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Does Priceline's "Name Your Own Price" option offer great value?


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Does Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” option offer great value?

Priceline’s “name your own price” cuts to the heart of my philosophy of buying value.  You pick a hotel in the area with the star rating you want and pay whatever it’s worth to you.  You never overpay because, at least in theory, you bid exactly what the room is worth to you.  If a 5 star room is worth $100 for you on a particular night, then even if I get the same room for $90 you did not overpay.  You also did not have to haggle or risk looking cheap in bartering your hotel room down in price.  You get a great room at a price you are comfortable paying, the worst that can happen is Priceline does not find any hotel at your star level and price point.  In the commercial Bill Shatner keeps goading the customer to go lower, but in reality this just leads to the loss of bidding priveleges.

How could such a system be problematic?  The problem with the Priceline system is their proprietary rating system.  The only information we can use to make an informed pricing decision is their star rating.  If this system is good it should give a fair apples to apples comparison between hotels.  Unfortunately, my experience is that this is not the case.

When looking over the example list of hotels at your level should give you a good indicator of the star level you are comfortable choosing.  For our overnight stay we had decided that a 2.5 star hotel would be adequate for our family.  We made our bid and got a hotel for about $40, this was a fantastic value.  We had gotten a Fairfield Inn which was superb.  It was a newer hotel, with updated rooms, indoor pool, free breakfast and flat screen tv.  We were blown away and loved the hotel and Priceline.  The next time we were in the area we chose the exact same 2.5 star room and even bid a bit higher and got the room.  If this blog had been written at that point this would be about how everyone should use Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” option to score a great deal on a hotel.  I agreed with their rating of 2.5 stars, not a super luxury place, but very clean, updated, etc.  It may have even been a 3 star, but either way it represented a great value.

The next time in the area we picked the same options and were “upgraded” to a 3 star room!  We were so excited because we had seen what a 2.5 star Priceline room was like so we knew this would be great.  We arrived at the Holiday Inn and were instantly underwhelmed.  The 1970s decor was not exactly inviting, but certainly the rooms would be fantastic.  We were told at check-in that breakfast was offered in the morning for $10 per person, which was unfortunate since this would add $20 to the price over the free hot breakfast Fairfield’s 2.5 star offering.  When we got into the room it was dated and obviously due for an update.  The textured wall paper really brought out the luxury look of the old-fashioned tube tv.  The room was not “dirty” necessarily, but it was just well used.

It’s not that we have exceptionally high standards, but 3 star was the highest rating in the area.  This hotel was a 2 star at best, but Priceline was telling us it was the best the city had to offer.  We were “upgraded” to this hotel, but if we had come to the area expecting to stay in the best hotel we would have picked this 3 star rating as well.  I knew from my own experience that there were better offerings in the area.  The 3 star had an old television, old carpet, old wallpaper, and did not include free breakfast.

When I called Priceline on the issue they just assured me that their rating scale is accurate (it’s not).  They listened to my greivances, but just kept telling me that they were certain I would be satisfied, but did not stand by their certainty.  Just be aware that Priceline has a motive to overrank certain hotels.  If a 2 star hotel is called a 3 star hotel, then people will bid more for the hotel.  The hotel wins because they book their 2 star rooms that would ultimately go unfilled.  If you still want to use Priceline, which is a great money saving option, go to Better Bidding to see the rooms other people have gotten with similar bids.



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