back to article Brit prosecutors ask IT suppliers to fight over £3 USB cable tender

Small businesses have often moaned that government procurement is just one massive pork barrel, with only the greediest and biggest able to stick their snouts in. But some departments are doing their best to carve up tenders into smaller, more manageable chunks. Step forward the UK's Crown Prosecution Service, which threw a …

  1. big_D Silver badge

    Sorry, but if it costs 3 quid on Amazon, then order it from Amazon, or run down to Dixons or whatever. It costs more to put out the bloody tender!

    If it was for a thousand pieces, fine, but 1 cable? Get real!

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      You miss the point.

      The bureaucracy droid has to generate the tender, audit the tender documents when returned and issue the final tender. He could have ordered the part from Amazon or Joe Bloggs Computer sales down the road but that's not his job.

      When no tender documents are returned due to it being a "bloody stupid thing to tender for", the bureaucracy droid asks their preferred Megacorp to bid and supply an approved part which they do at a single price of £25. A follow up order can then follow for 30000 of the items at a generously discounted rate of only £15 per item. It's a win-win for bureaucracy jobs, Megacorp profits and of course us, the great unwashed people, as they've got such a good deal by bulk purchasing ...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        re The bureaucracy droid

        I worked for one company that, after privatisation, was flooded with accountants. Before that I could have spent £5k and explained it later. After that everything went though an ever increasing cabal of accountants. We worked out that at one point it was costing them around £100 to asses whether I could have a £5 item. It got the the point where we spent £30k on overtime to meet a timeslot we had arranged with a supplier only for the work to be done on time but the slot was missed because I could no longer sign to have the tape with the design sent to the US ($24!!!) and those up the tree refused to even think about it. Apparently I should have known the procedures would change randomly and taken that into account.

        1. fredj

          Re: re The bureaucracy droid

          Ah, accountants! The only thing most of them are really good at is telling you how the company went bust and in great detail.

          1. TheDillinquent

            Re: re The bureaucracy droid

            ...comes from knowing the cost of everything but not understanding value.

        2. TheDillinquent
          Angel

          Re: re The bureaucracy droid

          Yep, that's what happens when you get an infestation of accountants, there is no treatment, you just have to wait til they disappear up their own arses. Unfortunately this is usually fatal to the host.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        " the bureaucracy droid asks their preferred Megacorp to bid and supply an approved part "

        And that, right there, is how "The Usual Suspects (TM)" are still the #1 way that the UKG spends most of its IT £.

        UKG is a cash cow for them because they've put in the time and effort to make it so.

        "It's too much effort for such a small order." Make it a template document and chase a dozen.

        Then if they are all refused lawyer up and take procurement to court. You have to stand your ground and fight. Something most SME's don't seem to get.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Dixons Price

      As they charge £19.99 for a short HDMI cable (but it is super gold plated said the helpful driod) that puts them out of the running for a USB cable on price alone. Their Cables must have a liberal coating of magic pixie dust.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Dixons Price

        I live in Germany, our equivalent of Dixons nowadays have bargain buckets with cheap cables these days... I assumed that, due to pressure from online retailers, Dixons had gone the same way...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Rob Gr

          Re: Dixons Price

          That would be nice, but I think these places know that the only reason people don't buy such things online is that they want one yesterday.

        3. hogsback

          Re: Dixons Price

          Sadly, there is absolutely no equivalent of Media Markt in the UK. I don't know why they haven't opened branches here as they have in the Netherlands etc. They would destroy the competition, such as it is.

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: Dixons Price

            Sadly, there is absolutely no equivalent of Media Markt in the UK. I don't know why they haven't opened branches here as they have in the Netherlands etc. They would destroy the competition, such as it is.

            Sometimes the dearth of alternatives is regional, not national. Here in the Lower Hudson Valley region of NY, no major chains want to move here because the economy is so depressed there's no money to be made here. And with the demise of Ripoff Shack and Circuit Shitty (Radio Shack and Circuit City) your only alternative is "Best" Buy, that doesn't believe in actually stocking product.

        4. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Dixons Price

          You must be joking. Went looking at TVs recently, and they were flogging HDMI cables to purchase with them, 'on offer' for 'only' £79.99

          Ludicrous.

          If they can sell just one of those to a sucker, then that's worth over 25 sales of a £3 cable.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Dixons Price

        'gold plated HDMI cable'

        I have literally had that conversation in Dixons. I went in to buy a FreeView box, a youth pounced on me, telling I didn't want FreeView, I wanted Sky, and I said 'no, you want commission for selling Sky, and I don't want a monthly subscription.' So, I chose my FreeView box, and then he produced said gold plated HDMI cable, telling me I'd get a much better picture with it. Sad thing was I think he actually believed this to be true, it wasn't just sales patter.

        1. big_D Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Dixons Price

          I was in PC World years ago, before I left the UK. There was a saleshole trying to fob a customer off with a Psion Surfer modem for 150UKP... He was extolling the virtues of the modem and I listened for 5 minutes as he gave his spiel.

          Then I butted in, saying, yes, the Psion had just won an award in PC Pro's modem round-up. The saleshole smiled widely... Then I finished my sentence, the best modem for under 100UKP. His grin turned upside down.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dixons Price

          True story - I'm sure I read it on here (Or reddit..) - One young chap got sent on a 2-day course with 'Monster' on how to sell their super expensive cables. Words escape me..

    3. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Cable costs £3 but organising the tender takes 15 people 4 weeks and costs a total of £4,734!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I worked for an IT organisation where corruption was a potential problem, and for anything under £100 total order value I decided 1 quote was usually OK. You expect it to be sanity checked by the manager signing it off, and there is not much to be made by defrauding such an order value versus the cost of bureaucracy / employee time in having to obtain multiple quotes.

      (I also set £100 - £1000 2 quotes needed, and > £1000 at least 3 - which worked just fine for the time I was there.)

    5. 2460 Something

      The other point was also that they do this so they can pretend to be offering business to SME's who are so rude as to not even respond. Thereby justifying whatever the hell they want to spend from their preferred supplier (the ones that take them out for fancy meals etc...)

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Critical thinking

    I think the ability to think has reached critical condition in the Civil Service.

  3. Denarius Silver badge
    WTF?

    back when I were a lad

    and a purchasing officer, Audit would have rightly criticized this waste of time as not value for money. For once the credit card replacement for petty cash was the right way to go. You Poms really have a public Service devoted to mocking the small business sector, don't you. Don't let the clever fools running the Oz PS into the ground know, they will want to copy it.

  4. Richard Wharram

    Whose name is on it?

    Name, shame and fire.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Whose name is on it?

      > Whose name is on it?

      > Name, shame and fire.

      No, quite the opposite. The person who raised this is clearly frustrated at being prevented from doing their job by the mass of petty bureaucratic rules being taken to the extreme, and has done so as a protest.

      There needs to be some citizen awarded gongs - the anti-Queen's Honours perhaps - that can be given to people like this.

  5. Brenda McViking

    How hard is it, if you're a small supplier, to script an auto-generated response to such requests with a standard 99GBP cost for said item?

    That way if you win, quids in! (and I think you'd be surprised - even in the private sector with a lumbering no-room-to-manoevure purchasing system which seems to require a 6 month audit just to get a new supplier of coffee coasters on board - I've certainly bought such mundane and cheap things like a 10m of hookup wire for 35 quid a reel just because they were the only supplier to quote and provide next day delivery.

    Due to insurance purposes for offsite working, it was mandatory for me to hire a car for a day from Avis if I wanted to drive to Maplins - I had to provide that option to purchasing as well to get the go ahead - that option was 7 quid more expensive. Took me 45 minutes to be compliant with the process - which charged out at engineering rates of 90GBP/hr. Pork barrels and troughs? they're everywhere.)

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      You're only seeing half of it.

      There's the bid document to complete, then the anti-slavery documentation, then the evidence of being an equal opportunities employer.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        "There's the bid document to complete, then the anti-slavery documentation, then the evidence of being an equal opportunities employer."

        While onboarding as a supplier for a large services company I recently had to provide proof that we have at least £10m employers insurance in case we are sued by one of our own employees, that we have health and safety policies in place and *enforced*, that we are equal opportunities etc...

        They also insisted that we provided proof that we have measures in place to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment in the work place.

        The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee."

          So what they're asking you to do is black up (or white up, hey its equal rights), dress in womens (mens) clothes and act gay (overtly hetero)? Is that how an individual demonstrates equality?

          I suggest you call a meeting to discuss with your team.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @d3vy .....

          I can see they would have issue with your company.

          Unless there is something very strange happening 100% of the employees at your company have the same ethnicity, age group, religious belief, race, colour, gender........ Sounds like extreme discrimination to me ;-)

          Of course if I'm wrong and there is diversity then perhaps it's not impossible that one of your "employees" would choose to sue "yourself".

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            @d3vy

            Of course if I'm wrong and there is diversity then perhaps it's not impossible that one of your "employees" would choose to sue "yourself".

            You could of course sack yourself, then sue yourself for unfair dismissal.

            Then as a shareholder sue the management for damaging the share price.

        3. Guus Leeuw

          @d3vy

          Dear Sir,

          you are not legally obliged to proof any of these things unless you have at least 5 employees in total (including you, if you're on the payroll).

          I'm surprised your client wasn't aware of the size of your organisation and that therefore such questions, really, aren't relevant.

          Regards,

          Guus

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: @d3vy

            Guus,

            They were well aware of the size of the company and its all well and good saying I'm not legally obliged to provide it, but then they're not legally obliged to set me up as a supplier and give me work...

            They put up the hoops, I jump through them. It's just how it works. :)

        4. Pompous Git Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          "insisted that we provided proof that we have measures in place to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment in the work place.

          The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee."

          In the 1980s and 90s I was in much the same situation. I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring...

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            "I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring..."

            Yeah but I'm pretty sure my boss is shagging my wife!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            " I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring..."

            On the contrary, it is the only thing that makes working from home bearable

          3. 's water music Silver badge

            In the 1980s and 90s I was in much the same situation. I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring...

            I refer the PP to my previous response

        5. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          @d3vy "Its my company, Im the only employee" - it could be worse, if you employed your wife and used a home office, you'd have a devil of a job proving there was no sexual harassment at the workplace!

    2. Richard Jones 1
      FAIL

      @ Brenda McViking

      How true your comments were. I have been retired for some years but an associated company had even worse rules than yours. One 'command centre' had a critical capacity issue with the power feed to the site. The manager needed more seats so took the wise route of buying LED displays on petty cash for just over £100 a time rather than £2,000 per throw from the 'supplier of choice' As a circa £100 item they were not capitalised and were classed as expendable so did not justify a supplier's maintenance agreement. He also saved the cost of a new power supply, (£50,000 plus) and its follow on higher bills. Mind you their procurement cycle time for new kits was up to 12 months. This did not sit well with a just in time style desire to buy kit to service new contracts.The different business in which I worked had a customer first service ethic, so we ended up servicing both ends of the deal with equipment. (The same brilliant unit had even managed to sign off on empty racks 'as ready for service', so their super systems really worked well. The customer suffered a two week's delay while we, not the sister bunch organised the missing equipment to arrive, oops.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How hard is it, if you're a small supplier, to script an auto-generated response to such requests with a standard 99GBP cost for said item?"

      Exactly as hard as it is for the procurer to auto-generate the request for compliance purposes whenever a nonstandard equipment request hits the support system.

      That is to say not at all.

      That is to say that's probably exactly what is happening here. Supplier is signed up as small/sme equipment supplier, so gets auto-spammed with auto-generated RFQs so they can never say they were left out of the procurement process.

  6. Only me!
    Trollface

    Tender

    I think all the small people should consider a "blind" biding process, to see where the floor is in the procurement.....so all tender away.

    Think I will start mine at £30,000 as it is a special one off procurement, which therefore means I have to put a specialist on the job who will require a manager and project manager....project plans will need to be drawn up and a factory visit to China. All very essential.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Tender

      Seems a bit low, the article doesn't state the length or USB standard required. You will definitely need to complete more research.

      1. Brenda McViking

        Re: Tender

        "Not what you needed?", thats a cancellation fee then. Plus a change management fee right there, plus handling fees, restocking fees, admin fees, redistribution fees and naturally because this is a government project, green fees.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It has been a while since I worked for a local council, but I am guessing that whoever put this out to tender did it to cover their own back to show that when they ordered the 3 quid Amazon cable they were getting 'best value' as they are told they have to do. It's doubtful that the usual IT suppliers would better that price. It's ridiculous bureaucracy to have to do this for such a low value item. I don't remember our department having to do this for such small items but it was 10 years ago. We would often buy small items such as the odd replacement, keyboard, mice, DVD-ROM drive etc from the local PC World down the road.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just restricted to the UK

    Used to work for a Research agency in Europe. We were not allowed to purchase from Amazon. Fullstop. even if they were the cheapest. We were also not allowed to just go to the local Hardware store (without filling out all the travel paperwork as if we were travelling to the otherside of the world). If we wanted screws we had to purchase them from the one approved online store that had about a 5000% mark-up.

    In the end, we went on our own time to the local Hardware store bought the screws and our Boss (who was actually pretty awesome) paid us back by dipping into the "hospitality" Budget and funding a night down the Pub.

    Funnily enough there wasnt particularly strict reporting requirements on the hospitality budget so it got a fair bit of use for this sort of thing...

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Not just restricted to the UK

      Common sense prevails!

  9. djstardust Silver badge

    Thank god

    They don't procure from Maplins

    GB PLC would be completely bust in a week.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

      No, no, no, these are the intelligent one's. It's the others negotiating Brexit.

      1. Tromos
        Joke

        Re: And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

        It's obvious that we'd, near as dammit, get the best deal by ordering Brexit from Amazon.

        1. plrndl

          Brexit from Amazon

          Any chance it could get lost in the post?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, they're not in charge of Brexit, so don't worry about that!

      In fact, the person ultimately in charge of Brexit- the one who's dictating a hardball approach because she thinks she holds all the cards and they'll have to give us everything we ask for- is the same person that called an unnecessary general election solely because she was completely sure she'd increase her majority by doing so (#), then proceeded to not only fail in this, but to mess it up so badly that she completely lost her majority altogether and had to rely on bribing another party with the public's money just to remain in power.

      You know that's someone whose judgement and competence you can trust.

      (#) Shortly after the election, someone said that when Theresa May first rose to prominence, no-one would have considered her a gambler. This was particularly lacking in perception- she hadn't changed, she still wasn't. She called an election she'd previously said she wouldn't have- and didn't need to have- quite openly to increase her majority and railroad a hard-right vision of Brexit through solely because she quite clearly thought she had it in the bag already.

  11. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Not just restricted to governments

    I once worked at a German electronics store, and one customer had an open debt of 1 Pfennig (roughly half a cent). We sent out a letter (costing something like 70 Pfennig) to send the demand note.

    Such things happen regularly at organisations. It's when people act according to rules. The German expression is "Dienst nach Vorschrift" which apparently translates as "work to rule".

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Not just restricted to governments

      I once worked at a German electronics store, and one customer had an open debt of 1 Pfennig (roughly half a cent). We sent out a letter (costing 70 Pfennig) to send the demand note.

      And the customer waited for the third reminder to be received before he paid that Pfennig back, right ?

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Not just restricted to governments

        "And the customer waited for the third reminder to be received before he paid that Pfennig back, right ?"

        No, they actually brought in the Pfennig in person.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: Not just restricted to governments

        British Gas sent me a bill for 38p every quarter for over 10 years........

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

      I once overpaid a utility bill by a few cents & thought nothing of it. Then they sent me a refund cheque for the *Three Pennies* that I was owed. It cost more in printer ink, an envelope, & postage than the damned thing was worth...

      I made a photocopy for framing as proof, then submitted the cheque to my bank to be cashed. The teller took one look, went bug eyed in disbelief, & asked if there had been some mistake. I assured her that no, the amount was correct... Three. Bloody. Cents. ... She shook her head, sighed, & opened her till to pay me... and had to ask if I had change for a nickle because she was out of pennies. I nearly wet myself laughing at the absurdity of it all & told her to "just deposit it in my account!"

      I lost the framed photocopy in my most recent move, a bummer because I made it out of a bunch of tongue depressors I'd swiped from the doctors office, made a "pane of glass" out of an old plastic sandwich baggie, & hung it on the wall with a blob of chewing gum. The GUM cost more than the cheque was worth... =-)p

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

        My favourite instance of this is a government department.

        They sent us a letter stating that we had made a one pence overpayment, and please find enclosed cheque coin (handwritten amendment). There was a one pence piece taped to the bottom of the letter in lieu of the cheque.

        Clearly somebody decided that they couldn't be assed with the hassle of getting a cheque made out, approved and signed for one penny, and so had disposed of some shrapnel in their pocket to get tick off the job.

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

          "Clearly somebody decided that they couldn't be assed with the hassle of getting a cheque made out, approved and signed for one penny, and so had disposed of some shrapnel in their pocket to get tick off the job."

          Nope. Not allowed. It wouldn't get past the auditors.

          Now someone might have filled out a chit for petty cash, got it signed, in triplicate, gone to Accounts (only open during the hours of 16:00 to 16:30 on Tuesdays) to swap the chit for the penny, but we can only speculate.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

            "Now someone might have filled out a chit for petty cash, got it signed, in triplicate, gone to Accounts (only open during the hours of 16:00 to 16:30 on Tuesdays) to swap the chit for the penny, but we can only speculate."

            While repairing a till printer in a well known large supermarket chain, I found 43p in change underneath the unit. I was told "No, PLEASE take it, you have NO IDEA how much hassle it would be to put that back through the till". So I bought a can of coke and bar of chocolate with it (which give you some idea of when that was!)

            1. BongoJoe Silver badge

              Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

              So I bought a can of coke and bar of chocolate with it (which give you some idea of when that was!)

              Some time ago, because today the Health & Safety would be onto you for buying such sugary items.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

              While repairing a till printer in a well known large supermarket chain, I found 43p in change underneath the unit. I was told "No, PLEASE take it, you have NO IDEA how much hassle it would be to put that back through the till"

              I once got a server-grade mid-tower that way. It had come along with a high-end unix rack system, as it's control box. Now, the lab used 1U rackmounts as the control units, so they never bothered to even hook up or power up the machine. Doing a cleanup in the lab, they found a couple of these machines which didn't show up in the abomination they use for an asset management tool. If they had bothered to put the machines *into* the asset management, and have to explain where it came from, the next asset evaluation (the next month) would have marked it as surplus equipment, and we'd have had to go through the trouble of removing it from inventory and ship it out for "scrapping".

              The person in charge of assets for the department told a couple of us to take the machines home, as they never wanted to see them again.

              Anonymous because, obviously.

        2. Kernel

          Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

          "Clearly somebody decided that they couldn't be assed with the hassle of getting a cheque made out, approved and signed for one penny, and so had disposed of some shrapnel in their pocket to get tick off the job."

          Many years ago when I was still enthused about being a team manager, one of my peers employed a new team member, for whom HR, in their wisdom, decided that $x999.00 would be the correct salary.

          While that person remained on their initial salary, once each year, on the anniversary of them starting work, they were ceremoniously presented with a single dollar coin by my colleague to make the salary up to an even x+1 thousand..

      2. paulf Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

        @ Shadow Systems "I once overpaid a utility bill by a few cents..."

        Similar story but in reverse. Last time I moved I ended up a customer of Scottish Power for about 6 weeks until I could set up with my supplier of choice. For anyone not familiar they're a low rent (as in quality of service, not price) Gas+Elec supplier in the UK. It took them most of those 6 weeks to set up my account as their systems simply couldn't cope with signing me up - it thought the person who'd moved in was the person the former owners bought their new place from as by chance he was also a SP customer (seriously FFS!).

        To cut a long story short - they took so long to generate my closing bill (2 years) they managed to send me two sets of bills with the same date - one promising a refund of the £40-odd I'd been charged in that 6 weeks (all of which I'd paid 2 years earlier) and another demanding I paid them a £0.02 shortfall. None of their calculations made any sense nor bore any resemblance to my own meter readings/calculations.

        I figured it wasn't worth calling them up to claim the possible refund, nor leaving the £0.02 unpaid and facing the hassle of them pursuing me for it, so to make sure I didn't hear from them again I paid the £0.02. The woman in the Post Office seemed unsurprised when she checked the bill, and I paid by debit card in the hope it would cost them the most to process compared to the amount.

        I didn't hear from them again - a total shower.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Check for $0.00

          I was once sent a "refund for overpayment" check for $0.00 from some company. I was going to throw it away, but I had to visit the bank anyway so I figured I'd try cashing it. I don't think the teller even looked at it until she was trying to enter the amount. She sort of stopped, looked at the check, looked at me, looked at the check, and looked at her screen. Then she typed and told me her system wouldn't let her enter a deposit of $0.00, and wondered why I wanted to deposit it.

          I told her if the company was going to be silly enough to mail me a check for $0.00 I was willing to play along and deposit it. She apologized and returned it to me. I probably have it buried in a drawer somewhere, I'm pretty sure I never tossed it.

      3. MK_E

        Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

        I once withdrew all my cash from a bank account (I took on a short contract job for a bank and the account came with the job), and THEN closed the account.

        Not long after, I received a cheque for the accrued interest for 1p. I've still got it somewhere.

        1. Vic

          Re: @Christian Berger, re: stupid bills.

          Not long after, I received a cheque for the accrued interest for 1p. I've still got it somewhere.

          I get a regular statement on one of my accounts showing 2p in the account.

          I only opened this one as a way to get money into the account IO was really trying to open.

          But the account is classed as "dormant"; I can't actually do anything with it[1].

          So every month, the bank sends me another statement saying I've got 2p in that account...

          Vic.

          [1] I did try; an additional account would have been a useful thing. But the bank insisted I use it as a current account - i.e. pay my salary into it - for three months before they would open it up again. That's useful...

    3. benjya

      Re: Not just restricted to governments

      While in a student house in the mid 90s, for about 10 months we received chasing letters from Mercury Communications (remember the old "dial 131") addressed to the former occupants for an outstanding sum of... 1p. Needless to say we ignored them. Eventually they sent a letter "saying we're now giving up on collecting this" - having spent about £2.50 on postage (25,000% of the value of the debt), as well as the costs of paper, printing and envelopes...

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Not just restricted to governments

        I was declined a mortgage once because of an outstanding debt more than a year old. They couldn't tell me what it was so I wrote to Experian (this was before you could order them online) with my cheque enclosed with an sae and waited two weeks for the report to come back.

        The debt? I had underpaid an orange mobile bill by £2.50 when at college and as I moved around a bit didn't receive the bills.

        A quick phone call to orange confirmed that they were not bothered and just wrote it off.. two more weeks for it to come off the credit file and the mortgage went through.

        For the sake of £2.50..

      2. Tromos

        Re: Not just restricted to governments

        At a property of mine in Greece I had phone/broadband provided by OTE which was a government monopoly at the time. Shortly after some competition was allowed, I moved to one of the new providers. There was a matter of half a euro to be refunded for line rental as I made sure the cancellation would go through a couple of days before the next billing period. Was this refunded directly to my bank using the same mechanisms as the bill payments? No. I was invited to pop around to their headquarters with various proofs of identity and other paperwork, queue for probably hours and then receive a sum that wouldn't get a cup of coffee. Of course I didn't bother to go. Two months later another letter came with the exact same info. More than 12 years have elapsed and there have been 75 letters! I'd like to think I'm slowly bankrupting them a stamp at a time.

        1. psychonaut

          Re: Not just restricted to governments

          Marbles credit card still owe me 5p. From 20 years ago. They (actually mbna now I think) send a letter every month to my mums house. I cannot get them to cancel it or for them to stop sending letters. I tried about 10 years ago spent maybe an hour on the phone and the guy ended up saying that it's buried in the system somewhere and that they can't stop it. Ive not bothered to try again.

    4. Vic

      Re: Not just restricted to governments

      I once worked at a German electronics store, and one customer had an open debt of 1 Pfennig (roughly half a cent). We sent out a letter (costing something like 70 Pfennig) to send the demand note.

      I once had a letter from a local authority informing me that I owed them £0.00. Which was nice. I filed the letter accordingly.

      A fortnight later, I got a shitogram informing me that I still owed the debt of £0.00, and they were very disappointed that I had made no effort to make a payment. Should I fail to settle quickly, I could look forward to court action.

      And I really did look forward to it. It never came, though...

      Vic.

      1. Acme

        Re: Not just restricted to governments

        @Vic

        Some years ago I read a similar story about a company chasing a $0.00 debt. In the story, he wrote a cheque for $0.00 - which caused the whole banking computer system to crash.

        1. BongoJoe Silver badge

          Re: Not just restricted to governments

          My father, back in the sixties, once received a gas bill for £0. 0s 0d and, of course, ignored it.

          A reminder letter followed and then a Final Demand. So, he rang up the office to ask how this could be sorted and he was told that the computer needs to see that a payment had been made, so would be kindly send a cheque for no pounds, no shilling and no pennies.

          A few days later he received a letter saying that his account was up to date.

          Then in the next post a letter from the bank arrived asking him what the hell he was playing at writing cheques for such an amount.

    5. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Re: Not just restricted to governments

      "I once worked at a German electronics store, and one customer had an open debt of 1 Pfennig (roughly half a cent). We sent out a letter (costing something like 70 Pfennig) to send the demand note."

      It probably cost a lot more than 70 Pfennig in terms of staff time, depreciation on that IBM Golfball and other infrastructure costs.

      I recall getting a refund cheque from my local authority for something like 30 pence and having to check that I hadn't gone overdrawn that quarter. "Free banking" in those days only applied as long as I didn't go overdrawn, and the charge for paying in a cheque was more than this one was worth.

    6. paulf Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Not just restricted to governments

      @ Christian Berger "Such things happen regularly at organisations. It's when people act according to rules. The German expression is "Dienst nach Vorschrift" which apparently translates as "work to rule"."

      That reminds me of the saying, "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the observance of fools".

      Unfortunately the fools tend to be the middle management types who look scornfully on the knowledgeable people below them who are trying to get on with their jobs despite demands to follow the rules to the letter because they're not trusted to deviate a mm from them.

  12. d3vy Silver badge

    I heard CSC won that bid.

    The cable supplied was a 3cm long rs232 male to male and ended up costing £50,000.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not alone in being insane

    We have a supplier "areas of interest" profile that says 'data analysis, visualisation and related systems' and getting an invitation to tender for offering Powerpoint end user training for a council at the other end of the country for £10 / hour incl expenses ....

  14. peterb
    Stop

    USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

    It's a long time since I dealt with such things, but isn't that a sure fire way to fry the USB chipset?

    USB A to USB B is okay, USB A male to USB A female is no problem, but USB A male to male puts voltage where it you don't want it to go. IIRC

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

      I cant remember the specifics of USB , but I do know that if no one technical has spoken to the end user who requested it , you can guarantee thats not what they want. Not even close. They'll be trying to plug their printer in using a HDMI cable , and trying to ram it into a vga socket or some such shit , and at the end of the day they dont even need a printer because their's big economical one down the hall, but they cant be arsed walking to it , added to which they dont even need to print at all because the only reason they are trying to print that document is so they can feed it into the fucking fax machine , despite there being an e-fax solution on the PC for when the luddites they are trying to communicate with (probably a finance dept) cant use email.

      Asked why they do it that way the user will say "because we've always done it that way"

    2. localzuk

      Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

      USB A Male to Male is quite common in projector installations. For some reason, some manufacturers make the connection boxes with A female sockets to connect to. So you end up needing the A Male to Male to connect your device to the projector.

    3. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

      You'll probably won't fry anything, but it's certainly not part of the standard.

    4. Jon 37

      Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

      If people making USB devices bothered to read and follow the USB standard, then you'd never need a USB A Male to Male cable.

      But they don't bother following the standard, plenty of cheap devices have USB A sockets on them (in volation of the standard that says they should be USB B sockets) so you need a USB A Male to Male cable to connect them to your PC.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

        USB-on-the-go often uses them, though USB-OTG is more common on phones and tablets with Micro-B than things using A.

        I have an adapted A to A adapter cable for this purpose.

        With a cut +5V line because it's for blowing in a bootloader and the product itself isn't intended to do OTG.

    5. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

      I seem to remember Male to Male cables being popular for transfering files to new PCs before home networking really took off.

      I seem to recall that they had an active unit inline that would do whatever magic was needed to make it work.

      1. Adam JC

        Re: USB A, Male to Male? I don't think you really want one of them

        Ahh the ole 'Windows Easy Transfer' cables! I remember them.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can be too cheap as well

    This isn't about a frivolous RFQ. Our company put in a bid on a project software RFQ which we didn't get despite us scoring top marks in the technical evaluation. When we naturally queried this we found out that our bid was rejected because the amount we charge was too low. As such according to their rules it was classed as suspicious, so they didn't even open the financial side of the bid scoring us zero there.

    Welcome to UK Government purchasing when you can be too cheap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can be too cheap as well

      I have some sympathy for the 'reject if too cheap' response. It may mean a) you misunderstood the spec, b) your quality is really low c) you'll be bankrupt when i need service or d) you are giving us a really good deal. So that's a 1 in 4 chance of a positive outcome.

      And don't most of us do it most of the time? Hmm, an Iphone 7 on Gumtree for £100 - must be legit...a flight to the Algarve with Air Dodgy for a tenner...chicken and chips for a pound, that will be tasty.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can be too cheap as well

        You missed e - you were cheap, but that's because you did not mark up the cost of your product to cover the "hospitality" lavished to win the contract - no "hospitality" no contract is often the case.

        "Hospitality" lavished to ease contract gains can be anything from tickets to big sports events, "conferences" related to the software that just happens to be held in luxury holiday destinations - big companies know to play this game, small companies naively assume a simple bid - not that they may to "bribe" their way to the contract

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: You can be too cheap as well

          "You missed e - you were cheap, but that's because you did not mark up the cost of your product to cover the "hospitality" lavished to win the contract - no "hospitality" no contract is often the case."

          It doesn’t even have to be "hospitality". A residential training course for all the staff will do quite nicely.

          ICL's Beaumont Training Centre just outside Windsor was a nice treat at the beginning of my career and it was a rather good computing intro course.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can be too cheap as well

        There was a procedure in the project procurement documents to follow up any low bids and find out if the low bid was genuine or not. They didn't even bother to do this. Even with a 0 score in the financial side our technical scores ( adherence to the spec, software quality, usability etc.) were so high that we actually came in second on the bid.

      3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: You can be too cheap as well

        ".chicken and chips for a pound"

        That makes me feel old.

        I can remember getting chicken and chips for a pound.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can be too cheap as well

      Ac for obv reasons

      A place I used to work for (small company) also lost out as their software was "too cheap" (despite exactly the same software being in use at lots of customers, as it was one of our "bread & butter" products with a set price and only extras were per seatt (small) cost and charges for us doing any initial import of existing data and even then (we providedd data import tools customers could use, charges were only if they were incapable of getting their old data into an appropriate import format and needed us to do it .. and as CSV, XML and a few other formats supported for data import that was easy for most customers )

  16. Lee D Silver badge

    I work in schools.

    I am SO MUCH HAPPIER in independent (private) schools, because they don't have this kind of mass procurement nonsense. State schools used to insist on three identical quotes, which obviously has any number of ways to fudge at extreme lengths of effort to attempt to do, resulting in a lot of wasted time to end up with the answer I would have given anyway.

    And not everything is about cost... in fact most things AREN'T about cost. I reject companies or change to their rivals more often because of poor service or unreliability, not cost. Service, reliability, and assuredness of future business is reliance on a certain cost.

    Nowadays, I find a link on Amazon, send it to a bursar, if it's not stupendously expensive, it gets clicked and ordered and arrives the next day. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of business every year happens like that on Amazon only, let alone the myriad other websites where you find a product that no-one else sells, etc.

    But in terms of procurement - long-term suppliers, that the business relies on, cost is secondary to "are you going to be around next year and give us the same service".

    Sorry, but if it's under £100, it's basically automatic approval so long as there's two names on the sheet (so you don't just walk off with it). If it's under £1000, sure, look around and try to make sure it's comparable pricing, but order from the place that handles your business the best. If it's larger than that, you're into requests for quotes and sign-offs but it doesn't need to be some huge big deal involving a dozen people.

    This is the problem with the NHS too - they are locked into procurement processes that are ridiculous, AA batteries costing £10 each because of procurement rules, that turn up as single Duracell batteries you could buy for 50p each on your lunch hour. But, of course, you're not allowed to do that as that would not be recompensed on expenses because it cuts out their minister-approved middle-man.

    I ordered something like 200 iPads on Amazon once. It was barely questioned, on unit price, because it was just the no-brainer for a product that's never discounted and identical from everywhere you buy it. It arrived with 24 hours, returns were piss-easy, and we never had a comeback.

    They say Amazon is killing the high street? It's because the service is second-to-none and they sell everything you might want. Suppliers can't compete on either factor, and I've gone through 3-4 major equipment suppliers in terms of network procurement and ongoing support because they all turn useless in a year. But for just *buying* stuff? Go to the most sensible place.

    My bursar actually tells me off for wasting his time if it's under £50 and obviously required.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      .

      But where does the Bursar get his dried frog pills?

    2. Just Enough

      different sectors

      Stories about how it is so much easier in the private sector are all very well, but they operate in a completely different environment to the public sector.

      Your private school is not going to appear all over the newspapers if there's the suggestion of tax-payer's money being wasted, or spent with companies over a private arrangement. All spending is heavily audited to prevent any dodgy dealing and ensure best value for money. So it's in everyone's interests to cover their backs if the spending is questioned.

      Any 'arrangements' in a private company is their own business. If they are getting ripped off, it's their lookout. If a member of staff is on the take, it's not public money getting misappropriated. For the most part, no-one else cares. They can handle their procurement however they like, as long as the appropriate taxes are getting paid.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: different sectors

        ". All spending is heavily audited to prevent any dodgy dealing and ensure best value for money. "

        Yeah just seems it dosent usually come out that way does it?

        I'm sure private companies want to prevent dodgy dealing and get value for money too, but at the same time they realise a £1.99 hdmi cable from amazon will arrive 2 weeks quicker and £20 cheaper

        Private schools are notoriously fluid ( slap dash) at any sort of procedure or order or ryhme or rythm i found, but i have also worked for huge private IT contracting companies - you know the ones - and they have as much bureaucracy as a public institution , although more efficient. They can afford to do that though because they are mostly guzzling at the government trough so are effectively public financed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: different sectors

        "....as long as the appropriate taxes are getting paid."

        In United Kingdom private schools are registered as charities ... whether that is appropriate rather depends upon your preferred colour in rosettes.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: different sectors

          whatnow? yeah i guess they need to be charities because all those kids that go to Eaton and Gordonstoun can barely afford school dinner

    3. psychonaut

      I've shifted to buy everything off amazon now. The usual suspects and their shit rma terms / handling can get stuffed ( ebuyer for instance). If anything goes wrong with anything from amazon within a year it's a straight refund no questions, no bullshit, just sorted. The only issue is non vat registered sellers. As I'm vat registered I have to check every item I buy before I buy it as some sellers , even though they sell boat loads of things for hundreds of pounds, aren't vat registered, which makes them 20% more expensive for me. I wish amazon would sort that out. By the way has anyone upgraded to amazon business account? If so what happens with rma's and next day prime delivery? Would be interested to hear.

  17. Dazed and Confused Silver badge
    Facepalm

    £3

    For a USB cable

    Oh Lordy someone saw you coming.

  18. PickledAardvark

    Public Sector Purchasing Frameworks

    If you work for a UK public sector organisation, you should pick up the phone and ask your purchasing department which seller to contact. If you are buying PCs, minor peripherals or light bulbs, there are framework agreements from which you pick a seller according to how much you buy, location etc. Somebody else has done all of the hard work to negotiate a deal.

    A USB cable is easy and cheap to buy. There are agreements where you contract to buy £250,000 of low value peripherals per annum. The company supplies at cost plus 5-10% plus a nominal warehouse picking cost per order. Your order goes into a box which is delivered next day to your organisation. If you need items the same day, expect to pay through the nose for delivery -- as anywhere else. If the budget is less than £250,000, there'll be a different agreement which will be cheaper overall than ad hoc purchasing.

    When I read that an organisation allegedly paid £20 for a USB flash drive, I assume one of the following:

    * The order was for a pack of five flash drives rather than a single unit;

    * The drive was a specialist requirement -- hardware encrypted or a discontinued device essential for some legacy kit;

    * The buyer included high shipping costs for a distress purchase;

    * Somebody is talking cobblers.

    According to different sources, raising a purchase order costs £25 or £50. Purchases on an organisational charge card still generate admin costs.

    Good purchasing managers earn a decent salary -- to keep them honest, like judges -- and because they make it easy for other employees make sensible purchasing decisions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Public Sector Purchasing Frameworks

      "If you work for a UK public sector organisation, you should pick up the phone and ask your purchasing department which seller to contact. If you are buying PCs, minor peripherals or light bulbs, there are framework agreements from which you pick a seller according to how much you buy, location etc. Somebody else has done all of the hard work to negotiate a deal."

      Purchasing dept? What's one of those? Outside of agreed contracts, we *always* have to request several quotes, fill in a form, get it signed off by 2-4 managers (depending on value and type of product / service), then scan the signed form and re-submit it electronically. Petty cash was banned years ago and there's no departmental credit card, though we could use the same process to request use of a central card. Even if there is an agreed contract - e.g. office stationery or IT equipment - we still have to get prices from central admin or IT then attach them to the first form... Not following procurement rules = potential disciplinary.

    2. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Public Sector Purchasing Frameworks

      That's how it's supposed to work, but it rarely does. The £4 flash drive price is inflated by the cost of tendering for and administering the contract, compliance with regulations like d3vy's examples, hospitality (negotiators kickbacks), non-standard item charges (8GB drives? No, but we supply 8x1GB drives cheaply) and the "we got your guaranteed business with a few loss leaders and now we're gonna milk it" factor. I've seen it many times in public and private sector organisations.

      Add to that, the purchasing department is focused on the main stuff the organisation needs - Nurses unifoms, beds, tongue depressors - and weird IT stuff isn't a priority for them. Whenever I hear "framework agreement", I know someone just got screwed for over for the convenience of the purchasing department.

  19. hamiltoneuk

    Ah yes Basware Holdings Ltd. (formerly Procserve Services Ltd.and some thing to do with the PA Consultancy) run this portal for bits and bobs of government purchasing to give the appearance of opening up the process to smaller resellers and maybe saving the taxpayer a few quid. It is a bit daft really.

  20. adam payne Silver badge

    "Please can you source a USB A Male to Male cable," read the invite to suppliers to bid – known as a request for quotation (RFQ). In case suppliers were in any doubt, it helpfully added a link to Amazon to demonstrate the item, which came with a £3 unit price."

    Regardless of how stupid this sounds i'm thinking someone was covering their back and purchased the cable from Amazon anyway.

  21. J J Carter Silver badge

    Fiddling while Rome burns...

    But when I asked CPS on the cost/benefit of Office 365 in Govt. they had nothing to offer.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i guess the cps can order in bulk and use one to garrotte every meddling minister that comes in looking to fiddle 'successful' prosecution stats.

  23. fredj

    I used to work in R&D. Very often reagents and parts would cost a great deal of money and only be available from one supplier. This would take the purchase into capital expenditure and a senior management review they claimed. Our department managers simply ordered whatever as they had the money to run the department properly. We used to have great laughs at their stupidity and lack of basic intelligence. The senior managers would acquiesce very quickly because they would look pretty stupid if company R&D was shut down.

    The fuss we created when computers came in for image analysis! Every computer purchase had to be reviewed and none could be more powerful than a senior managers computer. It would overturn the status of the manager. Again we just ordered the things as part of new instrument systems and hid the true spec. The poor dears had no idea what a couple of thousand high res tiff image would do for an HD.

  24. jason 7

    Erm...did somone bother to look in Colin's desk?

    He always keeps all those cables and computer bits.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Erm...did somone bother to look in Colin's desk?

      Or a packet of cereal in the kitchen. I've got boxes of the damn things and I don't think that I've ever purchased one on purpose.

  25. Richard 51

    Hello

    74 comments, come on guys... the clue is in the last para, a simple mistake. Probably human error! But it gave everyone an opportunity to bemoan the government and public sector. Quite how human error allowed a RFQ to get through the usual blizzard of approvals required is of course worth pondering.

    1. Dominion

      Re: Hello

      Yeah but what we really want to know, is how much did they actually end up spending on a USB cable? Come on El Reg, we need to know!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police Procurement

    I work in IT for a UK force, possibly one above the border, not saying which. In the past before a coming together we used to have a budget and a purchase order book. My boss could sign off on pretty much anything up to command and control systems for £1M plus, we could pop to PC world, Maplins, RS or a local non chain PC shop for a couple of urgently needed connectors or order from Amazon or any other supplier that would sign up to take purchase orders and who was the cheapest supplier. If we were really desperate we could spend our cash and get it back from finance petty cash box.

    Now we have a central procurement department, not finance, procurement, that's 10+ staff that weren't needed before, I find what I need, probably at Amazon or CPC, then spend 10 minutes adding a service request with all the details including justification for purchase and account code for department, this goes to my line manager who gives technical approval, it then goes to the purchasing manager for financial approval, at this point they will normally ask if we really need said items or the amount we asked for, so maybe I will cut back from the 20 price break and just ask for 10 at the higher price per unit. Of course, Amazon is not a recognised supplier so they will need to go to Misco or some other approved supplier to try and source a similar item at maybe twice the price.

    I once asked for 5 miniature backlit USB keyboard about the size of a paperback book for use in vehicles, they were £9.99 at Amazon, they offered a standard with keypad non backlit keyboard as an alternative from the approved supplier at £29.99. The users ended up buying them with their own money.

    The amount of times the CFO gets involved with £20 purchases is astounding.

    1. Vic

      Re: Police Procurement

      Of course, Amazon is not a recognised supplier so they will need to go to Misco or some other approved supplier to try and source a similar item at maybe twice the price

      In a previous job, we had a similar arrangement - everything had to be bought from an Approves Supplier.

      I needed to get some fancy cables - I found a supplier who gave me a good price, and tried to buy these cables. I couldn't find anyone else making them - this was the manufacturer. I was refused permission to buy them - the cable manufacturer was not an Approved Supplier, and there were to be No Exceptions.

      It was at this point I discovered that my mate's company *is* an Approved Supplier. So I sent him the URL of the cables I wanted, he put in a quote with a large markup on, and the purchase was made.

      How's that for cost-saving?

      Vic.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Police Procurement

        "It was at this point I discovered that my mate's company *is* an Approved Supplier. So I sent him the URL of the cables I wanted, he put in a quote with a large markup on, and the purchase was made."

        I hope you at least got a pint or two out of the deal.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just a public sector disease

    ... in DXC, an expense can never be approved until an equivalent amount of money has been spent on its prior approval and checking it afterwards to the nth degree.

  28. Borg.King
    Pint

    You and two mates

    You and two mates should respond with three proposals, £200, £250, £300.

    They're likely bound by their own rules to accept the most cost competitive, and you can then split the difference between the three of you.

  29. jonfr

    All the fake jobs

    I guess some people need jobs even if they are fake. Until the robots take the fake jobs too.

  30. jason 7

    I've mentioned before I used to work for a huge insurance company in the UK. We were paying £300 a time for £30 of ram and had to wait 4 weeks for delivery when Crucial could do the same for next day. With our buying power we should have been paying £3!

    I challenged this daft situation with the then head of IT. I got told to "shut the fuck up!" So I guess it was all about back handers.

  31. Rtbcomp

    If I was working in a large organisation and couldn't get my work done I'd buy the bloody cable myself and nick £10 worth of Biros out of the stationary cupboard.

  32. ShortLegs

    The MoD (and US DoD) are the creme de la creme for this. Every other organisation ranks as amateurs in comparison.

    Some examples (from 1993).

    Resistors, used as a component teaching soldiers to solder (try saying that aloud, quickly, several times!). We were warned to be careful because they were expensive at £25 per packet of 3. Next day, popped into Tandy's and bought a packet of 10 - from the same manufacturer - for 99p.

    Light bulbs cost £115. I kid you not. If you have an MQ (service accommodation for married personnel), replacement bulbs are costed at £115 each, because "that includes [the labour cost] of fitting them". Reality - you get given x number of bulbs and told to fit them yourself.

    8" adjustable spanners - starred items, as the replacement cost was over £700 per spanner.

    In the US, a rubber stopwatch holder (small rubber block with a 2" groove) in the B2 bomber cost ver $2000. The B2 didn't have a Bombardier, didn't use manual timing for dropping bombs, but some USAF General, who last flew B-36, noticed the prototype didn't have one. Not knowing - or understanding - it was automated, loudly demanded a stop watch holder. The contractor was only too happy to oblige.

    US Army toolboxes, identical to those once one sale at Sears & Roebuck for $199, cost $25,000. The British Army toolbox is pretty much similar.

    The MoD in 1984 spent £19 million on 150,000 nylon waterproof jackets... which were not ventilated, rustled, and produced an effect like a boil-in-the-bag. 300,000 ventile smocks and trousers would have cost approx £3million.

    The list is endless. Not's not even get to aircraft, aircraft carriers, and land rovers....

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      If you specify off the shelf items to four decimal places, the price tends to go up. Add in all of the paperwork and the supplier knowing that they aren't going to see payment for AT LEAST six months and the price jumps some more.

    2. jason 7

      Ha...the B2 Stopwatch holder was mentioned in a Dale Brown book many years ago. The two lead pilots were going up for their first flight in a B2 and one bet the other dinner if "it still had a stop watch holder!"

  33. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Buy local!

    Small and inexpensive items can wind up being very expensive. A £100k car can be held up in service by a part costing £2. For little things I like to buy locally. I often have a couple of errands I can run and by purchasing things locally, I am helping to make sure that there are local shops around the next time I need something right-bleeding-now. I also like to buy things locally that could get damaged in shipping. A pallet of monitors might have a few get trashed on the corners, but the one I buy at the shop will be the one without the mangled box. Order one online and the delivery service might have run over it with a car which means it's yet another week to get its replacement and endless calls/forms to resolve the damaged one.

    All companies should have a policy on purchases under a certain amount. That's what petty cash is for.

    A manufacturing company I know used to inventory screws until somebody who knew about this maths stuff pointed out that they were spending more money tracking the inventory than the inventory was worth. They stopped counting the little bits and just required their vendors to keep the bin full so they wouldn't run out. A couple of jobs lost and a massive savings.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Buy local!

      What about PUBLIC concerns where legislatures and taxpayers are going to have questions?

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