Well, I've found it. The worst show on television.
It's impossible not to squirm in your seat (Unless you're Meg Whitman) as you watch CBS's feel-good hit "Undercover Boss." It's a reality show where the CEO of a midsized company goes undercover to work and mingle with the little people he lords over. The night I watched the CEO of Choice Hotels International shaved off his moustache, traded in his extra-hefty silk suit for an off the rack number and worked incognito as a trainee, learning the ropes as a housekeeper, salesman, maintenance man and front desk manager at a few of his hotels.
Believe it or not, he's dumbstruck to discover that the working stiffs live paycheck to paycheck, get no perks from the parent company and live lives of quiet desperation. The maintenance man dreams of the day he'll have a golf cart like the housekeepers so he won't have to schlep all day in 95 degree Florida heat and humidity emptying garbage cans and cleaning the pool. (The overweight CEO has trouble keeping up with the elderly maintenance guy and sweats profusely as he staggers around the hotel complex picking up after the guests.)
While doing his undercover spy shtick, the CEO is dumbstruck to discover that the maintenance man holds down two jobs and works seven days a week to pay for college for his two sons. He's gob smacked when he learns that the front desk receptionist had a child at fifteen and lived in a car with her infant after her parents threw her out of the house (Yet she's still so cheerful!) and dreams of saving enough money for a trip to San Antonio.
After the CEO returns to corporate headquarters he holds a meeting with his board of directors. He's shocked; SCHOCKED to learn that coffee is not free in most of the rooms. You have to pay extra. The board members are aware of this (I'm sure they all approved the move to squeeze another dollar out of each customer) but they frown along with the boss at this injustice and vow to correct it. He tells the board that it's time they buckled down and start being accountable to the customers. Gee, there's a novel idea!
Then comes the fun part. He reveals himself to the employees whom he interacted with. (They are all brought to corporate headquarters on some flimsy ruse about giving feedback about the new "Employee") To all of their shock, the new employee is the CEO! And he's there to reward them for all their backbreaking service at minimum wage.
With syrupy music playing softly in the background, he tells the front desk receptionist how much he admires her grit and determination, so he rewards her by giving her a week's vacation in... San Antonio! Since her story about living in a car affected him so much, the CEO is going to pay for her next six months rent. (That should come out somewhere south of $6,000) Then the receptionist fights back the tears as she tells the camera what a great guy the CEO is.
For the put upon maintenance man with two jobs, two kids to put through college and an always-sunny disposition, he's going to get him that golf cart so he can do more work during the day and have more pep for his night job. Oh, and he informs the maintenance guy that the company has a scholarship program in place. Unfortunately it's only available to management. However the maintenance man's pluck and sunny disposition "inspired me to make that program available to all the folks who work at all the Choice Hotels." Wow! Whatta guy!
Then it's time to address the little people who make his company run. He stands in front of about two hundred of them in an auditorium to tell them what he's been up to the past couple of days. He shows highlights of his week undercover and how foolish he looked trying to do an honest days work. The workers laugh and applaud. The CEO tells them that he's "surprised by the quality of the people we've got at our hotels" and he receives cheers. Oh, and he's going to join a gym to finally get in shape so he can be around a lot longer to enjoy the fruits of all their labors.
I think I've seen this script before. "A Christmas Carol." Each week, CBS finds another Scrooge to shower the Tiny Tims in their employ with things that fall under the category of just plain decency. You think about all the thousands of other employees who unfortunately didn't get to interact with the CEO and get nothing but the same old lousy working conditions they've unfortunately grown accustomed to.
It's hard to believe that these CEO's have absolutely no idea how hard real people work and how tough it is to get by today with wages slashed to the bone to keep the stockholders happy. Shame on them. Shame on CBS for exploiting this situation as "entertainment." Shame on us for letting this happen.