Member Discussion

Lost A School Bid Where Customer Selected Based On Low Price

Recently lost a school district bid where the customer selected based on low price. The big difference was camera prices. The competitor will provide Fine IP cameras. The customer said the salesman put one of these cameras side by side with an Axis camera and it had a much better picture. Does anyone have experience with these cameras or this company? If have my thoughts, but would prefer to hear other opinions as to what the customer should expect.

Not these specific cameras but experience with this situation. It's easy for someone with a little knowledge to make their camera look better than anything else on the market. A better test would be default both the cameras and use those settings rather than tweaking it. Then do a test with various lighting conditions. I had a pretty common 3rd tier manufacturer do the same thing to me before. When I actually received the camera I could never reproduce the video he showed me and Tech support was no help.

I am often faced with 'lowest bid" scenarios. And I tell them, "If you think a <insert top-tier name brand> camera is expensive Day-1, wait until you have to service/replace/waste time repairing <insert no-name brand camera> a few months down the road. When I am doing bake-offs between brands, ranking the image quality is really a smaller part of the process. I also consider lead times to purchase, advanced replacement/RMA process, availability of tech support, manufacturer/reseller relationship, and more. Many years ago I did an evaluation for a large school district and it came down to Sony vs Panasonic. We ended up selecting Panasonic because of their willingness to offer us a supply of spare parts (domes, lenses, gaskets), a dedicated support tel#, and an overnight streamlined RMA process. It didn't hurt that we were buying 20,000 cameras over a 4 yr period. ;-)

Mike, thanks for sharing.

I have three main thoughts:

Salesman 'Shootouts'

In general, any sales person can make one camera manufacturer look better than another, regardless of what the underlying truth.

This is simply a product of what models were chosen, what settings were used, what scenes were selected, etc.

Do you know any details of how the 'side by side' test was done?


I've vaguely heard of Fine before. Their website indicates that they are a fairly run of the mill Taiwan manufacturer. From the online pricing I found, their costs seem to be average for Taiwan, similar or maybe slightly higher to Vivotek / ACTi.

Axis vs "Selected Based on Low Price"

However, if a customer is selecting strictly based on low price and it's a competitive situation, then I don't think you should propose Axis.

In 2014, Axis is far behind pretty much every Asian manufacturer and US OEM when it comes to cost.

Hope that helps. Let me know what you think.

Being in this situation burns, but the best thing you can do is let any frustration and disappointment with the current decision mount while staying close by.

Chances are, even if you are able to poke holes/discredit the shootout as invalid, the customer's 'ship has already sailed' and it's just noise from a losing bidder at this point.

Stay in the picture, though. Check-in on project execution, be the shoulder to cry on when the customer gets upset with what they bought, be generous with free knowledge, pro-tips, and good advice.

The customer doesn't need the lowest price AFTER they've awarded the contract... they NEED a working system. If you can help them achieve that goal, the account might still be yours.

I think Brian hit the nail on the head. Not necessarily with a school district, but there has been several times where I've helped support a system that was not installed by us in hopes of gaining them as a customer down the road, and a majority of the time, simple things like that just plain work. Often times the customer finds (in my area anyway) that the original integrator has too long lead times to have someone on site when something goes wrong, where we can typically be there same day to clean up someone elses mess. That usually gives us an advantage down the road

I have found the above to be true, with that being said,my experience has also been that they wanted us but did not come forth spent the extra money that it would cost to buy appropriately what they said they needed. So as they become dissapointed they now clump every body in the same barrel, refuse to spend extra money unless forced by an entity that requires the surveillance system, the system stays broke for an extra 2-3 years till they feel justified that they got their value returned. Then comes the time to reinvest and whamo! they look at price again as the determining factor. Our new approach is to bid and describe the fuctionality of the system they need, but leave it open to go to a chinese line of cheaper cameras as the competitors have that we know have been proven in our fields. We place same profit margin if not more and give them what they want and it works. So they dont feel we only have one option and it leaves it open to use us at all levels.

A majority of K-12 School Districts are not worth bidding, unless you need work and your time is available. They will almost all go down to the lowest price and not quality. This is something you need to find out way before the bidding stage. Unless you can hard spec something into the school and get the manufacturers and distributors to give you the top discount and nobody else, then it is best to walk away from a K-12 unless you are talking about a maintenance contract.

That last post is so untrue. As long as the facility and IT managers know that you know what you are doing, at a higher level than them, these are the best prospects in the USA. You can win with proof of concept, such as working with IT to use their hardware and network infrastructure. If you are not highly educated in networks, you have an uphill battle. Most of my customers are schools and cities. This is not only because of price. The real trick is to provide quality support and knowledge to retain them over the long haul. (which adds to your resume and reference list for other area schools, who will take a reference over price every time).

How much discretion in choosing a middle-of-the-pile bid does a public entity have? Are these bids made public after award, or are they subject to FOIA requests?

I agree, with Jeff. If you have the IT guys involved they are in the best position to determine "best value". As a designer working directly for the owner, I would prefer an "evaluated award". With this method, you integrators out there can offer something better than i specified and will get points for that effort. Price will still be consdiered, but its only 20-40% of the consideration. And yes, it is legal... at least in the governments where i have used it (maybe under a diferent name such as "best value award").

If i do have to make a selection on low bid, i will be careful how the specs read. I usually get what i want, but the method severly restricts a good ntegrator's creativity and everyone has to bid apples to apples.

I feel that once a big system is awared, the client is married to the integrator of record. Its a relationship that could last years and be profitable to both parties; so its worth spending time to conduct an extensive evalution... not just of the technology he supplies, but also of his post installtaton customer support and service history. This includes how he has priced MACs.

Agree with the sentiments regarding any camera can be made to look better than an Axis. Where the rubber really meets the road is performance on the network.

Several years ago a customer went ACTi over Axis due to price. The out of box failure rate was around 10% on the ACTi. Worse still was the performance of those cams in the stores. They would fall off line and not reconnect. I think the integrator had to try 2 or 3 firmware upgrades before they finally decided to punt and replace with Axis

I've seen different technical issues with other manufacturers as well, even though they had a really nice picture. Axis didnt get big stictly on marketing alone

I want to imagine MAC is apple MAC; then no, Swing and a pitch. Mother And Child nextly incorrect. With two strikeouts on me I covet all the bases with:

Is bychance/perchance one of these?