Monday, May 06, 2013

Easy target

I'm not one to knock the NHS - doubly so, after the experience of the last month - but the exact role and status of Bounty within the maternity ward troubled me somewhat. It turns out I'm not alone - anatomist and TV presenter Alice Roberts has expressed her own irritation.

For those who aren't aware, new mothers are offered a series of Bounty goodie bags. The bonus is that the packs contain a lot of free samples (as well as money-off coupons), but on the flipside you have to give your personal details to get them. While many mothers are no doubt savvy enough to make use of the samples without necessarily being sucked into buying the product, the packs are ethically dubious given that they are specifically targeted at a vulnerable group plagued and guilted by the fear that they must do everything they possibly can for their new child's well-being.

Bounty reps often have offices within the hospital and their packs contain some general information unaffiliated to a particular company (application forms for child benefit, for instance), but they're a private enterprise. This blurring of boundaries between the NHS and Bounty, between public and private, means that the NHS seem to be giving implicit endorsement to this cynical targeting. The reps patrol the wards each day offering (or pressuring) mothers into committing to photo shoots, and it's not made clear that signing up with Bounty is not obligatory - you don't have to surrender your details if you don't want to.

The NHS may benefit in financial terms (in the form of payments to NHS trusts), and in the current climate it certainly needs cash, but the exact nature of the relationship with Bounty and the status of Bounty themselves should be made much clearer - otherwise it's not an overstatement to say that the situation approaches state-approved exploitation.


bushra said...

Ugh, the samples in those Bounty bags are really not worth the bother, I read that piece by Alice Roberts too, I think the part that concerned me was the use of my personal information and how it could get sold on and before you know it the junk mail is endless. Half the crap they push you won't even need. When I returned the maternity ward for the second time I had a new address and made sure they didn't get it.

As an aside, did I miss something? Are you a dad now?

Ben said...

Yes, as of 13th April!

Thanks for your comment. I signed us up for the packs thinking smugly that we'll make use of the freebies and bin the vouchers and bumf (take that, big brand marketing departments!) but of course have given our details and so am now fearing the deluge of junk mail that you and Alice Roberts mention...

bushra said...

Well congratulations Ben! Hope you are all well :)

Don't worry, as the babies get older the parents get wiser to what the baby needs and can do without, and I'm sure the marketing people realise this so the junk mail will wear off eventually :)