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The games vendors play: Have you learned them?

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Question: "As soon as I got my new admin job, I was deluged by office supply vendors with deals and offers to switch, and I've also been asked to explore ways to save money in catering, shipping, courier services, etc. But I have no experience in dealing with vendors and I don't want to wind up making some deal I later regret. Does anyone have any advice on how to make (or refuse) new deals, and what I should be suspicious of?" - Margaret, School Board EA

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen S. October 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

In my opinion, all supply purchases should go through a centralized purchasing department. Since you’re with a school system, I suspect that there are procedures already in place for buying and soliciting bids. You may even be in a purchasing group that has special pricing with certain vendors.
However, here are a few tips:
Google “office supply scams” and read up on all the dishonesty out there first.
Do not give machine model numbers to cold callers.
Watch out for vendors with very generic names or people saying they’re calling from places like “warehouse services”, “customer service”, etc.
Figure out where most of your costs are and work from there. For instance, in the office supply area we spend the most on paper and printer toner so it’s more important to get good prices on those items than on pens or paperclips.
When getting quotes, be sure to ask about added costs, such as delivery, and payment terms.
Be careful when entering into contracts that are especially long or auto-renew or don’t allow you to obtain the same service/supplies from other sources.

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Raelene Wundrow October 23, 2017 at 11:24 am

I have saved the companies I worked for thousands of dollars by talking with vendors and see what they can do for me. Do your homework first. Know how much you spend in each category per year. Once they know your buying power they are more willing to work with you and cut costs. I have learned if you don’t ask you will not get. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts. Good luck!

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Dawn October 20, 2017 at 8:16 am

If a vendor calls regarding supplies I am responsible for, I try to be direct. It saves time for both of us. I will allow a vendor to give me quotes on items I purchase, but never commit. I always tell them I compare prices on everything and if they have the lowest price, then I will purchase that product from them. I had one vendor who called almost daily and finally had to tell them not to call me and I would call them if I needed anything and if they kept calling constantly I would just never use them again. They stopped calling nearly as often. Be wary of those cold calls for equipment you use. When I was new on the job I received a call like that and a few days later received several hundred dollars worth of ink for our printer! I returned it to sender of course.

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Dodi October 19, 2017 at 4:58 pm

If your agency has a purchasing department, I would refer all vendors to that department. I would also check with your purchasing agent to determine how to set up requests for bids or request for proposals, whichever one you need. If you don’t have a specific purchasing department, then setting up a specification list for what you are looking for and submitting it for a formal proposal or bid process would be the best route to take.

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Melissa Hunter October 19, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Apologies in advance, this response is a little convoluted. If you are happy with your current vendors, why switch? Just tell the new people you are not interested. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. You could also touch base with your current supplier indicating what others have offered and see if they can match it. It can be good to have a regular review of your suppliers to make sure they are not getting complacent. If you do decide to go with a different supplier, make sure you get all the promises in writing and you read EVERYTHING in the contract you sign. They like to hide stuff in small print, you really have to be on the ball. You could go out with a request for proposals and see what kind of response you get. If you are having issues with your current suppliers, then you should let them know and ask how they are going to fix the issues. I think you may find most of your cost reductions may come from more online deliveries. Be really careful with shipping and couriers; sometimes its worth paying more to make sure your packages get where they need to go. Good luck!

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