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April 6, 2005

Priceline for the Timid: Part VII - Further Strategies

When to bid, early or late? There is no good answer to this question. Some great hotels load their Priceline inventory months in advance. I won one of the best hotels I ever got in London, the Marriott Marble Arch, on a bid six months previous to the stay. Others only load inventory or their best rates shortly before the dates. The Wyndham in Philadelphia had extraordinarily cheap rates (as low as $31 a few years ago) but they didn’t seem to load them until a week or two prior. Bid as soon as your dates are firm, but lowball. If you aren’t getting what you want, don’t keep bidding and raising your price through impatience. Stop bidding and make a cancelable backup. Wait until about one month to three weeks out, then bid more seriously.

Priceline inventory changes constantly. Three days ago a $100 bid was rejected for a 4* hotel at Heathrow; usually the going rate is around $60, but inventory was low. Today it was accepted. Don’t assume the offer you made before is automatically too low. Go back and check the rates at likely hotels. Have they dropped?

When can I rebid? Per Priceline, you can make a new bid 72 hours after the original bid, but there have been reports of glitches. I put a reminder in my diary for 73 hours later; that’s why I suggest you jot down the time of your bid.

Rebidding by dropping down in star level or by changing dates. If you have already been rebidding when you chose to make this change close the browser and start a new bid. If you’ve already bid on a 4* in Georgetown and used a free rebid for Springfield, if you close the browser rather than just changing quality levels, you can re-use Springfield as a bidding zone. And if it was Arlington or another area with 3* hotels, if you drop down in quality level, you can’t get rid of the zone, and your bid could get accepted in a zone you did not want to stay in. Finally, if you intend to bid on a range of quality levels, bid on the highest one first. You have more rebidding options open if you bid in this order.

Make sure to drop your price if you drop your star level. Unless your price was huge lowball, dropping quality levels should also mean dropping your bid, not raising it. Make sure to look up likely hotels and rates for that level, if there’s any information available.

Changing dates or splitting a bid. To accept your bid, Priceline needs to have availability on all dates of your bid, and your bid has to be high enough to be accepted on all dates.
If there’s one or two dates within your stay when rates are significantly higher or availability more limited than other days you may want to consider splitting your bid and doing one bid for the high rate days and another for the less expensive ones.

Quasi free-rebid zones. If you know the bidding history of an area well enough, you can use certain zones as a free rebid, even though they are not. An example: Historically, bids in Soho-Mayfair in London do not get accepted for less than bids in Kensington – the average prices is $20-30 more per night, and I’d be quite happy to stay in either zone. So when I am bidding for Kensington I will use Mayfair as a rebid zone even though there are 4* hotels within the zone.

Upgrades: Priceline cannot downgrade your bid and give you a 3* hotel when you bid on a 4*, but they can upgrade you. This is usually a good thing, but on occasion it’s not. There are a few zones with a clunker 3* hotel for instance; you can avoid it by bidding for a 4*, but not by bidding only to 2.5*. There is no way to prevent an upgrade. If the 3* has a lower Priceline rate, you will get it, and you have no recourse.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at April 6, 2005 4:02 PM

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» The Basics of Priceline from View From the Wing
Leigh Witchel has an extensive tutorial on Priceline bidding strategies. It's a good basic introduction, with a nice discussion of advanced rebidding techniques. (Biddingfortravel.com had a more complicated version a couple of years ago where I first p... [Read More]

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