Sunday, March 4, 2012

Big Society Microcosm #2 - Pret a Manger

Despatches from self-aggrandisingly 'green' sandwich chains:

On a coffee cup:

A mastery of dribble tests, button-holed cremas, milk frothing, steaming and stretching is absolutely fundamental to graduating as a Pret Barista. It takes about 12 weeks to create a perfect Pret coffee. Time well spent (we think).

Or, as a late-period J.H. Prynne poem:

A mastery of dribble
tests, button-holed
cremas, milk frothing,
steaming and stretching
is absolutely fundamental.

Etc etc. Practical criticism time: why is that parenthesised 'we think' so enraging? Qualifications of this nature seem rather common at the moment. They mean something like 'actually, the thing we said before the parenthesis was aggressively meant, but we want to remind you that it's your opinion that counts, whatever we believe, because, hey, everything's subjective, right?'


And, once a bond of trust has been established between company and customer, we can get onto workplace politics. Pret's manifesto on napkins, printed - conveniently enough - on napkins:

This napkin is made from 100% recycled stock (Pret's sustainability department is militant, we're making headway). If Pret staff get all serviette-ish and hand you huge bunches of napkins (which you don't need or want) please give them the evil eye. Waste not want not.

Ready to explode yet? It's an interesting use of the word 'militant', isn't it? I mean, I suspect they aren't proclaiming their affiliation to Militant Tendency or the Naxalites or Sendero Luminoso or whoever. And that faux-chummy 'evil eye', when what they actually mean is 'give our staff a load of shit if they hand you one too many napkins' and 'criticise the individual, not the brand', just as NPower and so on ring themselves with a palisade of low-paid telephone operatives...


In 1998, [Pret a Manger] employed 1,400 people, of whom 19% were from the UK and 60% from other European Union countries, mainly in Eastern Europe.

John Berger, A Seventh Man:

A migrant's experience of capitalism, because he is exploited in every field, becomes, if he is politically aware of it at all, a very unified experience. In his life he is brought face to face, always negatively, with the unity of the entire system.