Commentary: Stay Away From the Big Broker That May Make You Broke! The GPO
By Vincent Mallardi, CMC, PBBA Board Chair and author of the annual "Hot Markets for Print Demand" reports
Imagine a billion-dollar customer from hell with its own police department, detectives and lawyers. They bust into a printing plant after diving into its dumpster, and then demand money back because some of the waste wasn't shredded and a few of the security cameras weren't operating. These are some of the new strong-arm tactics surfacing at the one-and-only U.S. Government Publishing Office aka GPO.
Why anyone in our industry does "business" with them since 1861 is anyone's guess. Desperation? Lousy salespeople who can't sell anything to a real profit-making client? The reasons matter less than the fact that the GPO itself is a sullied — some say corrupt — operation. It is under the federal legislative branch, but its director is nominated just like a Cabinet member by the executive branch — three "rubber-stamped" so far by President Obama! And the job comes with the same perks including a chauffeured limousine, security, etc.
The title "Public Printer" is an oxymoron as there is no accountability in what amounts to a private club. All of the directors have been political; most grossly incompetent and many unfamiliar with printing. GPO loses money most of the time but only because of the lavishness of its management and the inherent union inefficiencies at its facilities. It essentially has a monopoly over one of the biggest end-use printing buyers in the world, its sole customer and sells therefore to thousands of federal agencies at any price it determines. Meanwhile, it buys most of the work (the less secured stuff) on bid from hapless underperforming private companies. GPO is more a broker than a printer — and it has "helped" put hundreds of plants out of business over the years.
It also outsources to China and other countries including for the e-chip that is inserted into its otherwise in-house production of passports. Of all components to buy from a U.S. adversary. Worse are the shakedowns of printers. The same outfit that sells "Commercial Bribery" at its bookstore has infamously engaged in solicitation of bribes, otherwise called extortion. And more often than not, the printers went to jail instead of the GPO initiators. See "The Law v. Print" available from PBBA's bookstore for specific cases, and stay out of trouble.
Otherwise, if you don't mind working at a loss, waiting for your money, risk hefty fines for noncompliance and possibly doing-time at Club Fed — GO GPO!
Vincent Mallardi, C.M.C., is a the chairman of the Printing Brokerage/Buyers Association International (PBBA) and is a Certified Management Consultant in the paper, printing and converting industries. He is also an adjunct professor in economics. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org