UPDATED November 2018 – Undercover report sparked by my blog (at the bottom of this post).
UPDATE March 2019 – For the first time I share my story verbally on a podcast based in California.
Letter to the Pret Foundation Trust
To whom it may concern at the PFT,
I want to start this open letter with one of your former assistant managers who became homeless after being unfairly dismissed. And he is just one who is public. How many more underpaid and for overtime unpaid employees went from the kitchen and shops to the streets? Only you know … I certainly almost did!
And as your “labelling commitment” has been placed again under the carpet and replaced by, what I find a patronizing slogan, to call former homeless people “Rising Stars” is to me again typical for Pret and the facade of your company.
The Pret staff on the left in the photo with the white shirt, Hind, has been to my shop several times when one particular FL was difficult for the whole team and I was going through trauma. The FL was later transferred to another shop. But Hind in the photo came to my shop several times, and was obviously briefed about what I was going through at the time with my personal loss and the grievances that were raised due to the bullying I went through in a previous shop. She came to speak with the FL who was challenging for the team.
But not one time did she speak to me, not even hello or bye. Nothing! I didn’t know who she was, but it was clear that she was involved with the apprentices as she came by also for catch-ups with a young apprentice.
This post links to a member of the Mosaic Clubhouse in Brixton who worked for 3 months under your Rising Star scheme. But he wasn’t taken on after three months and explains that his experience was positive. Quote: “I was very slow and so they didn’t offer me a continuation of job after the three months trial. … In the end the experience was very good and worthy. ”
It was positive for him as he was treated differently, not shouted at; placed in a branch that Pret knows can be used as an example compared to the usual atmosphere in shops; he worked steady and stable morning hours, Monday to Friday with weekends off etc. Ben, the manager of the Brixton shop wrote this to Hind:
“Please let him know that we were very impressed by his professionalism at work and always giving 100% in whatever he was doing. The quality of products he made were picture perfect EVERY time. Myself and the team would like to say a big thank you and we wish him luck in his new job and we hope he will pop by for a coffee on us whenever he is in Brixton as he will always be one of us.”
So, his sandwiches were picture perfect (a requirement in Pret) EVERY time, and yet he wasn’t employed beyond the three months trial period. He isn’t even completely clear why he didn’t get the job beyond his trial period, quote: “For what I understood I did my job very well but I was very slow and so they didn’t offer me a continuation of job after the three months trial.” He was not even taken in the shop front on the tills or any other place in the business, regardless of his 100% professional attitude AND picture perfect sandwiches! It urges the question if “slow” people, even while working with 100% excellence but with mental health conditions have a chance in Pret! Sergio certainly was treated really well but to me it looks like it was a show for him to give the positive report. If he would have stayed on, he would have eventually seen and be treated differently as Pret demands a high pace and a smiley front at all times.
One staff review makes this paradox and contradiction very clear. The expectation is to make picture perfect products, but super fast. Yet, Team Members are confused and frustrated because they want to work well, do their jobs with care and passion, but are pushed and pressed for speed: “They expect you to follow six key points of production and have passion in making items. When you follow this they then moan that you are to slow and need to hurry up as everyone in a Pret kitchen says choppy choppy which is the worst thing because it only makes you less motivated.”
And from experience I know how quick managers are to letting staff go, as a Team Leader I had the lucky position to be able many times to save a Team Member’s job when I learned that the manager wanted to let them go. I would put in a word for them asking for them to be under my wing in the shop. Fortunately at times managers listened and the TM bloomed in the shop where they struggled in the kitchen, or they did better in the kitchen after having struggled in the shop.
Sergio was treated differently, he worked Monday to Friday with the weekends off which is very unusual, unless you are a parent and stand up for your rights in regards to flexible working hours protected by law. But every staff member that I worked with, including myself, HAD TO be flexible and work on weekend, except if they really fought it through to be off on weekends. Even getting rotating shifts every other weekend off was often a struggle as managers are not disciplined in the rota setting and just want staff to be available non-stop.
I have a feeling that he would have eventually realized a different Pret than he experienced and there was no room for him there, no matter how well he worked. Not fast enough despite his excellent working ethics. It was a perfect way for Pret to show a front for him to share how wonderful Pret is. And then they add insult to injury by calling him “one of our own”. His contract was discontinued after his trial period, and yet they call him of their own. A typical “sweet-talk” in Pret of how they fool people into believing Pret cares, while not caring in reality, except when people play their games and for PR. And he certainly receives free coffees as a customer to keep him sharing “happy” moments with Pret.
Thus Pret indirectly, with sweet-talk and free products (and probably a big donation for Mosaic Clubhouse) shows that there is NO room for people with mental or physical disabilities in shops, as they cannot keep up the horrendous pace in shops. There is no room for people who suffer or struggle in any way that would hinder Pret to pressure them into high productivity. Pret being “careful to integrate” former homeless people into shops as Clive Schlee worded it, as they won’t last under the burden of management. Regular staff are bullied and pressured that after a while they break and either leave or get fired, putting them into mental health issues.
I keep linking to the staff complaints that I collected unto one page, as this shows again and again how pressured and stressful it is and if staff are not fast enough, they don’t have much of a chance. One example that I know only too well about messed up pays and other issues I am sure Sergio did not experience as Pret was careful to treat him different for PR:
Also, Sergio didn’t get taken on after the 3 months trial as Pret would have had to pay him the £1000 that the CEO promised via Twitter. This would be paid after already one year of service.
And Pret announced that they will bring a report on the Rising Stars soon, and of course as I have confronted them with my “Fallen Stars” post, knowing Pret they like to counter this with slick videos and interview those who have had a great experience being invited to the CEO’s PRivate PRoperty in Austria and other places. As they are not pressured like the mainstream staff to cover up how horrible working there is. I responded with a Tweet myself, even though this is silly.
Being involved with the PFT and working with former homeless people, who have their story and reason why they were homeless, looks good from the outside and I’m sure a lot is meant well and fun. Oftentimes homeless people have lost someone, couldn’t cope with the trauma, and through various events ended up on the street. At the time I worked in Pret 7+ years and was bereaved and on top of that I was bullied during this horrific time. OPs managers who did the grievance hearings pretended that I wasn’t bullied. Grievances were not substantiated and in the appeals were partially substantiated, but just for tiny unimportant issues to keep up appearances. I was denied that I was bullied, and yet your lawyers mentioned that I was bullied in their reply to the Tribunal.
Everyone who knows my blog knows the story, and I will not go into further detail again. As a Team Leader I performed very well, helped bring success to every single shop I worked in, and then having lost my brother and on top of it being bullied from line managers under the watchful eye and guidance of HR. I approached HR early on since May 2015, but they ignored my efforts to bring suggestions in how to support bereaved employees, and just “sweet-talked” while behind the scenes pulling the strings as I could see in my file later.
And yet, all this time there was the Pret Foundation Trust that helps former homeless people back into work.
In a recent Tweet your PFT Director speaks about how she is supportive of people with mental health issues, and yet I was bereaved, bullied, became ill and you had no concerns whatsoever about staff whose “stars” are starting to fall right in front of you! I also keep confronting Pret on a suicide of an AMK last year. Of course you would want this under the carpet as well. But the person in the photo even came to my shop several times, but never ever even gave as little as a hello or good bye, let alone “How are you, my name is so-and-so I work with PFT and we care for people with mental health issues, bereavement and help them find back into work…”
To see how former (mainly young) homeless people are being used for PR while regular staff suffer in bereavement, a bullying work environment, and become an inconvenience, turns my stomach!
One of the rare persons on Facebook was thinking further than just from 12 to noon and asked Pret underneath their Promo video about the Christmas Ads on the “Rising Stars” program, quote:
“this is great, but 450 in 10 years in really not much given pret have 12k staff this year alone? why so few?”
Link (to be able to read, need to be logged into FB)
Screenshot in case her comment will be deleted, as mine disappear regularly:
And UPDATE 02.01.2018
In the 10 years since the Rising Stars program exists, out of 12K employees only 450 came through the program. It does not take much to use people for PR, that is all I can say, dear Pret Foundation Trust. And the public falls for it, and only very few take a closer look.
I wrote extensively in “Pret Being Careful to Integrate” why Pret is careful to integrate former homeless people into regular shops, and that the idea came for them to run an entire shop by themselves. Clive Schlee wrote in his blog, quote: “People pointed out that we didn’t have enough Rising Stars at a management level to actually run the shop. Others felt we might be leaving them too exposed, as we are usually careful to integrate Rising Stars into our shop teams.””
And this is the big give away that Clive Schlee is very very aware and as the CEO indeed the leading force behind how shop staff are treated. I explain in my blog entry as to why they would be “too exposed” and therefore great care is being taken to not integrate them into regular shops. They would be too exposed to the harsh treatment of managers who are tasked by this same CEO for targets and profits. Rarely does a GM step back from that for the sake of the teams:
Or a former Assistant Manager’s review:
So, in order for the Mosaic Clubhouse member to not see the reality, he was not taken on as he was too slow, not even taken on in the shop as he would see reality after a while and that wouldn’t be good for PR[et]!
“Pressure, humiliation, unpaid work”
“Depression. Anxiety. Dread to go to work”
“You will lose everything that makes you human”
“I have never worked in such a toxic, unprofessional corporate environment.”
… and many more along those lines!
And just one of the press reports where journalists are starting to wake up. Everything this article says I could have told him years and months ago incl. the class suit by staff in the U.S. on unpaid wages! Once the public started to see how appalling Pret’s senior leadership dealt with two customer deaths and kept it quiet until it became public, only then does the press wake up to how it really is behind the facade. And at least plenty of people, Unions etc. have an eye on you now! Don’t be fooled by the few followers I have. I keep it low on purpose! And I know you have people keeping an eye on my posts and automated bookmarking systems are used to register every blog post I publish. Be my guest!
Link to the article where the reader needs to register to read, but I gave my two cents to it in “Sliced Pret“. Sathnam Sanghera woke up so clearly that he even liked a Tweet I posted, one of many on his article that I linked to on Twitter:
So, you bet your former homeless people would be too exposed and you want to be careful to integrate them into regular shops as they may not last long like the above Mosaic Clubhouse member, who despite being such a good asset didn’t get the job! You let “Rising Stars” work together in one shop incl. management, make it easier on them and thus you show to the public what a lovely company you are, while your regular shop staff are suffering greatly. Instead of making it easier across the company, you create clusters of shops for PR. Again, my stomach turns.
The Head of HR and Recruitment who was tasked to speak with me once I contacted the CEO after being bullied and sent away by your toxic HR department for almost a year, he could have very easily placed me in another area of the business or introduced me to the PFT to help me recuperate from my trauma. But the plan was to place and keep me under suppressive management in the hopes I resign. Thus this whole PFT is not just hypocritical, it’s a scheme for marketing.
Well I didn’t. I rejected 4 settlement offers that were peanuts anyway if I resign. You don’t understand that a person who becomes bereaved has no interest in money nor do you realize that to mess with a bereaved person, you don’t know what you are getting yourself into! I wouldn’t budge because I have strong principles and values that cannot be polluted with money. Money comes and goes, but I don’t prostitute my values and convictions.
I kept going and then your company fired me while my dad was in intensive care, just out of a coma. You used your Development Manager who supposedly also lost her brother and didn’t know for days that he was dead like my brother. You stepped on her and my dignity by using her personal tragedy against mine to sanction me, instead of supporting me and her in our common grief. How perverse and corrupt does it get, Pret?!
I buried my dad a few months after losing my job, but I never told him that I was fired. In and out of dementia and being clear at times, surprised to see me again so soon, where I just left him a week before. I lied to him and said that my company gave me extra time off to be with him, while in reality I was fired three days after Christmas 2017, no job in sight, my father just out of a coma, money running out, a complete breakdown and suicidal. My dad was pleased that I seemed to work for such a great company. And thus I have the opportunity now to tell the public what a careless and corrupt company Pret A Manger is, that just likes to cater to PR.
It hurts me for people who continue to suffer under this greed-ridden corporate bully, disguised behind sweet-talk and fake smiles. And as a former IT Analyst reviewed the company and Head Office:
Even the £1000 announcement to all staff came in the night from 28th to 29th May 2018 when Pret became aware of my blog here. Quick PR RE-action, while not being bothered at all that customers died until this also became public.
I’ve written many times on Twitter and here in my blog that it is my biggest regret to have wasted 10 years of my life on a company that wasn’t worth my while at all. I struggled so much but kept giving Pret the benefit of the doubt while deeply traumatized and becoming ill. I never worked in such a hurtful place and had to learn my lesson hard.
You use former homeless people for your PR, giving them patronizing labels of “Rising Stars”, which is your CEO’s “trademark” suffering from “foot-in-mouth disease” to give people patronizing and disrespectful labels, like calling me his “late night girl” while pretending that my emails were wrong. Yes, take disadvantaged people to Austria and all over the world, I would even donate to that, treat them well, but to not soften the approach to all staff across the board, some of whose lives have been and are being destroyed by your company, THAT is my disgust of your lies, tricks and exploitation of hard working people. Once they become bereaved, unwell mentally they become an inconvenience for you.
And my experience that Pret never cared for bereaved staff, have absolutely nothing in place to protect and support them, and worse even bully bereaved staff that I have survived under a discriminating HR department. It is still going on and will not change unless the law here also changes and protects bereaved employees from bullying and toxic management and companies.
The bereaved keep getting penalized in Pret:
To end this “letter” that you don’t care about anyway, Pret you step on people, including from HQ. I regret not having reached out to the AMK I was told about who later ended her life. And someday, someone, somewhere will pick this and other things up again.
I am a member of the Mosaic Clubhouse that you try to insinuate fishing for staff as Brexit is close. I am seriously considering cancelling my membership at the Clubhouse. I cannot be in a mental health facility that just cares for support from toxic companies who put people in mental ill-health in the first place.
I am proud to have made many Unions and other important people aware of you, and more and more people as well as your staff will rise and tell their story.
My tribute to the “Fallen Stars” who were trampled upon, some who became homeless, and God knows how many more suicides are under the carpet, when Pret can hide two customer deaths, a third nearly fatal, several hospitalized… how many staff found no way out then to go over the edge, as I almost did as well.
Pret, you are dangerous to people’s lives and health!
And more people will disobey.
A message to exploitative companies, “We’re coming for you!” – John McDonnell
Sparked by my blog Amy Sharpe from the Sunday Mirror went undercover in Pret. I added some comments to her findings in more detail from my 10 years in Pret in “Undercover Under Pressure“.
Other example on the “Rising Stars” Tweet where my Tweets are hidden from the public:
Tweet visible to me only while logged in:
My Tweet NOT visible to the public when I’m logged out:
Slideshow can be paused
The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in —> Pret Staff Complaints
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 starve and 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.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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