Tag Archive | Émile Zola

Sales Tips from The Paradise — Part Two

Part Two of Two

One of the best things about business, in my opinion, is that good business tips also make good life tips.  In one form or another we are often trying to make an impression on those around us, trying to “sell” some idea of us to them.  Well this can be cast in a negative light, it is simply the way the world works, especially in a day and age with so much competition.

Here are more sales tips from the BBC show, The Paradise starring Emun Elliot and Joanna Vanderham:

You can never know too much about your product.

Denise, the shopgirl in The Paradise has a lot against her, mostly jealousy from her rivals who are also after Mr. Moray’s attentions, romantic or otherwise.  Nevertheless, knowing (or at least sounding knowledgeable) about the dresses she sells helps her get out of a sticky situation in which a rival shopgirl has her try on a dress for a lady.  The dress given to try on is purposely too small on Denise, so the lady says she won’t buy it.  In a fine moment of triumph, Denise delivers a sensual speech stating that it doesn’t matter how the dress looks on the shopgirl, but how it will look on the lady.  She describes the dress as the perfect item to wear if you wish to attract a suitor, and the lady falls for it all with Mr. Moray (the boss) looking on.

You can never know too much about your product, whether you sell buttons or gourmet dinners.  Customers are impressed by knowledge and confidence.  The same can be said for, yes, romance.  Confidence impresses.  Also, you never know who will be watching.  Employers are duly impressed as well when it’s clear their employees have taken the time to know the product.  Those employees are usually hard workers and marked for success.

The brightest and best will always be resented.

Speaking of success, if one wants to be one, it’s best to note from the beginning that if one is good at one’s job, or especially blessed with good looks or talent, one is bound to experience resentment from others from time to time.  As a society we continually fall prey to the idea that the rich and successful are to be resented merely because they are rich and successful.  We don’t seem to care about all of the hard work and sacrifice that came beforehand to get the person to that state.  Thus, to be a success, note that the resentment exists, and move on.

In the series, The Paradise, both Mr. Moray and Denise have people set against them due to their successes.  But the shops dying out because of the glittering mammoth department store aren’t even trying.  They seem to expect that customers will come to them “just because.”  Instead of finding ways to work with The Paradise, or new and interesting ways to appeal to a niche audience, these shops are decaying.  The shopkeepers make almost no attempt to even improve the look of their stores.  It is only when Denise takes the time to help them, that they even try.  It is sad that so many of us in this world think we are owed something, for that attitude will continually bring us heartache.  The truth is if we are to gain anything in this world, we must bring something to the table.  (Love is something apart from business, in that we can’t ever truly earn another’s love, though we might gain their attention).

It is interesting to see that even though at this point in the series Denise is actively encouraging the shops to take custom from The Paradise, Mr. Moray isn’t alarmed, but impressed by her ingenuity.  So we can say as well that the brightest and best don’t spend time resenting the other brightest and best.  They learn from them and consider them (in the age old words of Captain Hook) “worthy opponents.”

Find a way.

“If at first you don’t succeed…”  A good idea is a good idea.  A good product is a good product.  Sometimes barriers, whether of funds, pride, or spite get in the way.  Denise is a shining star of a shop girl, and as such, her supervisor, Miss Audrey, is alarmed that Denise may take over her own position.  Instead of bettering herself, Miss Audrey’s solution is to snuff out the burning light of creativity in the girl.  She insists that Denise stop having ideas altogether on how to improve sales, or if she has any, that she bring them solely to Miss Audrey and not to Mr. Moray who is so encouraging of her.

Denise respects Miss Audrey and doesn’t wish to make her feel threatened, nevertheless, she finds a way to go through an alternate third party to get her good ideas where they need to go, to the boss who understands their worth.  The best businesspeople find a way and they try to do it without crushing others in the process.

Cheer up.

Sam, a plucky Paradise salesman played by Stephen Wight, gives this an an answer to anything that ails a person.  Denise’s uncle,  Edmund Lovett (Peter Wight), is gloomy because his business is dying out thanks to the booming department store across the street.  Cheering up in and of itself doesn’t really solve a problem, but it definitely improves one’s outlook, and outlook is key.  Pessimists and people sunk in depression and gloom are rarely the movers and shakers of the world.  To have ideas is to have optimism, or cheer.  How can one win either in business or in love by throwing pity parties?  People are not owed business or love, but must seek it out.

It is disheartening, that especially when it comes to love, those most desperate to have it are scorned for that same desperation.  But, people are most attracted to those who are rays of sunshine and who show cheer and confidence.  Somehow, for those of us who are down in the dumps, we must fight that depression and put on a brave face.  Put on makeup and curl your hair if that helps.  Cheer up even if there’s not much cheer to be had.  Highlight your strengths as much as you can, putting your best food forward.  It’s not fair, but people respond best to the prancing peacock, the blondes who appear as if they are having all the fun, and those who bring excitement into a room.

Success is not guaranteed, but at least you now have cheer.  And cheer brings so many possibilities with it.  It sees the best in people and the best in every situation.  It can even look beyond the peacocks and blondes and see the quieter attractiveness of “nice” girls and guys who only want a little encouragement to shine and to wow you.  Cheer finds a way where gloom can scarcely conceive of one good idea.

True love isn’t fickle.

This is more of a life tip than a sales tip, but it can be applied to business as surely as romance.  If you love to do something, you’re not going to do it half-heartedly.  If you truly love someone, you’re not going to love them while keeping an eye out for someone better.

Confidence is the supreme importance in a lover (and in a businessman).  Mr. Moray and his on and off relationship with Katherine Glendenning is one of the most infuriating story lines in the show.  Both are fickle and neither show confidence that the other is what they want.  Moray exudes confidence in his business, but can only pretend at love, until, that is, he finds someone he actually does love.

The best romantic advice I ever learned was that if you aren’t sure that the object of your affection likes you, cares for you, or loves you, they probably don’t.  That isn’t to say that you can’t win them by impressing them with your love and confidence, but if you are “loving from afar” it is likely destined to be only a one-sided love.

This is not always the case.  Some love stories take their time, just as some businesses need time to grow, but the truth is: If you have to ask if they love you, the answer is in the question.  If you have to trick or cajole someone into committing to you, their heart isn’t in it.  If a person can’t decide that it’s you they want, they likely don’t want you.  But, cheer up, the world is full of billions of people, billions of possibilities for love, just as it’s filled with billions of different customers.  What repels one person attracts another.  The right person will love you in confidence and joy.  They will be eager to commit because true love wipes away all fear.  True love is willing to take the risk.  In the words of William Shakespeare:


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sales Tips from The Paradise — Part One



My latest obsession on Netflix has been a BBC series inspired by Èmile Zola’s book, The Ladies Paradise.  The TV series is a little more charming than the book, but both delve into the good and evil of buying and selling, particularly when it comes to department stores.  The BBC series is set somewhere in the Victorian Era at a time when sales and department stores are a novelty.  It is easy to see, however, that the frenzy of shopping we all experience stepping into a Tesco or Walmart is not too far in the future.

What I enjoy most about the series are the ideas of both the owner of The Paradise (Mr. Moray, a ladies’ man played by Emun Elliot) and his newest shop girl, Denise (Joanna Vanderham) have for selling and moving stock.  Denise pours out idea after idea, and Moray is willing to put every one into action, giving her full reign, and calling her his “little champion.”  A match made on Wall Street if there ever was one.  Love and business come together seamlessly in this fine production.


Here are some selling tips from Season One of The Paradise:

Successful businessmen take risks.

Mr. Moray is intent on conquering the city with his department store, and he is willing to risk everything to do so.  His advisor, Dudley (Matthew McNulty), is more hesitant, more practical, saying they shouldn’t put the store itself in jeopardy.  Mr. Moray says that their city is “littered with men who stood still,” men who shrank from the possibility of greatness because they didn’t want to take a risk.  “Men who slow down, men who take their time, they come second.  I won’t do that,” Moray says when Dudley cautions him against taking gamble with a large one-day sale at The Paradise.  Moray’s willingness to risk everything is why he’s such a successful businessman and ladies’ man.  Ever wonder why the “nice” guy or girl doesn’t get the person of their interest?  Faint heart never won fair lady (or gentlemen).

The customers won’t come to you.

Advertisement.  A sale.  A special, a contest, a promotion.  Customers must be enticed to buy, to want things they really don’t need — one of the “sins” of big business.  In the series and book, a woman’s desire for buying is connected with her lust for love and to be admired.  In love and in business, it is the brightly colored prancing peacock who gets all the attention.  Successful selling requires some flash, and a willingness to show the best of what one has.  Even the plainest of girls can be transformed with stylish clothes, well-cut hair, and a bit of makeup.

At a later point in the season, Denise tells her uncle that if he can’t sell dresses, he should sell neckties.  People are more willing to part with a small amount of money than a large sum, much like a woman may be willing to try conversation over coffee before embarking on a nerve-wracking first date with a dinner and a show.

Bend, don’t break.

Without customers, business cannot be conducted.  Thus the saying, “the customer is always right.”  Anyone working in retail knows that isn’t true.  Nevertheless, doing well in business often means taking small and sometimes large losses to keep customers happy, to keep them coming back.  At The Paradise, Mr. Moray must “bend” to those with money who are considered his betters.  In order to court their investment, he must submit to some of their demands, to compromise.  Part of the success of Kohls department store chain has been their policy that a customer can return almost anything at almost any time.  Yes, unscrupulous customers often taken advantage of this, yet it is a policy that keeps them and others coming back time after time, as do the various discounts and sales.

Investors require proof.

Cold feet in love and cold feet in business.  Reluctance in both can often be remedied with proof, proof that things can turn out for the best, proof that the risk is worth it.  In the series, Mr. Moray courts Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) for love, and her father for his money.  Mr. Glendenning (Patrick Malahide) is hesitant both to invest in The Paradise, and to give Katherine’s hand to Moray in marriage.  “Haste is the enemy of love,” he tells his headstrong daughter, all while Moray looks upon both with calculating eyes.  Moray, we quickly find, is fine with waiting in love, but not in business.  Thus, he puts all his efforts into wowing Glendenning the banker with a huge sale at the store, a risk that turns out to be a success.  He also gives Katherine the teasing hope that more time will ease his reluctance to marry.

Loyalty goes both ways.

As a businessman (or a lover), if you expect loyalty from your employees, you should give them your loyalty in return.  A great boss is distinguished by his or her willingness to give their employees the benefit of the doubt when conflicts arise.  When a shop boy is accused of an indiscretion, Moray takes the time to find out the full story before condemning him.  He understands that a well-run business relies not only upon customer loyalty, but also upon the morale of the employees.

A great boss will also know the strengths of their employees and put them to good use, much like Moray continually seeks out new ideas from the veritable light bulb, Denise, and spends time flattering the middle aged Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) who runs the women’s clothing department.  Miss Audrey is herself a born flatterer, a born saleswoman.

Business is Business.

At the end of the day, business is business, and only has a fleeting comparison with real love, but the dance of both, the game of both, can be very similar.  Both involve desire.  What makes Mr. Moray a great businessman makes him a terrifying suitor, a threat to all women.  As a businessman alone, he would make a terrible husband, much like a successful courtesan would make a terrible wife.

The strength of the series, however, is that it shows if one truly cares for and about people, one can be successful both in business and in love.  Customers (and ladies) can be won with time and care.  Moray isn’t a ruthless businessman with no scruples, because he knows he would put himself out of business.  Likewise, he is willing to court Katherine Glendenning, but won’t commit to her until he is ready for marriage.  Denise is a good saleswoman because she genuinely believes in the products and the future of The Paradise, and sees that both can be a benefit to the customers.

The series portrays the dangers of business and falling prey to consumerism, but it also shows the positive side, something we see far too little of in a day and age where the biased ruling of an elite government is held up as the only way the common man can have a chance.  In business, we are not victims needing to be saved by our “betters,” but equals in our striving for success.  A good sale is satisfactory on both ends, where both parties get what they desire in an amiable way that hinges not on their social strata so much as their being able to deliver as promised.  One ingenuity against another.

(To be continued in Part Two)