The local ABC affiliate, KOMO, did a feature
a few weeks ago on Priceline, giving a some pointers on bidding for hotel rooms. Can come in handy for those planning Lobos road trips.
I'm posting the text here (because one never knows how long the KOMO web site will have the page up); but there is a Quicktime video also on the story page (www.komotv.com/news/story_sr.asp?ID=33835
This technique doesn't work everywhere or all the time. Peak seasons in some areas get you minimal breaks (like, say, Seattle in August); but I frequently find rates at 40% to 60% off the best rate I find through Expedia or AAA...even more savings on hotel "rack rates."
One thing that the article doesn't say...and it's important to the process...is to report your results at the bidding tips web pages so that others can benefit from your experience.
*********************************************************How To Beat Priceline
November 5, 2004
By Matt Markovich
There is a big loophole in Priceline.com's bidding system for hotel rooms that lets you get the absolute best rate.
Priceline.com offers one of the most unique ways to buy travel. You name your price for airline tickets, hotel stays or car rentals and if Priceline accepts your bid, that's what you pay.
Their advertisements with William Shatner tout a claim that you can save up to 40 percent over the big internet travel web sites like Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz. But if you are a frequent user of Priceline, like I am, you know there are many restrictions Priceline has worked into its bidding process. You can't simply increase your bid by $1 each time. In terms of hotels, you have to change either your dates of travel or hotel class or add an additional hotel zone, otherwise Priceline makes you wait 72 hours before you can bid again. All of these restrictions may lead you to overbid and still get a pretty good deal, but not the lowest rock bottom price that Priceline has hidden in it's computer system.
There are no real good techniques for finding the lowest fare for airline tickets and car rentals that I know of, but there is a big loophole in Priceline's bidding system for hotel rooms. It's known among frequent Priceline users as "free rebids" and here's how it works. Step One: Decide where you are going.
Once you've picked your destination, go to either BiddingForTravel.com
. Both web sites are message boards where Priceline users post their winning and losing bids. Users post dates of travel, bid histories and the names of the hotels and star classes they got. You'll also find information which hotels have Priceline users have stayed at in the past.
This is valuable information that Priceline doesn't offer on its web site. Why should they? Priceline wants to give you a good deal but also doesn't want to give away the farm. Step Two: Decide which star class hotel you want.
It may seem simple, but this is the big decision. The free rebid system only works with the highest star rating for a particular city. In our example we'll use Seattle. Priceline breaks down it's major metropolitan areas into zones. In Seattle, there are eight hotel zones.
Once you've entered your city of choice and the dates you want to stay, Priceline gives you a choice of hotel zones. In Seattle, only downtown offers a four star hotel. In some cities, a four star hotel may be offered in two or three zones. In other cities, the highest rated hotel may be a three star. If the highest star hotel is offered in every zone, the free rebid system will not work. Step Three: Do more homework.
Now that you've decided to stay at a four star hotel, or the highest rated star hotel for your particular area, go to the big internet travel web sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz or Hotels.com. Check the other sites' cheapest prices for a four star hotel on the dates that you want. This will help you make a good decision on the bid price and what the competition is currently offering.
Also, double check BiddingForTravel.com and BetterBidding.com on the bid histories for four or three star hotels in your area. In our Seattle example, I saw that people were getting the Sheraton in downtown Seattle for $100 and $107 a night on roughly the dates I wanted. On Expedia and Travelocity for the dates I wanted, I saw the Sheraton at $149/night, the Westin at $155/night, the Monoco at $219/night and the Alexis at $225/night. I got the names of these hotels from BiddingForTravel.com and BetterBidding.com because all of these hotels have worked with Priceline in the past. Step Four: Find your free rebid zones.
On Priceline, enter your city and enter your dates of travel. Then, click on every zone in that city to see what the highest star rating is for that zone. In our Seattle example, only downtown offered a four star hotel. The seven other zones were three stars or less. This is a perfect case for seven extra free rebids. In your city, click on each zone by itself, hit next and see what is the highest star level of that zone and make a note of that. Here's the secret. Each zone that have doesn't offer the highest class of hotel will give you a free rebid and you can get around the 72 hour rule.
Remember, Priceline makes you wait 72 hour to bid again if you don't change or add a zone or additional hotel class to search. Step Five: Start bidding.
Armed with the knowledge from all your homework, you're ready to find Priceline's lowest price, stay where you want, and beat it's 72 hour rule. Pick where you want to stay. Select the highest star rating. In my case its a four star hotel in downtown Seattle. Enter a price. Knowing that bidders were getting a room for roughly $100/night, I started with $75. I did so because I know I'm going to get seven extra chances for a four star hotel in downtown Seattle. After entering all the necessary personal data, I hit 'buy my hotel room'. I got rejected. Step Six: Use a free rebid.
Now add another hotel zone that doesn't offer the highest star rating available. In my case, I added Bellevue because I know that Bellevue doesn't offer any four star hotels, therefore I'm guaranteed that I won't ever get a four star hotel room in Bellevue. My only chance is in downtown Seattle, where I really want to stay. I raised my bid $5 dollars and got rejected but I just beat Priceline's 72 hour rule.
I then added Bothell, again, knowing that won't ever get a hotel in Bothell because there are no four star hotels in Bothell. I got rejected, but again, I just beat Priceline's 72 hour rule. As long as you add a hotel zone that does not offer a four star hotel, you are guaranteed not to get a hotel in that zone.
After adding $5 dollars on each of my next three free rebids, I got an acceptance. My base price was $100 at the Sheraton downtown. What do you know, just as I expected and as was predicted on the BiddingForTravel.com and BetterBidding.com web sites. Step Seven: Count the money you saved.
In five minutes, I used only five of my seven rebids and inched my way up the bidding ladder and got the lowest price for a four star hotel in downtown Seattle which Priceline offers for my dates of travel. If I had to abide by Priceline's 72 hour and not created free rebids, my bid process would have taken me 15 days.
The base rate for my days to travel on Sheraton's web site was $149, on Travelocity $149, on Expedia $150. I saved $50 off the lowest price available. Each city offers different situations, but this should be a good start to saving big dollars.
For More Information:
You can watch the video of Matt's story at this link