Eavesdropping Through The Motel Wall

Back in the late 70s, we decided to bid on a project for the City of Laredo. I usually traveled to these out of town destinations alone, while Kenny kept an eye on things back at home. But this time he accompanied me on the long road south. We left really early in the morning so we could look at the job site conditions and see what kind of productions we could expect.

We checked into a Holiday Inn Motel in Laredo to finish up on a bid that would be turned in later that afternoon. We were staying over due to the actual bid opening wouldn’t take place until the City Council met that night and it would be too late to drive the 4 to 5 hours back to Austin.

Lo and behold as soon as we got checked in and settled in, We saw a contractors truck pull up. They were our only expected stiff competitor and they were checking into the adjoining room. It was a construction company out of Victoria.

I thought if we played our cards just right and they didn’t know we were next door we may be able to work this to our advantage. So we pretty well laid low as they got in their room to put the final touches on their bid.

They were pretty loud talkers and the walls in that motel were pretty thin. I also figured out that if I held a motel drinking glass up to the wall and put my ear against it, I could hear a normal conversation pretty well.

We finished up our bid and waited for them to finish theirs. Their final number had us bested by a few thousand dollars.

Thinking about how far we had driven and how badly we needed that job, we decided we could work a little faster and a littler harder and lower our bid, to just a few hundred dollars below their bid.

The challenge in our business is to always get the most money possible out of a bid, while “leaving the least amount on the table”. That’s old construction speak.

When the bids were read that evening and we didn’t end up as low bidder because of a surprise interloper (at least that how we saw it) had showed up. As we were all leaving, the Victoria Contractor fellows congratulated us on the very fine bid we had submitted. I said “yep, sure would have been nice if that other fellow hadn’t shown up”.

Maybe not getting the low bid was karma at work.

Another story that I’ve written covers the Low-Bid Contractor. That story is called “The Contractor That Did It All”.

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