How the Board of Education Saved Two Million Dollars

There were two books that we were unable to come to a decision about after much discussion; they were extremely close. So we left it open to the Board of Education to decide. Since the board was now taking the cost into consideration, and since the two books were so evenly matched, the board decided to open the bids and take the lower one.

Then the question came up, "Will the schools be getting the books at the regular time, or could they, perhaps, get them a little earlier, in time for the coming term?"

One publisher's representative got up and said, "We are happy that you accepted our bid; we can get it out in time for the next term."

A representative of the publisher that lost out was also there, and he got up and said, "Since our bids were submitted based on the later deadline, I think we should have a chance a bid again for the earlier deadline, because we too can meet the earlier deadline."

Mr. Norris, the Pasadena lawyer on the board, asked the guy from the other publisher, "And how much would it cost for us to get your books at the earlier date?"

And he gave a number: It was less!

The first guy got up: "If he changes his bid, I have the right to change my bid!"—and his bid is still less!

Norris asked, "Well how is that—we get the books earlier and it's cheaper?"

"Yes," one guy says. "We can use a special offset method we wouldn't normally use..."—some excuse why it came out cheaper.

The other guy agreed: "When you do it quicker, it costs less!"

That was really a shock. It ended up two million dollars cheaper. Norris was really incensed by this sudden change.

What happened, of course, was that the uncertainty about the date had opened the possibility that these guys could bid against each other. Normally, when books were supposed to be chosen without taking the cost into consideration, there was no reason to lower the price; the book publishers could put the prices at any place they wanted to. There was no advantage in competing by lowering the price; the way you competed was to impress the members of the curriculum commission.