7-11′s CEO grows some stubble to blend-in with his employees and look for ways to improve the company. He doesn’t really find any besides getting someone replacement bulbs and to reinforce a policy of charitable giving that was already in place. But no, really, you should watch it!
Let this man take you on a magic carpet ride.
The economy is IN TROUBLE. Americans blame WEALTHY CEOS. EXTREME TIMES CALL FOR EXTREME MEASURES! Like stubble! And baseball caps…
We all do our part.
This week, Joe DePinto, a man who’s name commanded him to be a boxer, but who went to business school instead, goes undercover at 7-11 to see just how fucking dirty it really is. He’s going to trade in his executive office and personal putting green, for a mop, and a pot ‘a joe! Honestly, with the way this show is intro’d, you’d think these dudes were leaving a full-service penthouse at the Wynn to go see how Auchwitz was for a week. If I were them, I’d be happy to mop floors for a few days just to escape the nation’s hatred. Sigh, grass is always greener, I guess. NO ONE KNOWS HE’S THE BOSS. HOW WILL HIS COWORKERS REACT? FIND HOW HE WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES ON “UNDERCOVER BOSS”! Or in this case, how much he enjoyed meeting them. Read on…
This picture is about as high stakes as this episode.
So let’s learn about 7-11. They have gazillions of stores on five continents and are headquartered in Dallas. Joe DePinto is their fearless leader, taking on problems in squeegee(sp?) malfunctions and doughnut logistics at every turn! It would seem the writers agree that Joe DePinto is really should have taken a career path that took him down some sort of professional sports route, because they introduce him as, “The baron of the Big Bite!” (whilst showing a picture of a big gulp, but whatever), “The Sultan of the Slurpee!”, and “The King of Convenience!” All of which are followed by this shot:
And here’s Joe, who launches into a speech about 7-11 that is so boring and mild-mannered, that I can’t picture this guy being CEO of his own bathroom much less a multi-billion dollar company. Sultan of Slurpee my foot. 7-11′s been around since 1927, and they follow a franchise model. This means they work with independent operators that sell 7-11 products, while being supported materially by the home office in Dallas. When I reread that sentence on my first revision, I could not remember writing it. This man doesn’t appear to be an asshole, but charismatic he ain’t. Joe’s from Chicago and his first job was selling papers! I hope the producers know that doesn’t buy anyone street cred anymore. Sell cocaine, steal a car, go to prison, THEN become CEO of 7-11. That’s the kinda shit that impresses nowadays.
Joe was also a graduate of West Point and had a military career that from the pictures appeared to be pretty impressive and combat-heavy, but who knows? After introducing the audience to something the bulk of them would be interested to know about this person, we get about ten seconds of how the Army taught him to lead and take care of people which has informed his leadership of 7-11.
I don’t care about all the “leadership” you learned, I want to know what he just blew up!
Onto Joe’s family, which consists of his incredibly Texan wife and four boys. Seriously, she’s blond with diamonds, and the boys are playing football. Welcome to Dallas! Joe’s wife says that upon meeting Joe, she realized just how impressive and respected an Army officer he was, and just knew he would go far. I don’t doubt that, but somehow I think Mrs. DePinto was instrumental in booting Joe’s ass into the private sector once they started having babies.
After the requisite family-man segment, Joe says that what he wants to get out of this venture is to continue 7-11′s mission to make the company better. According to Joe, they are always on said mission, which makes me giggle considering the last major development I’ve seen come out of 7-11 was the P’eatzza – a pizza sandwich that a bunch of people on “The Apprentice” failed to sell. I’m sure the reasons are obvious.
They thought it was stupid, too.
One of the things Joe really wants to do is see how the mother ship in Dallas really does support the scout ships all over the world. Other than that, uhhh, not much else. He meets with his executive team, who are only slightly more insightful and supportive of the idea than the leptons surrounding Coby, last week. I mean, they ask questions, but they’re questions like, “Do you think you’ll learn anything that will make us change the way we do things?” It’s all incredibly rehearsed, and parrots the lame reasons for doing this Joe already told us. Thankfully it’s short, and he gets on his way. The complete lack of excitement and engagement on Joe’s part for his own operation leads me to believe that the true motivation behind this entire endeavor was to figure out how to deal with going from a Field Artillery Officer to a paunchy CEO without using a hooker or copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.
Time for the TRANSFORMATION! If you haven’t noticed, this is becoming my favorite part of the show, since almost everything else is proving to be a bit of a letdown. Much like Coby’s simple and disturbingly effective facial hair removal disguise of last week, all Joe needs is a baseball cap and some stubble to look like he’s dropped out of every school he’s ever been in, only to end up as an entry-level employee at middle age.
His cover is “Danny,” and he was in real estate or something else that tanked with the economy and is looking for a new direction. Oooh, I’m enjoying this show while I can, because it’s going to take about two more episodes of this incredibly recognizable formula before thousands of people are going to bring makeup artists and their best behavior to work in case a “documentary crew” shows up.
Job One sees Joe waking up at 4am, a little apprehensive because he knows he’s not going to be good at every job he tries. Be all you can be, Joe. Be all that you can be. He’s at a store in Shirley, NY, that is “the epicenter of coffee for 7-11.” I guess they sell crazy more coffee than any other store. Since coffee is such a big part of the 7-11 business, Joe’s investigating to see whether it’s the location, the people, the type of coffee (which I assume is identical to every other bit of coffee that comes out of Dallas) or what! I can’t wait to find out. He walks in and meets Delores, whom I consider awesome within two seconds of her introduction. He asks if she’s Delores, she answers with a, “You Danny? Here, put this on,” and hands him a shirt. Delores’ middle name is “No” and her last name is “Nonsense.” She’s brassy, sassy and rocks a Long Island accent that makes me want to hug her knees and call her grandma.
Don’t fuck with Delores. She won’t cut you, but I will.
She says she’s gotta show him the ropes and that they’ll start with the easy stuff. I assume that’s making coffee, because that’s all that’s shown. In the midst of this, Delores greets by name everyone who comes on camera, and when Joe asks how she can do that, she says matter-of-factly that she’s been at the store for 18 years. Plus, she’s awesome. I added that part for her benefit, because Delores, in addition to being amazing, is also modest. Joe amuses her to no end by suggesting the coffee area would be more convenient with a sink, or something logical like that, and she lifetime smoker-laughs, “Ha! Pipe dreams, Honey! Already he’s comin’ up with all these ideas.” Next time I am anywhere in New York, I’m getting to Shirley for coffee. Joe says that whatever apprehension he felt at first is disappearing because of Delores. Little does he know that according to her, “he ain’t seen nothing yet – the rush hour is just beginning.” My head is filled with hilarious fantasies of Delores in an army uniform leading a team of fearless soldiers, all having pledged undying loyalty to her and their cause – getting coffee to the masses by hook or by crook!!
We’re treated to a montage of Delores shouting, “Danny!” several hundred times as he pretty much fails completely to impress her. She calls him a little bit of a “mushy-mush” and proudly exclaims that he is totally shocked by the amount of coffee they sell. I mentally kiss her on both cheeks. Then another montage of Delores as she greets everyone and everything by name, and we find out at the end of it, that she is on dialysis and in need of a donor kidney. She refuses to take one from a member of her family, because she’s afraid of what would happen if one of her kids were to get sick like her and only have one kidney. Joe, like myself (a weepy fucking mess at this point, in case you were wondering), is incredibly touched by this and tell Delores she is amazing. She answers, “No, I’m not.” right away. God, this segment needs to end – my bitchy has run clean the fuck away. Don’t look at me!
Joe correctly deduces that the only reason this store does so much coffee business is because of Delores. Delores sure hopes this wasn’t an interview for Danny because he was pretty slow. She and I both laugh heartily.
Delores is the anti-Jimbo.
Job 2! Joe heads to a bakery in Baltimore where they make, you guessed it, a bunch of 7-11′s highly processed and mediocre baked goods. Pastries are a big part of 7-11′s new push to have more fresh food in their thousands, upon thousands of stores. THAT, Delores, is a pipe dream. Joe’s going to be working the line and checking out quality assurance. He’ll be working with Phil, who handles the bakery’s training department, enabling Joe gets to check out how well new employees are received and started out. Item one: dough! Phil shows Joe the “beautiful, beautiful dough” from which many of the pastries are made, and proceeds to knead it lovingly… followed by both Joe and Phil joking about how much like a boob it feels. I am never eating a doughnut from 7-11 again.
Next up – fritter line! Let’s hope they keep the sexual metaphors to a minimum. There’s a moving line with trays that need to fit five fritters each. The challenge here (and if you’ve handled uncooked pastries, you can appreciate it) is to place the fritters quickly, but without letting them fall apart. Joe, of course, fails completely at this even at the slowest pace, but I don’t blame him one bit. That shit is hard – pastry chefs are the unsung ninjas of the food service. Phil is supportive, but makes enough fun of Joe for me to like him a whole lot. He leaves to get flour, and in that time, Joe totally loses his shit and can’t keep up. The funny part here is that Joe is way more concerned about it than Phil, who has obviously taught real Dannys how to do this job, and Phil just jokes about taking money out of Joe’s paycheck. Joe, in a testament to his commitment, looks really worried for a minute, before he remembers he owns all this shit, and could probably pee all over the beautiful, beautiful dough, wipe with a fritter and have the employees take him out to lunch.
It becomes clear to Joe that this is a tough job, and as his respect for Phil deepens, he decides that it is appropriate for them to get to know one another better. Phil’s been around for about eight years, and before that he was in the Marines. They bond over their respective military backgrounds, and Phil breaks my heart when he finds out that Joe’s specialty was field artillery and happily says, “And you here? Just like I am?” This show has an ugly side, too… Joe interviews that he thinks Phil is a wonderful trainer, and that his Marine experience obviously played a part in that. They head to the breakroom where Phil shows Joe some of his artwork. Artwork is to Phil what dialysis was to Delores. Jimbo of last week got no such storyline – I think the show is trying to tell us that only awesome people experience personal hardship and crushed dreams.
I don’t know how talented Phil really is, but he draws a superhero bench pressing a doughnut with glaze dripping all over him, and that is something I cannot assail. Joe ends the job having had a great day away from corporate talk just having fun and eating doughnuts. Joe? It’s fun because you get to walk back to your bigass mansion at the end of the week. If you’re an artist, but this is your life, it’s not such a walk in the magical land of bakery.
How I wish part of “training” was slipping newcomers pot doughnuts…
Joe further gets into character by making himself a TV dinner and narrates that he’s glad to see that at least this bakery, due to the spectacular employees, he can trust to hold up the high standards of 7-11. I repeat, Joe eats a tv dinner, in a nasty hotel room and gabs about the high standards of 7-11. Joe’s middle name is Self, and his last name is Deluded.
Joe’s work in Baltimore is finished, so he hops on a plain back to New York where Joe will work the night shift. He wants to meet the people who work the night shift and find out why they do it, so he can find ways to keep them motivated. Joe? People work the night shift because they have other shit going on during the day. It’s not that complicated. He meets his supervisor, Waquas, and is put to work. He’s got to stock, clean and greet. No, he is not good at it. Waquas, from Pakistan, calls him Mr. Danny, and when Mr. Danny doesn’t meet his standards, Waquas gleefully makes him clean the bathrooms. There are no major fuck-ups, so we move right along to the human interest.
What stereotypical background will be applied to you?
Waquas is a student, so that’s why he works the night shift. Mystery solved, Joe. Tough one, eh? He’s getting a BA in Criminal Justice, which makes him a “fine young man” in Joe’s eyes. Waquas continues to impress the shit out of Joe by being something a lot of us were for four years, until the unthinkable happens! Waquas proceeds to throw away the old doughnuts (so lovingly fondled by Phil just weeks before!) and bagels as opposed to giving them to charities. Joe shows the most emotion we’ll see this episode when he angry puppy-dogs that this food is supposed to be going to charity, not in the garbage. I’m guessing Dallas just told everyone to give their stuff to charity, but didn’t offer any support to do so, because we never do learn why it was getting thrown out. Also, laws are different city to city, and sometimes you have to go through some serious red tape to give old food to people who need it. Again, not addressed.
Waquas’ dad shows up with food, and the three men sit down and talk about why Waquas doesn’t think there’s room for advancement at 7-11. Like, there’s an entire conversation about it. Mostly it’s Waquas trying to articulate something so obvious that it’s actually hard to express in words, but eventually Joe gets the picture that Waquas ain’t stayin’ at no 7-11 waiting for his head to get blown off for what’s in the register once he’s got his BA. Joe has a sad monkey moment after Waquas bids him goodbye, and resolves to find a way to help keep the good employees he has.
Job 4 – another store in and around Long Island New York, which happens to be one of the highest grossing stores in their system. What’s with all the high performing 7-11′s in Long Island and surrounding environs? Is Tony Soprano the franchisee? This is the store that Joe is particularly concerned about when it comes to how the Dallas epicenter supports the individual store. To that end, he introduces himself to Lori, the manager, and starts washing windows. That’s some keen detective work there, Joe. Lori seems cool, but is honestly so tedious I have to keep checking to make sure I have her name right. Joe continues his investigation by sweeping floors, stocking shelves and other general maintenance, until Eureka! Lori asks him to make a maintenance call to Dallas because some of their fluorescent lights are out in the store and in the backroom! Finally, an opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes! Joe calls, speaks to someone named Jerry, and tells them that the store has had lights out for a total of three whole weeks now, and just what is Dallas gonna do about it? He hears some mysterious clicking on the other end of the line, and Jerry goes deathly quiet.
Lori warned him not to make waves.
“You need to hang up, now,” says Jerry, “It’s not safe.” “What do you mean?” Joe asks, valiantly attempting to avoid blowing his cover. “They’re listening!!” he whispers frantically and the line goes dead… Joe takes a deep breath and hangs up the phone, slowly realizing that the problems in Dallas go far deeper than he could ever have expected…
Seriously, though, Joe calls Jerry, Jerry says someone’ll be out to change fluorescent lights I have to believe could be found at a hardware store within a mile of the store sometime this MONTH. Apparently Dallas qualifies lights out in a store as a low priority, so it’s relegated to a standard monthly visit. Lori looks like she could give two shits given that you can still fucking see everything, but Joe is deeply, deeply disturbed. He vows to right this grievous wrong immediately, so he calls the CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER of the entire company, to make sure that Lori gets her lights on time. He is excited to offer Lori a “nice surprise.” I think that’s exactly what it will be. Look at how “Undercover Boss” changes lives!
Looks like another light went out…
Aah, trabajo Ãºltimo. Joe heads back to Dallas for his final mission as a delivery truck driver. These people are the backbone of his organization and he wants to see what their jobs are all about. Lots of driving I would imagine. And finally, for the first time in twenty minutes, I am genuinely entertained because Igor arrives on the scene!
The thing you need to know about this man is that he is happy to be wherever he is. Even if that place is a giant cooler.
Joe is shadowing this delightful man, who proudly (like, hilariously proudly) announces that he is from Borat’s country! Kazakhstan! Their shift starts at 8pm and Igor brings Joe to the massive cold storage or “Siberia” room, and gleefully prances around talking about how warm it is in America compared to where he is from. They load Igor’s truck, which he says would hug if he had long hands. Considering it is his office, transportation and entire source of income, I can’t say I blame him. The two ride along, make a stop, and get to know each other. Igor’s great, so of course he has a wife he never sees because they work opposite shifts. Joe expresses sympathy, and again, gleefully, Igor informs him that since he and his wife only see each other two days a week, their marriage is a constant honeymoon. I think Igor’s found the key to fixing the 50% divorce rate in this country – simply spend nearly 70% of your time apart!
On all of their deliveries, Igor is adored and complimented, and while not quite as awesome as Delores, still manages to rank high in my esteem. He loves his job, he only has to see his wife two days a week, and adores America. He arrived with $50 in his pocket, became a delivery driver and his optimism is infectious. The only thing he lost points on was the sheer size of his adorable naivetÃ©. Keep on trucking, Igor. I promise not to make another joke besides this one about the American Dream being the opiate of the masses.
When Joe and Igor are almost done with their route, a problem erupts that is so pointless and contrived, I’m shocked it got aired. I don’t quite know why I was shocked, but I was. You know how the trailers this week kept touting that a boss’ cover was maybe going to get blown? Yeah, that’s because there’s a store on Igor’s route that is in Joe’s neighborhood. Joe freaks out for about thirty seconds seeing people he recognizes, before deciding to… pretend to go to the bathroom while Igor makes the delivery. People who know where Joe live: producers, writers, directors, miscellaneous crew members, and JOE. And yet, they still sent Joe to shadow a delivery man that hit a store close to that area. Guys? I have seen segments of “I Love New York” that I believed more.
The two men practically make out when they part ways, and Joe is again continually amazed at the workers he is lucky enough to have working for him. Or maybe he said that. I’m not sure, I sort of stopped listening and was only hanging in there to see Delores again – perhaps the producers did what I mentally transmitted to them and instead of emotional reunions, we’ll get a Delores/Jimbo Deathmatch!
So Joe shaves, puts his suit back on, and heads back to work to a scripted and pointless conversation with his exec team. Someone asks what he learned on his fabulous journey, and he says food needs to stop being thrown away, and when Lori calls about her lights, fix her damn lights! The team nods and pretends to take notes.
Right now they’re wondering what the hell kind of name “Waquas” and why they might possibly care.
And now for the big, probably unfulfilling revelation scenes! Delores wants to know what the hell is going on, and couldn’t give a single crap about being in Dallas for no reason. Waquas thinks he might be in trouble, Igor and Phil stare out the window, while Lori… manages the store in Long Island, I guess. Someone wasn’t interesting enough to be invited…
Waquas is first up to greet Joe in an Easter (and I do mean Easter) pink tie, and does not recognize him at all. Neither does Delores. It appears that Joe, without rank or title makes very little impact on people… When he finally does reveal who he is, Igor is happy and agog (Igor is always happy and something), Phil says, “Git outta Dodge!” and I love him for it, but Delores takes the cake again with, “YOU’RE the big shot?”
Girl doesn’t miss a trick!
Joe explains his motivation, and then gets into what gifts he shall bestow upon his minions from his throne on high. Waquas, putting himself through school, is promised a job at 7-11 when he graduates, and also promised (notice I’m using the word “promise” and not “contracted) personal mentorship by Joe himself. If Waquas chooses not to stay with 7-11, but instead to take the less-recommended by Joe path of going back to Pakistan to work with the poor, Joe will… find some undefined way to help him do that. Waquas is happy to learn that he has a mentor for life, and I hope he understands how truly one-sided that relationship is going to be, but I have a feeling I’m going to be disappointed.
Next up, Phil. What did he receive, you ask? Well, Phil actually managed to end up with something useful. Joe was thankful that Phil covered his ass at the factory so much and was so impressed by the doughnut drawings, that Phil is going to get a freelance artist job with 7-11 advertising to build up his porfolio. Um, it feels weird to type this, but… good job, Joe. A gift both practical and relevant.
Then it’s Igor, who, by sheer power of charisma ended up here. What makes me say that? Because Joe literally tells him that the fact that Igor is liked by people and “does his job” makes him “unbelievable” and worthy of recognition. I hate to say it, because Igor is pretty great, but those two things make Igor worthy of his paycheck. Joe redeems himself slightly by commenting on Igor’s lifestyle difficulties, and tells Igor that the company is sending both him and his wife on an all-expenses paid vacation. I would say that Igor’s life was changed by Joe about as much as Lori’s was, but the dude’s in tears in Joe’s office, so either he’s really looking forward to more than 48 hours with his wife, or they’re coming back divorced.
They of course save the best for last with DELORES!!! Joe talks and talks, but I only pay attention to the little clips of Delores saying things like, “I love ya, Nicki!” to her customers inserted into his speech. He does end by telling Delores that people are coming to her store not for the coffee, but for her. “That’s true!” she laughs, but still remains as modest and wonderful as always. Joe then makes me want to punch him in the throat by not finding her a kidney right then and there. He sets up an organ awareness program to encourage 7-11 customers to fill out an organ donor card, which will hopefully increase the chances of Delores and others like her to find a donor. So, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain that Phil got a job, Waquas got promised a promotion, Igor got a vacation and Delores got an… awareness program? That will probably consist of little cards at the cashier that I will ignore when I buy cigarettes and tuna sandwiches? Joe? Donate a million dollars of the spare change I’m sure you have lying around to UNOS and find this woman an organ. Delores, once again proving that she is amaaaazing, blesses Joe for what he did, and quietly goes back to waiting…
Hail the semi-conquering hero!
Joe tells the company about his experience, they laugh at him making mistakes, and he makes a boring speech about how the corporate team will be communicating more with the lower-level employees.
And thank goodness, it’s time for title cards – Waquas totally sold out and is now field managing ten 7-11s. Phil rocked it with the advertising agency and is building up his portfolio. Igor… got his own 7-11 franchise and is now his own boss. Which is admittedly fantastic and totally generous of Joe. Is anybody else wondering why the editors decided to NOT film Joe handing Igor a dream in a basket, but instead a lameass vacation?
As for Delores, the company did start the awareness program and donated $150,000 to a kidney foundation in her name. I assume, since they didn’t tell us that she miraculously found a donor, she is still waiting for a kidney. I wish I had some organized crime I could introduce her to.
Give HER a freaking store!