On Sunday, Feb. 21, 7-Eleven’s President and CEO Joe DePinto appeared on the CBS show Undercover Boss, going incognito at his company, disguised as new recruit “Danny.”
DePinto got a taste of life at the store level, making coffee, cleaning restrooms, riding in a delivery truck, working the graveyard shift and learning the ropes at the company’s biggest bakery, all the while meet the unsung heros who help his chain run.
On the show, DePinto noted that his goal in the exercise was to find out how communication flowed down the channel from the store support center in Dallas to store level associates.
At a store in Shirley, N.Y., which sells 2,500 cups of coffee a day, DePinto was trained Dolores Bisangni, an 18-year veteran who knows her customers by name. DePinto noted that Bisangni is keeping customers returning to the store with her superior customer service. He also learned that Bisangni is on kidney dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant and won’t accept one from her family of five children.
In one funny moment DePinto noted that having a sink on the coffee island would be helpful, to which Bisangni replied, “pipe dreams, honey. Already he’s coming up with ideas.”
Next DePinto visited one of the company’s biggest bakeries in Baltimore that makes doughnuts and other pastries for the company, where he had trouble keeping up with the pace of the assembly line. “This thing moves fast,” DePinto exclaimed. He was trained by Phil Shearin, who is an artist on the side and shared some of his sketches with DePinto.
DePinto also got a taste of the night shift, cleaning bathrooms and stocking shelves in Medford, N.Y. with co-worker Waqas, a native of Pakistan who works the night shift so he can attend college. He told DePinto he didn’t feel there was much of a career path for him at 7-Eleven.
He also road overnight with Russian immigrant Igor Finkler, who does overnight deliveries for one of the chain’s distribution centers and who impressed DePinto with his work ethic and enthusiam. Finkler told DePinto that he came to the U.S. with only $50 in his pocket to live the American dream and that America is a great country.
DePinto said the show changed the way he will work everyday as CEO of the company. “Every employee I met was amazing. What we need to do is better support them,” DePinto said. For example, at one store in Long Island, N.Y., DePinto was given the task of calling maintenance to report a number of lights out on the sales floor (a customer service issue) and also in the backroom (a safety concern). But the maintenance department saw the issue as a low priority that could be fixed on a regular monthly visit, something that didn’t fly with DePinto.
“Going undercover tells me we have more work to do. Everyone knows we have a program where we give sandwiches and bakery items to charities and at the store I was in they threw those products away,” DePinto said on the show. He noted corporate had to make sure their programs were being communicated to the store level and implemented.
At the end of the show, DePinto revealed his identity to the coworkers who showed him the ropes at each step of his journey and gave them a little something for their efforts.
For Dolores Bisangni, DePinto said the company was beginning a donor awareness program to remind customers how important it is to fill out an organ donation card so Dolores and others would have a better chance of receiving a kidney. In addition, the company donated $150,000 to the program in Dolores’ name.
He told Waqas he’d like to be his personally mentor if he wanted to stay with 7-Eleven or if he decided his goal was to go back to Pakistan, he could help him there as well. He then offered Shearin the chance to do some freelance artwork for the company’s marketing department to help build his portfolio.
Finkler, who only sees his wife twice a week because they work opposite schedules to make ends meet, received a vacation at a resort so the couple could spend time together. DePinto also awarded him the keys to his very own 7-Eleven franchise.
Each week, the show Undercover Boss follows an undercover executive working alongside their employees. Other executives participating in the series include White Castle’s Dave Rife, owner/executive board member; and Hooters’ Coby G. Brooks, president and CEO; among others.