E-COMMERCE: STREAMLINER AND STRATAGEM: MAKE SURE YOUR CUSTOMERS PROPERLY USE THEIR NEW TOOL
The impact of electronic commerce on federal commercial item acquisition continues to expand. Even as GSA works diligently to implement a sound platform in response to Congressional mandates, individual agencies aren’t standing still. E-commerce is undeniably the shiny new toy in this market, just as reverse auctions and LPTA were before it. That toy, though, may not always meet proper safety standards. If you’re facing a smitten customer, here are three questions to ask them: 1. Is the company you’re buying from authorized to sell to you? Unauthorized re-sellers are a real problem in e-commerce. Buy from one and kiss your warranty or return capabilities good-bye. No OEM will come to the rescue if you brought outside of their authorized distribution channels. Unauthorized sellers waste government money. 2. Are you sure you’re getting what you ordered? A 2016 CNBC story likened one e-commerce site to, “a chaotic, somewhat lawless, bazaar…”. If you’re not sure who you’re buying from, you’re not sure what you’re getting. Counterfeit goods = unsecure, compromised systems, even if it’s “only” a printer. Is putting your agency at risk really worth it? 3. Are you getting the best price? E-commerce sites may or may not offer the best prices for “quantity of one” items. The reality varies widely based on what’s being brought. How often, though, does your customer buy in quantities of one? Deeper discounts are likely available from established contractors, especially when there is good competition. These are hallmarks of the government’s acquisition system for a reason. The bottom line is that, while e-commerce can indeed be a quick and effective way for commercial acquisitions, agencies put themselves, and taxpayer dollars, at risk when they toss out the rulebook. E-commerce has a place in this market, but only when agencies remember to apply the same standards to those acquisitions as they do to others.