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Peavey Electronics on Undercover Boss – A PR Nightmare

I’m sure when Peavey COO, Courtland Gray and company founder, Hartley Peavey were thinking of doing the show Undercover Boss, they didn’t imagine such a train wreck could happen with their Facebook and Twitter accounts being hammered by negative comments. Usually Undercover Boss is a light, feel good TV show with the boss learning about his awesome employees and giving them vacations and paying off debt in exchange for hugs and great PR for the company.

This episode started off just fine with Courtland donning a wig for an old school rocker appearance, even showing up dressed almost identical to a store employee. Then, as usual we heard the hard luck stories, one from Teresa, 24 year employee of the company with five children who tells about cutbacks and no raises in 8 years with Courtland responding defensively, “I was discouraged that she really didn’t understand the big picture”. Is it her job to know or care about the big picture? She was also complaining about lack of communication and surely the big picture is something that should be clearly communicated.

The last employee Michael was another loyal worker who loves the company but lets Courtland know that he just gave his 2 weeks notice because he can’t afford to feed his family on his current salary. At this point it’s clear that the Peavey brass thought factory conditions were better than they were and weren’t prepared to address any of the complaints or even follow up with at least a comment about the tough state of the current economy.

In the final reveal scene, Courtland does the usual deal where he gives money to the workers to help them out and promises to work to keep Michael at the factory. This show completely crashes and burns when the ending is them closing the plant and putting these loyal workers out of business, and reducing Michael’s hours after he passed on another job to stay loyal to Peavey.

In defense of Peavey, the musical instrument business is rough for most manufacturers now but their decision to outsource out of the country isn’t sitting well with current customers who loved their old “Made in the USA” reputation. Courtland really needed to show some emotion and to let the viewers know that this wasn’t a decision they made lightly. The abrupt ending made a lot of people think and feel the worst about them.

The best defense of this episode comes from an employee not featured on the show. He stated that plant shut down isn’t the only one in town and many were moved to other positions.

From TalkBass member BbbyBld: After so many years of that, the cost to keep plant 3 open was going to increase by an additional 50% in 2015 due to new government regulations. Why don’t they put that on TV?

The show makes it look like tons of dedicated employees lost their jobs. The fact is, the best people were moved to other parts of the company and were given new jobs. Many moved from manufacturing positions to better office jobs including working along side me in engineering. Why don’t they put that on TV?

Only the brass at Peavey know the real truth about their finances but since this was so poorly handled there are people threatening a boycott. Of course, this would endanger the rest of the employees so a boycott would hurt everyone including consumers who love their products. I think this is just a reflection on the sad state of the economy for the music industry but Peavey should’ve been ready to spin this better when the episode aired. This following Facebook post is all we get.

If I were Courtland or Hartley, I would’ve been at the plant to give the news myself and thank them for all the years of hard work and apologize for the decision. After the fact, I would release a video apologizing for such a hard decision but explaining why it had to be done to save the company, closing with a thank you to the workers and loyal customers throughout the years. I wish Peavey the best of luck in surviving because their instruments were affordable and indestructible and gave so many musicians, including myself, great guitars, basses, amps and more since the 70’s.