GRAND MOUND - Job security is everything in today's economy, so to say it meant the world for Jackie Sanchez to be promoted after five months at her job is quite the understatement.
Given how her promotion was awarded — by her company’s CEO on national television — the experience is still a little surreal.
Sanchez, a 43-year-old single mother of four from Grand Mound, was one of four employees of Great Wolf Lodge locations around the country featured on the CBS show "Undercover Boss" Sunday evening as they worked alongside Great Wolf Resorts CEO Kim Schaefer.
Schaefer posed as a new employee under a false name and even changed her appearance, traveling from location to location — and from the top of the corporate ladder to the bottom rung, as she performed the most menial of tasks, supervised by Sanchez and three others.
At Grand Mound, Sanchez was tasked with training Schaefer on all tasks and responsibilities at the front desk.
"I was a bit surprised when we had a new employee come through and not only did they tell me I was going to train her, but at the same time we were going to make a training video," Sanchez said Tuesday afternoon. "I was actually relieved because here was someone my age working right alongside me."
Sanchez told The Chronicle that film crews showed up for one day in August and filmed "for about three to four hours," including time it took to get additional footage for cut scenes.
"It really was all a blur," Sanchez said, "especially because our 'new employee' only showed up for one day of work."
The CBS television crew pulled the wool over the employees’ eyes so well that the sales and marketing staff at the Grand Mound resort simply thought the cameramen and grips were a contracted crew to update the corporate training videos every employee of Great Wolf sees during training.
"I thought the people who were coming through were making another training video, you know, updating the footage," said sales and marketing manager Shannon Kirchberg. "We didn’t even know until corporate sent us an e-mail saying Kim Schaefer was going to be featured in 'Undercover Boss.’ "
In the show, Schaefer shadowed Sanchez as she checked in guest after guest to the Grand Mound resort. Sanchez detailed every procedure from issuing water park passes to reassigning a room — and even dealt with the token angry customer in the process who demanded a room on a higher floor, while handling the situation with an extra dose of grace.
Everything occurred as the CEO of Great Wolf watched incognito and gained a real-life perspective on how the very people who make the company what it is do their jobs.
"There are so many steps, so much explanation," Schaefer said on the show. "It’s so demanding because every single customer has a different request."
Schaefer and Sanchez had some one-on-one time in the break room, where Sanchez said she had to rest frequently because she had bad knees caused by a fall prior to working at Great Wolf Lodge. She never had time to recover from her initial surgery, meaning she would have to return to the hospital at some point.
"I still haven’t had my second surgery because my insurance payments are in arrears," Sanchez said Tuesday. "But I’m on the way to getting them back in order and I’ll have my surgery soon."
Sanchez and the three other employees were invited to the Great Wolf Headquarters in Madison, Wis., having been told that they would be attending a corporate seminar. Little did they know they would meet Schaefer one by one — and when it was Sanchez’s turn, she was in for the surprise of her life.
Sanchez was given an instant promotion and raise by Great Wolf’s head honcho — and was given a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift to boot, so she can spend more time with her family.
"I’d like to promote you to front desk manager," Schaefer said in the show, eliciting an emotional response from Sanchez. "... And once you have your surgery, I want to pay for your time for you to recover properly."
"I can be a mom again," Sanchez said through tears.
Sunday evening, the resort held a viewing party where Sanchez’ co-workers oohed and aahed at seeing her on national television.
Tuesday afternoon, it was back to reality as Sanchez started officially as front desk supervisor — no more camera crews, no more lights, and the glamour of national television behind her.
But even though she basked in the spotlight for one night, Sanchez said her major reward wasn’t being seen by a potential audience of millions across the world.
"It is such a major blessing because I can have my surgery soon and take the time off I need," Sanchez said. "But the most important thing is being with my kids and being able to go to their sports events and tuck them in at night. That’s the best part of the deal."
Watch Sanchez in 'Undercover Boss' online
Sunday’s episode of "Undercover Boss" is free to view online in its entirety, as CBS routinely makes recent episodes of the show free to the public.
If you’d like to see how Jackie Sanchez fared in her interaction with Great Wolf Resorts CEO Kim Schaefer, you can view the show at www.cbs.com/primetime/undercover_boss. The show runs roughly 45 minutes.