After reading the Oct. 26 Mailbag ``Online auction puts quality behind price,'' it seems we may all need to stop and reflect on the ramifications that this service, or at least this concept, will have on our industry.
Most of us have physically attended auctions, and my observation is there is anything but a lot of camaraderie going on, let alone relationship building between buyer and seller. FreeMarkets Online may argue against this analogy, but it is simply a bunch of people bidding against each other, trying to get the best deal. Period.
Relationship building, networking, partnering ... trust. These are the pillars of good business. Although price may be an important variable, as long as no one is being taken advantage of, I fail to see how it can be the main reason to select a vendor. As pointed out in the letter, unless it is truly a commodity, price is rarely the deciding factor in most decisions. Cheaper is always out there, but at what cost, exactly? I know that we have looked hard at our customer base; and it is quite evident who are the price shoppers, and who are the team builders. Also, interestingly, those that will pay a fair price are, in my observation, the firms that are doing the best. I wonder what the corollary is there. It seems that quality and timing has a price too, but one I doubt you'll find at an Internet auction site.
Our firm is a member of the National Tooling & Machining Association. This year's chairman, David Dudon, who is also president of Mutual Tool & Die in Dayton, Ohio, declared 1998 the ``Year of Networking.'' His definition of networking is ``sharing successes and failures so that we can all benefit.'' Hmmm, all benefit. I fail, personally, anyway, to see how we can all benefit from FreeMarkets, other than maybe allowing the Portuguese and Chinese to build all our tools, and Mexico to do all our molding. Maybe then we can concentrate on the only industries left in this country that we'll be any good at — making movies and hamburgers.
Action Mold & Machining Inc.
Grand Rapids, Mich.