Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do Government Agencies who procure “reprographics services” in your market ever get around to “updating and modernizing” their bid documents?

Déjà vu: (meaning "already seen") is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined.

Yesterday, an industry-friend alerted me to a bid “on the street” from one of our local government agencies. From the bid document, I printed (pdf’d) just the “bid form” page. That page shows you the services this government agency is “calling out”, including descriptions of services and units of measure. If you click on the link below (which will take you to the “bid form” that I’ve posted on Google Docs), you will get a tinge of nostalgia!

Yes, this is a current bid on the street! I kid you NOT!

If anyone knows Bill Berg’s e-mail address (ex-owner, ex-CEO of MBC Precision Imaging, which is now an ARC-owned company), please kindly let him know about this post. When I first met Bill Berg, back in 1970, he was a sales guy for Teledyne-Post in the Wash/Balt area. I’m sure he’d get a kick to see, in 2011(!), a bid form that calls out diazo prints using Teledyne blueline paper!

When’s the last time you got an order for diazo prints?

And, OMG, when’s the last time you got an order for Sepia-Tone Slicks? (I’d be willing to bet you that anyone who’s been in the reprographics business for less than 5 years wouldn’t have a clue what “slicks” are, unless they asked an older veteran reprographer.)

As to Government Agency bids for reprographics services ….. do you take the time to try and educate “purchasing agents” so as to encourage them to “update and modernize” their procurements for reprographics services? Having made that a practice when I was active in the reprographics business, I can tell you, first hand, that, more often than not, they completely ignore your suggestions for improving their procurement (bid) documents. Attempting to convince them to “update and modernize” was an agonizing, frustrating process! But, someone’s got to do it.

Although I miss being in the reprographics business, there are times when its nice to be out of the fray, because you no longer have to worry about being “politically incorrect” when you communicate with Government Agency procurement offices. I’d now like to share with you the e-mail I sent, yesterday, to the purchasing agent at the City of St Pete, about the City’s current bid document for repro services:

From: joelsalus

Subject: Bid#7103

Date: February 2, 2011 2:56:12 PM EST


Dear Ms. Bodden,

I just read through the above reference bid document for "Copying Services: Construction Drawings".

The "bid form" you are using for this particular procurement is seriously out of date ... and the "bid form" page is absolutely stupid. The City of St Pete Purchasing Department should be embarrassed for issuing a bid form that calls for services that have been basically obsolete for more than 10 years by now. And, the manner in which the bid form calls for pricing is absolutely idiotic. When the City (or, for that matter, any government agency purchasing department) calls for bidders to bid on services that are provided by a specific industry, in this case, the "reprographics" industry, the purchasing department should, at the very least, have at least an elementary-level understanding of how vendors in that industry sell and price their services and what those services are called. It is quite evident that no one in the City's purchasing department has even an elementary understanding of the services called-out for on the bid form.

I am retired from the reprographics industry. But, when I was not retired, I won this particular city contract. Prior to winning that prior bid, I took the time to educate the city's purchasing person (who that bid was assigned to) - as to how to go about "updating and modernizing" this particular procurement. But, every bit of advice and guidance I furnished to the City purchasing department was completely and utterly ignored. I am a 40+ year veteran of the reprographics, and, during the time I was in business, I participated in hundreds of government-agency procurements for reprographics services. The City of St Pete's procurement for reprographics services (the bid form, in particular, and some of the terms and conditions) is just, flat out, ridiculous, the worst one I've ever come across.

The City Purchasing Department should do this:

a) cancel the current bid document.

b) schedule a meeting with area reprographics firms to get their input on how the bid-form should be updated and modernized, or, if a meeting is not practical, then, at the very least, call area reprographics firms to request their written input/advice as to how the bid form should be updated and modernized.

When the City issues a horribly prepared bid form, there are two outcomes:

a) fewer vendors will submit bids!

b) the few vendors who do submit bids, will be able to take advantage of the City, financially, because of the way the bid form is structured!

Our City's budget is under tight constraints, and it is the City Purchasing Department's primary job to issue "smart" bid documents, bid documents that will invite increased competition, bid documents that will avoid the City from overpaying for necessary services. I am a resident of St Pete. Our city does not have any money to waste. if the City modernizes and updates this procurement, it will encourage more competition and result in lower cost to the City.

Please give a copy of this e-mail to Mr. Moore, the City's Director of Purchasing. I will, under separate cover, send a copy of this to the Mayor's office.

Respectfully yours,

Joel H. Salus


  1. Great job taking this on. That is really something and your response is priceless.

  2. I'll send the link to Bill Berg! : )