'Undercover Boss' Don Fertman No Longer Subway Sandwich Virgin

undercover boss Don Fertman subwayIt was a long road that led 'Undercover Boss' Don Fertman from singing as an orange Crayon in a pop band, to serving as the chief development officer of Subway, the 14 billion dollar sandwich empire with 33,000 stores in 93 countries.

That road included a pit stop in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, which is not uncommon for professional rock musicians. Oddly enough, however, until he went undercover, he'd never made a Subway sandwich -- ever.

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Oh, he paid for his inexperience all right, thanks to a very serious and exacting sandwich artist by the name of Jessi, who is being touted as the toughest employee of all.

"Our fastest sandwich artists can make a sandwich, wrap it up and put it in the bag in 40-50 seconds," Fertman explains. "It took me a little longer. As a matter of fact, Jessi told me 'There's no such thing as a five-minute sandwich -- until now."

She eventually yanked Fertman, who was going by the name of John Wilson, off the sandwich line, and put him in his place, in back, washing dishes and emptying trash. She was completely overwhelmed when Fertman revealed himself as Subway's Chief Development Officer, and offered to pay for her college education, which, she'd confessed earlier, she was having troubles covering. He also promised to pay for a vacation for Jessi and her father, who had been parenting her single-handedly since her mother left.


A singer of Subway's praises

Twenty-nine years ago, when Fertman started with the company, he never believed he would go so far and fall so low. He first came in contact with the company performing the theme song 'It's a great day for a Subway,' in a rock band called The Crayons. "I was the orange Crayon," he says. "I dressed in orange, drove an orange VW and lived in Orange, Conn. Our band would tour the stores, and everyone would request our biggest hit, which was the Subway song."

When the band broke up, Fertman was offered a job selling Subway franchises. He's since worked his way up. His cover for the Undercover Boss gig was that he was competing on a reality show for a job, and another "contestant" was also followed around by a camera crew, so workers wouldn't be suspicious of Fertman. He says he loved almost every minute of it.

-- Find a job at Subway


subway undercover boss Don Fertman
A not-so-great employee

He didn't love holding up the line at an Auburn, Ala., store on game day. His supervisor, Sherri, who had been with Subway for 19 years, felt that Fertman was being a little bit too gregarious, and that his conversations with the customers were slowing him down. She had the perfect balance, and was later recognized for it by being offered $10,000 to star in a Subway customer service video and be flown out to the national conference in California, where she would also get a little R, R, and R --Rest, Relaxation and Retail.

Next, Fertman didn't exactly rise to his baking duties. Subways bake their own bread and cookies in special ovens, and, at a new store in Orlando's Science Center, Fertman proved he couldn't do either one well, let alone master both at the same time. His supervisor Efrain made it clear that he thought his grandmother could work faster. Fertman became so confused he locked himself in the walk-in freezer, and Efrain had to find him and let him out, but he was rewarded for his efforts.





At the end, Fertman gave Efrain $5,000 to donate to the foster program of his choice. It seems Efrain had been a foster child who was later adopted, and wanted to do the same thing for someone else. Efrain also got $1,000 to do something nice for his adoptive mother.


Fertman redeems himself

It was in church where Fertman had what was probably his most satisfying experience. There's actually a Subway shop in Buffalo, N.Y. that's based in a church building -- it's been there for five years. "Reverend Darius showed how Subway can be used for community outreach," Fertman says. "They provide job opportunities, interview experience, etc." as well as good, healthy food.

The manager, Duane, who showed Fertman how to make deliveries, confided that he was actually the pastor of a church in Niagara Falls. Later, Fertman waived the $15,000 franchise fee so Duane could start a Subway store in his own church. Fertman also gave him $20,000 for a scholarship fund for his four adopted children, and made him and Father Darius the stars of a community outreach video so other Subway franchisees could learn how to do more in their own communities.

AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss Don Fertman
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Pumping diesel fuel at a truck stop.

2. What inspires you? My wife inspires me to be a better person, my children inspire me to be more kid-like and music inspires tears and laughter.

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Determination.

4. What is your biggest challenge? Making Subway a household word in every country where we're located.

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Don't quit your day job. My father asked me, "When are you going to get a real job?" It was fun playing rock 'n roll, but coming to Subway was the best thing that ever happened to me.

A family passion

Fertman has two young children who grew up with Subway, and still want to eat there every chance they get. Although he can make his own Subway sandwiches in the company lunchroom every day, after 29 years, Fertman still often indulges the kids. They have a mutual love for the Spicy Italian and the Jessi (a new concoction inspired by the 'Undercover Boss' episode). But his absolute favorite is a sandwich unique to Japan, which involves pastrami, potato salad and melted cheese.

Potato salad? On a bun? When you have stores in 92 different countries, it takes all kinds. Fertman says his 'Undercover Boss' experience helped him discover and appreciate many more of them.

Get more 'Undercover Boss':

-- Interviews with Season 2 Bosses [AOL Jobs]

-- A Boss Is Locked in the Freezer on 'Undercover Boss' [TV Squad]


Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Editor

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.

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Ehsaanullah Zahid

It's ironic how much money is spent annually by subway on advertising and this recent effort by don Fertman to promote Subways image. I say ironic because here in Pakistan, we are being served everything from Caterpillars, Flies to Cockroaches in our Subs. The outlets have pathetic hygiene conditions with servers picking their nose in front of customers, clipping their nails on counters and cockroaches coming out of their kitchens if it wasnt enough to make you throw up in your mouth already.

There are no checks and balances because the Development Agents are the very people who own majority of the franchises. Convenient, because you cant get your complaint heard or an impartial resolution.

Customers come down with food borne illnesses such as food poisoning, hepatitis, typhoid. I loved Subway, I still do. But I'm a little repulsed now. I had been eating for 3 months straight at Subway store id 39526. There were flies and the insect killers didnt work. I politely filled out a suggestion card and also asked the server to tell the owner to do something about the insect killer.

Next visit, nothing had happened. So I decided to take snaps of the dead and alive flies on the premises and email them to him. As I did so, a server on the counter started clipping his nails since there were no customers to serve at the time. A few days earlier, a server had picked his nose oblivious to on looking customers. I reprimanded him, he apologized and I let it slide thinking it was a one off incident. Keep in mind, we are brain washed by the clever advertising into thinking regardless of geographical location. Subway would maintain its standards of hygiene at least. Not so.

As I was done finishing the email, a large cockroach came out of the kitchen making me want to throw up. I stopped going to Subway after that but it was already too late. I came down with Hepatitis A and was in the hospital for 2 weeks of what seemed like a near death experience.

2 months passed and the owner still didnt reply. I called Subway HQ and threatened a lawsuit. I was given nothing but lip service by their attorney "We will look into this but can't promise you a time frame for a resolution as we have never dealt with such a situation before'. Add insult to injury why dont you? The owner emailed me saying the workforce was to blame, and took no responsibility for the incident.

These are the kind of people you want representing Subway Don Fertman? The kind that play with peoples lives and safety? Why? Because its good for profits and business? Have you any idea how many customers you lose when this happens? I'm looking at a relapse of the Hepatitis A and Subway International wants to do nothing about removing the Development Agent in question.

June 09 2014 at 1:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cPg

Let's try this again for the 3rd time-to have the comments posted-

ATTN Veterans: Avoid these locations--Two local Subway shops in the Buffalo NY area WOULD NOT and DID NOT HONOR VETS ON VETERANS DAY with the free 6" subs. AVOID THESE LOCATIONS::::
(1) 3382 Main St Buffalo NY (next to Wendy's) store said you had to have a coupon even with Vet Id-Owner not available (?) Mgr (?) spoke w/heavy accent-and rude said no-Other Vets left store. This location is also about 5 minutes from the VA Hospital (Bailey Avenue).
(2) 3997 Sheridan Dr Suite 1 Amherst NY USA 14226 (Chuck E. Cheese Plaza)
Sheridan Drive store said they are not honoring Vet free 6 inch sub -rude and no mgr on duty- store was empty--(good-store should be closed)

It is not the free sub that matters it is simply that these locations could care less- and rude -which I found to be strange and awkward.....

*****Please note however the: A special thanks to the Subway Walker Center
5110 Main St Williamsville NY for honoring the Veterans and being pleasant as well. Other Vets and I enjoyed our visit and welcome to your location.*****

November 29 2010 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

After watching the most recent episode of Undercover Boss - I am astonished, bewildered, and practically horrified to see that Subway would not only continue to employ an obnoxious little twit like the 19 year old abusive girl manager who was featured, but that the company actually REWARDED her with paying for college and a vacation.
Her attitude borderlines on sociopathic - practically getting off on running what she believed to be a middle-aged potential hire ragged, making horrendous comments about him, verbalizing that it's her job to "break him," etc. It's interesting to see that you place so much confidence in someone with such appauling social skills and no little to no life experience.
It's disgusting to see a company who cares so little about their employees, and the customers who support them, that you'd encourage, praise, and support this little brat who should have instead been kicked to the curb and taught a lesson on how to treat people.

November 24 2010 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

After watching the most recent episode of Undercover Boss - I am astonished, bewildered, and practically horrified to see that Subway would not only continue to employ an obnoxious little twit like the 19 year old abusive girl manager who was featured, but that the company actually REWARDED her with paying for college and a vacation.
Her attitude borderlines on sociopathic - practically getting off on running what she believed to be a middle-aged potential hire ragged, making horrendous comments about him, verbalizing that it's her job to "break him," etc. It's interesting to see that you place so much confidence in someone with such appauling social skills and no little to no life experience.
It's disgusting to see a company who cares so little about their employees, and the customers who support them, that you'd encourage, praise, and support this little brat who should have instead been kicked to the curb and taught a lesson on how to treat people.
And why isn't the fabulously nice, professional black lady higher up in the company?

November 24 2010 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bob

I also would like to know why Mr Fred Deluca didn't go undercover. I am sure if he had grown out his hair and beard and a good simply Disguise probably would have done it reason: most young employees or young managers probably wouldn't recognized the BIG Boss, Mr Deluca unless it was on TMZ, and if they did, he could have gone to another store to complete the task.

Hey "Under Cover Boss" TV Show Producers and Writers, we the viewer want the real CEO / Owner, not some second string upper managment "Yes" man that has no power to change things to be highlighted on the show. What's Up with That?

Mr Deluca, had you been the CEO featured on the show, you probably could have been able to fix this bad press that you are getting now because of this show. I would hope that you being the founder of Subway would have been able to show us TV viewers how you make your subway sandwhich.

What you did instead, in my opinion, was to put your company in a bag light, by having someone else in your company do what the show's mantra is, to have the CEO of a company go under cover to see the good things and correct the bad things and correct them.

I'm sure had you done that you have agreed with me that your Subway Manager, the lovely African American Subway store manager and a Subway employee of 19yrs should have been offered a full fledge, shinny new Subway store.

I know Domino's under Mr Thomas Monnhan use to do this for his Dominos Pizza employees.

PS, I do like subway sandwhiches, espcially the double stack, and have been a customer since the mid 70's

November 22 2010 at 10:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
briock

Scripted obviously. Who really believes an entire camera crew shows up following a guy/woman around? The company is contacted to be on Undercover Boss. Most likely they do an employee survey asking employees what issues they have both personal and job wise. They pick the most dramatic. Do their little scripted scenerios, and the boss (and company) always come out looking like compassionate and very giving human beings after they struggle mightly. And as for locking ones self in a freezer, impossible. All freezers nowadays have internal handles and emergency levers which are required so someone can't lock themselves inside. Most companies hire DMs and Executives from outside the company. My company has 3 executives and 14 DMs. Out of those 17 people, only 2 ever worked for the company, and they were managers who were promoted to DM. Alas so many poorly run companies

November 22 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LM

I managed a Subway for a couple years, and the employees (in whatever business) reflect their manager. No, Jessi does not deserve to be rewarded. Apparently there was no customer service training when she was originally trained. As a good manager, you know how to get the best out your employees. (If you are ever confused on how to treat a customer, think about how you would like to be treated in there position.) There is no way I would have allowed my employees to treat anyone the way she treated him. I think that Fertman needs to concentrate and monitor the franchise owners. If Fertman started from the top down and held the franchise owners accountable, then maybe the customer service would be better, along with the employees attitudes. The franchise owner (I knew), Robert, in Dallas, was terrible about honoring raises and promoting well deserving candidates. There was actually an on the job accident where the employee suffered a fractured wrist and his operating partner told her that they would take care of the injury under workers compensation, BUT DID NOTHING. The franchise owner, Robert, actually let all of the doctors charges default to the injured employee. Now the x-employee, which signed some "in-house NO SUING clause" that was part of the original application has large doctor bills that should have been taken care of by the franchise owner. So even though reality shows may be staged and scripted, a lot of the wrong doing starts from the top down. Fertman, "You've only scratched the surface of your problems, dig deeper."

November 22 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig

I can't believe they didn't haul her ass in and fire her. No employee should have been treated like that. With that being said, I think as a Boss he was one of the biggest idiots I have seen. He was slow and obviously an ex-druggy. Also didn't like the other bosses comment on his age. That is discrimination. Hello Quizno's. Goodbye Jerod.

November 22 2010 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shaquille

The big boss should fire her she aint right in the head. She gots the attitude and needs knocked down. The mans crazy to give her all that money, if you got that much to give away give it to me as I am unemployed and no way to treat fellow workers, what happened to this country work just isnt fun like it should be. They are more interested in criticising your work than just being friendly and getting your pay right, and no boss better not get in my face. They are all caught up in making more money when they already got enough when they should be all about geting you a raise. I mean companies dont want workers to have no Ipods cellphones nothin no more, cant even play the stupid radio at most jobs any more.

November 22 2010 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shaquille's comment
Shaquille

Yeah and I know what Im talkin about from my own life cause I did get fired not for the good job I was doin no nothin was said about that, but just minding my own damn business checking out scores on the internet on the assistance comp. I even told them I was on break they said I already had my break and even if I had the boss was gone for hours and came back with food and talking to other boss about the golf game or something not about their job, what hypicrites, should lead by example. See them and there bunch doing that all the time. I am filing charges with labor board on them anyway may end up owning the place anyhow.

November 22 2010 at 9:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rainer

Lets face it" The reality is; Most Bosses wouldn't have a clue as to how difficult and often dissfunctional things are for the Employee to cope with. That is" Untill They" themsel'fs have a go at it and find out what it is really like.

November 22 2010 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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