As a Priceline fan, I can’t deny the downside of “Name your own price” – landing what’s known as a “Priceline room.”
In the bidding-for-hotel-rooms game, the big fear is winning at a hotel that promptly shunts you off to a “Priceline room.” I’ve been to a couple, and they’re not pretty.
Even some three- or four-star hotels have a bottom of the barrel, and these rooms are it: Wedged between the elevators and the ice machine, with a view of the parking lot or a Dumpster. In two-star hotels, there also might be the faint odor of stale cigarettes, Eisenhower-era drapes and furniture that declares “Management ran out of money before they got around to refurbishing this wing.”
This usually happens when the hotel books suddenly with full-price customers; somebody has to get the worst rooms, and that will generally be the discounters. It’s a risk we run.
But for every one of those I’ve hit, there were 10 or 15 truly outstanding bargains. And that’s that keeps me coming back to Priceline.
We’re talking about top-flight hotels that I almost certainly wouldn’t have paid rack (or even “Internet special”) rates for. The Ventura Beach Marriott, LeCentre Sheraton in Montreal, the Renaissance in Cleveland, Denver’s Hyatt Regency, the Omni Severin in Indianapolis and a few dozen other first-tier hotels have provided excellent rooms at deeply, deeply discounted rates.
This weekend, I’m reminded of that here at the Boston Seaport Hotel. A one-night Halloween special was $119; otherwise the lowest Web rate was $169. Priceline? $89.
For that, the Seaport delivered a splendid 8th floor room with all of the hotel’s amenities: A sharp concierge, remarkable fitness center, flat-screen TVs, free shoe shines. Not to mention the strict no-tipping policy (I forgot at the coffee shop, but the cheerful clerk slid the $1 back apologetically and said he couldn’t accept anything).
Is it possible that next year I’ll get stuck a couple nights in a “Priceline room” in Providence or San Diego or Baltimore? Sure: There’s always that risk with a gamble. But overall, the Priceline system still works out very, very much to the good. No bargain-conscious traveler should ignore it.