Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Undercover Boss" Celebrates Its 500th CEO Shocked To Discover His Employees Aren't Paid A Living Wage

This week CBS TV's "Undercover Boss" will celebrate its 500th episode, and the 500th company president who had absolutely no idea his employees worked so hard for so little.

"The initial idea was to show both sides," said Mitchell Michelson, the show's producer. "Show incompetent employees getting fired, and terrific employees being rewarded. We realized pretty quickly that we'd get sued by the incompetent employees, so instead we decided to focus on the great employees. We actually worried that we wouldn't be able to find any who weren't already well-paid and well-treated, but we laugh about that now."

The show's formula has been honed to a sheen over the years. "The CEO goes undercover and hangs out with his low-level employees," said Michelson. "He discovers that the people who have been giving him their blood, sweat and tears can't afford to buy more than one roll of toilet paper at a time. He declares that this is completely unfair and unjust, and wishes he'd taken action before. Inevitably, tears accompany these hard-won realizations, and he gives three people money and then heads home."

One might think the show's long-term success on a major network would lead to an improvement in America's workplaces, but Michelson says that doesn't appear to be the case. "You'd think people would catch on eventually," he said. "Every week there's another CEO who's shocked, totally shocked to discover his employees toiling long hours for an unlivable wage. You'd think other CEOs would tune in and say, 'Hey, I should check and see if we mistreat our workers.' But these are important, powerful businessmen. If they don't have time to ensure their employees are treated well, when would they find the time to watch TV?"

Walter Blickner, head of Blickner's Sporting Goods, raves about his experience as the 500th clueless CEO. "I had a great time," said Blickner, whose company has 214 stores and $600 million in yearly sales. "It was really a great experience, and I was really glad to take part. Of course, I was standing on the shoulders of 499 other CEOs who also 'forgot' to visit their stores and see if their employees slept in their cars."

Longtime viewers of the show will doubtless recall numerous highlights, but Michelson's personal favorite was Tamara Lepnicki, the single mom who worked 14-hour days sewing the feet onto dolls at Candy's Clown Factory for six dollars an hour. Copious tears were shed when CEO Mark Livingson discovered that Tamara's two children were taken away because she couldn't afford adequate medical care and he presented her with a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas and a trophy that named her, "QUEEN OF THE HUSTLE!"

The show was an immediate success so don't think the producers will fiddle with a winning formula. "It's been an amazing ride," said a beaming Michelson. "I'm thrilled that we can show the hardworking men and women of America that their indefatigable effort will eventually be rewarded, though currently for just three of them a week. I'd like to say that our show provides good role models for CEOs, but clearly that isn't the case and we'll just have to keep on educating them one at a time. It's my fervent hope that in the next few years we'll feature another five hundred corporate leaders who truly don't realize how shitty it is to work for them."


S said...

The subject title practically didn't make me need to read the post.

RomanHans said...

Yeah, I pretty much just rephrased the subject line a dozen times and then pasted them together into a piece. Usually nobody notices.