Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Rerun: Boss Tweeds

I guess it's reality TV, if you need to specify the genre, but it doesn't have any Kardashians, and hardly any fishing, and no icy roads at all, so I like to watch "Undercover Boss" when someone interesting is on.

The premise of the show is very simple.  The head cheese of some big company puts on a disguise and works among hoi polloi, so as to get a little taste of life on the other side of the assembly line, pizza oven or fish nets.

The setup never varies.  The show opens with a look at the company involved, and then we meet the HPIC* who talks a bit about how well the company is doing, but he/she thought it would be a good idea to leave the home office for a couple of days and work with people who actually do the work.  So the boss gets fitted for hair extensions, or a toupee in the case of a man experiencing baldness, and they add or remove facial hair, glasses, and color the hair.  Slip Mr or Ms Big into a company uniform or whatever mufti they wear delivering pizzas, and away we go!

They always come up with a cover story for the people on the job site, lest they become concerned as to why there are 27 cameras pointed at them.  They say that they are part of a reality show where one lucky guy just won his own Domino's franchise and is learning to make pizzas and drive real fast with pizzas in his car so as to run the place.   Or that they are shooting a reality show about people whose businesses went under and are trying to get back in the game in this new line of work.

The hitch is, it has to be a huge company for this to work.  I mean, if you're the head sandwich maker at Nick 'n' Tony's Deli, and you come to work one day and neither Nick nor Tony are around but you see someone who looks a lot like Tony prowling around trying to slice prosciutto, you're gonna get wise in a hurry, you know what I'm saying to you here?  But if you are one of 83,000 burger flippers working for Checkers, and the boss looks like the guy on the left above, and then one day a guy in a red shirt and vest is introduced to you as a new trainee who used to run a Blockbuster, you'll go for it, sure as heck.

So, the tycoon reports to work and there's always a problem, always a complaint.  Working conditions are awful, the equipment is so bad that "I have to bring in my own cleaning supplies from home" (Popeye's) or "I can't hear the customers in the drive-thru line" (Checkers.)  We get to hear the personal problems of the people tasked to work with El Supremo, and that comes in handy later.

As does all the pointing-out-of-problems, because like in last week's episode about Oriental Trading Company - America's #1 source for inflatable golf clubs, giant gag eyeglasses and pink lawn flamingos - the guy loading the truck on a day when the temperature hit 103° told the cheese that they used to get free sports drinks when it was that hot.  The boss is then shown in deep remorse as he realizes that it was his idea, when the economy hit the skids, to cut back on the free electrolyte replacements.  Hey, it's never 103° in the boardroom!

Then all the employees are called to the home office, and the big shot prances in and watches the dawn of recognition break across their furrowed brows.  He/she then earnestly avows to take their suggestions and complaints to heart, hands out money for cars, scholarships and medical bills, and there you are for another week.

Peggy was asking what percentage of the promises of sweeping reform benefiting the working person I thought were actually carried out.  I guess 50-50, but maybe that's high. Or low. I have to figure that at least once, as soon as the camera crew drove away, some boss said, "That guy in Omaha who said I made pizza like a drunken aardvark...get him in here...NOW!"

Tune in next week for our new hit series "Unemployment."

*HPIC= Head Person In Charge

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