A US motherhood company has come under fire after sending pregnancy congratulation cards to women who aren’t expecting a baby.
Mothers Lounge sent unsolicited gift vouchers and a card saying “Holy guacamole, you’re going to avo baby”.
Many recipients took to social media complaining that the cards from the Utah-based firm were “insensitive” and had caused awkward conversations.
The company said it had used a third-party marketing company’s opt-in list.
Many women who received the informal-looking cards – which were signed by a “Jenny B” – initially thought it had been sent by one of their friends.
Bewildered recipients have asked on social media: “Who is Jenny B?”
The cards seem to have been sent to women across the country.
Twitter user @agnetts tweeted: “Who the hell is Jenny B and why did she send me $245 in giftcards to my childhood home congratulating me on my pregnancy?!
“This is literally how my mother thought she was finding out that I was pregnant. I’m calling the FBI.”
The user behind the account – AG – lives in Memphis, Tennessee, but she told the BBC the unsolicited cards had been sent to her parents’ home in Nashville.
“I got a call from my mother who asked me if there was something I wanted to tell her,” she said. “She was really worried and it was scaring me.”
The pair then had a video chat, and her mother asked her if she was pregnant.
AG says: “It was a really awkward situation and caused a lot of distress for the pair of us.”
AG said she had no idea how the company got her details, as she wasn’t pregnant, planning to get pregnant and didn’t know anyone pregnant.
“It’s unsettling to me, especially as they have all these details. When I tried to call the number on the gift cards, nobody picked up so I had no idea who was behind this.”
And Ellie Hunter Acosta said as the card had been sent to her parents’ house, she told her mum to unseal it.
“But when she opened it, she was immediately so excited and completely freaked out,” said Ms Hunter Acosta.
“She was also angry some random person knew before she did and I had to quickly tell her I am not in fact pregnant.”
Ms Hunter Acosta, who is studying at Princeton University in New Jersey, said: “If I was able to talk to Jenny, I would want to tell her that, aside from being an idiotic marketing strategy that will end up alienating potential clients/customers, this was basically just a cruel joke that only resulted in a stressful phone call with my parents.”
On Reddit, EllyNeko said she has undergone sterilisation surgery, and the card prompted an awkward conversation with her family.
She told the BBC: “They need to realise that this ‘advertisement’ is in poor taste at best and hurtful at worst.
“If a woman who had been trying (and failing) to conceive received this message, it would just thoughtlessly remind them of this difficulty.”
On Reddit, users said that they had experienced recent miscarriages and this level of marketing had been insensitive and “a slap in the face”.
Some recipients have complained to the Better Business Bureau, a private consumer watchdog, which said it is waiting for the company to respond.
Mothers Lounge had previously been investigated by the bureau following complaints regarding other gift cards sent in the post. Those cards were then signed by a ‘Jen’.
The bureau said it has given the company an F rating because of the company’s failure to respond to eight complaints filed against it and because of advertising issues.
Who is Jenny B?
On the Mothers Lounge website, it states both Jenny Bosco and Kaleb Pierce established the business in 2005.
The Mother’s Lounge website says Jenny “doesn’t prefer the spotlight” and instead a biography has been written by her employees describing Jenny as a mother-of five.
It states that there are many brands under the Mothers Lounge umbrella and the company began when Jenny “invented the Milk Bands breastfeeding bracelet”.
The BBC has established that a Jeanette Court Pierce in Lehi, Utah, was the first registrant of the Milkbands domain.
“Jenny Pierce” was also noted as an administrative contact for the Mothers Lounge site in 2012.
A list profiling Ms Bosco on a 2016 blog post on the Mother’s Lounge website indicates she has a twin sister.
It also says she always knew she wanted lots of children, that she is now a Utahn, but will always identify as a southern Alberta (Canada) girl.
Information on the blog post and the picture used by the company tallies with social media profiles the BBC has unearthed using Ms Bosco’s married name.
The BBC approached the company to seek an interview with Jenny Bosco. We also approached the woman believed to be Jenny directly via email and the social media profiles we found.
Neither request has been acknowledged.
But in an emailed statement, Scott Anderson from the company said: “Mothers Lounge has mailed a heartfelt note which includes gift cards with proof of activation, and coupons to new mothers.
“The qualified recipients for this mailer have, at one point, subscribed to an opt-in list for maternity deals and coupons through a third-party marketing company.
“All information from third-party companies is only used internally for Mothers Lounge and is not sold or used for anything else other than the direct marketing of Mothers Lounge.”
He did not respond to additional requests for further information.