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General Stores: beware of the office supply competition
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"My company can save you lots of money on office supplies. Everything is cheaper from us. We have the best service. We beat them all the time. Everyone on campus is ordering from us!"

I am sure your department has heard such comments from office supply vendors, some local, some national, some legitimate, some maybe not. They may contact you by telephone, email, or in person. So how should you respond?

First, thank you for turning them down. General Stores manages a University-wide contract which focuses on obtaining the best pricing and quality for office supplies. It is a multimillion dollar statewide contract that includes Iowa State University, the state of Iowa, and several cities and municipalities - and the list is growing.

The suppliers who are begging for your business most likely had a chance to bid on the contract and either did not do so or bid too high. Because they did not get the bid, they now want to come in the back door, without successfully going through the bid process.

The University of Iowa, through General Stores' contract management, has access to more than 30,000 items at OfficeMax. We spend considerable time making sure we have the best pricing, concentrating on the top 1,000 items. It is convenient for a vendor to compare items to our contract but substitute different manufacturers or stock numbers. If you find we have a higher price on an item, let me know. I can either find the OfficeMax stock number for an accurate comparison, or, in the unlikely event that our price is not competitive, I can seek a price adjustment from OfficeMax. Our contract does not set pricing by individual department or request, but is consistent throughout the University and the other institutions. It makes it unnecessary for departments to each have an office supply buyer.

Our OfficeMax contract has saved UI departments over $700,000 in the past thirty months. General Stores offers online MFK ordering through MIGS and Pcard ordering directly from OfficeMax. We just completed our best year ever at General Stores. Our OfficeMax issuances are up 10 percent (19% at UIHC) over last year. This tells us our campus customers think our pricing, quality, and service are the best.

So, what to tell the vendors? Let them know we already have an office supply contract that is managed by General Stores, and, since General Stores provides this service, you do not have to spend time as an office supply buyer. Tell them they can bid on this contract when it comes up for renewal. You can also ask to be removed from their email and telephone contact lists.

Then tell them thank you and go back to doing your job - because you can count on us to do ours.
Gary Anderson



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