My least favorite task in environmental consulting was when I had to contact potential subcontractors (say, drillers) because I needed pricing or technical information, but I wasn’t supposed to let them know too much about the job yet. Why not? A couple of reasons – I may have been required to get a number of “blind” bids, so I couldn’t divulge any real information. Or I was working for a particularly sensitive client, or at a site that we didn’t have access for yet/was in litigation.
The conversation often went something like this:
Me: “Hi, I’m working for [X company], and I had a couple questions for you…”
Drilling Co.: “Sure! Are you looking for a price proposal?”
Me: “Um, not…yet. I’m just [working on a spec/doing some early budgeting/writing a work plan]. Do you have the capacity to do [X], and would you be able to work around [conditions Y and Z]?”
Drilling Co.: “That depends. Where is the site, and would we be able to use technique A or technique B?”
Me: “The site is in [some vague geographic area] with [some sort of general geology] and due to the [nature of contamination/field conditions/prejudices of the person who needs to approve this work], we probably couldn’t use technique B.”
Drilling Co.: “Oh! This is site C, right? Wow, they’re pretty high profile. Are you working for [litigating party] or [regulator in the cross-hairs]?”
Me: “Um…this is just preliminary, so I can’t really talk about that…”
Drilling Co.: “So, when can I expect to see a proposal for this?”
Me: *mumble mumble*”…preliminary…”*mumble* “I’ll let you know when I can give you more information…”
I've gotten better at this sort of thing, but I still dread those conversations.