Should the Bounty lady be allowed access to NHS maternity wards?

This week, parenting club Bounty tweeted a link to a news story in the Independent about the National Childbirth Trust criticising their practices.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bounty, when you are pregnant and are attending check-ups with your midwife, you are given a ‘Bounty pack’ which contains some free samples, leaflets and advice. You can join up to their website to receive regular packs from them, if you wish. Then, once you’ve had your baby, you’ll be visited by a ‘Bounty lady’ in the maternity ward who’ll give you another Bounty pack, offer to take a photo of your new baby which you can then buy from them, and take your details for their mailing list.

This week’s Independent article explained how Bounty pay the NHS £5000 for access to distribute Bounty packs to new mums in a hospital, and how they then sell on the mums’ details to other companies for £1 a time. The Independent said: ‘The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which disclosed the figures to The Independent, said it was “totally unacceptable” for new mothers to be targeted in this manner. Allowing “strangers with cameras” into maternity wards was “extraordinary”, it said.’

I have mixed feelings about Bounty. I love a freebie (who doesn’t?) and when I was pregnant, I soaked up tips and advice like it was going out of fashion, so my first Bounty pack was very welcome. Even though, deep down, I knew that I was succumbing to the marketing ploys of large companies who were trying to influence me and forge a sense of brand loyalty early on in my pregnancy, I still welcomed it.

But having read the comments from the NCT this week, I reflected upon my experience of Bounty following the birth of my daughter, and I have to say I agree with them. The day she 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.

The NCT’s chief executive, Belinda Phipps, told the Independent: “We find it gobsmacking that commercial companies are given free rein to [gather and sell on personal data] at a time when women have just given birth and are at their most vulnerable. We have had cases of photographers asking women, prompting the women to burst into tears because their baby is unwell and in the special-care unit. In other cases, photographers have sat waiting for women to come out of the shower, compromising their privacy and dignity.”

Interesting that my attention was first brought to this article by Bounty’s tweet, which was asking their followers what they thought. A quick look at the @replies that Bounty got from their followers showed that the vast majority actually agreed with the NCT. When I asked Bounty what they thought about this, they tweeted me: ‘Mums should be able to choose Bounty. Independent, socially representative research shows the majority of new mums agree.’

Their tweet sums the situation up perfectly, in my mind. Mums should be able to choose Bounty. But let’s give them that choice at a time when they’re feeling stable and of-sane-mind, shall we?

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10 Comments

  1. August 26, 2011 / 1:33 pm

    I’d never thought about this before – but given the amount of junk mail I now receive which is ‘baby related’ I think NCT are probably right – I would always opt out of mailings, but guess just after giving birth I wasn’t thinking straight – well, I know I wasn’t thinking straight!
    Loved getting my bounty pack though!

  2. August 26, 2011 / 7:24 pm

    I agree with you. After having given birth to twins I did not ant another person around the bed. They kept pestering me and I just wanted to shout go away. i didn’t want them to take a picture anyway. I never think their pictures are that good. You should be able to sign up at your leisure not when you’ve just had a stomach operation and are not thinking straight!

  3. August 30, 2011 / 4:53 pm

    Totally agree. Maybe a leaflet giving you the chance to read about what they’re offering and actively opting in to Bounty by writing down your details would be better? I think it’s intrusive and the last thing new mothers need.

  4. Heather Burns
    August 22, 2012 / 9:13 am

    The “Bounty Ladies” and their free gift packs have only ever been about the collection of personal details for consumer marketing databases. Not about free nappies, not about Di$ney book libraries: it is cold hard data collection at its most brutal. This was well documented nearly twenty years ago in the book “The Naked Consumer” by Erik Larsen, an investigative journalist.

    Having read that book, I was well equipped to simply say “no” when the Bounty Lady set up her ridiculous roving trolley in my hospital suite. (This was comical as I was the only person in the 4 bed suite). When I said “no” she looked physically shocked, as if no one had ever said no to her before. I simply repeated “no thank you” and she wheeled her trolley away.

    • August 22, 2012 / 9:31 am

      Good for you! I only wish I’d been pre-warned as I would have said no too.

  5. May 29, 2013 / 8:59 am

    I couldn’t agree more! Sending glorified sales people in to rooms full of very vulnerable women at such a precious time – who’s idea was that?!
    Katie Gwyther recently posted…And then…. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  6. charlotte
    May 29, 2013 / 10:28 am

    I also hadn’t thought about this before and find it quite interesting to hear what other people had to deal with on their wards. To be honest i didn’t mind my Bounty lady. She was not pushy and when i said no to the photo she was fine. My biggest problem was actually the handy man turning up 30 minutes after my arrival to replace the TV (which i wasn’t aware was broken), the hearing test lady appearing within 5 minutes of him leaving and the midwives not really understanding that i couldn’t do a million things at once (change a nappy, eat, take baby to paed, go to the loo). The Bounty lady was the only one who approacheapproached me with a smile and left quietly. Out of all the things i was not told to expect, the arrival of the Bounty lady was the least of my problems. I think it depends on who she is, not who she works for.

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