February 07, 2010 11:41 PM by Nancy Floyd
Tonight after the Super Bowl, CBS unveils a new reality show, Undercover Boss. The show follows high-level corporate execs as they go undercover in their own companies to gain a better understanding of what life is really like for their blue-collar workers. Tonightâ€™s episode follows Larry Oâ€™Donnell, President and COO of Waste Management, the largest trash and recycling company in America. Undercover Boss follows him as he sorts trash at a recycling plant, cleans toilets, and collects garbageâ€¦
In tonightâ€™s episode of Undercover Boss, President & COO of Waste Management, Larry Oâ€™Donnell, is posing as Randy Lawrence, a construction worker who is being followed by a TV crew for a documentary. Not really sure why a camera crew would be following a construction worker for no apparent reason, but the employees of Waste Management donâ€™t seem to question the legitimacy of this claim. Maybe thatâ€™s problem #1.
Larryâ€™s first job with Waste Management is sorting trash at a recycling plant. Hoping to check the efficiency of both the plant and its workers, Larry has no clue what heâ€™s in for. From the looks of his temporary boss, Sandy, a loud-mouthed, frizzy-haired lady who slightly resembles a female version of Gargamel from the Smurfs, we think itâ€™s going to be awesome! After giving Larry earplugs and sleeves (to protect him from all the needles on the conveyer belt, of course), Sandy gives Larry his first test. What do the color-coded bins next to the recycling conveyer belt stand for? Red stands for cardboard, yellow stands for trash, and blue? Blue? What does blue stand for, Larry? Recyclables!! Ding ding ding! One point for Larry. Sandy also points out that diapers are trash. Thatâ€™s just a freebie for ya, Larry.
Larry scrambles to pull the items from the moving belt as Sandy screams in his ear the entire time. Despite Sandyâ€™s claims that sheâ€™s placed Larry on the slowest line in the plant, he still manages to jam the machine with cardboard, which gives them all an excuse to hurry off to lunch. Halfway through her meal, Sandy sprints from the room in a panic to clock back in. Apparently, the site manager, Kevin (who, from the looks of the video, does nothing but sit in his fancy office watching the entire staff on surveillance cameras with an evil grin on his face) has a strict policy that lunch lasts 30 minutes and not one minute more. In fact, for every minute that an employee is late, theyâ€™re docked two minutes of pay. This is exactly the kind of dishy information Larry was hoping to get from his little experiment. After a long day, Larry clocks out and heads back to his cheap hotel room where he ruminates on how â€œphysically demanding and mentally exhaustingâ€ the job was.
Day Two of the Undercover Boss experiment finds Larry working at a landfill in Florida for an elderly African-American gentleman named Walter. Larryâ€™s task for the day? Pick up litter on the side of a hill, inmate-style. Larry asks Walter for a technique. Walter is not amused by Larryâ€™s questions. He assures the camera that picking up paper is not rocket science. Thanks for clarifying that, Walter.
While at lunch, Walter tells Larry a bit more about his life. Heâ€™s lost the function in his kidneys and has been on dialysis for nearly 20 years. Due to his own health-related limitations, Walter doesnâ€™t have a lot of patience for Larryâ€™s poor work performance. Once theyâ€™re through with lunch, Walter times Larry to see how much trash he can collect in ten minutes. The strong winds are not working in Larryâ€™s favor and at the end of his timed test, Larry gets fired by Walter. Larry tells the camera, â€œWalter is the only person who has ever fired me in my whole career.â€ Apparently Larry is capable of running a multi-billion dollar company, but picking up paper is not really his strong suit.
Day Three of Undercover Boss finds Larry at a different landfill in upstate New York. His boss for the day is Jaclyn, a kind-hearted 20-something gal who has more job titles than Ryan Seacrest. Sheâ€™s the office manager, admin assistant, scale supervisor, accounts payable, and the list goes on. Despite the fact that she was originally hired on as an administrator, Jaclyn is pretty much running the show but has never gotten a raise. Sheâ€™s also had five forms of cancer before the age of 25! Not sure how this is relevant but itâ€™s certainly tugging on Larryâ€™s heartstrings. When Jaclyn realizes that Larryâ€™s new to town, she kindly invites him over to have dinner with her family where Larry learns that, in addition to her own family, sheâ€™s also taking care of her father and her sisterâ€™s family. Oh, and as if thatâ€™s not enough, she might have to sell her dream house because she canâ€™t afford it.
Larryâ€™s so moved by Jaclynâ€™s situation that he stays up late to talk to his camera all Blair-Witch-style in his hotel room about how desperately he wants to help her. The next day he confronts Jaclynâ€™s boss to discuss ways to possibly change her situation. More on how that works out that in a minuteâ€¦
Day Four finds Larry working at a carnival. That sounds fun, right? I should probably mention that his job is to clean out the port-a-potties. Calm your gag reflexes. Larryâ€™s boss today is Fred, an energetic and hilarious man who somehow makes the job fun. Larry and Fred use a vacuum-like contraption to suck out the excrement from the toilets. When thatâ€™s done, they get to scrub out the port-a-potties. Throughout the whole process, Fred keeps Larry laughing as they attack what Fred calls â€œThe Battlefield of Poop.â€ Clever name, Fred.
Larryâ€™s final day as the Undercover Boss finds him at a trash hauling company in New York. He sets out to collect garbage with Janice, who spends the majority of the time complaining about corporate and â€œthe man,â€ not realizing of course that all of her anger and frustration is a direct result of the decisions made by the guy beside her. One of her biggest concerns is that the company is not very female-friendly. Case in point: she has to pee in a can during her route. As if you ladies out there needed another reason NOT to become a garbage collector, here it is. Aside from her issues with corporate, Janice has managed to make quite an impact on her customers. So much so that they often wait in their driveways to see her each week and bring her presents. Wow. Who are these people that build such a strong bond with their garbage man (or woman, in this case)? One lady brings Janice her favorite type of soda while another recites a moving letter sheâ€™s written about Janiceâ€™s kindness. The latter brings Larry to tears as he muses about how he never expected to have emotional issues while riding on the back of a garbage truck. Most of us donâ€™t, Larry.
Now that his experiment is over, Larry wants to fix the problems that heâ€™s created within his company. Heâ€™s ready to change the way he approaches his own job. First task? Meet with the senior leadership team to throw around a bunch of corporate sounding words like â€œmomentumâ€ and â€œfront lineâ€ while they stare at him blankly. Task completed.
Second task? Revealing his true identity. Larry brings in the men and women he personally worked with to tell them the truth about who he really is. Naturally, theyâ€™re all curious about why theyâ€™ve been flown in for a visit to Waste Managementâ€™s corporate offices while a camera crew follows them. Theyâ€™re all quite shocked when Larry reveals his true identity and talks to each employee one-on-one about how he can improve their particular situation.
Fred (the enthusiastic port-a-potty cleaner also known asÂ King of the Battlefield of Poop) is thrilled to see Larry again! Larry loves Fredâ€™s positive attitude about the job and invites him to speak to Waste Managementâ€˜s senior leadership team to impart his enthusiasm.
Larry wants to create a program that would allow paid time off for a guy like Walter (the elderly man on dialysis) and a task force that would help improve conditions for garbage truck drivers like Janice. This â€œmeans a lotâ€ to Walter and Janice thinks itâ€™s â€œawesome. Really, really awesome.â€ Larry also confronts Kevin (the creepy surveillance-camera-watching supervisor that docks his employee’s pay for eating lunch too long) about his lunchtime policy, which Kevin quickly promises to change.
Lastly, Larry meets with Jaclyn (the underpaid, overworked multitasker) and offers her a salary package, a promotion, and the ability to find and hire other employees. Jaclyn is speechless and grateful that all of her hard work has been noticed.
Finally, Larry shares his experience with the entire company. After making a speech, he shows a highlight reel of his time on the road. Larry feels more of a connection with his workers, realizes the impacts of his decisions, and vows to make a difference. Cheering and crying ensues. Undercover Boss wraps up with a where-are-they-now style update, letting us know that Fred (King of the Battlefield of Poop) is now using his enthusiasm to bring joy to patients at a nearby hospital, Janice is working with Larry to create a more female-friendly work environment (no more peeing in cans!! YESS!!), and Walter has become a health mentor for the entire company.
Tune in to Undercover Boss next week when the CEO of Hooters goes undercover to work in his own restaurants. Hereâ€™s hoping heâ€™ll have to wear some tight orange shorts and a half shirtâ€¦
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Photos Courtesy of CBS