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January 17, 2013



All that just to flog butties?

Jib Halyard

That is seriously creepy. Especially when all i want is just a fucking sandwich.


‘The first thing I look at is whether the staff are touching each other,’ Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret since 2003, told the Telegraph

Yeah, I tend to notice that as well - especially if they have been doing so immediately prior to handling my sardie.....


Today's popbitch has a bit on similar creepiness at Waterstones, which matches what I've been told by friends that worked there.


Fortunately, I took the precaution of despising Pret a Manger way back in the 1990s.


I tend to think that "affective labour" is a bit of a crock in terms of a new form of capitalism that is changing the way we all blah blah blah. If you're working in a cafe or in any sort of service job, it's always been the case (and not obviously a bad thing, unless you're the kind of professional curmudgeon that romanticises grouchy and unfriendly bar staff) that the boss wants you to be nice and happy-looking and to create a pleasant atmosphere about the place.

What's new about the "Behaviours We Like" stuff is not the actual thing itself, but rather that someone has written it down into a list, rather than just having it as a tacit requirement tacitly enforced. Which in turn is (I think) due to the Taylorisation and de-skilling of the management of the cafes and branches - unlike the days of the Lyon's Corner House, the chains aren't recruiting and building general managers with a lot of experience and feel for the hospitality business, they're recruiting people with hospitality degrees. And I think that as much as 25% of the perceived creepiness factor is related to the fact that someone's talking about emotions and we're British.

Chris williams

I've just spent a few years trying to nail the emergence of the self-surveilling worker, with 100% affect and habitus control,sat at the bottom of a bureaucratic management hierarchy, to the arrival of the New Police in the early C19th. I think I'm on to something, but I would, wouldn't I?


Surely the self surveilling worker is the dream of the management, since that means they could cut out middle management?

So in that case there are surely genetic experiments going on right now, with the aim of producing the super worker.
Either that or they realised that total media control really helps.

I like dsquared's point about deskilling managers, although I note that's also what they are doing to public services.

sf reader

I've worked in a service sector business that for several decades now has massively benefited from the effect of the workers creating a huge cloud of irresistible sexiness through their interactions with each other and the customers. The problem with rolling out this model on a large scale is that the reason for the huge-cloud-of-irresistible-sexiness is that it's a worker-owned business with a very stable, strong culture. Highly empowered and knowledgeable workers in a very egalitarian setting that values a certain level of performance and play with colleagues and customers can turn even the most mundane of retail interactions into an amazingly entrancing bit of theatre, and the punters will come back again and again and again to push that particular magic button of gratification. The risk that in any particular encounter a worker might just feel empowered to tell you to fuck off adds a critical element of frisson.

This is not easily scale-able in a worker-owned setting, and completely impossible by The Man. Pretty much a license to print cash, though, so I can understand why these creeps are trying to pull it off.

chris y

Reminds me of this, which we were forced to watch by the same CEO as busted our pension fund.


I had a creepy boss who was tremendously interested in his staff's psychological well-being, to the point of running informal (and, needless to say, unqualified) therapy sessions. His theory - which he let slip to me in an unguarded moment - was that if he could gain the trust of people who had something missing, they'd work harder for him than more balanced individuals would. I was feeling quite grateful to him myself (for giving me a way out of a career I hated) up to that moment.

The business went bust shortly after our association ended. The last time I checked, he was in Spain.

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