I've never cared for reality television. That sometimes puts me at odds with the rest of the family. My husband never misses a "Cops" marathon. One daughter loves "America's Next Top Model" and "Ace of Cakes," while the other, inexplicably, sets out hors d'oeuvres and invites friends over to watch "Jersey Shore."
For me, the one exception is "Undercover Boss." The program features a senior executive of a company working undercover in their own firm as an entry-level employee to investigate how the company really functions. Episodes have featured CEOs of companies such as Fresh Express, Frontier Airlines, NASCAR and Chiquita Brands International.
It's amusing to watch a privileged executive leave his or her corner office and struggle to keep up with hard working front line personnel. There is always an employee or two whose stories touch the executive's heart and they ultimately receive raises or bonuses or some sort of big gift.
I think the next Undercover Boss should be Dave Leach of Greyhound Bus Lines. Here's why:
Each spring break, our 16-year-old, Rachel, spends the week with her older sister, Molly. Molly is currently working as a education fellow at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss.
Initially, we assumed Rachel would fly out. That is, until we priced round trip tickets starting at well over $700 and involving a lengthy layover in Memphis.
OK, so what about Amtrak? The ticket was less pricey, but the trip would take 2 1/2 days and shuttle her through Washington and Chicago before she would finally be deposited in Jackson.
The only other alternative was Greyhound. Tickets were available for the days and times she needed and the round trip price, about $150, was more than reasonable. It would take 12 hours, but armed with her laptop and a backpack full of books, she was up to the task.
The trip to Jackson was uneventful and Rachel had a wonderful visit with her sister. One high point was the day they spent scouring the city in search of the perfect prom dress. They were on the verge of giving up when, there on a Dillard's sale rack, was THE dress. Ah, sweet shopping success.
I wish the Undercover Boss had been around for the return Greyhound trip. In Atlanta, Rachel discovered her suitcase, containing the treasured prom dress, was missing. When she called to tell me, I was surprised that she sounded so calm. After all, panic and overreaction are encoded in Glazer DNA.
She told me later that she had initially been upset but the young man in Customer Service was so helpful and reassuring that she calmed down right away. She said, "When he finished taking my report he told me they'd do all they could to find my suitcase. Then he looked at me and said, 'God bless you.' And you know what? I really did feel blessed." You should have been there, Undercover Boss.
Back home in Gainesville, we started the claims process. My husband spent a morning on the phone. He was told that we needed to fill out a missing luggage form. I went by the local depot to get the paperwork. That's where I dealt with Jeanne.
I don't know her last name. She seems to be a fixture at the depot. She gave me the triplicate paperwork along with an envelope addressed to an office in Texas. I would need to fill out a complete inventory of everything in the bag and mail it in.
I explained that the suitcase held the perfect prom dress and the clock was ticking. If I had to bet, I'd say Jeanne has daughters. She certainly understood Rachel's predicament. She asked for our contact information and said she'd try to make a few phone calls.
I don't know who she called but the suitcase, which she located in Jackson, was home by the next day. I opened it up there in the station and Jeanne and I both admired the silky, royal purple dress with the beaded shoulder strap.
She shrugged off both my thanks and offer to fill out a comment card with a modest, "I'm just doing my job." It was another Undercover Boss moment if ever there was one.
Turns out, our experience with this helpful lady wasn't an isolated incident. When I told the story in my shop, one customer misted up as she recounted how she got to know Jeanne on the weekends when she would put her son on a bus to visit his father in Atlanta. Years later, after the young man was brutally murdered, she and Jeanne shared a good cry.
Another lady overheard our discussion and chimed in, "I know who you're talking about. She's always so sweet to my mama when she goes to see her sister in Newark."
Mr. Leach, I hope you'll track down that nice guy in Atlanta and give Jeanne a call in Gainesville. These people are treasures in your company and you should get to know them. Pat them on the back and make sure they know they're appreciated. If this were "Undercover Boss," they'd get all-expense paid vacations or big promotions. I'm just sayin'.
Of course this isn't a reality show. It's reality. And these two employees really came through for our family. Thank you, Customer Service Guy, thank you Jeanne, thank you Greyhound.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman whose column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.