Builders in general want to win work, so the idea they are all conspiring to divvy up jobs and pay back-handers is quite frankly a load of baloney

“We will have to get a cover price on this one” said the chief estimator. I was then a mere baby to this building lark.

“What’s a cover price” whispered me to one of the other babies.

“It’s what we do when we are up to our whatnots in work in the estimating department but don’t want to appear disinterested in bidding”.

My boss eventually explained that he would speak to the chief estimator of one of the other bidders and ask him what we, his competitor, should bid. Blow me; sounds a bit iffy. And if the local Office of Fair Trading sleuth heard of it, I bet she would bounce around like a hen on a hot griddle. Calm down girl. What’s the fuss?

Now let me tell you I know all about cover pricing first hand. And let me tell you two things for certain. First it was ever so rare an event. Second, I never ever saw, nor heard even a whisper in all these years of money ever passing hands in getting a cover price.

Why rare? Easy. We damn well wanted the work. We weren’t in the business of employing bricklayers, carpenters, managers to sit on their backsides doing nowt. We were builders who, like all other builders, broke our bloody necks to win contracts.

That chief estimator down the road, our competitor was doing the same. He, and us, and the six other mugs bidding for a school or old people’s home fought tooth and nail to get on tender lists. It’s balderdash to imagine we then didn’t want the next job. So why a cover?

Because our estimating department was so busy fighting to win work, we couldn’t squeeze another ounce of time to properly bid for this latest invitation. The reluctance to turn down the invitation, the reluctance to get a cover was enormous. Understood? So was the client cheated? No, not a jot.

He would still get seven bids from seven enthusiasts in the cockeyed rush to win the job. It would need a massive coincidence to have seven out of the eight too busy at that moment to bid. And anyway what was the ordinary alternative.

No, we would not decline to bid, we would just go in with a guess... a high guess... hoping we wouldn’t win. And we never did. Come to think of it, we hardly ever won a school or old peoples home unless, unless we made a pricing mistake.

So, of cover prices, oh okay take a thick ear. Instead of seeking a cover the busy builder will still bid but price himself out. But tell me that builders are entering on a conspiracy to divvy up jobs, take a lump of money for a cover price and I will give you a rude rebuff. That’s baloney! If I am wrong show me. Tell me which prison these folk go to I will eat my safety helmet in front of the bars. Meanwhile baloney!