New Best Buy CEO To See What It's Like To Actually Work For Best Buy

New Best Buy CEO Hubert “Don’t Call Me Q*bert” Joly is settling into his comfy new digs at the company’s HQ this week, but the former hotel & restaurant chain exec says he plans to jump into the Best Buy pool with both feet by finding out what it’s like to work for the retailer he now runs.

“I want to not learn our businesses from the headquarters,” he explains to Reuters. “I want to learn from the front line.”

Thus, Hubie will be putting on a blue shirt and go through training that includes serving customers, stocking items, accepting returns — and venturing out with the Geek Squad crew.

“The last time I worked in a store was in 1975,” he says.

Of course, Joly faces the looming shadow of company founder Richard Schulze, who is attempting to buy back the company and who recently got the okay to look over Best Buy’s books.

So if any of our readers in Minnesota happen to see a 53-year-old Frenchman trying to upsell them on useless warranties or demanding a photo ID to accept a return, take a look at his name tag — you may be talking to the company’s new CEO.

In the unlikely event that anyone manages to get a photo of themselves with Mr. Joly in uniform, please do send it our way.

Thanks to Klay for the tip!

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  1. TotallyCrazy says:

    This could be a stroke of pure genius to see whats lacking in BestBuy and make honest changes or could blow up in his face.

    • CakvalaSC says:

      I can see this being more positive than negative, well see! Good Luck q-bert!

    • Varanid says:

      I’m guessing he’ll draw no lessons from it at all, and it will mostly be irrelevant. But maybe I’m too cynical. I do wish more retail upper management actually worked in a store sometime in the last 20 years. God I don’t miss retail at all.

    • Billy C says:

      Either way, it’s likely to be entertaining and possibly good for the consumer. When I was doing my security training, I was told to never let someone in a suit tell me how to do my job because the suits only concern themselves with useless protocols that they believe drive profits. I’ve been fired from jobs I was actually exceptional at because I didn’t suck up to the company line enough. This guy is actually appearing to make an effort to UNDERSTAND the company he’s running. It’s not about the logistics of shipping, or Geek Squad disasters and PR nightmares, it’s about the base level experience on the floor.

      • kcvaliant says:

        No, what is more reasonable to happen. All of this takes place in a flagship store in one day.

        The people he deals with are plants or employees that buy all the services and acessories.

        Then he can show others it is achievable.

    • MarkFL says:

      It’s sad that this is considered an act of genius. EVERY new CEO should do this, especially if he’s coming from another industry.

      Even if he’s not undercover, it will be beneficial to see what’s going on in the store. He might be treated differently, but on the other hand, the workers are more likely to do things by the book — which is helpful in determining if the book is any good. Also, the customers probably won’t know who he is.

      As for the Undercover Boss show…why do some of the employees do the crazy $#!t they do? Even if they don’t know the boss is next to them, don’t they think someone from home office is going to watch the show?

      • sufreak says:

        Undercover boss is a total BS show. I can tell you from knowing owners of a retail chain they did, as well as being a forced customer of a business also featured. Having interacted with the CEO, I can no longer respect that show.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        This is part of what’s wrong with American business right now – few company promote from within, or have internal mechanisms to prepare qualified employees for management positions.

        As the Baby Boomer generation retires, all businesses will be finding a severe lack of leadership, because they don’t build them up from the bottom.

        • MarkFL says:

          It’s ironic — if you want a lower level job, companies insist that you have experience with the job or in the industry in which you are applying. But when it comes to hiring executives, they have no hesitation about hiring someone from a completely different field.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      Nonsense. He will NEVER see the “real” Best Buy, because they know he’s coming. They’ll make everything as perfect as possible so he only sees what they want him to see. He’s not even going to work on the floor, he’s just going to go through training, and then go on a few runs with Geek Squad people.

    • Bob A Dobalina says:

      Like he is not going to be “trained” by politically chosen people who have been groomed for months and work with a bunch bunch of butt kissing lackies

      it’s all propaganda

  2. VintageLydia says:

    This will only work if his identity is a secret, otherwise he’ll be treated differently.

    Anybody watch that show Undercover Boss? I love that show. C-level exects go undercover and work in various parts of the company and sees what it’s really like to work in the trenches. They explain the TV crew to the other workers as a different reality TV show about people competeing for jobs and get interviews and comments about the performance and whether they’d be hired (it’s normally a resounding NO.) It’s satisfying, being a refugee of retail myself :P

    • Kuri says:

      I love that show, and agree that many, MANY CEOs need to do it.

      • Joedragon says:

        Comcast needs to do it but 1 week is way to short.

        Needs to be more at least 1 week on the phones / walk in centers, 1-2 weeks in the field, and maybe 1 week doing back office jobs.

        Comcast needs a lot of help in there customer service areas.

      • sufreak says:

        The show is BS. Its a great concept, but its nothing more than promotion for a business. The ‘nice’ CEOs rarely are. I have 2 personal examples.

    • Budala says:

      Ever since the first show I haven’t watched it as it’s fake as fake can be.

      • Hagetaka says:

        Yeah any corporation that would let a show like that air without pre-air editorial approval….doesn’t exist. You’re watch the carefully selected and compiled result of a very fake experiment in “down in the trenches”.

      • Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

        Yes, I realized right away that the perks (tuition, cash, etc.) given out to the employees at the conclusion of the show were all paid for by the network, not the company.

        So, no matter how badly the company needs to reform itself, it never happens. But what a nice illusion for the viewer!

        • MarkFL says:

          As my mom observed, it might be nice that the employees get a big check to help them with their low pay, but what about all of the other overworked, underpaid employees? They aren’t any better off. Just once I’d like to see one of the employees say, “No thanks, I’d rather you invest the money into giving all the employees health insurance, and if you’re not willing to do that, F you.”

          And yeah, I realize the company isn’t putting up the money. If this wasn’t apparent before, it became obvious when they did the show with the mayor of Cincinnati, who said the money was being provided by “friends in the corporate world.”

      • jeepguy57 says:

        You mean it’s not a coincidence that every employee they get paired up with has some kind of sob story that can be easily fixed with some money and perks from their job?

      • dangermike says:

        heh. I remember watching the first episode and saying something like, “well that was pretty heartwarming”. Then I saw the second and said, “that’s weird. That was the same exact show with different faces.” And then they had a preview for the third episode and had a flashback to when I was 5 and trying to explain to my friends why Scooby Doo and Inspector Gadget sucked so much.

    • Torchwood says:

      I like that show also especially because it feels like the boss is a “fish out of water”, and that the decisions made do flow downward.

    • luxosaucer13 says:

      Unfortunately these “undercover” bosses go right back to the same old M.O. and listening to the same brainless MBAs with their fancy whiz-bang Excel Spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and who have no idea what customer or employee satisfaction means.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Yeah I am going to guess that it will be well known who he is. Training will be done perfectly. Managers won’t treat him like crap. Other employees will be warned to straighten up and do everything by the book or else suffer the consequences.

      You are right, it could be an interesting exercise but I’m sure it will be sterilize and scripted every step he takes. Then he’ll be confused about where the horrible customer service tales come from.

    • Applekid says:

      All he needs is a dapper mustache and the secret identity is complete.

    • Rocinante says:

      The show is staged. They obviously hand pick the best employees, and/or the ones who would create the most drama that will film well. How do they explain away the huge professional film crew in the first place? As an employee, you would have to know that the home office is watching…

  3. MyaCaRdia says:

    So much for the two hour lunchbreak.

  4. Overheal says:

    Unfortunately I feel like he’ll be getting coddled by the staff of whatever store he is in, but hey good luck to him I at least respect the approach he’s trying.

    What he won’t see is a bunch of managers on their bad days. I hate managers on their bad days. Pissy ones that bark on the headset that we haven’t signed up enough people for credit cards today. No, when district does a Walk it’s always scheduled and they always make sure the store looks pretty and they always make sure they’re smiling and they’re on their best behavior.

    • Kuri says:

      Let’s hope it’s unannounced, or that he tries a disguise.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Yeah. A secret shopper gig might be more effective before he goes in to work, at two different locations.

      • Laura Northrup says:

        I’ve mystery shopped Best Buy. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve done – multiple store departments, multiple names to remember, and if you didn’t get the name of the employees you dealt with, even if they’re not wearing a nametag, they wouldn’t pay you.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      I worked at BB before and we had management come in. The problem was it was always announced everybody knew the second they stepped in the store so everybody was on their best behavior so really none of our flaws got shown. Management even put the best sales people on the floor and hid the weak sellers and people with the least product knowledge.

  5. Gman says:

    Publicity stunt and that is all. No matter what he learns he still has to get it past a numbers focused board and shareholders, not to mention upper level and C-level management at HQ.

    One thing that will come of this – whatever store he selects I will want to make sure your resume is updated and ready to go. Any negatives that come from the experience will be solely blamed on that store and that store’s management. Not on anything HQ hands down. They will just say that one store is an outlier and if they followed proper procedures, everything will be as expected.

  6. kingdom2000 says:

    This seems like a catch-22 as good idea but don’t see it ending if usable results.

    Part of the problem with most companies is the upper level management rarely get promoted through the ranks anymore so they have zero experience with the “ground level” of the company where the actual money is made. They just know the theory of how it should be. As anyone who has gone to college will tell you, the theory (book learning) and reality rarely match up. The only way to get that ground level view is to try to do the “Undercover Boss” route but without the whole fake scripted reality show angle.

    The problem though is for the CEO to get a true view is not only does he have to remain anonymous no matter what. He gets told to go clean the bomb set off in the bathroom, he swallows his pride and goes does it. I just don’t see him refusing the opportunity of special treatment by making sure store management knows exactly who he is. As a result he will get the rose colored view of how everything works instead of the actual reality of it all. Even if goes the anonymous route, being a CEO his experience will amount to about a half’s week worth as his time it technically very valuable. He probably needs at least a month (if not more) of blue shirt experience to get a better view of things. And all this doesn’t even get into what will probably amount to a whole lot of firings at whatever store he goes “undercover” at if they don’t behave just so.

    I applaud the idea but I am betting the execution will be a disaster and nothing will come of it except to confirm what the CEO already believes – upper management is doing exactly the right things and those dang employees keep screwing it up.

  7. triana says:

    Years ago, the VP of the retail chain I worked for made all of the top-level executives work in store for a day. Like this guy, they hadn’t worked in stores for decades, if EVER. It was the best decision I’ve ever seen. Ineffective, inefficient processes that we’d been bitching about for years were changed right after that.

    Most things that happen in a retail store that piss you off (endless upsells, badgering you about warranties, not taking no for an answer) are conceived by people who spend their days behind a desk and have no idea what the real effects are on customers. This could have a huge impact…as long as people don’t try to paint a prettier picture just to impress him.

    • 808 says:

      Other service industries have immersion programs for management. The executives who are receptive to the process learn (and clean toilets and get yelled at by customers). As you point out, they also tend to make changes to inefficient procedures, as you mention. From what I have heard, these folks benefit from the process more than the cream puffs.

      That said, in this case the suggestion someone made about mystery shopping at one store before working in another would give two perspectives.

  8. Galium says:

    If he is known at the store he works at it is nothing but slumming. My hope is that he does not tell anyone at the store he will work at. 1st day he gets to restock shelves, and gets yelled at by a section super for not being fast enough. 2nd day employee toilet overflows and being the FNG he gets the pleasure of unstopping the WC in between restocking. He is yelled at again by his super because he is behind in stocking, and he should have fixed the WC on his lunch break. The 3rd day he is fired for not stocking shelves properly as the UPC where not all facing the same way, being too slow stocking and although all he did was stocking he did not meet his quota of extra protection plans. Then he can get an idea of what working at a box store is like today. In reality he will be known and the overly pleasant store manager will promote him to floor supervisor on his 1st day, even if he stocked all the CD’s in the DVD section face in. /s
    PS I never saw anyplace that a line worker did the CEO’s or some other exec’s job for a while. I think the fear is that they will do better than the upper echelons.

    • Jawaka says:

      I agree 100% but unfortunately there’s really no way for him to apply to a store, be guaranteed to be hired and get through the hiring process (with tax forms and all) unless someone in the store knew the plan.

      • Galium says:

        It is possible to do it. He must go to a store unannounced and tell the store manager that he will be working as an employee and no one is to know about it. He must also tell the store manager that he has an employee already working at the store (spy) and if he hears anything about his status the store manager will be fired on the spot. This is not foolproof but it is about 90% workable as the manager will still make efforts to look good. It would be a higher percentage but he let the cat out of the bag with his announcement, which defeats some of what he is trying to do. I would like to be a fly on the wall when he takes his lunch break with the rest of the ordinary workers. Lunch breaks are a fountain of conversation on how screwed up the system and management are.

  9. oldtaku says:

    It’s a nice idea assuming they don’t just coddle him.

    Try selling me one of those extended warranties, oh you’ll learn.

  10. Abradax says:

    Can they really train you to ignore the people who need help while asking people just looking at stuff 85 times if they would like help, or is that skill inherited at birth and just nurtured by becoming an employee?

  11. Jawaka says:

    This will never work because he’ll never truly see the company as a normal employee will. at the end of the day he’ll still be the CEO and every store that he visits will be at their best behavior.

  12. Lombard Montague says:

    He would be much better served by trying to shop at a Best Buy. Let them try to upsell him on warranties, “optimization” services, and other useless crap. Better offer him a credit card 5 times. Make sure the employees lie to him like they do to everyone else in a pathetic attempt to squeeze every last penny out of his wallet. Let him buy a TV with a broken screen out of the box and try to return it. Let him buy a game console that has been switched with a used console and watch as the manager shrugs when he tries to get the situation fixed. Don’t forget to have him call 1-800-Best-Buy to see how helpful they are at problem solving.

    That is the only way he will ever truly understand what is wrong with Best Buy.

  13. Press1forDialTone says:

    Don’t kid yourself. He doesn’t want to do this.
    But the PR people said he must do it if they are to
    rebuff the founder’s attempts to come back in and
    perhaps fix it. He isn’t going to learn anything. Everyone
    around him will be hand-selected. It’s a scam.
    Reason #4590 not to shop at Best Buy.

  14. bben says:

    The undercover boss show- just like every other so caller reality show is – if not scripted, heavily choreographed and heavily edited to make the boss look good. And to make whatever happens entertaining to the TV audience. What employee in their right mind is going to believe that a new hire with a camera crew following him around is just another new guy?

  15. Blueskylaw says:

    Hubert is just doing this as a way to look good because it’s the “flavor of the month” thing to do. They say he’s going to do a little of this and a little of that which essentially translates to he will watch someone else do it. He essentially has to suck up to Wall Street in order to justify his salary and guaranteed bonuses (which I consider salary since they’re guaranteed), and doing these VERY public, feel good measures that will try to show empathy with the employees and concern for the customers while the real reason is to appease Mammon and his constant demand for profits, blood, and carnage.

  16. Hagetaka says:

    If the CEO really wants to get a handle on things, he doesn’t need to be an employee, he needs to be a customer. Much of Best Buy’s problem is that their business model is one of the most anti-shopper friendly ones I’ve seen. While part of me would like to see them drop like a rock just so they remain a cautionary tale for decades to come of how price-gouging (Monster Cables and the like), hyper-aggressive upselling and providing borderline fraudulent services (TV color tuning?) can sink even the most strong retail performers, I think Best Buy would be even more effective as a redemptive tale- that once a retailer actually integrates with its website, eliminates the practices that drive people from its showrooms, and pays more than lip service to feedback from the front lines of associates, things can be turned around.

  17. Sarek says:

    Granted, “Undercover Boss” is fixed. But that’s no reason this CEO can’t try it on his own.

    It should be obvious to him that working while known won’t teach him much of anything about how BB truly works.

    Also, I wonder if he’ll give the customer support lines a try? Or at least surreptitiously listen in.

  18. GingerMom79 says:

    I used to work in the BBY store (in Estero, FL) that Richard Schulze frequented the most when he was living in his Bonita Springs, FL home.
    He and his wife were always super nice to the managers/employees and several times when we were super busy he asked us to help other customers while he waited…
    99% of the time we knew when he was coming in as he would call the District Manager or Store Manager to let them know. I think it would have been better if he came in unannounced to see the ‘real’ environment but on the flip side, even if he did he was too recognizable to go unnoticed for long.
    During the holidays our district staff would come into our store(s) and run register & help customers for a few hours. While the effort was appreciated, it was nothing compared to working in the store day after day and most of the times when customers realized they were a district level employee, those nasty customers were really nice to them.
    Plus any other day that they were there that wasn’t specifcally for that type of thing, they ignored customers as much as our worst employee.
    It’s a good PR Stunt, but that’s all it is.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      It happens everywhere. Anyone who has worked retail and has pretended to care about a district manager or some sort of corporate guy stopping by the store knows how “real” their experience in the store is.

  19. PragmaticGuy says:

    Last weekend I was looking through the electronics ads. BB had a tv for $1199. Another local company had the same TV (both ads listed the model #) PLUS a free blu-ray player and it was $1197. And to that they added free delivery. Best Buy has a long way to go to get buyers back in the store.

  20. Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

    What is even the point of this, other than PR? Pretending to be a front-line employee isn’t the same as actually being one. You know deep down that you can make any decision you like and not get fired. You’re also much less frazzled because you’re not struggling to pay rent on minimum wage with roller-coaster hours.

    So he’ll give a few customers extras to make them happy, go back to his office thinking what a fun job this is, and obliviously fire anyone who doesn’t meet quotas from there on out because it’s so easy anyone can do it.

    Just read a memo about how the front line operates. You’ll get about the same level of understanding than you would from your little undercover op.

  21. some.nerd says:

    Undercover Boss couldn’t possibly be any more self-serving. Every CEO I’ve seen on that show is so full of BS and fake tears. Can’t stand it.

  22. rng72 says:

    I maybe a bit late to the party but what I think he should do is buy something online, wait for Bestbuy to mess the order up and then try to return it. Make some popcorn and wait for the circus act to start. Even better try to order something on during their boxing day online sale and wait for an hour for a sale to process on their website.

  23. Selunesmom says:

    Hopefully the local store management isn’t informed so they can’t coddle him. That way at least one CEO will truly understand how the floor staff at a retail store are treated in regards to nonsensical store policies etc.

  24. Obtruder says:

    I still think it is incredibly odd they got a restaurant exec to come into a tech retailer, but maybe the fresh perspective will help them…or screw them horribly.

    I do admire that Joly will learn their business the same way a ground level employee does, see the problems first hand from the view of customers and the army of 1000′s of employees actually on the floor doing the work.

    I can tell from my own experience slinging computers there that they definitely could use some manager changes. I had at least 6 managers, and all of them constantly had some new initiative or change to make just to justify their own positions. Thus, creating total confusion for the sales staff and management itself, and mostly the customers.

  25. Bob A Dobalina says:

    “The last time I worked in a store was in 1975,”

    So this guy has not worked retail since he was sixteen, yet is now running a retail chain?

    If Best Buy was a horse, someone would mercifully shoot it to put it out of its misery