An educational activity and party company geared toward kids came under scrutiny last week after several customers discovered the business was offering a 10 percent discount to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“NOT cool that a business based on children’s parties offers discounts to NRA members,” one user wrote in a one-star Facebook review for the Boxford, Massachusetts-based Hidden Treasure Mining Company on Friday. “Really?? I will boycott and spread the word until the NRA discount is revoked.”
“I am saddened to hear that you are a business that offer discounts to NRA members,” another user wrote. “Simply put, it is clear that you are not looking out for our children and their safety. I own a gun, I believe in the second amendment, I do not believe in what the NRA represents. We need gun control and we need it now. The NRA lobby’s for lax gun laws that do not protect our children.”
Hidden Treasure Mining Company, which hosts birthday parties where kids can sift through sand and gravel to uncover items like semi-precious stones, fossils, shells, and shark teeth, is one of hundreds of businesses previously listed on a now-deleted NRA page featuring companies that offer discounts to NRA members. That business relationship was scrutinized over the weekend, when several Facebook users searching the cached NRA site came across Hidden Treasure’s listing.
“I can’t in good conscience support a family/kids business that gives NRA members a 10% discount,” wrote one user, in a review on Hidden Treasure’s Facebook page. “For shame, Hidden Treasure Mining Co. I can’t support a business that offers discounts to members of an organization that explicitly lobbies for lax gun laws that end up hurting children & families.”
That same user later said in a post on her personal page that an identical comment she left on one of Hidden Treasure’s Facebook posts was deleted by the business owners. Alyssa Willette, who owns the business with her husband, Justin Willette, suggested in a subsequent Facebook Messenger conversation with the woman that her actions constituted harassment.
“I would appreciate if you stop contacting us and harassing us,” Willette wrote.
When ThinkProgress called the phone number listed on the Hidden Treasure Facebook page, the man who answered the phone said he had “no comment” on the backlash and was not able to clarify whether the company was still offering the 10 percent discount to NRA members.
Many of the positive reviews left on the Hidden Treasure page since Friday were written by the Willettes’ Facebook friends.
In addition to firearms dealers, tactical stores, and various security consulting businesses, the now-defunct NRA discount list also included the California-based Babyhaven.com, a website that sells a variety of kids’ clothing, strollers, car seats, and toys.
“We’d like to offer all NRA members a 7% discount on any purchase made through Babyhaven.com,” the entry on the since-deleted NRA site read. “We ship anywhere in the US as well as most international countries… NRA members can use the discount code “NRA7DISC” at checkout for 7% off anything in our store.”
However, when ThinkProgress attempted to apply the discount on the Babyhaven.com website, the page returned with an error message that read, “Coupon code ‘NRA7DISC’ is not valid.”
In an email to ThinkProgress on Monday, Babyhaven CEO Jason Becker explained,
To be honest, this discount was never active and was never used a single time on our website. This came to our attention a few days ago and was the work of a search engine optimization company from India that we hired nearly 5 years ago. They were tasked with getting inbound links to our website to gain search engine traffic and they seem to have made fake discount codes on many organization websites just to get traffic.
He added, “Babyhaven.com does not have any affiliation with the NRA and it does not support it. We also didn’t authorize the search engine optimization company to do this for the NRA or any other organization.”
Scores of businesses have begun cutting ties with the NRA in the wake of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. Many of the teen survivors of that shooting have since launched lobbying efforts and demonstrations to protest the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
Financial institutions like the First National Bank of Omaha and Bank of America, as well as several airlines, car rental companies, and insurance companies, subsequently announced that they would be cutting ties or reexamining their business relationships with the gun lobby and firearms manufacturers. Many have shut down their own NRA member discount programs under pressure from consumers.
Bank of Omaha, which offered NRA-branded credit cards, recently announced it would not renew its contract with the NRA after it expires, citing “customer feedback.” The move came just days after ThinkProgress reported the card’s existence.
This article was updated to include comments from Babyhaven CEO Jason Becker as well as new information on the company’s entry on the NRA discount list.