Some of the things I’ve learned in my purchasing career – and some of what I now teach in our online purchasing classes – I’ve learned because I’ve made mistakes early on. I’ll dedicate this blog post to one of those mistakes and, in the process, will hopefully help you new buyers out there avoid this common mistake.

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When something goes wrong, sometimes it seems like everyone wants to blame the supplier and yell and scream at them. Often, this yelling and screaming occurs before the problem is thoroughly investigated. And, of course, many times the problem is not the supplier’s fault but rather the fault of your own organization.

So, the lesson is clear: don’t blame the supplier until you’ve thoroughly investigated the problem and are absolutely sure that the problem was the fault of the supplier.

Though I’ve made a habit of thorough investigation in the many years since I was a new buyer, this principle came to mind this past week in a non-corporate-purchasing situation.

You see, I have a quite a few trees in my yard which is rather large. In the fall, cleaning up leaves is one of my least favorite things to do.

A few years ago, my lovely wife suggested simply mowing the leaves with our mulching mower to save time. And the idea worked well – we’ve been doing it ever since.

However, when I went to mow leaves recently, the belt on the self-propelled mechanism of my mower was broken. And, the blade was not screwed on properly, so I couldn’t even access the area to replace the belt.

So, I took the mower out to Sears for repair. Doing so wasn’t easy – I have a small car with a small trunk, so I had to partially disassemble the lawn mower. Lifting the mower into the trunk and squeezing it into the trunk is quite a challenge.

But I managed. Sears fixed my mower and I picked it up, having again to partially disassemble it and struggle to get it in the trunk for the transport back home.

When I tried to use the mower, it wouldn’t start. It was cold outside that day, so I wasn’t in the best of moods.

Immediately, I became angry at Sears. How dare they make me go through all the hassle of getting my mower there and back and then breaking something when I had them repair something else!!!

I was going to call them then and give them a piece of my mind!

Then, the old purchasing principle of blame came to mind. I decided to calm down and investigate the problem another day.

That other day was yesterday. And you know what I found?

The bracket that clamps the operator presence cable to the handle had broken, which made the engine “think” that no one was holding on to the handle and, therefore, lock the engine. This was most likely caused by the rough insertion and removal of the mower from my itty-bitty trunk.

My fault, not the supplier’s.

It has been so long since I’ve made the mistake of prematurely blaming the supplier that I can’t think of an example where I’ve done it in a corporate environment, but I know that I have. But I’m glad that I’ve learned from that experience.

I would have embarrassed myself with Sears.


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