My first thoughts, I admit, were wrong.

Chiquita fares well on TV show

Chuck Robinson
Media Watch

I winced upon hearing about Chiquita chief executive officer Fernando Aguirre’s plans to take part in an episode of “Undercover Boss,” which aired recently. (You can still watch it here.)

If the airing wasn’t omen enough, I thought the idea of putting your corporate chief out there to be ridiculed was crazy. What good could come of that?

The CBS reality TV show disguises execs and puts them in lower-level jobs along workers regularly assigned to the work who are unaware of the ploy. For Aguirre, dyeing his silver locks brown, a change of clothes and dark-rimmed glasses completed his disguise.

Having seen it the program, my idea has changed. Aguirre came off as very personable. It was great to hear how he emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. as a high school student to learn English and then got a college baseball scholarship to Southern Illinois University.

As “Manuel Gonzales,” Aguirre worked as a forklift operator in the warehouse, helped package Fresh Express bagged salads, checked figures and shuffled papers with a port dispatcher and tried his hand at field harvesting lettuce.

I see value in more people recognizing Aguirre and having a personable and human face attached to Chiquita.

The corporate leviathan has had its share of embarrassing missteps. Recently the FDA boxed Chiquita’s ears for implying its Pineapple Bites fresh-cut product was low cal.

In 2007, Chiquita forked over $25 million to the U.S. government to settle charges that it had paid off Latin American terrorist groups, which the company said was necessary to protect its workers.

It is easier to cast aspersions on a giant, soulless corporation (see how easy that was?) than that company run by Fernando.

Maybe they should follow up in kind.

More produce stars?

Like I was concerned about Aguirre, Chiquita and “Undercover Boss,” my initial reaction to Gill’s Onions being featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” was more to the “you’ve got to be kidding” train of thought than “this might be marketing genius.”

I can’t associate anything about the operations at Gill’s Onions with a program with “dirty” in its title.


What do you think about produce companies being featured on reality TV shows? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.