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Mystery Hotels – To seduce and possibly get a deal

We spent some time looking at Lastminute.com’s ‘Mystery Hotel’ range and wotif.com’s new mystery offers. In some cases, LastMinute’s description of mystery hotels makes it easier to pinpoint the real hotel. Wotif’s mystery hotels are a bit hard to understand, but there are some tips, for example, they sell ‘Comfort’ and ‘Grand Comfort’ rooms in the same city, so you can check out the list of other Wotif hotels in the same city. see which hotel you use for these descriptive rooms. The creator of the secret hotel deal was the US company Priceline, and we have always had serious doubts about their use.

The main objection is that instead of seeing a discounted price at a particular hotel (20% of the price of a regular agent is normal enough for both LastMinute and Wotif), Priceline gives you no clue about the actual hotel and you have to offer a price. you are ready to pay. Priceline helps a bit – it divides cities into regions and shows the normal retail price of hotels in different star categories and offers a discount that you should apply when offering. However, there is a great danger that you will pay more than you need. Priceline may have set a secret minimum offer of $ 80 per night, but if someone offers $ 95, the company will gladly accept the offer. In addition, the work has been very good for the hotel industry in recent years, and we suspect that Priceline sells rooms in some hotels that would otherwise be difficult to attract guests. In other words, you can afford the chances for a lower hotel.

However, now the game has changed a bit. Quite a few hotels have empty rooms and are ready to sell them cheaply through Priceline, provided that their names are not disclosed, so as not to ruin their normal ratings. And, we’ve found a pretty handy guide to help you avoid some Priceline traps.

A community forum for Priceline users (and HotWire, an Expedia section designed for more US customers) http://www.betterbidding.com. The front page is a bit confusing, but scroll down to find a forum dedicated to the area you want to visit. Select Boston and the first post will be a list of hotels that forum members have purchased through Priceline. There is no guarantee that this list will be completely accurate – hotels will come and go according to the season and fullness – but at least you have an idea of ​​the type of hotel you will get in each star category. You will then see the latest posts where members list the deals they actually received from Priceline. You can see that someone was able to offer $ 80 per room at Omni Parker two days ago, and a $ 85 offer a week ago was to buy a room at Hyatt Regency. You should carefully note when bookings are made (weekdays or weekends) and how long bookings are made, as this will affect the price.

This site works best with Priceline’s US hotels. There are fewer shipments for international orders. If you want to stay in Venice in May, it’s helpful to know that someone can offer $ 90 for a room at the Hilton Molino in February.

All the prices on Priceline are preceded by the dreaded ‘taxes and expenses’ that can add a huge amount to the total and clearly include a generous service fee. We couldn’t see how they would think with £ 28 with a basic hotel bill of £ 92. At least you see this number before submitting your offer.

You must provide your payment details when you are ready to proceed. If the offer is accepted, your money will be received immediately and there is no possibility of cancellation or change. If the offer is not accepted, no money will be taken and only a refund is allowed if you change some of the terms of the original offer. A good offer offers a way around it. Let’s say you want to stay in a five-star hotel in an area of ​​Paris. Your initial offer was rejected, so change your offer and add another area of ​​Paris, but there is no Priceline five-star hotel in an area you can see from Betterbidding. Assuming that Priceline doesn’t add a new hotel all of a sudden (which is a very real possibility), then your growing offer for the hotel you want should be accepted.

Betterbidding also provides the same information for HotWire. It is part of the same group that owns Expedia and Hotels.com, but is primarily designed for US customers and is paid in dollars – which increases costs for UK customers.

The HotWire system is similar to Priceline, excluding the direction of the offer. You know in advance the star rating, the area of ​​the city and the total cost (plus taxes and expenses). A quick look at Betterbidding should give you an idea of ​​which hotels are selling in different categories and cities. The site is not as strong as Priceline in hotels outside North America.

We recommend that you try to check prices directly with both of these sites, hotels or hotels in a similar category. Neither Booking.com nor Expedia / Hotels.com (the companies behind these mystery sites) sell hotels cheaply. In some cases, a 20% discount on prices will only be equal to a 10% discount available elsewhere. If you think you can buy a room at Luxor in Las Vegas for $ 65, you’ll find it better to take the estimates and book directly with the hotel for $ 72.

Of course, we can’t recommend Priceline and Betterbidding to everyone. It can be time consuming and dangerous. There is a huge potential for error: you can easily pay quite a lot of money for a hotel you don’t want. Another important danger is that you can face the whole game and focus more on trying to ‘win’ than on finding a hotel that suits you! However, especially in the United States, there are some original bargains where Priceline is more powerful, and there is a lot of information about Betterbidding. If you are looking for a few nights in a hotel in New York and have the time and patience, you can get a good deal.

If I book a mystery deal for a special price, will I get the worst room in the hotel?

Several hotels are likely to use these mysterious deals to sell a handful of less desirable rooms that they would not normally sell if the hotel is not full. Many hotels will give you a standard room, but as is common for rooms booked at special prices through agents, it will probably be the lowest category room available. Better rooms can be on higher floors, have more modern furniture or better views, and these rooms can be reserved for customers who book directly at the hotel.

But …

If you have booked a standard room through an agent (whether Priceline or not), there is no reason why you should not upgrade the room when you arrive. Many hotel agency customers are very happy to be promoted to rooms on the executive floor (perhaps £ 30 per night) or to be given a room that is wider or more scenic. Hotels are looking for extra income at every opportunity, and if someone offers them money and has a better room, they are unlikely to turn them down. Interestingly, this method can often lead to a free upgrade! A receptionist may find the task of taking an extra charge on a computer system too daunting and allocate a better room for free. Offering to pay for an upgrade may simply be a better way to get a better upgrade than you want.