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April 3, 2005

Priceline for the Timid V: The Bidding Process

Walking through a Bid

At the Priceline site, you will first get to a landing page asking you for your hotel dates and location. Begin by filling this in.

The next screen will ask you to “Select the areas where you want to stay”.

Make a note of all zones and available stars in the zone. For instance, in Washington, click Alexandria-Mt. Vernon only and then “next” – there is a hotel range of 1*-3*. Click the "back" button on your browser, unclick Alexandria-Mt. Vernon and click Alexandria-Pentagon only. Repeat the process.

Here are the results:

You are doing this to make a note of “Free rebid zones”.

Free Rebid Zones. If you bid $60 on a 4* hotel in Georgetown and Priceline does not accept it, Priceline will come back with a screen saying that your price was not accepted and allow you to rebid if you change either the dates of your stay, the quality of hotel you’re willing to accept or the zones you are willing to accept. If you indicate that you’re willing to accept a 4* hotel in either Georgetown or, for example, Arlington, they will let you raise your price and bid again. But there are no 4* hotels in Arlington. You’re essentially making the same bid again.

Your free rebid zones are zones whose maximum star listing is lower than your desired star level.

There are no free rebid zones in DC for anything under 2.5*.
Springfield is the only free rebid zone for 3*
Alexandria-Mt. Vernon, Alexandria-Pentagon, Arlington, Crystal City and Springfield are all free rebid zones for 4*

This doesn’t work in the opposite direction. If you want a 1* hotel in Georgetown, adding Dupont Circle is not a free rebid, even though it has no 1* hotels. If there was a 2* hotel in Dupont Circle that accepted your price, Priceline would “upgrade” you and give it to you.

Note the zone map on this page. You agree to a hotel anywhere within the zone you bid, so make sure the zone works for you. In cities like NYC, this is usually not a problem because the city is divided into manageable zones. In other cities, Amsterdam, Barcelona or some zones in Paris for instance, the zones are so large that you risk getting a hotel well away from where you were hoping to be. It’s a calculated risk that is less bad in Paris or Amsterdam but I would not use Priceline for Barcelona.

Back to DC. I’ll select Georgetown. The next screen asks us to select quality level and price and to give the reservation name and sign in if we already have a profile.

I will select 4* and name my price. I’ve established my upper end as being $75; I’m going to start at $50. I haven’t seen any winning bids in DC proper at that star level for that little, but with taxes and fees that comes to $121, a bit over 50% off the price of the Melrose, so I am going to start there.

The next screen is a bid confirmation screen showing your dates and zones (check them carefully) that shows the full fee including taxes and services. You can back in and out of this screen repeatedly; I will usually do this with a few test numbers to find out the total cost for bids I am considering. In this instance, a $50 bid is actually $60 and a $75 bid costs $90. It is important to know that.

You can tick a box if you want travel insurance (I don’t) and you place your initials at the bottom to indicate you’ve read and accepted Priceline’s terms (so read them!)

The next screen asks for credit card information. Make certain everything is as you want it; there's no going back if your bid is accepted. Jot down the time of your bid (I'll explain why soon) and then you would click “Buy my hotel room now!”

Next: Bid Outcomes

Posted by Leigh Witchel at April 3, 2005 9:37 AM

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