Pret A Manger – How Companies Force Emotional Labour on Low Wage Workers

 

Fake Smile Robin Williams

 

 

Pret Uniform2

The Pret A Smile Uniform Cupboard.

Take your pick Team Member, any of those will do.

 

 

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness

 

A Mystery Shopper tweet:

2017 A Mystery Shopper tweeted

Link

 

Customer Tweets:

2015 About Mystery Shopper

Link

 

2013 Mystery Shopper Group Incentive

Link

The psychology of “group incentive” is actually peer pressure and what a recent reviewer called “blame culture” which I totally underline. I spent a lot of time building my team member UP when they messed up the Mystery Shopper after our manager put them DOWN, because putting down is counter productive and leads to mental health problems. If I had buckets of the tears that were flowing after the harsh telling off when the Mystery Shopper wasn’t happy …

 

2018 Emotional Labour Labor Quota Smiles2

Link

 

A Pret employee’s review on the Mystery Shopper pressure:

2019-04-16 Mystery Shopper Blame Culture

Link

Or the “happy family” trap and the pressure on ONE person who loses the bonus for the whole team turning the team against that one person. Again, I had to many times step in-between the 1 person to protect them from the group and the bullying mentality Pret encourages.

Another of the many reviews along those lines:

2019-04-09 Mysterys Shopper Trap Happy Family

Link

 

Part of Mystery Shopper Reports

 

04 MS

Pret: “We aim to connect with every customer with eye contact, a smile and some polite remarks. Rate the engagement level of the person who served you at the till.”

Mystery Shopper: “I was not greeted at the till or given a smile …”

Line Manager to the person having served the MS: “I need to see you in the office!”

 

Pret A Manger Reality behind the Smile:

1. On average a Team Member does between 300 – 500 transactions per day. Some less, some more if they work a regular 6 – 8+ hours shift (many work 12 hour shifts!), and depending on how busy it is and if working in the rush times. 300 transactions are NOT 300 individual people! 1 transaction can be serving 3 people for example. 1 transaction is ONE sale/payment that goes through the till/system, no matter how many people. It can be a group of tourists, families, colleagues who order together and often pay together, but each person will be spoken to about the order that they place. So, on average a TM communicates with 500 – 800+ PERSONS, plus colleagues, line managers etc. PER DAY/shift. The exhaustion staff members go through, not to mention depression is something the public doesn’t want to know about. I was complemented many times by the Mystery Shopper and customers for my friendly service, attentiveness, professionalism… but they did not know that several times I left my shift headed for the bridge.

Customer observation:

2018-10-20 Staff cry

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 (It makes the employee feel even weirder not to mention shamed and humiliated crying in the staff room later!)

 

2. If the TM is successful and the MS is happy with the overall atmosphere and requirements of the shop, the whole team receives the bonus. If the TM messes up, doesn’t smile or whatever the MS may not be happy with, the whole team loses bonus, and the TM will find themself in the office being told off, at times manipulated with fear management, threatened with a disciplinary and/or job loss… Even during bereavement, I was summoned to the office and my non-smiling was one part of a list of (small) things I was targeted with.

One of many such staff reviews, quote:

“Better salary than McDonalds or Costa as long as you keep your fake smile up … (A lot of people cry in the staff room especially in their entry period) … if you have seen the film “Compliance” then you know what type of person you will become if you stay there for longer.”

2015-09-29 Staff cry

Link

 

Emotional Labour Labor

Link

Quote from above article:

“… in The New Republic, Timothy Noah observes that the sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger aggressively monitors its employees’ displays of enthusiasm. If any worker at any particular store seems insufficiently pleased to see their customers, he and all of his coworkers could suffer the consequences. Pret CEO Clive Schlee even monitors whether his employees are making enough affectionate physical contact with each other.” Link

I can verify that. Being summoned to the office myself or consoling a crying team member in the staff room who just received a file note (now called “note of concern”), after coming from the office where the manager used fear management on them for not having smiled while serving the Mystery Shopper. The team member then was sent out from the office to the shop and demanded to smile. Clive Schlee himself sent me to the till when he visited a shop I worked at. He visited after I contacted him for help when HR kept sending me away when I was bullied by managers during bereavement. Clive visited me at that time as my case panicked him (fear of Tribunal cases). After he introduced himself at a quiet period between the morning and lunch rush, I was in tears as I felt relieved to finally get help (fooled at the time!). He saw about 3 customers queuing at the till and sent me back to the till while I was in tears! Full story in my interview at the bottom of this page.

Any person and customer who quickly complains that staff should look for another job if they can’t smile for service should get a reality check and stop being so calloused towards low-paid workers! I survived, I almost ended my life and confront Pret on Twitter. Guess why they don’t respond or block me! I spill the beans in my interview at the bottom of this page or the home page.

 

PAMSU Dismantle MS

Link

 

 

“I was served after 15 seconds …”

“Team members should smile at customers and may not work when ill …”

“Your smile is part of your uniform. You are expected to wear a smile like you wear your uniform!”

 

Ctrl & + to enlarge:

MS Mystery 15 seconds to Mars

4 out of 5 points even while being served in 15 seconds. Sorry dear “Misery” Shopper, that the team didn’t serve you in 1.5 seconds to get 100%.

 

MS Mystery Shopper VAT eat in take away

 

MS Mystery Shopper Team Member should smile cough

“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 enough to smile that day.”

1. Team Members are not paid the first 2 – 3 days, depending on age, when sick, EVEN if they have a sick note from day 1. This forces them to make constant decisions if to stay home and lose income, or if they are fit enough to work while ill.

2. After this comment I found myself in the office being told off by the manager. No question of “how are you”…

3. I couldn’t smile at times after I buried my brother and my manager again had no mercy. And when I smiled and the MS gave excellent comments, there was NO recognition from the managers.

4. Pret A Manger, stop this emotional abuse and exploitation for your millions.

 

2017 Mystery Shopper sick pay

Link

The £45 Mystery Shopper bonus she’s talking about is that she would have worked 45 hours that week. Each hour is £1 bonus, as Pret cuts the weekly bonus even when staff are sick for 1 day that week. And the rest £55 she means is the hours she lost for that 1 day. And Pret only responds to her Tweet because it’s public. In reality Pret has nothing and doesn’t care if staff are sick.

A recent Tweet to the CEO by a frustrated Team Member:

2019-06-05 TM bonus cut sick mystery shopper

Link

 

I worked while sick many times and served the Mystery Shopper, had to cough, received this below report and had a telling off in the office later from the manager:

06 Other MS cough

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 enough to smile that day.”

I also didn’t feel cheerful to smile after I buried my brother, who died 5 weeks before we found out and they cremated him before finding us.

And I couldn’t smile while being bullied during bereavement from several managers under HR’s watchful eye, with CEO Clive Schlee later labelling me his “late night girl” because I became ill with late night emailing in trauma after work. (The full story in the interview at the bottom of this page).

 

 

MS Mystery Shopper Miserable

“I felt miserable when I walked in to begin with. I looked at the staff on the tills and they all looked very unhappy and not cheerful at all. To improve, the staff members could be smiling and interacting with each other to liven up the atmosphere.”

After this comment, the never-smiling, moody, shouting manager told the team in the kitchen after this MS report: “Your smile is part of your uniform. You are expected to wear a smile like you wear your uniform!”

 

MS Mystery Shopper Detail

Pret: “We aim to be attentive to each customer’s needs. Rate the engagement level of the whole shop team during your visit.”

MS: “There was a staff member who was replenishing stock and another tidying away after customers left promptly. Before sitting down at a table the member checked my table and chair to see if they were cleaned properly.”

 

04 MS

Pret: “We aim to serve our customers within 1 minute of joining the queue. Were you served in a reasonable time, bearing in mind how busy the shop was and the number of open tills?”
MS: “I was served in less than a minute.”

Pret: “We aim to serve our customers their hot drink within 1 minute of payment. Did you receive your hot drink order within a reasonable time, bearing in mind how busy the shop was?”
MS: “I was served my hot drink almost instantly.”

1. The “reasonable” time is unrealistic, staff get so pressured and used to work on autopilot that they ALWAYS rush and panic for every second they may lose to finish any job, especially customer service.

 

So, after you smiled for 8+ hours, maybe in the middle of serving the “Misery” Shopper, gave a free coffee and whatever acrobatic you did, the Mystery Shopper then in their OWN DISCRETION can reward a team member if they even go FURTHER than they already do… It’s like bending backwards, forwards, smiling left, right and center, kissing butt all day and the Mystery Shopper is still not happy:

 

Not Outstanding

 

If any team member, including leaders and managers would have been “outstanding” by giving a free coffee for example or making lots of conversation (kissing butt) that person can receive an extra £50, even if the bonus was lost. And if the score/points were perfect, that person can earn double, £100.

 

2018-07-04 Outstanding Card

Link

 

2018-01-23 Outstanding Card

Link The reason why she got the Outstanding Card and with it the extra £50, or £100 if the shop had perfect scores, is the white writing on the red background.

Note: She lost the bonus for the whole team at a time before, and even said she “redeemed” herself this time. She fluffed it up, and they all lost the bonus. Sad.

 

2018-01-25 OC

 

A Mystery Shopper tweet:

2017 A Mystery Shopper tweeted

Link

 

Customer Tweets:

2015 About Mystery Shopper

Link

 

2013 Mystery Shopper Group Incentive

Link

And the psychology of “group incentive” is actually peer pressure and what a recent reviewers called “blame culture” which I totally underline. I spend a lot of time building my team member UP when they messed up the Mystery Shopper after our manager put them DOWN, because putting down is counter productive.

 

2019-04-16 Mystery Shopper Blame Culture

Link

Or the “happy family” trap and the pressure on ONE person who loses the bonus for the whole team turning the team against that one person. Again, I had to many times step in-between the 1 person to protect them from the group and the bullying mentality Pret encourages.

2019-04-09 Mysterys Shopper Trap Happy Family

Link

 

The Mystery Shopper results count towards the biggest chunk of managers’ quarterly bonuses, therefore the Mystery Shopper requirements are the biggest in terms of pressure, a manipulating tool for fear management and mental strain.

 

 

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness

 

 

PAMSU Dismantle MS

 

 

End MS

Link

 

2017-05-26 Pure Misery

»Everything is over priced and you are forced to act like a happy jack-ass or your pay is cut. This place is what hell must be like.«

Link

 

Lose Everything That Makes You Human2

 

2019-05-05 44 recommend Pret 52 recomm Clive

Glassdoor June 2019 figures

 

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Slideshow can be pause

 

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

 

2019-04-22 NEW on TWITTER

Link

 

A recent article on the alcohol issues of customer service employees highlights the mental strain of emotional labour.

 

UPDATE May 2019
TWO Pret staff have died.
More here >
Why is Pret not being Investigated?

 

 


 

I tell my story with Pret for the first time verbally in one setting in this interview on a podcast. Brief intro below.

 

 

Adam

 

Above interview is with Adam from The Adam Paradox podcast on my experience in Pret A Manger.

We spoke about gaslighting, “shadow banning” and censorship on social media, as well as bereavement, trauma and mental health in general. I further talked about the significant timing of Pret CEO’s announcement of the £1000 Tweet for all staff. I also talked about a regular day in Pret and how staff have to cut corners, in order to fulfill the immense workload under constant pressure.

It is hard to squeeze my traumatic experience into a podcast segment, but we covered enough to get a good picture of today’s systemic stress environment for profit driven global companies.

Please visit his Podcast and Twitter @1AdamParadox.

 

Also, undercover report by Amy Sharpe from the Sunday Mirror who went into Pret after reading my blog: Undercover Under Pressure and when the two customer deaths became public.

 


 

 

Emotional Labour Emotional Abuse

 


 

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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