The Apprentice: Top hats and tea

We all know that the success of The Apprentice is due, not to our aspiring to be one of the chosen few ‘entrepreneurial elite’, but thanking the Lord that we’re not. Tonight’s episode did nothing to upset this general theme. Having lost the hapless Edward (a man with strength of character, honest and direct, according to the website) and Alex (ambitious, driven and extremely focussed), we’re now down to fourteen ‘hopefuls’ competing for the pleasure of a £250k business deal with Lord Alan of Sugar.

The call came early –“we leave in thirty minutes to go to the Shtrand!” What was waiting for them in the Shtrand, turned out to be The Savoy Hotel, coming to the end of a three year refit. Leon, Jim and Glenn were sent to Venture. Melody, Zoe, Ellie and another one (there’s too many to learn all the names at this stage) went to Team Logic. The teams have a few hours to find ten items that The Savoy, weirdly, seemed to have forgotten to buy. Logic choose Scouse Gavin as leader, whereas Venture get ‘Market Trader’ Susan (“I helped my mum pay off her mortgage when I was doing my A levels) Ma.

Nick seems impressed with Susan at the start – to be fair, she did take control, chiefly by shouting ‘go – go now – NOW’ at her team mates.

Vincent for Logic leaps into action on the phone: “can you tell me anywhere in London that sells fillet steak?” Try Tescos mate.

It all starts to turn a bit ugly. Gavin, after two hours of team wrangling, actually said, in his Liverpool accent, “calm down, calm down”. Three hours in and team logic still don’t know what a ‘cloche’ is. Wonder if they know what a cliché is? Have none of them got a dictionary app on their iPhones? Failing that, nip into a book shop and find a real paper one – ten minutes, and you’d know what you’re looking for which can only help the buying process.

It takes three hours for them to leave for the shops, the first being a light bulb shop in Teddington, thirteen miles away. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Susan leads her team off to buy a top hat, trying to secure a discount from a shop where the manager would look sniffily if even a senior royal made the slightest nuisance of himself.  Nick ,when last in there, spotted the King of Tonga being ejected for asking to see their baseball cap selection. The twenty one year old organic skin care specialist got very short shrift. No discounts. That’s it. Her colleague – one of the blond ones – suggested trying a fancy dress shop. Perhaps they could get some comedy breasts, and a moustache as well.  I’m sure The Savoy would be delighted.

Jim the self styled ‘Irish bulldozer of charm’ managed to get a bit of a discount on some steak, though I did think when the butcher reached under the counter he was going for a shotgun. Shame.

Vincent is “direct, efficient and knows how to negotiate”. He sends in Natasha to negotiate on the purchase of a brass sign. She starts at £20 and goes up to £60. I may not be one of the entrepreneurial elite, but is this the way to do it? Thankfully Vincent steps in and offers £80. Job done.

There appears to be a price fixing arrangement amongst the Top hat shops of London – they don’t drop their prices for anyone. Susan though, displaying all her business skills, manages, eventually to get a discount. A penny discount. A whole penny. Bless. She looked so grateful.

Meanwhile, adrift in the suburbs, Gavin leads his team randomly into “Top Hat Dry Cleaners”, in the hope that they might know where they could buy a top hat. They didn’t. Turns out it was just a name. Imagine that.

One of the items the teams had to buy was 500 three ply toilet rolls. How hard can these be to source? If all else fails – try Lidl – they might even have a special offer on top hats if our local one is anything to go by.

The girls go to collect the brass sign for the wine cellar: “that is actually, AMAZING”, they exclaim when they see it. It’s brass and has wine cellar engraved on it. Not sure quite what they were expecting.

Melody, I swear, phoned someone up and asked “do you not have any fistulas?” Apart from this interjection, she was commendably quiet this week.

It’s funny how the teams keep offering cash as if this will secure an under the counter deal, no questions asked, forgetting that the transaction will be seen on national TV by several million people, including the Inland Revenue.

Team Venture, at the last minute arranges to meet someone from the Rare Tea Company outside a pub. They were hoping to pay £30 for a case of Chamomile tea. Turns out rare tea is expensive – £930!!! They should have run like the wind back to Lidls, got some tea bags quick and snipped the ends off. Transfixed like a rabbit in the face of an oncoming lorry however, Susan manages to knock posh tea lady down to £410. All the clues were there. ‘Rare Tea Company’, Hastily agreed susbstantial discount, meeting outside a pub. They were done, good and proper. The post purchase anxiety evident on young Susan’s face was a joy to see.

Soon the fateful hour approaches and the teams are called into the boardroom, waiting for his Lordship to emerge from his special office (I do wish he’d come out, zipping up his flies). It turns out that despite Team Logic only getting six of the required items, they spent £8 more when all the fines were taken into account, so it was off to the Café of Despair for them, while Susan and Team Venture are treated to a circus style cabaret show in a trendy Covent Garden bar. This seemed to involve two very flexible polkadot clad twins, cavorting in an impressive fashion on the table.

Gavin, in the Café sees the writing on the wall; “it seems as if people are willing to let you sink and drown rather than help you out”. Have you not watched any of these before Gavin? That’s the general plan – if its going tits up, keep your head down and blame the project leader.

His Lordship made an effort to intimidate Vincent and Zoe when Gavin took them back into the Boardroom with him, but it was always going to be Gavin facing the finger of doom, for shear bloody uselessness in managing the task. Another one bites the dust, and the housemates, slagging off Vincent for all they’re worth, get to whoop and cheer as he walks back into the house.

Lessons learned:

  • Always find out what you’re supposed to be buying before trying to buy it.
  • Check prices in advance.
  • Dry cleaners called ‘Top Hat’ probably have nothing to do with top hats.

His Lordship’s ‘Bloody’ score: 2. Business as usual.

Posted by Our Man in the South

2 Comments

Filed under The Apprentice

2 responses to “The Apprentice: Top hats and tea

  1. Tim

    The discount buying task never fails to disappoint, does it?

    When Gavin had his “calm down” moment, was I the only one thinking Harry Enfield?

    And I’m really warming to Ellie. Vince = Billy Bullshit, indeed.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/05/19/the-apprentice-gavin-gets-savoy-grilling-as-venture-secure-top-hat-trick/

  2. Qwerty

    Great stuff South Man. Like the thought of the King of Tonga in a baseball cap. Imagine the shock on Nick’s face. Every series I never understand why this task is such a balls-up. Maybe something goes on that we don’t see, such as they are all locked in the room till there’s only ten minutes left, or they’re only allowed to be complete ding-bats?