Days before the Queen’s platinum Jubilee weekend I was contacted by someone informing me that Pret delayed paying their lowest paid shop staff for the second time this year.
Cleverly using the bank holiday weekend knowing the press and the public would be distracted with the celebrations. I contacted journalists, including Sarah Butler from the Guardian. Actually, I emailed Pret’s CEO Pano Christou, openly copying in journalists and Ian Hodson from the BFAWU union whom Sarah later asked to comment. I included the info I was given as Pret staff always reach out to me with important issues, knowing I write about it and pass it on to the press.
Part of a DM I was sent and passed it on to the press:
Shortly after, Sarah Butler reported on it, but of course it got drowned out in the news due to the Jubilee celebrations. Sarah Butler also reported on a strike action plan I tagged her in last year, and this started an uprising of customers who called for boycotts. But Pret being Pret, using the bank holiday weekend as people are distracted was a clever move. There was no uprising this time.
But I want to point to another reason why I believe that Pret used the Jubilee weekend to not pay staff on time. On 22.06.2022 I saw some info via Propel that Pret’s sales have risen, also during the Jubilee weekend.
I am not business savvy and don’t understand business matters too well, but I know Pret very well. I know their mentality, their tricks, their sweet-talk in charity, the environment and safety issues versus how it is in reality.
I know that when there are systemic issues in a company, group or family, it always comes from the top, “the fish stinks from its head”.
For one, how can sales be up 88% to pre-pandemic levels when more and more customers boycott Pret, with many vowing to never set foot inside Pret again after learning how Pret exploit staff. Plus, shops have shorter opening times due to lack of staff. How do they throw around with figures like that?
How about a closer look?
I cannot count the number of times when manager after manager in shop after shop in my 10 years, in over 30 shops in Pret, “forgot” to pay me the odd hour here and there. The same with colleagues who would approach me as I was the team leader, complaining that the manager didn’t pay their full hours AGAIN. Often a new team member was too scared to speak to the moody or angry manager, so they came to me and I spoke to the manager on their behalf. But I also encouraged the colleague to not be afraid as they are not doing anything wrong, but the manager is!
I say with certainty that this was on purpose in shop after shop. This was especially clear when staff were sent home earlier then scheduled and managers QUICKLY adjusted the hours where staff worked less, but often “forgot” to adjust the hours in the system when staff worked longer than scheduled! Many staff don’t even check their hours and never notice that the odd hour or two hasn’t been paid, ESPECIALLY when they helped out in another shop for a day.
I kept a spreadsheet at home and marked it daily in my phone calendar how many hours I worked EACH day. Then I checked the pay and it was literally almost on a weekly basis that at least 15 minutes to an hour was missing.
Pret managers do this on purpose to not pay the odd 15 minutes to make the staff feel embarrassed to ask for the 15 minute pay. But after a while I DID demand to be paid to the minute as this became the rule rather than exception to “steal” pay/hours from us.
Do the math, if you are looking after a shop of 25 – 30 staff members, take an hour here and there from most of them every week. It is 20 – 30 hours every week that you profit from by “forgetting” to pay. It all adds up.
The same with last week’s pay. I myself have not been paid for a whole week when I left Pret. When a team member starts in Pret, they don’t get paid for the first week. They get the first week pay on the end of week two. And then when they leave, Pret forgets to pay it back.
Managers and assistant managers are on a monthly fixed payroll. But Pret exploit them as well by making them work overtime without extra pay.
Link to Glassdoor review.
Shop managers are constantly pressured to produce numbers and reach targets. They cater to the area managers (operation managers OPs). OPs cater to head office and their heads. And CEO Pano Christou of course caters to owners JAB Holdings (Reimann family) and share holders.
The systemic and systematic issue of not paying staff their full hours worked is a huge issue in Pret, as it may be in many low-wage companies.
It was especially noticeable that managers “forgot” to pay when we neared the end of a quarter where managers and higher ups get their bonuses. Pret also has the “premiership” where shops compete for the top shop spot, being the #1 shop in all of Pret. I worked in shops where we became top shop, and often #2 and in the top 10. This of course means a sh!tload of bonus for managers and also regognition to be on the top.
Every quarter Pret holds a “quarter brief” where these shops are mentioned and where the CEO mentions specific managers. A gala is held and money blown out with expensive food and booze for the top people. while the lowest paid workers paid the price for it. Also, trips to Dubai, Paris, Las Vegas for managers and higher ups under the guise of “seminars” and team building while shop staff crumble.
The following review from New York is worth quoting outside the screenshot:
»They spend (waste) lots of money on dinners for themselves and “leadership conferences” that are really just excuses to party in Orlando or Vegas. “Business” trips to Boston and Chicago are really expensed vacations for their families. The Brits have taken over NYC. Pret has brought over many managers and leaders form the UK and ‘beheaded’ many of the US employees who built the brand to make room for them.
Advice to management: get over yourselves.«
In Europe they go to Paris or even Dubai.
In the USA people don’t mess around much and go straight to court, while in the UK and Europe the legal system is different, not as much in favour of plaintiffs. Most workers don’t even entertain the thought to raise a complicated and expensive lawsuit. So, they give up, bear under the burden or just leave.
Former CEO Clive Schlee left with this legacy:
And current CEO Pano Christou is continuing it:
Twice in the USA Pret settled lawsuits for “wage theft” where Pret “shaved off” (rounded down) pay. Twice Pret repaid approximately 4000 workers a combined $1 million. More info: Wage Theft in Pret.
And speaking of “deal bonus” posted on Twitter by Clive Schlee, I write about the reason WHY Schlee made the £1000 bonus announcement to all staff back then. It came as a response after he was made aware of my blog in the eve of making this announcement. More info with proof: The Day Clive Schlee had a Bright “Idee”.
And now the Pret executives have become bolder, DIRECTLY taking from workers instead of before via the “middle-men” of OPs and shop managers. Pret now directly claim to have had “payroll error” delaying to pay staff.
Sarah Butler’s report after I contacted her and others:
A payroll expert had this to say:
McDonald’s had a 30% stake in Pret in the early 2000s for Pret to get their foot into the US market. Once in, they divorced their “marriage of convenience” shortly after. But this should have rung alarm bells for the press and public. Pret, who claim to be healthy and ethical hooking up with McDonald’s just leaves behind a bitter taste. And CEO Pano Chrsitou having come from McDonald’s, where he was a manager (started as an assistant manager in Pret with all the perks, NOT a low-wage team member), is now turning Pret further and further into a McDonald’s style business.
We all heard of horrifying instances where low-wage fast-food staff spit into customers’ food. I doubt a Pret staff would do that, BUT staff are now internally striking, literally striking back and sabotaging Pret from within.
Also, the same person:
I explained later to above person that it DOES matter if Pret “only” delay pay for a day. Pret’s financial week starts on Fridays. Weekly staff are paid on Thursdays. So, paying staff 1 day late on a Friday means Pret has a new budget to work with to present better numbers of the previous week to JAB, shareholders and now the Pret Index. Just as I explained above that managers take an hour here and there, if a staff member notices this, the manager then repays it the following week. I had a sneaky manager put me on three day sick leave in the system, while I was only sick for two days. A full 7 hours were missing from my pay. He profusely apologized, but then asked me if he can repay 1 hour per week. I was new to Pret and naive and agreed! I should have demanded the full 7 hour pay then and there which Pret can do.
When I was off sick leave for 3 months during bereavement and the bullying environment, David Carter from HR met me to offer the first of 4 settlements if I sign an NDA. As I was off sick and without pay, I asked David to meet me at a cafe close to my home as I couldn’t afford the bus fare to HQ. David came and immediately took advantage of my financial struggles by offering me money in return for me to resign and sign an NDA. But to appear supportive in case of a court case later, he also offered me £300 as a good will gesture and gift. I smelled a rat but accepted the £300 gift. I didn’t want Pret to later say in court that they offered money but I rejected Pret’s offer of help and therefore have no grounds to sue them. Pret also paid for counselling but the bullying continued. After a year of no support and bullying, then having contacted the CEO, only then did some support come in while the bullying continued.
But later when I arrived home, within an hour, I had £300 in my bank account from Pret. Pret and companies in general CAN pay within minutes. This was in 2016 and David told me to take a while to think about the settlement offer which I later declined. Part of the email which he put into writing, I believe in case for court:
And yes, the funds appeared within an hour.
My former manager wanted to spread out the 7 hours pay over several weeks to reach targets. And this is what I mean regarding the Pret Index and using the end of a quarter or a specific event like the Queen’s Jubilee to delay pay.
And now even more than ever before, I fear for food safety. As if Pret need more customer deaths and injuries, shops serve expired, mouldy, stale food with insects, rat droppings, hair etc. Pret also keep mislabeling due to under-staffing and with it now break “Natasha’s Law” which was implemented in October 2021, five years after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died from a baguette containing unlabelled sesame she was allergic to. The second customer, mother of 5, Celia Marsh died of dairy in a vegan wrap. And further dozen plus got injured over several years, including after the two deaths and Pret doing NOTHING until this became public.
Ongoing mislabeling of course is due to the extreme under-staffing which happened already before the pandemic. The pandemic just made everything worse and Pret, instead of putting on the brakes and rebuild the brand with QUALITY, they rush ahead with dodgy practices and aggressive expansion plans to please JAB and share-holders.
Blog link with more pictures of mouldy food than I used in the YouTube slide below: Pret Food is NOT Fresh. It all comes around full circle.
After having received cash injections from JAB Holding (£185million) and shareholders (£100m and later again £200m) Pret are tasked to open 200 shops worldwide in the next 2 years.
Bridgepoint bought Pret in 2008, I started in Pret mid 2008 and never even knew Pret. But since 2008 I noticed Pret shops popping up at every corner in London. Later I learnt that Bridgepoint tasked Pret to open 15 shops per year. Link to “Case Study“.
And I can tell you we FELT the SQUEEZE! Now, I don’t know Pret in any other way than being back-breaking work for little money. But I kept hearing in the early months of working at Pret that colleagues who worked pre-2008 kept saying Pret has become stricter, harder, more unfair etc.
And now, with JAB, the squeeze got even worse. Tasking Pret to open 200 shops in 2 years … good luck shop workers AND customers! Of course Pret moved more into franchising. But being desperate to please JAB and shareholders after the cash injection and the task to speed-open shops worldwide, they directly now stoop even lower from their castle to the slave pit, and take from low-wage staff like using workers as a piggy bank or bank to loan money from without being charged interest.
And of course Pret wants more investors, and most people outside the UK either don’t know the scandals in Pret or still think of the “old” Pret with the happy facade. Business people and investors read Bloomberg with the Pret Index showing rising numbers that also came during the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. And passionate business people drool over the Pret Index. So, what better time to “borrow” money from the lowest paid workers to have rising numbers, than during the Jubilee to pimp up the Pret Index to lure in possible investors.
In a nutshell, Pret KEEP ripping staff off, y’all, just like they rip customers off via the coffee subscription, apps, special offer deals etc.
Pret’s shady practices on a variety of issues:
Spain’s response to Pret’s plan to open:
Pano Christou’s 2020 pay was £300,000 PLUS millions in bonus. He didn’t reveal how much pay he got 2021 and 2022 after cutting wages, benefits, paid break etc. during the pandemic, keep taking from staff having made temporary pandemic cuts permanent. But if he had cut his wages like he did to staff, he would have announced it as Pret are quick to announce “charity” events. For me it is safe to assume he receives the same pay if not more. And by the way, Christou is paid more, double than the UK Prime Minister and gets the same pay as US President Biden. Katchink!
My podcast episode on this:
I could go on and on and on and on and on, but mark my words, food safety is already highly compromised and will not get better with this aggressive expansion and labour issues. I know what I’ve seen and experienced in Pret. I know what staff tell and send me. And I see the ongoing complaints on social media, including food poisoning websites reporting on every increasing issues of food poisoning issues people report.
To the WordPress staff who always check the blog posts that I do, you can inform Pret all day long, I can see how you check each post when I publish it. WordPress has moved my blog into the “adult” section where they move pornography sites to. A WordPress staff, they brainwashing-ly call “happiness engineer”, (yuck!) told me it’s been moved. And when I checked the rules they linked me to, all I can see is that they move porn sites there. So, they use this excuse to censor my free speech. Pret most likely contacted WordPress and the platform bowed to pressure by hiding my blog within its platform. This means, WordPress users who are logged into WordPress cannot find my blog on the internal “reader” platform. When people use the internal WordPress reader search button, put “pret a manger” in search, my site cannot be found/seen. Same with any other social media platform restricting my posts. So far to free speech and whistleblowers being protected, hey. 🖕
What do Pret have to hide, I wonder …
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 witnessed by customers: 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 which press articles and Pret “charity” announcements I influenced.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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