To avoid repeating words in Tweets, I put this in a blog entry.
I mention in my other blog entry already that Pret seemed to have recruited Tweeters to post on the smiley customer service and freebies. This started around the first week in October 2019. Knowing Pret’s little tricks, I want to post for any new reader oblivious to why Pret staff always seem so “happy”, while in reality they smile, are “generous” etc. for Mystery Shopper £200 incentives and to avoid getting fear managed.
I put a few questions that weekly Mystery Shoppers are tasked to test staff on in a YouTube slideshow. I concentrated mainly on the smiley service questions and the Barista 1 minute rule. I left out other questions like Mystery Shoppers counting the product lines – how many products at certain peek/off peek times are on display, or how clean the shop is etc.
If staff fail on ANY of those points, the whole team loses bonus. If ONE staff member doesn’t smile enough or isn’t chatty, the WHOLE Team is in danger of losing the bonus. If the Team get the bonus, or even if the Team does NOT get the bonus that week, but ONE Team Member does “outstanding service”, that Team Member can get extra £100 on top of their wages and bonus. If the overall scores of the shop is perfect and the 1 Team Member blows the Mystery Shopper away with their “outstanding” service, then the TM can get £200 on top of their wages.
That’s why throughout Pret shops worldwide customers wonder why staff are always so “cheery”, even while low paid, stressed, loud shops etc.
For visually impaired readers, I put some examples below on what Mystery Shoppers are tasked to test staff on. I concentrate mainly on Emotional Labour.
Just a few reviews from staff on Glassdoor, Indeed & Co., there is much much more, but to not get the blog too long again, I just post a few. For an extensive, but not exhaustive list that has to be updated, please visit: Long List of Pret Staff Complaints
A few customer Tweets:
There are many more Tweets from customers / the public on this, but I try to keep it short.
Here are some of the questions the Mystery Shopper tests staff on, in particular on the service. I used comments from different Myserty Shoppers: (Some of the words I underlined to highlight)
Pret: We aim to create an enjoyable atmosphere in all of our shops. Taking into account how busy the shop is, please rate the atmosphere in the shop at the point of entry.
Mystery Shopper: The atmosphere was enjoyable. The staff members that I came into contact with were helpful and polite.
Pret: We aim to keep the exterior of our shops looking inviting at all times – this includes: the outside seating area, the outside signage, outside windows and door frames and outside entrance area. Please rate how inviting the shop was from the outside, bearing in mind how busy the area was.
MS: The cleanliness of the exterior was exceptional. The windows, door frames and signage were very clean.
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 very quickly, after 15 seconds, very quick service.
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 received my hot drink very quickly, after 30 seconds, quick service.
Screenshot of comment:
It took 30 seconds in above and 20 seconds in below screenshot to get the drink. And then customers go on Twitter complaining why they received a half empty cup, or their coffee is too cold etc. I wrote in the YouTube slide that customers are happy to wait 10 minutes at Starbucks, but are not willing to wait 2 minutes at Pret. Pret has spoiled customers and the speed of service is to have a fast customer flow = money flow.
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.
MS: Team members should smile at customers and may be not work when ill, as team member was coughing whilst serving me and was therefore not feeling cheerful enough to smile that day.
Screenshot of above comment:
Pret staff not only lose a day’s wages when sick per day, but also the whole week’s bonus.
A Tweet by a Pret staff on this sickness policy forcing her to work while having the flew:
Another upset staff member on the sickness policy, losing income:
Pret: We aim to be attentive to each customer’s needs. Rate the engagement level of the whole shop team during your visit.
MS: The team member was friendly but to be engaged and positive, the team member could have made small talk or a friendly remark.
Pret: Was any one member of our team very helpful, extremely charming and/or absolutely outstanding?
If there was outstanding service, then the MS would briefly describe and this 1 Team Member or Manager would get the “outstanding card”, which is not literally a card, but the £100 or if perfect scores the £200 cash reward. That’s why staff compete for this and “bounce” around like seemingly happy bunnies on speed!
This is what an MS wrote about a TM’s outstanding service:
Pret: Was any one member of our team very helpful, extremely charming and/or absolutely outstanding?
MS: [Name of TM] was the team member who served me. I thought that she offered a charming service. [Name of TM] is female, about 5′ 6″ tall, with medium length, blonde hair worn in a ponytail, and was not wearing glasses. She went out of her way to be friendly and engaging, and even brought over my toastie for me. I was made to feel as though my custom was valued.
In this case the TM got the £200 because the overall scores of the shop was perfect. If some points were missing, the TM would have gotten £100 reward. Even if the whole shop Team lost the bonus, the TM could still get the cash reward of £100 as their individual reward if the Mystery Shopper is blown away by their service.
If Team bonus is lost, whoever responsible for losing the bonus because that person didn’t smile for example, this person will get fear managed and peer pressured.
I was told of by my boss because I coughed while the Mystery Shopper as I was sick. The Mystery Shopper commented on this that staff should stay home when sick as I wasn’t feeling cheerful enough to smile while sick. What the MS doesn’t know nor seems to care about is, that staff are not paid sick leave the first 2 – 3 days, depending on age.
So, we had to constantly decide if to stay home and lose income, ro go to work and risk losing Mystery Shopper bonus for the whole and then get in trouble.
I wrote it in other places several times that Pret A Manger’s Mystery Shopper scheme that forces emotional labour is emotional abuse. PAMSU who got fired for starting a Union called this scheme “humiliating” and challenged Pret to end the Mystery Shopper scheme.
Link to Pret A Manger Staff Union Tweet demanding to Pret and CEO at the time, quote: “@pret @Cliveschlee Dismantle the humiliating mystery shopper!”
To cut this short, I write and collect on the subject of forced Emotional Labour on low-wage staff in the service industry. It is amazing how people don’t want to accept that low- paid workers are forced to smile all day and most people seem to enjoy getting “stroked” in their own emotions by low-wage staff. What PAMSU called “humiliating” I go a step further and call this “emotional prostitution”. Staff who have to top up their low pay, compete for Mystery Shopper cash rewards and recognition.
I was bullied during bereavement when I couldn’t always smile. But when I did smile while being traumatized and on autopilot, my bosses never bothered to encourage me whatsoever. Only when a negative comment came, did they see it fit to warn me and my colleagues.
Mystery Shopper bonus count towards the largest chunk of Manager’s and Upper Managers’ quarterly bonuses. So, the pressure on this fake happiness is the biggest on staff.
If anyone who regularly goes to Pret really cares about this, I collected writings on Emotional Labour: The Dangers of Emotional Labour
I end with a quote from another excellent article on this by Timothy Noah:
“The Enforced Happiness of Pret A Manger”.
And I continue to ask for independent investigation into Pret staff suicides.
Timothy Noah quote, highligths by me:
»For a good long while, I let myself think that the slender platinum blonde behind the counter at Pret A Manger was in love with me. How else to explain her visible glow whenever I strolled into the shop for a sandwich or a latte? Then I realized she lit up for the next person in line, and the next. Radiance was her job. …
Pret keeps its sales clerks in a state of enforced rapture through policies vaguely reminiscent of the old East German Stasi. A “mystery shopper” visits every Pret outlet once a week. If the employee who rings up the sale is appropriately ebullient, then everyone in the shop gets a bonus. If not, nobody does. This system turns peers into enthusiasm cops, further constricting any space for a reserved and private self. …
Why do Pret workers accept the customer’s emotional state as their personal responsibility? … In England, the vast majority of Pret workers are foreign immigrants, but that seems less true here [USA]. “My only thought,” says Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown, “is that it is such a buyer’s market in the labor market—because of so many unemployed workers per job—that employers can get away with a lot of demands on their workers that ordinarily wouldn’t be possible.” In other words—shhhh!—Pret clerks love-bomb customers for the money…«
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 two articles in the Scottish Left Review: 1. “Late Night Girl’s” Story with Pret and 2. Pushing Back Against Pret.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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