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It is case by case, Elliotte. Some will
sue and protest, others take their lumps
and move on. Take note that in public
safety, we are selling to the governments
(really, agencies who get their directions
from their local councils). Policies vary
by locale. I think the distinction I made
to John is important: to whom does the
contract reserve rights. Shrinkwrap is
different from systems integration sales.
We get into the odd position of having
to sell integrated systems that we control
(our own software) and systems that we
have to assert work as advertised
(operating systems). In the second case,
we take exception where possible and can
because the customer names the operating
system, so we can make it their responsibility.
And yes, if one protests a procurement, one
incurs the wrath of the procurement officials.
Much depends at that point on the politics of
the local councils, etc. If the bid was
technically sound and protested on a nit,
then the nitwit that protests doesn't do
themselves much good. OTOH, timing is everything.
Protesting just before an election can give
the council opponents fodder for their TV ads.
Depending on the election results and how
effective the smear was, the whole business
is tainted and the CYA act gets emotional.
The example of failing to procure the lowest
bid is illuminating; the opponent couples
it to the failure to fund education and
then the media is engaged to promote the
perception of an insider deal that helps
the official's brother to the detriment
of the children. Now the emotions are
fully engaged and the forebrain is disengaged,
and well... crap. It takes some smooth
talking to get them to remember that a cheaper
system that is unreliable is far more
dangerous to Everyone. Again, frequency
of statement and the membership of the
hearer in an interpretive community are
the key properties of rhetorical marketing.
This kind of thing is a nightmare but not
From: Elliotte Rusty Harold [mailto:email@example.com]
At 12:23 PM -0500 10/10/02, Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:
>This isn't new news. Both are done. One
>gathers opinions and contracts. Remember,
>contracting is a formal process because of
>protests. If one does things promiscuously,
>the bid results are protested. Protests are
>expensive for the contracting parties and
>can result in rebids. Now all of that money
>spent on process is lost and one has to start
>over in some cases. In any case, the only
>benefits go to the lawyers.
I'm familiar with this scenario in the government. In fact, there
it's routine. However, it does not match my experience of small
private enterprises. In particular, whenever a company I worked for
collected bids, it felt free to rule out the lowest bid for any
reason ranging from they didn't trust the company with the lowest bid
to the coincidence that the highest bid was submitted by the CEO's
fraternity brother. The bidders took their lumps and moved on.
Is it different in the world of large, litigious corporations you
seem to work in? For example, if Intergraph put out bids for long
distance service to MCI, AT&T and Sprint, and eventually chose AT&T,
would MCI or Sprint be likely to protest the result? I know that when
the federal government puts out bids, such companies routinely
protest and even sue when they lose, but I was under the impression
the private sector was a little different; and that most people
realized that whether they lost the bid fairly or unfairly, they
1. Had no right to sue over it.
2. Realized if they did sue, they'd never get any business from that