Pret A Manger’s Typical Marketing Strategy (and their Fallen Stars)

 

I may not be a Guardian or New York Times writer, where the public easily believes the Press and find it hard to believe a report on the appalling work environment a person’s inside knowledge shares publicly.

I write as an insider of Pret A Manger having worked on the front lines of a stressful and discriminating workplace. I have survived workplace bullying even during bereavement which I write extensively about on my blog and Social Media as well as share for the first time verbally on a podcast (at the bottom of this page).

I experienced Pret, especially CEO Clive Schlee as dishonest, shop managers as bullying and excellent in hiding this profit-driven behaviour behind the PR[et] facade. Like neighbours who hide abused and smiling children behind a beautiful house, but when the truth comes out, everyone is shocked. Really? No, I’m not comparing Pret to the smiley Turpin or other abusive families, what I am pointing out is the age old trap, where people fall for a facade of a friendly looking leadership and PR. I just use an EXTREME example to make a point of how things can be hidden in broad day-light. Behind the “happiness and smiles” in Pret is the Mystery Shopper and the £100 incentive if staff are extra nice. And if Mystery Shopper results are bad, staff are “motivated” through fear management. Sorry to burst the bubble on the happiness illusion in Pret. I cover this extensively in “How Companies force Emotional Labour on Low Wage Workers“.

Customers see how stressful it is in Pret, but have been so conditioned an plainly spoiled where they are happy to wait in Starbucks for up to 15 minutes, but complain in Pret when the coffee isn’t ready in 2 minutes! Pret produced this for high profit, and just very few say something, most customers want their coffees fast and don’t care to look closer let alone mention something!

Rarely do customers point out the stress, chaos and upset they observe. Most just want their coffees, believe the nice facade and off they go:

 

2018-10-20 Staff cry

Link

 

2019-03-19 Response to customer complaint re manager

Link

 

2019-03-22 Customer Noticing busyness Pret1

Link

 

2019-03-22 customer kings cross emma observation stress

Link

 

2013 Customer being treated nice by manager then snap at staff

Link

 

And then, a breath of fresh air!

 

VillageForHomeless

A village built for the homeless by cafe chain Social Bite. I covered this in 2018.

It is super easy for a multi-billion pound company to do some charity work, like I would flip a penny in a beggars cup which doesn’t cost me anything. And thus Pret, lulling the public in again with good deeds, while behind the scenes it is very different. All the free coffees and product give-away, which is very good customer service of course, absolutely, but who’s paying for these freebies? No, it’s not Pret. It’s customers paying it forward by other paying customers as Pret keeps raising the coffee and product prices. Among other bills prices are raised to pay for all the freebies while staff are underpaid and overworked. The few pennies more that Pret pays staff compared to the competition, is because Pret has no choice as the job is so horrendously harsh and stressful, no one would stay for the minimum wage. But for a team leader who has responsibilities almost like a manager to get £9.30 an hour is an insult! It’s better to work for less pay and in turn less stress.

 

2018-12-31 re free coffee marketing

Link … and increased coffee prices paying for the “free” coffees and free advertisement customers then give on Twitter.

 

Schlee tries to compensate this “leadership” style by treating former homeless people (whom he patronizingly calls “Rising Stars”) with kindness and more consideration. In his own words Pret is “careful to integrate” them into regular shops, as the work environment is brutal and may catapult them back unto the streets, further adding cracks to the facade.

While this is a great thing to do, helping people back into work, giving them a beautiful break, by flying them out to his Austrian home, or hike in the English countryside etc., I question the motive behind this kindness. Many staff in the main “population” of the  workforce are treated horrendously bad (my own story in the interview at the bottom). People are fired unnecessarily and unfairly, staff become depressed and suicidal. I was bullied during grief under Schlee’s watch and him even being part of my ordeal calling me his “late night girl”, two months before I was fired while my dad was in intensive care just out of a coma!

This contrast to the “Rising Stars” program should make anyone question the true intention of Pret’s “kindness” as I pointed out in my Open Letter to the Pret Foundation Trust. It is like what one reviewer compared Pret to a “Mafia” organization I posted in Pret A M*ffin. No, of course Pret is not a Mafia organization, but what does a Mafia organization do best? They rule in every corner of a region, give money to the city and charities, to school projects and hospitals, and of course to the police and politicians. Even the press is influenced, while the Mafia is getting free range and their backs covered to build their organization and destroy lives. So, I can empathize with this reviewers comparison.

 

Quote from his blog about the Rising Star program and the idea for them to run a shop entirely by former homeless people:

“Our shop idea lost momentum when we returned home. 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.”

The CEO gave himself away again, knowing very well how horrendous work conditions in shops are, pushed by his profit-driven agenda, especially since private equity took over, to repay the investors on the backs of low-paid workers. They who work double for a few pennies more.

 

Clive Schlee Blog Rising Stars

“we are usually careful to integrate”

… worried they may be

“leaving them too exposed…”

 

for this:

 

Horrible Company Pret

Further down in the comments

 

and this:

 

2018-06-27 Horrible

Link

 

and this:

 

2018-01-12 Never Ever

Link

 

and this:

 

2017-05-29 Bad experience

Link

 

and this:

 

2018-07-23 Quote #27 Pret Hellhole

Link

 

and this:

 

2018-10-02 Modern day slavery depression

Depression. Anxiety. Dread to go to work

 

and this:

 

2017-12-20 Avoid AM

Link

 

and this:

Lose Everything That Makes You Human2

Link

 

and this:

 

2018-07-06 Head Office PR

Link

 

and these:

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The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in —> Pret Staff Complaints

 

The News reports on Pret supporting a house for the homeless and patronizingly labelling former homeless people “Rising Stars”, is another typical “initiative” that looks to me like the usual diversion Pret likes to do from the allergen deaths, not acting on labelling until customer deaths became public. This should send alarm bells through the public who is easily put to sleep with freebies and PR. Other crisis of the company that the public is being informed are:

  • Pesticides in “natural” food
  • 4000 Pret staff in the U.S. gone to court for unpaid overtime (TWICE in 4 years) and the illegal practices Pret used. Pret Staff in the UK also are not paid overtime and have to constantly chase their wages. I had to do this all the time as managers tend to “forget” to pay the correct hours worked… I collected those complaints from many staff reviews on “Quotes of the Day” selected staff complaints. Countries like New Zealand as of recent years criminalized “wage theft”. The UK is way behind this issue that is rampant.
  • The Class Action Suit regarding deceptive packaging and customers still feeling misled on it days ago with many complaints and photos on Twitter.
  • Many Staff Complaints that I collected onto one page linked to other review websites, YouTube, Twitter etc.
  • My own story that sounds like out of a twisted Hollywood movie, except that I have all the written evidence, and Pret’s only reaction is to report me and let Twitter hide my public posts.

And other issues.

 

Pret keeps reporting me to Twitter, Facebook etc. to let them censor me by hiding my Tweets from the public. This secret censoring is called “shadow banning” and the public for most part is unaware this exist, many don’t even realize they are shadow banned. Facebook even deletes PRIVATE messages where I link in the message to my blog here. Check Twitter hashtags #ShadowBan #ShadowBanning #StopShadowBanning #TwitterCensorship etc. Also, google James O’Keefe undercover journalist who infiltrated Twitter with hidden cameras on the issue of shadow banning.

And as Pret reads my blog, the £1000 announcement for all staff came on 29. May 2018, the night when Pret and the CEO Clive Schlee became aware of my blog. They also learn as I have given Clive Schlee himself several tips on things he then implemented and took the credit for.

There are companies that have done for many years what Pret does now. A coffee chain Social Bite that built a VILLAGE for homeless people. Or the Timpson shoe repair & key cutting company, a family business since 1865 goes into prisons since many years recruiting ex-convicts. They even train prisoners while in prison, so that when they come out they go straight into Timpson employment without being “in between” in danger to re-offend or fall through the cracks.

Timpson aims to employ 20% of ex-prisoners. Many ex-offenders are in high positions including finance, as they are more reliable being appreciative having gotten another chance. Timpson is also the company that has as one of its slogans: “Great service by great people”…. Pret has their slogan “Good jobs for good people”. And sure, companies always “steal” ideas as the market is competitive. But I always love when people come up with true ideas like Social Bite to really help and make a lasting impact, not just for PR and own gain while Pret’s CEO pocketed £30 million for himself. A house for the homeless is nothing for him to do. It’s a penny in a beggars cup. And Pret staff behind the scenes suffer.

One comment on Facebook in Feb. 2019 by a current Pret staff on Pret’s homeless house post, also points this out that Pret does this to gain customers while behind the scenes it’s “chaos”:

 

2019-02-08 Pret Staff Facebook Comment Complaint2

Link to Facebook comment. The link needs to settle a bit before it becomes visible.

 

Timpson trail blazing:

 

And yes, it’s good to have a house for the homeless and do all these good things. And it is better to do those things even if this is used for PR, but I want to keep pointing out how harsh it is behind the scenes in Pret, so much so to the point of people becoming suicidal, depressed, disheartened as I had close calls at the bridge.

 

2018-10-13 Clive Schlee Clown Tweet

Link

 

Some criticism from a former homeless person who works with the homeless and has immense knowledge on housing issues etc.

 

2019-02-08 Former Homeless Tweet re homeless house Pret

Link

 

A response from another person on this charity that Pret has teamed up with. With “HB” the person means “Housing Benefit”, rent that is paid by social services for people without a job:

 

2019-02-09 Response to former homeless tweet

Link

 

2012-07-23 Ex GM2

 

A rare observation and acknowledgement of the forced happiness/friendliness of staff:

 

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness

Link

 

2018-05-09 PAMSU EndTheMysteryShopper

#EndTheMysteryShopper

 

And the undercover report that was sparked by my blog: Undercover Under Pressure.

 

 

My Open Letter To The Pret Foundation Trust and how Pret use vulnerable people for PR, while not giving people with mental health issues a job beyond the trial period despite them being 100% and EVERY product picture perfect. And Pret treating regular staff with unbelievable harshness. I survived to publicly speak about my and others’ ordeal. 

 

If you want to restore or protect your reputation or keep maintaining a nice public image to get lots of customer support (£££), what do you do? You go out and look for the most vulnerable people and placate everywhere your good deeds. Even the Mafia does that, and they do that very well.

And then there are others who don’t do so much shouting about their good deeds as they want to help and not just polish their facade. A Village for the homeless built by Social Bite that I posted in July 2018, and I am always happy to help Pret with ideas. And in the meantime I continue to tell the public how it is behind the scenes, including confronting Pret on a suicide of an assistant manager in 2017, and what Pret has done to me and many others.

Pret can continue to be silent and let Twitter etc. shadow ban me. It always gets more clicks on my blog when I’m shadow banned. Thank you.

 

UPDATE:

A Tweet today from a former homeless person on the press release, who looks beyond the PR of Pret as they know how it is and the political correct issues they face as they work with the homeless as well:

 

2019-02-08 Response to Homeless House Tweet.jpg

Link to 2 consecutive Tweets ONE & TWO by former homeless @Homeless_Info that are semi-hidden where one has to click on “Show More”.

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO. 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 also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California. Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

 

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