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Prêt a Manger labor rules require ‘happy’ workers to touch each other or be sacked.

Pret a Manger
Pret a Manger
Pret a Manger
Pret a Manger

Fracas has emerged with respect to UK popular franchise, Pret a Manger after an internal dossier describing the outlet’s expectations of its employees.

The requirements essentially require minimum fast food employees to always be happy, cheerful, charming, caring about other people’s happiness and of course to always have presence. Other demands that the outlet demands so as to increase sales is that employees should be seeing to be positively touching each other, never moody and ‘not there’ for the money. Whatever little money Pret a Manger end up paying their behind the counter employees.

To ensure that protocol is followed Pret a Manger also employs a system where ‘mystery’ shoppers visit branches in which they judge whether employees exhibit ‘Pret perfect’ behavior. If the mystery shopper deems that all employees are behaving in accordance they are later offered a cash bonus (what exactly the cash bonus is has not been revealed) and if just one employee is in a sour mood, insufficiently enthusiastic or is not exhibiting cheery team player protocol then none of the workers can expect to receive a bonus either.

Opines Prêt a Manger’s chief executive officer, Clive Schee:

‘I can almost predict sales on body language alone.’

Tells the UK’s dailymailDetails of the chain’s list of ‘Pret perfect’ behaviours emerged online after an essay in the London Review of Books exposed its reliance on ‘affective’ or emotional labour, a term used to describe work carried out with the aim of producing a – usually positive – emotional response in a person.

It flagged up the list of more than 50 ‘behaviours’ drawn up by the chain as part of its efforts to ensure its staff make customers feel good when they visit a store. 

It appears the list, which included 17 things Pret ‘don’t want to see’, 18 they ‘want to see’, and 17 under the heading ‘Pret perfect!’, has since been taken down from the firm’s website.

Pret said its guidelines are for internal use only.

Offered a Pret spokesman:

‘The reason guidelines are not published on the website is that they are for internal use for staff and the website is an external facing platform for communications with customers.’

Perhaps what makes Pret a Manger’s expectations breathtaking is the outlet’s expectations that its employees behave as a quasi maitre d of that of a high octane restaurant establishment whilst all the while that employee is only paid minimum wages and discretionary cash bonus conditional on other whether individuals perform up to par or not. One ought to also remember that a decent maitre d makes a rather handsome salary and cash tips (every night, whether the waiters at hand are rude or not).

Pret a Manger
Pret a Manger

Pret’s policies came under scrutiny recently after a York Way, London employee was sacked apparently according to the outlet for making homophobic comments, something that the employee, Andrej Stopa vehemently denies. He has gone on to say that the real reason he was fired because he spearheaded the establishment of an independent union for Pret workers. Presumably the questioning of some of managements rules would have been high on the agenda. Stopa’s bid to challenge his termination was halted after an appeals process decided in Pret’s favor.

Ultimately one has to wonder what one ought to expect for a sandwich (admittedly over priced relative to other comparable no name vendors) that they end up spending close to 5 pounds for or ($8) and whether the outlet has attempted to hijack exemplary restaurant etiquette that most respectable restaurants have to resort to paying top dollar for?

Then again how much etiquette is really required to serve an overpriced sandwich and to be consistently happy even if ones personal woes are playing havoc with one’s soul that day? Then again who can really say most corporate establishments give much leeway for less than adoring and selfless behavior either?

Then there was this compelling point of view as expressed by newrepublic:

Emotional labor is not itself new. Prostitutes have faked orgasms for millennia. With greater sincerity (one hopes), undertakers calm the grieving, nurses comfort the sick, and migrant nannies lavish on other people’s children the love they aren’t present to furnish back home. Flight attendants, in the pre-feminist era, calmed jittery flyers by being pretty, friendly, even a little bit flirtatious; this ended with deregulation in the early ’80s as airlines stopped competing on service and started competing on price.

In all these instances, emotional labor served (legitimately or not) identifiable emotional needs. That’s not true at Pret. Fast-food service is not one of the caring professions. The only imperatives typically addressed in a Pret shop are hunger and thirst. Why must the person who sells me a cheddar and tomato sandwich have “presence” and “create a sense of fun”? Why can’t he or she be doing it “just for the money”? I don’t expect the swiping of my credit card to be anybody’s vocation. This is, after all, the economy’s bottommost rung.

above image found here


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