HotelPlanner.com CEO and co-founder Tim Hentschel said he’s not interested in mixing business and politics.
“If you ask us to be part of your boycott war, that’s not what we’re about,” Hentschel said in response to the list of companies that have said they will no longer do business with the National Rifle Association. “We’re about hospitality, welcoming all guests.”
HotelPlanner.com is a private company that offers group hotel bookings to several large associations. NRA members have access to the company’s discounted group rates.
“We’re just a classic hospitality company,” Hentschel told CNBC on “Power Lunch” Monday. Hentschel said his company, which he estimates will arrange about 900,000 group bookings this year, stands by the NRA because the NRA is like any other customer in the association network— and his company has an obligation to honor its customers.
NRA members pay a $40 annual fee and receive discounts at several major corporations. While Hentschel’s company relies on business from NRA members, he said, “It’s not about money. The numbers are insignificant. It’s not about any of that. It’s about bringing people together, which has always been our core business competency.”
“After all the heat I’ve taken over the weekend, I will stand by the statement that we bring people together for good,” he said.
That heat includes growing public pressure for companies to take a stand on gun control after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 people. Since last week, the list of companies cutting ties with the NRA, or discontinuing some portion of their business with the association, has grown.
First National Bank of Omaha; Enterprise Holdings, which runs the car rental brands Enterprise, Alamo and National; SimpliSafe, the alarm system company, and Symantec, the software security company, have all said they will no longer do business with the NRA. Rental car companies Hertz Global Holdings and Avis Budget Group, MetLife Insurance Company and airlines Delta and United Airlines, have said they will end discount programs with the NRA. Insurer Chubb said they would stop underwriting NRA insurance for gun owners.
The NRA responded with a statement saying, “some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.”
“Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world,” the NRA statement said.
But HotelPlanner isn’t the only company standing by the NRA. Clearent, Netspend and Lockton, among other companies, have not cut ties or have simply kept quiet regarding their partnership with the NRA. Hyatt Regency hotel in Dallas will host NRA events during the group’s annual convention in May.
“I wanted to clarify that Hyatt does not provide National Rifle Association members with a national discount or have a corporate relationship with the NRA,” Stephanie Lerdall, senior manager of corporate communications for Hyatt said in an email.
On Monday afternoon, FedEx released a statement saying it would continue its relationship with the NRA. Currently, NRA members receive discounted rates from the shipping company.
“FedEx is a common carrier under Federal law and therefore does not and will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views,” the statement said. “FedEx has never set or changed its rates for any of our millions of customers around the world in response to their politics, beliefs or positions on issues.”
While the company said it will not endorse either side of the gun control debate, the statement said FedEx “views assault rifles and large capacity magazines as an inherent potential danger to schools, workplaces, and communities when such weapons are misused. We therefore support restricting them to the military.”
Cutting ties over a political issue isn’t always easy for a business that has customers on both sides of the political divide.
“CEOs and business leaders clearly have their own point of view,” Steve Odland, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Committee for Economic Development, told CNBC. “Companies have multiple constituents, including customers, community members and shareholders. It’s difficult for CEOs to take a side without alienating some part of that.”
“By doing that, the company makes some piece of your constituents happy, but they are also offending some portion of their business [community],” Odland said.
Better, he said, would be for business leaders to work with elected officials and urge them to address the issue of gun control.
Still, others say that companies are at risk of losing customers if they don’t take a firm political stance.
Many companies experience boycotts, said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at Yale School of Management, “and they survive just fine.”