PRET A Manger Selected Staff Complaints (UPDATED Feb. 2019)

 

UPDATE March 2019 – The first time I share my story verbally in one go in this interview. Underneath the interview section are reviews/complaints from current and former Pret Staff.

You can still listen to the interview while scrolling below to the many staff complaints. Links to the reviews open in a new window or tab depending on what’s selected.

 

On Vimeo:

 

Or Audio Player:

 

Above interview is with Adam from The Adam Paradox podcast on my experience in Pret A Manger.

The main subject being workplace bullying, we also spoke about gaslighting, “shadow banning” and censorship on social media, as well as bereavement, trauma and mental health in general and what to look out for in an interview for a new job. I further talked about the significant timing of Pret CEO’s announcement of the £1000 Tweet for all staff. I also talked about a regular day in Pret and how staff have to cut corners, in order to fulfill the immense workload under constant pressure.

It is hard to squeeze my traumatic experience into a podcast segment, but we covered enough to get a good picture of today’s systemic stress environment for profit driven global companies.

Please visit his Podcast and Twitter @1AdamParadox.

 

 


 

 

Pret Staff Complaints

 

 

Horrible Company Pret

 

 

2018-11-01 Go back to UK

 

 

2019-02-09 Response to Homeless House Tweet2

 

 

2012-07-23 Ex GM

 

2018-07-06 Head Office PR

 

Chicago Pret horrible company to work for2

2019-06-23 45 recommend Pret 51 recommend Clive

Glassdoor

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.”

Mystery Shopper: “I was not greeted at the till or given a smile …

04 MSEndTheMysteryShopper

 

 

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness

Link

 

PAMSU Dismantle MS

 

2018-05-09 PAMSU EndTheMysteryShopper

#EndTheMysteryShopper

 

A customer complained on Twitter about how when it is very busy the manager is not helping on the shop floor but sitting in the office. I mention this in my interview as well.

 

2019-03-19 Response to customer complaint re manager

Link

 

The second Tweet is a response to the CEO’s reply to the above tweet, yet it’s not addressed to his Twitter account nor posted in the same feed as above. I wonder what that’s all about:

2019-03-19 Customer re managers

Link

 


 

If you prefer to skip this into, just scroll down to the red heading Selected Quotes that link to reviews I want to highlight.

 


 

UPDATE: Nov. 2018

Undercover reporter in Pret sparked by my blog.

 


 

NOTE from the start: I myself did approx. 300 – 500 transactions per day depending what shift I was on and how busy the shop was in general. This means I served not 300 – 500 individual people, but more than that. ONE transaction can be 1 customer or a group of people ordering and paying together. Even with one transaction serving a group, you speak with several people about their order etc. So, on average I spoke individually with no less than 500 – 800+ people a day, plus colleagues, bosses, answering the phone etc. Multiply that by how many more are in a team… and one gets the idea of customer flow in a shop, it’s like a train station. I still have some of the reports of the summaries and a chronic beeping and roaring tinnitus…

It depended on how many hours per day I worked and what my job was for the day. If on coffee, I mostly listened to orders but didn’t speak as much directly with customers. Same in the kitchen. But with all the amount of customer interaction, Pret’s brutal expectation for profit is that staff members connect with EVERY customer, smile, eye contact, small conversation. If they fail, they are summoned into the office or anywhere away from customers, are told off, at times threatened with their job security, send out and ordered to smile by a non-smiling manager. I will add an extra blog entry on the mental and emotional strain and what I also experienced, the mental abuse by superiors when the Mystery Shopper report wasn’t as positive (= less bonus for the managers). Pret doesn’t even stop when staff become bereaved as I had to experience so traumatically.

The press called this “emotional labour”. Quote:

“… in The New Republic, Timothy Noah observes that the sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger aggressively monitors its employees’ displays of enthusiasm. If any worker at any particular store seems insufficiently pleased to see their customers, he and all of his coworkers could suffer the consequences. Pret CEO Clive Schlee even monitors whether his employees are making enough affectionate physical contact with each other.” Link

I can absolutely verify the aggressiveness of this. I still don’t know how I survived.

 

Further below I listed selected reviews as “Quotes” from the long list of Pret Staff Complaints. These are EXACT quotes linked from various Employment Review websites, YouTube, Twitter etc. as well as my own story regarding Pret A Manger on my Blog here. I left any mistake in the reviews to keep it in their own words. These selected reviews I chose from the many in the above link because I can underline those as I have experienced Pret similar (and even worse).

When customers who are so impressed with Pret because they only see the outside, the facade through the PR(et) machine, when they ask Pret about these complaints, they are too easily sweet-talked into believing that this is just an unfortunate exception. But the truth will always come to the surface, no matter how long it takes.

 

Bullying Boss

 

NOTE:

Since I compiled all the staff complaints there seem to be quite a lot more “positive” reviews appearing, especially regarding “good” management, training and work environment, all issues that is really appalling in Pret and the numerous reviews speak about. If there are fake news, I am not alleging anything, but there may be fake reviews! Knowing how Pret and their HR dept. work, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone writes these reviews.

And since I compiled these complaints, the Pret website as well as the CEO’s has as the main pinned Tweets the “good” deeds Pret & the CEO are doing, again excellent working  PR(et) machine. There are good managers and good shops of course, but the management style in Pret to pressure for more targets and profit, is poisoned throughout the company. And in time the truth will always come out.

As true reviews will always continue on the same lines of horrible and bullying management until this changes. Pret does annual staff questionnaires that are at times manipulated by management. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if some are leaving fake reviews.

In the meantime, click on ANY of the below reviews and read the same from different years, even days ago and different countries, in a nutshell: bullying, discriminating management, over worked, missing pay etc.

There are also a lot of complaints regarding being overworked for extra time but not being paid for it. I can verify this as I had to chase my missing hours for years! Pret Staff in the UK and elsewhere should do what over 4000 Pret staff did in the U.S. with a class action suit regarding missing pay.

This review from a former London TM from 13. Aug. 2018 makes this very clear. I called this “Quote of the Day” entry the “Wage Watchers” Program in Pret.

 


 

UPDATE end of Nov. 2018: An undercover investigation sparked by my blog. Amy Sharpe from the Sunday Mirror went undercover in Pret after reading my experience and my suggestion to go undercover to see for herself. She “only” worked a few days in the shop, not the kitchen, and can’t do an in-depth cover like my 10 years in Pret and the below reviews. But it is a good start that scratches the surface on how it is behind the scenes. My comments on her findings in my blog post:
Undercover Under Pressure in Pret

 


 

Selected Quotes:

 

#01 Pray A Manger “Get ready to lick so many a**ses to advance”

#02 Cry A MangerThe Brainwash is real… A lot of people cry in the staff room especially in their entry period.

#03 Pret A Mess “Always messing up pay”

#04 Threat A Manger “Very bad management. They treat you like a slave. You have zero value for them. … They threa[t] us and show the door if we don’t work very fast.”

#05 Pret A FearPlease get the bullies out.Now your people work in fear.”

#06 Pret A MistakeHorrible place they shout at you all the time for any little mistake.”

#07 Pret A Bullied “The image of the happy environment is a joke.”

#08 Pret A Blackmail “Your subjected to emotional blackmail and serious labor issues”

#09 Corrupt A Manager “Worst company to work for … the team member are over worked and managers are always working with fear.”

#10 Kiss A Bum “Managers treat you poorly, they are racist and discriminating. If you want to get promotion you have to sleep with someone and kiss manager’s bum.”

#11 Pret A SqueezeManagement is trying to squeeze you like a lemon …. no weekends off, not even 2 days off together.

#12 PR(et) A ManipulativeManipulative and exploitative approach to employeesGenuinely fake and dishonest company.” (Former IT Analyst’s review on Pret’s Head Office)

#13 Regret A Manger “I regret working there.”

#14 Define A Manager “Lack of defined management, finger-pointing, politics and poor organisation.”

#15 Pret Annihilates HumanityThis job can annihilate every piece of humanity inside of you.”

#16 Poor A MangerPoor and terrible management.”

#17 Pret A Shame “The training should be more about encouraging people than shouting and shaming them.”

#18 Pret A Missing PayI want to be as loud as possible here – PRET DOESN’T CARE.”

#19 Pret A MachineHorrible training, too many liespeople are treated like crap. Upper management do not care about you … they treat employees as machines … Horrible environment.”

#20 Bad A Manager “Bad management and not taking care about people … do not give power to irresponsible people

#21 Pret A Slave Stressful and dominatingLeaders treat you like slaves.

#22 Pret A HaRshHR problems, employee is treated really badly…”

#23 Pret A Smileyou are required to have the widest fake smile on earth

#24 Rude A Manager “Management and some members of staff were extremely rude and patronising”

#25 Pret A Bad “A shame that such a big company is becoming so bad day by day.”

#26 Pret A PushLittle training was just pushed at the deep end as soon as I started the job

 

continued below…

 

Robot sad crop

 

#27 Pret A Manager-Ex: “I am an ex GM. I walked out last year as I couldn’t take the way we had to treat TMs to achieve ever increasing demands for profit and efficiencies.”

#28 Pret A Hell:if you treat people like they’re useless and worthless, they won’t work so well anymore … TREAT PEOPLE PROPERLY!!!! get down from that high horse you’re on”

#29 Pret A M*ffin “…team member are over worked and managers are always working with fear … now the company is just about the profit also it is run like mafia organisation where it is about who you know … get rid of some top management who are so corrupt

#30 Pret A Robot “People are treated inhuman way in terms of sickness and work load. Employees are being treated more like robots than human beings

#31 Pret A JokeYou have a limited time to do your job everyday but this time limit is a joke. they give me the next rota just the day before the week starts.

#32 Pret A Nothingdidn’t learn nothing as i have things to give to that shop as i came with lots of experience and skills.

#33 Red A Manager “their [managers] personality only is good for business, but not for the people that work under.”

#34 Pret A Unhappy + Extra Quote on the House! If an employee is unhappy, and its affecting their work, ask them what’s up (gently)”

#35 Trap A Manger “It’s a trap! … Huge stress. Never stops.Shouting all around. … Say something nice from time to time. Don’t insult them!

#36 Pret A UnpaidVery unfair company

#37 Pret A ScreamOne of the things that I absolutely hated about working at pret, was the fact that management wanted you to act like you were having fun and smile at all times.

#38 Pret A Managerthe staff are great the guys who do the real work. The management suck” (review by a manager)

#39 Pret A No RespetarLos managers son penosos“, “un horror!!” “desastrosa” and “todo… no tiempo libre, no respeto..”

#40 Odd A Manger “company going in one direction and then the opposite” (review from a former Purchasing Director, NYC)

#41 Pret A Scam “This job is a scam you work hours and hours and it never matches your check

 

continued below…

 

Depression pexels-photo-262075

 

#42 Pret A Shadyreally shady company. They worked us off the clock and would be quick to transfer even there best workers over favoritism

#43 Pret A Blame “overworking envornment , discriminating HR , unprofessional managers

#44 Pret A Bos(s)ton “No person deserves to be traumatized or stressed to death by work. Current laws do not address interpersonal cruelty at work.”

#45 Pret A Powerkidwhichever is your mental state, you have to be happy and smile…you can also suddenly be under the powerkid that is mainly rude,… setting up your rota to damage your personal life just for fun, or shouting at you in front of the others

#46 Pret Abusive StaffDiscriminatory management Unprofessional atmosphere Abusive staff”

#47 Squeeze A LemonManagement is trying to squeeze you like a lemon

#48 Pret A Mouthful “The positions are hardly worth it for the pay you get. Better off being a team member if you don’t see Pret as a long term career prospect.”

#49 Pret A Cutting StaffPoor management and under-trained … Pret A Manger has cut down on staff so theres more a lot more of things to do and not enough staff to do everything, so employees are being worked harder. Management do not have sympathy or care for employees

#50 Pret A Not WorthNot Worth The Stress … Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.”

#51 Pret A Brainwash “There are a lot of favouritism, which leads to promoting incompetent people to more senior roles.”

#52 Pret A Mental AbuseHostile work environmentmental and verbal abuse physical violence in the workplace

#53 Pret A HorribleExtremely stressful managers dont know anything and drama every day. People need to know how to take responsibility there. I wouldn’t work there.”

#54 Wage Watchers Progam at PretKeep track of your own wages – left with more than £100 owed to me which I had to claim back! … I was made to feel like I was in the wrong and spoken to rudely.

#55 Pret A ExploitationYou should probably consider buying industrial machines to make sandwiches instead of focusing on exploitation East-European employees.

 

continued below…

 

Pret Uniform2

The Pret A Manger Staff Uniform Cupboard for a perfect smile all day long.

 

#56 Pret A MaskTeam member should smile at customers and may not work when ill, as team member was coughing whilst serving me and was therefore not feeling cheerful enough to smile that day”

Dear Misery Shopper, Team Members are not paid the first 2-3 days when off sick. If you’d pay staff sick leave, they will stay home and cough!

“request people to show a ‘fake’ happiness”“you are required to have the widest fake smile on earth”

 

#57 Pret A Shout “…all they seem to do is try to create robots that operate at 100mph and have no personality … I’d sacrifice a paid break and a free lunch for a decent environment to work in where I’m not shouted at daily, and made to feel sub human.”

#58 Pret A CondescendingInsure management respects the workers and don’t be condescending on them, please don’t act over controlling in respect to ensuring we work like robots

#59 Pret A Anger “”!!!! … !!!!! … !!!!!!!! … !!!””

#60 Pret A Modern-day SlaveryWhen you follow [the points and rules] they then moan that you are to slow and need to hurry

#61 Pret A Slave’s CompanyIf someone can’t finish job on time has to stay longer, for free. Common practise is to give someone job to do, just a couple of minutes before end of shift and after telling that “you couldn’t finish on time, because you are to slow.

 

continued below…

 

ball-and-chain-2624325__340

 

#62 Pret A NoxiousGo back to the UK, Pret I have never worked in such a toxic, unprofessional corporate environment. Employees relocating from UK were given preferential treatment, better salaries for equal experience

#63 Penalize A Funeral “management is disrespectful, they fire people when they are having rough times in life even if they talk to manager about it , i was penalized for calling out for a funeral

#64 Pret A Manchesterneed to hire different managers, ones that respect staff. the ones there now, shout at staff, don’t understands there circumstances or disabilities

#65 Pret A Politics “Poor management resulting in poor decisions. Office culture is working really really long hours. No work life balance whatsoever and constant office politics”

#66 Pret A Scared “…been given a letter saying that u have not been performing and from that time u will be on risk to be fired

#67 Pret A Lacking Staff “Busy and stressful environment whit no support from management. – Forget about contracted hours! You will be doing overtime most of the time, as there is a lack of staff nearly in every Pret.”

#68 Pret A Money Hungry Regarding doing charity for the homeless: “The help they do is just for public to bring more customers in. Behind is chaos.

#69 Pret Abuse of Team MembersTeam members are abused by work in terms of quantity of work and responsibilities”

#70 Pret A Zero StarsPret does not deserve even 1 star. I regret having worked there.

 

Comprehensive Pret A Manger Staff Complaints– compiled from Employment Review websites, YouTube, Twitter etc.

 

Undercover Report sparked by my blog.

 

 

cry-1682140_960_720

 

From only few of these complaints and my own experience, which has almost cost me my life, working in a toxic, unfulfilling, non-rewarding and right out dangerous work environment that gives no room for people being vulnerable in bereavement or mental health issues, behind the scenes it is a very different story to what Pret presents at the front. The annual questionnaire Pret does to ask staff of their experience is flawed as some managers manipulate those, I know of one manager who has been dismissed for manipulating (doing the questionnaire online on behalf of those who did not want to participate), another has been caught by staff, but none has raised the issue.

I have raised a grievance as my shop had a 100% participation in the questionnaire, even though I did not participate in it. The hearing was not investigated properly, and only vague assumptions have been made by HR, but no thorough investigation took place, which would have been easy to be made as I was one of 4 Team Leaders, the external company who held the questionnaire could have been contacted with the shop number that was assigned to my shop to see how many Team Leaders participated and could have scrutinized the wording, as I am very particular in my wording.

So, these anonymous complaints that I gathered will repeat itself on the same lines as linked here. The shiny facade will sooner later crumble, and hopefully things will be truly changed and not just PR and slogans presented. But I doubt it, as money is just corrupting people too much.

I am proud to say that the unions in the UK and the U.S. (with further being informed) are now aware of and having an eye on Pret A Manger that has gotten away with so much mistreatment of their hard working people for so many years. The time will come that even Pret will lose its facade, just as companies like McDonald already did so many years ago. My work is done!

I almost lost my life and am struggling to find my way back to living a normal, anxiety-free life again.

 

 

Brain Plaster anxiety-1535743__340

 

 

 

A customer in Chicago commenting on a deceased Pret staff and Pret itself:

“I knew Dante. He was an extremely nice person. That being said, Pret is a horrible company to work for.”

 

Chicago Pret horrible company to work for2

 

Link

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO. 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 also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California. Thank you for reading/listening.

©2018/2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

1. Quote of the Day #62 – Pret A Noxious

 

I decided to do two “quotes of the day” today as they are both from New York within days of each other.

 

 

dirty-water5

 

Full review as Quote of the Day:

 

Go back to the UK, Pret
I have never worked in such a toxic, unprofessional corporate environment. Employees relocating from UK were given preferential treatment, better salaries for equal experience, HR was mostly a joke, ‘leaders’ displayed zero initiative in mentorship of their teams, roles were unclear and the company had tunnel vision on decision making based on the opinion of one or two people who paid little attention to local market data.

 

 

2018-11-01 Go back to UK

30. Oct. 2018 NY

 

 

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

 

 

 

The Perversion of a Toxic HR Department

 

… and how it poisoned me. What I have survived in a workplace that only cares for profit and the rest is just PR, has traumatized me so much on top of going through personal loss already. I have not dealt with this how I wished I would have, but I had no tools and am still learning how best to deal with this. I haven’t even started to come to terms about my brother and have lost myself in darkness and fear where I couldn’t see right from left.

Even with all the distance now to Pret and a lot of thoughts in hindsight, if I wouldn’t have all this in writing I would still shake my head in disbelief as if I just came out of a long and twisted Hollywood movie.

Regular readers know the story, so this will be a repeat, sorry for this, but I am still recovering and working through it all with the help of Therapy as well as sieving through the writings, emails etc. But I want to move away from writing in metaphors. I used metaphors a lot like the “Pret A Monkey Business” post to help me cope with the blunt memory of this “experience” that had me almost killed and try to make sense what happened and why.

 

head-1597565__340

 

I want to describe what to me was the greatest perversion I have experienced in Pret (or anywhere at that), twisted chain of events I have never experienced in my life anywhere. I lived and worked in three countries, traveled in more, lived and worked with countless people from all walks of life, from various countries, of different ages. I worked in several companies, mostly in the hospitality and service industry, had relationships, friendships, colleagues, bosses and had my share of betrayal and disappointments, like everyone. But I have never ever experienced the level of trauma, intrigue and viciousness that I experienced in Pret A Manger.

This is something I would expect in a law firm and certainly in politics, but a sandwich chain?? Maybe because I never experienced such dishonesty and trickery, I fell for it so easily. But I need to be kinder with myself and not keep blaming myself. Even if I would have experienced anything close to it, I was so traumatized already with the loss of my brother, which in itself was so out of this world, weird, unclear, with puzzle pieces I still have to put together.

Not having known for 5 weeks that he has died and was completely gone, already cremated without our consent in a country as efficient as Germany with its ID system. For us not being found still has me paralyzed how this could even happen. I recently found a video on YouTube where a family in the U.S. went through a similar event, losing a family member, not knowing that he died and was already cremated! I am not consoled that this happened to this family, but not feeling alone in a nightmare like this does help a little.

 

 

From the get go of my loss and all the terrible circumstances around it, I had not only no support in Pret apart from the basic stuff the company offers and then later when I contacted the CEO, but I was bullied in shop after shop as this is an issue with leadership which I also listed on one page from other current and former staff members. If a company does not have a clear policy for bereaved employees in place, like it has for pregnant women’s health and safety, a clear stand on homophobic and other discrimination issues, than managers are left to themselves. They have to figure out what to do, and most managers are overwhelmed, not trained, have no confidence which then manifests in leadership avoiding the bereaved at best and get angry at worst, or both. I went through it all.

Early on I approached HR informally to “help” them, where in reality I desperately needed help! I gave suggestions, even looked online for material and passed it on to HR, to managers and to area managers. But in my naive attempt to help them help me, I did not realize how uncomfortable the subject of death and grief is. A bereaved employee, especially if the loss is traumatic, quickly becomes an inconvenience.

Jimmy Edmonds from The Good Grief Project earlier this year shared in a Q&A in cinema where his film about grief was shown, that in Victorian times people frequently spoke about death, dying and grief. It was completely acceptable and normal to talk about death. But it was taboo to talk about sex. And today it’s the complete opposite. With the Good Grief Project they produce films, and travel to share and hear experiences of grief. They make the subject of death, dying and grief accessible in this day and age where we hide from this subject that will come to us all sooner or later. But they don’t do this in a gloomy way, I for one find it very relieving, and paradoxically lively the way they deal with this. It takes the sting out of this inevitable issue.

I wish I’d known their project early on in my own grief and in trying to find my way around the Pret maze where it felt like I was going through a war zone emotionally, and every step I took in a mine field could have been explosive, as it was many times.

I shared in several posts the different situations and bullying I went through. In a nutshell it was everything except physical and sexual violence. But I was shouted at repeatedly by different managers, as this is very common in Pret. I was avoided, not invited to leaders’ meetings, even a leader’s Christmas dinner days after my dad woke from his coma and I returned to London to earn money to visit him again, I wasn’t invited to the dinner. I wasn’t given information that I needed to do my job and when I made a mistake I was solely blamed. I was told off in front of my team as well as in group emails where the area manager was constantly copied in. It didn’t matter how I turned, it was always wrong and I felt with my back against the wall.

In all this I kept blaming myself mixed with the guilt of having let my brother down and silly things like not having replied to his last email to me five weeks before he died. The regret of not having emailed him back, and then five weeks after he died having received the news of his death via an email, all the group emails that my then line manager sent where he told me off several times or blamed me, and then later the emails I read between HR and managers about me. With all these email incidences I started to spiral into an ill emailing sprint that lasted many months.

It became so out of hand that I cried out to a line manager who just shrugged it off and even laughed with the leadership team. I brainstormed with therapist after therapist on how to stop this sickness, they couldn’t even diagnose what this is. Clive Schlee, CEO would later label me his “late night girl” to the Director of HR, due to late night emails to Pret (as well as my friends, therapists, anyone). He had a laugh two months before I was dismissed for emailing. I couldn’t stop, I went into a writing cramp again with my dad in a coma, coming to terms with another blow. I only started to come out of this writing cramp when I started this blog.

But the perversion I am speaking about really got to its peak when HR tasked a Development Manager from HQ to give me a disciplinary for the emailing. Up until then the Head of HR & Recruitment would deal a lot with my situation, after I contacted the CEO who then put the Head of HR on my case, as the bullying increased and no manager knew how to be normal, let alone empathetic. I approached HR and managers for almost a year, but was constantly sent away. One particular People Business Partner was heavily involved and already part from the beginning in my first approach to make suggestions to HR. I later raised a grievance against him after I read his emails and his involvement when I applied for my file. But of course it was a waste of time. I was just extremely out-of-sync.

I even apologized for a nervous breakdown I had two days before the first anniversary of my brother’s death, where the same line manager who would tell me off in the group emails and blame me constantly, rebuked me again in front of my team, and I just broke down.

But approaching HR and any leader didn’t help, I was sweet-talked and sent away … again. And I kept apologizing even though I had nothing to apologize for but needed an apology from those who targeted me for months under the guidance of HR. This was then when I finally contacted the CEO, something by the way one can see on Twitter keeps happening where employees contact Pret openly because they don’t get help from their managers or HR.

 

2018-09-13 #59 Staff Tweet2

 

2018-09-13 #59 Staff Tweet3

Link

 

 

2018-10-15 No pay for 4 weeks1

 

Link

 

And one just from yesterday:

 

2018-11-01 Homophobic Complaint1

Link

 

— & — Pret’s generic response because it’s public:

 

2018-11-02 Homophobic Complaint deleted2

 

I know, I know, I tweet a lot 😉 But the reason for this is that most people still don’t understand the turmoil and because I gave Pret the benefit of the doubt time and time again while they had a laugh and I almost killed myself! The tweeting will eventually cease.

 

But because my concerns and trauma with the managers where constantly ignored or I was sent away, I went into extensive emailing which increased when I drank as I couldn’t cope with the grief and what happened at work. Later I applied for my file as I tried to understand why this happened to me, and one email had me shocked, one of many emails that had me shocked, but this one was from an HR Advisor who was at first involved in trying to put me on performance targets that would lead to disciplinaries, and a disciplinary quickly leads to dismissal, even though I performed extremely well, especially under traumatic bereavement on autopilot. This among the other emails between HR and managers, the email bringing me the news of my brother’s death and the group emails from a line manager had me spiral into emailing, which I explain extensively in another blog entry.

In this email from the HR Advisor to the area manager, the HR person is trying to come up with a plan but wants to first liaise with the PBP who was involved from the beginning and was present in the first informal meeting where I approached HR with suggestions. The HR Advisor even writes that she thinks that my “case” is going to be “very complicated”, meaning because I am bereaved they cannot just get rid of me, at least cut me down from my leadership position, as this would be blunt discrimination and would not look good on the company.

Side note, this HR Advisor later changed direction when she heard MY side for the first time and raised my experience as a grievance against this area manager to whom she wrote that my case would be complicated. But in the grievance hearing she wasn’t present even though she said she would be, which started a whole host of confusion and deeper trauma. This email is a response from the HR person to the area manager who forwarded my email, where I asked for a meeting with my line manager and area manager as the bullying got worse. But not only were they never willing to sit down and speak openly to clear up any misunderstanding there may have been, but they were then even advised by HR to not have any meetings with me until further notice:

 

2015-08-24-complicated-case-with-plan.jpg

 

Quote for larger print: “Thanks for sending this (my email asking for a meeting) through. I have a few ideas of how to proceed but as I think this is going to be a very complicated case I’ll pick up with XXXX (the PBP involved since the beginning) tomorrow and will get back to you very soon. In the meantime, please can you and XXX (line manager) avoid having any formal/informal meeting with XXX (me) until I get back to you with a plan of how to proceed with this.”

 

This area manager who targeted me for months, using this line manager and other leaders from the area, would not meet with me, even before this HR person’s request to avoid any meeting with me. She only had one meeting where she held an “informal” meeting while taking notes that she emailed me after the meeting, and in the meeting gave me a list of things that she wasn’t happy with. But this list was completely banal and it looked very obvious that she was targeting me for the tiniest thing, whereas my colleagues made much bigger and more serious mistakes. It was ridiculous, but it traumatized me further because I felt like no matter how I turned, there was a trap laid out. And up until that time the HR Advisor only had the PBP and the area manager’s version of events, until she heard my side and then raised it as a grievance against these managers. But the grievance hearing, the first of many, was a joke, which I cover partly in other blog posts in a sarcastic way where Pret has all these “How To Cards” for every peep and poop micromanaging the staff. I just turned it around.

 

Fasting forward, after all my emailing and the continued bullying where I continued to be avoided, not given important info, not invited to meetings, my hours cut to minimum, even though I was desperate to work more as my finances were low since my brother died. I used all my savings for travel, bills etc. I became suicidal and had several close calls where I would leave work to go home but headed straight for the bridge.

HR then came up with the most perverse “plan” that I still have to get my head around. I scratched on this and wrote extensively, but more in metaphors to come to terms. Using a Development Manager to give me a disciplinary, she told me in the hearing that she also had a brother who died in his flat and was not discovered until days later. Just like my brother. Our stories are so similar that I broke and embraced the disciplinary assuming Pret now really supports me. I was so ill with the emailing and wanted to get away from this writing cramp, that I felt supported after all the pretense support since involving the CEO. I even improved and moved away from emailing for a while as I bought this trick thinking they supported me. But in reality they stepped on her and my dignity, using a bereaved employee against another bereaved employee, especially with such similar stories (if it’s true, I don’t even know anymore). Instead of getting us connected to support each other in our common grief which they could have easily done, they just used her against me. I still feel sick to my stomach even while writing this.

She gave me the disciplinary for my emailing but the next day entered into secret contact with me, even though HR of course knew as this was the plan, not to support me (and her) but to get rid of me as a disciplinary is the first step towards dismissal. And not only did she enter into private contact, she did solely via text message and email for which she sanctioned me in the first place! Hello??!! I don’t have to explain how confusing and distressing the following weeks and months became. To make it worse, she allowed Pret to use her personal loss and went further by manipulating me and what a Psychologist assessing me labeled as her “abusing” me. This Development Manager is a Hypnotherapist (registered under the National Hypnotherapy Society), an NLP practitioner (as several managers in Pret are) and in 2017 studied to become a Psychotherapist. Hypnotherapy and NLP can easily be used to manipulate people, and they did that well.

Early on in our secret contact, as she wasn’t allowed to be in private communication as the hearing manager (but Pret of course knew unofficially), she wanted to meet up and interview me for an Essay on anger that she wrote for her university studies. She thought it would be great to have my input as I was very angry because of how my brother died and all the mystery about it, and the added turmoil with Pret. Of course I was angry! But I declined being interviewed as I didn’t know her and didn’t want to be her guinea pig. And from the beginning all of this was confusing, but I was so traumatized, in dark grief, anxiety, confusion, I couldn’t put two and two together, like I can now in hindsight and distance.

I did file a tribunal claim but withdrew which I explain in this post. And that is one reason why Pret does not block me on Twitter, so they can use all my Tweets in court should I file a second time. I have declined four settlement offers in turn to be silent and never go to court, including going to court against the Development Manager who is protected in her job regardless what she has done and allowed them to do through her.

But most every leader, HR person, this Development Manager while not having a clear policy to protect bereaved employees against discrimination, most of them were picking and choosing what for them was “useful”. The Head of HR met with me after I contacted the CEO for help (before I realized the game they were all playing) and in the first meeting he asked me to score on a scale of 1 – 10 how it was meeting with him. Again, confused about a question like this I wasn’t impressed to meet with a “big gun” as I just wanted my line managers to be confident and normal with me, not bullying and avoiding me. I wasn’t interested in scratching his ego because he is wohooo a big gun meeting with a “plastic pistol”! And the first time he offered me a settlement, when he left he wanted a “cuddle”, and again I just thought what does he want? Does he want me to leave or does he want a cuddle?! He can’t have both!

Or an area manager who after she got to know me wanted to stay in contact even if I left Pret as she said I have so much insight into many things. And yet this area manager held a dodgy grievance hearing where I met her initially and later forwarded my emails to my line manager who also held me low.

Or the Development Manager wanting my input for her Psychotherapy studies.

Or a line manager who would not let me leave his shop because I worked so well and helped bring success to his shop, he would not let me leave even after I raised a grievance against him. I had to firmly beg to get a transfer as I couldn’t work under his manipulative ways anymore.

I was like a supermarket for them where these “leaders” just helped themselves! My confidence was completely lost with the death of my brother and what happened in Pret. Anyone who has gone through loss, especially a traumatic loss will have the ground pulled from underneath their feet. You feel like you are on an emotional free-fall and never hit the ground. Everything is insecure, existential fears, even if irrational, are magnified ten times over. One of my line managers would laugh when I had a minor panic attack in the shop. He just laughed and said “Haha, I never saw you that scared” laughing further… Sure it was his insecurity, but what the f***!!!! They used my vulnerability well and trampled on my dignity repeatedly! I even would apologize where I had nothing to apologize for. I was just on constant electricity, hyper vigilant and in a panic mode.

This is why at times I have completely wiped out my Facebook and Twitter followers, because I fell into this paranoia of fear, thinking what the heck do people want from me. Of course it is stupid and irrational, but it’s my only explanation why I act like this at times, especially when I drank something. So, that’s another thing I’m working on, but it is much better. To all who have been “kicked out” from Twitter and / or Facebook, it’s not you, it’s me! Apologies again! Of course some people I have blocked consciously as they were either trolls or disrespectful.

This perversion of this toxic HR department using a Development Manager, who isn’t even an HR personnel, who lost her brother like I lost mine in such similar circumstances, has topped everything they have done. It is beyond me how educated, elitist people, from wealthy to middle class backgrounds with university degrees and even Therapists backgrounds, can stoop so low to use and be used in such undignified ways. It is amazing. The Development Manager could and should have declined doing the disciplinary and instead offered to support me outside the sanction. But she chose to play their game, maybe out of fear, maybe she got a promotion, a pay-rise, she certainly has gotten the protection of the Head of HR. But whatever her reason, she should have been woman enough to respectfully decline and asked to not be the hearing manager as she had personal conflict.

Pret will find a way to get back at me for making this public. So be it! I neither fear them, nor have anything to lose anymore, and any job reference they will do to my disadvantage, I am not in the slightest bothered anymore. And they will come with another trick in the future, @ Pret I wholeheartedly don’t care whatsoever.

People get hurt in such traumatic and dishonest ways. I have lived long enough to know that corrupt people and companies will get their fair share of exposure sooner or later. I am not worried about that at all. Even hiding two customers deaths under the carpet and not dealing with the allergen label promptly says it all!

 

 

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

― Anne Lamott

 

 

This is my story and I take the liberty to share it with the world after having given 10 years of my life to a company that was not worth my while. The last three year in Pret where so traumatic and surreal like living in Twilight Zone! I still don’t know how I survived this and am still recovering. Pret and any company or person forgets that when you don’t support the vulnerable, be it children, the elderly, sick people or traumatized and bereaved people, when you step on them while they are already on the ground, the time will come where children grow up and the vulnerable will become strong again if they survive. And then they will share their experience and/or retaliate through court or publication, standing up with other sufferers in unity. And with Pret I believe the time will come where more people will cut through the bull-crap and say enough is enough, and overcome the fear and intimidation of these giants, who in reality are dwarfs hiding behind their inflated shadow of fear management.

 

dwarf

 

Anyone who has come in contact with me has also been at the receiving end of my irrational fears and paranoia, especially when I drank something. I fall into this extreme fear of not knowing who to trust, as what Pret has done has so messed with my head, that I feel like a human going through an alien zone trying to figure out who’s the human and who’s the alien masquerading as a human. Sounds whacked up I know, but this is how I can describe it. Pret’s HR department especially are so skilled in being nice on the front, while behind this is another motive. Maybe I was this dwarf that became a deflated giant scaring people unnecessarily!

And many of you are very kind and patient, and I will always be indebted to you for this, and in time I will “repay” you for your kindness!

Thank you for reading and if I can give anyone any advise, join a Union and trust yourself, no matter how messed up you feel or indeed are!

 


 

Update 10.11.2018

A review from a former Pret staff from NYC who puts it in brief and better words than my long posts:

 

2018-11-01 Go back to UK

Link

 

Substantial list of staff complaints from other websites.

 


 

UPDATE March 2019 – The first time I share my story verbally in one go in this interview.

Interview:

 

 

Adam

 

Above interview is with Adam from The Adam Paradox podcast on my experience in Pret A Manger.

We spoke about gaslighting, “shadow banning” and censorship on social media, as well as bereavement, trauma and mental health in general. I further talked about the significant timing of Pret CEO’s announcement of the £1000 Tweet for all staff. I also talked about a regular day in Pret and how staff have to cut corners, in order to fulfill the immense workload under constant pressure.

It is hard to squeeze my traumatic experience into a podcast segment, but we covered enough to get a good picture of today’s systemic stress environment for profit driven global companies.

Please visit his Podcast and Twitter @1AdamParadox.

 

 

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Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

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Doing the PR[et] Thing Naturally

 

My 10 years in Pret A Manger which has always been stressful, trying to figure out why it felt so toxic and negative in this company, and this long road in hardship at work has taught me to not give Pret the benefit of the doubt anymore, as I did too many times. The last three years have been extremely traumatic after I lost my brother and on top of this being bullied in Pret, which I explain extensively on this blog and which will turn into a chronological book, as the story is very complex. But it was important for me to put the story out in creative writing as best as it comes out, and to do it publicly as I was in these last years balancing on the edge of life. Even if life ends prematurely due to illness, accident, while my suicidal thoughts will be left behind, I want the public to know what happened to me in Pret, and not take my ordeal to the grave, apart from what my friends know and witnessed through my distress. I also collected numerous staff reviews on the bullying culture in Pret and listed them onto one page for easy access to each review.

When people learn of my experience, the question comes up if I went to court against Pret. I explain that I did and then withdrew for these reasons in this blog entry.

The other question that comes up is why on earth I stayed so long in this environment that almost killed me. I scratch on this in several blog posts but will write an extra blog entry on this in more detail. Watch this space.

Many people who read my story don’t know what to do with it, let alone what to say. Understandably. My writings sound angry at times, and they are, but I am not the “monster” that people may view me from afar with my loud and public outcry. I am actually a very peaceful person who loves and cares deeply about people, even if this doesn’t look like it. This probably was one reason why I struggled so long in Pret and approached them internally, even in ill emailing out of trauma and a drunken stupor later on. But my integrity and my honest, even if weird approach was to my disadvantage. And yet integrity and honesty is what I am proud of, it didn’t make me rich, but it makes me sleep at nights.

I don’t have a nice front to show you, I don’t plaster my life with a nice facade while rotten inside. I show you ‘my’ back first (this website picture is not me of course). For 10 years I was forced to smile in Pret, even during traumatic bereavement. There was no mercy from my line managers. The Mystery Shopper, who is sent weekly to each store with the assignment to let the shops know if the Team Member smiled, made eye-contact, made some small-talk even during extreme busy times, is the main contributor to the “friendly” hell that I and all shop staff went and go through. Of course I would have loved to wear a badge one can apply for to use the public transport in London. A badge like pregnant women or people with a disability wear that says, “Baby on board” or “Please offer me a seat”, as the pregnancy or disability is not always or immediately visible to assist the person who may be in pain or uncomfortable in general.

 

 

BabyBoard    tfl-please-offer-me-a-seat-badge-and-card

 

 

In my trauma and bereavement I wish I could have worn a badge that said, “Please offer me a smile for a change” or “Abnormal load on board” or “In grief, please be kind” or “Please help me I want to die” …

I collected a list of Staff Complaints from external Employment Review sites as well as YouTube, Twitter and other websites. I did an extra category on the forced happiness and another on the fake smiles that Team Members are tasked to perform. And customers are so impressed with the service, not knowing what is the driving “force” behind the happiness con. The amount of times I and team members were summoned into the office or kitchen, away from the customers, and then told off when we didn’t smile.

I had a good telling off in the office after the Mystery Shopper (I call them Misery Shopper) commented that I should stay home when sick as I couldn’t smile because I was coughing. Mystery Shoppers either don’t know or don’t care that weekly paid staff are not paid sick-leave the first 2 or 3 days (depending which age) when sick, no matter if they have a sick note from the GP. Sure, there are what Pret calls “well-being days” depending how long you worked in Pret and other times at the discretion of the GM, but for things like having a cold or illnesses that take 2 or 3 days to recover, you have to make a choice if you want to stay in bed to recover and lose income, or drag yourself to work and then be told off for not smiling because you coughed!

Excerpt of the Mystery Shopper’s comment after I served the MS and coughed:

 

2014-12-01 MS cough

Quote in larger print: “Team members should smile at customers and may not work when ill, as team member was coughing whilst serving me and was therefore not feeling cheerful to smile that day.”

 

It was also impossible to “feel cheerful” when my boss was constantly telling me off for the smallest issues and then ordered me to go out to the shop floor and smile. It was even more impossible to “feel cheerful” when I just buried my brother and there was no mercy from my superiors nor from HR. And the line manager who warned me verbally in the office after the above comment on my coughing, countless times being told off, never once asked “how are you, are you ok?” And I did it, I smiled again and again and again and again and again and again…, and received many compliments from customers as well as Mystery Shoppers, while neither of them knew what turmoil and trauma was raging inside me. No customer would have guessed that I left work after my shift and walked towards a bridge, wrestling with life.

 

I even received a thank you card with a £20 note inside from a customer pair whom I served in a shop where I helped out for a week. This card I received WHILE in the middle of the darkest time, it was about 8 or 9 months after the news of my brother’s death AND the middle of being bullied by my superiors. I didn’t let it show and have to say as well that these two customers, who sat in that shop every day working on their laptops as they were graphic designers, were extremely pleasant. They made my job very very easy and cheered me up the best I was able to relax during trauma. They were a fantastic distraction and kind people. In my ten years in Pret, these two people come to mind immediately when I think of a nice customer experience. This exchange was brief but very organic.

We chatted every day as they sat in the shop for hours using the Wifi for their work. And they spent quite some money everyday, buying food and coffee, work some hours, buying some sweets and another coffee, work more hours, buying another drink etc. Every day they spent a good amount, not like some students on a budged who would buy the cheapest item just to use the free Wifi for hours. On my last day for that week I told them that it was my last day and where my usual shop is so that they won’t be surprised why I wasn’t there anymore as we had lots of conversations and laughs in-between.

They never knew my loss and the added turmoil I went through in Pret. As sad as it is, but this card was my life-line for a while. I put it on my desk at home to remind me that my service wasn’t as bad as my superiors tried to make me believe. I knew how good I was at my job and with my teams, with all my mistakes, flaws and shortcomings as well. But when you go through loss AND bullying on top of it, you lose the floor underneath your feet and all, absolutely all self-esteem and self-confidence disappears. So, as sad as it is, but this simple card heaved me out of a black hole many a times, and I wish I had a way to let the customer know what a small gesture like this did to me, I didn’t care for the money, but his words were life to me as I became increasingly suicidal! When they learned that it was my last day, he briefly left the shop, returned and gave me this card. Later in the office when reading this after closing time, I broke down and sobbed:

 

PK Customer Card Aug 2015 AldgateEast_smudged

 

It is an extremely rare occasion for customers to go out of their way to acknowledge staff like this. I’ve seen customers giving gifts to my colleagues as well throughout the years, but it is extremely rare and mostly happens around Christmas time.

 

And with the Mystery Shoppers, I kept these MS comments because of that same area manager who targeted me during the darkest time, saying that I didn’t engage my teams, and yet countless MS comments as well as regular customers said otherwise:

 

2012-10-12 MS 1

 

Another year, different MS:

2012-10-12 MS 2

 

These two and much more MS reports were my protection as my name was on them, and even if my name wasn’t mentioned, I was on the shift the days of these and other comments as the responsible Team Leader running the shifts. Again, it is sad that I had to keep those for my protection against bullying superiors who tried to look for the smallest issue to get rid of (for them) inconvenient staff.

Of course there is some true smiling going on as well, especially within the teams who often work very well together, trying to protect each other from the line managers who tend to kiss upward and kick downward. But the job in Pret involves having to smile no matter what, or as one of my GMs (General Manager) once told us off in the kitchen saying that, “Your smile is part of your uniform” while he never smiled when serving customers.

 

Pret Uniform2

The Pret A Mask Staff Uniform Cupboard

 

This is the reality behind the smiles of team members where even during bereavement, depression, illness and a personality that may not be naturally cheerful, you have to smile. You either develop superhuman capabilities or mental illness. And I’m sure you’ll figure which one of the two is more likely. Anyone would know that no-one can smile and be happy for 8 hours straight, let alone in a high stress, fast-paced, brutal work environment; LET ALONE during bereavement and mental strain! But the public loves to buy this facade, because it is so easy to be lulled in. So easy.

 

And just when I finished the majority text of this draft today, I see this Tweet from a customer who is appalled at the poor service and lack of smile, even naming the Team Member, and Pret of course in a generic cut & paste response will pass this on to the GM in that shop. And Adil S. will find himself in the office today or tomorrow depending on when he is in the shop. The GM or even AM will most likely not ask Adil how he is doing, if he has any problems or issues, if everything okay? Adil might have just buried a loved-one and his boss is even aware of this, or certainly he might have just been in the middle or just finished an extremely busy coffee morning, or he might have just come out of the office where his line manager had a go at him. And there certainly is no guarantee that he will find any mercy or empathy from his boss after this Tweet below where he is named publicly!

The customer does not give a second’s thought on why Adil was rushing and not smiling and not giving the customer a “warm feeling” and “naturally smiling” to ALL customers. And why should he, he paid a lot of money for cheap coffee. The customer will most likely also respond to my comment angrily, as my pointing out that Adil, or any staff member at that, might be going through hell. It may burst his bubble and that it may be too much to give a warm feeling to a staff member who cannot share what may be going on in his life.

Many customers do recognize how intensely busy it is during a Pret morning coffee rush. It is called a coffee “rush” for a reason. On an average busy morning, especially when the GM cut staff, I myself alone served approximately 25 – 30 people in a 15 minute period which was visible in the system for later scrutiny by managers. This means on an average I served between 80 – 100 customers within an hour during extreme busyness.

If any reader here is a regular customer in Pret and thinks I am exaggerating, do an experiment, go to any Pret, especially the really busy ones and go when you know the busiest time is in the morning or lunch time, as this varies a little bit from shop to shop. Sit close to the till area where you can easily observe the Team Members. Take a stop watch, pick the fastest Team Member and time them within a 15 minute period. It will be hard to concentrate only on one Team Member, but give it a go. Count how many customers (transactions) this TM serves in that time. And I specifically mean the busy morning coffee rush and / or the busy lunch time rush, not the more quieter afternoons and evenings or the quieter time after the morning and before the lunch rush.

One can do the math throughout the day including the busy lunch “rush”. But from the log on the system, I often did around 500 – 600 transactions (1 transaction with the minimum of 1 customer, but often serving more than 1 person per transaction, serving a family or friends, but the number showed as per transaction, not per customer) in a 6, 8 or 10+ hour shift. Every day!

PLUS all the customers that you spoke to that weren’t logged as transactions via the till system, people who approached you by the fridges with a question. PLUS customers who called in on the phone with a query. PLUS customers who knew you were staff even when you were on your break and with your Pret uniform covered up, customers still approached you with a question during your break……. and dare you decline to help them during your break, being worn out, exhausted after busy breakfast and lunch rushes!! How quickly do customers tweet to Pret about any and every peep that bothers them. It’s safe to say that I myself alone was dealing with around 1000+ people EACH DAY plus my team and bosses…………..

And you are required to smile for EACH and EVERY customer. The Mystery Shopper will make sure you do, while also making sure you keep eye contact AND have a little conversation! In all this you are expected to be natural, not robotic.

Forget the “aim” to “connect”, if you don’t smile you get into trouble. One comment here from the MS on a colleague who was a very hard working Team Leader herself in her service, but I have had similar comments on my service like this as well. And no matter how hard you worked or how good your service was before and after you happened to serve the MS, reading those comments discouraged you further, not to mention your boss telling you off later:

 

Mystery Shopper poor comments

Quote: “I was not greeted at the till or given a smile. The only conversation was what was necessary for the transaction. To be welcoming, the team member could have greeted me and smiled and be engage[d] and positive, the team member could have given me a friendly remark or made small talk.”

 

I know that this team leader also had 500-600 transactions each day on top of her leadership responsibilities as we were always looking at our till reports if we were too slow or even too fast. Total nightmare and the most ungrateful, unrewarding and dehumanizing job. Autopilot happens and it turns into mental illness.

 

Yes, customers pay a lot of money, they deserve the minimum of a decent service, as in fact every paying customer, as well as the homeless person does who asks for a free Tea which happens all the time. Every person deserves respect and the best service possible. But again, the bullying environment in Pret, cutting staff to maximize profit, overworking and stressing staff to breaking point … no one wants to know about this. It’s all about “me, myself and I”. No thought of my fellow man and woman. Let’s just name, shame and blame them publicly, right?

I know of one suicide of a staff member, I almost ended my life as well, as my regular readers know my story by now. Others have repeatedly reviewed on the stress, depression, anxiety etc. working in Pret, and I cannot help thinking of how many more may have ended their lives or became suicidal, even after they left Pret or got fired and broke.

So, I keep my fingers crossed for Adil, and hope the feedback he receives will be constructive, not pulling him down further as GMs don’t like the “shame” of feedback like this from HQ via a public Tweet. I certainly know how it is to get pulled down in the office by my bosses because of a Tweet, or customers writing in because their day got ruined for whatever reason…

 

Today’s Tweet from a customer to Pret:

 

2018-10-24 Re No Smile

 

2018-10-24 Re No Smile2

Link to Tweet

 

And who is the best in this smile and friendliness? Of course Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret. What Ronald McDonald is to lure kids to McDonald’s, Schlee is to Pret. His job is to present (and Pret-end) this happiness and friendliness, and portray to the public that Pret is a lovely place that provides “good jobs for good people”. And he paints this facade extremely well.

But he doesn’t stop there, he goes the “extra mile” and takes the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable and broken ones, homeless people (mainly young people) off the street, offers them jobs, flies them out to Austria where he has property, hikes with them and then making nice photos to show what a great company Pret is, and how well he and Pret cares for staff.

 

Some free PR on the house:

 

2018-10-20 Careful 2 Integrate Homeless1

 

 

How easy it is, as a millionaire business man to take the most vulnerable people, shower them with good deeds and an overdose of luxury, and then post this on his blog and on Twitter. And the public goes ‘Aaaawww isn’t that lovely’.

In the meantime staff across the board in Pret shops and kitchens are bullied, overworked, underpaid, have to work overtime without pay. And when they complain they are being threatened with their job security; disciplinaries are handed out like napkins, hardworking and loyal staff being unfairly dismissed and put on the streets, fear management is thriving, staff becoming suicidal etc. etc. Selected quotes from the long list of staff complaints, as well as my traumatic experience that I survived.

That is why Schlee writes on his blog of the idea for the Rising Stars (well sounding slogans) to run a shop by themselves, as solely former homeless from the manager down to the kitchen and shop staff and that Pret is “careful to integrate” them into shops. I write about why Pret is careful to integrate them in this blog entry more extensively.

But in a nutshell, for people who were homeless, vulnerable, have mental challenges and traumas to overcome, for them to work in the mainstream shops could catapult them right back on the streets as the work environment in shops and kitchens is brutal. So, when these Rising Stars run shops entirely with solely former homeless people on staff, they would be treated not as harsh as mainstream shops with high targets and unrealistic expectations. These Rising Stars would get an easier ride.

Thus, the well oiled PR[et] machine puts on its famous smile and portrays to the public what a lovely company they are. And yet, reality looks very different as I share my traumatic survival of Pret and all the staff reviews I collected unto one page. I keep referencing back and forth with links so that the reader doesn’t need to take just my word for it and because many people are new readers. This is so appalling because instead of making it easier across the company, treating ALL people with respect and kindness, and in this way still be really successful, the Rising Stars are treated softer, while the mainstream shops continue to suffer, and who knows how many ended up on the streets after they broke.

The CEO is very aware of how it is in shops, as he also visits shops regularly. One approach also is that shops are named, shamed and blamed when things go wrong like poor Health & Safety results. Of course shops are also named when they do extremely well as an incentive to make shops jealous to compete and raise the profit. But the atmosphere is hellish and I was able to take it for a long time while I had a “normal” life, not taking this home too much. But when my life got turned upside down when my brother died, this became a roller coaster that I don’t know how I survived this.

 

Only some of the many collected “reviews” on Pret’s work conditions:

 

This person keeps appearing on several YouTube comments regarding Pret (like I do on Twitter). One comment from YouTube scrolling down in the comments:

 

2018-07-24 RPQ now Branzinotito comment on James Hoffmann video

 

 

 

Ex-GM:

 

2012-07-23 Ex GM

 

 

 

 

Cons: “Depression. Anxiety. Dread to go to work”

 

2018-10-02 Modern Day Slavery

 

 

A very blunt but true review:

 

2018-07-12 Quote Pret #17

 

… Compiled with more reviews along those lines collected on the usual page I created.

 

The way Pret and the CEO dealt with two customer deaths, a third nearly fatal, ignored numerous complaints and warnings regarding allergen and the lack of labelling, that only once the deaths became public and people started to boycott Pret, some even saying they will never shop there again, only then does Pret start slowly to trial labelling each product. And yet, each item has been labeled with full allergen guide for the homeless each night since years. The main characteristic in Pret is to make shop staff and customers responsible to figure out what is in the products. The homeless and  / or people in need cannot check after closing time nor do many have access to the Internet to check for allergen information online. So, staff and customers while in the shops are made responsible to search for ingredient and allergen information. A typical Pret “behaviour” to blame downwards should things go wrong.

 

2018-10-20 Pret charity labels2

 

 

I am all for taking homeless people off the streets, please do. Please help people back into jobs and get accommodation. But please, while you are doing this, also include homeless people who are in their 40s and 50s and not just in their 20s where your investment may pay off longer! There is too much discrimination going on, and even while older people are not as easily molded and brainwashed anymore, as they have a zero-tolerance on bullshit with their life experience, your reputation would get a better shine in the long-run. And yes, take them to Austria, Stonehenge, Hawaii or to the freaking moon if you can, but to take the most vulnerable for PR while regular shop staff are suffering, is the greatest hypocrisy and self-serving thing! If I was a former homeless person, I would be ticked off being used for PR[et] like this.

The catering and hospitality industry is already stressful as it is, but the unnecessary stress is what makes this so terrible and the PR facade so ugly, once the reality behind this facade comes to light.

 

Former IT-Analyst’s December 2017 review of HQ and Top Leadership:

 

2018-07-06 Head Office PR

 

 

My story at least I will tell again and again because it took 10 years of my life to come to a point to not give Pret, and indeed any company with double-standards, the benefit of the doubt anymore. I have to say though that I never experienced this turmoil in any company until I came to Pret. Maybe this is why it took me so long and such a traumatic journey to finally conclude that Pret was not worth my while.

 

I want to end on a positive note this time. I was at a gig yesterday of one of my favourite artists whose music has gotten me through a lot of dark times. I used her song “The Greatest” on a ‘video’ I did for my brother shortly after I learned that he died, and which I posted at the bottom of this page for him. My website here, which started and also still goes under poetrasblok.com, used to be all about my brother with a lot of poems I wrote and videos I made in my trauma, until the LateNightGirl.org thing took over. I will eventually turn it back into my sole tribute page for my brother and re-upload all the poems and videos that I posted before, as well as now also for my father who died in March this year.

But I had a little chat with this artist two days ago at a signing she did at Rough Trade East, London. I am not a fan of getting an autograph as this doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t ask for autographs, even though I met some artists that I love. Artists scribbling their name for a stranger on something doesn’t mean anything to me. But a small conversation, as little as 2 minutes means the world to me.

But as this was specifically a signing, it would have been a little bit odd not to take some of her albums for signing. Exchanging words was more important from human to human than any autograph could have been written into stone. Yesterday in the Roundhouse the thing she said at the end resonates so much with me. It wraps up my wasted years in Pret and my aim to not waste my short life on brutal and self-serving people or companies:

 

“Take care of yourself and those who love you. We spent sometimes our entire life taking care of those who don’t really even give the tiniest little shit about us. Make sure you take care of yourself and those who love you.”

Cat Power

 

Thanks, Chan! I will!

Chin up!

 

Roundhouse, London 23. Oct. 2018

 

 

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