I think I may have been doing the contestants on the latest series of The Apprentice as massive disservice in my repeated criticism of their lack of basic business acumen.
Having watched their frankly pitiful efforts to drum up business or display any sort of common sense, I felt fairly confident that in the “real world” such behaviour was rarer than a belly laugh from Sir Alan Sugar.
Yet my experiences over the last 48 hours suggest otherwise.
I’m car hunting, on the look out for something greener that can allow us to go down to a one-car family.
So having done my homework I went along to a local dealership to enquire about a part-ex deal on a brand new car. The salesman was incredibly helpful, once he’d explained at great length that the dealership’s computer system had crashed and the reason he couldn’t shake my hand was that he’d caused a lot of damage to his wrist whilst doing some odd-jobs around his house.
We finally got down to the nitty-gritty – well, he explained a bit more about the model I was considering and had a good look around my car for a part-ex valuation. But as he was without internet access he couldn’t give me an figure for the part-ex valuation; couldn’t tell me how long I would have to wait to take delivery of the new model; or give me any realistic figures about financing the deal.
He would, however, ring me first thing in the morning to give me the breakdown once his computer had been revived.
I waited until about 4.30pm the following afternoon before deciding to phone the salesman myself.
Having introduced myself and asked for a response to my query he said: “It was me you saw, wasn’t it?”
“It was definitely this dealership you came to?”
“I have absolutely no recollection of you.”
I pointed out he had taken a detailed note of my various requests – at least half a side of A4 and had also revealed how quiet he had been that weekend.
“No, nothing on my notepad. It was yesterday you came in?”
Various attempts to jog his memory, such as the fact I’m looking to spend £15,000 with his employers, failed to provide the light-bulb moment when everything came flooding back to him.
I was about to wish him good day and take my custom elsewhere, when he shouted: “Oh, hang on. Yes. I do remember you. I don’t remember anything about your part-ex or the vehicle you’re after though.”
This is the man who had proudly claimed 24 hours earlier that he was currently top salesman in the country on the particular model I was interested in buying.
He promised to ring back in five minutes with a detailed response to my enquiries. To his credit (I am struggling to find some credit) he did call back and he did provide the required answers.
But he did add: “You’ll have to wait about 3 months to get the car and I’m not around for the rest of the week as I have to go on a training course and I’m taking a day off too.
“So are you interested in proceeding?”
What do you think?