Let’s face it…we could all use some inspiration these days. You know, those happy ending stories that will put a smile on even the most skeptical face. So, if you can cast aside any potential doubt in your mind when the next roster of supposedly unsuspecting employees do not realize the cameras are rolling for Undercover Boss, I am happy to report that the Emmy Award-winning reality series is returning on CBS on Friday, January 7 at 8 p.m. ET.
Debuting after The Super Bowl on February 7, 2020 (with a staggering 38.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research), Undercover Boss, of course, follows corporate bosses as they leave their offices and work undercover in their own company to find out how their business is really being run. Excluding a handful of underserving employees over the years (Ronnie at Boston Market who “hated children and old people,” and Jacqueline at Retro Fitness who wanted to “punch some people in the face,” for example), these bosses find an array of needy and hardworking staff members who are never shy discussing the problems and personal tragedies they have been faced with.
The end result: A big payoff where the typically shocked employees are rewarded with financial payoffs. You name it…cash, college funds, mortgage and student loan payoffs, and money for rent; vacations; cars; work promotions; and, in a few cases, new homes. As the seasons have progressed, so have the value of the rewards.
The typical response from any long-deserving employee: “I never thought anything like this can happen to me.”
Undercover Boss Through the Years
Most memorable, perhaps, was when sporting goods chain Modells CEO Mitch Modell handed an employee named Angel a check for $250,000 to buy a new home when he found out she was living in a homeless shelter. Then there was YESCO (an electric sign company) employee Eric Byington, who received $40,000 to help pay for his daughter’s college education. Additionally, CEO Jeffrey Young informed Eric that his late son’s picture would be featured on digital billboards located in Utah, Idaho, Washington and Nevada each January every year.
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There was also Veronica who received money for her young daughter’s hernia surgery, a new car and a house from Diamond Resorts International CEO Stephen Cloobeck. “Is this real?,” she said with tears in her eyes. And there was the deserving employee who was given a large sum of money from Budget Blinds CEO and co-founder Chad Hallock to build an extension on his home for his family.
Oddly, there was even one CEO, Doug Guller of Bikinis, a Hooters-style bar and grill, who offered one ecstatic employee potential access to a breast augmentation surgeon.
“At the end of the day, when you give back, it makes it all worthwhile,” said Chad Hallock in a behind the scenes interview. “When you see people right in front of you get welled up in tears, when you actually see it close up and personal, it is very emotional and unbelievably rewarding.”
“This was cathartic because instead of giving away the amount of money that I do each year to various charities throughout the United States and the world, I set up within my own company an emergency fund for my team members in need,” noted Stephen Cloobeck at the Television Critics Association Press Winter Press Tour in 2012. “Because I said to myself, ‘Why am I giving all this money away to disparate charities without taking care of my family?’ I own my company. I am the chairman. I’m the CEO. I’m the papa bear. So I funded and will seed this charity with $200,000 to start.”
For Modells, YESCO, Diamond Resorts International, Budget Blinds, and the over 100 other companies that have participated thus far, Undercover Boss offers an opportunity for branding, particularly as these overly generous CEOs shell out the big bucks for these worthy staff members. For the employees, the gifts and incentives makes this viewer – and you too, I am sure — a bit envious not to be on the receiving end. I mean, where was my “undercover boss” during the course of my career? And, for CBS, Undercover Boss remains a “Band-Aid” programming maneuver ready to fill a time period at any given moment. Nine new episodes are on tap for this new season.
The first four episodes in the upcoming season of Undercover Boss are College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving (Jan. 7), Fremont Street Experience (Jan. 14), The Vitamin Shoppe (Jan. 21) and Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard (Jan. 28). Air dates for the subsequent five companies’ episodes – Coco’s Bakery, Mayor of Fontana, Restoration 1, Round Table Pizza and UScellular – will be announced at a later time.
If you can suspend your disbelief as this next gaggle of employees spill their guts to their CEOs, sit back and get the Kleenix ready. That’s exactly what I plan to do.