… and how it hurts people, especially in the service industry.
»The case is about the enforced happiness of the employees of Pret A Manger. Here, the employer demands those persons who have specific attributes and capability to appeal to the senses of the customers to attract them. … It presents an extreme case of emotional labour that the employees of Pret A Manger are made to practice while selling cheddar and tomato sandwich. Emotional labour is conceptualised as a practice that sabotages the rights of the employees.«
— From Arsalan, Case Study
This page is dedicated to the subject of Emotional Labour (or Labor for American readers). I concentrate on Pret A Manger as I survived this company and how Arslan above rightly states Pret’s “extreme” emotional labour. In below YouTube slide I list only some of the many questions that weekly Mystery Shoppers test staff on and highlight in some articles by journalists and researchers, particularly Timothy Noah who put it into poignant words quote:
»Pret keeps its sales clerks in a state of enforced rapture through policies vaguely reminiscent of the old East German Stasi. A “mystery shopper” visits every Pret outlet once a week. If the employee who rings up the sale is appropriately ebullient, then everyone in the shop gets a bonus. If not, nobody does. This system turns peers into enthusiasm cops, further constricting any space for a reserved and private self.«
I will link any article I have written as well as those I found on the Net from journalists, researchers, customer service workers etc.
On my podcast I walk people through Pret’s mystery shopper scheme for those who prefer to listen rather than read. Click play on the top left. If the player doesn’t play or only few second samples, please go via link: I explain in detail how Pret’s mystery shopper scheme works with examples from different mystery shopper reports.
Regarding Pret’s emotional labour practices. Here I explain to customers why low-wage staff in a highly stressful, noisy, busy environment always smile, “seem” happy, are chatty, give freebies etc. I challenge customers on social media to LOOK closer and ask WHY staff seem happy in such an environment! I posted Pret’s micromanaging and strict weekly Mystery Shopper reports where people can see how staff are micromanaged and humiliated to perform like acrobatic clowns to get more peanuts. Please see the following real Mystery Shopper reports:
- Pret A Manger Service Secrets Revealed (32 micromanaging questions).
- Another Mystery Shopper Report, but this time during the Pandemic where the whole Team did not get the bonus because ONE staff member did not ask a SPECIFIC question.
- Mystery Shopper excerpts on YouTube from different shops throughout the years for those who don’t like to read long blog posts. Also, Facebook/Instagram completely blocked (censored) my website, but they can’t block YouTube! I renamed the Mystery Shopper to “Misery” Shopper.
- Another Mystery Shopper report on YouTube from the 32 questions report above.
I have survived this even during already traumatic bereavement in Pret A Manger. I firmly believe that the forced smiles, fake happiness and cheeriness employees have to portray, does not only link to mental health issues like depression, alcoholism, emotional instability, I believe it can lead to suicide if a person is already vulnerable due to mental health problems, anxiety, grief etc.
If you as the reader have experienced Emotional Labour as damaging to your mental health or you have read a good article on this, or even seen a film covering this subject, feel free to contact me, I can add it to this link with credits.
I start with my own experience and articles from this blog. I am not a professional, no researcher, doctor etc. I am someone who has survived this and speak from my own traumatic experience. I write loud and blunt because it almost destroyed my life. Life is too short for BS and political correctness. Thanks for reading.
I want to start the below list with a detailed Pret staff review, the most poignant review I’ve come across! The mention of the fake smiles during excruciating work conditions needs no more words. One thing I want to mention is the painfully loud music in kitchens. Every Pret kitchen has a music system where staff can play their own music. It’s a typical thing Pret does and sells as “fun”. But in reality the loud music, that always has to be FAST, is a beating drum like on slave ships to speed up the work.
When I worked in the kitchen sometimes to help out, my head was exploding, I turned down the music or changed it to slower songs, then the Manager or Kitchen Leader went, and changed the music to faster tunes and put the volume up again, pretending to be bored with the slow music. It was especially frustrating because the Manager was sitting in the office and made the extra effort to come out of the office into the kitchen to change the music to fast and put the volume up before disappearing again in the office! After a few times of this in various Prets, the penny finally dropped WHY they’re doing this! LOUD & FAST = fast work and no opportunity to THINK and make own decisions. It did feel like a slave ship with a drummer setting the pace. But in Pret the pace is ALWAYS fast! Headaches, tinnitus, stress … it’s like torture.
Yellow underlining by me – also the 45 Yes votes speak in and of itself:
A few links to excellent articles about Emotional Labour starting with the top 3 being my favourite external articles by journalists on this (the 4th etc. is my own experience as an insider):
- Labor of Love – The enforced happiness of Pret A Manger. Brilliant article by Timothy Noah
- “How Emotional Labour Harms Us All” – External article by Sophie McBain of the New Statesman I commented on.
- I was a fast-food worker. Let me tell you about burnout – Excellent article on Emotional Labour by Emily Guendelsberger speaking from own experience.
- Pret A Manger’s Mystery Shopper Scheme – A detailed and real Pret Mystery Shopper report with 32 micromanaging questions staff in each shop are tested on every week for extra cash rewards. I walk people through each question and why this is harmful for low-wage staff. In this particular report from December 2019 a staff member received the £100 cash reward for giving the Mystery Shopper a freebie and being extra “nice” (kissing butt, giving freebies almost guarantees the cash reward).
- The Truth Behind the Pret A Manger Smile A day in the life of a Pret worker. The emotional, mental, physical and financial cost to staff.
- Pret A Manger – How Companies Force Emotional Labour on Low Wage Workers with excerpts from Timothy Noah.
- Women and Emotional Labour I’m still expanding on this article, it’s just a rough draft.
- Emotional Labor and Alcohol Use – By Paul E. Spector
- Not really a new article, but newly added to my list here. I just stumbled across this one and it’s a good piece: Pret A Mourir -Quote: »I borrowed the title for this post from my friend Anton of Generation Bubble, who forwarded me a link to this NYT article by Stephanie Clifford about Pret à Manger« – Pret A Mourir
- Secrets to Great Customer Service A blog post I wrote in response to the recent increased (seemingly recruited) customer Tweets on the smiley Pret staff everywhere. I mention “seemingly recruited” because since about a week, starting in the beginning of October 2019, these types of often similar sounding Tweets have increased rapidly every day, after I started to spill the beans on the Emotional Labour via Mystery Shopper incentives and fear management.
- I’ve put a YouTube slide together as I’m trying to branch out on as many platforms as possible. In this slide I used comments from real Pret Mystery Shopper reports to show how micromanaging, fear managing and humiliating this is:
NEW Mystery Shopper YouTube slide with 20+ of the 32 micromanaging Mystery Shopper questions testing staff every week:
Slideshow can be paused
The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in → Pret Staff Complaints
I want to add to these Glassdoor, Indeed, Twitter, YouTube etc. the Glassdoor results that the former CEO Clive Schlee left with. Schlee let Pano Christou (who came from McDonald’s management) take over on Glassdoor in July 2019 already, even though Schlee’s official “retirement” was announced for September 2019 and a final farewell was tweeted by Pret on 20. September 2019.
The fear management and public blaming, shaming and humiliating Pret HQ does when shop managers fail, I want to turn the tables and show the public WHO is behind the forced smiles and emotional labour practices that hurt staff mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.
I tweeted to the press that Clive Schlee is retiring as he and Pret couldn’t even announce this themselves, but Schlee clumsily responded to a farewell Tweet on 30. June 2019.
On 01. July 2019, I tweeted to the press that in turn after confirmation from HQ “broke” the news on Twitter that day.
A well-wisher’s farewell Tweet to Schlee on 30. June 2019, BEFORE any official announcement by Pret or Schlee. Clive Schlee even responded to the well-wisher – stupid!
My Tweet to the press after I wrote a blog entry about Schlee’s legacy (Glassdoor scores):
When Pret finally made the official announcement on 01. July 2019, AFTER my Tweet to the press, a person / customer pointed out the poor Glassdoor scores:
And mid July 2019 Clive Schlee quickly let Pano Christou take over on Glassdoor, even though Schlee’s retirement was set for September 2019.
Pano Christou deleted his Twitter account on 01. July 2019 after my blog entry on Schlee’s retirement. But he blocked me already since 2018:
@ChristouPano’s Twitter account turned into a deleted page on 01. July 2019 after I linked to his account on my blog about Schlee’s retirenment:
But another Pano Christou from Canada took on this handle in mid September 2019: @ChristouPano. And since Pret’s Pano Christou is different than Schlee, he won’t have a Twitter account and put his foot in his mouth like Schlee does.
Final farewell Tweet about Schlee’s retirement. Yet, he’s still on Twitter as the CEO @Cliveschlee now on 01. October 2019.
So, I wonder if the lack of smiling led to Christou’s poor scoring on Glassdoor. Updated 30. September 2019.
I keep asking for independent investigation into staff suicides and have written about Pret’s and Clive Schlee’s unprofessional and incapable conduct behind the scenes and on Twitter. Pret demands perfection from its staff, so here we are, here’s how the leadership is doing:
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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