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Staffers at Downers Grove office air their complaints — on TV

The accounting director Downers Grove’s Velocity Merchant Services takes some he“Does Someone Have Go?” | Fox

The accounting director at Downers Grove’s Velocity Merchant Services takes some heat on “Does Someone Have to Go?” | Fox

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Updated: June 24, 2013 1:57PM

Getting fired can be a humiliating experience.

What’s worse: having that experience play out on national TV, after your co-workers have complained on camera about how much you suck at your job.

Them’s the stakes in the new Fox series “Does Someone Have To Go?” The reality show gives employees at small businesses the power to pink-slip one or more of their colleagues.

The first two episodes unfold at Downers Grove-based Velocity Merchant Services, or VMS. The family-owned company sells credit card processing machines.

Publicity is what prompted VMS to let the cameras in, said CEO Danoush Khairkhah. “And it gives [employees] the opportunity to see how it is to be a boss and play that role for a couple days. Everybody thinks they can do a better job, so we thought, ‘Go ahead.’ ”

Sixteen VMS workers took part in the show, filmed for five days in December. In taped interviews they griped about co-workers — the procrastinating IT guy, the lazy accounting director who’s also the company founder’s mom — before gathering in the conference room (surprise!) to see what others said about them.

Everyone’s salary gets revealed, prompting more dirty looks and dramatic music. Then they vote, “Survivor”-style, for three peers most deserving of the chopping block.

“I thought it was going to be a little easier than it was,” said sales director Shawn Dodd, 28, who gets called perverted by one colleague. “Some people cracked.”

Fox began working with the Endemol production company four years ago on a similar show but the network shelved it, said Mike Darnell, head of alternative programming for Fox. The Great Recession was raging and the focus was on businesses with financial woes instead of dysfunctional workplaces. The original also made firing a requirement, which is no longer the case. But Darnell confirmed more than one person will get the ax over the six-episode season.

“I honestly don’t think it’s a cruel show,” Darnell said. “This is more of a social experiment. It ends up being cathartic for the offices.”

With the potential for public shaming and no more paychecks, why would employees sign up for this?

“I’d be lying if I said nobody wanted to be on TV,” Dodd said. “But other people, including myself, realized there were issues with the company. This brought things to light.”

There may have been a financial incentive, too. The Associated Press reports producers offered a company $25,000 to participate, with employees getting $1,500 each and $10,000 going to any severance package.

Dodd plans to watch the premiere with co-workers during a viewing party Thursday at Trademark Tavern in Lombard.

“Some people are going to hold grudges,” he said, adding that the company is better off for having done the show. “For the most part, it was a positive experience.”

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