Low Bid Doesn't Always Equal Best Value

Mike Murphy's column on the current movement to exclude Internet reverse auctions for construction work ["If It Walks Like A Duck ..." June 27] makes a fair point, but is based on flawed logic.

The problem with reverse auctions is that they take all of the bad parts of hard bid, an already less-than-perfect process, and make them worse.

When was the last time someone got to jump up in a bid opening and offer to better the low bid by $1,000? That is the basic difference between open bid and reverse auctions. The reverse auction allows (it encourages) the worst traits of contractors to come forward - the "If he can do it for that price, so can I" followed by "It is only $1,000" way of thinking that is still all too prevalent.

The federal government has come a long way in their procurement processes over the past several years and recognizes that the low bid is not always the best value. Best value procurements are now used for a very large portion of construction projects. This methodology encourages teamwork, allows for differentiation based on past performance, strength of team members, creative approach to the project, and past good business practices. Many states and institutional entities are adopting similar methods. The commercial market recognized it a long time ago.

This has changed the business for the better by reducing disputes and improving quality. Reverse auctions are a giant leap backwards.

Thinking that you can get the best economic deal to perform millions of dollars of work that took over a year to design, involves 30 to 40 contractors, and will take 18 months to complete is a folly dreamed up by someone who considers contractors the commodity that auctions were intended to trade. If we accept it without protest, we are that commodity.

Bradlee A. Bolino
Division President
John J. Kirlin, Inc.
Rockville, Md.

Compressor Testing Procedure Challenged

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to Harry W. Brown's letter "Condemned Compressors: No Defect Found," June 6.]

There is no way, in my opinion, that any wholesaler could possibly be qualified to test any compressor in his wholesale house. Do you know how he probably is going to "check" it? He'll do it by ohming the windings out with any ohmmeter.

In fact, that test alone tells you nothing about a compressor. It does not even tell you if the compressor will run once you place it under a load. What will that test tell you about bad bearings, a shorted winding that shows up only under a load, a bad valve, or other mechanical problems with a compressor? And, of course, you know they hooked it up to an evaporator, charged it up, and placed a good, hot load on it.

I have seen too many compressors that "ohm" perfectly and will not run at all. Other than to see if you have an open winding or overload, ohming a compressor does very little for us in the field.

Bob Garrett
Greenville Technical College, HVAC Dept.
Greenville, S.C.

Salting Can Be A Lose-Lose Situation

I enjoyed reading Mark Skaer's column "Salting Is Just An Ugly Tactic - Period," [July 25]. The anecdotes therein are meaningful. You did the right thing by creating more awareness about salting. Good job!

Years ago, when I worked in a nonunion warehouse, a recently hired employee stirred up trouble with the company owner. Within a week, a local union representative was on the scene urging the employees to unite against the evil boss. The timing was too coincidental.

The employees chose to join the union. In time, salaries went up, productivity went down, and the warehouse owner shut down the operation. Everyone lost.

Steve Coscia
Coscia Communications Inc.
Havertown, Pa.

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Publication date: 08/22/2005