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Service Providers Share Their Funny and Terrible RFP Stories

As part of our series on why RFPs suck, we’ve compiled some funny (for us readers, not for those who lived it) stories from real estate service providers about RFPs that didn’t go as planned. These providers work hard to take care of properties and community associations, but as you’ll see these bad request for proposal situations did nobody any good.

Can’t Pull Him Off His Yacht

"I received an RFP from a young assistant with a major yacht manufacturer who requested epoxy floor coating prices who had no answers and no way to access the decision makers with pertinent details to the project. After 3 site visits with still no “concrete” answers on the concrete we had to pass on the project. The only thing looking back that was funny is the assistant insisting “like ya know I just can’t pull him off his yacht in the Bahamas to answer your questions” I just had to shake my head and chuckle under my breath. Of course not! What was I thinking?"

-Travis Jacobs, Owner, Premier Painting & Coating

Moral of the story for RFP creators: Make sure to know the details of what you are asking for and list them in the RFP.

Zero Information

[There was] a Suite Turn Project we bid on last March. VP-Maintenance was one of three companies bidding on the project. The Property Manager did not give details, a deadline, or any kind of parameters for the requested work. The only question they asked was “Can you get me a proposal for the suite turn”.

We acted promptly to their request, and immediately sent our Estimator out to inspect the site. Afterward, he had more than a handful of questions. Email after email, call after call went unanswered, the manager had gone dark. Twenty-four hours later still no correspondence of any kind from the Property Manager.

Though we did not have the answers we needed, our team worked diligently to get a proposal submitted in a timely fashion. We then personally delivered a detailed, lined item proposal roughly forty-eight hours after the initial request. The manager, then face-to-face, declined our proposal as it was submitted after the “so called” deadline.

-Gavin Matheson, VP-Maintenance

Moral of the story: Provide a reasonable deadline, along with the pertinent details and scope of work so that accurate bids come in when needed.

Can’t Get There in Time

We had a service RFP with a large national company that was mostly interested in pointing out the penalties and liquidated damages that would be assessed if a service truck did not arrive within two hours of an emergency call. The penalties were very significant. The national company was not familiar with our state and would not bend on the two hour emergency response time. The route they were asking for probably says two hours on Google Maps in her office in Florida, but if you figure in a large service truck with pipe, the snow, and mountain roads and it is much closer to four hours. I politely said we could not get between Point A and B in that amount of time and did not participate in the RFP.

-Jason Bolen, Owner, General Fire Systems

Moral of the story: Make sure to understand the local area and tailor your request for proposal to the particular property or site for which you’re needing service.

A Small Job, Three Hours Away

We have had our fair share of bad RFP's. I would have to say the worst was getting an RFP to paint some small county projects three hours away and showing up for the mandatory pre-bid meeting and being the only contractor there. Needless to say the pre-bid did not happen because they were required to get a minimum of 2 bids. I joked with the lead supervisor of the project about me just getting my paint brushes out and doing the work myself while I was there, that's how small the job was.

-Jim Tenderholt, Vice President, Lowes Commercial Painting

Moral of the story: Make sure to invite local vendors, and have a way to ensure you get enough vendors (like using Synlio to automate invitations and follow-ups with vendors for example).

You Get What You Pay For

I had a seven year long relationship with a particular property. I recently lost a bid due to price only. I know this because I followed up with the customer. The evaluation of the job was $1,800. They told me they purposely went with the lowest bid. "How low?" I asked. Well, it was a matter of a few hundred dollars compared to my bid. A few weeks later, they asked me back to check over the work of the low bid vendor. The work was subpar. Plumber broke the foundation and cost more to fix. I wanted to keep the relationship going so I cleaned up the mess the low bidder created. I was OK with being higher. I was supplying a superior product.

-Jim Holmes, Owner, JAZ Backflow Prevention

Moral of the story: Have a strong RFP template that lists out requirements and questions so you can see the true difference between vendors and know that you are getting the right provider at the right price.

Too Much Grey Area

Too often the problem I see is that many RFP’s leave a lot of “grey area” in the specifications. Example: Shrubs are to be evaluated on a monthly basis by contractor and pruned to according to ANSI, UFIFAS standards according to plant variety. Pruning will be done as to maintain blooms and while keeping a neat appearance, etc, etc, etc. While this sounds great and professional on paper, the fact is that pruning is the most labor-intensive service in most landscape contracts (at least in Florida). Monthly evaluations do not mean monthly pruning (many customers read it this way), what it does is give carte blanche for contractors to prune whenever they feel they need to. It could be done 5 times, 7 times, maybe even only 4 times if they can get away with it because they are not contracted to do X amount, only what they feel needs to be pruned after evaluating. This is often why 3 companies are within the same price range, but the company who came in 20% less than everyone else gets the most attention.

-Ryan Fantasia, Business Development, Estate Landscaping & Lawn Management

Moral of the story: Make sure to have expertly built RFP templates so that you don’t leave any question as to how the service should be provided. Thus, an apples-to-apples comparison will truly help you find the best vendor.


As you can see, #RFPsSuck. But really, it seems like bad RFPs suck. Need help creating a great RFP to avoid these issues? Follow these steps, or just use Synlio which makes creating RFPs simple and quick.

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