Monday, September 30, 2013

What I picked up from Costco last night: Breastfeeding Discrimination and harassment.


Yesterday evening after enjoying one of our weekly visits with the grandparents our family decided to pick up some household essentials at the local area Costco.

Midway through the relatively short shopping trip my son wanted to breastfeed. I obliged him by leaning over the tandem seat shopping chart where he was seated next to his brother. Soon after his brother joined him at my breast.

You may not know that Costco shopping carts are very useful in this manner but at my height with two breastfeeding children they are quite the multi-tasking tool! One which enables me to meet my children's needs and accomplish my shopping tasks simultaneously. These carts could probably make it into a list of the top ten reasons why I pay for the executive membership at Costco warehouses. Seriously I love those tandem carts, in fact I really like shopping at Costco. I shop there at least once every week.



A few minutes after I began feeding my sons we made our way toward the pharmacy section at the front of the store to grab a pack of razor blades and checkout. Next to the shaving creams Assistant General Manager _______ approached. Her eyes wide with seriousness she gestured with both of hands moving over her own breasts then onto her collar while she stated to me 

"I don't mean to be rude but I 'm going to have to have you cover up. You can't expose yourself in here."

I made it clear to her that she was being rude and very inappropriate. I explained that I was feeding my children in the manner that worked best for our family but she dismissed my comments and reiterated that I would not be permitted to "expose myself" in order to breastfeed. After confirming that she was familiar with the basic physiology of breastfeeding (that it requires contact with a bare nipple and breast) She illogically and with a startling lack of compassion maintained her position that she wasn't saying I couldn't breastfeed only that I would not be permitted to "expose myself".  She offered me a hypothetical "private room" Hypothetical since upon her confrontation, I had unlatched my children from my breasts and easily flipped the elastic collar of my handy breastfeeding shirt back over my breasts in order to turn away from the cart and speak with her.

I tried for a few moments to explain to the Asst. Manager that breastfeeding is not a private act and it is actually specifically defined as NOT publicly indecent within our state's laws. To which, she quickly and uninterestedly stated "We are not going to agree about this." Then referred me to the corporate office, and offered me her card. 

Which I took. 
I guess I don't feel the need to humiliate her personally....
I think it's also worth noting that while she walked back to her office to get a card and we waited at the front of the store. Another employee came up to us and asked if she could help us find anything as we were the last people in the store. I told her 'No, we were trying to resolve an issue with the management and would be checking out after that. Thank you.'  


I recognize and respect that Costco is private property, not governed by the public laws of our state, and as a paying member I demand mutual respect for my family and myself. As breastfeeding is as normal, natural and basic of a human right as breathing, I find it extremely unprofessional, interfering, and inappropriate for the management to be asserting their own personal feelings about privacy and breastfeeding onto members and their children. I don't recall  reading anything in the Costco literature when I signed for and purchased my membership that demanded I breastfeed in the way best suited to Costco Managerial staffs' sensitivities. I honestly thought Costco would leave such personal family matters in the hands of those people responsible for making those decisions, and it is my hope that Costco Corporation. agrees.

This is not the first time a Costco employee has confronted me with their own personal feelings about my breastfeeding and I must say that at this point I am extremely frustrated to be on the receiving end of such negative and damaging messages about breastfeeding.

I do learn something each time I am confronted by this kind of ignorance and I'm kind of wondering now how she might have responded had I refused her and continued to the checkout line....alone. The last customer of the day. 

*here's hoping I don't ever have to find out* 
**finger's crossed this is the last time** 

***Off to email Costco Corp. ***


UPDATE:

Oct. 4th 2013

General Manager called me to apologize (thank you!) He explained Costco has no policy regarding breastfeeding and nothing to prevent our family (or any breastfeeding child) from being harassed in their warehouses again. He also was sure to tell me Costco is breaking no laws (as they are private property). I think this is a bit of a grey area as I feel some sexual harassment may have occurred but I'm really not thinking about getting into a legal battle with Costco. I'd much rather just be able to complete my shopping, and care for my kids in peace. I think a lot of women would. Speaking with the Regional VP next week.

  
UPDATE: 

Dec. 19th 2013

Costco responds: with support for breastfeeding women! Yay! {click to read post}