Before I get into the detail of the ongoing issues of broken and inadequate Air Conditioning in Pret A Manger shops for YEARS and Pret not caring about it, I want to paint a picture from the perspective of staff.
Also NOTE: The cash incentives I explain here are pre-coronavirus pandemic as I wrote this blog post in July 2019. Pret has changed the bonus and benefit scheme now in July 2020. Staff receive less now, but are still expected to perform as before. But I decided to leave the old bonus scheme here to explain WHY low-wage employees still smile in 40°C +- heat, not realizing they can and should go on strike, refusing to put their health at risk!
I briefly explain below that staff have cash incentives via weekly Mystery Shoppers. They can earn up to an extra £200 individually ON TOP of their wages AND team bonus, if the Mystery Shopper is extra impressed with the individual Team Member’s service. If any staff member loses the bonus for the whole team because their service isn’t with a smile or whatever else the Mystery Shopper (I call them Misery Shopper) isn’t happy with, that Team Member and the Team get fear managed, because the MS bonus scheme counts towards the biggest chunk of Manager’s and upper Management bonuses.
One of many Mystery Shopper report excerpts:
Staff have to serve customers within 1 minute of a person joining the queue and serve the coffee/drink within 1 minute of the customer having made the payment. Staff have to smile, make eye contact and brief conversation with EVERY customer. THAT is why they are still on this robotic autopilot even in 40ºC+ heat. I know, I’ve work in these conditions, brain-washed, fear managed, even during bereavement!
Mystery Shopper excerpt: (Click Ctrl and + to enlarge)
What customers experience as heat and 35-40ºC, for staff behind the counter it’s 45-50ºC!
Dear customer, imagine yourself BEHIND the counter for an 8-10 hour shift every day! Look at this picture from brummie_photography on Instagram from a Birmingham shop. This shop at least is very airy, looks like a station or airports are like this. But most Prets have low ceiling, cramped areas, no air-flow. If the air conditioning then is broken or inadequate, it’s literally HELL in there!
I count about 11-12 Team Members (TMs) behind the counter (and worked like this myself). Now, imagine a low ceiling on the team like it is in most shops, and box them in:
brummie_photography on Instagram
Behind that counter of about 10 Sq Meters space there are:
- In the shop the fridges (called Langars in Pret) blow out hot air from the back
- Behind the counter and behind Team Members 2 – 3 coffee machines with heat and hot water/coffee
- To the left or right or behind TMs 1 – 2 hot toastie machines
- In most shops 1 – 2 hot ovens that are at the counter area (not like here in an extra room)
- In front of TMs are the black hot croissant plates under the glass counter (I often switched it off in the summer!)
- From above beaming bright lights on the low ceiling burning on their heads. Years ago staff members even had to wear caps no matter how hot. In Pret USA shops they still wear caps!
- Large windows without any marquee for sun protection
- Open doors so that shops don’t look closed from the outside when people walk by. This has been changed recently after environmentalists increasingly raised the issues regarding waste of energy. Unfortunately the same environmentalists don’t seem to bother about the staff burning in the heat! So, now for the most part Pret keeps the doors closed.
- And from ALL AROUND hot body heat from colleagues who stand next to each other like sardines in a can! I felt my colleagues’ body heat left and right! Bad breath, sweaty smelly air, not allowed to drink water behind the counter or shop floor during work or use mints/peppermint gum!
- And in many shops TMs are NOT allowed to drink water behind the counter for *irony on* “health and safety reasons” *irony off*. And are not allowed to go to the staff room to drink during the coffee and lunch time rush! I always broke that rule and went against manager’s instructions and let my team drink WATER!!
What for customers is excruciating in a few minutes, these low-paid workers endure ALL DAY every day. One TM in 2011 when I worked in one terrible shop like this, got pneumonia as she was going in and out of the walk-in fridge switching temperature between under 5 degree Celsius in the fridge and 35 – 40 degrees in the shop and kitchen.
Not to mention that the shop fridges (called Langars) are often dripping with water in the heat and are warm with food and drinks stored in them. I had to throw out many times £100s worth of food and drink after having taken temperatures of food and juices, much to the dismay of my bosses! But I didn’t care about the money. As a Team Leader, Health & Safety was not only part of my job description, it was my top priority! I didn’t even eat my free meal allowances in Pret during my breaks when the food was warm! Why would I subject paying customers to that, getting them food poisoning!!
My complaining and raising the issue never got me far in a Pret career, and neither did I care!
With most shops having low ceiling, loud music, rude customers, the 1 minute Mystery Shopper rule, a stressed and often bullying manager or team leader… Welcome to the REALITY of Pret A Manger!
>>> Anonymous Staff review on Indeed
Apart from the hellish work conditions for staff, this also affects the food. A customer complained regarding food poisoning from a New York Pret and noticed that the shop was warm:
Customer Complaints on Twitter
(those who bother complaining, the problem is much bigger)
UPDATE: August 2020
Link 25. July 2018
I link to a blog entry at the bottom on WHY staff smile ALL THE TIME come rain come shine!
I worked twice in shops with 40 degrees heat for weeks and months raising the issue. I was told if I speak to HQ my career is over. The manager who told me this and didn’t know how to make this issue urgent left Pret soon after. But we begged customers to speak to Pret on our behalf.
Below is a list of only a few customer Tweets, not everyone comments publicly. But this problem with inadequate little air cons in every Pret shop persists. Staff are surrounded by hot machines, body heat, beaming lights from above, ovens, toastie machines, hot plates where the croissants are on, large windows where the sun beams in … And the staff are still expected to do Emotional Labour, smile and pretend to be cheery so they don’t lose the Mystery Shopper bonus when they visit once a week.
I was often very disheartened that the weekly Mystery Shopper didn’t even mention the heat.
I worked at Pret for 10 years and this is an endless problem Pret knows about, but doesn’t fix unless customers go online, or staff persist. Staff became sick, one even with pneumonia because of the morning delivery check going inside the walk-in fridge back and forth between 30 degrees heat and then 3-5 degrees cold. That’s when I drew the line and asked for a transferal, not realizing many shops have this issue.
My traumatic story with Pret in the audio player interview at the bottom of this page.
I will say it loud and clear again to any new reader who does not know my and other staff story and blog: Pret A Manger does NOT care for their low-paid workers! They do NOT care!!!
Please take the time and really listen and look! Pret has been very successful with presenting an image of an “ethical” company! But having ignored customer warnings on allergen labels EVEN after two customers died, should ring massive alarm bells! But the public is lulled in again and want to believe the Pret fairy tale.
And Pret responds often with “oh dear” … “oh gosh” … “oh no” … “we are concerned to hear this” … bullshit, fooling the public as if this was a one-off. I really appreciate the anger and concern customers show for staff who suffer in this hell, while the millionaire senior leaders and Twitter staff sit in air-conditioned Head Office! Thank you for speaking up on behalf of low-paid workers!
3 of the most recent customer Tweets from days ago on the air conditioning problems in Pret. I didn’t go further beyond 2016, and even found one from 2013 … But this is forever going on!
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)!
Third customer 05. July, and again NO response from Pret at the time of me writing this blog entry:
UPDATE 25. July 2019
Dan Brown raised this issue 3 weeks ago. 05th July Tweet (also screenshot above).
Also 25. July 2015, Great Eastern Street:
Link to Tweet and Pret sweet-talking again
23. July 2019 London Bridge again
19. June 2019 Bath
UPDATE: 17. July 2018 NY, USA
07. July 2018 Hammersmith
23. July 2018 Luton – No answer from Pret
Also 23. July 2018 Queen St.
24. July 2018 Strand
This Tweet is from the first Tweet above from the 25. July 2018. Two more from the 25th underneath:
25. July 2018 Queen St again
25. July 2018 Whitehall. Pret here lets Teams have extra break instead of putting on the BRAKES to stop the work in these hellish conditions!
26. July 2018 Euston. Pret slimey and patronizing response they always do when someone with an official Twitter account tweets: “Oh they’re all stars aren’t they?”
26. July 2018 again More London
27. July 2018 Milton Keynes
This customer’s concern is brilliant.
I want to post the whole feed as she does not let go!
Well done and thank you @kerriewils!
07. Aug. 2018 Pret’s “oh no” BS …
DON’T be disappointed, this is NORMAL in Pret!!!
10. Aug. 2018 South Ken. This is August, and the Pret Twitter staff is taking the mick!
10. Dec. 2017 Someone registered a Twitter account especially to raise this issue. Cold in winter, hot in summer.
06. Aug. 2017 Tower Hill
01. June 2017 Westfield – Since AGES…
I love this follow-up Tweet, and yet it’s very sad that Pret only listens to customers and let staff boil in hell! I can say again to any reader, please believe me when I say that Pret does NOT care for staff except when it is for PR or when they get caught!
13. Sep. 2016 Adwych / 182 Strand. This is one of the two shops I worked in where the AC was broken for MONTHS. That was in 2011!!!
2013 And the staff still working FAST as Pret demand the 1 minute time of service via the Mystery Shopper!
… and so on …
These days Pret keeps the doors closed, but ONLY because of the Extinction Rebellion revolution. Pret only goes with pressure from the masses and what is “trend”. If staff suffer in the heat, doesn’t matter to them. The reason why Pret usually like the doors open, winter and summer is so that the shops don’t look closed from the outside, meaning customers walk by oblivious that it’s open. And it’s true, I walked by shops that seemed to be closed, because the door was closed and it looked darker inside. So, to avoid losing money, Pret likes to keep the door open, except lately since the waste of energy and environmental activists being on Pret’s case. But concerned for staff? Don’t believe a bit of it!
So, thank you to all customers and maybe next time, start a mass petition for Pret to act FAST!! Because this is an ongoing issue and Pret has the public fooled and staff feel stuck, because they are not paid sick days the first two days!
Employees remain professional because they have to in case the Mystery Shopper comes and all the Team loses the bonus. I write about this in “How Emotional Labour Harms us all” and “The Truth behind the Pret A Manger Smile” and why staff really keep smiling even during the most excruciating heat and work conditions.
Staff speak out, even if only anonymous on review websites (below).
NOTE: If the slide show does not run automatically, please delete amp/ from above URL and reload in order to view, or click here.
Slideshow can be paused
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 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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