RFPs, Copy-n-Paste, Horse Manure, and Long Range Strategic Bombers

Proposal writers are routinely criticized for copying and pasting previously written proposal content, but we aren’t the only ones who use this error prone technique. RFP writers do the exact same thing—sometimes with hilarious results.

Audit and asphalt

I once responded to an RFP seeking paid claim audit services for a health insurance organization. We had been waiting for the RFP and were eager to dive in when it finally published, but our enthusiasm quickly turned to confused laughter. Buried within the boilerplate RFP language were specifications describing how thick we had to make the asphalt.


I’ve been involved in drafting many audit proposals, but none included asphalt. Could copy-n-paste have been the culprit?

Horse manure and strategic bombers

My brother was attending a training session about procurements for a federal agency where he works. The trainer shared a story about how some procurement specifications are copied and pasted from previous RFPs, errantly giving life to specs long after they make any sense. Here’s an epic copy-n-paste story as my brother relayed it to me.

An RFP was published that involved seats for a modern, long range, strategic bomber. Shortly after it came out, a vendor called and asked, and I’m paraphrasing his paraphrasing someone else’s paraphrasing:

“Do you really want us to manufacture these seats as described in the RFP?”

“Yes,” was the response. “Of course.”

Then they got another call.

“Are you sure?”

So as my brother relates it, the buyer decided they’d better reread the specs in the RFP. That’s when they saw it.

The RFP required the vendor to soak the seats in horse manure and water. Now, to most people, that would seem a very strange thing to do. But since our great grandfather was a late 1800’s saddle maker, and our dad was fond of telling stories, my brother immediately recognized this as a common saddle-making practice.

See, most leather saddles are made from cowhide. The problem, of course, is most horses object to carrying a cow on their backs. So, saddle makers successfully hid the scent of cow by smothering the saddles in horse manure.

After pondering this further, I’ve determined many of our modern-day problems could likely be solved by smothering them in horse manure, but I’m getting off topic.  

This is total speculation on my part, but is it possible the origins of this requirement were from the days of the U.S. Cavalry ordering saddles for their horses? If so, how did it end up as a spec for a 21st century strategic bomber?

Could copy-n-paste have been the culprit?

Share your stories and make us laugh

One of the best ways to learn from our mistakes is to laugh at them. If you’re laughing, you’re relaxed enough and open-minded enough to hear the message.

Don’t embarrass anybody, but please share your own cut-n-paste stories so we can all laugh—and learn.

David Seibert is president of The Seibert Group, a consulting and training organization for businesses that respond to RFPs from other businesses and from SLED (state/local government and education) agencies.


The Seibert Group provides a range of services:

·         Online proposal training

·         Onsite proposal training

·         Proposal and business development consulting services   


David authored Proposal Best Practices and The Sales Manager’s Guide to RFPs, he publishes Dave’s Blog about proposal and business development topics, and he is a regular speaker at numerous webinars, seminars, and conventions.


You can contact Dave at [email protected]. You can also follow Dave on LinkedIn.


Scroll to Top