On 10th August 2021 I woke up to a wonderful Tweet:
I went on a Twitter race to tweet the press, Unions and others in general.
This morning another lovely start into the day:
Link to Guardian article
Of course this article took the strike announcement to another level and a social media storm erupted as usual, with caring customers announcing to stop buying at Pret. And this comes days after the UK government named and shamed Pret amongst 190 other companies for paying under the minimum-wage: Pret ‘named and shamed’ in government minimum wage list.
Just hours after the Guardian piece, Pret made what Sky news called a “U-Turn” and reinstated the £1 per hour bonus. BUT, this is a joke and a trick! The bonus is not guaranteed and I will briefly explain here below why this is a joke!
Link to The Guardian
First of all, yes of course it’s not law to have to pay breaks and most retail business don’t pay breaks! But why do we settle for a SYSTEM? Why not get this changed? Fast-food workers, especially Pret staff work like machines! It was already horrible to work before the pandemic! Pret always boast that they pay a little more then the competition. But 1. staff have to work triple the amount for it and 2. they don’t get a pay-rise in YEARS except on what the Government raises.
Some people get it to not accept certain “normal” things:
And now, Pret ALSO pays the national minimum wage of £8.91, and with all these cuts staff get more work, many have left, who knows if there are Covid infections or even deaths. Pret was able to hide TWO allergen deaths under the carpet and a 3rd narrowly survived and more injured until an Inquest into the first fatality forced the news out.
The reason why the bonus being fully back from 50p to £1 per hour is that this is just another one of Pret’s tricks!
The bonus is not a guarantee whereas a living wage, paid breaks etc. are a guarantee. Pret has an extremely micromanaging, dehumanizing, humiliating Mystery Shopper scheme in place. I’ve written on this several times and have done some YouTube slides with real Pret Mystery Shopper (MS) reports because my blog is heavily censored on Facebook, Instagram, even here on WordPress. My blog is blocked on those sites and Facebook algorithm even deletes my PRIVATE messages when I link to my blog! But FB, Insta etc. can’t block YouTube, Twitter etc.
The MS has immense power to make or break shop bonus. Every week they visit and any little thing that p!sses the MS off can cost the whole shop the bonus. Pret Managers also have discretion to NOT give bonus for ANY silly reason. The MS is used as a tool to bully and fear manage staff!
If the Manager doesn’t like a staff member and that staff comes in ONE minute late, boom, the Manager withdraws the bonus.
The staff who got the ball rolling on the planned strikes confirms this:
If you work 60 hours per week because Pret has always been under-staffed, but now since the pandemic it’s much worse, you get exhausted, sick, Covid is still around etc. and if you are sick even just for ONE day, you get your whole week’s bonus cut. If you work 60 hours and the MS visit is successful, you get £60 on top of your wages (£1 per hour). £60 is a LOT of money for underpaid staff who, some of them are on benefits to pay their rent. If you worked all week for 52 hours, and on your last day of that week you call sick missing 8 hours to make it to 60, you lose the whole week’s effort of £52 of the previous 52 hours you DID already work!
Many times I myself worked while I was sick because I had to make a decision if to stay at home and get well, but lose money, or work while sick risking further health issues AND potentially losing my whole Team the MS bonus. One MS I unknowingly served pointed this out when I was coughing while serving them and I was not able to smile. My Manager had me in the office after we received the report.
Ctrl & + to enlarge screenshot.
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.”
Fathermucker, I was also not “cheerful” enough after I buried my brother and my boss told us to leave our problems at home and wear a smile like we wear our uniforms! If an undercover journalist would go into Pret to experience the Mystery Shopper hell. I renamed it to “Misery” Shopper. And dear MS, next time PAY staff to stay home and get well!
One staff member confronted former CEO Clive Schlee on this and called it “stealing”. The staff might have been warned by Pret as they since deleted their Tweet. Also, Clive Schlee’s Twitter account has been deleted in July 2020, so all that’s left are replies to him and many of the screenshots I have from his Tweets.
And a recent Facebook DM with a former Pret staff who points this out as well, how working 70 hours per week is harmful for mental health, but also physically. I have permission to post this:
So, working like a donkey WILL make people sick! More from this FB exchange here: Pret Staff Tested Positive for Covid.
And other issues with the bonus being weaponized against staff, I worked with a colleague who came to work from his holiday with a little beard. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but in my time when a guy wanted to grow a beard, he had to let Pret know in advance. Pret had this in WRITING in our staff manuals, that’s why I know about it as I had to read stuff as a Leader. To this day I still don’t understand why they had to let Pret know because in the kitchen men with beards wear beard nets as well as hair nets! But he came from holiday with a beard and our Manager cut his bonus!
I got threatened that my bonus will get cut if I keep forgetting to slide the plastic opening sign to “open” in the morning. Pret don’t have these stupid red sliding signs anymore, but in my time when I was new as a Leader I kept forgetting, partly because no-one trained me on “Managing by Walking Around” (MBWA).
Anything can be used by management to not pay bonus. And knowing Pret, they may retaliate against staff for announcing a strike by making the Mystery Shopper harder and/or hint to Managers to cut bonus at any turn possible!
One recent review on Glassdoor by a Team Leader puts this in simple terms: “Bonus is used as weapon”:
UPDATE: September 2021 / March 2022:
Another staff explains that due to the extreme under-staffing they have no chance to clean or check the toilets. If there is just a little bit of toilet paper on the floor in the toilet, the mystery shopper will deny ALL staff in that shop and kitchen the bonus. Hence, many shops just close the toilet with an “out of order” sign on it as they have no staff to clean. I put a YouTube slide underneath with few of the many customer complaints from different shops and dates:
The Pret A Manger Toilet Saga in 2 Acts:
We staff always were suspicious as well that when Pret threw these elaborate huge summer and Christmas parties that each cost at least £10.000 and more, VERY OFTEN straight after the parties that week, many shops lost bonus! We couldn’t proof that Pret was behind this, but I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. And it was like clockwork, we staff always laughed and made bets if we get bonus the week after a party.
The same with overheated shops! I worked in 2 different shops, both for months without adequate air conditioning and broken ACs. Shops and at times kitchens if all ACs broke, were 40+ degrees! Every Mystery Shopper, every week NEVER even mentioned this! We were expected to keep smiling and performing at highest standards. We lost bonus if we couldn’t smile etc.
I write in detail and walk people through how working in 40 degrees is like and put many customer Tweets who complained to Pret over overheated shops: Pret A Manger Overheated Shops.
After I started my blog here I registered once on a Mystery Shopper forum about 2 years ago. People were sharing their experiences. There was no-one who was a Pret MS, but I explained from staff perspective how horrible it is for us. And 9 out of 10 MS on that forum were brutal with me! They said that this is our job and that we are expected to fulfill what the company wanted, no matter what. They said even after I explained that I was bullied DURING bereavement and expected to smile! I was shocked at their response! Many Mystery Shoppers seem arrogant and entitled, this is visible in their comments. And to become a MS, you are not allowed to have retail work experience. I believe that is because companies don’t want the MS to have empathy but be like a brutal customer who ONLY spends money when their butts are kissed!
I could go on and on, but I’m trying to learn to write shorter texts. Reinstating the £1 bonus is not good enough and as the only option is a bad deal because bonuses are not a guarantee. Knowing Pret from my own horrific experience, I truly believe it’s a trick of Pret, and staff should NOT settle for it.
As social media is on fire, even former Pret staff on reddit spill the beans on the reality of Pret:
The following reddit comment I will quote here to enlarge it! These guys speak TRUTH!
“No, I’ve been working in hospitality for years. I’ve never seen anything like Pret, the amount of emotional abuse is unacceptable. But hey, people need to see you smile while they’re buying an effing sandwich…”
Ian Hodson, President of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union on LBC, whom I connected to @at_pret who announced the strike. Ian was happy to help, but staff decided to go alone. Pret has since silenced the strike action:
Link to Twitter
Low-wage shop staff depend ONLY on the Mystery Shopper to get their peanut bonus of £1 per hour. But Managers and higher up Managers have their quarterly bonus GUARANTEED!
Low-wage front-line staff get the bonus paid weekly, if you worked 40 hours, you get £40 extra. But the bonus relies solely on the Mystery Shopper results, whereas shop Assistant Managers (the position CEO Pano Christou started), Managers and higher ups get their bonus quarterly and the Mystery Shopper is just one part of it. It’s the biggest part, but even if they have low scores, they still get their bonus every quarter!
Little side note again, I write about Pano Christou’s “Rags to Riches” story and explain that he started at position number 4 in the shop NOT at the bottom. He loves to tell the public that he started “in shops”. Sure he did, but he started as an Assistant Manager with a ton of benefits including £500 to buy business attire, monthly £50 for the dry cleaner, health insurance, sick pay from day one, a LOAN to buy an annual travel pass that costs only for 10 months (2 months free travel), elaborate executive parties, travels for Team building, higher pay, bigger bonus and a bunch of other perks along the way. He just loves to fool everyone how he started at the “bottom”! Give me a break!
Staff, as well as customers, have Pret at their balls now and should keep squeezing! DON’T let go! This is a momentum and an opportunity that doesn’t come around often!
They have the press AND the public AND former/current staff AND the Unions now with open eyes on this! DON’T LET GO!
Two slides I’ve done so far and may add more if staff send me updates with new Mystery Shopper reports. But once you look at the detail, you get the idea how dehumanizing Pret’s MS report is. Pret has downgraded from 32 questions to a little over 20 questions, but it’s still horrible for staff who have to act like acrobatic clowns to just get more crumbs that Pret throws at them.
Slide 1 are excerpts from different MS reports from different shops I worked in and different years. Slide 2 is from one shop in 2019. Pret changed some wordings a little since I extensively write about the Mystery Shopper and may have forced Pret even to mention the MS on shop walls. I renamed it to “Misery” Shopper!
And most of the 32 MS questions from 2019. I have a report from 2020 but had no chance to work it into my blog or YT:
Also, regarding cuts and exploitation, please see the following posts that show how Pret exploits staff since YEARS including wage theft, lawsuits, using NHS workers for PR etc.
The Difference between Kitchen and Shop work (The strike announcement says that kitchen staff are the hard workers, but I explain that ALL staff work hard).
UPDATE: Please see how Pano Christou is further ripping low-wage staff off by trying to get money for “charity”: CEO Pano Christou is Having a Laugh!
And lastly, if customers and staff really want to reach the top executives after being ignored on Twitter, FB, Insta etc., it’s best to post to CEO Pano Christou directly on Linkedin. He deleted his Twitter account in 2019 after I tweeted Clive Schlee’s “retirement” to the press and also linked to Pano’s Twitter.
Loose Women presenter Nadia Sawalha’s stern words to Pret regarding cut wages via her Instagram. To American readers, “Loose Women” is a TV program similar to the American program “The View” or “The Talk” with mainly female presenters and themes. Nadia Sawalha is known for not shying away to speak out on issues. She has close to 500K followers on Instagram and has more followers on Twitter than Pret has. Her voice is vital and much appreciated. Many of her followers stopped going to Pret:
I adopted a song as the “Pret A Manger Anthem”:
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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.
Please also see the MEDIA page for more.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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