Just like a Pret A Manger Smile.
There is always a story behind a smile, and oftentimes it’s not what we expect.
Several different reviews regarding the forced “Happiness” and smiles that Pret A Manger demands from its low-paid (under the living wage) workers.
There are several article on the “emotional labour” forced on employees to maximize profit. I did a separate blog entry on >>> Emotional Labour. I was bullied during already traumatic bereavement which I share extensively on this blog and a recent interview, also mentioning the Mystery Shopper rules to get extra money or be threatened with job security. Interview found at the bottom of this page.
Several reviews regarding the forced happiness under fear management.
“extremely rude co workers, unprofessional management, not properly trained however expected to know what you’re doing and smile while doing it”
“Minimum salary for everyday smiling … We have to be smiling a being polite to a bunch of unpolite people.”
“This job can annihilate every piece of humanity inside of you. … you are required to have the widest fake smile on earth”
The Mystery Shopper’s task is to feedback if staff smile, give eye contact, make conversation, and all that in an intensely stressful work environment for 6, 8, 10+ hours straight ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY. No matter if sick, coughing, bereaved, depressed… No mercy. If staff don’t smile, aren’t overly friendly, they risk losing the bonus for ALL the team which has the purpose for peer-pressure and creates a bullying environment, not to mention the boss whose potential big bonus is lost, as Mystery Shopper results and points count towards the biggest chunk of manager’s bonus. And the customers are fooled thinking Pret staff are so happy!
The Pret A Manger Staff Union (PAMSU) has posted a song from YouTube and pleads to end the Mystery Shopper. By the way, I retweeted his tweet but it is NOT visible on his tweet as Twitter shadow bans me and secretly cuts off connections between my and PAMSU accounts. To no avail, because PAMSU knows my website. My response tweet is before the ban, but my RT was after the last ban (29. – 31.12.2018) on 02.01.2019, and still it doesn’t show on his tweet, but on mine.
Different Mystery Shoppers Excerpts:
Quote: “The staff member who served me made good eye contact and greeted me with a friendly smile while remaining focused and efficient…”
Quote: “I was not greeted at the till or given a smile. The only conversation was what was necessary for the transaction. To be welcoming, the team member could have greeted me and smiled and be engage[d] and positive…”
Quote: “Team members should smile at customers and may not work when ill, as team member was coughing whilst serving me and was therefore not feeling cheerful to smile that day.”
I didn’t feel cheerful to smile as well after the telling off from my line manager afterwards. You got told off in the office because you didn’t smile, and while the boss is telling you off (who by the way does not smile themselves, just as a side-note!) and then the non-smiling boss orders you to smile! You go out extremely humiliated, discouraged, with low motivation, and yet forced to smile if you don’t want to find yourself penalized or losing your job.
Task to serve within 1 minute ALWAYS with a smile, eye contact and conversation.
I was smiling for customer service days after I carried the urn of my big brother in my arms to his grave. I smiled and smiled and smiled and died while smiling, and when I didn’t smile, I got told off while my boss knew about my brother.
I was complimented countless times by customers and received good reports from Mystery Shopper, and after my shift went to the bridge … How I survived this, especially during extreme trauma under fear managemet, I can only attribute this to being on autopilot and so fogged up in my mind that I just moved on like a robot trying to come to terms and breaking down later at home. And I didn’t want to put any more grief on my mother.
You need to be a machine to qualify for a Pret A Manger smile or all you’re left with is mental illness. But if you want to be a human and keep your sanity, work somewhere else. Maybe even make your own lunch from home, would save you over £1000 a year if you usually eat out every day.
The Pret staff get pressure and trouble from ALL sides. From the line managers, from customers, from Mystery Shoppers AND from Twitter/FB users who have an expectation as if they just entered the Ritz, even naming low-paid, hardworking, exhausted staff members publicly! But because people have kids to feed they put up with a lot of abuse.
UPDATED: January 2019
A plea to customers at Pret and at any business, if you are served by a sales assistant, waiter, customer service representative and they don’t always smile, even while giving professional service, please pause for a moment before you quickly jump to conclusions or complain to the boss or head office. Maybe even ask that staff member how their day is going or complement them on their service. You never know what that will do for them. Yes, they are paid to do a job, but they are human beings for crying out loud! Most of my customers didn’t care and I’m sure they have their own story and turmoil.
But the trend today is to force staff to smile to maximize profit, no matter how high the emotional and mental cost of staff. Because I almost lost my life and approached Pret A Manger internally for three years hitting a brick wall, that is why I write so bluntly and openly. People suffer to the point of suicide, and we need a change.
Featured on Pret Staff Complaints. A compilation.
Slideshow can be paused
Amy Sharpe from The Sunday Mirror went undercover after reading my blog and she touches briefly on the intense stress staff are under:
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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