Thread: The Apprentice
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Old 25th Oct 2014, 17:47   #945
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Default Re: The Apprentice

Series 10, Episode 3

Ah me, we go from a trail for the new David Attenborough series, the in-all-likelihood-magnificent Life Story, to the voice of the Sugarlord snarling ‘Ahm lookin’ fer big bucks’. To say this is going from the sublime to the ridiculous seems a tad redundant, but hey, I’ve just done it anyway.

Voiceover Man tells us that this is about a fifty-fifty partnership with ‘Britain’s toughest backer’. I imagine the rasping tones of Greg Wallace, ‘Backin’ doesn’t get tougher than this.’ The opening montage is a mish-mash of saving pitches and covering backsides. Frankly I wouldn’t want to see any uncovered backsides, so I think covering them is the way to go.

Previously on The Apprentice... the teams had to produce some clothing containing some kind of technological benefit, such as a sensor capable of sounding an alarm should you find yourself within a 10-metre radius of a former Apprentice candidate. Robert thought he could ignore the Sugarlord’s advice and was summarily fired during the post mortem; then in the actual firing line the instantly forgettable Scott was binned.

The phone rings in the candidates’ house as usual at some hideous pre-dawn hour. The Sugarlord wants to meet them in 20 minutes at the Royal Exchange. Cue shots of girls primping and boys in a disturbing state of undress blow-drying their underarm hair.

Daniel: ‘I’m hoping we’re not merged with the girls. I want to win a task as the boys.’ C’mon matey-boy, how likely does that seem given your performance up to now? Besides, your saying this will almost certainly prefigure a Sugarlord-instigated redistribution of ‘talent’ between the two teams.

Team Summit and Team Tenacity line up amongst a gleaming array of high-end shops. (Ah, Robert would have loved this, shame he and his music-hall stripey suits were unceremoniously dumped last week.) The Sugarlord explains that a major current trend consists of ‘Designer Home Fragrance’. I’m unconvinced, but I’ll accept it in the interests of providing a forum for the usual mix of backstabbing and incoherent ineptitude.

They will have to sell both to the public and to trade; and ‘the team that makes the biggest profit will win, and in the losing team, one of you will get fired.’

‘So, I’m going to mix the teams up a bit,’ Stephen, Dan and Felipe (a dream sub-team if ever I saw one) move over to Tenacity, and Lindsay, Nurun, Bianca and Roisin go to Summit.

Katie wants to lead Tenacity, on the grounds that she is an avid consumer of home fragrance products (I suspect they have been banned from talking of ‘air fresheners’ because it’s not ‘designer’ enough). Everybody is right behind her because it means they won’t have to volunteer.

Roisin wants to lead team Summit, because she is all about the numbers, and this task is all about the margins. Much as I am all about the Pinot Grigio. James is joyful at the new configuration of the team, as he believes their three weakest links have gone to Tenacity. Oh James, what does Pride goeth before?

For their fragranced candles they have a choice of two kinds of wax: soy (expensive) or paraffin (cheap, possibly bringing its own hint of 1970s oil heater scent, however). Katie is also all about the margins and goes for the cheaper option. Roisin is persuaded that the ‘cleaner’ soy wax will make their product more high-end. I’m not sure that she has quite bought into the Sugarlord’s ‘buy cheap and sell dear’ ethos.

Katie (who, bucking the trend of Apprentice project managers, seems to be making a number of decisions without pandemonium breaking out around her) decides on a scent blend consisting of green tea, lemongrass and aloe vera. This frustrates me because there’s nothing much there to make fun of. Why couldn’t she have gone for a blend of patchouli, sweat and orphans’ tears? She suggests a name ‘Evoke’. Not bad, I think, they’ll probably go for that, so here come the comedy options. ‘Lemonize,’ says Sarah. ‘British Breeze’ suggests someone else. Ahahahaha... oh they’ve gone for that one. Appealing to the UKIP voter in the marketplace, I suppose.

Summit have gone for a mixture of clean linen, salt and ozone. ‘Smells from the surf?’ Hmmm, perhaps not. They settle for ‘Beach Dream’. Karren Brady likes it. I make no comment on whether this bodes well or ill for Team Summit.

Roisin thinks their lowest selling price will be £12.50 per unit. Every fibre of my being is yelling, ‘FOR A FREAKIN’ CANDLE!?!?!?’ I am stunned into silence as Katie announces that Tenacity’s target price will be £30 per unit. Truly, we are living in the end times.

They are into the production phase. Tenacity are colouring their wax yellow. What with that and the lemongrass, are people not going to get their product confused with a certain kind of insect repellent? Their production sub-team consists of Lindsay, Nurun and Sanjay. I am disappointed in the women as they basically let Sanjay make all the calculations and do all the work. ‘We’re doing all the glamorous stuff.’ Way to empower the sisterhood, ladies.

Summit’s marketing sub-team are off to a luxury hotel. One of the team admires the suite and the proprietor tells him that it would cost him eight and a half THOUSAND pounds a night to stay there. Still, I suppose people with more money than sense will be their exact target market. The hotel gentleman agrees to buy 25 of both kinds of product. So let’s hope the Beach Dreams are more Copacabana and not so much Blackpool.

For Tenacity, Dan is pitching to a boutique hotel with 21 rooms and insisting they take a minimum of 30 units. Stephen manages to get the guy to agree to take 25. Afterwards Dan insists that Stephen has RUINED his pitch, and tries to get into a shouting match with Stephen. The calmer and more reasoned Stephen is, the shoutier Dan gets. Way to keep a cool head, Dan.

James is setting out his market stall. He wants to claim a Recommended Retail price of £45 to make his actual selling price seem cheaper. This is known as ‘the DFS strategy’. Karren Brady dissuades him on the grounds that it’s, y’know, illegal and stuff.

Tenacity take their products to the boutique hotel. The owner has a quibble, ‘the label’s not on straight.’ In my fantasy scenario, the team giggles and someone says ‘hashtag first world problems!’ but they are surprisingly professional and offer to replace any items that do not meet the required standard. I wonder if all complaints about Amstrad products were met with this level of customer service?

As the day wears on, James starts selling his products at £10 and then £6 per unit. ‘There’s no such thing as bad profit,’ he says defensively. No but it does have to BE profit James and not just breaking even. The margins, remember? THE MARGINS.

Summit get to the hotel who ordered 25 of each of their 2 products. They have the candles to fulfil the order, but Roisin has sold all of their remaining diffusers to a gift shop at eight quid each. Oops.

As time runs out James sells all of their remaining product for whatever they can get. As the metaphorical whistle blows, the team members give each other high-fives all round. I fear this may be slightly premature.

Back to the boardroom! The Sugarlord waxes lyrical (see what I did there?) about the simplicity of the task. He doesn’t quite say that a bunch of trained chimps could have succeeded, but we all know he’s thinking it. He asks Roisin what her approach was. She says something incredibly dull about adding value and quality products. Ah, but what of the fatal mistake of not having diffusers to sell to the hotel? Karren Brady, frowny lady, says that she was ‘pretty shocked’ by this. Shocked by an Apprentice team cock-up, Karren? How many of these series have you participated in by now?

The Sugarlordly attentions are turned to Team Tenacity. ‘Our market research indicated that our product should be as neutrally coloured as possible.’ The Sugarlord extracts one of the glowing yellow candles. The lordly eyebrows are elevated somewhat. ‘So your market research was a waste of time.’ Embarrassed silence.

So, time for the numbers. Turns out that both teams’ sales were remarkably similar, being in the region of £2,200. (People with more money than sense, that’s your target market right there.) However Summit’s profits were a measly £1,570, whereas Tenacity’s profits were a handsome £1,584. In a task that was all about margins, that one’s pretty narrow.

Tenacity, after two days of working with scented candles, get to go off to a luxury spa. Aromatherapy, anyone?

Summit get the boardroom post mortem session. Roisin starts to argue the narrowness of the other team’s win. The Sugarlord points out that they held onto some stock in preference to selling it all at the lowest possible price. Tenacity’s average selling price was almost twice that of Summit.

He points a grizzled finger at James for selling too cheaply. James tries a rarely successful tactic. ‘You would have done the same, Lord Sugar.’ ‘Don’t tell me what I would or wouldn’t have done.’

The Sugarlord rounds on Lindsey, wanting to know what her contribution to the task was. ‘I know I didn’t do very well...’ she fades into silence. Not usually a good sign. She looks as though she’s about to give up and go home. Could this be the first self-firing? The background music changes to ominous cello. Here comes the finger. Yep, out goes Lindsay.

Roisin is bringing Nurun and James back into the boardroom. James begins his defence by saying he has worked his absolute balls off. Oh my. Here comes the pointy finger! ‘James, you... need a lot of polishing.’ James tries his earlier tactic again, ‘I’m just like you.’ He doesn’t appear to recognise the implications of the thunderous Sugarlordly frown.

Roisin is accused by Nick Hewer of lacking command. She mutters something about donkeys led by lions (she doesn’t really, but I’d have liked it if she had).

The Sugarlord praises Nurun’s small business entrepreneurship, but wonders if she has what it takes to make the transition to big business. He thinks Roisin started well in the task, then went downhill. James has a nasty lack of ethics. The Sugarlord has no place for a Jack the Lad.

But he goes ahead and fires Nurun, because his production team have told him there’s more mileage in a wide boy and an ice queen, oops sorry I mean because he doubts she can make the leap from small business to big business.

Next week they have to run their own online video channel. Less YouTube, more YouSuck.
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