Dick's undercover rival, a Modell's top executive, spurs lawsuit
Dick's Sporting Goods has accused the top executive of competitor Modell's Sporting Goods of taking his experience on the TV show “Undercover Boss” too far.
Mitchell Modell visited a Dick's store in Princeton, N.J., in January and pretended to be a Dick's senior vice president to obtain confidential information about its online sales and marketing, Dick's alleged in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 20 in Mercer County Court in New Jersey, said Modell claimed he was to meet Edward Stack, CEO of Findlay-based Dick's, at the store. He persuaded employees to show him the backroom of the store and answer questions about the business, the lawsuit alleged.
Modell, who put on an oversized mustache and shaved his head to pose as a low-level employee of his company for a 2012 episode of the CBS show “Undercover Boss,” gathered information about Dick's online sales, including a “ship from store” program that gets products to customers quickly, the lawsuit said.
Modell's spokesman Jason Karlowski declined to comment.
In a statement, Dick's officials said the company “takes seriously the protection of its confidential and proprietary information,” but declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“That takes a lot of nerve,” Jeff Inman, a professor of marketing and retailing expert at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business, said of Modell's alleged subterfuge.
It's common for retailers to send employees into rival stores to compare prices, Inman said. But he never heard of an executive posing as an employee of a competitor to gain inside knowledge.
“This is highly unusual,” he said.
Dick's accused its rival of civil conspiracy and trespass and is seeking attorneys' fees and a judge's order to prevent Modell and his workers from entering nonpublic areas of Dick's stores or posing as employees.
Following his experience with “Undercover Boss,” Modell said, he learned how physically demanding warehouse work was and made changes in staffing and workload throughout his company. Modell's has 153 stores in 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
Dick's, a publicly traded company with more than 550 stores in 46 states, is expanding its e-commerce capabilities and has said it will achieve online sales of $1.1 billion by early 2018, up from $292 million in 2012.
In its most recent quarter, Dick's said it boosted sales through its website by offering free shipping.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Add Alex Nixon to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Stocks snap 4-day losing streak; corporate earnings concerns linger
- Stop foreign dumping, U.S. Steel CEO Longhi tells Congress
- Pittsburgh angles to keep Heinz headquarters in merger
- Pa. Gas & Electric agrees to $6.8 million settlement of polar vortex claims
- Michigan man takes Heinz to court over Dip & Squeeze ketchup packet
- Heinz merging with Kraft in mega-deal; headquarters to stay in Pittsburgh
- Federal government eyes regulation of payday lending
- Auto review: Murano catches eyes with alluring redesign
- Federal Trade Commission cracks down on crooked vehicle sales
- One secret Facebook doesn’t want you to know
- Energy Department OKs loan of $259M to Alcoa to promote clean energy