mommy wars: nursing rooms and why speaking up is important for mothers in the workplace

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Nursing/Server Room

My luxe nursing room. Complete with dirt, heat, no space, and a see-through door.

A few years ago, I was pregnant with my first child.  It was an exciting new experience that also carried some scary firsts for me.  Not the scary firsts you might have in mind – the risk of miscarriage, labor pain, or other physical discomfort.  In fact, the first thing I had real fear for was telling my boss that I was pregnant.

It’s not that my boss was a bad person in any regard – rather, it was the fear of the unknown.  Especially, when sharing something so personal and life changing.  How would he react?  I had no idea.

My boss at the time had the perfect reaction.  He was supportive, kind, and wonderful.  Frankly, between him and other wonderful professional women that I was privileged to work with, the experience of being pregnant in the workplace was easy and a non-issue.  I was able to unofficially have a “mentor” of sorts.  A been there, done that mother who was pregnant with her second child (due a few months before me) and someone whose career I respected greatly.  I was fortunate enough to watch her and follow her lead.  It was because of this fellow professional, that I also discovered that my company had “mother’s rooms” or nursing rooms at the corporate headquarters, where I was located.

Pregnancy and maternity leave was simple, in the professional sense.  I was grateful to be so fortunate.  Upon return to work, it was far less challenging than I had thought it would be.  I used the mother’s rooms and mostly had no issue with providing enough nourishment for my child.  This was greatly aided by a flexible schedule, which also allowed me to work from home two days a week.  When you are a nursing mother, this is key to success.  The production of breast milk is easily affected by any change in stress, environment, and nourishment.

My misfortune came three months after returning to work.  A group had failed to achieve their set goals and was being reabsorbed into the corporation.  My area was being shifted to the management of the failed organization and with the org shift, my office space was also relocated.

As no mother’s room existed at this location (but is required by federal law to provide), I began the necessary steps of working with management to find a space.

Where did I end up? The server room.

Did I mention it was dirty, cramped, and had an opaque glass door?  And that I had to share it with my male colleagues who used it for its purpose – as a server and storage room? Oh – and that right outside the door – a few feet away – was our main conference room – also with opaque glass?  Meaning, if I was in the room actively pumping, you could most definitely hear what I was doing and have some visibility into the room.

I also did not have my own key.  I was given the pleasure of explaining to my male colleagues (who I had just met) why I needed to use the room.  “Why, yes, I am using the room to sit with both of my breasts hanging out fully exposed while being milked like a cow.  What do you use the room for?”  This is not an awkward conversation at all.  And of course, there was the issue of needing the room when it was being used.  Staying on a pumping schedule is important – especially, when you are already subject to a meeting schedule and those 20 minute breaks are extremely precious.  Those 20 minute breaks sustain life – literally.

This was one of my first real forays into the challenge that professional women encounter when they also happen to be mothers.  Whereas men who are married and have children are judged to be the most competent, women who are married and have children are perceived to be the least.  There is no factual basis for this perception.  Women are a valuable asset to the workforce.

I did not speak up enough until I was in the process of leaving.  I learned enough with that experience that I won’t make that mistake again.  Women (and supporting men) must support the effort to make the workplace a truly family friendly environment.  This pregnancy, I am not making the same mistakes.

My advice to women and mothers everywhere is to speak up!  You will be astounded as to how many women relate to you and/or have experienced the same challenges.  We can make much more progress when we are vocal than when we remain silent.

In case you are interested, here are the mandates according to United States Federal Law (as found in Section 4207 of the  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Actalso known as Health Care Reform).

I. Employers Must Provide Breaks for Nursing Mothers
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by adding the requirement that employers provide “reasonable break time for nursing mothers.” Under Section 4207 of PPACA, employers must make available the following: (1) reasonable breaks for employees to express breast milk; (2) a location free from intrusion in which to take those breaks.

A. Employers Must Provide Reasonable Breaks
Although Section 4207 does not quantify what is a reasonable length of time for a nursing mother break, it explicitly states that employers are not required to compensate employees for these breaks if they are taken during “work time.” Employers are not granted discretion to regulate the frequency with which employees take breaks to express milk; rather, nursing mothers are entitled to take reasonable breaks “each time such employee has need.” Employees may take these breaks until the nursing child is one year old. 

B. Breaks Must be in a Private Location
Employers must provide a private place where employees can go to express milk. This location must be “shielded from view” and “free from intrusion from coworkers or the public.” Section 4207 expressly forbids the use of bathrooms as venues for nursing mother breaks.

C. Small Employer Exception
Not all employers are subject to the new break requirements of Section 4207. Employers with less than 50 employees, who would experience “undue hardship” in the course of providing nursing mother breaks, are exempt. Undue hardship is determined by weighing the “significant difficulty or expense” of providing breaks against the “size, financial resources, nature, or structure” of the business.

II. Section 4207 Does Not Preempt State Law That is More “Employee Friendly”
If state law provides “greater protections to employees” than the protections in Section 4207, employers must adhere to the more expansive provisions. Seventeen states currently have laws that require employers to provide lactation breaks.
While many have provisions that are similar to Section 4207, no state exactly mirrors federal law. In fact, many states include one or more provisions that are broader than Section 4207. Examples of state law provisions that expand employee protection include: allowing mothers to continue taking breaks until the nursing child is anywhere from 18 months to three years old; requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to provide lactation rooms close to an employee’s work area; requiring that employers either make reasonable efforts to provide refrigeration for breast milk or, in some employment settings, allow employees to bring their own refrigeration devices to work; providing break rooms with electrical outlets so employees can plug in breast pumps; and allowing employees who take unpaid breaks to make up the time by staying later to work. If an employer’s state law includes greater employee protections such as these, the more protective provisions govern.

 

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why, yes, i am still alive

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I let this little baby die a little while I worked on another one. Baby, that is. Somehow, I struggled with the notion of writing here and not mentioning the big things that were happening in my life. Specifically, the eventual addition of a sweet baby girl Zog to the Zog dynasty. We won’t even go into the morning sickness, vertigo, back issues, super busy life, or anything else that might have impacted the blogging.

So, that’s my big news! Many other amazing, fantastical events have happened in my life but nothing as fantastical as the creation of a life. Baby Girl Zog (BGZ) is slated to arrive sometime in November. In the meantime, Baby/Toddler Zog is preparing by kissing my belly, beating his sister up while in utero, and pushing dolly strollers around. (And while I’m mentioning toy strollers – can I vent for a second? Why are all toy cleaning products, shopping carts, and strollers at Target pink? Can boys not play house? Ridiculous.)

 

Halfway Mark! (20 weeks when taken)

Halfway Mark! (20 weeks when taken)

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which umbrella stroller wins the race?

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Maclaren StrollerSo, Delta Airlines did it again.  The Zogs traveled to San Diego for a mini-vacation/conference trip.  This time we made the decision to bring our cheaper, umbrella stroller.  I think we learned our lesson  with our last stroller/baggage experience that we never wanted to have to go through the claim process with Delta ever again.  And wouldn’t you  know it?  We arrived in San Diego after having gate checked our umbrella stroller, and lo and behold, it was also broken.

It was a lot easier to not be as mad this time.  One, because frankly, should we be surprised that Delta breaks strollers?  The second reason, was that at least this was under $100 whereas the last – not so much.  Fortunately, the claim process was MUCH easier this time (this seems heavily dependent on the baggage claim officer) and we were on our way with a claim form and our broken stroller.  Not great for our trip, but at least we knew we could replace it and be reimbursed the full value of the previous stroller without a hassle.

So, now the question.  Which umbrella stroller do we buy?  I’ll admit that while I like the idea of a “cheaper” umbrella stroller I’m also hesitant to buy something else that will break.  I love the promise of UPPAbaby’s strollers when paired with their trave bags – guaranteed! If they break while using the travel bag, UPPAbaby will replace your gear.  That alone seems like it might be worth it.  I don’t want to be filing claims with the airlines EVERY SINGLE time we fly somewhere with a stroller.

So, what do you think?  I want an umbrella stroller that has:

  • a sunshade
  • reclines
  • a good basket below the stroller
  • comfortable for baby/toddler
  • ideally, a cup holder/snack holder on the handle bars (although this could be an add-on)

I always hear good things about Maclaren.  Mother’s seem to be quite passionate about them.  I’m serious about possible buying the UPPAbaby G-luxe series.  Or we could go back to our original The First Years.

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how to parent with social media in the mix

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instagram

My 17-year old niece was recently grounded. Part of her grounding included the restriction of internet usage. What did not occur to her father (my brother) was that teens are smart – and may be on social platforms that parents are less familiar with. I spotted a picture posted on Instagram during school hours, notified my brother (yes, I’m a narc), and thus began a conversation with my brother on being informed and involved in his children’s internet and social media use. (Also, a conversation about what devices can access the internet. read: more than laptops and pc’s).

Set expectations: Make sure your children know what they can and cannot do and how you will be monitoring their online activity (you WILL monitor their online activity). This is not a breach of privacy, but a practice to make sure your children are safe. I also think it prudent to ask your children to keep you informed as to what platforms they are on. Of course, this assumes a certain level of trust and honesty.

Educate your kids: Make sure they understand bad guys exist and that they should use care and judgement when utilizing social media. Set aside a family night to present a recommended social media and internet usage plan. The FBI provides a parent’s guide that can aid your lesson in internet education. NetNanny is another great resource. One reason I brought up the issue of my nieces’ accounts on Instagram was that the younger one loves to post pictures of herself with a high frequency.

Think about content: This ties into point #2. I have a 15-year old niece that loves to take pictures of herself. Call me old, but today’s teen generation is far more narcissistic when it comes to social media. I struggle to friend or follow any teens for the simple reason that it grates on my nerves. Too many photos. The reason I bring this up is that, teens (and children) don’t think about the dangers of the world. Why does this matter? Because there are bad guys out there and they know how to find your child based off of information found in your teen/child’s photo stream. Teach your children about what is safe to show in videos and photos and what content to never share in any medium.

Know the platforms: My brother’s problem was that he a.) did not consider my niece being able to use her iPod for internet and b.) was unaware of her account on Instagram. Or his other daughter’s account, for that matter. If you aren’t aware of the social platforms out there, take some time and become familiar. A few for your consideration are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, MySpace, Vine, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, FourSquare, Tumblr, Snapchat. The top three are: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Snapchat is also very popular with teens right now.

Make sure your child’s account is set up safely: Today’s generation wants to share everything (literally, everything – there is no such thing as an overshare in their world) and be a part of every single cool, new social media application. It drove me crazy that my nephew (and many other friends’ children) have ignored Facebook’s 13+ age rule and input a fake birth year to gain access. My nephew was 11 at the time but his Facebook account said he was 21. Advertisers can target age groups. A 21-year old would be subject to very different content than a 13-year old (or in this case, an 11-year old who should not be on Facebook). If your child is under 13, keep them off of Facebook. Other platforms, like Instagram and Twitter offer private accounts, make sure your child has this type as opposed to a public facing account.

Follow your kids: Be where they are. If you truly want your children to be smart and safe, friend and follow your children.  Not only will you know what they are posting to the world (and be able to deem appropriate vs. inappropriate), but you will also help them to pause before posting.  If a parent can see a post, a child will be less likely to post “no-no” items.  My above mentioned 17-year old niece became angry when my brother joined Instagram and called it a violation of her privacy.  But guess what? Parents aren’t meant to be friends and her account is public facing. There will be no more “tramp stamp” pictures posted on Instagram any longer. My very mellow and very funny brother now tags his photos on Instagram with the hashtag, #ionlyinstagramtostalkmydaughters. He really is a cool dad.

Be flexible but firm: Look, parenting is never easy. In today’s world, we have very different challenges than our parents did.  The parents that I have found to be most successful with their children, tweens, teens, and now adults, are the ones who were clear about expectations and rules, participate alongside children on social media , use it to be more involved in their children’s lives, and who have regular and open discussions about content, changes, and whatever else might come up.

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it takes a village

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to make life this awesome.
Baby Zog drinks his cereal milk

As of late, the Land of Zog has felt extremely full and possibly, even overflowing.  Baby Zog is a runner.  Wait, make that sprinter.  Or should we say marathoner?  It is in his blood.  All I know is that anytime we put him down in any place with any somewhat open pathway, he immediately takes off.  And I love it.  I absolutely relish watching his pure joy as he toddles along as fast as his short, little toddler legs will take him.

Jamieson has also become insistent that he can do everything like a big boy.  He does not want to accept bites from mama or papa.  He MUST feed himself with a fork and spoon.  He has the fork down but the spoon, well, that is another story.  There is a reason I always strip him down for yogurt breakfasts.  I’m not really sure how much actually makes it into his belly, but at least he gets a fantastically moisturizing skin treatment out of it.

He also has developed a few new loving habits.  How did we luck out with such a sweet babe?  He is the best kiss-giver and hug-giver; anytime you are on his level, you will immediately find fat baby arms around your neck to give you a little squeeze.  Chris loves it because BZ also loves to rub backs and his papa’s scalp.  Spoiled parents are we!  And don’t forget the sweet little hand that comes and finds us whenever BZ needs something in another part of the house.  He will take your adult hand into his baby one, to lead you to whatever is his top priority.  Typically this is the kitchen.  Sometimes this is bed.  We’re still a bit astonished at the latter.

In work news, work life has been exceptionally full.  I am blessed to work with many amazing people and to have constant opportunity.  There is no better feeling than to know you have freedom in what you do.  I’m so grateful that I felt a spiritual push to get my MBA as well as other work decisions that have opened doors for me.  Because of my ability to pick and choose, I am honing in on a few important projects to me, and calling “time” on others that I have loved but that require more time and attention than I have to give.  This is a great feeling.

In other Land of Zog news, I am blind.  Well, not really.  I had to have eye surgery this last week to correct a problem that pregnancy/childbirth created.  When I informed my mother that Jamieson had ruined my eyes, she assumed he had beat me with one of his toys.  Nope, that would be nicer.  So, I will be avoiding pictures for a few months? I really can see – but this was not nice little Lasik type surgery.  We’re talking anesthesia and real cutting. (but can I just say what a lovely nap anesthesia provides? especially for a mom that never ever naps.)  My father was able to help watch Jamieson while I was “getting work done.”  He eventually resorted to using the Suburban to fence BZ in.  We are grateful to live close to my parents both for our own benefit and for BZ’s.

I am struggling to slow down.  Chris insists that I do, but let’s be real, I cannot stand sitting around with nothing to do.  Seriously, I’m going crazy.  My house is a mess, I’m not supposed to pick my sweet child up, and none of it seems legit to me.  I’m off the Percocet, so doesn’t that mean I’m all better?  Poor Chris.  Either way, I can only take a cluttered house and dishes in the sink for so long before I start to go nutty.  I’m pretty sure you couldn’t keep me in a hospital bed for longer than a day.  At least, not without being heavily sedated. That anesthesia was really nice.

I’m not sure what else to tell you.  It’s March and I am beyond glad.  I think the winter blues were starting to affect us all.  All of the Zogs are past due for an outside jog.  Kauai is calling our name.  It sounds something like, “L-A-V-A Flows!”

 

 

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a love note for daddies

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Baby Zog and Mama send kisses

Oh, you poor little blog, you.  When push comes to shove, I’m superb at blogging in my head at 2 am.  But if you want to only count real, published blog post then, yeah. Fail. Here’s the thing.  I’m a busy mama.  I’m not sure there’s a time in my life that I didn’t have a full plate.  It’s just my nature.  I like filling my life with goodness.

Chris is making us proud this semester by kicking butt and taking names at school.  Oh, and running after Baby Zog day in and day out.  That is an exhausting job in itself.  And after my short stint at working full-time from home while also chasing a crawling Baby Zog, I know exactly how ready you can be to pass off that cute little squishy cheeked baby when the clock strikes five.  I love Sir Zog all the more for it.

Get prepared for a moment of mushiness.  You can pretend to look away until it’s over.  I won’t be offended.  Fatherhood.  Wow. One of the first reasons I fell in love with Sir Zog was because of the way he interacted with his nieces and nephews.  It was the most genuine and sweet love I had ever witnessed from a twenty-something boy (man, whatever).  I wasn’t looking for love or a relationship.  In fact, I ran away every time there was any mention or semblance of attachment.  But I got nailed on this one.  I knew he would be an amazing father.  And I was oh, so, right.

Every day I have the privilege of witnessing magic.  Baby Zog lives for his daddy.  And his daddy lives for Baby Zog.  They are thick as thieves.  I think Chris is privy to many Baby Zog faces that I will never be able to finagle – and I am perfectly okay with that – because there is nothing sweeter than watching the two loves of your life love each other without abandon.  Thank you, Chris, for proving that love only gets better with time and that magic is real.  Those Disney fairytales got nothin’ on real life.

And since you made it past the mush, here’s a little reward. Baby Zog says “Grandma” and plays dress up.  Well, really he said it but not on camera.  Typical.  I swear on my love of New York, though, that I will capture his breakdancing on video.  Nanny cams, deploy!

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bz was nicknamed oh so appropriately

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20130121-175401.jpg

Would you believe that this is one of maybe two or three semi in-focus shots of 50’ish?  This kid moves like lightning.  I don’t think he actually ever takes the time to walk anywhere.  Full hilt run, all the time.  It’s cool though, running is in his blood.  I just hope I can catch him for a few more years.

On a related note, attending church is a huge challenge because of this super-duper active little.  Perhaps it’s a terrible thing to say, but part of me dreads church every Sunday.  It feels like I’m trying to herd very loud cats.  Three hours+busy BZ=one challenged mama.  My church congregation is very kind and family-friendly – and we especially love his extra “grandmas.”  I just find great relief when we go home and Baby Zog can roam free and sing, talk, and yell at will without concern.

In the LDS faith, children can go into nursery at 18 months.  I’m looking forward to and dreading this day equally.  Looking forward to being able to actually listen in church again but frankly, not looking forward to being separated from Baby Zog for two hours.  I already spend plenty of time away from him during the work week.  I might welcome it if I was currently in stay-at-home mom mode, but I’m not, so I don’t.  To keep Baby Zog entertained, we bring a little Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie filled with toys and books.  We also bring snacks and juice boxes.  But still, the attention span of a 15-month old is not terribly long.

Moms, how do you do it?  Also, I will never ever judge a mother with loud toddlers ever again. Lesson learned.

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how to dress your baby/toddler for winter in nyc

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A few tips to keep your babe warm during the winter months in New York City.  Whether a local or a tourist, bundling our littles properly is a must.

Baby Zog all snuggled in his JJ Cole Arctic Toddler BundleMe

  1. Layer, layer, layer.  Dressing your child in a t-shirt and parka just will not do.  I recommend dressing your littles in a onesie as opposed to a t-shirt to prevent possible tummy exposure.  Then layer with a sweater/sweatshirt, and finally a coat.
  2. Choose pants that are lined.  If you cannot find some, dress your babe – boy or girl – with leggings or tights under their little pants.  I also recommend finding tall socks that go to their knees.  This way when you are carrying your little (or baby wearing), if their pants become raised, they don’t expose their precious skin to the freezing temps.
  3. Suck it up and pay for good shoes.  We personally have purchased baby Uggs for Baby Zog.  I balked a bit at the $60 price tag but I was able to shop around and find a great deal.  I recommend also looking on eBay or on Craigslist for gently used shoes.  Baby Uggs keep tootsies nice and toasty even in below-freezing temps.
  4. Know how to protect your little in the stroller.  We have gone through several phases of BundleMe’s.  Our current version is the JJ Cole Toddler Arctic BundleMe. We were able to purchase it locally from another parent who used it maybe twice.  Solid investment.  It is like traveling in a fleecy on the inside, weather-proof on the outside sleeping bag.  We also own a Phil & Ted’s Double Stormy Weather plastic cover.  You might think this is just for rain – but it also works fantastically to keep the windchill off your baby – and the snow.  You’ll see them on strollers right and left as you stroll the city.
  5. Buy a coat for yourself suited for babywearing.  If you plan on babywearing often, then you should purchase a coat that is large enough to go around you and your child.  Ergo used to make a coat that zipped up over baby, but it looks like it has been discontinued.  This is solved easily enough – simply buy a coat in a larger size.
  6. Cover that little head and those little hands.  Make sure you buy the right hat.  This hat SHOULD include a warm fleece lining, ear flaps, and a tie under the chin.  Heat is quickly lost through the head and this can make all the difference to a warm, happy baby and a cold, cranky baby.  Also purchase warm mittens that are fleece lined.  If possible, shop for some that also either have strings to go inside the coat or clips to attach to the coat sleeves.  I’d also recommend purchasing a smaller pair to layer under a larger pair.

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delta airlines: paid in full – but real change?

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First off, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I am so grateful for good friends and acts of kindess from those I don’t know.  You all make a difference.

Today I posted a link to this blog post on Facebook and Twitter.  The reactions were strong and quick.  And soon, I had a tweet from Elisabeth Osmeloski (@elisabethos), mentioning that perhaps Christopher Elliott (@elliottdotorg), might be interested in my story.  Christopher, who is a “reader advocate for National Geographic Traveler, Tribune Media Services and The Washington Post,” quickly tweeted back with a request for my paper trail to be emailed over.  I sent all of my emails and tweets over and before I knew it, he had responded to my email and had tweeted, letting me know he had also contacted Delta on my behalf and further instructions if I had no result.

Well, I got a result.  The social media manager for @DeltaAssist, Jerry F., direct messaged me this,

“Hi, I’m the manager of the social media team. Sorry for your trouble. I’ve spoken to my colleague in Baggage. Expect a call shortly. *JF.”

I responded back and thanked him for his help.  Once again, while I was frustrated that for several days, @DeltaAssist did not answer any of my tweets, I tend to think they do an amazing job.  I greatly appreciate the service they provide and I have not had a negative incident with any of their hard-working social agents.

And then I waited.  Would baggage actually call this time?  I made sure my phone was not on silent and was also not on “do not disturb.”

Magic.  My phone rang.  When I answered it, I couldn’t get a word in.  Yvonne, from Customer Care went through a barrage of “hello, this is …from delta, customer care, you contacted us, i understand you weren’t happy” and it kept going.  I waited for a pause and said “Hi.  Yes, I did.  How are you doing today?”  Yvonne seemed caught off guard that I wanted to do a proper greeting.  She replied back and then apologized for the trouble and expressed that they understood double strollers were important and that Delta would be sending me an additional Visa to make up the difference from the original $250 offer.  I thanked Yvonne.  She gave me her name and direct line in case of any other issues and we hung up.  The phone call lasted not quite two minutes. Yvonne was pleasant, but I felt rushed and felt more like Delta just wanted to quiet me rather than address the issues.

I hate to seem like I am beating a dead horse – but – has anything really changed?  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I am taken care of.  But Delta still has a bogus rule.  And what if my social media friends hadn’t come to my rescue?  If I was a regular joe schmo who didn’t happen to be on Twitter, the probability of me receiving anything past $250 would have been slim to none. I’m guessing none as after the last email I received from Delta, I also received notification that they were sending my funds.  Almost, as if to toss a check at me and run away and indicate that would be the last of our dealings.

Either way, I’m glad a difference was made today for one person.  Now what can we do for all of the others?  One thing is for sure, I became a big fan of a few new people, Christopher Elliott being one of them.  I don’t know if that was the difference or not – but his simple existence and purpose are important and he has gained a new advocate.

Thanks again, friends.

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delta airlines: a story of a bully versus a mama

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Email: Delta accepts fault but will not pay.

Delta accepts fault but will not pay

Have you ever hit a level of exhaustion where you wonder if you care to bother anymore?  I’m there. Partly due illness and the other part due to an infinite crap customer “disservice” loop that Delta Airlines has me trapped in.  If you don’t mind, share my story with your networks and let Delta know this isn’t acceptable behavior.  You can tweet at them at @DeltaAssist, message them on Facebook, or send them an email.

Sir Zog and I traveled to New York City on December 21st.  As a Christmas surprise, I booked our tickets in first class, without telling Sir Zog.  He has never traveled in first and the difference in cost from a normal ticket was not significant.  I figured this would also help preserve our sanity while trying to entertain a 14 month old for five hours on a plane (spoiler: it did).  The trip started off without a hitch.  We arrived at the airport.  Sir Zog was pleasantly surprised. (I was excited that I had been able to maintain the surprise.)  We gate checked our expensive Phil & Ted’s stroller because we had decided it would be safer.  For some unintelligent reason, we thought it would be handled more carefully and be put on last.  Ha.  First mistake.  Chris and I had decided to bring the Phil & Ted’s to NYC rather than a cheap stroller because the functionality is so much greater – and frankly, in the city, expensive strollers rule for a reason.

Before we took off, the pilot announced that we were nearly ready to leave but due to an “excess of baggage” the handlers were attempting to “make everything fit.”  I guess my ears should have perked up but they didn’t.  We finally pushed back, had an uneventful flight, and arrived at JFK without incident. Or so we thought.  You see, the incident happened somewhere in between SLC and JFK but we didn’t find out until disembarking.

Upon leaving the aircraft and waiting for our gate checked stroller, the kind baggage gentleman handed us our stroller.  He was upset and pointed out that the other handlers had massacred our lovely, expensive, and what I thought to be sturdy, stroller.  He was mad on our behalf and told us to go report it immediately to baggage so we could be reimbursed.

We went to the Delta baggage office and I waited patiently in the Sky Priority line.  Sky Priority my butt.  There are no perks to this.  I actually waited much, much longer and watched every single person in the 15-person line next to me be helped before I was helped in the one-person Sky Priority line.  If SP meant anything, I would’ve thought the employees would have asked me to come to the front rather than allowing me to watch and wish I would have just stood in the “regular” customer line. I don’t want to sound entitled as we don’t normally fly this way, but still, shouldn’t it have counted for something in the business of paying more?

The agent was also kind but not terribly knowledgeable or helpful. She offered us a cheap, used umbrella stroller to replace our $700 stroller while Delta sent ours off somewhere to “attempt” to fix it.  I declined.  I was both not willing to hand our expensive stroller over to strangers and to a company of which I had no knowledge of their reputation (strollers are a safety item – my child is, you know, kind of important to me) and I was not happy with the uneven trade.  The agent said they could file a report and then I could talk to Customer Care so I could get reimbursed quickly.  We chose this method as we wanted to replace the stroller while on our trip.  Second mistake.

The moment I walked into our apartment, I contacted Delta on Twitter at @DeltaAssist.  *WG (Winston G.) told me he could help, even though I had mentioned it was a baggage issue.  After more information was gathered, I was told they could not deal with me as it was a baggage issue.  Um, yeah. I said that in my first tweet. The agent said they would have baggage call me on my cell.  I waited. And waited. And waited. There was a definite reason I didn’t want to deal with Delta’s baggage phone line.  It is THE WORST. Most of the time you get sent to a place where they don’t answer or you can’t understand them.

Baggage never called. I followed up with @DeltaAssist and I was informed that they were emailing baggage to have them call me. No phone calls. We are now on day 3 of our trip in NYC with no stroller.  This is a problem.  Baby Zog is no 8-pounder. He never was.  I then attempted to contact @DeltaAssist over the course of the next two days.  Now they weren’t responding to me at all.  My problems were of no concern nor did they blip on their radar.

Day 6: I call the stupid 800 number and am told by a very nice lady (see a trend? – all nice employees – but no results) that the first person should have told me I had to fill out a form. I have wasted nearly a week waiting sans stroller.  Kim, the agent, instructs me on the process including uploading a receipt for my stroller.  I tell Kim I no longer have the receipt and she tells me to input the value.  I should note - each of these employees has been given my report number and could/should be adding notes along the way.

I fill out the report. It is identical information to what I filled out at the airport.  Coincidentally, hours after I fill out the report, @DeltaAssist finally sends me a direct message.  Days later.  Really? That’s not how Twitter works.  If I wanted days later, I would’ve sent an email.

I receive a response back within a few days.  I am told they require a receipt.  I respond back that I do not have a receipt (Really? They expect me to keep receipts for every purchase I’ve ever made for items that I plan to bring with me on a trip?) and that Kim, the previous agent, had not made this an issue.  Is no one communicating? Are no agents making notes along the way?

I receive a response that Delta will only reimburse me $250.  Sweet.  That would be 33% of the value.  For something that Delta has acknowledged fault for.  They have not only destroyed a material item of value to me, they have also now cost us the use of said stroller on our entire trip to NYC.  12 days to be exact.  That was a lot of walking and carrying a heavy baby.  Many sore muscles and a few crabby moments in between.  My back does not thank you, Delta.  And did I mention the many hours I have wasted in communicating with Delta?

I will note that with the exception of the agent emailing me with my “reimbursement” (aka: slap in the face), every employee was very kind and helpful. I did my best to act with kindness and decorum as I patiently waited for a response.  But obviously something is broken. Either employees are not empowered to solve problems and/or they are not following the process.

I read you loud and clear, Delta.  You don’t care about your customers.  You don’t care about Sky Priority (which frankly, any customer should receive better service).  And you don’t give a crap about moms.  We cannot trust Delta to care for items that involve our children’s safety.  And even with acknowledging guilt, you do not make financial restitution.  Our stroller was an investment. Not a toy from the dollar bin at Target meant to last an hour.

The funny thing is, Delta needs a mom right now.  Someone to grab them by the ear and tell them to right their wrong.

So here I am, blogging about my experience.  Because Delta doesn’t think I matter.  They believe bullying is acceptable because they have protected themselves with a clause.  I don’t think that’s right.  I could move on but I don’t think Delta should get away with this.  How many little people can big corporations step on before someone stands up and says no?

I’m saying no.  I want Baby Zog to grow up in a world where wrongs are righted and every person is treated with kindness, respect, and decorum.  Big dreams,  I know. But I’m not willing to go down without a fight.

Please share and comment.  Something has to change. Delta has insurance to cover this and they are gaining big time on the many people who are unaware. This should be unlawful.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate it very much.  Hopefully, we can make a difference.

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