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?