1. Used them once last year, will never use them again
Normally book vacations through expedia.
Went to Mexico in March 08, found an all inclusive package on Expedia for, like, $2000. Found one at the same place on Priceline for, like $1950. Thought "Oh gee, we can save money, sweet"
I wasn't too worried because we weren't bidding, so we knew where we were staying, that wasn't a problem.
The problem became apparent (but I didn't realize it at the time) was that when we booked the package (air + hotel), they only show you the time your plane leaves, and the time your plane arrives. You don't see connections, or layover times. Didn't find out we had a 12 hour layover in Huston until we paid for the package.
Okay...that was not expected, but whatever, I guess. We couldn't go back and change it, so the $50 we "saved" with priceline we used to pay for a hotel for the night in Huston.
So after our layover in Huston we get to the resort in Mexico.
They have no record of us. They have no record of priceline. Trying to call priceline was like using a banana as a hammer. Totally went nowhere, they could not and would not help us. We had paid the $1950 (or whatever) in full the day we booked it, but to Priceline we were nonexistent, they had no record of our confirmation number, no record of our payment, no explaination why a $1950 payment went through on the Visa to Priceline...
Finally, after about 2 hours at the front desk, the hotel FINALLY found our reservation. We were listed under the wrong name, with the wrong information. They only found it because our confirmation number was listed as our phone number.
For the hassle, the hotel upgraded us, which was nice.
Never got an "i'm sorry" or "fuck you" from priceline.
So for that, priceline will NEVER get my business again, and I assured them I would do everything I could to disuade others from using their service.
Compare that to Expedia---we have used them every time we've gone abroad, and traveled domestically. They are available on the phone 24 hours a day They are courteous and do everything they can to remedy the situation, even if the "problem" isn't their fault, or the fault of the hotel.
We were in Holland once in a hotel we booked thru expedia. Found out after the first night it just wasn't where we wanted to say. Hotel was described properly, we just wanted to be in another part of town. Called Expedia...they cancelled the reservation and even got us out of paying the 1 night hotel room fee b/c we cancelled with less than 24 hours notice.
They sent us a $30 refund and a free hotel night voucher because we weren't satisifed with a hotel's facilities and felt they weren't as described.
Expedia has always been super helpful. Priceline was like jamming irons into my ears.
2. I've used them a handful of times and LOVED it!
perhaps it's because I've mastered the name your own price thing, but so far I've always managed to get at least 50% off high rated hotels. I managed to get two nights in a four star hotel and the total price STILL was less than the regular price for ONE night!
The key is to select the highest rated hotel and submit low low prices and slowly work your way up. If the highest rated available hotels are four star, select that and start by bidding say $60 bucks. I've already gotten one for $75, and a two room suite for $100 bucks.
I can understand possibly getting a deal on a more expensive hotel. But I was looking for a decent 2-3 star hotel more like a Best Western or Ramada and was wondering if it was worth the time and effort to bid. Glad you had success with them.
"The key is to select the highest rated hotel and submit low low prices and slowly work your way up."
Well, each time you submit a bid that's rejected, they make you expand one of the criteria, such as adding another section of town, or a lowered star rating. The lowered star rating is no biggie, but the wrong part of town can be a problem.
I've done all right with Priceline for the most part. One thing to remember is that, in addition to the room, it can cost more to stay in fancy hotels. Parking, restaurants, vending, internet, etc. can be hidden costs that offset your savings. Got a room in the Chicago loop and the guy waved me in to the parking valet area, and no rate was posted, so I presumed it was included. It wasn't... $41 overnight, about half what the room cost me! I was able to find other parking nearby for $25 overnight, but other parts of town parking would have been free. Just keep in it mind.
Another thing to know is that a 3-star hotel can be in a 1-star part of town. Priceline dropped me at a hotel in Brooklyn -- nice (tiny) rooms, but when you went to the parking lot, the rats would scurry away from the trash cans, and my travel companions didn't feel terribly safe. With Priceline, you have to be careful of things like that, especially if you don't know the city real well.
Also, the last time I booked a room for one night, Priceline offered a second night at the same price, so I added the second. About noon after the first night, the desk called to tell me I needed to check out. I said I'd made the second night reservation, but they said they didn't have it and needed the room for a wedding. So, I ended up at the hotel across the street for about twice the price (much nicer room) and had to bicker with Priceline once I got home to get a refund for my missing second night, but they didn't cover the cost I'd paid to the fancy hotel, so that wiped out any savings. I stupidly hadn't printed my reservation form, so it's not all their fault, but it should have gone more smoothly than it did.
One trick is to get the online price, then call the hotel directly and ask if they'll match the price. Frequently they will, and it generally allows you to cancel the reservation with less/no penalty should your plans change. (A lot of the online travel sites have stiff penalties for canceling or changing your reservation.)
As for the expanding criteria, that sucks, but you can always leave the site, come back and bid again with the same criteria you started with. I think that's probably how I got some of the better deals.
7. All third party reservations sites are horrible. Do not use them.
Edited on Tue Sep-01-09 05:17 PM by Mutley
They will tell you anything you want to hear to get you to buy a hotel room from them. I work in a hotel and sites like priceline, orbitz, and hotels.com give out bad information all the time even though we have repeatedly given them the correct information. Then, when the guest calls to complain, those sites threaten not to pay the hotel if the guest asks for their money back. It's a giant hassle for the hotel and for the guests.
15. I have had the exact opposite experience, both as a hotel employee and a guest.
I've never gotten wrong information about a hotel from a third party site, and can only think of twice that I felt misled, and that was by the hotel. Once was just a ratty hotel in an otherwise excellent chain (Hampton Inn), and once we got tagged with a $12 parking fee that wasn't published, but that was the chain's way of underpricing on the net and recouping their loss. This was in Dallas, which is not a place you expect parking fees except downtown.
When I worked for a hotel chain, my experience was that we gave out misleading information taking reservations at the hotel, and I always recommended people to go through a third party site for more accurate information, including customer reviews. We routinely charged higher rates than third party sites, dramatically oversold the quality and location of the hotel (a Wyndham in south Austin, that's now an Omni), and never gave a cent back to the customers. They often had better luck complaining to third party sites to get a refund than to us. It wasn't just us, either.
Not saying your experience is wrong, just that mine has been exactly the opposite.
14. One bad experience, but mostly good. I'd recommend.
I use them for hotels, mostly, though I've gotten a couple of flights and car rentals with them.
The best way to use them is in conjunction with another site like Travelocity. Find the lowest price you can on Travelocity, then underbid by a lot on Priceline. Sometimes you get your price, sometimes you get a good counteroffer, and sometimes you get nothing.
If you decide to do the auction, it bills you at the time you win, so you can't get a refund (you could try selling on Craigslist, of course). So be sure your plans are solid.
The only drawbacks are that you don't know where the room will be or what time the flight will be. But you can be reasonably sure to get a room worth at least the price offered, and probably worth more.
The one bad experience I had was booking a room in Tampa. The room was a good price, but it was nasty when we got there. Bugs, worn out mattresses, sheets so dirty I slept on top of the covers, and a constant flow of people through the lobby and hallways which made the place seem like a brothel. But it was a chain hotel that would normally have been expected to be good. And I've gotten rooms that bad through other sites, including booking on a hotel's own web site, so there's nothing you can do to avoid that sometimes.
On the other hand, I got a price in Dallas that was Motel 6 pricing for a full suite in a very nice hotel I'd have never discovered otherwise, and it was no more than half a mile from where the more expensive hotels were. I still seek out that hotel when I have to stay in Dallas.
All in all, it's worth it, as long as you know you might be a couple miles from where you want to be.
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