I process technology bids for a living, specifically, formal bids.
Q: What's a formal bid?
A: It's a document issued by an entity that wants to buy something. Examples of entities include state and local governments, elementary and higher education systems, the federal government, publicly-held commercial businesses, etc.
Q: Why can't the entity just go out and buy the item(s) anywhere?
A: Because some entities are legally bound by a specific bid process, a protocol, so to speak, of putting purchases "out to bid".
A: Yep, that's what I said when I was offered the job as a Bid Coordinator.
In a nutshell, a bid allows multiple suppliers to submit cost proposals for consideration by the entity.
The entity must follow the formal procedure by issuing an invitation to bid. It then collects and reviews all responses from the bidders, and ultimately awards the bid to one or more suppliers.
Q: How do you get a formal bid?
A: Snail mail, email, downloaded from a website, or handed to me by my boss. Formal bids come across my desk in a variety of different forms: an Invitation to Bid (ITB), a Request for Proposal(RFP), a Request for Quote (RFQ) are among the most common.
Q: What makes it formal? Does it wear a tuxedo?
A: Nope, what makes it formal is that the bid response (proposal) must be delivered to the entity , by a specific date and time of day.
Q: I get sealed envelopes in my mailbox every day at home. What's the big deal?
A: Sealed bids cannot be opened until the specified date and time. Think of it as a sort of "Do Not Open Until Christmas" rule.
Q: You mean, like my rule for not opening my bills?
A: No, meaning that it's illegal to open a sealed bid until the "official" opening date and time advertised when the bid was issued.
Q: Well, how do you know that someone hasn't peeked to see what's inside, like I used to do before Christmas every year when I found my parents' secret "hiding spot" for my presents?
A: Typically, there are witnesses to the event, so that there's no tomfoolery over who wins the bid.
Some entities go so far as to make a party out of a bid opening by inviting the public to view the procedure.
Q: How come I've never been invited to a formal bid opening?
A: (Actually, it's a question to a question): Why would you possibly want to sit around a room with a bunch of stodgy bureaucrats to hear the mind-numbing details of the proposals?
Q: I don't know, maybe they'll serve cocktails and appetizers.
A: Sorry, the imbibing of alcohol, or any other mind-altering drug, anywhere but inside a closet these days, could be misconstrued by the public as questionable behavior.
Just think, if you're a city employee responsible for opening the bids, and you've had "a few too many" by the opening, what's to say that you don't "mistakenly" drop a bid or two in the garbage, or spill red wine on one, making it unreadable?
Q: What's the big deal? You'd just have less proposals to read.
A: Did I forget to say that the tossed proposals were from competitors of your brother-in-law, the supplier that you want to win?
Q: Oh, I'm starting to get it now. It's like an auction. It has to be a fair playing field, so that every body has an equal opportunity to win the bid.
Q: Wow, so what made you decide to be a Bid Coordinator?
A: I thought it would be exciting, you know, like getting a sharp-stick poked in my eye.