The disposition of war surplus is the greatest selling assignment ever attempted. Its very magnitude makes it a job for experienced merchandisers.
But even experienced salesmen can’t do a job if incentive is lacking. Anyone who ever has hired a salesman or run a business which requires selling and merchandising knows the basic fact that unless there is proper incentive, mediocre sales are the result. Government disposal agencies so far have failed to provide any incentive and we have given up hope that the mess of entanglement which involves the war surplus disposal program ever will be straightened out as long as it’s handled by a government bureau.
It is our recommendation that the remaining surplus properties and goods be turned over to private auctioneers and liquidators on a straight commission basis, and that the disposal agencies be cut down to skeleton record-keeping organizations.
Private auctioneers and liquidators could do the disposal job and do it well. Only last month, one of them emphatically demonstrated what such a firm can do in liquidating a plant by auction. $5,000,000 worth of industrial machinery and equipment was liquidated within a period of four days. Buyers from all over the country attended the sale because they knew the machinery advertised would be available and for sale without reservation, red tape, priorities or any of the other involvements of bureaucratic procedure.
Did you ever see or hear of such response to a government sale?
Our only direct business dealings with WAA have been through a so-called “private contractor”—an advertising agency. The efficient and intelligent manner with which this firm has handled some millions of dollars in advertising appropriations is a typical example of how private enterprise can function for government.
Congress recognized that the disposal would be involved with favoritism and politics; and in trying to eliminate these pitfalls, so constructed the Surplus Property Act that it hamstrung the whole selling procedure. But that act, cumbersome as it is, does not forbid the retention of private contractors for the disposal job. There are many experienced liquidators and auctioneers in the country who would be willing to take on this job—and could do it at a fraction of what it is costing today.
If the government will give them a fair remuneration—put some incentive into the job—the taxpayers and the nation as a whole will benefit.
THAT’S FOR SURE.