If you have been anywhere near Twitter, and are a follower of parenting news, then you will likely have heard of the Bounty Mutiny. I wasn’t sure whether to blog about this, as I didn’t give birth in UK so don’t have direct experience, but recent events have persuaded me that I should.
Mumsnet launched a campaign #bountymutiny to protest against the legions of women who go around labour wards, giving gifts to new mothers. Sounds innocuous, when put like that, doesn’t it? The reality is that the Bounty Ladies hand out the gift bag, then persuade women to hand over their personal details, which the company then sells on to third parties. Some women have reported that they felt pressured into giving their details, that they were approached when they were tired, vulnerable or just plain confused at the actual status of the enquirer.
In Germany we didn’t have Bounty Ladies, but we did have a photographer who offered to take some photos of my newborn son. I went ahead with this, as I needed photos for his passport anyway, and it saved me a trip to a photographer later. The big difference between this and the Bounty Lady of UK, is that once the photographer had delivered her photos, that was the last I saw of her.
In comparison, parents in UK are sometimes hassled for months or years with emails that they don’t want and didn’t intend to receive. Even those who have clicked the Don’t Contact Me Again box.
The campaign came about when a new mum posted on Mumsnet about a ‘run in with the Bounty photographer‘ back in December of last year.
She arrived originally before breakfast turned on the lights and opened curtains waking me and the other Mum up, then continued to talk over the peadiatrician who was checking my dd over.
Eventually she sulked off but apparently came back when I was asleep (how dare I?) Last time she came back as I’d just settled dd and was eating lunch which had just arrived.
I said No photos at the minute thanks she got most insistant that its for security reasons?? (I’m going home today) and said she’d just lean round and take them, dd was asleep on my lap in a v pillow whilst I ate. I said again, not right now I’m eating she left brochures and went off muttering quite loudly.
I’m hormonal so ofc this has upset me, but not as much as the first time mum across they way! WHY are these people allowed to just walk around a maternity ward being so fucking rude!
Other posters on Mumsnet replied with their own stories, some of them are truly shocking and upsetting. Do read some of the thread, if you are in doubt about this campaign. Someone started a petition, and others asked Mumsnet HQ about a previous thread, and why they had not gone forward with a campaign at that time. CEO Justine Roberts replied
We approached Bounty at the time of the last thread highlighting the strength of feeling against their activities and suggested that they should do a survey on here to find out what kind of interaction is acceptable to new mums in hospital, as well as to evaluate and improve their code of practice for photographers and feedback/complaints procedure.
They seemed interested for a bit but then came back and said they didn’t think Mumsnet could provide a sufficiently “robust and relevant sample base”.
They did say “please be assured that we have listened to Mumsnet members and made changes to our Code of Conduct in respect of the issues raise regarding photography and child benefit forms, and in addition we are:
• Making sure mums-to-be who’ve already joined Bounty before they have their baby (7 out of 10 join Bounty before they meet the Bounty lady in hospital) know about our Code of Conduct to so they are clear about what they expect when they meet the Bounty lady
• Contacting all mums after they return from hospital to invite them tell us about their experience – any negative feedback will be addressed
• Considering a consultation with hospitals about whether we can introduce a sign to hang on beds/curtains to indicate whether mums would like to be visited by the Bounty lady.”
It does seem, however, from this thread that they have some way to go so we’d be happy to give some further thought about how we might encourage them to address some of the problems. Do let us know if you have some ideas on how to proceed
When it became clear that the members of the site did indeed wish for a campaign, Mumsnet set up a survey, with these results
The survey of more than 1,000 Mumsnetters (who gave birth after May 2012), reveals that:
- Over half (56%) of new mothers felt a Bounty rep invaded their privacy
- 60% were not specifically told their personal details would be passed on to other companies
- 82% don’t think hospitals should allow sales reps access to wards at all
Mumsnetters have reported being hassled by over-zealous Bounty salespeople.
In 17% of cases, they say Bounty reps implied parents would only be able to claim Child Benefit if they filled in Bounty’s commercial forms. One Mumsnetter said: “After 80 hours’ labour I did doubt myself when Bounty woman said I needed to register for [a] pack for child benefit.”
Other results of the survey are:
- 55% said the Bounty rep came at an inconvenient time for them and their baby
- 48% were not told that giving their details was voluntary
- 29% felt pressurised to have their baby’s photograph taken
- 53% rated their post-natal Bounty pack as poor, with not much of use inside
Dr Margaret McCartney published an article in the British Medical Journal in May of this year, in which she criticised the methods of the Bounty reps.
Most NHS hospitals condone the giving of 812?000 newborn “packs” each year, and the NHS benefits from allowing access to its wards. Bounty told the BMJthat it paid £2.3m to the NHS annually for access in fees and as equipment—for example, televisions. Bounty said that over 90% of mothers were “satisfied” with the packs, citing its own survey of 4000 parents in January 2013.
However Belinda Phipps, chief executive officer of the National Childbirth Trust, is angry about the way that the NHS allows Bounty access to new mothers. “Within hours of giving birth, they are being asked questions—their name and address, details of life insurance—and they give them in good faith, thinking they’re speaking to a hospital person. In fact it’s a commercial person. The NHS is condoning a sales team collecting data from mothers in order to sell their name on to commercial interests.”
This was the starting point of the campaign, which became known as the #bountymutiny and has been featured in the national press and in various parenting blogs. The reason that I have set this all out, and indeed the reason I decided to write this blog post is that there has been a counter petition set up – Say No To the Bounty Mutiny. The reasons that the organiser of this protest gives for starting the petition are:
1. Mumsnet should campaign for change to the NHS as a whole
2. Mumsnet is using their power to damage the Bounty website because they are competitors
3. The campaign is ridiculous because it is only a few Mumsnetters who have had a bad experience, and surely if you don’t want the Bounty Lady to visit, you just say so
4. Bounty are doing mums a favour, otherwise we would have to schlep to an office to get our Child Benefit forms
I am going to presume that when the organiser of this petition started looking into the Bounty Mutiny, she took the time to read the information on Mumsnet, and saw that it wasn’t just a few mums having a whinge. It was over 1000 respondents, over half of whom stated that they were not made aware that their personal data would be passed on to other companies. 17% of them were given the impression that they could not receive their child benefit forms unless they gave their details to the Bounty rep.
If she did read the reasons behind the Bounty Mutiny campaign, I am seriously bemused as to her reasons for starting a counter-campaign. The ones given above just don’t add up when you have done a bit of research.
1. Mumsnet is not responsible for all campaigns about healthcare and the NHS. Where does this idea come from that we can’t change little things? It is similar to those who complain about those who campaign for a woman on banknotes – no, this will not change the world, but small steps lead to big leaps.
2. This is plainly ridiculous. Mumsnet has over 50 million page views and 4.2 unique visitors a month, and 35,000 posts a day. Why would they want to scare off the much smaller competitor? I haven’t been able to find exact numbers, but according to Wiki page, they have 2.5m members.
3. Read the survey, and the several threads on Mumsnet where women have shared their stories of being bullied and upset by Bounty Ladies. I gave birth to my son 9 years ago , after a traumatic birth experience which ended in a crash CS, I would have signed anything that was set in front of me just to get some peace and quiet. The hours after birth should be spent bonding with your child, not fending off salespeople.
4. The idea that Bounty are doing mums a favour, or that they save the government money must come from the pre-internet days when it was indeed a hassle to get to the post office, or to a Jobscentre to pick up a Child Benefit form. Why should the government send out these forms? The easiest way to apply for Child Benefit would be to go to the HMRC website and download a form.
As I stated on my blog post about Mumsnet and Bloggers, I know that not everyone likes Mumsnet. I am also well aware that there are bullies and nasty folk on Mumsnet, just as there are everywhere in real life. I find it a shame that some bloggers who dislike Mumsnet are using this as a way to settle scores (as this is the only other explanation that makes sense).
I can dislike a blogger or a website, while still supporting a campaign that they are running. I can agree with a blogger on one topic, while finding her views ridiculous on a different topic. C’est la vie!
You may notice that I am more active on some Mumsnet campaigns than on others. This is because I choose to support the campaigns that I find most interesting, important or relevant to my life. Mumsnet campaign on many different issues, and in my opinion, the ones that are most successful are those that come from the users of the site itself.
The #webelieveyou Rape Awareness, the Better Miscarriage Care, and the LetGirlsBeGirls campaigns were user-led campaigns which had the backing of a almost all members of the site. These were the big, hard-hitting campaigns that received the most attention in the last years. This is where the strength of Mumsnet lies.
Do have a peek at the Campaign page every so often and see what organisations are highlighted there – there might be one that interests you. And do support Mumsnet and the Bounty Mutiny by writing to your MP and signing and sharing the petition.