The Bounty Mutiny: Let’s Ban Sales Reps From NHS Postnatal Wards

Bounty Mutiny

In the past few weeks, a campaign by Mumsnet to ban the organisation Bounty from NHS maternity wards has gathered pace. The #BountyMutiny petition currently has close to 20,000 signatures and Minister for Health, Dan Poulter has written to the Chief Executives of NHS Trusts to ask them to review their practices for allowing reps from private companies onto the wards when women are tired and vulnerable.

The main concern over Bounty is that it’s a commercial company which sends reps (known as Bounty ladies) into postnatal wards to sell to women who have just given birth. When you look at it, written on the page in simple form, it sounds crazy. Imagine if a commercial company approached the NHS about visiting intensive care units to sell to patients’ visiting families? It wouldn’t be allowed. Yet somehow, Bounty visiting fragile, sleep-deprived, sometimes traumatised women is deemed acceptable by the NHS. Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO and co-founder says: “There is a time and a place for direct sales, and it’s not on postnatal wards, hours after women have given birth.”

Back in August 2011, the NCT voiced similar concerns over Bounty and it spurred me to write a blog post on my experience with Bounty. Back then, I wrote:

“The day [my daughter] was born, I hadn’t slept for around 40 hours, my body was being ravaged by hormones that meant I’d cry if I dropped a slice of toast on the floor… I guess you could say I wasn’t ‘of sane mind’. The Bounty lady arriving in my ward was the first I knew of such a practice taking place – no midwife had explained we’d be visited by someone – and with a big smile she handed over my Bounty pack, offered to take a photo of my baby, and asked for my details. I blurted out my name and address like a robot whose ‘name and address’ button had been pressed, and when she asked if I’d mind my details being passed onto other parenting brands, I said I didn’t mind.

I’m usually very wary of giving my details over to companies, and always tick the box that says ‘don’t share my details with other companies’ so an hour or so later, I felt annoyed with myself for what had happened.”

Looking at the response that the Mumsnet petition has had, I’m clearly not the only one who has felt blind-sided by Bounty just hours after giving birth. Bloggers have shared their own experiences of Bounty and stories of Bounty reps reportedly using underhand tactics have been in the press. But interestingly, in the last few days, a few parent bloggers have written blog posts supporting Bounty and criticising the #BountyMutiny campaign. They feel passionately that Bounty should continue to have access to new mums in hospital, and have started a petition against the #BountyMutiny. Their points include:

• Mums are fully capable of saying no to the Bounty lady. Emma Day from Crazy With Twins says: “If you don’t like the adverts… don’t read them! … If you don’t want the photo – say no … If you don’t want to see the Bounty lady at all, when she knocks on the door, just say “no thank you, I’m not interested”. You are an adult!”

To this, I’d say that sadly, I wasn’t capable of saying no. And I’m a pretty strong-minded person. Hours after giving birth, I was on another planet, and having never heard of the Bounty lady before she popped her smiley face around my curtain (not a euphemism), I wasn’t equipped with prior knowledge and geared up to say no when she asked me for my details.

• Bounty help and support mums with advice and tips. Emma Day says: “What about all the good Bounty do? Have you ever looked on their website or Twitter page? It’s full of helpful articles to guide new mums and help solve mum issues.”

This can’t be disputed. Bounty do have plenty of supportive information on their website and in their packs. Does that earn them the right to send sales reps into postnatal wards?

• Lots of mums love, and rely on, the free items in the Bounty bag. Emma Day says: “What about all the people who really appreciate the freebies? I’ve always been skint around the time of having babies and especially with twins, it all helps. What about all the women who love the photos of their newborns? If you are campaining to get Bounty off the wards – all the women who enjoy the benefits of Bounty will lose out too!”

Yep, I love a freebie too. I have nothing against the Bounty packs being handed out – even though they’re just a marketing device, not a gift from the kindness of their hearts. Everyone loves a freebie. But it’s not the packs being handed out that’s the real issue here, it’s the commission-based photographs being taken and the collection of data from mums’ hospital bedsides. I expect that new mums’ data (address and email address) is what generates the bulk of Bounty’s revenue since they sell the data onto multiple companies for £1 a time.

• We shouldn’t be concerned with Bounty when there are far bigger issues to deal with in maternity units. Susanne from Ghostwritermummy says: “If you ask me what I think about the Bounty Lady I will tell you. There are far more important issues for our NHS and our maternity wards to worry about. There are far more important causes to get behind. There literally are matters of life and matters of death and whether or not the Bounty Lady is allowed to come and see you is not one of them.” While Kylie Hodges from Not Even A Bag Of Sugar says: “My big issue is that there are so many massive things that need improving in maternity care. Our still birth rate and prematurity rate is still unacceptably high. Babies go undiagnosed of congenital conditions, midwifery is understaffed, there are massive things to be fought for in terms of maternity care.”

There are so many things for the NHS to deal with – Susanne and Kylie are right. But isn’t the dignity and privacy of new mums such a basic right that it should also be dealt with? It’s a huge deal to me, and to 20k other people who’ve signed the #BountyMutiny petition.

Meanwhile, the Say No To The Bounty Mutiny petition is garnering support from like-minded mums who want the relationship between Bounty and the NHS to continue. But so far, one NHS Trust in England and one NHS Health Board in Scotland have ended their agreement with Bounty, in response to the #BountyMutiny campaign. A huge deal, considering Bounty pay them up to £5.50 for access to each new mum. A spokeswoman for NHS Highland, who made the decision to end their contract with Bounty last week says, “It was clear from talking to women that they would prefer not to be contacted and faced with a sales approach at that time of their lives. Also, the commercial nature of much of the material provided in the packs was in conflict with NHS requirement to provide mothers-to-be with balanced and evidence-based information about their and their babies health.”

So, how do we still get all the good things that Bounty provide (freebies, health information, child benefit form, the chance to have a photograph taken of your newborn, a smiley face to say hello as you eat your beige NHS lunch and much-needed MONEY to the NHS) without compromising the privacy and dignity of new mums?

 

Here’s what I think should happen (NHS peeps, do you have your pens ready?):

1. If Bounty really must have access to NHS patients during pregnancy, when midwives hand out Bounty packs during pregnant mums’ hospital check ups, they should explain that it’s not an official NHS pack, and set the pregnant mum’s expectations (something along the lines of “If you sign up to Bounty, you will receive baby, child and mum-related junk mail UNTIL YOUR CHILD TURNS 18″ would be sufficient.)

2. If Bounty really must continue to have access to NHS patients who have just given birth, they should be positioned somewhere neutral in the maternity department, but be banned from entering the actual wards. That way any mums who are desperate for their Bounty packs or a photo of their baby can visit them – or send a relative to visit them. But everyone else is left alone.

 

Callie Beusman sums it up so eloquently in her Jezebel article, when she says: “Because the best kind of customer is one who’s exhausted, disoriented, and oftentimes in pain after going through, oh, you know, FUCKING CHILDBIRTH, a process that that involves pushing a small human’s head and body out of yourself.”

 

If you liked that, you might like these:

16 thoughts on “The Bounty Mutiny: Let’s Ban Sales Reps From NHS Postnatal Wards

  1. I’m afraid I’m still REALLY struggling to see what the problem is here. I have never received any junk mail or phonecalls AT ALL from Bounty and neither have any of my friends and family that I have asked. I don’t think that women are really that weak and pathetic that they forget how to say no. I nearly died of organ failure after giving birth but I still had the capability of speech.
    I found it great chatting to the Bounty lady, I was never sold anything and my details weren’t sold. But if I had had a bit of junk mail, I really don’t think it would have been a big deal.

    Thanks for the mention. It’s a well written post.x
    Emma (crazywithtwins) recently posted…What to look for when checking moles. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Hi Emma, I’m presuming that because you said no to the Bounty lady, that’s why you don’t receive the junk mail. It’s fantastic that you found the strength to say no, after everything you’d been through. The reality is different for many women. I get 2-3 catalogues a week through my door, thanks to Bounty.

      Getting junk mail is no huge hardship, though. The real problem is – women shouldn’t be put in the position where they have to even think how to string a sentence together to a sales rep who approaches their hospital bed. If the Bounty reps were placed in a separate room, this wouldn’t be an issue.

      Question though – if the NHS started allowing sales reps into wards where people were recovering from heart ops or knee ops, would that be OK too? Where should we draw the line?

  2. I understand the financial need to have Bounty in hospitals. We need to face facts that the NHS simply doesn’t have enough money any longer and private organisations will be propping them up.

    However, as someone who was extremely tired and emotional and did feel hassled despite saying no to the rep frequently, I can still recognise that for many women they provided a listening ear.

    I think that they could still provide a service within hospitals but perhaps in a side room with the MW/HCPs informing patients on their rounds that there is the option to visit the Bounty Lady or have her come to you? I think this way there is a REAL choice and a lot less pressure.
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted…Silent Sunday. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • I find it a bit depressing if the Bounty lady’s role is genuinely providing a listening ear. Mind you, no different to getting to know your local Starbucks barista and bending their ear about your life. Thanks for your comment :)

  3. I think it’s so wrong to sell marketing access to vulnerable people. While some new mothers will have presence of mind to be clear as to whether they do or don’t want to give their personal details away, others are so knocked sideways by the birth that being assertive in this way is just too hard. And when the reps are allowed to come into your cubicle, you are a sitting target.

    For me, the Bounty Rep was one of far too many visitors (menu collectors, cleaners, hospital surveyors, tray collectors etc on top of the hourly obs that the midwives were doing) when I was struggling to breastfeed and to catch up on sleep. Having just come from five days in ICU, I was in no fit state to interrogate the Bounty Rep as to why they wanted my details. I was told the pack had the Benefit Form in so I complied so they would go away faster.

    I agree, let them on the wards but put them on a desk where people can voluntarily see them. I’m not anti-Bounty – I’ve used their website a fair bit and the samples came in handy. But I feel really strongly that new parents shouldn’t be the unwitting target of aggressive marketing tactics.

    • I’ve used their website too, and I found their tweets useful when I had a newborn. You’re right that mums are sitting targets, though. Let’s get them in a side room!

  4. A brilliantly written post – as per. I think Rachel from Mummy Glitzer hits the nail on the head in her comment above about REAL choice. This is something that at present women in maternity wards aren’t given – and not just about Bounty. Clearly there are a lot of women – some who went through traumatic births and some who didn’t – who don’t have any issue with Bounty. I for one didn’t see a Bounty Lady, I suspect more as a result of good fortune than through anyone caring enough to stop her visiting me whilst my baby was in an incubator fighting for her life. So, I didn’t really know what they were all about. This is very much a feminist issue and I’m going to get posting on the subject this morning as a result of reading this post, thanks Alison x
    Luci – mother.wife.me recently posted…How to protect your home from theft. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Thanks Luci – your post on this was a good read. It’s definitely a feminist issue and something that shouldn’t be dismissed as unimportant.

  5. What is the ethical difference between NHS hospitals giving away patients’ data to commercial organisations – which would be a very serious criminal offence – and allowing commercial reps into wards to “collect” data from vulnerable patients?

    • I suspect that the difference is that the Bounty rep is getting permission from each mum before taking her details. Still sucks though.
      PS thanks for your comment, Dad! :)

  6. I wonder if the approach differs by each rep? the experience i had was that the woman popped by and actually asked if there was a time that would suitable for her to come back. she passed the pack/bag onto my midwives who then gave it to me when they came to my home for our first check up. perhaps a one off?

    however totally agree that she probably shouldn’t just be allowed to swing by your bed and say “hey i’m the bounty lady, here are my wares!” and that a position somewhere central that you could go to when and if you want to would be much more appropriate and appreciated by those who need some space.

    great post x
    HPMcQ recently posted…365 02.07.13. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • I expect it probably does differ from rep to rep. But I think all the focus on everyone’s individual experience is over shadowing the real point – the system is flawed. Yes, there are some LOVELY and KIND Bounty ladies (the one I met was very smiley and nice) but that still doesn’t detract from the fact they shouldn’t be approaching new mums in their bed. Hey Bounty, get your asses into a side room!

  7. To be honest, I’ve got mixed feelings about the whole thing and can see both sides of the argument. I had a horrible postnatal experience in hospital after the birth of my first son (lost a lot of blood and was out of my head on painkillers!). I don’t remember whether or not Bounty came round and don’t think I’d have been in a fit state to read the small print about further mailings. Personally I don’t care too much about this anyway but I appreciate this is a big deal to some people and therefore it’s not really fair for them to approach. However after the birth of my second son, I felt fine and refused painkillers so was of sound mind. Bounty didn’t approach, although they were on the ward (perhaps I have something awful in my notes about being grumpy lol!) but on a follow-up visit to the ward I saw the lady and asked her for a pack, she simply gave me one without taking any details, which was nice. Also (and rather trivially) it sounds as if some people/regions get AMAZING freebies in their Bounty packs whereas I wasn’t too fussed by a mini tub of Sudocrem and a free nappy!
    Little Rascal Reviews recently posted…Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Anti-Colic Vented Bottles. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Sounds like you had a good Bounty rep at your hospital. Apparently you can buy those tiny post of Sudocrem on eBay for really cheap :)

  8. Pingback: "Mum! I'm bored!" | Not Another Mummy Blog

  9. Wow, your line:
    “I blurted out my name and address like a robot whose ‘name and address’ button had been pressed”
    - that line resonates with me so much. Yes, 100% like a robot. Absolutely! This is such a great article and I wholeheartedly agree. My daughter picked up an infection when she was born so I was in a hospital ward with her and 5 other mums/newborns for 6 nights. I cannot count the number of times the bounty lady sprung open my curtain only to say “oh its you again”. Hormones. Sleep deprivation. Lack of privacy. That was like a red rag to a bull. The sooner they ban sales reps, the better in my opinion.
    lauren recently posted…Baby shower cake toppers: be inspired by six of the best. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge