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Is the bloom off the rose with Priceline bidding?

Is the bloom off the rose with Priceline bidding?

Old Jan 22, 17, 12:10 pm
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Is the bloom off the rose with Priceline bidding?

Several years ago, most notably in the few years after 9/11, I used to travel all over the world with screaming bargains on car rentals, and most especially - nice 3*-5* hotel rooms, using Priceline "Name your price" bidding to get the best rates. This went on and remained a viable bargain travel strategy for many years.


But it seems to me that recently, I've not found any significant bargain rates using PL bidding. I'm a sophisticated bidder, and I think I understand all of the strategies for getting the best price and avoiding bad hotels via PL bidding, but over my last few trips, to places as varied as the SF Bay Area, Hawaii, and resorts in Mexico, I've simply found that the best prices available through PL bidding just don't match those I can get elsewhere. To the point that I have consistently found that when I progressively increment my bids from true bargain prices, up to the published prices I see for properties elsewhere, I consistently don't get my bid accepted. In several cases, I get counter-offers that, when combined with the PL fees that would be levied, are noticeably higher than prices available from other sources - often non-opaque sources, and even bidding at the mid-point between the bid that elicited the counter offer, and the counter-offer price, my bids are either getting rejected, or that midpoint is itself higher than published prices elsewhere, and thus not worth pursuing. Even Priceline's own published opaque prices - which are generally now no better than Hotwire's, seem to be as low or lower, once fees are included, than any price one can obtain through bidding.


So, has the golden goose of Priceline bidding bargains finally well and truly been killed? Has anyone recently saved noticeably on a hotel stay using PL bidding?


Is this perhaps just a function of the fact that, competition has driven much of the excess capacity out of the travel infrastructure, and that as other purchasing venues have gotten more competitive, the margins have been driven out of the business?
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Old Jan 23, 17, 3:24 am
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Your experience is the same as mine. I'm no longer using PL (I haven't done it for last 2-3 years).

Admittedly, there might be some value left in "last minute" 1 night bookings in the US - but it is very rare that I'm in need of that.

I also find the excessive fees/surcharges added to the bid very annoying.
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Old Jan 24, 17, 8:51 am
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I have tried PL bidding a couple of times in the past couple of years to no avail. Now I still use it to book Express Deals, which is where the value seems to have gone. I tend to prefer PL instead of Hotwire in that regard because to me it is a bit easier to suss out what the hotel might be with PL Express Deals.
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Old Jan 24, 17, 10:34 am
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Same experience. I stopped using Priceline a couple years ago. Considering the coupons for at least 15% off floating around, Priceline is equal if not more expensive.
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Old Jan 24, 17, 10:44 am
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Originally Posted by MelP View Post
I have tried PL bidding a couple of times in the past couple of years to no avail. Now I still use it to book Express Deals, which is where the value seems to have gone. I tend to prefer PL instead of Hotwire in that regard because to me it is a bit easier to suss out what the hotel might be with PL Express Deals.
When PL first came out with Express Deals, you used to be able to bid at least $5-10 less for the same zone and get the property for less than the Express deal. Recently, I have been unsuccessful doing that, and I ran my bid up to about $3 under the Express Deal and still did not get it accepted.
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Old Jan 25, 17, 3:03 pm
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There was a stretch from about 2004-2012 where I used PL and HW all the time. I've only done it a few times in the past 5 years, and most of those were last minute bookings.

Granted circumstances have changed a bit for me in that I now have a family and am therefore a bit choosier as to where I stay, and the Canadian dollar is a lot lower against the USD than it used to be. But by and large the deals just aren't really there anymore... for years I could dependably find 3-5* hotels for a song, like literally less than half the posted price. These days PL and HW are more like a good coupon (20% off) but I'm not sure it's enough to warrant putting up with the restrictions (no cancellations) that come along with it.
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Old Jan 26, 17, 10:00 am
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This is not observational, but directly in all of PCLN's investor filings - a similar trend is being indicated.

On the hotel side, it appears that spoiling inventory has really fallen off in a number of cities. Many hotels have no concern about offering opaque pricing that is similar to retail (or maybe discounted) retail pricing.

The explosion of hotelscombined/trivago/kayak have also made knowledge of 'hidden' pricing much more comprehensive and useful as well.

However, I still see this as only because of the current cycle where demand is very strong. Should there be a downturn due to whatever reason, opportunities will arise again.

Similar situation happened in NYOP air, which has been dropped entirely.

I believe the only category that still has useful inventory is NYOP car rental. Mostly due to competition from using Uber/Lyft instead I think. However ABG, the major vendor to PCLN has indicated in their investor releases that they are much more choosy about their opaque pricing and what business they take from there. I feel the argument is pretty weak as the car rental industry continues to hurt (although, they did get a bunch of cars really cheap recently due to problems in new car sales).

In summary, worth a glance at Express Deals (which now also appears for car rentals from time to time), but with fees, a slightly higher rate that also accrues elite value will be more useful.

Rasheed
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Old Jan 26, 17, 10:54 am
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Originally Posted by rasheed View Post
This is not observational, but directly in all of PCLN's investor filings - a similar trend is being indicated.

On the hotel side, it appears that spoiling inventory has really fallen off in a number of cities. Many hotels have no concern about offering opaque pricing that is similar to retail (or maybe discounted) retail pricing.

The explosion of hotelscombined/trivago/kayak have also made knowledge of 'hidden' pricing much more comprehensive and useful as well.

However, I still see this as only because of the current cycle where demand is very strong. Should there be a downturn due to whatever reason, opportunities will arise again.

Similar situation happened in NYOP air, which has been dropped entirely.

I believe the only category that still has useful inventory is NYOP car rental. Mostly due to competition from using Uber/Lyft instead I think. However ABG, the major vendor to PCLN has indicated in their investor releases that they are much more choosy about their opaque pricing and what business they take from there. I feel the argument is pretty weak as the car rental industry continues to hurt (although, they did get a bunch of cars really cheap recently due to problems in new car sales).

In summary, worth a glance at Express Deals (which now also appears for car rentals from time to time), but with fees, a slightly higher rate that also accrues elite value will be more useful.

Rasheed
Thanks Rasheed, that's very useful info. I never thought that NYOP air was a useful product, because for minimal savings, you lost the ability to control what time of day your arrival/departure was, but I used the hotel and rental car products frequently.

With respect to car rentals, in recent years, I've generally found that the optimal use of the product was to intentionally underbid, with the knowledge that successive failed bids would get PL to reveal the best fully cancelable rates from their vendors, and to use these as a placeholder for the opportunity to get spoiling inventory no more than a couple of weeks before, and then possibly again just a couple of days before the actual rental, where such inventory exists.

But with respect to NYOP bidding for hotels, I miss the days of getting 5* properties in Asia for well under $100 a night (I once got the JW Marriott in Bangkok for $73, and the Renaissance in Beijing for $97), and legitimate 4* properties from major chains like Starwood, Marriott, Sol Melia, and Hilton in Mexican resorts for under $50 a night (On successive trips, I paid $44 and $46 for the Westin and the Marriott in Puerto Vallarta, $55 for the Sheraton in Cancun, and $57 for the Sol Melia Cabo Real). Those days are long gone.

Last edited by DeweyCheathem; Jan 26, 17 at 11:03 am
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Old Feb 28, 17, 12:45 am
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I actually wanted to bump this thread to mention that I was pleasantly surprised to get a useful result through Priceline bidding today. Next week, I'm going to Maui, and I am renting a car for 9 days. The best non-opaque rental rate I was able to get out of OGG was $317 for a compact or bigger from name brand agencies, and $310 from a less known brand that is off airport with a tiny economy car. Today, for the first time in the past 2 months, I got a Hotwire hot rate of $282 if I booked and paid for it now. This persuaded me to give a last shot to Priceline bidding on the rental. I tried a bid of $16 a day for a midsize car, which inclusive of all fees and taxes, would result in a total rental cost of $265 for the 9 days all in. Success! Hertz accepted the bid, when the best non-opaque rate I had gotten from Hertz on that size car was over $370, and $322 with other brands like Thrifty or Budget. So I actually did get a nearly 20% saving on my rental a week from now through Name Your Price bidding.
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Old Mar 18, 17, 9:17 pm
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Originally Posted by DeweyCheathem View Post
I actually wanted to bump this thread to mention that I was pleasantly surprised to get a useful result through Priceline bidding today. Next week, I'm going to Maui, and I am renting a car for 9 days. The best non-opaque rental rate I was able to get out of OGG was $317 for a compact or bigger from name brand agencies, and $310 from a less known brand that is off airport with a tiny economy car. Today, for the first time in the past 2 months, I got a Hotwire hot rate of $282 if I booked and paid for it now. This persuaded me to give a last shot to Priceline bidding on the rental. I tried a bid of $16 a day for a midsize car, which inclusive of all fees and taxes, would result in a total rental cost of $265 for the 9 days all in. Success! Hertz accepted the bid, when the best non-opaque rate I had gotten from Hertz on that size car was over $370, and $322 with other brands like Thrifty or Budget. So I actually did get a nearly 20% saving on my rental a week from now through Name Your Price bidding.
Did you try out various car rental codes available at sites like carrentalsavers or the FT forums? 20% seems like a easy enough savings to get on any car rental without going through opaque sites.
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Old Mar 18, 17, 11:43 pm
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I tried every other site I knew of, and never saw a rate below $309 other than on opaque sites. If I had waited two more days, I could have gotten $3 a day less on Priceline (which would have been about $234-237) or $245 on Hotwire as opaque prices.
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Old Mar 19, 17, 1:21 am
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It's true the glory days of Priceline are over--at least for now. (I miss staying at the Westin in Houston for $10/night.) But I have NEVER found that conventional booking is cheaper than Priceline, even if it's just an Express Deal. It's just that the savings these days are so much less. And I have found a few times that bidding doesn't yield the result that an Express Deal with a 10% off coupon would. Most recently, Hotwire was able to beat Priceline on a deal in Chicago.

It takes a lot more work than it used to. I have to keep looking week after week. Sometimes good deals will pop up only for a few days, then disappear again. Sometimes it's all about last-minute deals. But those rare opportunities do still happen. I got a top-rated Residence Inn in the Chicago Loop last year for $95 instead of $279.

But I do miss the Grand Hyatt New York for $75.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 8:05 am
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Originally Posted by hotturnip View Post
(I miss staying at the Westin in Houston for $10/night.)
What a steal!

Ah yes, I remember multiple trips to the Sheraton MSP-Bloomington 7 or 8 years ago for around $35-$40 a night. These days, one night costs more than the entire stay would have then.

Westin Harbour Castle Toronto for $50, various roadside Best Westerns and Quality Inns for around $30. I guess it just couldn't last!
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Old Mar 20, 17, 1:18 pm
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I, too, am an experienced Priceline bidder (started in 2002), but like most others have had little success the past 2-3 years with NYOP for hotels. Last Fall I was trying for a 3.5 star in my home town with no success. Priceline Express had a Marriott for about $15 less than the best available price on the Marriott website. But since I belong to Marriott rewards the $15 savings wasn't worth it, especially when you factor Priceline would have added their service charge, unlike booking direct. I was never able to achieve anything lower than the PE rate through NYOP, so stayed with the direct booking.

Fast forward to earlier this month when I needed another room in my same home town. The direct Marriott rate was around $125, but for kicks I tried $75 via NYOP and as shocked my price was accepted. Same hotel, same city, two entirely different experiences October vs March (both were 1 night stays on Friday nights).
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Old Jul 8, 17, 6:47 pm
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Priceline Express Deals Air

Well, as I noted sometime ago, air bidding is gone.

However, I saw this commercial on tv. I hear a similar issue for rental express deals (only on app).

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/A3kB/priceline-com-express-deals-screensaver-featuring-kaley-cuoco

I haven't found any inventory yet and would appreciate if people share where they find search result responses of actual air express deals. It is also curious to see how opaque the deals are or if they provide some flight info (departure time window or stop detail).

Edit: Well, that wasn't too hard. As I have said in other FT threads on bidding (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/online-travel-booking-bidding-agencies/1170662-bidding-air-tickets-priceline.html), I like routes with very focused air service like Hawaii.

I just got a result on the app for August 9 to 16 for LAX to OGG. I got a result for $481 with lowest normal at around $602. The info gives you details about whether it is a red-eye (common for Hawaii return) and an indication of up to 1 connection of up to 3 hours. Possible, but I think unlikely on this route.

The departure time window wasn't bad indication either morning/afternoon or afternoon/evening.

The airlines domestically are the big 3 plus Sun Country, Hawaiian or VX.

One more edit: Express air is on the website both mobile and desktop.


Rasheed

Last edited by rasheed; Jul 8, 17 at 9:02 pm
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