A Classic Pret A Manger Bullying Experience

… by the book!

I’ve seen this review and “logged” it into the general “Pret Staff Complaints” page a while ago, that I update periodically. When I saw this first, I flew over this review initially, but never really looked at it closer as I am used to this type of account, especially from own experiences, but also countless of the other reviews. But today I stumbled on it again and took the time to really read through it thoroughly. I can only say that this review is a very typical Pret staff experience of systemic targeting and bullying. Many reviewers complain about favouritism. This person is a typical hard worker who cares a lot, and also raises issues. But once they raise issues, they become a target which I share in an interview at the bottom of this page in the audio player.

I decided to pick this one apart, like I do sometimes with long reviews and recently did with (current) CEO Clive Schlee’s interview which I simply called “Clive Schlee – A Case Study (on the fun factory)”

In Pret the Kitchen Leader (KL), or other senior kitchen staff member, has to do a daily “line check”, but for lack of time they just fill in the book with numbers and don’t actually do the line check. But a line check is where the KL chooses any product off the shop fridge, like a sandwich for example and takes it apart in the kitchen. They weigh out each ingredient if it is up to Pret standard and best quality. If ingredients are too many or too little, they are supposed to check on this batch and re-train the person who usually does this product daily. Sounds good on paper, but again for the lack of time and not being paid overtime, staff just fill in numbers in the book.

So, I take this as a metaphor and did a “line check” on Clive Schlee’s interview I linked above for the accurate “weight” of his words compared to my and many other people’s experience.

The same with the below review, I do a line check on its weight and can say already, a lot is pretty accurate in its “quality” of experience! But this review walks the reader through a typical day in Pret. And in this case, it looks to me that the reviewer worked the late shift as there is lots of cleaning and multi-tasking involved which can not be done during the morning and lunch-time rushes.

 

THE REVIEW (April 2019)

Upfront, the 23 “yes” to 0 “no” votes (as of July 2019) also speak for itself on how systemic this is in Pret!

Yes, this is a long review, but it is important as this gives a very good picture of how it is in most Prets. And anyone who writes that extensively really cares in general! I will write in-between the text underneath the screenshot. As usual I leave any mistakes in to keep it in their own words.

2019-04-18 Understaffed Review

Link

Reviewer in bold black and my comments in grey. At times I use blue to highlight something:

 

Constantly understaffed

“Worked in this company for a year.Typical day at work would be clearing tables,working on tills,coffee machine,making hot and cold food.”

Typical late shift tasks. Late shift times differ from shop to shop, but on average shifts start either at 11am until 8 or 9pm depending on opening times. Other shifts start at 2pm after the lunch rush and go till 11pm etc. All depending on closing time and how many people work on a shift. But the main crunch times in the afternoons are from 1pm till 7pm (ish).

 

This company promises you pay above minimum wage,but they will slave your for every extra penny,that they pay you.Manager constantly cutting hours,to get their bonus(managers only).So we are always understaffed.”

Nothing more to add really! But this is in every shop I’ve worked in. What “saved” me and my teams often, was that I was very organized and able to structure the teams, also helping them to finish in time. That way we had a strong team spirit, supporting each other without having to work overtime too much. But it was always a struggle for time, especially with new staff who were not given time to learn.

Another review states this clear as well: “Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.”

Either stop cutting hours2

Link

 

“They have high standards to ask you to smile constantly and have everything perfect at all times,but by cutting hours some staff are forced to work for 3 people or so fast,that you are literally catching your breath and running a marathon from the minute you start to shift to the end of it.”

Bingo!
I wish I could put these words into a visual, a video of sorts, because it really is like a marathon. And Pret even expects and demand to “never stand still”. This is written in their “values and behaviours” booklet. They drive people to never stand still, so they look like always active! Activity looks like a lively atmosphere for customers, while in reality it is draining the staff!

 

“Constantly being dehydrated at work,because you are not allowed to keep your water bottle while working(often felt thirsty and having headaches).Sometimes didn’t even have time to go to bathroom properly.”

This is a massive problem where my Manager saw a Team Member drink water behind the counter, I was then instructed as the Team Leader by the Manager to tell the Team to not drink behind the counter or anywhere visible, except on their breaks. But with different Managers and shops I found a compromise. Teams are not allowed to leave the tills, especially during busy times. And because water is a necessity to stay hydrated I did not follow this instruction and let my Teams drink water. Sure, if they wanted to drink a Mocha or Frappe with Cream, those are luxury drinks and can be consumed later. But water needs to be available at all times, especially since shops are overheated from all the machinery and body heat.

If Team Members were not allowed to leave the till area I said that they can drink water discretely in a corner behind the counter, especially when the staff room was too far away to quickly go in to drink. If the Manager got mad, I took responsibility and demanded for the Team to be able to drink water when they needed to! It was for me either, they were allowed to go into the staff room to drink, communicating and taking turns, or they were allowed to drink behind the counter. But either way, depending on the shop size etc. I always went against this stupid rule and let them drink water, especially since Managers like to sit in the office drinking, eating, playing on their mobile phones …

Most, no ALL air conditioning in shops are not adequate and cannot cool the overheated shops in the summer. It’s hell in there!! I worked twice for months in overheated shops and was always the one ending up to raise the issue further. When my shops were out of AC we literally begged the customers who mentioned the heat, to please talk to HQ on our behalf, as Pret does not listen to staff. They simply don’t care, except for show! Three customers recently went to Twitter complaining about this as well, in the UK and the U.S.

2019-06-30 AC

1st Tweet — & — 2nd Tweet where Clive Schlee took a day to even respond, while on the day of the complaint he responded to another Tweet of someone wishing him farewell for his retirement (before the press got wind of it when I tweeted the press)! But the CEO was not concerned about the AC issue, even after 2 customer tweets!

Second customer Tweet 03. July, and Pret has NOT responded yet (06. July)!

2019-07-03 AC

Link

Third customer 05. July, and again NO response from Pret at the time of me writing this blog entry:

2019-07-05 AC

Link

 

And these 3 customers are only those who care to raise this publicly! But the problem exists in most shops with inadequate air conditioning. We took a temperature at one point and stopped looking at it when it was close to 40 degrees Celsius.

 

“And I have been used to hard work in busy places my whole life as I worked in fast paced food industry for more than 10 years.They have mystery shopper bonus,but lately it was also a fail as they will ask you allergen related question and you have to direct them to Team leader or manager so technically they will take over and you loose your chance for outstanding service bonus,which you can get if your service is excellent(100£ or 200£).”

Since the customer deaths became public – and I want to emphasize again, as many people keep saying “since the customer deaths Pret started labelling …” – NO! Since the customer deaths became public, did Pret slowly start the labelling! Up until the press published this, Pret did NOTHING whatsoever!
I’m doing a thorough “line check” here!

But since the deaths became public Pret also tasks the Mystery Shopper to ask allergen specific questions. Staff are told to pass the customer on to the Manager or if the GM isn’t available, then to the next Leader who is in charge. This reviewer then is not able to get a chance for the extra cash they can earn personally if this customer happens to be the Mystery Shopper. So, the reviewer having passed on the customer to the Manager, the reviewer then cannot serve the MS anymore, giving a free coffee and being extra special nice for a chance to get the “Outstanding Card” = extra money.

 

“The best part of this place was my colleagues,that I worked with.When I started,some of them were so experienced and working many years-I learned a lot from them.But through this one year at least 8 long term staff has left,few of them working 5 years at least because of manager,that doesn’t care about their staff,doesn’t appreciate their hard work and and if she have personal dislike,she will sack you and find reasons how to get rid of you.”

Yep, sounds familiar! Pret keeps shooting themselves in the foot by being profit-driven, making lots of money fast, but losing a lot of high caliber people while keeping those who bully and do the short cuts for quick gain! Pret, like many profit-driven companies forget who the REAL advertisers for the companies are.

 

Target1

 

“I literally can’t tell if my review is based on company overall or just this manager, …”

Oh no, you can base it on the company!! 😀

And here is where the marathon and stress is explained well:

“…but she surely has ruined my view at company,because I felt like I have been working so hard and literally multitasking to another level,where you are left on tills alone,quickly running to clear tables,wash china and trays,clean toilets,run to kitchen to make soups,come back make coffee,do the delivery,make sure you food display has proper amount of food available for sale,bake hoot food and above all the serve customers at the same time and manage to prepare to close shop,where you have to wash every table and chairs-sofas,floor,bin stations,toilets etc.(the area is huge).”

And here again I quote from the beginning of this review:

 

“They have high standards to ask you to smile constantly and have everything perfect at all times”

 

Yes, and then most Team Leaders sit in the office abusing their position and let the Team or Team Member struggle out in the shop on their own. Then when the Team Member can’t finish the ridiculous amount of tasks or loses the Mystery Shopper bonus for the WHOLE TEAM because they were swamped with work and did not SMILE while breaking their backs, they get pressured and bullied and gaslit to think they didn’t do a good enough job!

 

This is Pret A Manger in a nutshell!

 

“I have learned,how to travel in time here.Like I said I don’t mind working hard apart from that You always end up late to finish your shift,which nobody pays for and if you leave unfinished ,you will get sacked or given note of concern.”

Yep! The “Note of Concern” formerly called “File Note” is a very typical Pret manipulating tool! Staff members received this piece of paper, which is not a formal written warning or disciplinary, but a step before that to fear manage staff. And those who mostly get this Note of Concern are those who work already like donkeys and seem intimidated easily.

In my early months in Pret I worked with a Spanish guy who didn’t understand English well yet as he just arrived from Spain a few weeks prior to joining Pret. He served the Mystery Shopper, didn’t smile and lost our whole team the bonus. The bonus for the managers are paid quarterly and can be huge or little. And the Mystery Shopper reports count towards the biggest chunk of their quarterly bonus.

So, the Spanish colleague got a Note of Concern to intimidate him to smile. He left Pret a few weeks later, just never turned up for work again.

A Mystery Shopper excerpt of Pret wanting staff to smile, make eye contact and brief conversation with EVERY customer. And dare you not smile when you happen to serve the Mystery Shopper!

1 Minute Smile

 

“This lovely manager will give you note of concern for smallest things,that you do wrong,so prepare to be perfect or robot.She has also taken my bonus,when I arrived at tills 2 minutes late and never taken it from people,that she favours more for the same time of lateness.”

In my first weeks of becoming a Leader, I was threatened by a Manager that my bonus would be cut if I forget again to slide the opening sign from “closed” to “open”. It was something I forgot 3 times that week. But I was a new Leader and not trained how to check for things. These belittling and abusive behaviours by Managers is so common that you just switch into autopilot and move like a robot. And it’s true as well that even ONE minute lateness gets you a lot of drama and cut bonus!

 

“Never paid my minutes after I had to stay after my working hours,or she would go telling,that am bad staff.”

Very, very, very, very typical Pret management of manipulation, fear management and bullying! Extremely immature and poor management skills that doesn’t care about people.

 

“She lied about Christmas period holidays,when she told me no one is allowed to go on holidays,but 5 people was.Ended up few people working including me during the busiest season of the year,some of the got sick from overworking.”

Yes. Those that the Managers favour get the best holiday slots, and those who work like animals get dumped all the heavy shifts and seasons.

I’m getting triggered as I sieve through this review!! Phew!

 

“Also finally let me to get trained on coffee for coffee start specialist during Christmas season(because she had no one else to work) and literally did not provide any training,because she was to busy for that.After Christmas period ended.when I asked If I can be promoted to barista,declined-said I not good enough for that-don’t want to pay you more.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!! Also, very typical! People are put on coffee and Hot Chef jobs for weeks and even months. They are not trained properly and then their “graduation” to the role is delayed so the Managers can delay the appropriate pay-rise for the role. Or they are promised the role of a Barista for example, get put on the coffee machines during Christmas and other holiday periods when the main Barista is gone. When the main Barista returns, the coffee maker who was promised the role is told they were not doing a good enough job!

Bottom line, they were just used to fill in for Baristas who are on holiday, because if they are not promised things, they often don’t want to step in doing extra work not paid accordingly.

Happens in nearly every shop! When I went through my Team Leader training, my Manager kept postponing my graduation day. She also promised me a certain amount of pay, but then broke to me that she cannot pay what she initially said. After a few weeks of this and her breaking her promise, I finally said that I will step down from this role as I should be a Team Leader already and receive the promised pay. And I meant it. I was in the middle of taking the green Team Leader badge off when she then said that I would graduate that day and get the promised pay.

But since then I never trusted her words again and kept my cards close to my chest.

 

“So did not train me at all and expects master coffee specialist straight away. Just felt like I have been used to patch up her Christmas period time.”

Nothing more to add to that!

 

“Finally gone to all staff,that ever had some dislike with me and promoted them to write abusive and false letters about me,because I reported Christmas understaffed period to head office.”

And this one is what I really want to highlight here, something Managers do systemically when they want to get rid of people. This is what I went through when the bullying really started, when an Area Manager (open letter to her), who was upset with me, because I couldn’t join her New Shop Opening (NSO) as a Team Leader at that time, because I was in the middle, in the first 6 months of my traumatic grief about my brother’s death! With the help of HR she pursued me for 6 months were I was moved around back and forth between shops and the bullying was the worst!

When I applied for my file the following year to understand what happened to me, I read all those lies in emails from colleagues whom I loved to work with! One particular email was from the Area Manager who was the catalyst of me getting targeted, and in that email she asked another Manager, who was also bullying, to write their thoughts about me as soon as possible! I’m not gonna go into the emails and lies here too much, but this is a very strategic foul thing people in management level do. In my case, only few people either wrote positive about me or neutral. But these emails to the bullying Area Manager were not in my file as she must have deleted them. But those people who wrote positive or neutral told me that they wrote. And I never found any email or notes from them in my file.

But this Manager I’ve worked with just a few weeks and she was very harsh, threatening us Leaders with our job security constantly. I approached her twice about her harsh tone, and only in the second time I briefly mentioned my brother and that I don’t need any extra unnecessary stress where I still come to work on time, work with high standards etc. She just listened and then later in the email the Area Manager wanted her to write about me, she was stupid enough to label me a “drama queen”.

Here I was, still working everyday with high standard, on time, hard working WHILE traumatically bereaved. And she called me a “drama queen” and that even in writing! No-one expected that I’d apply for my file, and her email was one of several emails I raised grievances based on those written statements. She did get disciplined but only because she’s a small fish in management. The higher ups I raised grievances against got off the hook!

This screenshot is the email the Area Manager wrote to the Manager. I blacked out any names and location. But when I read those emails of the Area Manager wanting colleagues and Managers to write about me, the blood in my face dropped and these terrible emails were one reason I spiraled into emailing for a prolonged time in trauma, for which the CEO Clive Schlee later labelled me his “late night girl”. And under this patronizing label I write and decided to be a sore in his and Pret’s sight!
I share this in my interview at the bottom audio player.

Area Manager email to Manager wanting a written statement about me to get rid of me. Hundreds of emails and papers I read in front of me like a fly on the wall, going from shock to shock to shock…:

Drama Queen NamesDeleted

 

“The last straw,that I have had enough,is allowing for 11 months of the service I am there taking free coffee before I start to work and suddenly I have to pay for that.Why are you allowing it and then decide to not allow it anymore? and just for me,because the favorite staff she still allows it and even to give food outside their food allowance for girlfriends,family etc”

I’m so sorry you were bullied, dear Reviewer! You went through a typical bullying scenario by the book!

 

“Because of this she has yet again got me in trouble for creating situation,where she allows something,writes a complain,that I am doing something against her will and denies ,that she have ever said,that she allowed in first place.She doesn’t care about nothing unless it’s dollar signs in her eyes.Everyone,who she feels threatened by or have different opinion about something-she will eliminate.She is a boss,not a leader.”

Yes, sounds like a typical Pret A Manger Manager.

And the last sentence cannot be said better:

“She is a boss,not a leader”

 

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

 

Link: >>> Two Pret Staff have DIED recently
One is said to be a suicide. It’s not the first suicide in Pret.
I survived. If I would have gone over the edge, to my current knowledge, mine would be #3 and it would be in connection to Pret!

 


 

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 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.

Interview:

 

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