NEW YORK CITY — On the hit CBS show "Undercover Boss," CEOs of large companies go undercover as low level employees and can have enlightening, even humbling experiences.
What the CEO learns during the show often leads to an apparent new perspective when it comes to the business and the employees, and even acts of generosity.
A worker for Shoppers World, a deep-discount chain with 40 stores that is headquartered in midtown Manhattan, says her CEO's kindness on the show was just that – all for show.
Back in January 2016, "Undercover Bosses" featured Sam Dushey, head of Shoppers World. As part of his undercover travels, he went to his store in Jamaica, Queens and spent some time in the shoe department with Nalini Singh.
Nalini had been there about eight years at the time. She joined right after high school and says she was still making minimum wage. She had several complaints, including losing hours and never getting ahead. That was important because she had to take care of ill parents. Nalini was so strapped for cash that she and her fiancé – who used to work in the store – were planning on getting married at City Hall.
At the end of "Undercover Boss," Dushey reveals himself to Nalini and tells her, “Nalini, you are the reason I realized that my employees weren’t treated fairly ... You worked your butt off and never were rewarded and never were acknowledged.”
He then gave her more hours and a $15,000 bonus. She was thrilled to get the money and the hours.
But then Dushey went further. He told her, “I want to give you another $20,000 check so you can go make yourself the big beautiful wedding you deserve.”
Nalini couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true.
But then the problems started. “I should have known it was too good to be true,” Nalini told WPIX.
The company didn’t want to just give Nalini the money for her wedding, as Dushey promised. It wanted quotes from individual vendors. But it still didn’t pay. Nalini went around with her Shoppers World contacts for more than a year.
WPIX tried to get some answers by going over to headquarters. When the receptionists learned why they were there, they threatened to call the police.
The station tried to make an appointment to see the CEO. Eventually, they got an email back saying he was unavailable with no mention of when he might be able to talk.
But a Shoppers World executive sent another email. It actually blamed Nalini for the fact that the company didn’t pay for her wedding. It claimed she failed to submit invoices the company requested from the various vendors she wanted to use. Here’s the email:
“Shoppers World is proud to have been part of the January 3, 2016 episode of CBS’ Undercover Boss, where we rewarded over 10 associates featured in the episode, with a total of over $200,000. Each associate was recognized for their hard work and loyalty and was paid in full in a timely manner, including $15,000 to Nalini Singh. As it relates to the additional pledge of $20,000 for Nalini Singh’s then-upcoming wedding, we asked her on several occasions to submit invoices or receipts for reimbursement or connect us with her vendors so that we could pay them directly for her expenses, all of which she refused to do, asking instead that we pay the full amount to a family member. This is a standard company policy when handling expenses related to associates. Had Ms. Singh produced invoices, receipts or connected us with her vendors directly, we would have paid the fees associated with her wedding in a timely manner as well.”
But Nalini provided WPIX with copies of the invoices she says she sent to Shoppers World multiple times.
The wedding hall, entertainment, flowers, cake, invitations, wedding dress, a suit for the groom and photographers – the invoices are all there. Grand total: just under $20,000.
She also sent WPIX emails and texts indicating the company was aware of the invoices she’d sent.
Nalini is disappointed. “I don’t think they were ever going to give me the money. I think they just said that on the show.”
The company that produces "Undercover Boss," Studio Lambert, did not comment. CBS sent a statement saying:
“We are not privy to all of the issues involved in this dispute. However, unless there are extenuating circumstances, we expect the companies to fulfill what they agreed to in the show.”
Nalini’s dream of the big beautiful wedding Sam Dushey said she deserved is crushed. She’s put the ceremony on hold. She’s also had it with Shoppers World. A couple of months ago she got another job.