Caught in the Act at Pret A Manger

If you have no time to read,
please scroll to all the screenshots further down below.

(And read the comments at the very bottom of this page.)

01 Go back to UK

Review by a Corporate, NYC


This is the REALITY of Pret A Manger behind the facade WORLDWIDE. The clean facade of freebies, the forced smiles (tested by Mystery Shoppers), the “ethical” front of Pret that got away with 2 customer deaths, a third allergy reaction nearly fatal (new court-case in November 2020), several injured, multiple warnings ignored etc. Seeking independent investigation into a staff suicide.

 

UPDATE: LAWSUIT filed against Pret in NYC for racism and discrimination (bottom of page).

2019-12-24 FL review NEVER go to Pret

Link (More reviews further below in this blog post)


2018 Chaotic hellhole ambience

A rare complaint from Hong Kong where most people put their heads down and continue under hard conditions:

2020-01-30 Pret staff Hong Kong complaint

Link to Tweet. An online conversion from HKD 45 to British Pound is roughly £4.65 an hour! And Pret didn’t even respond to the Tweet.

UPDATE: August 2021:

2021-08-27 Manager shocking to staff

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A VERY common bullying incident from a Manager towards a Team Member. But this time it didn’t happen behind the facade in the kitchen, office or staff room, hidden away from customers, this time it happened in front of customers. The “ethical profile” of Pret is a facade the public still believes, because the bullying is usually happening behind the scenes, away from customers’ eyes. And then, when the Manager or Leader has finished bullying the staff member, the intimidated and humiliated Team Member then is send out to the shop floor, and expected to smile for Mystery Shopper bonus and fool customers with a fake happiness. And as many are from other countries, young, have children to feed or Uni tuition to pay, they feel stuck, too exhausted to find a new job and not knowing where to turn to.

2019-12-11 Trapped marked

Link

Fear of leaving

Link (Excerpt of Manager review)

And when the bullying is happening on the shop floor, shops are so noisy with loud music, shouting of staff to make and get coffee orders, talking, busyness. Customers are occupied on their phones or laptops, distracted with talking, eating etc. So, when it happens in the shop, people don’t even notice.

Even when I was bullied during bereavement under the watchful eye of HR, I NEVER told a customer or colleague. I was complimented by customers and received rewards from Mystery Shoppers for my service, smile, giving freebies etc. And after my shift at times I headed for the bridge and still don’t know how I survived. But none of my colleagues and customers knew my inner state and turmoil. I explain in detail at the very bottom YouTube slide about what weekly Mystery Shoppers test staff on, or via this link: “Smile for the Misery Shopper“.

This creates a host of mental health issues under Emotional Labour, that staff are forced to perform. What @Katecordon witnessed here and confronted Pret in below Tweet, is so familiar to me, and this would be a situation where I as a Team Leader then had to console the Team Member crying in the staff room and at times speak to the Manager. Only ONE time when I spoke to the Manager why they shouted at the TM, this Manager apologized to the TM. But this was only one Manager out of many who did not apologize and rather bullied me then as well for speaking out. But I didn’t care!

The Team Member in below customer Tweet made a very simple, innocent, normal mistake. No big deal. And by the way, the TM made that mistake because she was most likely NOT trained in the first place! The Manager must have stood nearby witnessing this mistake. To correct the mistake the TM then did give the 10% discount, but explained at the same time that she made a mistake and gave the 10% as a one-off. PERFECT customer service!!! In fact, a Mystery Shopper would have probably given the TM an “outstanding card”, meaning the extra £100 reward, or even £200 if the overall scores were perfect. Mystery Shoppers many times gave the reward, even when a mistake happened, but they rewarded the staff member due to how they handled the mistake.

The same is by law, when a price tag gives an old cheaper price even though the price has increased, the business is obligated to charge that old cheaper price, even if the till system is updated with the new expensive price. But this TM probably doesn’t know the law on this and did instinctively the right thing because she cares! The TM here did a perfect, correct and kind customer service, but was bullied by the Manager for making a simple mistake and then giving the 10% discount as a good will gesture, which is commendable! And this Manager is particularly offensive by talking down on the customer as well: “It’s company policy, love“. Very, very, very, very common bullying incident in Pret! Bullying and fear management by the book.

The reason this Manager makes a huge issue out of the 10% discount wrongly given as a student discount, is that Pret only does regular discounts in some places like malls or train stations (but not all malls or stations), where the other companies and train station staff within that station or mall get a 10% discount showing their staff badge. So, this Manager would have to do half a minute of paper work to explain for the financial file why the 10% was given in this Manchester airport, that doesn’t give student discounts. Managers hate to do little paper work issues like this as they want their financial records to look perfect. I got in trouble many times for doing it the proper way in recording mistakes, because Managers didn’t like mistakes in their financial files and rather stress staff to not make these mistakes. And at one time I’ve had enough and told one Manager that if a financial file is perfect without any mistakes, this would ring alarm bells with me if I was a financial auditor. But that’s another story. And honest mistakes that are effectively recorded can be traced back in the system and explained. Again, no big deal.

And also by the way, this Manager most likely continued the bullying later in the office, as bullying Pret managers and leaders can’t let go and continue later on, especially when caught out by customers and they “lost face” in front of the TM they just bullied. So, they try to “establish” authority and continue behind closed doors. I hope that young lady finds quick support! And if this Manager is disciplined by Pret, then only because he got caught by a customer who called him out publicly, like he did with his Team Member. If the TM alone would have complained to HR, nothing would have happened.

This shows as well in the very first review from the new LAX Pret shop that was opened in the summer 2019. I could not have put it into better words how this bullying environment thrives in Pret worldwide. I love American reviews, because they find amazing words!:

LAX

Link

Caught in the act!

A customer witnessed very common and regular bullying:

2019-10-28 Bullying manager seen by customer2

Full text:

2019-10-28 Bullying manager seen by customer3

Link to Tweet

A little reality check and crash course of Pret’s “ethical” profile. What staff dare to say in anonymity, away from the fear management. Clive Schlee “retired” with quite a legacy!

2019-06-30 44 staff 50 Clive

2019-10-02 Pano 38 26

Glassdoor scores on Pret and its leadership. I wrote a new blog post as well on >>>  Pret’s new CEO Pano Christou, and Clive Schlee remaining in the background as a non-executive Director, while on his Twitter account he still presents himself as the CEO of Pret! (UPDATE: July 2020, Schlee’s Twitter account has also been deleted in July 2020). I explain in above blog why Pano Christou deleted his Twitter account. Clive Schlee let Pano Christou take over on Glassdoor already in July 2019, even though Schlee’s retirement was set for September 2019. This typical passing the buck downwards is to avoid further negative scoring. And yet, still not taking responsibility.

UPDATE: 20. Nov. 2021:

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2019-09-18 Customer witnessed bullying

Link

2019-05-05 Rude aggressive manager

Link

2020-01-02 NEW bullying GM shite

Link

2013 Pret manager smile at customer snap at staff

Link

2020-02-29 Humiliating Manager Pret USA

Link Feb. 2020

2018 Bullying staff killing customers

Link

UPDATE Feb. 2020

2020-02-10 Customer Complains about Manager rude

Link

2020-01-24 GMs steal hours HQ ordered

Link

Pret settles $1m

Link

NOTE:
Pret settled TWO lawsuits in NY having had to pay 4000 workers back after illegally having “shaved off” (rounded down) their pay. But in the UK no-one goes to court, even though the same problem of unpaid hours is systemic throughout the company, as I have experienced countless times myself. One review below shows the hopelessness on the feeling that staff can’t do anything about this.

And only after getting caught and a public outcry and boycotts for not wanting to pay 500 (!) young summer recruits. Do the math on how much money that is. And getting young folk in, who don’t know their rights and are brainwashed easier. Pret always tries and changes direction when caught and boycotted.

2017 Pay apprentices

The Guardian Link

A little reminder that Clive Schlee pocketed £30 Million on bonus alone when JAB Holdings bought Pret! Link to article.

Clive £30 million

Daily Mail

Only a few of the many reviews and complaints:

100 times Stephen Hawkins Staff Tweet missing Pay

£100 owed

Link to FULL review and how HQ played dumb!

2016-03-17 Pret will do anything not to pay - RVW9823882

Link to FULL review WORTH READING! One quote from above review on the hopelessness, compared to U.S. staff who filed class-action suit against Pret twice: “Sometimes it can be challenging maintaining a natural smile on my face for 8 hours straight. … Pret will do anything not to pay you. They will bend the law and the contract in any way they can, and there is nothing you can do about it (unless smile).”

Because the legal system is different here…no pro-bono lawyer likes to take this on as I’ve experienced, because when you win, the payout is so low, lawyers don’t want to pick this up for their 33% peanuts from a low reward in the UK legal system. Too much work for little reward.

2017 Always messing up pay

Link

etc. etc. etc. …

Several reviews on Pret’s shiny London Head Office
from current and former employees at the time of reviewing on Indeed and Glassdoor. Again, these are reviews on Pret’s HEAD OFFICE in Victoria, London where the CEO and other Senior Leadership also have their desks in the open plan offices where I saw them many times working on laptops etc.

Also, some reviews from office / corporates in New York.

HQ Bullies

Link People don’t seem to get promoted unless you are a bully or belittle your team members. The place is toxic.

Another one from January 2019

2019-01-23 Great Brand Poor Management - RVW24352473 marked

Link “… working really really long hours. No work life balance whatsoever”.

2017 review on HQ from an IT Analyst on Glassdoor:

It Analyst HQ Head Office Review

Link  Manipulative and exploitative approach to employees as owners and senior management concerned about profit margin only. People are taken into account only if it makes a good PR. Genuinely fake and dishonest company.”


UPDATE 05. January 2020 NEW HQ review (customer service team) on homophobia, manipulative HR dealings etc.

2020-01-05 HQ Customer Service Team review

Link

Las Vegas

Link “Pret has brought over many managers and leaders from the UK and ‘beheaded’ many of the US employees who built the brand…”

This is really upsetting, because I remember when I asked my managers over the years where such-an-such an OPs Manager or General Manager is, I often heard that they where sent to New York, as the American Managers can’t handle the work / can’t manage properly. I remember being confused about this, because I lived in Florida for almost 6 years and traveled to different cities over the years, visiting friends. I stayed 3 months on the West Coast, visited North Dakota, the East Coast, the deep South, often for several months. I have many American friends. Americans are one of THE hardest working people. They are inventive, passionate, disciplined, fun, helpful etc. I was confused, but then thought that I know how complex and micromanaging Pret is, so I didn’t think any more of it. But now I realize, reading all the American reviews that what I was told was bullcrap!

Reading the above review and all the other reviews from the U.S., the main thing the American reviews have in common is: favoritism and racism. And it’s really upsetting, because I know the American mentality vs. the British.

UPDATE: Feb. 2020 from Washington DC – Fired due to pregnancy!

Probational period is 3 months, so they quickly fired her and she can’t take it up in court.

2020-02-10 DC - Fired due to pregnancy

Link

2020-02-09 Bullying management

Link I can verify that. I worked in over a dozen Pret shops over the years, and EVERY manager seems to take it personal when you move on. I only moved shop due to management. The reason was always management. They don’t look at you anymore, seem offended when you move on, and yet, they can’t give you a positive word while you work there and then wonder why you leave! And the language barrier is big. You do feel left out very quick when the majority are from a certain country, and you work with them for 8+ hours without understanding a word all day. You feel left out, not understanding their language. And this is not meant racist at all. It’s just a courtesy and inclusiveness to speak English.

Bullying from the top down: A review by a Team Leader who runs the kitchen and the shop! OPs (area manager) bullying the manager who cries in the office. This OPs sounds particularly nasty, and reminds me of an OPs that I had before my brother died and I was still strong holding out under this kind of “leadership”! It’s also a recent review from 03. October 2019 (this is Chicago, but this happens in other countries/cities as well):

OPs yell Managers cry

Link My typical work day consist of Ops Manager yelling and cursing at my manager.Managers cry in their offices because of how stressed they are.Managers are secretly looking for new jobs right now to get out of Pret.

17 Odd

Review by former purchasing Director, NY

01 Go back to UK

Review by a Corporate, NY

2017-05-26 Pure Misery

Link “This place is what hell must be like.”

This is probably THE ANGRIEST review I have come across, and even by an Assistant Manager!

01 Brutal Nightmare

YouTube

2011 I Hate Pret Fuck Pret

“I hate Pret” group on facebook.com/preth8ers

A customer in Chicago in 2017, commenting about a Pret staff who died, and then making a general comment on Pret:

2017 Chicago Pret horrible company to work for2

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

2018-10-02 Anxiety Depression Dread

Link Depression…

2019-04-10 Depression review

Link Depression…

Dept Labor

Link “This job should be reported to the department of labor”.
Pret settled 2 lawsuits in New York, re-paying 4000 workers. In the UK hardly anyone sues because the legal system is different, low rewards that no lawyer wants to pick up. In the U.S. one reviewer on Indeed recently wrote that Pret is always getting sued.

0 Sued

2019-06-11 Corporate hell on earth - RVW27190460

Link “This company is everything that is wrong with the world. … Corporate hell on earth.”

Former General Manager 4 years after Bridgepoint purchased Pret:

2012-07-23 Ex GM

2011-07-19 Admin Closer NY - Title

Link Review from NY 2011, but this is throughout the company and still today, quote: “Management is very incompetent. It is clear they have little to know training and have absolutely no training or experience in employee relations or even customer relations for that matter. Every manager I have worked with – I have worked with 6 – will immediately try to belittle you. Not sure exactly why this is such a common practice among managers but it is an intrinsic behavior within the company itself.Even though Pret A Manger emphasizes that they are a “people first” type of company, the reality of it is is that they are solely concerned with sales and view their employees as faceless and a dime a dozen.
You’re not God. Take a continuing ed course in management, employee relations, and labor rights. This should be a requirement before even obtaining the position.

I can only underline above (and ALL) reviews, and yet know that Pret does NOT care about labour rights etc.

2015 PAMSU likes to see evidence of good jobs

Link

UPDATE: 25.11.2019

A new review from a Team Leader also with 10 years experience:

2019-11-26 leeches Indeed TL review

Link I gave this review an extra blog entry because it deserves an extra mention: >>> Pret A Manger in a Nutshell

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness3

Times

The Times article and photo

Amy

Undercover report by Amy Sharpe, Sunday Mirror photo on “staff who are hugely over-stretched”.

2018-06-13 Hellhole - RVW21022161

Link  “… get down from that high horse you’re on”

2015 People Cry

Link “A lot of people cry in the staff room especially in their entry period”

0 Terrible Hiring Useless people cry

23. Oct. 2019 “I have work in different shops and they are all very similar, it is a toxic environment, Never in my life I have seen so many different coworkers cry in the job. Give more training to your managers, and hire better people, don’t allow them to abuse the staff, it is appalling.”

The next review from recently is a very typical scenario of abusive fear-management by Managers. Scaring low-wage workers that they’re “playing with lives” while the top Senior Leadership got away with TWO customer deaths, Clive Schlee sneaking out quietly, remaining in the background as a non-executive Director, while having ignored customer warnings (link to article), not acting until the deaths became public:

Brainwash

Link

»This job can annihilate every piece of humanity inside of you.

You will lose everything that makes you human.«

Annihilate Humanity 45

Link I spend 6 months racing all day and barely spoke 3-5 words a day on my shifts if I’m not on till where you are required to have the widest fake smile on earth…”

Pret Abuse


UPDATE: 31.10.2019

A brand new review by a current General Manager that absolutely breaks my heart! One of many along the lines of no work-life balance, due to under-staffed shops and not paid for overtime.

2019-10-31 GM - Slavery - RVW30135565

Link “I am about to lose my family as I am never there. I leave to work at 4 am and get home 7 at night. My children looking at me like a I am a stranger. It’s not a life. … Bullying, long hours, shortage of staff, – it’s a proper Modern day slavery”

I think this is the most heart-breaking review I’ve ever seen by any staff member, let alone a Manager. I hope they find a way! I actually cried when I read this.

Another recent Manager review from Chicago tells a similar story, quote: “With the wrong management, the shops begin to break down and brings inner conflict. Pay could be better, especially for seasoned employees. Management gets overworked to save on labor costs. Don’t expect to see much of home as a manager.” Link

Another GM from London in August 2019:

2019-08-10 GM 5am to 8pm

Link A little side note, GMs go to quarterly meetings where the CEO and top leadership are present as well, so GMs know Senior Leaders more than the regular staff. Some GMs disapprove of the CEO – at the time it still was Clive Schlee. But I find it interesting that this GM has NO opinion of the CEO, as if this GM doesn’t care to even mention their like/dislike.

And another GM on Indeed from Glasgow, Scotland:
Amazing in the beginning – showered with benefits and entitlements and opportunities to advance. Terrible once you see how horribly mismanaged and micromanaged the company is. Zero care for human beings and nothing but boosting sales and company growth.

2019-10-11 GM - Horrible

Link

A little reminder again that Clive Schlee pocketed £30 Million on bonus alone when JAB Holdings bought Pret! Link to article.


UPDATE: 10. November 2019
Brand new Manager review on Indeed worth reading!

2019-11-10 GM Horrible

Link Quote:Managers are forced to cheat on results and break standards just so that the area manager looks good on paper, though he stays at home most of the days whilst the shops collapse.
Yes, but this has always been like this. OPs Managers sit in the pub at lunch time when shops are horrendously busy. OPs Managers fly out to Dubai, Paris or in the U.S. to Vegas, Orlando etc. as mentioned above, to party and blow the hard earned money the shops bring in. Many times I didn’t see my OPs Manager for at least THREE MONTHS at a time, and when they came in, they bossed us around and played scary fear management for a few minutes, before disappearing again for months! The only thing I saw regularly was EMAILS and pressuring us on numbers and Mystery Shopper results!

Quote: Since 2018 there is so much pressure in getting the standards right however I’ve seen kitchens running on two people on night shifts and even one on day shift (where four people are required per shift) as area management does want figures to be right on paper- this could cause enormous issues if something went wrong i.e. allergens.” 

Quote: People are over stretched and tired since the pressure to achieve selection in stores is high but not enough labour in.

Quote:
“We as managers aim to make our teams happy and safe however the over stretching on labour just made us cover the gaps over and over not realising the biggest gap was within us unable to have a normal life or humanity due to the amount of hours being psychologically forced into work.”

Quote:
“I have met great people and higher management in this company but there is an unacceptable level of fear culture up here in Edinburgh, where people believe they won’t actually be okay if they quit their job if unhappy. It’s 2019 and if your employer raises you to be scared to develop elsewhere then it’s not a good employer.”

Nothing more to add!

And the gift that keeps on giving, a NEW MANAGER review on Glassdoor 16. Nov. 2019

GM Horrible - not as they present it

Link “Those willing to step on others make it to the top. Talk the talk but actually don’t live by the values they preach.”


This review is one of my absolute favourites, and brings some humour into all this!

Also, pay attention to the YES vs NO votes on all these reviews.

2017-12-15 Lick asses Prayer

Link

I could go on and on and on, and add countless more along those lines of above reviews, but my posts tend to get too long. I just post one more which is the shortest review I have come across. It doesn’t take many words to describe Pret A Manger. This is even from a Team Leader. Well, it’s simply Pret:

2019-09-16 CoWOrkers bomb Company trash

Link


UPDATE July 2020

Lawsuit filed on 01. July 2020 against Pret for racism, discrimination, hostile work environment at several shops in New York City.

–> Battle v Pret A Manger & Ramos.

Pret Lawsuit RacismLink


Above comments and articles are only a fraction of a long list of staff reviews and complaints. For an extensive, yet not exhaustive list please visit: Pret Staff Complaints (list needs to be updated, I stopped in August 2019) with a few collected in below slideshow.

Finally, some very wise words I came across once on Twitter, but I know Pret will not heed (they read my blog) because they are stuck in this profit-driven business and always find ways to sweet-talk their way out of responsibility:

»It’s amazing to me how many business leaders separate their employees from their customers/patrons. Your employees are your core target audience to put word-of-mouth out about your organization.«@minmilyjung on Twitter

Any employee reading this, especially in Pret and the service industry:

Join a Union and leave reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed and other platforms.

The following Unions cover the food industry:

The BFAWU are the best informed about Pret and have helped Pret staff already. The BFAWU have been instrumental on the first ever McDonald’s strikes in the UK. Also another vital and very active Union that specialize in helping foreign workers is IWGB.

BFAWU1IWGBMcStrike (UK)  — GMB UnionUniteFast Food Forward (USA)

The BFAWU and IWGB are very active with McDonald’s strikes and are the best informed about Pret A Manger.

 

May not work on mobile devices without Wifi.

Slideshow can be paused

The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in Pret Staff Complaints.
And extensive accounts of Pret’s systemic bullying behind the facade, also witnessed by customers: Caught in the Act at Pret.

Staff review: “Bad managemet, always being ‘hounded’.”

Staff review: “Worked into the ground without empathy.”

Smile for the Mystery Shopper. I renamed: “Misery Shopper”!

I continue to ask for independent investigation into Pret staff suicides.

NOTE: When on Glassdoor, one has to register and be signed in to read reviews. Glassdoor has changed its selection of reviews. On Pret A Manger reviews, Glassdoor is now sieving out Managers and Leaders reviews on the front page.
To see ALL the recent reviews on Glassdoor, click where it says “Popular” and select “Most recent” or “Lowest Rating” AND Clear All “Full-time, Part-time”. Also, Glassdoor demands logins now, where you can only see ONE review without being registered and logged in. The reason why the amount of reviews change from 683 to 697 may be that Glassdoor withholds some reviews. But I’m not sure how that works. On Indeed at the Location feature, scroll up to select “All” and it will automatically list all cities/countries in chronological order starting with the newest.

Indeed now even started handpicking reviews as “the most useful review selected by Indeed”, which shows that these review sites are not neutral, as they only select the positive ones, no matter how “rotten” the company may be or how many experienced staff have voted their agreement with the (negative) review:

2019-12-10 Indeed selects featured reviews now

DEFAULT view:

2019-11-22 Glassdoor Default

Click on Sort: “Most recent” and “Clear All”

2019-11-22 Glassdoor Clear Moste Recent

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I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and 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.
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: 1. “Late Night Girl’s” Story with Pret and 2. Pushing Back Against Pret.
Thank you for reading/listening.


Interview:

©2019 expret.org


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Undercover Under Pressure in Pret

Amy Sharpe from the Sunday Mirror contacted me on Facebook after I declined another Mirror Journalist’s request for an interview.

I declined her request as well, as I wasn’t ready for the press, and as I am still paranoid to be tricked and trapped like Pret did with the Development Manager I write extensively about in “The Perversion of a Toxic HR Department“. My experience in Pret is very complex and sounds like straight from a twisted Hollywood script, but I have it all in writing and confront Pret openly on Twitter, which in turn have them report me to get shadow-banned (secretly censored on Twitter & Co. which then hides my posts and accounts from public search). But I urged her to go undercover to see for herself and not just take my word for it, just like James Bloodworth did in Amazon. And she did.

My Facebook message after Amy contacted me:

2018 Amy Sharpe Facebook message2

What I meant by Pret “infiltrating” the mental health club I was a member of, Pret knew about this club as I mentioned it in my last hearing. I write about Pret “infiltrating” the club in my open “letter” to the Pret Foundation Trust which is just a smokescreen to pretend charity to the public.

As I commented on Sathnam Sanghera’s Times article, I’d like to give my two cents also to Amy Sharpe’s undercover article. Both articles from very different perspectives as one from a customer and business point of view, the other from behind the scenes for a few days. But both are equally important and revealing how business works with the main goal of profit in mind.

I have to say that when I saw the undercover reporting yesterday morning (28.11.2018) linked on Twitter, after Amy has been very silent about going “under”, and rightly so, I teared up. I cried when I read her name on the report because not just did she follow my suggestion taking my ordeal serious, but someone from the outside saw what I and many others experience(d), but the public doesn’t want to know about unless it is the press poking into an organization.

It sadly takes deaths becoming public to show how negligent a company, in this case Pret, really is. I’ve been writing openly about my experience with Pret since May 2018 after my father died in March and I started to come to terms again of another loss… still recuperating from my Pret trauma that has “postponed” my grief for my brother. Regular readers know the story.

Some people criticize The Sunday Mirror’s report as being part of a witch hunt, but I don’t think that. The public is so used to be lulled in by a nice and shiny facade, free coffees and cookies.

Customers are so used to the smiles of staff, but no-one knows what really is behind it. The fear management via the Mystery Shopper, rewarded extra £100 if specially nice or told off by the boss in the office and threatened with job security if they didn’t smile non-stop in the highly stressful work environment. I mentioned this in a Tweet response to a customer who without any thought or empathy complained to Pret about a barista, even naming him, for not smiling and rushing the service:

2018-10-24 Re No Smile

Link

Amy Sharpe’s undercover article to me is like someone understanding this and finally confirming my and the team’s ordeal. Some points I want to highlight as I don’t use the full article, just what I want to confirm and expand upon a little from what this journalist has experienced and witnessed. The article will be in black and my comments in grey. I added the bold to the text to highlight some issues.


Article:
A manager reacts in horror as I point out the mistake (of an Almond Croissant with a Jam Croissant label).
“Oh my god!” he cries as he switches labels on two trays of croissants – one containing jam, the other almonds.

This is the typical PANIC reaction of a manager who either didn’t take the time or is too disorganized to do the MBWA (Managing By Walking Around) to check that everything is in its proper place, health & safety checks and so on. This could easily be improved by investing to have plenty of staff, instead of cutting staff to save money, so that the Manager On Duty (MOD) can concentrate on checking everything daily as well as throughout the day. It’s a very simple organizational issue. Very, very simple.


Article:
In the wake of two allergy deaths, he adds: “It’s really dangerous, especially with everything that’s been going on.”

And yet, no-one steps on the brakes to put immediate, and what CEO Clive Schlee calls, “meaningful” changes in place. The problem with the word “meaningful” to me here is, it sounds too wishy-washy, “poetically” correct but shows no urgency, even though “it’s really dangerous”. The appropriate word should have been to implement “immediate” changes! As Natasha’s parents are in shock over Pret’s procrastination, ITV’s November report:


Article:
I am standing behind the counter in Pret a Manger … The pace is so relentless, the demands so constantcustomers want serving super-quick – that I find myself under constant pressure. I sense that other staff feel the strain too.

Ms. Sharpe does not give the time of day she was behind the counter, but mentioned having to dash to the toastie machine, so this may have been lunch time. But the strain can especially be felt when a Team Member does the morning shift from 5 or 6am till 2 or 3pm going through two intense rushes: breakfast and lunch. When I worked in Pret I made a decision to not meet with a friend or have an appointment straight after my morning shift having come out of lunch time. I was always like having come out of a tumbler, being shaken for hours and still on electricity. My friends commented on this, so I tried to get home first to clean up and rest and calm down before joining any events.

One staff review paints this very bluntly. This is why I wished Amy Sharpe would have also covered a week in the kitchen to really get the full Pret “blow”: “This job can annihilate every piece of humanity inside of you.

Many kitchens I have seen with very small working areas for the Hot Chef in particular. Someone leaked a photo to Twitter.

Customer areas are increased to get as many customers / money in as possible; staff areas are decreased. This then creates multiple problems, not only on the mental strain of staff but customers lives as mistakes happen quickly as with labelling I collected in another post “Vegetarians Get Meat Products“:

2018-11-11 Tiny HFC area

Or a shop where I worked where there was only ONE multitask room: office, staff changing room with lockers, fridges, freezers, stock room, hot chef soup prep area, chemical room for cleaning materials etc and to top it all, illegally the rubbish room next to the food prep area! This shop was the worst shop I’ve worked in. This photo is from 2015 and after years like this, Pret was forced to expand the work space to separate the rubbish for health and safety reasons. This room was medium size and approx. 15 square meters max. A total nightmare.

Spitalfields Waste MultitaskOffice_6Sep15


Article:
I am at a central London branch, where 10 staff vie for space, muttering apologies as we collide and stretch across one another to grab pastries and bags.
I shout orders to a barista while dashing to a beeping toastie machine to retrieve a baguette.
I make green teas and filter coffees while my other drinks orders are prepared. It’s stressful and confusing and the queue makes it even more so.
All the while, staff must be alert to the issue of allergens.

Yep. And as one customer on Twitter pointed out the chaos and stress on the staff and customers alike. I had to console Team Members many times over the years who held their tears back or just cried in the staff room after being shouted at by the manager. Another review: “Better salary than McDonalds or Costa as long as you keep your fake smile up. Staff with more experience cuts corners on Sanitary rules because otherwise it is impossible to finish your batch on time.
– The coffee calling system is broken. During busy times it is nearly impossible to keep up with the orders without hating everyone around you. A lot of people cry in the staff room especially in their entry period.”
I also shed many tears on my way home in the bus, especially during grief of course, but after a terribly depressing shift this was a common thing to let the tears finally flow.

2018-10-20 Staff cry

Link


UPDATE Jan. 2019

I found a photo of the coffee area and it shows how cramped and small the work area is. And the barista/coffee makers are required to get PERFECT coffees out within 1 minute that the Mystery Shopper times to the second! It doesn’t get any more dehumanizing and mentally straining than this. I don’t know how I managed, but we worked a lot in mental and physical pain. Under the coffee machine where the silver jugs are, this working area is so small baristas switch on autopilot and just keep going. Hence, lots of stress, shouting and customers going to Twitter with complaints of half cups of coffees that are made so fast to satisfy the Mystery Shopper, the manager and the long queue.

2019-01-16 small coffee area

Link by @terry_mcparlane Twitter


It is rare that a customer speaks out like this and it’s sad that most customers don’t care how stressful it is behind the counter. They see it, at times even commented about it to me, but they just want their coffees fast. Pret has spoiled them where they would be perfectly happy to wait 5-10 minutes in Starbucks, Pret made the service so fast to get the money circulation into the shops fast. Pret staff are expected to whip out PERFECT coffees within ONE minute and are timed to the SECOND by Mystery Shoppers, while customers think that staff is just happy working under intense pressure. They don’t realize what’s behind that happy facade!

Excerpt:

Speed in Seconds

1 minute aim to serve and another 1 minute to have a perfect hot drink ready, checked by the MS to the second:

“I was served very quickly, after 15 seconds, very quick service.”

“I received my hot drink very quick, after 30 seconds, quick service.”

And then customers run to Twitter with pictures of half full cappuccinos, missing cream, lukewarm coffees…! There’s nothing more dehumanizing at a workplace that I have experienced. And should anyone suffer from boredom, do an experiment and just read through some Pret Tweets a few minutes each day for a week, with the same sweet-talk response from Pret veering customers away from public Tweets to private DM.

Some complaints are legitimate when a customer already spoke to the manager, and yet Pret has a DM button, but customers feel the public needs to be aware of their dilemma in Pret shops. I know, I know I respond a lot to some Tweets, and maybe it is because for 10 years I had to bite my tongue towards rude customers, I take the opportunity now to give my opinion. And Pret doesn’t block me as they collect my Tweets in case for court and certainly to learn some tips, as I have showered them with suggestions for improvement while I worked there. Be my guest, Pret.


Article:
Staff now repeat orders to customers to avoid any mistakes. Allergen enquiries are referred to the duty manager, who will show a list of ingredients.

Which is good to repeat, but the pace is still kept high with all sorts of demands, especially for the “Misery” Shopper: always smile, eye contact, make some small-talk, serve within 1 minute, stand on your head, dance on one feet, bend your back, twist your brain, know all the answers, kiss their butts … and all this with a big fake Pret A Smile to keep a low-paid job! In other words you either develop superhuman abilities or mental illness. The pace is the same, the demand is higher, and life is still at risk including the lives of staff who suffer depression, mental ill health and at times become suicidal. But the public “just” wakes up once customer lives are affected. Forget the “slaves“.

A positive Mystery Shopper visit, excerpt:

MS eye contact

“The staff member who served me made good eye contact and greeted me with a friendly smile. While remaining focused and efficient, she also took time to engage in a few words of conversation, which added a personal element to the exchange – enhancing the welcoming atmosphere of this store.”

A negative Mystery Shopper visit, excerpt:

Mystery Shopper poor comments

“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.”

— or —

MS_Cough

“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.”

I wish I could have told this MS that staff are not paid sick leave for the first 2 and 3 days depending on age. So one had to decide if to stay home sick and lose income, or go to work unwell and get a telling off from the manager like I did because I coughed when I happened to serve the MS.

I wonder if Amy Sharpe served the Mystery Shopper and how she would have felt reading a negative comment on her service while feeling the experience of the “overstretched staff” and it being “stressful and confusing and the queue makes it even more so.”

I even wished sometimes customers would just join us for a few hours, especially those who quickly complain about everything.

Just few of the countless Tweets, just from this week:

This customer had good service for THREE years, then one negative experience and the world has come to an end. I linked her to Amy Sharpe’s report to bring some perspective for her feeling so unwanted. But I deleted the Tweet again as I write too many Tweets and always like to de-clutter my Twitter feeds:

2018-11-28 Bad Service after 3 years

Link

“Every time…”

2018-11-28 Wrong Coffee

Link

2018-11-28 No steamed milk

Link

“Oh no!…”

2018-11-29 Gingerbread Latte

Link

etc. etc.

So, companies like Pret have created a “nation” of complainers where the British were usually patient and polite, they now cry like babies whose bottoms haven’t been wiped in a while! And the money keeps coming in while Pret responds with “Oh no…” and “Oh gosh, are you okay?…” sweet-talk to keep the babies happy and the money rolling!

I responded, but since deleted as well to this baby who had no issues to call hard working people the “C” word because he was in the “teething” period having his day ruined by a hard avocado. Pret’s typical cut’n’paste response, apologizing while he is offensive, and as if they really contact each shop all day long for repeated hard avocados:

PretBehaviour01a


Article:
The mantra, I am told repeatedly, is “NEVER guess”.
But from what I witness, the speed at which staff often have to work could put these commendable new standards at risk.
On my second shift I find an orange juice two weeks out of date on the shelves.
The shocked team leader tells me: “You don’t need to tell anyone, otherwise we’re f****d. It is really bad… I’ll throw it away.”
One barista tells me the cramped service area is a “nightmare”.
He says: “If I’m next to you, you have to shout. If you don’t shout I can make a mistake. A person can grab the wrong coffee. Make mistakes and the customer gets mad. You’ve got to focus, stay calm.”
With soybeans and dairy prominent on the menu – and among the 14 allergens kitchens must legally declare – this admission is worrying.
On my last shift, stickers are introduced to distinguish between soya, coconut and regular milks. But one barista serves a coffee without a sticker – and a manager barks: “Where is the sticker?”
The £8.25-an-hour shifts are tough and I collapse into bed exhausted after eight hours on my feet, lifting boxes, mopping and dragging tables around.

Nothing more to add except this Link


Article:
Some staff do 12-hour shifts or work at other branches to earn more. To add to the intensity, employees are battling the cold due to its station location. I wear extra layers to stay warm – there are only two Pret fleeces to go round, so we share.

Nothing more to add except that some staff even do 60-70 hour weeks assigned by the manager! I had to speak out about this as Team Members were exhausted, at times became sick from the amount of work, but were too scared to speak with the GM. Again, I did not make friends with my bosses. But neither did I care!


Article:
When the bustle dies down I clean the shop but a colleague urges me to skip certain tasks.
“You’re supposed to sweep and mop every day but don’t do that or you’ll never leave on time,” he says.

This unfortunately is common in most shops that staff are so swamped with work they are not able to finish in time and are NOT paid for overtime. I fought for this with my managers in every shop. I would say to my teams who did their best and me as the Team Leader helping them, that if they can’t finish I will mark this on the cleaning rota with an explanation, instead of just ticking off the jobs as done like most do to keep the appearance that jobs were completed. I’d then take responsibility when the boss summons me in the office the next day. I let the team go on the dot when our shift finished at 9 or 10pm or whatever closing and cleaning time the branch had.

2018-08-18 #50 Pret A Not Worth

Coffee Specialist, London April 2018

Most Team Members have families with kids at home, not seeing their children all day as they are in school, and later the parent is working when they go to bed. So I made it a point to let them go when the shift finished. I was very organized and made sure that the important jobs, health & safety was taken care of and prioritized these. I structured my teams in this way and left the unimportant jobs unfinished if we didn’t have time or enough staff.

In the early times in Pret I would work and work, finish in time and also worked overtime unpaid. But then the time came where I drew a line. It is okay here and there to finish a little late, but it was the norm in Pret and it seemed a very calculated one as Teams worked extra for no pay every day. I struggled with my managers and communicated that if we have to stay longer to finish the job, I will pay them the extra time through the system as was part of my job. If my bosses didn’t want that, then I told my team to finish on the dot and we go home. Full stop.

This of course didn’t make me friends with my bosses, but neither did I care! My friends are not these kind of people who exploit workers for their own bonuses. One Pret staff reviews this as a common practice for managers to give them a job to do 15 minutes before the Team Member would have finished the shift. But the job would take 30 – 60 minutes to complete. I experienced this many times as well and was made to feel bad if I needed or wanted to leave. It took me some time to stand up against this. Pret staff in the UK should do what their colleagues in the U.S. did, a class action suit for not being paid overtime.

Full article of the Sunday Mirror

I have to be honest that I wished Amy Sharpe would have worked longer, a month or so like James Bloodworth did in Amazon. It would have been good for Ms Sharpe to cover the early shifts and weekends as well, including working in the kitchen, as each time and job has its own challenges. But I’m not complaining. She covered 1 or 2 weeks (?) really really well, while I have 10 years of “material” to share that almost literally killed me having survived bullying during bereavement.

So, I have to be patient and acknowledge the brilliant work by this journalist having been willing to do this, as well as Sathnam Sanghera’s article. And many more people will tell their story in time away from the typical PR that Pret does so well. I keep confronting Pret on a staff suicide in 2017 and who knows how many more are under the carpet when they could hide two customer deaths for two years and the other for 10 months! I know my approach and direct confrontation is full on, but I almost lost my life after having worked with integrity, honesty, very hard and with passion for my teams. I cannot be silent after having wasted 10 years of my life in Pret with the knowledge that staff continue to suffer behind the facade. And if any reader wonders if I went to court, I explain here.

Thank you for your time in reading this. And thank you to anyone in the press to have taken a closer look. Thank you to Amy Sharpe. Ironic and delighted to be calling a reporter a now former colleague of mine! Well done Amy!

Life is short, please be kind to yourselves and others.

expret.org


UPDATE: 14.12.2018 A rare observation from a customer regarding forced friendliness.

2018-12-14 Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness

Link


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.


UPDATE February 2019, my posts on Why do Pret Staff continue under Harshness


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 starve and 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.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote an article in the
Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.

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