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The Apprentice: Short-Term Gains and Long-Term Employmentby David Bloomberg -- 04/01/2004
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After four weeks of The Apprentice, I wrote an article, Sex Sells, But Will It Win the Game? That article mostly focused on the tactics of many of the women, using sex appeal to win the challenges. However, I also spent a good portion of the article discussing the way the game of The Apprentice encourages short-term thinking even though the prize is long-term employment. Nothing has provided more evidence of this than the casino challenge last week.
In my previous article, I noted that if you really owned a restaurant, you’d care more about repeat business than about your performance on a single night. So you wouldn’t go to the patrons and pester them to buy a shot, or tell them not to come back the following night, or set up a table to have some unknown guy selling autographs.
Versacorp found out just how long-term thinking could be rewarded a couple episodes ago when they had the idea of selling advertising on the back of their rickshaws. They were able to go to businesses they had dealt with previously – and with whom they still had good relationships – in order to bring in ad dollars that easily put them over the top. However, even then, Bill didn’t seem to get it. When one ad fell off, Bill wanted to haggle with the advertiser and try to keep some of the money. Nick, on the other hand, didn’t feel right about that and just gave all of the money back. You can bet that if there is another challenge in which Nick can take advantage of this earlier contact, he will be able to do so much better than if he had played hardball with only that one challenge in mind.
I do find it interesting that Bill, who was against the tactics he thought of as dishonest when Troy and Kwame were selling autographs, had no problem trying to wring every last dollar out of an advertiser whose ad had fallen off the rickshaw.
And thus we arrived at the casino challenge. At the beginning of this task, Trump said he wanted something that would bring more people in to spend more money at his casino. Indeed, on the official website, the rules for this challenge say that the objective was to “Develop and implement an original game designed to attract new customers to the Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino... increasing the Taj Mahal's revenue in casino gaming.” But the project wasn’t actually designed to do that. Both teams only got people who were already at the hotel and casino. And both had the effect of keeping people away from the casino floor.
Neither team actually got more money for the casino. Simply escorting high-rollers, as Bill did, may have shown some smarts, but it didn’t really accomplish what the supposed goal of the challenge was – to make more money. They were already there, they were already going to gamble. The only difference was that they gambled using a card set for one team instead of another.
The best test for this challenge would have been to draw in people from the outside. Unfortunately, the rules for this challenge indicated that they had to work on the perimeter of the casino floor. So we have another situation where “the game” had to take priority over the right way to think long-term and do what actually needed to be done. However, there doesn’t seem to be a prohibition on sending people outside of the casino to bring people in. So if they could have gone outside, they should have. They should not have been rewarded for people who were already at the casino. They should not have been rewarded for pulling people away from the slot machines just so they could get their cards registered. The only gambling for which they should have been given credit was people who weren’t already there.
With that in mind, both teams should have had representation of some sort out on the Boardwalk. Can you imagine how many people the tiger would have brought in had it been part of a scheme to lead people inside? Frankly, the same would have applied to the car – though the whole car rental idea was still pretty bad, I have to say. Alternatively, Versacorp could have had their hired models outside the casino instead of trying to steal them from Protégé.
Also, they should have considered giving away prizes throughout the day rather than just at the very end of the day. Maybe it was small potatoes compared to the VIPs, but if they could have encouraged people on the Boardwalk to try for the giveaway, those people would have had to be inside to cash their prizes, it would have been more likely that those people would have turned around and gambled with their newfound money. Isn’t that what a casino counts on? Winners keep gambling and the casino gets their dough one way or the other.
These would have been good examples of planning for the long-term, for the reality of how business is done. Unfortunately, as I indicated in my previous article, this game is not exactly about reality. In order to get to the prize – which is indeed a real job – the players have to keep making it through to the next round, using whatever means necessary. It’s both a game and a job interview, after all.
Personally, I think the players are better off thinking long-term. Nick showed that he would do the right thing by giving back the money to the rickshaw advertiser. If his team had lost because of that, would they have held him responsible? Maybe. But I’d like to think that Trump would have seen that he did the right thing for the long haul, even if it was the wrong thing for the immediate situation. And even if Trump didn’t see it, millions of viewers did, and you can bet that Nick will have plenty of other job offers coming his way. However, if he had tried to screw the advertiser, how many people would have wanted to hire him?
I hope that next season can incorporate some long-term elements into the challenges. Yes, it would be more difficult. But if the players know that they may have to answer for their actions down the line, perhaps they wouldn’t do things like the Kwame autographs, the Shooter Girls, etc. Then we could really see how the next group of contestants would fare in business situations.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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