Working in business and politics can cause unforeseen consequences to business health. Currently in the news, much has been written about the rise and fall of the Tea Party Exchange. Initially, the idea appeared to be brilliant. The idea man behind the Tea Party Exchange is Donald Hutchinson, a human resources consultant. Tea party supporters want to reduce the national debt and federal budget deficit by cutting government spending and lowering taxes. The Tea Party Exchange involved a way for tea party-conscious consumers to join forces with tea party-conscious businesses and support the local tea party. Ohio supporters would get a “TPX-Great American card” that gave discounts at participating businesses. The participating businesses would then portion 5% of their profits to the local tea party group.
The Dayton Daily News reported that the Tea Party Exchange rapidly signed up 30 businesses. Problems began when some business owners discovered that they had signed on to an exchange that endorsed a political agenda. They had only been told by Hutchinson that signing on with the tea party would greatly increase their business. To add insult to injury, these businesses had paid a $150 membership to Hutchinson.
A serious problem with the Tea Party Exchange was publicized on a Ohio Blog almost as soon as the plan had begun. Hutchinson was outsourcing the program’s homepage to India which is not acceptable in any tea party circles.
The Tea Party Exchange continued to be derailed before it got far off the ground. Ohio’s Daily News reported that Joe Roberts, a Democratic congressional candidate, was threatening to be in charge of a public boycott of the businesses that got political when they signed on with the Tea Party Exchange. Business owners began to quickly back out of their involvement with the Exchange and many reported they were dealing with angry customers and getting threats. Some business owners publicly apologized to their customers. After several businesses had severed their connection with the Exchange, Hutchinson canceled the TPX card’s 5% discount because “it caused too much confusion about the intent of the program.” The Tea Party Exchange was shut down less than a week of being made public.
Many business owners in Ohio report that they were conned by Hutchinson and they want their membership fee back. Hutchinson assured the Daily News that the money would be returned.
Working in business and politics doesn’t always mix. Businesses need their customers even when their political beliefs are vastly different. The Tea Party Exchange ended up being a fiasco with alienated customers, disconcerted business owners, and accusations of a scam. No wonder businesses are reluctant about getting involved in politics.