As customers again keep going to Twitter with photos, videos and comments about seeing bags of food waste from Pret, instead of this being donated to those in need I want to explain why this is happening more than people realize and Pret wants to admit.
Twitter pic from @dwphilbrick video from NY
The Sunday Mirror photo. The most bags like this I remember wasting into the rubbish room at one time was 3 (THREE) bags in one night! Also, because some waste companies pick up waste in the morning, bags like this are stored in the rubbish room over night adding to the risk of pest, mice etc. being drawn in, especially over the weekend when there is no rubbish pick-up in some stores depending on the waste company, council etc.
Quote from Amy’s report: “At the end of the shift I apply allergen stickers to leftover sarnies, salads and pots. These are given to the homeless as part of the commendable Pret Foundation scheme. But there are never enough stickers and a bagful of perfectly edible food is binned each day.” (I underlined).
In recent years Pret has been one of the trailblazers in giving left-over food each night to charity and people in need. But Pret is not the only one, they are just at the forefront “PR-ing” about it loudly. In the 1990’s I volunteered for a charity and once a week we were one of the places that Boots gave left-over sandwiches to us for distribution. Our day was Wednesday from the charities in the area (Notting Hill). This was in the mid 90s, 7 years after Pret started business in 1983 in Hampstead, was shut and restarted in 1986 in Victoria.
In my 10 years in Pret I don’t even want to think back on the amount of bin bags of food we had to throw away. In the beginning the reason for this waste was that at times charity did not pick it up or some shops did not have a Friday pick-up for example. Of course this could have been avoided by having teams go out to bring the food to places or call other neighbouring areas, as each area has their charities appointed for each shop. Some shops have 2, 3 or more charities who have their delegated day for the pick-up, like my charity had Wednesdays in the 90s with Boots.
But sending out the closing team sounds good on paper, but Pret staff are so swamped with work and exhausted by the end of the day to even bother bringing food out. And staff are not paid over-time while they are being over-worked, understaffed, given so many tasked to do. I was one of the few team leaders who was very organized and helped my teams instead of sitting in the office as leaders like to do. So, we often managed to finish on-time. But still then, we were extremely exhausted to do anything extra “on the house” after 9 or 10pm, while our bosses didn’t care if we worked longer unpaid.
One Pret employee puts this in clear words: “Advice to Management – Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.”
Yes, I can relate very much with this review! It always seemed like managers enjoyed burdening down staff, while they sat in the office or left early to go home, not to mention not working on weekends. And the next day when tasks were not done, because team members were swamped unnecessarily with work, understaffed, exhausted, managers held their sermon in the office, telling off mainly the team leader and the team at times as well. It was a lose-lose situation and the point came that I had enough of this and sent my teams home on the dot of when our shift was supposed to finish. After having given overtime many times without pay I drew the line and suffered the consequences of not being the manager’s favourite.
But I didn’t care. My priority was the team’s welfare who most of them have families at home and with the shift finishing at 9 or 10pm they often hardly saw their kids. I made sure the most important tasked like health and safety, cleaning etc. was done, and other not vital issues I left undone. This at times helped because some managers then gave us an extra team member or allowed me to pay my team the extra time, because my managers knew how I worked, that my teams were not lazy, but gave their best every time.
And labelling food for charity started in 2015 or 2016, I can’t remember, but this added to the work load while not getting extra staff to finish all the work load Pret demands. So, with the labelling issue for charity I had to decide to keep at the very end. If we managed to finish important tasked we labeled the food. Many times we didn’t even have enough labels printed, or couldn’t find on the computer where the labels were for printing, or other organizational issues we had no time to solve. If we couldn’t label, I was instructed to throw the food out, even when charities came by and demanded the food! I had to refuse, apologize and explain how swamped we were with tasks but low on staff and not paid overtime. I only managed to give the person picking up food if they wanted to eat something then and there where they had access to the allergen information in the shop.
In the beginning of labelling we would give unlabelled food to charity, but some charities would then complain to Pret HQ that the products weren’t labelled or partly labelled when we ran out of time or labels. Other charities got angry with us for NOT giving out unlabelled food. It was a constant struggle between the fronts. So, I made the decision that if my boss said to not give food out, they have to take it up with management. Little did I know WHY this was so important to label, as we were not informed of the two customers having died from unlabelled allergen hidden in products. There wasn’t even as much as a hint to be more vigilant with the labelling, except to not give food out to charity unlabelled. That was all, but no explanation as to why because there wasn’t any labelling for customers. It didn’t make sense a the time until when the deaths became public.
Charity allergen labelling posted on Twitter
But to work overtime a few minutes here and there without pay was not the issue for me, especially when emergencies happened like flooding, power-cut, accidents etc. And it was no issue for my teams either. If this was the exception it’s perfectly fine, but in Pret this was the rule and I had to draw the line. If an employer doesn’t care for their workforce, the workforce will not care for the company. Exceptions are always okay, but not exploitation and constant issues like this. And the above review is spot on as I experienced this for 10 years in shop after shop and was one of the very few to draw the line as my teams were always happy when I ran the shift as they knew they’d finish in time!
The lawsuit of 4000 Pret workers in the USA shows this as well: “Pret A Manger Settles Overtime Wage Claim” and the long list of Pret Staff Complaints I collected from various sites unto one page linking to each review. And Selected Quotes that really brings the stressful environment home which I experienced shop after shop with the last 3 years traumatically in bereavement. It is no understatement when I write on my Twitter name that I survived Pret. And I want to point to a charity here again that was incredibly helpful when I went to the bridge on several occasion after work: The Listening Place & on Twitter @TLPCharity. Chasing rabbits for a moment, but I need to mention them!
I cannot recommend them enough to people struggling with suicidal thoughts and hopelessness. I volunteered in various charities over the years in three countries and have seen a lot including not recommendable charities with questionable things. And since my brother died I have been on the receiving end for help from counseling charities for bereavement, therapists etc. But the Listening Place was the most determined and patient to see me through this hellish dark time of wanting to end my life. And even though I go through that valley at times still, I know where I would need to go for help, and just that assurance alone helps, without needing to contact them. I’ve never experienced such kindness, determination and patience from a charity.
So, if you know people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or you yourself do, and live in or close to London, give them a go and pass them on. There is absolutely no judgmental attitude whatsoever and they won’t call the police on people except if you make specific threats to end your life then and there. But then they accompany you to hospital. I was one of their first “clients” when they just started this charity, and we developed the sessions together with them changing initial things asking for my feedback after sessions on what is most helpful and what not. The Samaritans (two of them) who started The Listening Place, are great, but it didn’t help me as every time there was another volunteer on the line and I had to retell my story all over again.
The Listening Place initially started as giving 6 sessions, but then developed that I could come for longer as I was going through extreme trauma and went from counselling to counselling service, private and with the NHS, even being refused into hospital TWICE even though I was suicidal! So, they extended my sessions to indefinite and in the video I am glad this is now the norm probably from a case by case situation! I cover them a bit in another blog entry.
Incredibly humble and caring charity. They received a well deserved award last year “Small Charity BIG Impact Award”, and I can absolutely underline the impact they have! I think often of them and when I have a job again I plan to become a regular donor. It’s worth watching the 8 minute piece. The CEO, Sarah Anderson in the beginning is an absolute treasure, genuine and not giving up on people.
But back to the issue of food being wasted each night, it is a bigger problem than Pret wants to admit. The only way for this to be minimized is for staff to be paid overtime or have enough team members on the shop floor who are TRULY trained, not just on paper, covering for all the tasks Pret expects.
A list of customer complaints, some with photos and video:
This issue Pret responds by claiming: “this is very concerning to hear as we donate our unsold cold food to the homeless throughout the UK. Can you DM us with which shop this was in and some more information on whether it was hot or cold food?”
First of all the constant repeat to get customers away from the public eye into private DM with the question of which shop while Pret knows EVERY shop does that. And to ask if this was hot or cold, Pret knows very well that “egg rolls from the COUNTER” are cold products! But this “pret”-ense (sorry, can’t help it!) of not knowing is bogus, because Pret sets the time for these breakfast baguettes in the morning as for 2 hours of shelf-life.
These baguettes are marked at the back from the time they are made in the kitchen to the time staff have to waste them as the quality decreased and the baguette becomes soggy when not refrigerated. If the OPs manager happens to come by, they often check the time of the product and the team leader responsible for the shift gets in trouble if the items are still on sale while the time has passed the expiration “hour”.
In my 10 years we were never ever instructed to keep them until the evening for charity. Never! They are supposed to be thrown without packaging into the green food waste bin behind the counter or in the kitchen. But again, because team members are so busy and stressed, they just chuck it in the regular bin. I managed many times to waste it into the food waste bin, but even while I worked very fast, I didn’t always manage and at times also threw it into the regular bins. It is just plainly impossible to follow the ridiculous amount of demands Pret sets, especially when managers also cut staff to maximize profit and with it their bonus. It’s always and forever just about money for management! Full stop!
Link from 2016
Retweeted from same feed:
Pic from @5awaga 28. Jan 2016 USA
The above are only those customers bother to go on Twitter about with photos and videos. The problem is much larger as I wasted I don’t know how much food in 10 years, not to mention how food is wasted in the kitchens!
Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all its writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org, LateNightGirl.page.tl and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.
©2017 – Present: poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org, LateNightGirl.page.tl unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.