Kuki Gets Religion

| September 19, 2005

I'm generally not a religious man, but I have become a Priceline convert. I wonder what they call converts to Priceline --- Pricelineites, Pricelineans, Pricelineatarians?

Whatever they want to call me, I'm it…at least in terms of hotels for pre- or post-cruise stays. My personal moment of revelation came recently when I was standing in my guest room at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. I looked at the rate card on the back of the door, and it said $540. I stood glowing with pride because I was going to be sleeping in this room and enjoying the facilities of this wonderful beachfront hotel for $105 per night, double occupancy.

I'm bright enough to know that even though the rate card stated $540, I could have booked this room for considerably less with a phone call to the Marriott Hotels toll-free number, or a visit to their web site, or a direct call to the hotel inquiring about manager's specials. In fact, I attempted all of those, and the best rate quote I could get was $249.

That's when I decided to venture forth in the world of Priceline.com. My only hesitancy in using Priceline previously was because I knew the name of the property you were bidding on wouldn't be revealed until your bid had been accepted, which meant you were already committed. You had to purchase the room before knowing which hotel you'd be staying in. I certainly had no interest in purchasing a hotel room 35 miles down the road, above a biker bar.

With the help of some online research at www.biddingfortravel.com, I noticed that the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort was the only "resort class" hotel in Priceline's downtown Ft. Lauderdale zone. Therefore I knew if my bid was accepted, I'd have purchased a room at my hotel of choice.

If you bid for a hotel on Priceline, and your bid is rejected, you can't bid again for 72 hours. However, there's even a way around this restriction. Priceline allows you to re-bid if you change other factors. You can add a different geographic zone to be included in your bid, or add different "star ratings" to the kind of accommodations that will be acceptable for your bid.

Again with assistance from www.biddingfortravel.com, I was able to discern other zones where Priceline does not offer "resort class hotels," and added them to my new bid. Therefore, even though I was technically changing a factor in my bid, allowing me to re-bid before the 72 hours, I knew I was still bidding on only the one hotel -- Marriott Harbor Beach. I placed my first bid of $50 and could almost hear the Priceline computers laughing at me, when I hit the Buy Button. Using the re-bid technique, I increased my bid several times before getting approval and confirmation at $105.

When my computer screen lit up, saying "Your bid has been accepted," I got down on my knees and said Hallelujah! Praise Priceline.com!

I then proceeded to get back online and bid for the four-star InterContinental Hotel in Miami for two months from now. Again taking advantage of the information available at www.biddingfortravel.com, I was able to book the Intercontinental in downtown Miami at $85 a night, for three nights. The best rate I could find elsewhere on this hotel was $225. Total savings to me for my Miami stay, using Priceline.com, was a very significant $420! Praise Priceline! I'm converted!

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