Have you ever booked a hotel totally in the dark, just to find out where you are staying on your next trip after paying a non-changeable, non-refundable, and non-transferable rate? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But it's basically how Priceline's Name Your Own Price works. To be fair, you can choose the area you want to stay and the hotel's star level (based on Priceline standards).
Call me crazy, but I used the service several times with very good, good and terrible results. Let's go to the facts.
November 08: I bid on a midtown 4 stars hotel in NYC. End up at the Hilton New York for $135 a night. Not bad.
January 09: I bid on a Beverly Hills 4 star hotel in LA. End up at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza for $100 a night. Loved it!
July 09: I bid on a Providence downtown 4 star hotel. End up at the Renaissance Providence Hotel for $50 a night. (Regular price $250 a night) This was my best experience with Priceline.
August 09: I bid on a midtown east 4 star hotel in NYC. end up at the Benjamin for $110 a night. Another great experience.
March 10: I bid on a Soho/Downtown 3 1/2 star hotel in NYC, end up at the Club Quarters Wall Street for $100 a night. Not happy!
So, what did I learn from my Priceline experiences?
Never bid on a hotel with less that 4 stars. Chances are you will not be happy with the results if you do so. 4 stars on Priceline will get you a hotel brand like Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt, Ranaissance.
To find out the amount you should bid on, go to Hotwire.com and search the same city and area you are looking for on Priceline. They will give you the rate you must pay to get a three or four star hotel in that area, and you will find out the hotel name after you pay for it. But you can be sure, that the amount Hotwire is asking for, is the same amount Priceline will accept for a hotel in that area. So at least you don't end up paying more than you should on Priceline.
Revisiting all my deals with Priceline showed me that my overall experience with this internet tool was quite satisfactory. Why pay full price if you can get your hotel for less? I mean, if you don't mind shopping in the dark!