Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Call From FM Customer Service Today

I got a call today from Melinda Merrill of Fred Meyer Customer Service today. She told me she regretted that I had been made to feel humiliated by a Fred Meyer employee and that she was personally embarrassed that this had happened to me. She assured me that it is Fred Meyer policy to comply with Oregon law, that the company would be reminding its employees that the law protects mothers right to breastfeed, and that they must follow the law. Managers, not just frontline clerks, would be receiving this training. I'm going to call her back tomorrow and ask if the company will be issuing a written breastfeeding policy that all employees have to read and sign acknowledging that they've read (as Crystal Zook described in a comment).

I asked when I could return to the Gateway Freddies and expect to be welcomed to nurse there; she said she would call Troy Harding, the Gateway Store Director, as soon as she got off the phone with me. I thought about dressing my son up in his little "got breastmilk" tee and heading over there to nurse on that bench again, but I really didn't have any shopping to do and today was too beautiful a day to just drive over there to make a point. I spent my "free time" weeding my asparagus bed.

I told her about the blog and that I would be writing today about our phone call, but that until I can see the Fred Meyer policy regarding breastfeeding in writing, I will not consider the matter settled. She said it might take a few days, but that she would email it to me when she could. I will share it with you all when I get it.

24 comments:

shaina Lovely said...

Nice!!!!

Cherrie said...

I'll wait for a public statement before I take my business back to FM. It's too easy to just 'regret the humiliation' over the phone to one person. I want to make sure they won't humiliate me, or anyone else.
Cherrie

Chris said...

I totally agree, Cherrie. I want to see what this policy is and how it's communicated to FM employees.

Sara said...

Okay I do agree that the store manager handled thte situation extremely unprofessionally. But I do see it from the complaining customers side. If you can explain how exactly your baby would have been endangered in the few seconds (or minutes because you had a toddler with you too.)that you could have found a secluded place or pulled a blanket out to cover yourself. I am all for breastfeeding, but the people I know who do breastfeed tend to ask before not covering up in front of people, or if in a public place like a store, they cover up. I am sorry you were treated like that in a store you shop in though.
Maybe I'm wrong, please don't jump on my back if you disagree, but explain to me why it is so wrong to cover up while breastfeeding.

msubulldog said...

I'm glad that you've finally gotten a personal response and I look forward to seeing how they follow through. (I am no longer a breastfeeding mommy, but definitely think how you were treated was ridiculous. Kudos to you for pushing the issue!)
--Amanda

adymommy said...

I recieved an email stating the same thing. It is alittle comforting to know that they didn't try to let this be forgotten. I still would like to see a public statement too, since my boycott doesn't much hurt them because I had never even heard of them until I read this on Blogging Baby

Chris said...

Sara--I'm going to address the "whys and wherefores" of breastfeeding in public in a post soon. It's clear to me that many people just don't know much about the logistics of breastfeeding...or appreciate that it is a BASIC human right for babies to nurse and that right should not be restricted. I will explain soon how "covering up" or finding a secluded place to nurse is a restriction...right now I gotta take a shower and go grocery shopping before my kids wake (shopping at 5pm, like I was trying to do the day of the FM incident, is something I almost NEVER do).

Cherrie said...

I got this comment in my email box this morning:

Thank you for contacting Fred Meyer regarding a recent incident that
occurred in our Gateway store. Our company is aware of the Oregon law
that
allows mothers to breastfeed in public and we support and respect that
right. Our Director of Public Affairs has spoken with the customer to
assure her that it is Fred Meyer's policy to comply with the law. We
regret
that she was made to feel uncomfortable in our store and we will take
steps
to ensure that all employees are aware of the law, as well as the
importance of upholding it in our stores.

Again, thank you for sharing your comments with us. We appreciate the
opportunity to respond.

Thank you,


Ali Kranz
Consumer Affairs

Anonymous said...

I got the same form letter as Cherie.

Amy said...

I got the same form letter to, but I emailed back and asked if this would be a company-wide policy nationally or just in the states where there is legislation protecting public breastfeeding.

ernmeg said...

I got the same email too. The thing is...it sounds like they are only complying because of Oregon law. Does that mean that they won't provide the same environment for those shopping at their Clark County Washington locations (since we don't have a law like Oregon's)? At this point, I'm not satisfied with their response.

lildb said...

I just received this in my inbox:

>>Thank you for contacting Fred Meyer regarding a recent incident that occurred in our Gateway store. Our company is aware of the Oregon law that allows mothers to breastfeed in public and we support and respect that right. Our Director of Public Affairs has spoken with the customer to assure her that it is Fred Meyer's policy to comply with the law. We regret that she was made to feel uncomfortable in our store and we will take steps to ensure that all employees are aware of the law, as well as the importance of upholding it in our stores.

Again, thank you for sharing your comments with us. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Thank you,


Ali Kranz
Consumer Affairs>>

I assume that this means they'll be putting out some kind of pro-nursing statement in the media soon, as both responses that I have received thus far have indicated that they wish to portray themselves as such (during my conversation with a woman named Abbey with customer service, she said that she felt sorry for Chris's experience and would be very happy to pass the information on; her tone implied that she was not just playing the automaton).

Thanks again for putting yourself out there in this manner, Chris. You've done a service to all of us who choose to breastfeed in public.

Debbie
Portland

LadySeduction said...

Aren't Nursing Mama's incredible! What a community, I have to say this has been inspiring.
I wrote about it in my blog
http://earthmamagoddess.blogspot.com
So did my friend Melissa at http://zollner.blogspot.com
I also sent a letter to Fred Meyer. I work at Adventist Medical Center in the Family Birth Place, just down the street from the Gateway store. The nurses from Family Birth Place had a great time threatening to walk in en masse and "educate" them.
Thanks for sharing with us all.

Heather said...

ernmeg, We are protected by law here in Clark county too. Washington law is worded a little differently but nursing is protected too. I have had no problem nursing it at least four Clark county Fred Meyers.

I also received the form letter. I'm glad they took care of this right away.

Mary Tsao said...

Hi --

I just wanted to let you know how hurt and angry this makes me as a former lactating mother and as the person who does the shopping in the house, too.

I blogged about this today on the BlogHer site. Please let me know if you feel the post is misrepresentative in any way of your situation and your intent with this blog.

Thanks. I hope the FM people figure out how wrong they are to alienate lactating mothers and their supporters.

Izzy said...

Great job! I wrote them a letter. Hope they are true to their word.

adymommy said...

My letter was the same. I sent it back asking if there would be a public statement or any pro nursing signs put up in windows at FM. I, also have blogged and sent out emails to everyone I know. My emails gave your site and the blogging baby info for people to look at and I asked that they forward the news along. I hope this gets around like all those darn chain emails my Grandma sends me. Time to start using the internet for good:)

MomToTracyNSheri said...

I just caught on to this story.

I live in Florida which, for all of its backwardness in other areas, was one of the first states to produce a law stating that the actions you suffered at the hands of FM Corp. would be considered harrassment. I have never ever ever ever been asked to cover up or seclude myself here in FL (well, it is 90 degrees almost year round and half the people walk around almost-naked anyway) which is why I am always so shocked and astounded by stories like these. I have whipped my boob out freely in so many public places and have received nothing but adoring smiles and comments about what a wonderful gift I am giving to my child. It is so heartening to be surrounded by support and I am angry when I find out that not all women this.

I am not one of those militant la leche leaguers or anything like that, but I believe in freedom the way Americans define it (unfortunately, sometimes only when it suites them), and breastfeeding our children wherever and whenever we damn well please is a freedom provided by law. DO NOT ever feel ashamed ladies. If someone makes you feel ashamed, they are harassing YOU. You do not need to defend your choice to bf at any moment you want and to do it in whatever way is most comfortable FOR YOU. The law is behind you.

Keep us posted on what else we can do here to help you feel that justice was served!

yellowdog granny said...

i see a lot of ass kissing coming your way...good !!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sara above. The situation wasn't handled well by Freddie's management. But how many extra steps would have taken you to get to your vehicle so you could have had a more relaxing and quiet place to BF. Having to BF in a noisy public place probably doesn't help your infants issue with breastfeeding either. You did indicate that there is a bit of a problem, didn't you? It's too bad that the public feels they need to push every issue to the limit. I think that's why we are all afraid to do anything because of the fear of being sued. You have a right to breastfeed in public, it's the law in Oregon. I covered up in public. Are you exempt?

terridunn said...

Ok I have to comment to the two people talking about covering up or going to your car when breasfeeding your baby. I have four kids all were breastfed till they were nearly 2 and I wouldn't do it any differnet. One of the nice things about breastfeeding is you don't have to make the baby wait for a bottle to be ready, you lose that if you have to go find a "private place", a blanket or going to the car. Not to mention most of the time babies really don't like being covered up would you like to eat with a blanket over you head or in a hot car or like most places they try to send you to the bathroom. I am glad we have the legal right to feed our babies in public and it is not something people should be offended with why were they looking there in the first place to have something to complain about?
Good luck Chris I hope things work out and Fred Meyer publicly appologizes for this behavior towards you. I am an occasional shopper there but I can say I don't feel the need to go there until I hear their apology towards you.

Barb said...

I am all for public breastfeeding. I've nursed all my kids in public and never been bothered about it. Perhaps you could have a "nurse in" at FM. Gather a huge group of nursing mothers and sit inside (if FM allows an indoor protest) or directly outside the door. Bring fold up chairs, and sit there all day. A mother should be allowed to feed her infant whenever and where ever she chooses.

Just because all these idiot teenages want to walk around with their pants down to their knees and undies hanging out doesn't give me the right to ask them to pull their pants up. Just like nursing mothers should not have to hide in a bathroom, car or "try" to pump a measly 2 ozs for a bottle.

Lisa Luna said...

Here's the earful Fred Meyer got from me:

Hi,

I recently learned that a nursing mother encountered trouble at your Gateway store. As a nursing mother, I'd like to remind you that this is how babies eat, and that there is nothing inappropriate about eating in public. I'd also like to remind you that nursing a baby in public is protected by Oregon law.

I am writing to ask you to please train all your existing and new employees about this law. Please make it a policy for your employees that they are never to ask nursing mothers to leave or cover up. Please also make it a policy for your employees to respond to customers who complain about nursing mothers by reminding them that: 1) nursing is a behavior protected by Oregon law; 2) they can look away if they are uncomfortable; and 3) that Fred Meyer and Kroger stores have policies that support and promote breastfeeding. Lastly, please provide a lactation room or area for your employees who are nursing mothers.

Breastfeeding is the healthiest nutrition for babies. Additionally, supporting breastfeeding mothers and babies is good for your business. Babies need you to support breastfeeding.

Thank you for your consideration.
Respectfully, Lisa L.

Lisa Luna said...

Hm, so the response Kroger/Fred Meyer gave to me was exactly the same except it was signed by Candice M Kendrick
Consumer Affairs instead. So sad they only have a canned response for all of our great points and requests. Ho-hum. Thank goodness we still have New Seasons.