Going undercover … like a boss! Undercover Boss’ Wednesday, January 18, episode featured John Fuller, the CEO of Los Angeles–based The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, as he donned a long, gray weave to transform himself into his laid-back alter ego, “Mick.” Read on for our full recap!
The CEO Slammed Starbucks
The episode kicked off with a quick intro to John, the new CEO of the coffeehouse company, as he made his second appearance on the show. (He went undercover a few years back when he was the CEO of Johnny Rockets.)
John described Coffee Bean as “not as corporate” as his competitors. He even slammed Starbucks, saying they “stole” Coffee Bean’s most iconic product: “Their frappuccino is our iced blended.” As soon as John was able to get his weave and skull T-shirt on, he was suddenly “Mick” from Phoenix, and on his way to spy on his employees.
Employee Deanna Said the CEO Was “Crumbling”
Mick’s first stop was Downey, California, where he met shift supervisor Deanna. As John fumbled through making drinks for customers, he seemed to have a hard time getting the hang of it. At one point, Deanna even made him toss the drink out and start all over again. She said of the in-disguise CEO’s slow-moving nature, “Mick has people waiting. I had to give out gift cards to apologize because he is crumbling.”
Deanna Revealed She Has Cancer
After moving to the back of the store to look at inventory, Deanna started to open up to John about her health struggles. She revealed that after overcoming a drug habit and dropping out of school, her 15-year employment at Coffee Bean has saved her life. She then shared a big bombshell by saying, “I was sick for a long time. … I still have liver cancer. I mean, I’m still sick. But I was taking care of my dad, who had colon cancer. … He passed away in May.” Heartbreaking. She then credited Coffee Bean for lifting her mood: “I want to make somebody’s day. Because that turns around and makes my day.”
Chris Called the CEO “Big”
John’s next stop was a Coffee Bean promotional truck in Henderson, Nevada, where he worked with Chris, the general manager for special events. After meeting “Mick” for the first time, Chris immediately commented on his size, saying to the camera, “I was like, Whoa, is this guy gonna fit in my truck? I couldn’t believe how big he was.” Chris added about John’s struggle to make ice blendeds: “He was throwing it everywhere, and he’s a big guy. His hands are like two of my hands trying to pick up a cup.”
Chris opened up to John with, “I’m coming up on 38 years old, and in my life, I’ve never seen a professional NFL game.” A sad story, indeed! John seemed heartened by Chris, and said upon leaving Henderson, “One of the things they did right was hire a guy like Chris.”
Tatiana Jabbed John as “Robotic”
While working at a drive-through Coffee Bean in Riverside, California, John met with Tatiana, a general manager. As John awkwardly manned the drive-through headset, she commented that his style needed more “energy” and that he sounded “a little bit robotic.”
One Employee Recognized John as the CEO — and Told Everyone
Tatiana began to whisper to her fellow employees that she recognized “Mick” as CEO John Fuller. John quickly caught wind of this and said to the camera, “I’m really concerned she knows who I am. … I just don’t feel comfortable right now.”
He asked her to speak with him outside. Uh-oh. John then revealed that she was on Undercover Boss, and Tatiana immediately freaked out, telling him, “I did not know that part!”
Tatiana Opened Up About Her Sick Husband
The two of them discussed potential changes, as well as Tatiana’s grueling commute — including her upcoming transfer to Fontana, which would add 25 miles to her routine. On top of her daily grind, she confessed that she’s been taking care of her sick husband, whose kidneys failed “because he was prescribed the wrong medication.” Devastating!
To the camera, John later admitted that the company’s treatment of Tatiana “makes it seem like people are not the first priority,” saying he wants to “change that immediately.”
Jacob Dissed Coffee Bean for Their Lack of Tea
John traveled down to San Diego to meet with Jacob, a team member who revealed an extensive knowledge of teas. Jacob even questioned the “Tea Leaf” part of the company by pointing out, “I would think that they would have something more traditional. … In the world of tea, there is hundreds of thousands of types of tea. … We only have a bagged tea. … They really leave out the ‘tea’ aspect of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.”
Jacob opened up to John about his struggles. “It takes about an hour to get here in the morning,” he explained. “I’m sleeping on some guy’s living room floor for $550 a month. … I’ve been homeless too — it’s hard.”
John Handsomely Rewarded His Employees
The episode wrapped up with John personally meeting with each employee and revealing his true identity — and his short hair. Our hearts melted when he offered Deanna $20,000 for medical expenses, and a $10,000 graduation present for when she finished her online high school diploma. On top of that, he even gave her $40,000 for her kids to go to school. She was filled with tears as she said, “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me.”
John gave Chris an employment opportunity in the corporate office — along with six tickets to see the Los Angeles Rams, marking his very first NFL game. John then gave Tatiana — the employee who recognized him — a brand-new car, and even reimbursed her for the miles she had driven on her long commutes to and from work. He also offered to transfer her to a location closer to her house.
The show ended with John gifting Jacob an all-expenses-paid trip to Sri Lanka, where he can visit a tea farm and report back on what he’s learned. John went the extra mile and offered to be the youngster’s “personal mentor,” which entailed a “furnished apartment” and full-time employment opportunity.
Tell Us: Did the employees receive the appropriate rewards?
Undercover Boss airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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