Saturday, 5 December 2015

Estate of the nation

Ten Things About... Week 9 - Property Agents

1. The sky's the limit - Instead of being summoned directly to meet Lord Sugar this week, the remaining candidates received a delivery of hi-vis jackets and hard hats, along with the instructions to meet him at the South Bank Tower. (Brett: "South Bank Tower? What's that?" Selina, as if to a very small child: "...the tower at the South Bank?" ♥) In the cars, the Selina-Richard dream team spoke of their desire for the teams to remain as they are, the subtext being "because we don't want to have to work with Charleine any more and we're pretty sure she doesn't want to work with us either" - so of course, upon arrival at South Bank Tower, Lord Sugar made Selina move over to Versatile so she and Charleine could be together once again. Selina looked like she would have rather hurled herself right off the building than spend any more time with Charleine, but across she went nonetheless. Also, even though the briefing took place on the roof of a building site that was apparently only accessible by a builders' temporary elevator, Lord Sugar, Karren and Claude were not wearing any of the safety gear that the candidates were told to wear, suggesting that either being a business overlord makes you invincible, or that they just wanted the contestants to look stupid. Or perhaps both. Lord Sugar told them that they would be selling luxury London properties so that the rest of the country could see just how stupid and awful London is. Hooray!

2. Building the dream - Each team would be split into two sub-teams once again, with one sub-team working on a luxury development and the other working on "mid-range properties" (which turned out to be properties still a good £100k clear of what I bought my flat for, around a year before this episode was filmed. London property is RIDICULOUS). Naturally, both project managers (Joseph for Versatile, because he has a property rental business, and Richard for Connexus, because he worked as an estate agent to put himself through university) put themselves on the high-end team, while Joseph selected Selina to join him (partly because she's used to dealing with wealthy clients, and partly because he knew better than to leave Selina and Charleine on the same sub-team) while Richard selected Vana, because her parents are architects and she grew up visiting building sites in the New York real estate market. That left Charleine and Gary selling mid-range properties for Versatile, and Brett and Scott doing the same for Connexus. Charleine made it clear that she would much rather have been on the high-end team, but don't worry if you missed that because she will be mentioning it again.

3. Arrested development - The first job was for each PM to pitch their skills to the developers of two luxury blocks, one in Stratford and one in Canary Wharf. Richard and Vana spent their whole time in both oohing and ahhing, gushing their approval of the aesthetics and the overall concept and making it clear that Richard had experience selling properties while Vana had experience with architecture. Joseph and Selina, however, said nothing about the buildings themselves: Selina stayed mostly silent while Joseph just wanted to ask about prices and commission, including angling for a 4% commission at Canary Wharf (the developer basically told him to fuck off and he would get 1.5%, non-negotiable). Now, I get that failing to show enthusiasm when you're pitching to someone is a bad business decision because we've seen that countless times before on this show, but frankly I was unmoved by Claude couching their failure in terms of Selina and Joseph having hurt the Stratford developer's feelings by not believing in his dream. You know, the dream of charging excessive amounts of money for London property, driving up the average home price and making it increasingly impossible for local people to afford property in that area. Forgive me if I shed no tears for Woobie Developer And His Precious Feelings, Claude. Unsurprisingly, both developers preferred Richard and Vana, and since they chose Canary Wharf, they got it [Whyyyy?  It was fucking HORRIBLE.  Oh, That London - Rad]. In rejecting Joseph and Selina, Canary Wharf guy said this much: "I think [Richard and Vana] were a little bit more polished. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting yourself in front of clients of mine, it doesn’t sit that well with me." That's right, he said "yourself" instead of you. What an absolute thumbscrew. (Though, since it will be useful later, "yourself" seems pretty unequivocally directed at Joseph specifically whereas the more ambiguous "you" could have meant Joseph and Selina. I suppose terrible grammar has its uses sometimes.) So Selina and Joseph returned to Stratford and Woobie Developer Of The Hurt Feelings, who clearly didn't want them there, and told Joseph to ditch the suspenders and wear a more neutral shirt. So yeah, while it may not have been especially modest of Selina to say out loud on more than one occasion that she didn't think the "unpolished" comment was aimed at her, on the face of the evidence presented here I think she was accurate in that assessment.

4. Buyer beware - As you might expect from a task devoted to selling luxury property in London, every single incidental character in this episode was total human garbage. A would-be landlord on the phone to Brett who clearly intended to rent out one of these flats at extortionate prices. A client of Selina's who wanted to know what her flat would look over because "I like a good aspect". The same client of Selina's asking her what the average price per square foot in Stratford is, clearly wanting to catch Selina out because she already knew the answer. (Also, like basically anywhere in London, Stratford's a pretty big area and some parts are far more expensive than others, so what an utterly pointless question.) A douchelord in a Rolls Royce (a Rolls Royce!) buying a £1.4m luxury three-bedroom apartment from Richard and Vana and haggling over a free parking space. A woman who, while signing her contract, said "my husband's going to kill me" because she apparently impulse bought a luxury flat. I like to think of myself as an optimistic person but this episode really brought out my inner misanthrope. Meanwhile, there were the usual slip-ups from the sales team: Richard and Vana ignored the fact that they had an (unfinished) show home to show people [I thought that was deliberate because it was such a health and safety hazard tbh - Rad], Brett got caught by Karen trying to sell a view of a street when the apartment in question actually had a view of a giant wall, and Scott messed up basically everything by saying things like "[Clapham] is very highly-populated by everybody, everybody's enjoying the Clapham" and "it's a nice open space for the windows, to have the sun come in throughout the day and the night".

5. Take the eye road - One of the sales stars of this task was Charleine, who seemed to have a natural warmth and trustworthiness that appealed to the buyers of Lewisham, where she and Gary were based. You wouldn't know this to hear her speak to the cameras, however, as she repeatedly snitted about how wrong Joseph was to take Selina onto the high-end sales team instead of her. She angled for a transfer based on netting a valuable sale on Day 1, and Selina couldn't resist pointing out that she and Joseph had been told they were less polished than Richard and Vana, with the subtext of her follow-up of "and they said that to us, so..." hanging uncomfortably in the air. Charleine fumed to the cameras that Selina didn't think she was polished enough "to sell at the eye-end", and not wanting to sound snobbish, but the fact that you called it "eye-end" kind of supports Selina's point. Anyway, every single sale Charleine made on this task added fuel to her righteous fury over not being selected for the high-end team, to the point where you just hoped someone would actually take her off to the high-end team as long as they'd promise to push her off the aforementioned high-end afterwards.

6. Market value - Okay, I can't hold this off any longer: this entire task was stupid. London property is a nonsense. It is absurdly overpriced to the point where your sales skills are essentially redundant: a person can either afford a property in London or they cannot, so you're not going to be able to just charm a person you meet on the street to buying a property. The people featured in this episode were all clearly looking to buy, and while I don't doubt that the personalities of the contestants may have impacted on a sale (or the loss of one) to some small extent, the fact remains that most of those sales were made before the client even walked through the door: they either already wanted a piece of lucrative real estate, or they had no intention of buying and just wanted the chance to humiliate an oik in a cheap suit on national television. There was little to no skill on this task and a great deal of chance. I don't necessarily believe Selina's claims that Joseph got all the easy clients who were going to buy a flat regardless, but I do believe that when even the cheapest properties on a task are selling for upwards of £300,000, there's not a lot you can do in the realm of sales patter that's going to convince someone to buy unless they were already 100% sure to begin with.

7. Board stupid - This was a fairly unpleasant episode from start to finish: not only were all of the clients generally rather unpleasant, but Lord Sugar and his aides were pretty awful in the boardroom. When Karren brought up Richard's mispronunciation of the development company he was working for, Lord Sugar said "we don't go around calling you Dick, do we? NOT TO YOUR FACE, HURR HURR HURR." After Karren made it clear that Scott didn't really know much about the properties he was selling, Lord Sugar leapt in: "did you call the 'bidday' a hot tub?" And I mean if you're the one calling it a "bidday" in the first place, I'm not sure you should be taking the piss out of anyone else's pronunciation or identification errors, but of course this is The Apprentice where the rules are that you can do what you like if you're rich. Include making up numbers out of absolutely nowhere, like the mysterious appearance of 78p in the figures for Connexus, which I've transcribed as they were stated on the show:

Versatile earned £18,200 commission in Lewisham and £11,360.25 in Stratford for a total of £29,560.25
Connexus earned £12,725 in Clapham and £63,901 in Canary Wharf for a total of £76,626.78 (seriously, where did that 78p appear from?)

8. Exit strategy - So Connexus won handily thanks to Richard and Vana [Loved their dream team this week after his bastadarry last week - Rad], and Lord Sugar made a point of telling Scott and Brett that they were lucky that they were on the winning team, before telling them all that their reward was a "high-octane speedboat experience", a prize so comically shit that even he couldn't talk about it without laughing. All of Connexus got up to leave...apart from Scott, who stayed seated because he wanted to tell Lord Sugar that he could shove his Apprentice experience, actually. Naturally everyone reacted as though this was the most shocking and absurd thing they had ever witnessed, but I think the combination of the task being totally stupid combined with the pasting he'd just been given in the boardroom was the final straw for Scott. Now, I don't know if you've seen season six of The Apprentice USA, but it is a glorious disaster of television: Donald Trump moves the show to LA, the rules are changed so that the winning PM must stay PM every week until they lose (a move that indirectly led to the eventual winner of the season never having PMed at all) and each week the losing team had to live in tents in the back garden with no hot water or electricity. Most of the candidates recognised pretty early on that the season was an absolute joke, and one of them quit in the third week because she wanted to retain what was left of her dignity, while those that remained essentially laughed in Donald Trump's face throughout and more or less skipped out of the boardroom when they got fired because they recognised the competition for the utter circus that it was. What made it superb television, however, was Trump's total refusal to acknowledge that he'd made a mistake, or even to recognise that he was being made fun of most of the time, and his insistence that anyone who dissented was missing out on a life-changing experience. The reason I'm saying all of this is because Scott's resignation is the closest the UK series has come to that, since his exit was followed by Lord Sugar huffing that he "didn't deserve to stay", Karren huffing that Scott "knew he was out of his depth", and Claude huffing that Scott had "been floundering for weeks, really." It was self-justification of the airiest kind, with no ground given to the possibility that actually Scott had had enough of the pantomime and didn't see the point in sticking around to be insulted any longer. [He was so awesome on YerFiyud, too, you can tell 'the process' really ground him down, because he was much lighter and funnier - Rad]

9. Scream queens - Sadly Scott's exit didn't prevent Versatile from returning to the final boardroom, so off they went to Loser Café where Charleine SCREAMED at Selina for talking over her (and she screamed at such a volume as to make the very idea of anyone at all being able to talk over her entirely impossible) before opting to blank Selina entirely and say that she would "talk to THESE" (ostensibly Joseph and Gary, but possibly also the cruet) about why she thought the task failed. Joseph, having worked with Selina on this task for the very first time, declared her to be relentlessly negative, an avenue he pursued in the boardroom, where Selina was criticised for not engaging with this task and not being able to get on with people, while Charleine tried to absolve herself by saying that it was only Selina she'd ever had a problem with, and she hadn't clashed heads with anyone else in the house. I'd love to have seen Richard's head spinning when he eventually saw that comment. Gary, meanwhile, was so ineffectual on this task that he barely even factored into the discussion when Joseph was asked if there was anyone he should have brought onto his sub-team rather than Selina. Oh, and in this week's edition of "would you say this about a man though?", Karren decided that Selina's problem was that "her mood gets the better of her".

10. Finally facing her Waterman-Smith - Despite Gary's overall irrelevance, it was inevitably Selina who got fired - for not selling anything, for upsetting Woobie Developer, and quite possibly for the fact that she'd clearly lost the will to carry on anyway. Now, having complained vocally about her edit on the show in the media, and having stated outright that she had broken contract and would not be turning up for You're Fired! (not that I blame her, it's awful this year), Selina decided to do her own version on YouTube, where she talked through the process from her own perspective and even did her own "best bits". Amazing scenes, you must see it:

Let's just dispense with You're Fired! entirely and make everyone do this from now on.

Next week: healthy snacks (allegedly) and "the British viagra". Christ.

No comments: