The OPPrentice - Episode 3

Posted 20 May 2011 by

We were surprised not to find 'Rich Uncle Pennybags' Sugar asking the teams to find an old boot and a Scottie dog too. Instead he asked for nine other hotel-oriented items, to be sourced for "the least amount of money" (ouch!) and delivered between 8am and 5pm.

How hard is it to go shopping? Most people are expert at the practice. In fact these days shopping has become some people's only hobby. And yet, they managed to bodge it up.

Despite the tiny £8 disparity in the eventual total spend, there was clearly one winner and one loser. We had expected the decider to be the negotiating skills of the participants - and therefore whichever team Mind Control Jim was on would automatically win - but in the end there was one distinct difference that led to the eventual fire.

That difference was leadership. Notwithstanding some minor tactical errors, Susan’s clear-headed, strategic and planful rallying of her troops was in great contrast to Gavin’s flustered, headless-chicken stance. It was 11.30 by the time his people even got out of the door, and his plaintive cries of "CHILL OUT!!!" did nothing to calm the melee that was team Logic. In three and a half hours, we would have expected outlets to have been identified, guide prices and stock levels to have been established on the phone, and the most efficient route round the city to have been drawn to collect said items.

It didn’t help that both teams were hampered by a lack of general knowledge. If you want to buy meat, the usual outlet is known by the unfamiliar term of “butcher”, a gem of intelligence that was shockingly lacking. A hat maker for gentlemen is known as a “hat maker” (and certainly not a "dry cleaner", something Gavin found to his cost). A cloche – or “clochay” as they insisted in calling it for no apparent reason – is an unusual item, it’s true, but a) it’s a hotel they were buying for, and b) the item was specified as stainless steel. There could have been a clue in there somewhere, and that would be that it’s clearly not something for the garden. Worse still though, in the 'You're Fired' aftershow, it transpired that Gavin hadn't been aware that there are multiple phonebooks in London. He thought each team member was looking in the same book - a recipe for disaster.

Regarding the negotiations, "never buy retail" is an old adage. The quote of more than £900 for a mere 12 kg of tea should have resulted in us seeing nothing but Venture's heels disappearing into the distance. We wonder whether the PR value for the tea supplier was diminished by her eventual climbdown to less than 50% of the asking price, despite each tea leaf having been moistened by the tears of Turkish orphans or whatever it was she said.

And maybe there’s nowhere else to buy top hats in London for knock-down prices (though a retro clothes shop might have been a good place to start), but both teams rocked up into the front of a Mayfair shop that was purveyor of quality hats to the King of Tonga, and tried to haggle. How very gauche!

Pride came before a fall for both teams - Venture returned to get 1p off the price of the topper, purely out of spite, and Logic spent 8 minutes haggling over 44p, something that should have been stopped immediately: a good leader knows when to step out of the tactical detail and regain the strategic overview.

Of course one may speculate that the 'fine' imposed by the Savoy purchasing department may have been smaller than the extortionate prices imposed on the teams, or even have benefited Logic in the long run by being substantially lower than the prices they would otherwise have paid: Bank Error in their Favour.

By contrast, Jim, by now the Derren Brown of the Apprentice, achieved yet another spooky post-hoc negotiation triumph by getting another £10 off the steak, after the negotiation had ended. How does he do it? Like Derren, we expect him not to give any secrets away. The question remains, however, as to whether Jim’s glib charm is a front for a more steely and less trustworthy character.

There were two candidates for ‘muppet of the week’ this time round. Natasha was putting on the ditz when she called a very famous rival hotel and asked them for their hard-won supplier list. An unforgivable gaffe, and when she said “it’s a win-win”, we loudly proclaimed “for whom?!” However, in a closely fought battle, Vincent Won First Prize in a Muppet Beauty Contest when he snatched the phone out of Ellie’s hand. "Billy bullsh*t’s” constant barging into people’s negotiations, and inability to recognise when to trust one's peers and direct reports, does not bode well for his potential leadership abilities, should he ever get the chance.

In the end, though, the boardroom was where poor Gavin’s lack of leadership skills were laid bare. “Was Susan a good leader?” Uncle Pennybags asked. The answer was unanimous, and instantaneous: “Yes, she was”. The same question asked of Gavin elicited an uncomfortable second of silence, then a half-hearted “he was all right”.

Go to Jail, Gavin, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect £200.

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