So last night was episode 2 of Undercover Boss -- or as I like to call it, “You mean I run a company?”
The rest of us just have morbid curiosity and the usual February 14th boredom. And so we watch.
Undercover Boss, Week 2: “It’s none too pleasant in here!”
Right off the bat, Week 2 seemed to have it all. Wings, beer, beautiful women. And Jimbo. We will be discussing Jimbo at length.
First let’s meet Coby Brooks, CEO of Hooters. Or as he likes to call it, “Hooters Nation.” That’s fair. It’s not so much a collection of stores as it is a nation.
By the way, CBS did not go undercover at Hooters so it could do pan shots of women’s breasts.
Back to Cody. Like Larry “family is the joy of my life” O’Connell, Coby also “loves being a dad” because “it’s the best.” Also like Larry, Coby had many astute observations about the life of a CEO, including that it “has its benefits and perks and drawbacks.”
In all seriousness, I did find Coby’s back story compelling. The son of Hooters’ founder Robert Brooks, Coby was suddenly thrown into the position of CEO when Robert named Coby successor without even consulting him. Coby was the lone Brooks descendent (his brother died in a plane crash in 1993) and, while his relationship with his father remained contentious till he passed in 2006, Coby grew to love the company. And then he grew to love it enough to familiarize himself with it via Undercover Boss.
Coby’s first and most challenging task was to think of an undercover name that’s lamer than “Coby.” Which is how we got “Scotty.”
I immediately liked the executives at Hooters. Mostly because when Coby told them he was going undercover, someone asked, “How? We have your photo everywhere.”
Clearly this gentleman did not know Coby would hidden deep within the fortress that is the name “Scotty.” But just to be on the safe side, Coby added to his disguise a pair of “I’m a sex offender!” glasses.
So Coby went “into the trenches” to try to figure out why Hooters was losing business. His theory is that the name offends people. Not the breast-and-nipple shaped door handles at corporate.
Like Larry, Coby had the usual ups-and-downs associated with having to do actual tasks. He met some incredible people (I highly recommend Marcee, the sympathetic, respectful former Hooters girl and store manager.) But honestly, all these details faded in the face of a man known only to us as Jimbo.
As we all know, every time a CEO goes undercover he finds one “bad” person, corrects his behavior and – in the process of doing this – saves his company and the world as a whole.
Last week, a middle-manager was caught docking his employees double-pay for every minute they were late clocking in from lunch. This was a clean violation of company policy and easily fixable (remember the triumphant “slap on the wrist?”)
This week, Coby observed something less easily fixable: the degrading, inhumane “reindeer games” Jimbo forced his female employees to participate in purely for his own enjoyment.
First, Jimbo would line them up and “inspect” them – their hair, their nails, the tattoos on their body. Coby was so disturbed that he briefly entertained that perhaps Jimbo wasn’t “clear on how the brand should be treated.”
Next, Jimbo brainstormed some creative ways to figure out who to let go home when traffic was light. “Maybe we get all the girls in a bean eating contest! Shove their faces down in the beans and have them clean it up!”
At that, Coby stepped up and decided to be brave:
Coby: ….Do they seem to like that kind of thing?
Jimbo: Hey, no rules!
And so Coby “helplessly” watched while six women, hands behind their back, ate through plates of beans so they could earn the right to go home.
When Coby sat Jimbo down and revealed his true identity, I was eager to learn what he would do about it. Coby explained to Jimbo that his behavior was inappropriate.
Then, Jimbo did something we never expected somebody named Jimbo to do: he fought back! “Well, If I’m too competitive, and I’m too harsh, shame on me!”
Wow. Jimbo just doesn’t get it. You’re going to, like, fire him, right?
We learned later that Jimbo was forced to …. apologize to his staff. And “work on his management style.” Style. They used the word style.
This was where Coby lost all my sympathy. Simply, I am amazed that someone with so much power, who was so pained by what he saw (he actually cried), wouldn’t do more to help his employees.
Also, while we all saw the degrading, disgusting behavior of the manager, when it came time for the big True Identity Hooplah, footage of these “reindeer games” were mysteriously missing.
Of course, watching footage of Hooters women leaning into plates of hot beans while their boss chuckles and stares at their breasts -- on a huge Jumbo Screen -- might have complicated the requisite laughing, crying, slow-motion-my-life-has-changed-forever! montage we’re treated to at the end of every episode of Undercover Boss.
So thank you, Coby, for “encouraging” Jimbo to work on his “management style.” Thank you for sending Marcee on a “long vacation” and solving all her problems (It really did solve all her problems. We learned in the Montage of Triumph that she “took a less stressful job in the company” so she would have more time to spend with her kids. You know, as a single mother.)
It truly was – as Coby said – an “absolutely riveting, emotional 7 days" at Hooters Nation. I can't wait to get my passport.