This 'Undercover Boss' Went Too Far to Be Believed

Kimberly SchaeferUndercover Boss didn't just "jump the shark" during last night's episode. It leaped over the entire aquarium.

The hit reality-TV show, which features CEOs "learning" about the their own companies by working in disguise at low-level jobs, has generally been a fairly innocuous fairy tale whose central message is that CEOs are wizards who can make the dreams of hard-working people come true. Until now, it was a harmless diversion. But yesterday's episode featuring Kimberly Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts (WOLF), required viewers not just to suspend their common sense but to obliterate it completely.

Everything about the episode featuring Schaefer, the first female undercover CEO, seemed fake. She came across as a driven, ambitious executive with a kind and supportive stay-at-home husband. "If it were up to me, I would work all the time," she says, adding without irony, "I feel like I need to have it all."

Who doesn't?

Once again, producers teamed the CEO with plucky employees who have sad personal stories. For instance, Bree, who ran a children's activity group, didn't know how she was going to afford college for her daughter with her husband out of work. Kelly is a young man who grew up without a father and now is supervising lifeguards at a water park after only a few months on the job. Front-desk worker Jackie kept a cheerful attitude even as customers grew surly about having to wait 15 minutes to check in. Server Deanna was grieving over the death of her daughter but nonetheless seemed to enjoy her job.

Dirty Pool

But like every other boss-in-disguise, Schaefer seems to know more about spreadsheets than people. She's surprised by things that should be expected, and she's unable to do the most basic tasks that her employees do every day. Schaefer is yet another CEO who's portrayed as hapless when confronted by the simplest jobs.

For instance, while working with the kids, it was clear Schaefer didn't know anything about baking. That's odd considering that for her Undercover Boss cover, she was a stay-at-home mom. Surely, she must have baked Toll-House cookies at least once. She exclaimed: "I have no idea how I am going to get through the next half hour." The kids, by the way, were well behaved.

Kelly made Schaefer get an AFR (accidental fecal release) from one of the pools at the park. That made for great TV, but it probably happens every day at a business that caters to families with young children, some of whom may not be toilet-trained. Problems with the check-in process were well-known to the company. No doubt executives saw the negative online reviews such as this one from: "Let's start with saying don't believe it when they tell you [they] have early check in! 1pm check in turned into a 4:15 check in!"

One of Undercover Boss's trademarks is the end of the show, when the CEO "reveals" his or her true identify. Then, like a fairy godmother or the Wizard of Oz, the big boss make dreams come true. Often, it's a promotion or money. But in Schaefer's episode, the show took a nosedive into make believe. She offers to pay for Kelly's flying lessons and give Jackie's daughter a scholarship to college. Along with a more steady schedule, Jackie also got time off to take care of her bad knees. Deanna got six months off with pay so she doesn't need to work double shifts.

At this point, I threw up my hands. Flying lessons? What possible business justification exists for funding such an expense that has nothing to do with Great Wolf Resorts? How do you explain such odd generosity to employees who weren't lucky enough to be featured on the show, who might want a paid sabbatical to hike the Appalachian Trail or to work on a novel?

It just goes to show that Undercover Boss itself is a work of fiction.

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Dana Patricia

No its not.

September 14 2013 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Apart from everything on comedy central this is the dumbest show on TV by far.........

October 05 2010 at 1:27 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

7-Eleven requires that its stores stay open 24 hours a day. Instead of giving the "boss" work assignments that put him with others working the third shift, they should have put him working alone in one of many stores that are located in dangerous parts of town. He would have known the feeling of risking ones life waiting on the psychos that run around during the night.

October 04 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The show was created for entertainment, Jonathan Berr should understand that. It's just a show. CBS, keep up the good work. Thanks for the entertainment.

October 04 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
C.A. Prescott Sr

Guess you did not watch the show in better detail. She earned her postion and went up through the ranks as it was not given to her. Her husband is the stay at home parent not her and they are fine with that. She admits she is away for home way to much of the time. I beleive she said she spends 70 percent of the time with her job away from home during the show. Does someone pick the staff these CEO's on the show work with? Most likely as I agree alot of it appears staged with who they are linked with. She agreed to fund the one guy's private pilot license - not the whole package to becoming a commercial pilot - About $7000.00 for this gift The girl given 6 months off, that was her working a second job not both jobs. She never claimed to be a cook when making the pizza. Are the waits to long to check in? Yes, but this should have been fixed along time ago by middle mangement. Again she needs to reset priorties with her family. At least she called her daughter. I enjoyed seeing her mistakes as a waiteress. Show she is human for sure. I wonder why they did not have already have set up family day's and passes for the staffs families already? Thats a no brainer, should be part of benefits of working there already.

October 04 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes, the show has some flaws BUT the people I talk to enjoy seeing highly overpaid CEOs finding out what workers in companies do. Overall, a good show.

October 04 2010 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loved this show last season. Unless they filmed 2-3 seasons before any of the shows aired, it would be impossible for employees not to be suspicious when a camera crew is following a newbie around all day. Also how does the CEO not create suspicion when he/she candidly speaks to the camera while still on location about a situation?

October 04 2010 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Thought it was interesting that she hardly spends time with her kids and at the beginning the kids complain about her being gone so much. Yet she states later that her kids are the most important thing in her life. Seems a little fake. Think her job is much more important than her kids. Whats she trying to prove?????????

October 04 2010 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply