Behind The Counter
The Low Bid
by Lyle R. Hill
I shouldn’t have gone back. I was already half way out the door, and it had been a long day. But the ring of a phone has an allure that I can’t quite explain. So I put my armload of samples down next to the door and went back to my desk to answer it. I got it just as it was finishing its third ring.
“Hey, Hill, how’s it going?” the caller asked before I could even say hello or identify myself.
“Not too bad,” I responded, instantly recognizing the voice of my old childhood coconspirator, Jungle Jim Bruney. Now don’t get me wrong, I kinda like Jungle Jim. I mean after all, we have shared some very special moments in our lives. But at this particular time in my life, I know that I need to stay as far away from him and his never-ending schemes as I can. Nothing good can come from an association with the legendary Jungle Jim Bruney. “Listen, Hill,” he said before I could get in another word, “I need your help. You see, I’m pretty sick, and I need open heart surgery.”
“Bruney, this is serious,” I replied. “You’ve got insurance, right?”
“Yeah, I got insurance, but it’s not very good. It’s an HBO plan.”
“I think you mean HMO, Bruney.”
“No, it’s an HBO plan. I bought it through my cable TV provider. It is cheap, but it doesn’t cover much. For instance, because I cannot prove that my heart condition was directly the result of my watching HBO Pay-Per-View specials, not much is covered except for a couple of minor items such as free cable TV while I’m in the hospital. So I’m kinda out there on my own on this thing.”
“Gee, Bruney, I’m sorry, but what do you want from me?”
“Well Hill, I’m out getting bids now, and I need to know if you have anybody you could recommend to me?”
“Bruney, you’ve done some pretty weird things in your day, but this is the craziest yet. I mean, this is serious stuff. Your life could be at stake here. Who came up with this idea?”
“Well, actually, it was the insurance company’s idea. As they pointed out to me, they have not replaced the carpet at their corporate center in more than three years, and their stock has been flat for almost five months. And I don’t want to take a chance on being cancelled by them. So I’m out getting bids.”
“This is incredible, Bruney. But tell me, have you actually been able to get quotes for this?”
“Oh yeah,” he quickly replied. “ I even got one quote that includes the use of OHM parts and an air and fluid leak guarantee for as long as I live.”
“I think you mean OEM parts, Bruney. I’ve never heard of OHM parts.”
“No it’s OHM alright. It stands for Original Humor Material. But listen, Hill, you’re not being very helpful here. Have you got anything useful to give me or not?”
“Well, I gotta tell you, Bruney, this is really a shock. You see, I just think there are some things in life that you don’t necessarily want to leave in the hands of the cheapest or the quickest or the guy who comes up with the lowest bid. In fact, I remember reading something from the Englishman John Ruskin about this topic. He once said that ‘the bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is long forgotten.’ He also said that ‘there is nothing in the world that someone cannot make a little poorer and sell a little cheaper’ and that if you deal with these kinds of people you better add something for the risk you’ll be taking. Once you’ve done that you probably could have bought the better product in the first place.”
“Wow, Hill, that’s pretty good stuff, but I don’t think my insurance company’s gonna buy it. I don’t think they care about quality or any of that stuff. But listen, give me this Ruskin guy’s phone number anyway.”
“Why, Bruney, you gonna have him talk to your insurance company?”
“No, that would be a waste of time … but I am going to see if he’ll give me a bid.”
Lyle R. Hill works almost every Saturday “behind the counter” at Glass America, a dealer of windows, doors, glass and other products. He is also president of MTH Industries of Chicago one of the largest specialty contractors in the world.
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