Reverse Auction FAQs

What is a reverse auction?
 A reverse auction is a live, real-time, virtual bidding event in which qualified and pre-selected Penn State suppliers are invited to bid their prices down (versus up in a traditional auction).

When is a reverse auction used?
 A reverse auction is used when a competitive bid is identified for a large quantity of standard items with common specifications such as vehicles, residence hall and classroom furniture, and audiovisual equipment.

What purchases qualify for a reverse auction?
Purchases equal to or greater than $25,000 for standard items with common specifications qualify for a reverse auction.

Why choose a reverse auction?
Choosing a reverse auction instead of a traditional written bid or proposal can save money. Over the past two years, Purchasing has saved the University about $1.7 million through reverse auctions. Typically, reverse auctions save time as well.

How do you start the reverse auction process?
Search Purchasing’s commodity directory to identify the appropriate Purchasing Agent responsible for the commodity that you would like to auction.

How is the starting price determined?
After a Purchasing Agent conducts pricing research, the starting price will typically be the difference between the initial benchmark pricing obtained by either educational discount pricing, or sample quotes from various manufacturers.

How long do reverse auctions last?
A reverse auction could last a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the items being auctioned. Events for commodity items can be completed in a few minutes, while more complex items or multiple lots of items can require more time as vendors sharpen their pencils behind the scenes.

Where are reverse auctions held?
Reverse auctions are held in the Procurement Services conference room.

Who's present during a reverse auction?
The Purchasing Agent facilitating the reverse auction is present, and the reverse auction requestor is more than welcome to attend the live event.

Do I need to be there during the event?
It’s not required that you be present, but as the auction requestor, you are invited to attend the live streaming event.

Once the reverse auction finishes, do we have to make an award?
No, if you are not satisfied with the bids, for price or other reasons, Penn State can reject the results of the auction.