When you're soliciting bids for a project, it's not unusual to get two bids that are fairly close and one that's way way higher. That company doesn't really want the job, but will happily take the windfall if it comes through.

I've heard that referred to by a term I can't recall. The contractor might say "Yeah, I just gave them a _____ bid."

What word or phrase could fill in the blank?


5 Answers 5


To highball means to make a high estimate, generally of a price or cost.

Wiktionary says:

To make an estimate which tends toward exaggeration.

Its example:

If we highball the price, it comes out to $240. If we lowball it, it's closer to $200.

You could use this as an adjective

Yeah, I just gave them a highball bid.

Or if you prefer use the past participle:

Yeah, I just gave them a highballed bid.

  • 1
    'Highball bid' seems more common than 'highballed bid' according to Google search data. May 25 at 13:02
  • 3
    "Highball" is just the word I was missing. The answer of "token" bid is also quite good, but it doesn't have the casual feel I remembered.
    – Jim Mack
    May 25 at 14:57
  • 1
    This is the answer I would have expected. May 25 at 15:21
  • 2
    @JimMack This is probably the more recognizable term, although "token" does have the implication that the bidder doesn't expect it to be accepted.
    – Barmar
    May 25 at 15:23
  • 1
    You can shorten this to "Yeah, I just highballed them."
    – TonyK
    May 27 at 16:37

One that I've heard used in all seriousness in the UK, both as a supplier and as a customer, is fuck-off pricing (or "fuck-off bid" to better suit your example).

Offering to do a job for far more than what the customer thinks it's worth is a crude way of saying "go away, I don't want your business" (but ensuring if they're desperate enough to take you up on it, you make a tidy profit).

Of course this might not be suitable in all professional settings!

  • 3
    This is also sometimes called "go-away pricing" if you want to describe it in a more professional setting. May 26 at 22:25
  • @MichaelSeifert that too, though IME far less often (despite being told, in the first job I encountered this, that we didn't swear much in UK engineering firms!)
    – Chris H
    May 27 at 6:53
  • I'm not sure the "nice answer badge is particularly appropriate this time, but the phrase is clearly in wider use than I thought.
    – Chris H
    May 27 at 6:54

The contractor might say "Yeah, I just gave them a token bid."

A token bid refers to a deliberately high or unrealistic bid submitted by a company that is not genuinely interested in winning the job but is willing to accept it if the bid is unexpectedly accepted. The purpose of a token bid is often to maintain a presence in the bidding process, demonstrate participation, or create the appearance of competition, while not actually intending to secure the project.

  • 4
    What's the source of your definition? The usual definition of "token" (adj) is symbolic; or a small amount charged only because a charge is expected; or paying lip service. None of these refers to 'a deliberate high or unrealistic bid'. You could do a token bid by submitting a proposal that simply does not meet the criteria, but whose monetary value falls in line with expectations. May 25 at 15:39
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    "token" has other meanings. It can also mean something done only for appearances, or as a gesture, such as hiring a single black person in a company. That would seem to be the use intended here. That is related to, but distinct from a "token amount". May 25 at 16:00
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    I agree with @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, a "token" amount is not worth considering, but usually because it is very small, not very large. To me, this would suggest perhaps a boilerplate bid that doesn't actually address any of the client's specifications, submitted just for the sake of submitting something. It does carry the meaning of a bid that won't be realistically considered, but there are many other reasons that would come to my mind before the bid being too high. May 25 at 16:03
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    "How to Win Construction Contracts: The Importance of Accurate Bidding" by Jonathan L. Galaviz: This book explores bidding strategies in the construction industry and mentions the practice of token bids as a way to maintain a presence in the bidding process without intending to win the project.
    – nibha
    May 26 at 5:23
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    @nibha when the entire purpose of the question is to find the word for an action, verifying the existence of the action but not the correctness of the word for it is hardly a relevant source... May 26 at 16:20

If the contractor wanted to discourage the issuer of the call for tender with an outrageous price, he may say:

- Yeah, I just gave them a cost-prohibitive bid.

If the cost of something is prohibitive, it is too expensive for most people.
For example, " Despite public subsidies,the prices charged for seats at the opera are prohibitive".


Where the overbid is a result of collusion among the bidders its called a cover price

This is, of course, illegal, but sometimes illegal things happen.

  • 1
    Hmm, that page says: "Cover pricing thus presents a high risk of breaching the Commerce Act." Also: "So submitting a cover price after giving such a warranty is likely to be misleading or deceptive conduct and breach the Fair Trading Act." It therefore doesn't seem to be necessarily illegal. I'm sure that the legality may also vary in other jurisdictions. May 27 at 0:17

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