Season six of the hit show "Undercover Boss" premiered on CBS Sunday night, and the first high level exec to leave the comfort of his office and secretly take a low-level job in his company was John Hartmann, the President and CEO of True Value.
"Going undercover is a great opportunity because I'm relatively new as the CEO. I'm on this journey to slowly change the direction of the ship, but we've got a lot of work yet to go. We'll see how I do at airport security," Hartmann said on "Undercover Boss."
He trained under two awesome employees - Terrell, who was a fast worker, and Lexi, who was great with customer service. Outside of the stores, though, they were both struggling - Terrell got reckless driving tickets after his stepfather was killed when he was young. He wanted to go to school for criminal justice, but couldn't afford it. Lexi was trying to put herself through school, but had lots of student loan debt. When Hartmann revealed who he really was, they couldn't believe it.
"Are you serious?" said Lexi when she learned he'd been in disguise.
Eventually, Hartmann revealed how he planned to reward them for their great work.
Hartmann promised to pay off Terrell's tickets - $12,000 worth. He was also giving him $10,000 for school, $10,000 for his daughter's future college fund, $20,000 for a new car and $5,000 for a trip for him and his family to Disney World.
"The real one, in Florida? ... These are tears of joy right here. I can't stop crying," Terrell said.
That's $57,000 in all.
Hartmann also gave Lexi $5,000 for rent and $50,000 to pay off all of her student loan debts, along with another $10,000 for school, for a total of $65,000.
"It just feels like a huge [weight] has been lifted. I can start over," Lexi said through tears.
True Value is one of the biggest hardware stores in America, and it's a true institution -- the chain is almost 100 years old. Heavy.com reports that it raked in $2 billion in revenue last year.
All of the employees were blown away, and none of them had figured out who he was. Hartmann told WBBM in Chicago, where True Value is based, that his past career helped with the deception; he previously spent 10 years as an FBI agent in central Pennsylvania.
Hartmann told WBBM Sunday, "I wasn't intimidated by that in the least. My last field assignment was a long-term undercover assignment in foreign counter intelligence."
During the episode, Hartmann visited several True Value stores across the U.S. and worked as a sales clerk and a fork lift driver at one of the company's distribution centers.
Hartmann is also no stranger to manual labor. In February, he told Crain's Chicago Business that his first job was picking corn in upstate New York. Man, this guy's prepared for anything!
To learn more about his experience and other "Undercover Boss" episodes, you can check out CBS's website.
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