How to get a free coffee at Pret a Manger

Pret don’t do loyalty cards. Instead, their baristas are allowed to give away a certain number of free coffees every day. I’ve received several. The last time it happened, as I walked out with a big smile on my face, I reflected on what I do that makes it more likely, and how that principle can be applied to life and business.

  1. Make eye contact, smile and say hello

This whole action takes about two seconds, but so many people don’t do it. I sometimes don’t do it when I feel rushed or distracted. If you don’t, it’s like treating the person in front of you as though they were a coffee machine rather than a human. Imagine if people barely acknowledged you all day while you were working. You wouldn’t feel great, would you?

For a bonus point, read their name off their name badge and say ‘Hello, Federico’ or ‘Hi, Sam!’ Instant connection.

2. Ask them how they are

Often, people serving in coffee shops have got up early, been on their feet all day and done a long shift. A little empathy goes a long way.

I particularly like doing this with cold callers from charities. When they say ‘Hello, this is Abi, calling from…’, I interrupt and say ‘Hello, Abi. How are you?’

More than once, someone has told me that I’ve made their day because no one has asked them that all day. The call with Abi actually went so well she ended up asking me out on a date, over the phone — unbelievable!

3. Notice something about them

For example, in Pret, they usually have flags on their badges saying what language they speak. In my experience, if you can give people an ‘Hola, ¿qué tal?’ or ‘Buongiorno!’ in their own language, it lights them up that you made the effort to speak it. It’s very rare for Brits to do that!

4. Have no expectations

You may have a really friendly, warm interaction with someone, make them laugh, feel connected and yet… no coffee!

The secret is to enjoy the interaction for its own sake, with no expectation that it will lead to anything. They might not even smile back if they’re having a difficult day.

This also goes for sales, networking, dating, meditating… If you’re trying to make something happen, and you’re attached to a particular outcome, you put a pressure on the situation that makes it less likely that you’ll get the result you want.

We all know what it’s like when someone’s trying too hard to sell us something — painful!

Worst case scenario, you have a pleasant interaction and you both go away with a smile on your face. Best case, you didn’t pay for your coffee either. You can’t lose!

Applying this to your work

The basic principle is to treat people as we’d like to be treated: as humans, not robots. We can all be guilty of treating our colleagues as automatons at times. But a little friendliness goes a long way, not only because it makes everyone feel more positive, but you also get better outcomes. The equivalent of a free coffee in your work might be someone making an introduction for you, helping you out on a project or supporting you through a difficult personal issue. The payoff often happens in unexpected and wonderful ways, but only if you’re not attached to it happening.

My work is all about love. Loving yourself, loving other people and loving the earth. I do that through writing, podcasting, coaching, running workshops.

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