In the spring of 2017 I still worked at Pret as a Team Leader of the shop floor (Floor Leader – FL) when Pret hired the prestigious London Barbican Center to hold a one to two week seminar on customer service. I can’t remember if it was two weeks, but certainly a whole week where Managers and Leaders from different areas where scheduled to attend.
The seminar theme was “Be Kind, Honest, Generous”. Pret did not hire the main Barbican hall, but several rooms upstairs including the Amphitheater. We were led through different rooms where presentations were held, like a video stream being shown on a hidden camera shoot that showed different shop staff members and the mistakes they made in customer service. I cringed at this because Pret already has a very patronizing, micromanaging Mystery Shopper scheme where weekly visits happen to test every shop on service, cleanliness, amount of products available etc. If shops fail, the whole Team lose the bonus, even if only one staff member makes a mistake. If they succeed everyone receives a bonus and / or an individual staff member can earn an extra up to £200 if they kissed the Mystery Shopper’s butt extra sweet!
A real Mystery Shopper report with the majority of the 32 micromanaging questions I put together on YouTube:
In a nutshell: Low-wage staff HAVE TO smile, chat, give eye contact etc. to present a “happy” image while in reality they are short-staffed, bullied to work fast, many are depressed, take pills or drink to cope with the daily stress. I myself was bullied during already traumatic bereavement, which I share at the bottom audio player interview on a podcast based in California.
Why am I writing about this? Why is this significant?
It was spring 2017 when Pret held this seminar for all Leaders in customer service, and for the Leaders then to pass what they’ve “learnt” to the Teams. There wasn’t really anything to learn, it was just one big brainwash in how to kiss butt even more. This was a year after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s tragic death from an unlabelled allergen (sesame) in a Pret baguette. But at the time I and my colleagues did not know about a customer having died, (let alone by Decmber 2017 TWO customers having died) from hidden allergen in Pret products.
I learnt like everyone else through the media in autumn 2018. And apart from being shocked, I was appalled that Pret did not only NOT tell us about this, but as a Team Leader whose job description also was health and safety, that I wasn’t even briefed or as much as HINTED to be more cautious and diligent about labelling and allergen!
Pret went full steam ahead with business as usual! Natasha’s mum points this out perfectly in about 0:20 into the video:
So, what did Pret do? Pret did a seminar on customer service and how to kiss butt for increased profit. We shop workers laughed about the theme of “be kind, honest, generous” as we knew Pret wasn’t kind, honest, generous. We knew how pretentious the company is and how we were pushed and drilled to present a happy image while being burdened down and lied to by management constantly. We were bullied on silly issues while important issues were ignored.
For example, in the seminar, in one of the rooms we were led through, a scenario was given where trans-sexual customers complained to Pret about being called “sir” when they were female or called “madam” when they were male or identified as a different gender. Or we simply made a mistake by accidentally addressing a customer the wrong way.
Sarah Bohn (red jacket) on a team-building trip.
I remember Lila Warren, (in above Tweet pictured on the very right – dark jacket/hair), one of the Development Managers from the training department, explaining in great detail that we should not call people sir or madam to not offend etc. I remember getting annoyed at this because Pret staff have one minute to serve customers or risk losing bonus and get fear managed. As a team member I myself served at LEAST about 500+ people in a 6 hour shift, especially when I worked in the morning coffee AND lunch rushes! The pace is so relentless as regular customers will know. The many Mystery Shopper questions that I listed in above YouTube slide show how staff are micromanaged and have to follow silly and unnecessary rules upon rules upon rules …
When a customer then looked male or female, we just simply were too busy, swamped with volumes of customers and work, and we were plainly exhausted from the same menial fake smiley tasks, then surely it cannot be a catastrophe to address a customer wrongly by MISTAKE. I did that a few times, apologized and even gave a free coffee.
YET! Pret did not see it important to hold a seminar on allergen and food labelling!
I write about Lila Warren on my blog as she was instrumental in my ordeal. In a nutshell, Lila Warren was tasked to give me a disciplinary when I spiralled into late night emailing to Pret after I was systemically bullied by Pret leadership under the watchful eye of the HR department. This had former CEO Clive Schlee call me his “late night girl”. I explain in detail in the audio player at the bottom.
Pret had no grounds to fire me. In fact Pret was worried that I’d go to court after what they put me through from the top down. I was offered 4 settlement offers if I resign and be silent about my ordeal. Three offers came while I worked at Pret refusing to resign, and the fourth offer came after I withdrew the court case that I filed against Pret. I withdrew as my dad just died at the time of preparing for the case. But as I declined all 3 money offers, Pret put Lila Warren on my case. And this was the most toxic and perverse thing Pret has done and that I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Lila claimed that she had a brother who died alone in his apartment and wasn’t found for days. Just like my brother. She gave me a disciplinary for emailing Pret, but then entered into private emailing and text messaging with me, which resulted in me getting fired. It was a vile plan that I still recover from today.
Pret A Manger being “honest, kind and generous”?
Yikes! It’s the typical PR stunt that Pret is so known for. Ignoring multiple customer warnings on labelling before AND after customers have died. Bullying low-wage staff and HQ staff to the point of suicide to maximize profit. Mainstream media is in Pret’s pocket and they like to ignore my writings, but steal from it for their own press articles.
Pret could have EASILY re-shifted the seminar. I’m sure it took a year or so to prepare this seminar, getting rooms and the Amphitheater hired in the Barbican etc. But Pret could have easily re-shuffled the theme from “sliming” customers and kissing butt in service – to – allergen and labelling. Pret could have EASILY gotten in allergy experts to train us on the importance and the various forms of allergies. But no, they went full steam ahead with a seminar that I and my colleagues didn’t even learn anything new!
In hindsight, this seminar to me seems like the training department still had a huge annual budget to blow, and instead of getting less budget for the following year, they just came up with a “seminar” that none of us needed, as we were already doing the butt-kissing and smliey service drilled via weekly Mystery Shoppers.
And in hindsight also, I am offended big time that Pret not only did NOT inform us about Natasha having died, that Pret didn’t even as much as HINT for us to be cautious with allergen and labelling, no instead they wasted money on a Barbican seminar that we didn’t need! I would have wanted to get trained or re-trained on health and safety issues, on allergen etc. etc. Pret didn’t even need to lie to us if they didn’t want to tell us of a customer death and several injuries, Pret could have been HONEST to us, KIND to customers and GENEROUS with INFORMATION and TRAINING on allergen!!!
Pret didn’t even needed to lie, they could have been HONEST and tell us that many customers have complained to Pret to start labelling the food! BAM! And THEN Pret could have gotten experts in to train us! I am OFFENDED that Pret did NOTHING!!! Deeply offended!
If this doesn’t show how little Pret cares, I don’t know what will. I cannot find any information on the Barbican seminar, but I still have the invite email from Pret. Also, anyone from the press can contact the Barbican itself and inquire about the spring 2017 Pret seminar. I’m sure they can find the info quick as everything that Pret did and still do is always a big deal for venues and business people.
More former and current Pret staff will stand up. Several lawsuits are coming up and Pret’s facade keeps getting cracked.
Just few of the many Pret staff reviews:
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.
NOTE: Since WordPress changed to a new editing system, some features don’t work anymore. If the below audio player doesn’t work, please visit my MEDIA page where it works and other articles are listed.
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