I've enjoyed correspondence with a general contractor (who insists on anonymity) with a solid reputation for integrity. In a recent email to me, he wrote:
You are on a touchy subject. As you know two people can read the same thing and draw different conclusions.
We feel very strongly that when a price is give to us it is confidential and must remain that way at all times. It is the way we expect to be treated by the owners so it simply has to be reciprocal.
I believe we are more competitive and respected by doing business this way.
Fishing for information happens all the time. Offers to cut prices after the tender closes and the successful GC is identified is common. These offers are usually from the same group of trades and suppliers. Obviously they have a twisted view of what a tender is. I suspect that they would be the first to howl that a GC "shopped" them out when beaten at their own game by another trade with the same views.
Interesting . . . of course this stuff reflects the construction industry's murky underbelly. People will indeed speak with two faces; and not everyone practices what they preach -- clearly a real issue when competition is fierce and, in a down market, the need for any work to keep the business alive encourages desperate behaviour. Another issue, however, is the fact that decisions are made often in the spur of the moment by individuals not always acting in their company's best interests (perhaps because of their own internal desperation or problems), and the company's oversight is not strong enough to catch the errors (a very real challenge for multi-office firms, with high levels of local autonomy.)