It is now more than six months since “Bad Buying — How Organisations Waste Billions Through Failures, Frauds, and F*ck-ups” hit the (largely virtual) shops.  Many thanks to everyone who has bought it and even more so for those who have left reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

We still haven’t sold lots of copies from stations and airports, which was always my hope, but it has been good to see book sales going up last year, despite the lack of impulse buys at travel locations. And a fascinating report this week suggested kids actually read more challenging books when self-directed (or maybe parentally directed) than they did at school. Something for the education world to look at there…

In terms of the pandemic, things are looking up, in some countries including the UK, but the situation in India, Brazil and elsewhere is still terrible.  Some countries have shown “Good Buying” in terms of vaccines- others less so. But I am hopeful we might be meeting again at events in the late summer and autumn and the one year anniversary “relaunch party” for the book is being pencilled in for October.

I’m still collecting bad buying stories, so do let me know if you see any good examples.  And if by any chance you haven’t read the book yet… check out the links here.  Here are a few review quotes from Amazon…. thanks again to everyone who has supported the venture.

“This is a good read for anyone in business who is interested in what can go wrong when organisations buy things and what steps can be taken to mitigate the risks of bad buying. You can also learn how to get your dog an MBA. Highly recommended.”

“A clearly worded and jargon free explanation of what good procurement contributes and the dangers of bad buying – get your CEO, MD and FD a copy!”

“A great introduction to the pitfalls of procurement written in a very entertaining manner. Even experienced buyers will find it fun whilst often thinking how close they may come to featuring in future additions. A revised addition with all the examples from the COVID-19 pandemic must surely follow.”  (Note from author – I hope so!)

“Really to the point, no BS, great case studies and an enjoyable read.”

“After a lifetime of work involving business efficiency improvement, I discover this book. How I wish it was around some 45 years ago!”

It is three months today as I write this since Bad Buying — How Organisations Waste Billions Through Failures, Frauds, and F*ck-ups hit the (largely virtual) shops.  Penguin have re-printed now, a sign that whilst it hasn’t challenged Richard Osman at the top of the best-seller charts, it has sold reasonably well. Many thanks to everyone who has bought it and even more so for those who have left reviews on Amazon and elsewhere (I’d love to know who “Geoff H” is though …)

My vision for the book was always to make it an ideal “impulse purchase” for any business person, or public sector manager, as they browsed in the airport or station bookshop.  I very much hoped professional procurement people would enjoy it and find it useful, but it was aimed at that wider audience too.

Well, not a lot of people have been wandering through stations or airports in the last three months! I hope that will change as we move through 2021, or “the year of vaccination” as it will surely become known. And I’m looking forward to having a one year anniversary “relaunch party” or two in October this year.

It was an experience to be interviewed live on the Jeremy Vine show, and even better that he appeared to have actually read the book! To be reviewed by Robert Colville in the Times was a thrill, as was seeing the book featured in a column from Luke Johnson in the Sunday Times.

But perhaps the best feeling comes when people I know – and indeed some I don’t – tell me they have enjoyed the book, or that they’ve bought it for colleagues, or even that they are recommending it to their students. A friend sent me the picture above showing the three books he got for Christmas – that’s interesting company to be keeping, to be sure!

I’m still collecting bad buying stories, so do let me know if you see any good examples.  And if by any chance you haven’t read the book yet… check out the links here.  And thanks again to everyone who has supported the venture.

 “A fascinating litany of the mistakes that can happen when buyers get it wrong” – Luke Johnson, The Sunday Times

“Packed full with amazing examples’ Jeremy Vine, BBC Radio 2

“Colossal, costly disasters could be averted if those holding the purse strings read this book”. – The Times

Today is publication day for Bad Buying — How Organisations Waste Billions Through Failures, Frauds, and F*ck-ups.

After 18 months of planning, writing, editing and production of the book, It is very sad that we can’t have a party to celebrate. Maybe we’ll be able to do a relaunch in a years’ time and get together. But in the meantime, thanks to everyone who has supported me, including all the nice people at Penguin Business, and also thanks to those who read the draft book and kindly provided testimonials and quotes for the book (see below).

If you now have your copy, I very much hope you enjoy it. If you haven’t ordered it yet, check out the links here. There is also a podcast now (“Peter Smith’s Bad Buying podcast”) and the episodes, around 15-20 minutes each, are available on most podcast platforms and via links from this website. There is even a Bad Buying playlist on Spotify (all my section titles in the book are also song titles …) It is a “diverse” playlist, as my daughter described it, but I’ll take that as a compliment!  You can make your own judgment on that.

Finally, if you have bought the book, a short review on Amazon, Google or wherever would be great (assuming it is reasonably positive of course!)  Much appreciated…

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Bad Buying – what the Experts say:

‘Filled with examples of painful, unbelievable, funny and downright stupid buying by organisations, and the people in them. A brilliantly unique and insightful read from one of the most experienced individuals in this space’ Jonathan O’Brien, Author and CEO Positive Purchasing Ltd

‘Factually rich, funny and full of practical hard-earned wisdom, this book is a revelation … actually it’s full of them! All costly catastrophes. If you don’t read this book, you may find yourself in the next one!’ Dr Richard Russill, author and coach

‘Bad buying tells story after story of bad buying for both novices and experts alike – and shows us a roadmap to doing it better’ Jason Busch, Managing Director, Azul Partners and Founder, co-author of Spend Matters

‘A great opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes, not your own. Through exceptionally well researched examples, Peter teaches both new and established professionals how to avoid the same mistakes. I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody involved in, or responsible for spending money for their organisation’ Garry Mansell, Former GM, Source-to-Contract, Coupa Software

‘An unusual business book in that it is both useful to readers and also genuinely entertaining with fascinating stories of failure and fraud from around the world and every sector’ Shirley Cooper, Commercial Director, Tapestry Compliance and NED, Ministry of Justice

‘A hilarious, enlightening and brilliant look at how organisations – public and private – have been guilty of horrendous buying failures. Not content with just lifting the lid on some of the most egregious excesses in history, Peter Smith provides insightful and practical advice to avoid repeating such disasters. This book will make you think twice about buying anything – but do buy this’ Antonio Weiss, bestselling author of “101 Business Ideas That Will Change the Way you Work”, Director, The PSC

‘A fascinating account of the biggest buying blunders by private and public sectors alike. Written in his trademark dashing and fluent style, doesn’t just expose hilarious dodgy stories with Schadenfreude but offers insightful and practical advice on how to avoid career limiting mistakes’ Bernhard Raschke, Partner and Head of EMEA Supply Chain Centre of Excellence, Korn Ferry

‘Purchasing plays such an important role in business success, but is also one of the least understood activities. Using case studies from around the globe, Bad Buying has illuminated how and why organisations can get it wrong when it comes to spending money with suppliers. This is a timely, informative and highly entertaining read!’ Nandini Basuthakur, CEO, Procurement Leaders

‘Covid-19 restrictions have put the spotlight on global supply chains and the difficulties caused when everybody wants to buy the same thing at the same time. Peter’s book highlights where buying can go catastrophically wrong and how to avoid these pitfalls. Had this been published pre-Covid, some of the recent c*ck-ups and waste might have been avoided. It’s a must read for the public and private sector alike’ Lt-Gen. Sir Andrew Gregory, Controller, SSAFA

‘A must read for Boards, CEOs and Governments. The case studies remind us all that there is ‘no such thing as a free lunch’ and ‘if it’s too good to be true it usually is’. Buyer beware, and never underestimate you stakeholder or your suppliers. Instead, build relationships and trust’ Lucy Harding, Partner and Global Head of Practice, Odgers Berndtson

‘In turns informative, shocking and amusing, Bad Buying explores the career-limiting catastrophes to avoid and sets out a vision for better buying, not only stewarding finances responsibly but also supporting the firm’s purpose and place in the community’ Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO, Applegate Marketplace Ltd

‘Bad Buying has a rich set of examples of both corrupt practices and unintentional but costly and wasteful mistakes made by business professionals. With trillions spent by organisations buying goods and services, every executive who is involved in or oversees those processes needs to make this a must read’ Raj Sharma, Founder and CEO, Public Spend Forum

‘A great effort to dig the challenges out of the back office of procurement and bring to the fore the opportunities for improvement… If you want to improve your chances of not being done by Bad Buying, there’s no better place than this book to see what the risks are and begin to understand how to avoid them’ Charles Findlay, Director, State of Flux

(From the Penguin website)

Organisations large and small spend up to 90% of their budgets on external suppliers of goods and services. Huge amounts of money flow between firms, yet most pay little attention to this element of their business. All too often billions are wasted on large-scale projects and the damage caused by corruption, ineptitude and mismanaged buying is hidden from shareholders and the public.

Why is the Berlin Brandenburg Airport ten years behind schedule and nearly four billion euros over budget? And what possessed Kenya’s government to spend a whopping $35 million on a chain link fence just six miles long?

By turns an entertaining account of some of the worst procurement scams in history and also a resounding lesson in how not to operate, Bad Buying offers clear and practical advice on how to avoid embarrassing mistakes, minimise needless waste and make sound, strategic procurement decisions on your next initiative.

The state-of-the-art, whizz-bang, latest technology printer that the Irish government bought in 2018 was going to produce wonderful documents at, one assumes, a competitive cost. The Komori equipment is highly rated, but there was only one problem for the government. 

When it arrived in Dublin, in December 2018, it simply didn’t fit into the building where it was supposed to be housed.  It had to be shipped off to a storage unit at Ballymount Industrial Estate, where it languished until September 2019 at a cost of €2,000 a month while building works were carried out – to “tear down walls and embed structural steel” to make room for the behemoth.  Now a report on the fiasco by Dail (the Irish parliament) clerk Peter Finnegan has revealed the cost of the episode, which seems to grow every time it is reviewed.

€230,000 (excluding VAT) was spent on “unanticipated renovations to the printing room” because the equipment just wouldn’t fit, because “ the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to ‘head height’ were neither understood nor examined during the early critical stages of the project”. The cost of the printer itself and associated equipment reached €1,369,605.

There have also been reports that staff haven’t been happy about the new equipment, asking for further training and (rumours say) more money for operating it. The Register also reported that the “IT department is hesitant to grant access to the printer, making it difficult to print documents from official government computers”.

All in all, this is a great example of Bad Buying caused by failing to check in detail the specifications for what you’re buying and how that relates to the environment around what you’re buying.  And remember, even in the case of complex equipment, it is not just the technical specifications that matter – mundane issues such as size can cause just as many problems as some obscure technological flaw or failure!