What are some questionable practices in the exhibit design and fabrication world that lack integrity and honesty? At TSI one of our core values is integrity and honesty. At times, we have felt a little tingle in our belly that something wasn’t right. When we get that feeling we ask ourselves is that ethical? Here are some examples we’ve encountered.
1. Deductive Change Orders
A deductive change order is a credit or price reduction to the owner of the project for work not performed. That sounds pretty straight forward. The ethical part is when contractors don’t perform something or can’t perform something and deduct much less than was in their original bid or the real cost of performing that work. We have heard some companies, often the lowest bidder, count on this approach to make their profit.
2. Misuse of Poor Design Details
A similar tactic to deductive change orders is to knowingly price low based on a lack of detail in the bid documents that then help produce change orders. Generally, poor design details is going to cause change orders. When it is used to win the job and as a profit center then it is questionable. In the long run a contractor that counts on change orders to make profit will probably go out of business. Yet, that takes time and we have seen it often enough that it makes us blanch.
3. Pass Through Minority Subcontractors
We have encountered companies that don’t do anything and are minority certified. They are then used as a subcontractor in order to meet the minority requirement on government projects. Is that an ethical practice or business?
4. Soliciting Donations from Contractors
Clients that demand you sponsor their fundraising give us pause. I once had a university president say he would no longer work with us because I said “no” to attending the fancy dinner fundraising party. Yikes! In some industries it is common practice that you are more likely to get hired if you donate. Of course, we want our clients to succeed and help their cause when we can. And it is ok if they ask politely. When it’s demanded or common practice then it is questionable. This, of course, has to be covered by the business somewhere. Is it built into bids? In China that seems to be common practice to just assume you would be paying some party in order to get the work. Yukko!
5. Lies, Lies and More Lies
I hate to admit it, but we have caught employees lying to clients. And clients lying to us. We have also caught clients lying to us. How do you handle lies?
- Not Building to Design Specifications
- Low Bid Knowing You Will Make it Up in Change Orders
- Charging More than Usual Just Because You Think They Have The Money
- Awarding Projects When Clearly the Price is Too Low
- Giving the Client Poor Quality Product/Project/Exhibit
It is a rare company or client within the museum, visitor center, nature center and exhibit industry that do business this way. Unfortunately, in the construction world up to 84% of people said they saw unethical practices. Be aware when you get that funny feeling in your gut that something isn’t right.
“Ethical decisions ensure that everyone’s best interests are protected. When in doubt, don’t.” – Harvey Mackay