SBD/November 5, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Mitchell Modell Works "Undercover" At His Company's Stores For CBS Show

Modell shaved his head and wore a fake mustache to pull off the masquerade
Modell’s Sporting Goods CEO MITCHELL MODELL Friday night became the latest sports business exec to appear on CBS’ “Undercover Boss.” Modell said he was going “undercover because when your last name is on the door, it puts unbelievable pressure to make sure that the values that have been passed on for four generations continue to be passed for the next 100 years.” In order to make sure he was not discovered, Modell shaved his head, changed his voice and wore a large fake mustache while posing as Joey Quick, a “former pizza store owner" whose shop closed six months ago. While undercover, the company’s associates were "tricked into thinking they’re on a hosted reality show in which they will work alongside Joey.” Modell said of being the CEO, “I’m usually the last one to know things and unless you know what the customers and your associates are feeling and experiencing, you don’t have a handle on it and I really want to uncover things that are being kept from me that I could help fix.” The first job Modell tried was working with an assistant manager at a store located in Milford, Conn. The state is a “newer market” for the company, and Modell said, “In this particular store, we have been struggling with sales.” Modell folded shirts, redressed a mannequin and interacted with customers. The store assistant manager became skeptical of the set-up, at which point Modell admitted who he was and asked why the store was underperforming. The assistant manager told Modell to stop treating the New England stores “like the red-headed stepchild” and give them the same merchandise found in the N.Y. stores. Modell: “It’s mind-boggling that I had to go undercover to really find out what the truth is.”

MORE ON-THE-JOB TRAINING: Modell also worked at the company’s Bronx-area distribution center loading trucks, driving a delivery truck and spent time working with an apparel manager at a store in DC. Modell said, “I know I have a lot of work to do when I get back to the office. … When I reflect on this week, I feel I failed miserably as CEO.” Modell ended up rewarding an associate with a paid family trip, changing the pay scale in the distribution center and for the truck drivers, promoting several associates to new positions and presenting a trip for an associate and his younger brother on the Nets team plane to an away game (“Undercover Boss,” CBS, 11/2).
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