If I feel my blood pressure falling, all I need to do is watch one episode of Undercover Boss, a hit TV show on CBS. Each show follows a standard plot line. The owner or CEO of a company goes under cover as a regular Joe trying to make a living at one of the numerous low paying, dead end jobs with no benefits that have become standard issue in the USA.
The undercover boss quickly discovers that the employees are doing the best they can under horrible conditions. Many are suffering from illnesses that their health insurance or lack of insurance will not cover. Some are crushed by mountains of debt from trying to live in the USA with a paycheck that no longer covers even the basics. The boss is often touched by the dedication and high morality of these people who are barely scraping by at a job for a company where the same company has provided that owner or CEO with an opulent lifestyle beyond the imagination or reach of any employee.
This plot line has a rich history. The producers at CBS act like a modern day Jacob Marley’s Ghost as they take their Scrooge de jour through a labyrinth of lives all in ruin and all employees of Scrooge’s business.
In the last quarter of each show, the boss sits down with each of the four or five exploited employees that he or she has met in this episode. The boss thanks each employee for their dedication, hard work, and devotion to the company while giving them gifts of cash or other benefits to make up for the shortfalls that existed because the employees were paid so little in the past.
The company that is the subject of the program receives a wealth of positive advertising and the CEO or boss hands out up to $100K in gifts to a few lucky employees; not a bad deal for the company.
Unlike the story in A Christmas Carol, however, only a few employees are treated with compassion and respect. Bob Cratchit’s family gets a helping hand. Tiny Tim gets his 15 minutes of fame and new pair of crutches, but with Undercover Boss, that’s where it ends. The other employees are still out in the cold as, so far as I know, not one of the episodes of Undercover Boss has resulted in a dramatic catharsis where the CEO is transformed from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders. Their only hope is the next episode.
American Capitalism on display on CBS.