CBS’ ‘Undercover Boss’ Proved Good For Businesses

A scene from Undercover Boss.  (CBS)

A scene from Undercover Boss. (CBS)

Michael Rubin went on CBS’ ‘Undercover Boss‘ hoping it would be good for business on “many levels.”

After the episode aired in late March, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of GSI Commerce found himself overwhelmed by positive feedback. His phone didn’t stop ringing and email filled his Inbox. “The reaction has been amazing,” he told Fancast a few days after the episode aired.

For the network, ‘Undercover Boss,’ which premiered after the Super Bowl on February 7, turned out to be a monster hit. More than 38 million people tuned in for the debut episode, featuring Larry O’Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management; the show’s nine episode run retained a large audience, won praise from Arianna Huffington, was called “emotionally stirring” by the Wall Street Journal, and earned a second season pickup, with a note that the format would change somewhat.

But did the show turn out to be good for the businesses featured on ‘Undercover Boss’?

YouGov’s Brandindex looked at three of the enterprises and according to the study, which was reported at, the results were mostly positive – at least temporarily.

7-Eleven, whose President and CEO went undercover as a trainee and delivery man, improved on its negative reputation as a place to work.

[iframe–7-Eleven/embed 580 476]

White Castle, whose founder’s great-grandson, worked on an the assembly line, “experienced a substantial leap over a three-week period,” reported Brandweeeek. com, but has declined since.

[iframe—White-Castle/embed 580 476]

And Hooters, whose President and CEO went to work in one of his restaurants only to get fired after a day, scored a small uptick in perception as a good place to work.

[iframe—Hooters/embed 580 476]


Does the report contain any surprises? No, not really. Given the show’s positive, warm and fuzzy format, with deserving employees getting rewarded, poor employees getting reprimanded, and the CEO’s getting enlightened as to how hard their employees work, it has to be expected that companies are going to enjoy a more positive perception – at least in the short run, as YouGov’s study showed. But what about long-term, after the episode has faded from memory?

“You can’t do this just for the show,” Rubin told Fancast. “For me, this was about learning and growing. And I can tell you that I’m a better CEO as a result of this experience. That alone is significant.”

What effect if any did this series have on you?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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