|by Jason Steele|
Priceline is a great idea, made famous by snappy commercials. It seems to work for many people, but not for me. Here is why:
1. My Vacation Time Is Very Valuable. I don’t get off many days of the year, and I like to take a lot of vacations. What that means is that I tend to schedule my vacation very closely around my work. It is not unusual for me to leave work at four in the afternoon for a 6:00 P.M. flight, so that I can spend the entire first day of my vacation at my destination rather than traveling. When you book a flight on Priceline, you have no idea what time of day you will travel or even if you will change planes. There is nothing to stop them from giving you a six hour layover somewhere. Worse, you could change planes in an inconvenient location, spending your day in the air. If I have to change planes, I want to know how long and where that will be.
2. I Am Particular About Which Airlines I Fly. Frankly, some airlines are just not worth the trouble. I have had so many bad experiences with United Airlines, that I have determined that the organization provides little incentive for any of it’s employees to provide decent customer service. Other airlines outsource their flying to small, regional airlines that are unreliable. They often fly regional jets that are uncomfortable. Call me an airline geek, but I want to choose what airline I am flying and what aircraft I will be in.
3. I Don’t Consider Hotels A Commodity. Even more than airlines, knowing which hotel you are staying in is important. I like to spend a few minutes on Trip Adviser skimming the reviews before committing to a hotel. I don’t care how many stars someone rated a hotel, I am not staying there if it has multiple reports of dirty rooms, noisy disturbances, crime, or bedbugs. I do want a hotel that is near to my destination. Especially if I am not planning on renting a car, I want to know exactly where the hotel is in reference to restaurants and public transportation.
4. I Want To Know Exactly What Fees They Are Going To Charge Me. One of the biggest flaws in Priceline is their toleration of so called resort fees. As you can read in this article at The Consumerist, there is nothing to stop Priceline from giving you a hotel at one price, and the hotel charging you a “resort fee” that exceeds the cost of the room. I hate these fees, and the way Priceline is ignoring them is fraudulent.
5. Booking Directly Puts You On Their Good Side. I have read too many stories about what happens to people who make reservations on Priceline or other discounters. They show up to a hotel, and they are given the unheated room next to the elevator. The hotel is making very little profit on these discounted rooms, and since you didn’t pick them by name, they have no incentive to see that your stay is comfortable.
6. Booking Directly Gives You More Flexibility Thankfully, most hotels still have cancellation policies that are quite flexible. Generally, you can cancel with a full refund up until the night before, or often 6 pm on the day of arrival. Call this built in travel insurance if your flight is canceled, or there is some other reason your trip just isn’t going to happen as planned. As the reader in The Consumerist post found out, book with with Priceline, and they are keeping your money no matter what.
7. There Are Lots Of Really Good Deals Out There I know that people score great deals with Priceline, just like people win big in Vegas. Nevertheless, I prefer not to gamble on my travel. Instead, I find Best Rate Guarantees from travel providers like Expedia. I also find other hotel deals and promotions that are quite good. When all else fails, I have been known to negotiate directly with a property.
If you have plenty of extra time on your vacations, and price is your only consideration, Priceline may be for you. If you really don’t care what kind of hotel you stay in, so long as it is rated with so many stars, you might get a deal on Priceline. If paying resort fees of an unknown amount is acceptable to you, go ahead, give Priceline a try. For me, I will stick with booking my travel directly with the airlines and hotels I plan on patronizing.