Failing To Choose My Words Correctly

One time I submitted the low bid on a project, a subdivision. It was for a fairly new MUD District, the Anderson Mill MUD. (That shows just how long I’ve been around perhaps – Anderson Mill was formed in the early to mid 1970’s)

The next bid that was submitted was slightly higher, by a few thousand dollars. Even though my bid met every qualification, I was informed that the district was going to reject my bid in favor of the 2nd place bidder. While I was disappointed to say the least, I was new enough in business to not fully understand what a bad precedent that was setting. So I wasn’t going to press the issue. It does say in all or most bid documents that the owner reserves the right to reject any bid and go with the bid they feel best serves them. (Or language to that effect).

What I haven’t mentioned is the second place bidder was a newly formed construction company that was owned by the same person that owned the engineering firm that had designed the project and was the districts engineer. Now you may start to see how bad this situation was shaping up to be.

It didn’t really matter that I was just going to roll over and move on. Just about every one of my competitors in Austin at the time got together and showed up to the MUD meeting where the official award was going to be made. Being a group of seasoned contractors, they saw what a sorry precedent this was setting.

The group of contractors insisted that I show up as well. Several contractors stood up and addressed the board explaining how wrong and unusual this action was.

Then they invited me up to the podium. I was ask several questions and then the President of the Board ask if I really wanted that project. Being somewhat nervous, with all eyes on me, I made the profound statement; “I’m not sure that I do considering I will be working for an owner and engineer that would attempt to treat me this way”.

I remember these words being said next, “Okay since Mr. Lewis doesn’t want the project, we shall vote to award it to the 2nd bidder”. The motion passed and the other bidder was awarded his first construction project.

When we all walked outside the whole bunch of contractors were ready to tar and feather me and run me out of town on a rail.

Now why am I telling you this? Because it happened and to demonstrate how what someone says and what is underlying isn’t always the same. Of course I wanted the job or I wouldn’t have bid it. Why did I choose the words that I did? I don’t know, I’ve wondered the same thing for over 45 years.

By the way, I did have the last laugh. Within a few months the number 2 bidder was broke and it not only closed down the construction company, the engineering firm owned by the same person wasn’t around much longer either.

When I think back on it, some people should have gone to jail for collusion.

We bid on and received the next couple of sections of that subdivision.

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