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Purchasing agent: It's the price that counts

Having spent most of his career in purchasing, Kevin T. Anderson knows how to negotiate a good deal. "It takes stubbornness and being nice," he said.

Having spent most of his career in purchasing, Kevin T. Anderson knows how to negotiate a good deal. "It takes stubbornness and being nice," he said.

"I don't want to talk about golf. I don't want my green fees paid. That's not my job. I don't want to go out to lunch, and I wouldn't say this,  but I wouldn't want to go out with you anyway. I don't want to wine and dine and I hate golf," he said. "It's the price. I just want better prices."

Anderson knows how carefully sales people try to find out what the purchasing agent likes, anything to give them an edge over their competitors. "Eagles tickets," he said. "That was hard to turn down, but I did it."

Anderson lost his job in 2009, but he hasn't forgotten the key elements of doing the work -- elements that apply even to personal purchases. For example, he helped someone shop for a flat-screen television that was being offered at a tremendous discount, significantly more than any place else. That raised questions for Anderson. "You have to pay attention to the specs," he said. Sure enough, after persistent questioning, he discovered that the product being offered was different by some obscure detail, except it wouldn't be obscure once the television was installed.

"I knew something was wrong," he said.

Being a purchasing agent means becoming expert in many obscure subjects. In one job, springs, castings and fasteners need to be purchased, with a knowledge of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. In another job, it's valves, electronic components and piping connections. In all jobs, particularly in those involving the government, attention and adherence to contract specifications are extremely important,  Anderson said.

In his last job, Anderson switched gears entirely, becoming a computer technician and driving all over the place repairing computers for huge companies such as Wal-mart. He'd work all night sometimes to have the computers up and running before stores opened. "I fixed everything under the sun," he said. To him, his ability to pick up that job when he had no prior experience in it is proof that he can learn anything.

That being said, though, he'd like to return to purchasing where he adopted the professional goal of always trying to save his company the equivalent of his salary -- either by working a price break or by pursuing better terms for shipping or delivery. He has also found it very satisfying to improve company purchasing systems, so that items purchased are attributed to the right projects.

"Otherwise, how do you know you are going to make money on the job?" he said.

Update as of December 25, 2011: Anderson is still looking for work.

  1. Kevin T. Anderson

  2. Hometown: Langhorne

  3. Profession: Purchasing agent, computer technician

  4. Experience: Purchased many different types of products. Revamped purchasing systems, computerizing them and developing new systems for inventory control and just-in-time delivery.

  5. Education: Philadelphia Community College, course work. American Production and Inventory Control Society, certification

  6. E-mail address:

  7. Kevin Anderson's resume

The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.