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Re: RFP/Serials Vendors (Lesley Tweddle) Lesley Tweddle 27 Jan 1999 17:10 UTC

Subject:      Re: RFP/Serials Vendors (Peter Picerno)

Hallo Peter,

We've always used multiple vendors (currently 4) for our
Western-language titles (about 2100 current subscriptions).  We are in
Egypt.  We formerly used a UK vendor for UK publications and a US vendor
for US publications; now our UK vendor handles many of our US titles.
Quite a few years ago we added a second US vendor; also a continental
European vendor for non-UK European titles in two of our subject areas
which that vendor specialises in.

Using several vendors enables you to sample their differing qualities,
and not to be too starry-eyed about what is feasible.  You can have a
super relationship with a vendor because of one capable person, and if
s/he leaves or gets a promotion, or a new boss, everything goes flop.

As for helping in negotiation, I don't know.  About ten years ago, when
we made our first big transfer of titles from one vendor to another for
reasons of dissatisfaction, the statement "we are about to take away
$42,000-worth of subscriptions from our account with you" produced no
response, no promises of reformation, and if it had, I'd have been
inclined to doubt them.

I am not personally a hard bargainer, and this may be the underlying
reason why I don't really think it's a good thing to put cost as the
primary issue.  My experience of our vendors is, they charge roughly the
same.  They are all well-known, established firms, and I reckon they all
know what they have to charge to make ends meet.  A vendor who goes
broke on you is no use.  One who offered charges dramatically below the
rest would make me wonder what corners they were cutting.

We have found that using several vendors has smoothed the way for
subscription transfers when we wanted to make them - at least we had our
contacts and goodwill already established.  I would certainly hate to be
confined to only one vendor.

I can't say from experience if it makes more work, but I doubt it.  If
you depended on your vendor for some form of cataloging or accounting
records, that would be another matter of course.

I have never written an RFP for a vendor.  From my experience with our
situation however, there are data and procedures I wish I had been more
involved with: the service charge percentage, the method of calculating
shipping charges, the method of billing for those; how credits are
handled (a lump sum without attribution to specific titles, or a
separate credit for each item - obviously the latter is better); the
timing and presentation of the invoices; penalties for late, or rewards
for prompt payment; the use and significance of proformas; conditions of
cancellation; whether you are getting a full consolidation service or
simply a boxing service - there IS a difference - or direct mailing from
the publisher; these are a few things that spring to mind.  Some of them
will be set out in the vendor's brochure, some have to be dug for.  Get
input from the people who are checking in ***and processing invoices***
from your present vendor, see if they have ideas about what to avoid!

Other people who have written RFPs will have firmer details, and I hope
they will post theme to the List!

Best wishes,
Lesley Tweddle
Head, Serials Dept
American Unive in Cairo Library