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How to Buy

Individuals who purchase goods and services on behalf of the university are required to be familiar with University Policy 3.25, Procurement of Goods and Services as well as the Buying Manual, which provides the procedures required to comply with the policy. 

The following information provides a brief introduction to the buying process at Cornell. Please direct questions about this information to Cornell Procurement Services.

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Choosing a Supplier

If a preferred supplier is available for the commodity, the preferred supplier must be used unless an alternate approach is approved by both the department and a purchasing agent.

If there is no preferred supplier or e-SHOP supplier, then the procurement method is a purchase order or procurement card.

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Supplier Utilization Hierarchy

Refer to the supplier utilization hierarchy below to aid you in selecting a supplier. If Procurement Services has negotiated an agreement with a supplier for the commodity (good or service) that you are purchasing, then you should purchase that commodity from the preferred or contract supplier. For items that are not covered by preferred or contract supplier agreement and for purchases below the $10,000 bid limit, you are encouraged to shop with local or diverse suppliers.

Supplier Type
Definition Unit Spending Goal
Preferred suppliers
A supplier with whom Procurement Services has negotiated and/or implemented a university-wide agreement and that Procurement Services endorses as the "best overall value" in providing products, services, delivery, and customer service.

Where agreements with a specific supplier exist for a commodity (good or service), units must procure those commodities from these preferred suppliers, regardless of the dollar amount or procurement method.
80% 
Contract suppliers
A supplier who has agreed to Cornell's terms and conditions, and meets at least one of the following criteria:
  • There's a pricing agreement
  • It is a local business
  • It is a small or diverse supplier
  • The supplier sells sustainable products
Local suppliers
A business located in Tompkins County or adjacent counties.
 20%
Diverse suppliers
Any business concern that is at least 51 percent owned by a woman, minority, or veteran, who is a U.S. citizen and whose management and daily operations are controlled by one or more of such individuals.

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Payment Methods

The following is a list of acceptable methods of paying for goods and services purchased on behalf of Cornell University. To help units determine the appropriate payment method in a given situation, see the Procurement Decision Flowchart.

  • e-SHOP

e-SHOP is Cornell’s branded Web-based procurement system. When a good or service is available through an e-SHOP catalog, units must use e-SHOP as the procurement method. If a supplier is not enabled in e-SHOP, units may use other approved procurement methods as outlined in the table below.

  • Procurement card

A procurement card (pcard) is a credit card issued by a financial institution to Cornell to make direct purchases from vendors. Certain goods and services are prohibited from payment via pcard.

  • Checks issued through a Disbursement Voucher

Payment can be issued by check (or an equivalent electronic method) through a Disbursement Voucher (DV) without the issuance of a purchase order. This method is restricted to a specific list of goods/services. See the Buying Manual sections 201, "Eligible for Direct Payment, with Approval of Authorized Unit" and 204, "Direct Payment by Check or Equivalent Electronic Method."

  • Purchase order

A purchase order, which is the primary method used to purchase and pay for goods and services by check (or an equivalent electronic method), represents the university’s offer to buy goods and services and is a legally binding contract, with specific terms and conditions between the university and the vendor. For more information on the purchase order process, see Buying Manual sections 400-403, "The Purchase Order Process."

  • Reimbursement through the Travel Reimbursement System

The costs of business travel, including meals, may be reimbursement to Cornell business travelers using the Travel Reimbursement System. For more information on paying for business travel, see the Buying Manual section 205, "Payment Options for Business Travel."

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Deciding on a Procurement Method
Is the vendor a preferred supplier?
Is the vendor enabled in e-SHOP?
The procurement method is
Yes Yes e-SHOP
Yes No Purchase order or procurement card
No Yes e-SHOP
No No If a preferred supplier is available for the commodity, the preferred supplier must be used unless an alternate approach is approved by both the department and a purchasing agent.

If there is no preferred supplier or e-SHOP supplier, then the procurement method is a purchase order or procurement card.

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