Sunday, April 16, 2006

How You Can Help Now

As the mother of a 3-year-old and nearly 3-month-old, the last thing I have time for at the moment is organizing a nurse-in to persuade Fred Meyer's management to stop harrassing nursing mamas, but it may come down to that. I have contacted Krogers, current owner of Freddies, explaining that I would like them to change their policy company-wide so that mothers can nurse at their stores without being told to cover up. If I don't hear back from them in a week or so, I'll start organizing a nurse-in and share my story with the local news.

In the meantime, if you too would like to write to Freddies, I think it would help if they heard from other customers. Here is what I am specifically asking from them:

1) To make a clear company-wide policy that mothers have a right to breastfeed in their stores without being asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave.

2) To train all employees that breastfeeding is different from other behaviors that customers might complain about (such as loud music, offensive language, etc.), and that employees are never to ask a breastfeeding mother to move, hide, cover up, or leave. Instead employees can advise the complaining customer to avert their eyes or move to a different part of the store.

3) To make the public aware of this policy.

An interesting bit of trivia I learned this week...Oregon has the highest breastfeeding rates in the country. Over 75% of new mothers start nursing their babies. That's a LOT of Fred Meyer customers!

You can contact Fred Meyer by snail mail:
Darrell Webb, President
GO West 1/Customer Relationship Center
3800 SE 22nd
Portland, OR 97202

Or via the Web:
Fred Meyer Customer Comments

Please let me know if you write a letter. I'd like to keep a count of how many letters they're getting and also to thank you!!

49 comments:

Renee said...

i'm sorry you experienced this! i don't know you but my friend forwarded your message. (actually two of them: we're a pro-breastfeeding bunch!) lol.

i wanted to let you know that i wrote to fred meyer online this evening. hopefully they'll realize it's not just an isolated incident with no reprecussions. sp?

take care and enjoy your babies!
warmly, renee laroche

Greg said...

I also posted a comment through Kroger's website. My friend sent me a link to your blog. Best of luck.
Greg

hendreque said...

I wanted to let you know that I emailed FM. I'll nurse in with ya!

mary drink said...

thank you for your efforts on behalf on nursing mamas! i will contact FM as well and forward on your blog link.

Serena said...

Here is what I just emailed Fred Meyer:

I was surprised to hear of a recent incident at the Gateway Fred Meyer in Portland, OR. A mother was nursing her baby and made to feel ashamed for doing so. An employee told her she had to be discreet and cover up, though doing so upset the baby. Later, a district manager supported this employee's actions.

I am a mother of a preschooler and an infant, with plenty of years of family purchasing ahead of me. I prefer to patronize family-friendly stores. Please reconsider your policy of discouraging mothers from feeding their hungry babies!

PrimitivePrincess said...

Here's my email to Fred Meyers. Let me know when the nurse in will be. I'll NURSE MY 3 AND 5 YEAR OLD SIMULTANEOUSLY!!!!

To whom it may concern,

I would like to file a complaint against the Fred Meyers at Gateway. Two weeks ago, I spoke with a shift manager about the disgust I have been feeling for a while now regarding the militant behavior of employees. I call it "Loss Prevention on Steroids". I feel as if my complaint to the manager went in one ear and out the other. All I got out of her was a shrug and a smirk. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ALL ABOUT???

I don't think it's going to be long before I see a headline on a local news paper about the attitude problems most of the employees have there.

I've shopped there once a week for a year now and ONLY THREE EMPLOYEES at that store know what GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE is!!!

The rest of the employees are making innocent shoppers feel uncomfortable. SHOPPERS WHO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY BY THE WAY.

And now I hear about a Mother who was nursing her baby has ALSO BEEN HARASSED BY GATEWAY FRED MEYERS EMPLOYEES.

The word is out and a lot of people are upset. Tell them to knock it off.

Sincerely,

JS

wendy said...

I emailed them.

Granny said...

Via their customer comments just now:

I just read about the insensitivity shown by one of your stores to a nursing mother.

Perhaps your employees need a refresher course on the original purpose of the breast. Breasts (there's that word again) are for feeding babies and there is nothing indecent about nursing except in the dirty mind of the beholder.

We don't have a Fred Meyer store here but the internet is everywhere. You have become famous in a way I'm sure you never intended.

Hope it helps - at least it's one more voice.

McGlee Historical Preservation Society said...

That sucks. Here's what I wrote:

Although we live in California, we visit the PNW a fair bit. Vancouver BC and Portland, Oregon are two places I would gladly live if I ever had to leave San Francisco. Whenever we are in the area, we make it a point of stopping at a Fred Meyer store -- at first it was because you carried some miniature Land Rovers that I hadn't found locally (Majorette, I believe), but now that we have kids (a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter), we go there for all the things parents need when travelling -- diapers, milk, juice, cookies, crackers, cheerios, even photo processing. Then I heard the story of Chris Musser who was disparaged in your store for nursing her baby.

I thought surely it was a single, renegade employee that was overstepping his authority (not to mention violating the law and being downright rude), but apparently the problem is much larger than that.

Oregon has legally protected the right of a woman to breastfeed anywhere she might need to, but that shouldn't be necessary. Breastfeeding is natural -- as natural as breathing. Further, it is simply and demonstrably the best choice for newborn children. To in any way denigrate or discourage breastfeeding is not only ludicrous, it is harmful to our society as a whole. Surely you do not discourage breastfeeding so as to promote sales of the infant formula you undoubtably sell? That I would expect from Wal-mart, not Fred Meyer.

My wife breastfed both our kids for 14 months each, while working ten hour days as a school teacher. It was not easy for her. Encountering someone like your employee might have discouraged her enough to make her stop. While there is nothing wrong with formula, breastfeeding should always be the first choice if at all possible. Attitudes like those exhibited by the employees of Fred Meyer do nothing to women make breastfeeding their choice.

So what, exactly, is Fred Meyer's official policy on breastfeeding? What will be the response to this incident? I am hoping that Fred Meyer will see this as an opportunity to correct their mistakes and push forward with a strongly pro-nursing stance. To that end:

I would like to see a clear, company-wide policy that not only accomodates a woman's right to breastfeed, but actually supports and encourages that choice.
I would like Fred Meyer to train all employees that not only is breastfeeding a woman's legal right, it is a natural and beneficial act that should be accepted and never discouraged.
I would like Fred Meyer to post your breastfeeding policy in a public place and take steps to ensure that the public knows of Fred Meyer's support and encouragement for breastfeeding mothers.

Until these steps are taken, I will be taking my business elsewhere, as well as encouraging others to do the same.

(btw, you might want to set your journal to allow non-bloggers to post comments if you want to hear from more people -- my non-blogger journals are here and here. I found you via Blogging Baby.)

ernmeg said...

That sucks. I wrote the following to them via their website:

I'm writing in response to an incident that occured at the Gateway (Portland, OR) store. A mother was nursing her child and was told by the store director to be more discreet because other customers were complaining. The store director was later backed up the regional manager when the mother called to complain.

As a nursing mother who frequents the Fred Meyer on Hwy 99 in Vancouver, I am appalled at this incident. Breastfeeding is not a lewd act that women should be ashamed of. I'd expect more from an establishment that purports itself to be family-friendly.

My family and I will not shop at any Fred Meyer until a company-wide policy is in place that states that mothers have a right to breastfeed in their stores without being asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave. All employees should also be trained that it is not appropriate to ask a nursing mother to do any of those things.

Breastfeeding is the most important thing a mother can do for her child. It's hard enough to get out and go grocery shopping when you have a little one, let alone having to worry about whether it's OK to feed your hungry baby when needed. Would it be preferable to have a screaming, hungry baby? I doubt it.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I emailed FM. Good luck to you.

And the 75% figure is NOT "trivia" -- it's really, really good news!

Cherrie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cherrie said...

Here's my contribution! I'll attend any nurse-in you organize!

I am writing today for two reasons. First, to describe what I have enjoyed about my neighborhood Fred Meyer for the last five years, and second, to inform you of my dismay upon hearing of an incident at another local Fred Meyer.

I spend about half my monthly grocery money in the FM (Fred Meyer) on 82nd and Johnson Creek, Portland Oregon. When I moved into the area I found a FM was within 3 miles of my new home. I had not previously shopped much at FM. However, this FM has a wonderful grocery section, and carries almost all the natural, organic, and whole foods that I regularly buy, and for a competitive price. I have received excellent service at this FM for the entire 5 years I’ve been shopping here. The checkout lines are kept small, and the store is always clean and tidy. Thank you.

I was dismayed to learn that on April 4, 2006 at the Gateway FM, in Portland Oregon, Troy Hardig, the store manager, approached Ms. M who was nursing her infant, and informed her that complaints had been lodged against her. She was given two choices, to leave, or to ‘cover up’.

I am the mother of one breast-fed child, and can easily imagine the discomfort of poor Ms. M. I plan to have, and breast-feed, more children and would like to be able to shop comfortably in FM stores without fear of the mortification that must accompany such an occasion. Statistics show that 75% of mothers in Oregon breast-feed their children. That’s quite a few FM customers. My Pediatrician, recommended breastfeeding my infant 12 times a day, or every two hours. Each time, my baby would eat for 20-30 minutes. That’s 30 minutes out of every 2 hours, round the clock, when I had to stop whatever I was doing to feed my baby. I am also the grocery shopper in my household, and there is no way I will be able to avoid feeding my baby, at least occasionally, when shopping at FM.

I am asking specifically for 3 things.

1. For a company-wide policy for mothers to be able to breast-feed their babies without being asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave.

2. To train all employees how to handle complaints about nursing mothers. Perhaps providing information on the rights of mothers to nurse their babies in public places. Employees can ask the person to avert their eyes, or move to another location in the store.
3. To make the public aware of the new policy.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this letter.
C

cc: David Dillon, CEO, Kroger Co. Cincinnati, OH
cc: Mike Roth, Store Director, Johnson Creek FM Portland OR

Anonymous said...

I wanted to let you know I sent them an email with my concerns to their treatment of you and your child, and all mothers and children who shop at their store! Good luck and please keep us updated... I wish I lived closer, but I am in NY.

Anonymous said...

I sent an email. Good luck!!

mama without instructions said...

thank you for your efforts. that truly sucks. i wrote fm through the web comment form and asked for all of your specified points from a mother and regular fm shopper. i will share the reply if it is anything of interest.

Harpyr said...

I sent an email expressing my outrage at the way they treated you. I hope things change.. If I was still in Ptown I'd definetly go to a nurse in for this..

Messed up Mama said...

I've also sent an e-mail to FM about this whole thing. I am moving back to Oregon soon, so I'll be able to have more of an impact once I'm home. Good luck. My last child is 3 so I won't be able to join a nurse-in but I'd support it if you choose to do it.

Amy said...

I sent them a letter via the website (I heard about your campaign on Blogging Baby). Good luck to you!

I finally, after 17 months of paying attention, saw a breastfeeding mom other than myself nursing in public a week ago. I sat down beside her and said, "I am so proud of you for nursing your baby. You are doing a great job," and explained that she was the first person I'd seen nursing in public in our small, midwestern town. I told her that I thought she was awesome, and that she made my day. I hope I made hers, too.

Maybe if we all "gave props" to nursing mothers when we see each other, then the nay-sayers wouldn't have such a strong voice. It kind of seems like the only feedback we get is negative, you know? Maybe if someone else had said, "GOOD FOR YOU!" that day, you woundn't have felt humiliated by what happened.

I wish I'd been there, honey. I would've said, "GOOD FOR YOU!"

Anonymous said...

Just posted my indignant comment at http://www.fredmeyer.com/customercomments.htm . (I live in Jersey, where Fred Meyer apparently owns numerous jewelry stores. Needless to say I won't be shopping at any of them until FM announces a policy change.)

-- Anne G.

Zoe said...

I sent a letter. I hope that this does not happen to anyother mothers and we can make a difference here.
Thanks for letting us know about this and welcome to mothering.
Zoe

Michele said...

I just posted a comment through Kroger's website. We have Fred Meyer jewelry stores here in MN so if there is a nurse-in, I'll head to one of those!

Anonymous said...

Just got done posting a comment on the FM website. I walk with my child to FM several times a week, and I expressed to them my willingness to take my business elsewhere if they fail to publicly adopt a breastfeeding policy that supports us all.

Rebecca said...

hello...

just wanted to let you know that i wrote to FM thru their website for customer comments. i am currently nursing my 10 month old here in portland, and i am willing to participate in a nurse in if it comes to pass. i remember the first time i nursed in public when my daughter was a couple of weeks old...i remember thinking how ridiculous it was that i had had any anxiety about it at all...how much more of a natural thing can a person do?

i chose to remind FM that there is very progressive local chain store here in portland that has recently received quite a lot of press for being the first store in the country selling flushable disposable diapers..

Amanda said...

Hello! I have informed Fred Meyer that I will no longer spend money at their stores until their policy is changed. I have a four year old and 9 month old. I breastfed my first son and am still breastfeeding my second. This incident disgusts me. I will forward your link and stand behind you in your move against Fred Meyers.

Anonymous said...

I emailed FM and reminded them that our breasts are for nursing. I will also post a comment on Kroger's website. Good luck!
Renee B

Paulette said...

I wrote them. I am appalled at the treatment you recieved.

Liza said...

I submitted a comment via the customer service web site.

I found your site and the issue as a link from Welcome to the Monkeyhouse, http://zoopals.wordpress.com/.

Jodi said...

i heard about your story via my yahoo group and have written to fred meyer. i hope they come out publicly and apologize...that was totally ridiculous! when will people realize that bf is no different than giving your child food in ANY other form. are we supposed to put a blanket over our bottle fed children as well??

lildb said...

I just emailed Fred Meyer about this - I shop often at the Johnson Creek location, and have come close to seating myself on the bench near the jewelry dept. in order to breastfeed on a number of occasions, so am surprised to hear that your experience was so negative. I never would have expected it - I have had such non-reactions to public breastfeeding since I began doing so approx. 9 months ago. I'm very disappointed that you had to experience being shamed for taking good care of your child. I explained to Fred Meyer that I will no longer be spending money in their establishments until they have rescinded their apparent policy to disallow breastfeeding without "proper cover-up" (whatever that means?!), in a public manner, i.e. through one or more (or several would be fine) media outlets. Props to you for being the, albeit reluctant, activist. I appreciate your bravery.

Debbie
P-town

lildb said...

I just called their customer service line, too. I spoke with someone named Abbey, who was very pleasant and informed me that she would be alerting the appropriate individuals as to my concerns regarding breastfeeding while shopping at Fred Meyer. Now I'm all shaky from nerves and caffeine. Oh, and I am totally ready for the nurse-in.

Hope it helps, Chris. And if there's anything else that we local breastfeeders can do, say the word.

Debbie

Erin said...

I wrote to Kroger today and said the following:

I recently heard about an incident that occured in one of your Fred Meyer locations in Oregon. As a breastfeeding mother who shops at Kroger here in Georgia, I was disappointed to hear that your store manager asked a breastfeeding woman to cover up or leave since there were customers who were uncomfortable. Most states have laws that a mother can breastfeed her child in public, and mothers should not be made to feel that they are "indecent" just by trying to feed their child. It is agrred on by all professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, that breastfeeding is the best food for a baby for the first full year of life, and it is far superior to feeding formula from a bottle. Women need to be supported and commended for choosing to breastfeed, not made to feel like they are doing something wrong!

Here are my suggestions:

1. All your employees should be told in training that breastfeeding is protected by law and therefore, they have no right to ask a nursing mother to cover up, hide in the bathroom, or leave the store. Instead, employees who receive complaints from other customers should inform them that the mother is simply feeding her child and has the legal right to do so, and they can simply look away if it bothers them.
2. Employees should know how to discern truly offensive behaviors, such as customers who are yelling, letting their children run wild, or smoking. these are the kinds of behaviors that employees should be concerned with, not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a natural act of feeding and comforting a baby.

In the cases of people who think that the mother should cover up or use a bottle of expressed breastmilk, here are some reasons why this is not always possible:
* With a newborn, the mother has to assist the baby in latching on correctly, which is nearly impossible to do with a blanket draped over the baby.
* Some babies are quite active and would just squirm and throw the blanket off, thus attracting more attention to the breastfeeding mother.
* Some babies will not take a bottle. And why should a mother have to go through the inconvenience of pumping, preparing bottles, carrying them around, and cleaning them when it is so much easier to just breastfeed?
* Babies are naturally comforted at the breast. A fussy baby will be soothed more easily with the breast than with a bottle. A crying, unhappy baby would be far more disturbing than a mother who is sitting on a bench nursing the baby.

Thank you for your time. I hope that your stores will institute a breastfeeding-friendly attitude in the future, and I will continue to nurse my child in our local Kroger if and when she is hungry or needs to be comforted.

Erin Lewis

Tiffany Hollman said...

I recieved this threw our doula group. I wanted to let you know that I wrote to Fred Meyers today via internet. Keep up the good work, stand tall. I am proud of your commitment to your beliefs. I would love to do a nurse in if it comes to that.

Honey&Ben&Kids said...

Hello! I know exactly what you mean. I fought many times with Meijers (local grocer in Middletown,Ohio) customers & employees with their snotty comments and looks. It is a hassle to have to always fight for what is right.

I sent a letter also. Kroger is our local main grocer here Cincinnat-Dayton, Ohio. I let them know that I disagree with their actions and that it's wrong. That there should be a nationwide letter/agreement in support of women breastfeeding anywhere. I'm not above setting up a nurse-in here in Ohio. One thread is easy to break, but a tapestry can not. Good luck and it's nice to see you're being taken seriously.

Honey

L said...

I emailed FM a few days ago and just received a response. The email seemed apologetic and she did assure me that she was very aware of the situation. I guess they got all of the other emails/letters :)

Queen of Spain said...

I'm on it! Let me know if we can organize anything in SoCal too.

My Baby and More said...

I just wrote fred meyer through their contact us form.

Thank you for doing your part to promote breastfeeding. Every little bit helps!

Warmly, Colleen Newman
Author of Near Mama's Heart
A children's book about breastfeeding.
www.MyBabyandMore.com

Anonymous said...

I saw your post on MDC and used to love in Stumptown. (big sigh...miss it._
I just sent FM an email.
I am all a-buzz with adrenaline - I can only imagine how you must have felt that day. With a two month old I would have Mama Bear'd out.
I'm so sorry this happened but may I just say, I think you make a fantastic Reluctant Lactivist.
Much Love,
Nancy
(aileen at MDC.com)

Christine said...

I emailed FM, sent a letter snail-mail, and forwarded the link to your blog on. Count me in for a nurse-in.

Anonymous said...

I hate that this happened to you. I had a lot of trouble with nursing for the 1st couple of months with my baby, and if something like this had happened to me , I might have given up...thankfully I didnt, and I support you and all mothers who need to feed their children.
I sent an email to Freddies last night. They responded today, assuring me that they were sorry this happened, and they will be taking steps to educate their employees.
If they do not keep their promise, I will be honored to nurse-in with you!
BTW, this was brought to my attention during a weekly "baby and me" group at Emmanual hospital. Most of us in the group are nursing mothers and mad!
tbmagee@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I wrote my letter:

Dear Sir/Madam -

While I have been a devoted customer of your City Market and King Soopers stores in Colorado, I have been recently made aware of a situation in your Fred Meyer's Gateway, Oregon store that has, frankly, left me wondering if I want to continue purchasing groceries from any Kroger company store. In fact, I will not.

A mother of a toddler and 2-month old baby was breastfeeding her baby when she was harassed by the store's direcotr. Your store director's comments left this mother and Kroger customer feeling humiliated, and those comments were so shaming as to make her feel as though she had done something lewd by feeding her child the way God and natured intended. When she discussed the incident and your store director's comments with the Fred Meyers East Portland/SW Wash Operations Supervisor, that supervisor supported the store director's decision and comments.

It should be known that Oregon State Law protects a mother's right to breastfeed her children in any public place.

ORS § 109.001
1999 Ore. ALS 306; 1999 Ore. Laws 306; 1999 Ore. SB 744

"A woman may breastfeed her child in a public place."

In addition, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatricians and the World Health Organization. Both of these organizations also recommend further breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods after six months for twelve months and twenty-four months, respectively.

While I am aware that, by now, your company has apologised to the woman your employees harassed, it is not enough.

I ask that you accomplish three items that will prevent a situation like this one from happening again:

1) Make a clear company-wide policy that mothers have a right to breastfeed in all Kroger company stores without being asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave.

2) Train all employees that breastfeeding is different from other behaviors that customers might complain about (such as loud music, offensive language, etc.), and that employees are never to ask a breastfeeding mother to move, hide, cover up, or leave. Instead employees can advise the complaining customer to avert their eyes or move to a different part of the store.

3) Make the public aware of this policy.

Please let me know when these changes take place so that I can begin shopping at Kroger stores once more.

Dana said...

I read your blog and sent a letter via e-mail to Fred Meyer. I am just appalled at the way you were treated.

I sure hope these managers open their eyes and see the good benefits of nursing instead ot "the horror" of a naked breast.

I can't believe how inconsiderate they were to you, but yet this day and age, nothing surprises me. It's time we nursing mama's take a stand!

Anonymous said...

I just read about your unfortunate incident. I emailed Fred Meyer and told them I was outraged. My family lived in Portland for six years before moving to the South. We now shop at Kroger. I informed them we would be boycotting if something does not change! Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I sent a letter to Freddie's. Good luck, and thanks for your lactivism!

Jennifer Fox said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope your experience inspires FM to become a nursing-friendly retailer. Imagine display racks of state-produced breastfeeding info and a comfy rocking chair reserved for mamas. I've sent a letter through the FM Web site. My babies and I have nursed at the Gateway FM plenty of times, but we'll stop shopping there if the company's response to its managers' poor judgment isn't stellar.

kristi said...

Hi, I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you! I do a majority of my shopping at Fred Meyer and I've sent them a long letter.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention and taking a stand!

Elias said...

Yet another guy chiming in with a complaint via their web site:

Having grown up in the Midwest and relocated to the Pacific Northwest, I have long been a customer of both Kroger and Fred Meyer stores. I'm writing in response to the incident reported at an Oregon Fred Meyer store in support of a baby's right to nurse, and the mother's right to feed her child. As a physician in training, and hopefully future father, the benefits of breastfeeding are clear, but that's really almost irrelevant in the face of the laws that protect a mother's right to nurse, anywhere, without being harassed. Eating a candy bar in the store would not be met with disgust, nor would feeding a baby with a bottle. Breastfeeding is no different than any other eating activity, and is completely different from displays of vulgar language or immodesty. Nursing mothers should never be asked to cover up because of complaints; instead, people who complain should be told about the laws that protect breastfeeding and be advised to look elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I also sent an email to Fred Meyer and let them know that I do not plan on supporting a retail establishment that does not support the rights of mothers and infants. I would also describe myself as a reluctant lactivist. I do not like nursing in public because I fear that something like this will happen to me. Even so, it is unavoidable and when it has to be done, I nurse my son in public. I used to use a receiving blanket to cover myself when nursing, but now that my son is 10 months old and it's summer in the South, I think it draws more attention to us when I constantly fight my son to keep myself covered. (Not to mention the heat!) So now I keep a blanket nearby and TRY to cover us up, but it doesn't always work. Too bad! I am proud of you for making this incident known and I hope that together we can all make a difference!

Anonymous said...

You've probably already heard, but all your activism has paid off! I work at a Fred Meyer store and a few months ago all the employees got a read and sign about mothers rights to breastfeed in our store. The papers are infact still posted all over our employee breakroom as well as the door just before entering onto the floor. I came across this page and found it quite interesting, as I had know idea why "breast feeding" would come up as an issue for fred meyer to make sure every employee knew the policy on. Congrats once more.