Reliving reality tv: Think twice before you spy on the competition
In 2012, Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, went incognito for the reality TV show, “Undercover Boss.” It seems he enjoyed the experience so much, he wanted to recreate it.
According to the lawsuit filed by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell told a Dick’s store manager he had an appointment to see their CEO, Edward Stack, at the store. He proceeded to talk to employees and convinced them to give him a tour of the employees-only part of the store, as well as, discussing details regarding the mechanics of the store’s operation.
He seemed to be particularly interested in their e-commerce set up. Details of the lawsuit state that Modell also asked store employees about Dick’s “ship to store” program. More and more stores are focusing on e-commerce in an effort to compete with each other, as well as, Internet favorites, such as Amazon.
Lawsuit essentially alleges spying
Dick’s accuses Modell of civil conspiracy and trespassing. They are seeking unspecified damages and attorney fees. More importantly, they are seeking an injunction barring Modell and his employees from entering non-public areas of any Dick’s store (or posing as a Dick’s employee). If you are not familiar with Modell’s, it is one of the oldest sporting goods stores in the country, founded in 1889. It runs about 150 stores, primarily in the New York City-Philadelphia corridor.
Dick’s has more than three times the number of locations as Modell’s and has been increasing its presence in areas that have long been dominated by Modell’s. Perhaps this is why their CEO felt the need to spy on their operations.
It is a common practice for executives to visit competitors’ stores in order to observe their operations; however, using a false identity to gain access to private areas of the store is less common and just plain despicable. I suppose Modell just was not ready to give up his “Undercover” disguise and it could cost him dearly.