I went to Pret-a-Manger on Tuesday lunchtime to purchase myself a cheering treat. My favourite thing from there is the Love Bar
(which, I have been assured, is not even at all a euphemism). It is delicious. It has a layer of flapjack, then a thick, squishy layer of caramel with pistachios and seeds embedded in it. The best bit of all, though, are the big chunky blocks of dark chocolate pushed into the caramel like individual nuggets of pure joy. I love them. On Tuesday I had just written a maudlin blog post and was really, really in need of a joy nugget or two.
On return to the office I sat down at my desk, already buoyed by the very idea of my treat. I took the Love Bar from my bag and removed the wrapper.
I gasped, in shock and horror.
(Please note: This tale is about to take a dark turn. If you are easily shocked or have a weak heart you may want to avert your eyes.)
There were no chocolate chunks to be seen. Not a single one.
Oh, the pistachios were there. Yes, those and the seeds were all present and correct, but their proliferation only served to highlight the gaping chasms where there should have been nestled some chunky chocolate delights.
I honestly nearly cried.
I mean, I ate it anyway, but felt sadder and sadder with every bite. Then, as I woefully masticated, I suddenly felt a surge of anger. I had been misled. I had been promised buoyancy and had received only a snack-based blow to the heart. I am not, I thought to myself, going to be one of those people who witnesses injustice and does nothing. I must speak up for my rights as a flapjack consumer - as a citizen of the world, damn it - and challenge the authorities. I must battle against the corporations as they wilfully attempt to ruin the very cornerstone of freedom and truth and justice: satisfactory flapjackery.
So I wrote an email:To Whom It May Concern.
Today I bought a Love Bar. I love Love Bars usually, but this time was sorely disappointed to find that it was completely devoid of chocolate chunks (usually my most loved part of the Love Bar).
Please tell me, have you changed the recipe? If so I strongly recommend that you change it back, as a Love Bar with no chocolate contains considerably less love.
Then I played the waiting game. (Which, it turns out, isn't so much a game as just a period of time sitting around. Not a game like, say Prod The Granny or Hungry Hippos.)
Suddenly an email flashed up! They had responded! Pret cared about my plight!
It was from an oddly-named chap called Thuy.Hi Leonie,
Thanks for your email.
I can confirm that the recipe for the Love bars has not been changed.
It may vary from bar to bar, however I have brought this matter to the
attention of our Food Team who shall be looking into this matter with
Thanks for contacting us once again - we really do appreciate it.
I must say I was relieved. I was pleased that Love Bars had not changed irrevocably, a turn of events which would have left me with very little pleasure in life other than that of watching Charmed and talking about ponies, but I was also reassured to hear that the Food Team were going to get cracking on the situation.
After taking a moment to wonder whether the Food Team all dress as different Pret products (sandwiches, coffees, over-priced salads etc) I realized to my dismay that my current situation had not been remedied. Sure, my future treats might be satisfactory, but this experience had still been really rather disappointing.
I plucked the wrapper from the bin into which I had tearfully flung it earlier and placed it thoughtfully on my desk.
It sat there for a few days as I considered my plan of attack. At 12.54 today I stood up, put the wrapper in my bag and left the building to meet my friend Pippa for lunchtime coffee. We sat outside the café, chatting. It was lovely. It was near Goodge Street station in the courtyard with the tall, leafy trees and the huge, brightly coloured mural on one of the walls. Someone had an iPod dock and was playing Paul Simon's Graceland album, which is one of my favourites. Feeling relaxed by the environment whilst also being a bit hyper from a double espresso and a hangover, I felt able to share with Pippa the details of my tragic, flapjack-based plight.
We decided I should go back in and complain to the manager about the outrageous lack of chocolate chunks on my Love Bar. We finished our coffees and headed down the road until we reached Pret, and found therein a tall, Italian-looking man who was clearly the manager of the shop.
"Um." I began, eloquently.
He turned around to us. Pippa nudged me to go on.
"Um, yes, hello. Are you the manager?"
"Yes. How can I help you ladies?"
"Well, on Tuesday I bought a Love Bar..."
I held out the wrapper by way of clarification.
"...and it didn't have any chocolate chunks on it!"
He looked down at the small, slightly greasy wrapper and started to smile a little.
"Yes! I mean, no, no chunks! None. I was very disappointed."
"They're her favourite bit!" chimed in Pippa, helpfully.
"Your favourite bit?"
"Yes! My favourite bit."
"They're the best bit, really." added Pippa, seemingly spurred on by her own helpfulness.
He looked at the wrapper and continued to smile with the wry air of one who has never experienced the crushing disappointment of a below-par snack treat.
"But you ate it anyway?"
I had anticipated this very question and had my answer prepared.
"Yes, well, you see I had to test out whether the chocolate really was the best bit, or whether it's as good without. And, well. It's not. The chocolate really is the best bit."
I looked at him in was I hoped was a winsome, not-angry-just-disappointed manner.
His smile broadened.
"Also, she went back to the office! And you can't just leave the office again once you've...gone back..." said Pippa, and I started to feel that perhaps her helpful comments had begun to dry up.
He looked at us, from one to the other. We were practically holding hands with the sheer excitement of our own daring.
He picked two Choc Bars from the shelf and handed one to each of us.
"Here you go ladies. These are on me."
"But...they're... this is a Choc Bar. It was a Love Bar!"
"These are good. You'll like these."
"But...I think we'd prefer..."
"You'll love these ones. They're the best ones."
"Go on. Take these, they're on me."
"Um. OK. Thanks."
I had run out of fight. There is only so much corporation battling one can do in a single lunch hour, particularly when hungover.
Joyous in our victory, Pippa and I parted ways.
As I walked back to my office, I felt that, while of course I was pleased with myself for standing up for my rights, I was slightly disappointed that I had not actually managed to obtain a replacement Love Bar.
The Choc Bar sits, unopened, on my desk. A symbol of an almost-victory.
I almost stuck it to The Man. I almost won!
But not quite.
Tomorrow I am going to almost shut down Starbucks, and then almost reverse global warming. It's going to be great.