What makes Pret being Pret? Not doing the right thing “naturally” as their slogan says. What does Pret do next to nothing that makes them unmistakably Pret?
I was awaiting an open retaliation or “tangible” trouble for going public with my traumatic experience in Pret, but no, I have to be disappointed again! I should have learned by now!
Pret’s done it again, the PR thing. This blog entry is for them of course a welcome contribution to their PR. I am feeling generous today and will explain why below.
Usually on Pret’s and the CEO’s Twitter there is something about a new product or a scheme like new cutlery, bottles etc. pinned to their pages, but since recently Pret’s pinned tweets are about all the good deeds Pret loves to advertise to the public, how Pret gives jobs to people who were homeless etc. So far so good.
So, the Tweet goes: Look at what lovely things we’re doing! Braaaaggg:
Btw, as an “Ex-Pret” I suggest to run from Pret before the stars fall from the sky!
… while other staff members are unfairly dismissed and made homeless.
And on the CEO Twitter the pin is about the £1000 for every employee.
This sudden generosity, where it used to take 10 years of service in Pret to receive £1K now is “thrown” at all new and long-term staff, which to me looks like Pret is desperate to recruit and retain their staff, while making others redundant in HQ. Just shifting the money a bit in the midst of this Brexit angst.
So, what’s my problem with these? No problem at all, looks all very sweet and lovely, except to say that I cringe at this hypocrisy!
UPDATE July 2020: Clive Schlee’s Twitter account has been closed/deleted in the first week of July 2020.
And I can’t help but think also of age-discrimination. All the former homeless people in the photo seem in their 20s or no older than 30s, as well as the apprenticeship scheme with young people who are paid less per hour, means that the “investment” in them will pay out longer than taking over 40 or 50 year old former homeless people. Young people don’t know their workplace rights yet, they are easily to be brainwashed and molded into a system whereas an older person comes with a lot of life experience and a zero tolerance for bullshit.
One review from a former employee has put it in more “krass” words, that even I find a bit too strong, but the reviewer, a former Assistant Manager who has a little more insights into upper level management and tactics than I have, wrote, quote:
“now the company is just about the profit also it is run like mafia organisation where it is about who you know, the team member are over worked and managers are always working with fear … Get back to basic, care about the team and always listen to the little people, also be open and get rid of some top management who are so corrupt.”
I can certainly verify about the favouritism in Pret where you can work your butt off but are never promoted while an incapable and bullying team member sleeps their way through the ranks. But I just don’t have the courage to say the “M*fia” word and rather quote it, but the PR stunt is certainly a close relative to how Mafia organisations work. They “rampage” their way through a region and town, and in-between they give money to the little people and make substantial donations to charity.
Of course with the Mafia it is a mix of bribery, money laundering and “investing” in the little people, so when they need a boost in their reputation, the small folk will stand up and say what great deed this organisation has done for them! Super duper clever PR in a nutshell.
And a former IT Analyst of 8 years in Pret giving a review on HQ, quote:
“Manipulative and exploitative approach to employees as owners and senior management concerned about profit margin only. People are taken into account only if it makes good PR. Genuinely fake and dishonest company.”
To pin ones photo with ex-homeless staff on ones Twitter feed and try to buy current and new staff with £1000 incentives, while the atmosphere in shops show a different story, is what my problem is with this.
Now, I am really glad for these and other ex-homeless people to not only get a shot at work and a new life again, visiting the CEO’s Austrian PRoperty, and also for the apPRentices, who are all treated a little “softer” then the rest of the workforce, but if this is the only response to my public outcry, I am really disappointment. And if I was a former homeless person, I would be really ticked off in being used for a PR stunt like this.
You may say as some have that I am very passionate about my Pret-rants, or you may think that I am too angry. Yes, both true, and if you have followed my story with Pret you will know why, if you agree with my public outcry not, but you will know why.
For any new reader, in a nutshell, I worked in Pret for almost 10 years. After 7 years of service I was bereaved as my brother died and the circumstances around his death and how I received the news were extremely shocking and traumatic. But regardless how his death was or how I received the news, bereavement is bereavement, and instead of being supported, I was bullied, targeted, excluded, shouted at by line manager after line manager, tricked and trapped by Pret’s corrupt HR department and patronized by the CEO who labeled me his “late night girl”. The support that I then received was a lot to cover up their tracks and a Pret-ense in many ways.
Because the managers in shops are not trained in how to deal with a bereaved staff member, the Head of HR met with me after I contacted the CEO for help when the bullying became unbearable. At the first meeting the Head of HR asked me how meeting with him was for me on a scale of 1 – 10. Confused at this weird question but in hindsight understanding that he had the need to get his ego scratched, falsely assuming I was “star struck” in having met with a big gun. Nope, I wasn’t impressed, especially after I approached HR for almost a year with suggestions for support, hitting a brick wall! I needed to meet with and the support from my line managers who were at a loss, frustrated and angry with me, belittling and offensive, and as one bullying line manager wrote in an email to his boss that my situation was “imposed” on him.
And another time the Head of HR met with me again while I was in the middle of a 3-months sick leave, but then not knowing it would turn into 3 months, a sick leave that was kick-started by my line manager shouting at us leaders again for no apparent reason and my anxiety level couldn’t handle this anymore. In this sick-leave I had my first massive panic attack in my sleep, waking up from or with a panic attack I didn’t know one can have in ones sleep. Dragging myself to A&E at 5am in the morning thinking I’m in the middle of a heart attack and the fear of death in me.
The Head of HR met with me again then and made the first of four settlement offers if I resign and be quiet about my ordeal as well as not go to court. Of course I refused as I don’t prostitute my values, nor am I willing to suffer in and “of” silence for the rest of my life. And then he had the audacity to want a “cuddle” when we finished the meeting where we met in a Cafe Nero. Not quite the professional end of meeting I would have respected as such. He put his arms around me and I remember ducking down confused, and later thinking to myself, that he should make up his mind if he wants me to leave or if he wants to cuddle! You can’t have both, sir! But then I heard a few things about him later, and again a lot made sense.
Before my brother died, I had a normal life, friends, projects, hobbies, normal problems, bills, just a plain life. Now, Pret was always hard, rude, bullying, but I was able to see through and resist the fear management style most of the time and not take the stress home too much. But when I was thrust into traumatic grief and still working really well, even making the effort to bring suggestions to Pret, I was then drenched in great fear and anxiety that bereavement and trauma brings with it as a default. But this extreme fear was intensified by the bullying culture in Pret. I was like a zombie stumbling around and still don’t know how I even survived this.
So, now where I am publishing openly about my and other people’s experience, having been scared so much by and of Pret, intimidated, confused, angered, now where I am openly confronting this bullying system of Pret, Pret does not have the “balls” so-to-speak to not only apologize, but to respond in a way that would give them a chance to “safe face” and even more, to truly make a difference for their workers as this system is hurting them, and with it Pret in the long-run.
And as it is with everything in life, the truth always comes out, prolonged fear leads to anger and people eventually start to speak out, like in this unprecedented example of sexual violence in Hollywood and the outcry that was kick-started by a little hashtag #metoo that has brought and is still bringing rapists, bullies and abusers to justice. The same it is with systemic workplace bullying, a system like this cannot hide forever behind a PRet smile.
So, posting sweet little photos with former homeless people, using their stories for great PR, and advertising on the rooftops what good deed they’re doing now with the £1000 sudden generosity to each employee, I will refrain from saying what word comes to mind!
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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