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I Forge Iron

Remarkable consistency is not always good

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Sorta funny thing I thought I'd share.  There's a company I've worked with for going on eleven years now.  In that time, they've gone through something like five different sales representatives.  Every time the replacement rep told me it was because the previous sales rep made too many mistakes, and was upsetting their customers.

Here's the thing.  Over the last eleven years, I've asked this firm to bid hundreds of projects.  There has not been a single occasion where their bid was correct on the first try.  I'm not talking about default bid conditions, or piddly differences in phrasing.  I literally provide the specifications and the quantities for everything they're supposed to provide.  They unerringly fail to follow instructions, no matter how short the list is, or how easy it would be to do it right.

Now all of that is pretty consistent, here's where it gets almost unbelievable.

In eleven years, there has only been one bid where they fixed their first mistake, without making a new mistake!  This company needs an average of five tries to quote a ten item list correctly.




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Out of curiosity, how has their performance been on the contract? Or did it never get to that point with this vendor?

I've had a similar situation but on the actual contract side of things. Vendor's upfront paperwork is never correct the first time and often not the second or third times either, and the post-production certifications are no better. The product itself doesn't appear to be a problem, they just can't get the paperwork right. Result was a no confidence vote from our management and customers and they are not going to be seeing another order. I don't have the time for hand-holding to walk them through all the issues when there are more competent companies out there. Cheapest is not always the best value.

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Unless they are critical sole suppliers of goods or services that you cannot obtain elsewhere my recommendation would be to drop them from the bidder list.  They are not competent to do simple, necessary tasks.  I'm surprised that their product is not defective unless it is something that they don't have an opportunity to mess up.  Deficiencies in one area usually are symptomatic of deficiencies in other areas.

If your higher ups approve I would tell the vendor that if there is one more mistake in required documents that the bid won't be considered and they are off your bid list.  they are grown ups and should be able to do business in an adult manner.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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They are the "national account" holder for the client so contractors have no choice but to purchase from these people.  Their performance is generally better after the quote but they have had some of the most spectacular screw-ups of any firm I've ever worked for.  One time they went through all the paperwork to confirm every detail about some pole lights.  Then, when it came time to place the order, they changed the paint color from black, to smurf Blue!  That wasn't even a standard option which means they had to custom order that color which includes additional paperwork acknowledging that there are no returns on custom painted fixtures.  

The custom color delayed the fixture delivery, which they never told us until they missed their original delivery deadline.  Then, when the lights finally did arrive, their delivery guy slid them off his truck scratching the paint for the full length of each individual pole.  He also tossed the light heads, severely damaging the packaging, but not the fixtures.  

It took a few weeks of wrangling, but eventually they ordered the right fixtures at no extra expense, however they had no resources to pick up and remove the scratched, smurfy fixtures.  We ended up doing them a favor by hauling the parts to their warehouse.  Oh, I almost forgot,  the replacement fixtures were put on a truck in Texas, headed to Colorado.  Their first driver drove straight through, arriving in Denver around Midnight when there was nobody at the fenced off construction site.  Rather than waiting until everyone showed up at 6:00 a.m., or delivering it to the local warehouse, this driver just turned around and drove back to Texas with the lights!  The driver didn't answer his phone, so everyone just thought he was running late to Colorado when he strolled into the Dallas factory office later that afternoon to ask where he should put the lights!

George, the only time this firm is allowed to bid to me is when we're contractually obligated to use them.  We've done less and less work for this client because the decision-makers in charge have changed.  It took this client almost twenty years to recognize that corruption between design teams and lighting reps was making their projects too expensive.  My work has exposed a great deal of this.  Eventually they tasked a trusted adviser with finding a suitable firm to set up a national account, which comes with stipulated unit prices for every fixture they ever get.  

Sadly, their adviser was a volatile guy who'd just spent twenty years personally alienating every lighting rep in town.  Every successful electrical distributor needs to stay on good terms with the lighting reps.  I believe this is why their adviser eventually found himself talking to this little fly-blown outfit staffed with obstinate dullards.

On the smurfy pole light job we had to explain what happened to the client and their adviser.  We tried to be diplomatic about it, but we were truthful about their performance.  This evoked howls of rage from the client and their adviser who wouldn't hear a word against their national account holder.

I think on some level, they decided to have a partner that's honest and incompetent because they can expect subcontractors to fix the mistakes.  They're still figuring out that this arrangement only works when they're willing to pay the going rate for better subcontractors.







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