, and what we see of her presentation is smooth, clear and effective. Alex adds that it's a product that's going to make waves: "it's the sort of thing you're going to see on breakfast TV." I don't know why, but that really made me laugh. One of the buyers asks if there are lots of chemicals in it to effect such a reaction, and Alex non-answers that it's a safe product, and they wouldn't be pitching it if it weren't. Apollo depart, and the results of these corporate pitches will be revealed in the boardroom later.

At 10pm, the teams return home, to prepare for tomorrow's round of pitching, which includes the DIY superstore. Jamie says that he wants the pitching team for that to be him, Chris and Joanna. "What's wrong with me?" grumbles Melissa. Well, that would seem to be the $64,000 question. She snarls at Jamie that she does this for a living: "Stop doubting what I can do." The rest of the team roundly ignore her, and Melissa heads for the kitchen, where she complainterviews that she has a very strong "skill set", and if people are threatened by her that's fine, but they shouldn't set out to undo her. "He thinks he can do a better job at [sic] me at my job," Melissa seethes. "Idiot!"

8am the next day. The teams depart for a day of hard selling. They've got 10 hours to make sales anywhere in the country that they can. The Synergy Alpha Team - Jamie, Christopher and Joanna - are heading for the south coast to meet the DIY chain, and Joanna pitches to individual retailers over the phone. She turns out to be good at cold calling. StuBags, Melissa and Stella are left to cover London - but since the retailer that Joanna just made the appointment with, which apparently has 500 branches nationwide, is based in Leamington Spa, Jamie wants to send them there instead. Joanna takes the phone from Jamie and asks Stella who's going to be leading the pitch. Stella stalls, knowing this is a loaded question, but Melissa is furiously pointing at herself with her pen, so Stella caves: "...Melissa." In Apprenticar One, Jamie is concerned that Melissa will talk them out of a big sale.

Chris, Alex and Liz have their first appointment in Peterborough, and visit some local boutiques with the BabyGlow while they're there. The first business owner they speak to quite like the product, but not the packaging, and she's not sure how well it fits in with her store. Chris suggests a small initial order, but she shoots him down. Outside, Alex translates that she didn't think it was appropriately packaged for a high-end store, and the team seems to feel this is an acceptable criticism of the product.

Back in London, Apollo Apprenticar Beta - that's Sandeesh, Laura and Paloma - are cold-calling. Paloma reminds them that they'll all be looked at individually by their sales. "As long as we've all got a fair opportunity, that's all I ask for," says Laura. They head to a store on an appointment that we're told was pre-arranged by Laura, and Laura leads the pitch to the shop owner, though Paloma and Sandeesh also chip in. The owner places an order for 12, and Sandeesh fishes for her orderbook, though it seems as though the sale goes to Laura. Outside, Laura complains that they talked over her pitch and tried to get the order in their own books. Now, I can understand her issue with the latter point, because that is fairly underhanded behaviour, but in regard to the former...what were they supposed to do? Just stand there and nod? If you're going to send three people in to pitch something, then it makes sense for all three of them to talk. Frankly I don't see why Laura couldn't have pitched it on her own, unless production rules and camera crew limitations meant they all had to stick together all day. Essentially Laura's main grievance is that people won't sit there quietly and wait for her to get on with it. [As we have seen previously, talking over her is a cardinal sin and likely to end in tears. Hers. - Fiona] I predict a big future for her in the corporate world, I really do. Anyway, Paloma clarifies that she did not get her orderbook out (though it did kind of look like she was considering it). In Apollo Apprenticar Beta, Sandeesh says that they did agree that was Laura's pitch because she set it up, and the orders went in the book, and the subtext seems to be "so why the hell are you being such a giant dildo about this?"

It's 11am, and Synergy Team Alpha are in Rowlands Home Hardware just outside Portsmouth, meeting with the owner, Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland. Okay, fine, it's not her, but the guy they do speak to isn't named, so I'm just taking a little artistic licence here. Jamie pitches the showerhead, and Kelly is interested in the product, but not at the given price of £12.95. Jamie convinces him to take 1,000 of them, since he has four stores, and thereby lowers the price to £9.95, giving them just shy of £10,000 on their first order of the day.

Team Beta are in [Royal - Rad] Leamington Spa, ready to pitch to the plumbing wholesalers. Joanna is clearly still nervous about Melissa pitching, as Stella is currently talking her through their planned pitch over the phone. Joanna asks if Melissa is confident doing the pitch for her. Melissa's all "for you? Whuh?" Jamie tells them that because Joanna "opened the door" for them, she'll be getting 50% of any deal that goes through. Melissa is not happy with 50%, but Jamie and Joanna aren't budging.

Inside, Melissa pitches the showerhead, unless my ears deceive me, as "an eco-friendly, utility-reducing product." I beg your pardon? I'm not even sure that makes any sense, and even if it does, it doesn't sound terribly appealing to a consumer. "Buy this! It will create less practicality in your home!" StuBags sets up the demo model, but the waterflow is pretty feeble, and the buyers look rather unimpressed. Melissa points out to them, under the misapprehension that this is in any way reassuring, that it comes with a 12-month guarantee. Brilliant! So if they all fail like the demo model did, you'll have to give refunds on all of them! While Melissa continues her pitch, behind her StuBags surreptitiously unscrews the shower head and sucks water out of it. No, seriously. He really does that. The buyer lady says that the £12.95 price isn't attractive, and Melissa asks what sort of price she was expecting. Buyer Lady thinks six pounds. Obviously, the team can't agree to this, so Melissa falls back on her "I'm sure you could sell it!" routine. It's a no from the buyers, but Melissa won't let it go. We don't see the part where they're forcibly ejected from the building by security, but I'd be willing to bet it happens. Still, I'm sure Melissa feels a lot happier about allocating 50% of zero sales to Joanna.

Apollo Team Alpha heads to, the appointment that Srlan set up for them. Liz pitches again, and is fluent and confident as she was before. One of the buyers asks if £24.95 is an affordable price since they're trying to change people's buying habits. Chris thinks you can't put a price on safety. The buying team think the packaging could be better, but on the whole, they seem fairly impressed. Inexplicably, Chris, Liz and Alex sing along to 'The Love I Lost' back in the Apprenticar, played through the tinny speakers of the Apprentiphone. Maybe it's hold music for someone they're cold calling? I dunno, but it's kind of cute either way, especially Alex's very earnest way of singing.

Apollo Team Beta are now attempting to flog the Rip-T in central London "to some guys in Soho", as Paloma puts it. The gays, in other words. Sandeesh leads the pitch in American Retro, and they agree to take 12 of each design in an assortment of sizes, which amounts to £780 worth of sales. Not too shabby. Nick chews a whelk in the background. Further down Old Compton Street, Paloma leads the next pitch to another homosexual-friendly retailer, and the shopholder thinks the t-shirt is just right for his market - he wants to take "25 maximum, to start with", but he wants exclusivity in Soho. Now, bear in mind that the lady in American Retro said "12 of each design" - I don't know how many designs there are, but there must be at least two for her to have phrased it like that, so at the very least, they must have sold her 24 t-shirts. Is it really worth reneging on that deal just to sell one more t-shirt to this guy and give him exclusivity? Personally, I would say no. This, to me, would be the time for a polite "sorry, we're not in a position to offer exclusivity" and a retreat. And bear in mind that that was my reaction even though I didn't yet know the rules of the task as far as exclusivity was concerned.

Sandeesh explains that they've already had an order placed in Soho. The retailer responds that "for the nature of his business", he would want exclusivity. I note that he is selling Calvin Klein underwear in his shop; I can't imagine he has exclusivity on that. Perhaps he has exclusivity on all those brands of poppers behind the counter? Who can say? Paloma goes for the upsell, asking him if he'd consider taking 200 if they could offer him exclusivity "within this perimeter". Sandeesh asks the retailer (whose name appears to be Jason) if he'd mind if they just popped out for two seconds.

Indeed, they literally do just that - they stand about two centimetres outside the shop, pretty much blocking the doorway, and have something of a barney. Sandeesh is concerned about the professional embarrassment that she will endure by having to return to American Retro and cancelling her order - an embarrassment that, it seems, will be totally mitigated if she gets half of this deal. Paloma's not on board with that - she's more than happy to give Sandeesh whatever share of this order is equal to what she'd lose from cancelling the other one, but not half. Laura, in turn, is not happy with this outcome either, because she "just went in and closed that deal!" So yeah, remember earlier when Laura was very territorial about not muscling in on pitches that other people started? Not so much any more, it seems. And we certainly didn't see Laura doing very much in that deal; perhaps the editing cut out a superlative pitch from her, but it did seem very much as though the closing was done by Paloma. Paloma raises the point of them essentially working on a rotating system and taking in turns to lead, but Laura thinks she "helped in that pitch, a lot." Right, so now she's downscaling from "closed that deal" to "helped a lot". Pretty soon she'll be demanding a share of the orders just because she wasn't actively trying to murder the shopkeepers or something.

Incidentally? They are still RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR. I'm fairly certain Jason can hear every unprofessional word they're shrieking, and this is perhaps the one time of the episode where Nick's bit-of-chicken-stuck-between-back-teeth face is actually appropriate. Anyway, Paloma points out Laura's earlier "no shitting on your own doorstep" rule, and Laura responds that she was the one who came up with the conditional deal, to which Paloma responds that she was "just about to" do the same. Ah, theoretical sales. My favourite kind! At this point, I'd really be hard-pressed to say which member of this team is more ridiculous. The only person who isn't looking a complete lunatic right now is Sandeesh, and who'd have thought I'd be saying that after last week? Paloma snorts that if they don't go back in, he's going to change his mind (I think he probably changed his mind the second they started having this conversation) and Laura shrills after her that she doesn't agree that she deserves "nothing for this", with Sandeesh hilariously trying to shush her to no effect, and Laura even more hilariously ending this decisive argument with "don't make me talk like this in front of the client!" Paloma goes in and takes the order.

They phone Chris from Apprenticar Beta, and he asks how it's going. Paloma sighs that it's going "all right", explaining that she's negotiated a deal for 200 t-shirts with exclusivity in Soho. Chris asks if they've already signed the deal. After several attempts at not answering the question, Paloma says that yes, they've signed it. Chris fumes that any deal which is dependent on them speaking to the manufacturer again is not going to count. Interesting. So I'm guessing that there was some element in the briefing, which we were not privy to, which made it explicit that terms like exclusivity had to be agreed with the manufacturer beforehand, and I'm guessing that arrangement wasn't made here [and this was also the exact part where the Apprenti screwed up on that ice cream task a few series ago, so you'd think they'd know better - Rad]. Chris tells them to "keep it as it is" and move on, though whether that refers to them leaving the order for 200 standing and hoping for the best, or not going back to cancel the order with American Retro, I'm not entirely sure. Either way, it all looks a bit of a mess.

It's now 5pm, and Synergy Team Alpha are at the head office of the DIY chain in Southampton. Quite why they're bothering to cover up the name when we can clearly see "B&Q" printed on the revolving door, I'm not entirely sure. Jamie pitches both the spade and the eco-shower head, which he promises will "give you a new shower sensation". Is it like a sneeze, only better? The buyer says that they're clearly excited about their product, and Jamie goes in with an offer of 100,000 units of the showerhead, which Christopher explains will lower the wholesale price to £9.95 per unit. "Our company has ambitions," says Jamie, earnestly, "and our ambitions is [sic] to be your supplier." High dreams indeed! Jamie thanks "Catherine" for her time.

Elsewhere, Synergy Team Beta spot a hardware shop and run for it, with time running out. Except it seems more like a bath and shower shop when they actually get in there. Stella leads the sale, and says that the price for the showerhead is £12.95, but they "may be able to negotiate on that." The retailer asks what sort of quantity they'd be talking to merit a discount. Stella says that they'd be looking at a minimum of ten boxes of six units (60, just so we're all keeping up), which she could sell for £10.95. Except we all know that she can't do that at all, because the manufacturer said that he'd only give discounts for sales of over 1000 units. They close the deal, such as it is.

At 7pm, the teams are wrapping up. Chris informs Apollo Team Beta that they've sold 38 more units of the t-shirt for about £980, while Jamie tells Synergy Team Beta that they've sold £12,000 worth of stuff. But they won't know the full figures until they hit the boardroom. Jamie goes over the sales from Synergy Team Beta - StuBags has sold nothing, Stella has sold 60 shower units (breaking the terms of the agreement with the manufacturer, so - nothing), and Melissa has sold six spades. So basically Melissa is the only person on that sub-team with any sales that actually count for anything. Christopher thinks this is "scandalous", adding "they call themselves salespeople at pitches? Bollocks!" for good measure. And judging from that little display, I'd say Melissa's not the only person on that team who's losing their grip on the English language.

The next day. London porn. Sralan's atrium. NotFrances tells the contestants they can go through to the boardroom now. Karren looks up as they enter and does a Gail Trimble hair-flick. I love the lighting/grading in the boardroom sections - I love how it makes all the people with naturally pasty complexions look positively translucent. Sralan enters and greets the teams, speaking first to Synergy. He asks who the team leader was, and I don't know why we have to go through this every week, because the two team leaders are always the people sitting in the centre. Then again, you can make good money in the business world by going into people's offices and pointing out the fucking obvious (I believe it's called "consultancy"), so perhaps they're reflecting the market. Sralan asks if Jamie was a good team leader, and everyone seems to nod - even Melissa - with Joanna going as far as to say "definitely". Sralan points out that they wanted the BabyGlow, but didn't get it. Jamie tells him that they had "five children on our team", and I'm sure your minds all went to the exact same place that mine did with that comment - even Sralan seems to be thinking it, judging by the look on his face. Jamie clarifies that they were mothers and fathers with five children between them, and everybody laughs. Ho ho ho! Jamie says they felt they'd be a strong team to represent the product, but clearly the manufacturer felt differently. Sralan asks why that might have been the case, and Jamie blames Stuart, who "sometimes speaks before he thinks". Karren interjects that what the client said was that "you didn't listen to her". Now, it's unclear here whether she's saying this directly to Stuart or to the team as a whole - my interpretation is that she says it to the whole team, but your mileage may vary. Sralan tells them that they have to be "professional, but respectful". Surely the two go hand in hand anyway? Is it common to be professional, but not respectful? I mean, I work in the media, where a large percentage of people are arseholes anyway, so perhaps I'm not the best judge at this point. [I work in insurance. So maybe I'm not the best judge either - Fiona] Anyway, Sralan gets even further from the point by going on about how you have to be respectful to people even when they come to you with something that isn't very good (a lesson which he doesn't appear to have shared with his interviewers), because they might come back with something that you do want. Right, except this manufacturer came with something they did want in the first place, and they fucked it up by talking over her. Don't you have a hoary, generic business anecdote that's actually appropriate for the situation?

Anyway, they went with the double-handed spade and the showerhead which, as Sralan points out, essentially made their visit to Debenhams entirely pointless. And again, this is where I raise the "which of this appointments were scheduled for both teams?" argument. Did they essentially book two appointments at all of the major retailers (Debenhams, B&Q, Kiddicare etc) but Debenhams was the only one both teams showed up to? And if it wasn't mandatory for the teams to go to any of the appointments, why did Synergy waste their time in Debenhams in the first place? Was it just because it was in London, as opposed to Peterborough or Southampton, and they figured it was at least worth a shot since it was nearby? Was it (dare I say) because the show made them go there so they would have some amusing scenes of epic fail to amuse us? I mean, I don't particularly care what the rules were, but as a viewer it annoys me when the show doesn't actually make them clear to the viewers. If I'm going to sit here calling Synergy idiots for trying to sell spades and showerheads to Debenhams, I'd like to know if they actually had any say in the matter in the first place. (Arguably they could've just picked different products if they knew that they definitely had to pitch to Debenhams, but again - we don't know that this was the case, and this is why I found this whole part of this episode very frustrating as a viewer.)

Jamie says that they lost out on the first product they wanted, so what he had to do - "nimbly", he claims - was to match the products he had to each other to make the best use of their time. Which isn't a terrible idea, although you are basically taking the risk that if you don't have much luck with the hardware retailers in general, you're screwed on two counts rather than one. Also? You were divided into two teams. There was nothing to stop you from picking one hardware item and one from any other field and then allocating one item to each sub-team, so three of you go off to pitch to hardware retailers and the other three go to pitch the Back Pal to office supplies retailers or the weird leg gym thing to gay porn producers. Sorry, Jamie: I'm not buying what you're selling. And judging from the stats that are about to be revealed, I'm not the only one. OOH, BURN!

Sralan moves on to day two, and says that he'd had a "bit of feedback" from Karren about the shower manufacturer's rules, whereby they could sell at £9.95 for over 1000 units, and under 1000 units at £12.95 apiece. We all know what this is leading to: Stella's sale of 60 shower units for £10.95 each. Jamie says that he only learned about this in retrospect (nice abdication of responsibility there, Jamie, to which I say: you should've briefed them more clearly, then), and Sralan says that those sales are disallowed.

Over to Apollo. Chris says that the second choice was the t-shirt, and Sralan asks if Nick was the model, ho ho ho. Chris says that he did offer to Nick, but he declined, ho ho ho. Nick interjects at this point: "try Alex", and everyone's still all ho ho ho, and am I the only one who found that incredibly offensive? [No - Fiona] "Look everybody, Alex is a fatto, let's all POINT AND LAUGH!" Leave the schoolyard bullying to the contestants, Nick, if you don't mind. Alex, to his credit, laughs with everybody else and says that he felt he would've been "misrepresenting the product". Presumably because he's actually a perfectly normal size and shape. Then he goes home to eat his feelings. That's what FATTIES do, right?

Chris says that he think the pitches went well, but Nick says that he found Chris's style "monotonous", which is rich coming from the person whose entire purpose on the show now amounts to standing in the background looking like he's trying to suck the shell off a hardboiled egg. However, Nick says that the "content" of the pitch was excellent. The conversation turns to "the battle of Old Compton Street", and Sralan says that he's sure the manufacturer didn't agree to exclusivity. Paloma claims that was a "contentous" (sic) issue, and Sralan dismisses "both of those orders", though whether he means the sale to Jason and the sale to American retro, or the (presumably) two sets of orders that were rung up with Jason (one to Paloma for that deal, and one to Sandeesh to make up for what she lost in the cancellation of the other order) is unclear. Nick was disappointed in the lack of harmony and the "rolling brawl" that happened in the street. "That was a contentious issue," says Paloma again, though at least she uses the right word this time.

Results, then: Apollo made £3725.90 in street sales, excluding those that were disallowed, while Synergy made £12,768.80 on the same terms. Debenhams placed no orders with Synergy, but Liz sold £19,900 worth of BabyGlows. Synergy got a "brilliant" order from B&Q of 6,000 products across both spades and showers (which is considerably less than the 100,000 worth of showerheads Jamie was apparently aiming for) for a total of £63,750, giving Synergy a total of £76,518.80. Meanwhile, Apollo (Liz) sold 10,000 BabyGlows to Kiddicare for a total of £99,000. I love Liz's reaction here - she basically scoffs at the figures in disbelief, which is really endearing [Liz for the win! I mean the bullshit late firing in TV shopping week or its equivalent a la Naomi, Miriam etc - Rad]. The smarter members of Apollo have already realised that their Kiddicare order alone beats Synergy's entire figure while Nick confirms their total as £122,625.90. Apollo congratulate themselves, but it shows how important it was here to get the right product - not that I'm dismissing Liz's pitching skills, because she was good and I'm sure that helped, but they got no orders from the big retailers for the T-shirt at all, so having the genuinely exciting BabyGlow product essentially saved their asses.

Sralan declares that total a record for the boardroom, and tells them that they'll be going off to a spa resort as their reward. Outside, everyone hugs Liz. Back in the boardroom, Sralan tells Synergy that when he heard their total, he assumed it would have led to a win, but regretfully it did not. And now one of them is going to get FIRED.

Spa resort. Chris gets some kind of clay massage. Alex and Liz get an incense treatment, which makes Alex laugh because it smells "like a bonfire". Someone stretches Paloma's legs and Laura gets a facial. Then they all relax in the jacuzzi, and poor Alex is still wearing a t-shirt because he was WOUNDED BY NICK in the boardroom. He's so going to need therapy, the poor lamb. Also, Liz has an awesome rack. Sorry, but it had to be said.

Loser café. Furious violins of failure on the soundtrack. Everyone agrees that they performed poorly. Joanna tells Team Beta that they all "knew the score" regarding the price of the showerheads. Melissa says that they spent four hours not making any sales - "and when you got to your pitch, you still didn't make any sales," Jamie snits. Ugh, he's vile. Melissa says that the plumbing wholesalers wanted the showerheads for six pounds and "there was no room for manoeuvrement". Heh. I love Melissa's made-up words. "Don't try and clutch at straws!" Joanne shrieks. I love how nobody is blaming Stella for this sizeable fuck-up that was entirely of her doing. Melissa insists that she's an excellent pitcher. Jamie disagrees. Jamie says outside that the entire sub-team was a mess, and he wishes he could take all three in to the final boardroom.

Vestibule. Uncomfortable silence. NotFrances sends them all back in. Sralan says that while they did make an impressive amount of money, they still lost, so blame will have to be apportioned somehow. He breaks down the sales - the subteam of Melissa, Stuart and Stella contributed £897 to the total figure of over £76,000. Also, just so we don't forget - if Jamie's conversation with Christopher and Joanna in the car was accurate, then the entirety of that £897 came from Melissa. So for all they were chewing her out at Loser Café, it's not like she was the weakest performer on the task, at least in terms of raw numbers. Jamie says that they had products that worked and sold, so the two people who do this as a day job "ironically come back empty". Except Melissa didn't come back empty-handed. Her figures may have been pathetic, but she did sell something. I can't believe I'm defending Melissa - and in fairness, I'm not defending her really, because I still think she performed terribly on this task and her pitching was cringeworthy, but I don't understand how Stella is skating by without being called on her failure this week. StuBags says that he's a good salesman - "although I think 'good' should be left for other people to judge" - but his skills weren't fully utilised. Ah, that old standby - "my project manager stifled my awesomeness." Sralan points out that Joanna found a lead for the plumbing wholesaler which Team Beta then squandered. StuBags says that his instinct was to pitch to small- and medium-sized businesses, as the manager is always likely to be in and you'll get an easier sell. That's not actually a bad strategy, either, especially when you're essentially asking people to take a risk on a new product. Even the big retailers (as B&Q demonstrated when they declined Jamie's suggestion of 100,000 units and went with a more reasonable 6,000) won't want to place a massive order straight away, they'll want to start with a moderate trial and then roll it out across the chain if it's successful, so you could, in theory, deliver better results by targeting a lot of small businesses (if you managed to sell to all, or at least most of them) than you could by targeting one big retailer. Sralan disagrees with me, however, and calls it a "flawed strategy", because B&Q placed an order for £63,000. I scream, "Yes, but they were asking for £1 MILLION" at the television, but Sralan does not hear me. StuBags says that the sub-team was stymied by Melissa, and he's confident that they would've seen a different result with the plumbing wholesalers if he had led that pitch. Melissa asks, not unreasonably, what her ability to pitch had to do with the end result, since it was the manufacturer's price that was the problem, and points out that he didn't even test the demonstration model before they went in. Karren says that the feedback she received was that Melissa was "very annoying" ("really?" asks Melissa, genuinely shocked) and she repeated the same thing. Melissa says that she can only speak for her success in her day job. At this point, Jamie leaps in and snots that Melissa gives her pitch, then the client asks questions, and then Melissa gives her pitch again with a bit more on top, and that's why he didn't let her do the B&Q pitch, claiming that he "subtly" took her off and...let her do the exact same job on the other sub-team? Yeah, good managing there, dickweed. Also, "subtly"? Stop trying to make your inability to directly manage Melissa sound like an admirable quality. You were too afraid to confront her and tell her why she was off the B&Q pitch, you dillhole. God, I hate him [I have him in a sweepstake so I feel I should defend him. I mean, I can't, but I feel I should - Rad].

Sralan asks Stella how she, as someone who normally keeps on top of the numbers, managed to "stand by and allow 60 shower heads to be sold below what the manufacturer recommended?" Well, she didn't so much stand by and allow it as engineer the entire thing. It's really odd how no one wants to blame her for that. Stella says it's "very embarrassing", but blames Melissa and Stuart for not stopping her. Sralan calls bullshit, and says that she was aware of the manufacturer's set prices, was she not? Stella claims she was "not concentrating" on that, and then amends that to she "didn't hear" it. Jamie is aghast that someone could leave the office without a price. And while I personally suspect that Stella is lying to cover her own arse here, I still think if Jamie were any sort of manager, he would have made sure they were fully briefed on that score before leaving the office - even if only to subscribe to the same CYA strategy that Stella is using. Come on, on this show, dodging liability for any fuck-up is the key to success. Prevention is better than cure! Stella says there was so much discussion on focus that she'd lost focus. Christopher thinks this is rubbish: "if there was confusion, pick up the phone!"

Time for Jamie to pick who to bring back. He says that he doesn't have much on Jo (nice) because she set up appointments and sold and helped in the pitches, and ditto for Chris. Since "on paper", Melissa and StuBags should've had the fattest order books, that's who he's bringing back. Stella, Christopher and Joanna are set back to the house.

Sralan asks Jamie, StuBags and Melissa to step outside. Karren is shocked that Melissa thinks she's a good pitcher. Sralan thinks Jamie talks a good game (really? I'm surprised you can tell amid all the "ummmmms" and "errrrrrrs" that pepper his speech) but he couldn't control the sub-team, and StuBags is bubbling over and lacks self-control.

NotFrances sends the trio back in. Sralan tells Jamie that his half of the team seemed to work well (Jamie cups his chin in his right hand and leans on the table) and this got him worried about management skills, "and could you stop leaning on the table like that?" Snerk. Maybe he needs a Back Pal! Sralan asks Jamie if he was "out of touch" with the sub-team. Jamie thinks absolutely not, and he worked his hardest to try to help them. Melissa disagrees - he didn't give her any feedback (which, by his own admission as detailed above, is absolutely true) and that he just gave her one-word sentences with no expansion. "Do I really come across as a one-word person?" asks Jamie. Yes, you do, but I can't print the word I'm thinking of in a family-friendly recap. Melissa asks how that could help her learn. Jamie says that he had to tread on eggshells around her because she's like a firework - he just lights it and it goes crazy. "I am not like a firework that goes crazy!" Melissa protests, hilariously. Jamie claims that he told her she's like a "machine-gun, and I said that to you, and that's more than one word." Yes, well, excellent counting skills, shithead, but you're still not really answering Melissa's point of how you didn't give her any constructive feedback. I mean, yes, there's certainly the point to be made that Melissa shouldn't need coddling to that extent, but when you're dealing with someone who's as clearly oblivious to her own inabilities as Melissa is, then saying to her "you're like a machine-gun" and expecting her to a) recognise it as criticism and b) know what to do with it demonstrates your lack of skill as a manager. Joanna somehow managed Melissa in a way that didn't derail the rest of the team. Hell, even Laura managed to do it. I refuse to believe it's that difficult. Jamie says that he put faith in her at the retail store, "and once again the machine gun was going off". StuBags interjects that while he knows he's not perfect, Melissa was very aggressive in this pitch and he actually saw the buyers lean backwards to get her out of their personal space. Melissa retorts that he offends someone in the vicinity every time he speaks, and she doesn't think it's fair for them to gang up on her, as it wasn't her fault they lost the BabyGlow, which probably would've won them the task. "I have always maintained my professionality," she insists. Hee hee hee.

Sralan says that she lists her negotiation skills as her best attribute and she claims she's teaching her boss how to run his own business, but he's seen nothing that corroborates this. He wants to know what he's missing. Melissa says she has a bag of skills that could be useful to him, and she feels that she's thrown herself into all the tasks with 100% commitment. Sralan thinks she's thrown herself in, indeed, but nothing's come out the other end. Except for, y'know, gaseous emissions. Melissa, unwisely, argues that she project managed on the last task and won, and Sralan asserts that the victory had little if anything to do with her. It's Jamie's turn to beg for his TV life, and Jamie says that he's worked hard "since hour one" and has been the best salesperson. Somewhere, Liz Locke is all, "I beg to differ, BITCH." He continues that the PM is always leaning on me and he's always happy to help. Sralan, correctly, is all "...and?" Sralan tells StuBags to speak concisely about why he should stay. StuBags Alex Wotherspoons that he's 21 years old and quite successful - he's achieved everything with little resources, and with Sralan's huge resources, he can make millions for him. And then - oh, this is disappointing - he refers to the well of "I'll show you what I can do when I'm a project manager", as mined effectively by Sandeesh last week, though he does at least vow to "fall on my sword if I fail." [How I wish the 'make me PM next week' line automatically triggered a trapdoor under the offending persons chair - Fiona]

Judgement time: Sralan thinks Melissa has faced tasks which are in line with her day job, but she's not living up to her own, self-established reputation. StuBags is young and can't control his mouth. Jamie didn't have control of the others. Sralan tells Jamie to remember in future that when he leads a team, he needs to make sure he's got everybody covered. But that was just a fire-tease, because Melissa is a loose cannon, and she's FIRED. Melissa stands up and hisses "well done, ganging up on me. Horrible people." I'm not sure that's entirely fair - I think StuBags only spoke against her once, and that's hardly "ganging up on" someone. Though I daresay that may have been Jamie's logic in bringing back StuBags as opposed to, say, Stella, because he thought he'd be more effective in presenting a united anti-Melissa front. And if that's the case, then I feel sorry for anyone who feels they need help to get Melissa fired. Melissa, people.

Melissa struts out to the antechamber in her bizarre, shoulderpadded bolero jacket, and Sralan lets Jamie and StuBags go. Jamie attemps to shake Melissa's hand and she snatches her hand away - stay classy, Melissa!

Melissa Cohen Coatwatch: seen only from afar, but mid-length, double-breasted, not nearly as mad as her suit jacket.

Back at the house, Joanna thinks Melissa should be fired. Christopher says that she's obnoxious and doesn't listen. People cheer for the return of Jamie and StuBags. StuBags tells them about Melissa's "ganging up" comment, and Jamie says that he treats everything with "business minds, not personal" - like, yeah, that's why you were such a grown-up about not getting PM last week, ASSWIPE.

Melissa taxinterviews that some people set up to get her, and they succeed. "Karmically, they will be retributed. The universe speaks louder than I do." I wouldn't bet on it.

Next week: taking London fashion to THE DIRTY NORTH! Assuming all the candidates are not savaged in the first five minutes by whippets and people in flat caps, we'll see you then!

1 comment:

Gigi said...

Excellent summary, loved it. Remember Jamie is going to be this year's Michael, that comment right at the end from Sralun about his lack of management was delivered in a grossly sympathetic way, he is definitely going to get out of one shocking week through Sralun's raging hard-ons for the candidate who most resembles himself as a young entrepreneur. Particularly when bar Liz and Stella everyone seems to suffer from varying degrees of sociopathic dysfunction. I can see Jamie even sneaking it into the interview stage to then be deconstructed in a variety of demeaning ways by Sralun's mates to finish 5th (just appearing on the Apprentice is like an F1 race, you get media merit points even if you finish tenth)

The editing point you mention is interesting as if you compare this to the Irish Apprentice the candidates are equally shit, yet they tend to make them look far less like raging cocks than the UK version. As nicked also from the US version, when you get down to the last two candidates up against each other in the team format, we all tend to forget that it's edited so that all the sacked candidates are wonderfully loveable and competent.

I reckon the book should go as follows:-
Liz 10/11 fav
Stella 5/2
Chris 10/1
Joanna 12/1
Paloma 14/1
Jamie 16/1
Military Chris 25/1
Saneesh 40/1
Alex 80/1
Laura 100/1
Baggs 1000/1