It’s not every day the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company pays a visit to their store-level employees, particularly while operating covertly as a new hire. But that’s exactly what happens in almost every episode of CBS show Undercover Boss, and the results can be deeply moving.
While this shop-floor insight might lead some CEOs to discover that their workers aren’t following company rules or that staff are being mistreated by management, other bosses find themselves facing more difficult and profound questions. Questions, for example, about the gulf in lifestyle between employee and employer.
The first episode of Undercover Boss Season 4, originally broadcast in November 2012, featured Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, who disguised himself with a classic fake-mustache-and-glasses combo. But what he discovered during the show completely changed his perspective – and the life of one of his employees.
The show sets up the premise that Joey Glick, a.k.a. Modell, has turned up for his first day of work with the backstory of wanting to open his own sporting memorabilia store after his pizza restaurant failed. At one point, he’s introduced to Angel, an associate at a store, who explains to him the importance of great customer service. He’s clearly impressed by her attitude.
Things take a turn for the worse when Angel begins showing him round the store, however. Items are out of stock, or unavailable in a range of sizes, and customers are walking away dissatisfied. Modell isn’t happy, either, but he’s about to realize that there are more important things to worry about.
In the stock room, Angel asks “Joey” about his failed pizza business. He explains his bogus cover story, and this in turn inspires Angel to open up to him in the most incredible way.
Angel begins to offer Joey advice, telling him, “Sometimes you may have ups and sometimes you may have downs, but as long as you drive yourself, you’re gonna be fine.” Then things start to get really personal.
She goes on to tell Joey that she’s currently living with her three children in a homeless shelter, after having fallen pregnant at 25 and losing her job. The shock on Modell’s face is clear, as he listens to Angel’s stories of sleeping at bus stops and not having enough money to feed her kids.
But it’s Angel’s attitude that amazes Modell most of all, as she insists “things get better.” Both Angel and Modell start to tear up as she tells him to stick to his dreams and keep pushing for what he wants.
Modell realizes that he can do more. After all, he’s the one who decides how much his company’s staff get paid. He says that hearing Angel’s story “broke [his] heart,” and he’s clearly blown away by her attitude, dedication and enthusiasm.
Later in the show, of course, Modell reveals his true identity to an astonished Angel, and he tells her that her job performance was “above and beyond” anything he had ever expected from an associate. But Modell isn’t done yet.
He tells Angel that she’s the “kind of leader we want in our company,” and he promotes her to assistant manager, which comes complete with a $14,000 raise. Angel is, understandably, absolutely lost for words.
That’s not all, though. Indeed, things are about to get unimaginably better for this unassuming retail worker. Modell says he thinks about Angel living at the homeless shelter and that it kills him to see that she – a member of his staff – is still there.
He tells her that he has a check for her, and that he wants her to move out of the shelter immediately. Angel still can’t believe it, and when Modell tells her the value of the check, the look on her face is priceless.
Modell reveals the check is for $250,000, tax-free, and says he doesn’t want Angel to live in the homeless shelter ever again. The news overwhelms Angel, who is still rendered speechless by the entire ordeal and crumples to the floor.
From behind tears, Angel beams that she can tell her children they’re not going back to the shelter anymore and that they’ll have their own place where they can run out back and just be kids. With one generous act, Modell has completely turned Angel’s life around.
Later still, Modell addresses all of his employees and reflects upon the opportunity going undercover has given him. He says the past seven days have been the “most incredible education,” both personally and professionally.
The camera cuts to Angel, smiling in the crowd and holding back tears. It’s clear from just the expression on her face how much the experience has meant to her, too.
Modell also has one last admission, as he reveals that going undercover has made him realize the value of his life – and his health. He says he wants to get into better physical shape so that he can be there for his own kids.
Modell closes by saying he’s committed to getting into shape and getting his company into shape too. It’s amazing just how much of a difference it can make to look at the world through somebody else’s eyes, as Angel would no doubt agree.