How Low Can You Go???
By Lyle R. Hill
I should have kept going. I had already locked the office door and was two steps toward the outer exit door, but the sound of a ringing phone has some unexplainable appeal to me, so I turned and went back. I answered it on its fourth ring, but before I could offer up my usual salutation, the caller began to speak.
“Hey, Hill, how’s it going?”
“Not too bad,” I replied, instantly recognizing the voice of “Jungle Jim Bruney,” my old childhood friend and sometimes nemesis. Before we go any further, let me say that I truly like Jungle Jim Bruney. We have shared some wonderful experiences, and one day I will probably tell the story of how he got the nickname of “Jungle” tied to his real name … but not today, and probably not for this magazine. You see, Jungle Jim can be problematic. Over the years he has become very … how should I say it … I think cheap is probably appropriate—very cheap, actually. He’s also lazy; maybe the laziest human I have ever known. But he does have some good qualities, and we do go way back.
“All good here, Jungle Jim. And how’s about you?”
“Oh, I got problems, Hill, and that’s why I’m calling, cause I know you just went through what I am going to go through, so I’m thinking maybe you can help. You see, I need open heart quadruple bypass surgery.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied with a bit of sadness, knowing all too well what he was facing. “You’ve got insurance, right?”
“Yeah, Hill, I got an HBO policy.”
“I think you mean HMO policy.”
“No, it’s an HBO policy. I signed up for it one night while watching late night cable TV. And how could I say no after they said if I signed up in the next 30 minutes they would double the offer and insure two people for the price of one and include free shipping?”
“I gotta tell ya, Jungle Jim, I’m starting to worry here.”
“So anyhow, I called this HBO and they tell me that my policy is only going to pay for 50 percent of the procedure after I have paid the deductible of $10,000. So now I’m out getting bids for the surgery and I figure you probably got a good source or two that may want to bid on this. So far the prices I’m getting are all over the place, although the last two were about half the price of the surgeons the insurance people recommended. Hill, can you help me or not?”
“And you actually plan to go with the low bidder regardless of his or her reputation and experience?”
“Of course, Hill. They do these procedures all the time. How hard can it be? Some of these doctors make this stuff out to be harder than it really is so they can charge more, that’s all. So yes, I will use the lowest bidder, and that’s why I need your help. After all, who knows more about low bidding than someone from the glass industry? You guys have this low-bid thing down to a science, and you guys will drop your price even when you don’t need to. That’s why I need someone who knows the ins and outs of this kind of stuff, someone like you. And if you have someone you favor, I’ll even give them the last look, if you know what I mean.”
“Jungle Jim … you use the low bidder on this thing and it very well could be your last look. There’s a time for bidding and there’s a time for negotiating, but there also are times when you want the best, which is often times not the cheapest. Yes, the glass industry has had its share of problems when it comes to providing intelligent prices and putting out solid bids. And for certain, we are often much too quick to drop a price, often in the name of value engineering. I have even known of a couple of situations where glazing contractors have talked them-selves into dropping their prices when they were the only bidder, but this is a little different. This could be your life. As John Ruskin once said ‘The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’ He also said that ‘There is nothing in the world that someone cannot make a little poorer and sell a little cheaper, and if you deal with these kinds of people, you’d better add something for the risk you’ll be taking.’ So my friend, if this is the path you are going to follow, I will not be a part of it. I have witnessed too many times what happens when the low bidder gets the job. You are on your own.”
“Okay, Hill, then can you at least give me a phone number for this Ruskin guy?”
“Why do you want that, Jungle Jim?”
“Well, he sounds pretty smart, so I’d like to call him to see if he wants to submit a bid.”
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