Keeping Competition Fair – How to get Apples to Apples Bids on Your Pool Service

by Craig Sears, President & Founder

Originally featured in CAI Magazine – 2021 2nd Quarter Edition

Imagine for a moment that you turn on your TV in the middle of an Olympic swimming race.  You watch in excitement until the end.  The race is close, but the winning swimmer pulls out a victory by beating the rest of the field by a full second.  While a second doesn’t seem like much in the regular world, in international swimming competition, it is an eternity of difference.  

You might naturally assume the winning swimmer is the superior athlete. Now imagine the winning swimmer exits the pool to reveal he was wearing flippers the entire time! Would you feel duped? These swimmers were not competing in a fair race! One had a clear advantage that was not obvious initially to you as a spectator.

The same thing often happens when communities collect proposals for their swimming pool service. It is not always readily apparent if the proposals are apples to apples in scope, and as a result the competition isn’t fair. Often a lower priced proposal looks very appealing, but it may not include everything you think it does.

It is difficult and time consuming to read through proposals and compare them. As a result, some boards make quick decisions only to find out later they did not get what they thought they were getting.  The method described below will save you time, energy, and money when collecting and reviewing proposals, as well as help you avoid the grief and aggravation of choosing a deficient proposal.   

When requesting proposals for pool service, provide each bidder the same specifications, and require the bidders to confirm their proposals meet the specs.  Below is a handy list of specifications you should provide and require your bidders to confirm to ensure you receive quotes that include the same scope of service. 

  1. Legal facility/association name and address. In a metro area as large as Atlanta, it is not uncommon for multiple communities to have the same name. Making sure bidders assess the correct property is the first step.
  2. Provide access to the property. Allow bidders access to the site to evaluate your facility for their proposal. That can be accomplished through providing access info, or by meeting the pool company representatives on site. The latter is strongly encouraged for all proposals including staffing, as it helps bidders evaluate the layout and stationing of staff.
  3. Pool gallonage.  If you don’t know, ask your county health department what the construction records show, or ask the bidders to confirm their gallonage estimate.  This factor makes a difference when estimating your pool’s chemical consumption.   
  4. Agreement start date and length of term.  Check the proposals you receive to verify they include the length of service you requested.  Most proposals default to include a full year of service, although you may decide you want a partial year, in order to get back on a different annual cycle.  This is particularly true when switching service mid-season.
  5. Seasonal open and close dates for your pool. This is a key factor that is often overlooked and has a major impact on proposal price.   
  6. Number of weekly service visits in season.  Usually 2 or 3 per week, service visits are another key cost factor. ​
  7. Do you want seasonal restroom service and supplies included? This is your choice and affects price. Keep in mind that pool companies are not professional maid services.  Their restroom services are less expensive but also less thorough. They may or may not be adequate for your needs.
  8. Do you want winter maintenance for the pool included? Winter maintenance is highly recommended. However, some bidders do not include it, unless it’s specifically requested.  ​
  9. Does your pool have a winter cover? Pools with covers are easier to maintain in the off season and therefore cost less. ​
  10. What type of chlorine does your pool use? All types of chlorine are not the same.  For instance, it costs less to operate a pool on saline, than liquid chlorine or trichlor.
  11. A detailed staff schedule showing when you want lifeguards and/or attendants on site, if applicable. Specify if there is overlapping coverage during some or all open hours. If your pool has staff, getting the schedule right and confirming the total number of staff hours included is critical to ensuring comparable scope. Staffing costs are often the biggest line item.
  12. Lastly, state when you need the proposal. Bidders’ workloads vary depending upon time of year and other factors.  Letting them know when you need their bid helps them prioritize their workload and will help you receive more proposals on time.

Once you receive your service proposals, and their scopes are apples to apples, you can evaluate price and review other intangible factors like reputation, responsiveness, professionalism, insurance coverage, etc. By following this method, you’ll be in a much better position to select a vendor with confidence.

May the best company win your business!

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