Undercover Boss: A Post-Mortem
By David Henderson
Now that I’ve seen the Undercover Boss episode about the Cincinnati mayor, it’s time to analyze. See here for my predictions. The bottom line is that I was on to something. Alex Tabarrok, in a comment on my previous post, gave some of the evidence for it. There is more:
1. I found it interesting that, even though the mayor had fooled the meter maid, who had had her suspicions about his real identity, he told her who he was before they went out on the afternoon shift. He didn’t wait, the way the past private-sector employers did, for the days-later meeting. Why? I think it was because he found her story about her son’s illness moving and he wanted to tell her ASAP that he would do something for her. This is the desire for instant gratification that we see so often in politicians. I think he wanted the immediate credit for being a good guy.
2. Another interesting thing is that with most of the private-sector jobs, the undercover boss was actually put to work on top of the work that the supervisor was doing. In this one, that didn’t happen as much. While working with Danny to pick up dead animals, he mainly drove around with Danny as his companion. He didn’t add much, if any, productivity. While working with Karen in the rec center for kids, we saw him play volleyball with the kids and maybe help a little with hotdogs, but that was about it. With the meter maid, he accompanied her but they did parking tickets together: there was no additional productivity. The only possible case of increased productivity was repairing motorcycles but we weren’t shown enough to be able to tell whether or how much he did.
3. Notice what he said about why he wanted the GPS for Danny driving around in his truck: “I want to make Danny’s job easier.” Not “I want to make Danny more productive.”
4. I’ll highlight one thing that commenter Alex Tabarrok pointed out:
I did feel that the gifting was a bit slimy. Hard to say what the mayor should have done but what is one to think when the mayor’s ‘friends’ give random workers checks for $10,000?
Exactly. What favors will the mayor owe his “friends?”
5. Notice the irony of giving $10,000 to the motorcycle repair mechanic. As commenter Pandaomoni pointed out, what does he do with it? Retire early.
On my previous post on this, commenter “mark” cryptically stated:
I predict that your predictions will come true, in part, because you already have prejudged the show.
I’m not sure what this means other than that when one predicts, he is, in a sense, prejudging. But there’s nothing about prediction that says that your predictions will come true. It’s a tribute to my model of government vs. private incentives that some of them did come true and that other things, that I didn’t predict, are things that the model would predict. As I often tell my students, “I’m not brilliant; my model is brilliant.”