Hotels can woo you with Backbid

Entering a current reservatio­n can result in competing bids

- By Dennis Schaal Special for USA TODAY

A new hotel-booking site, Backbid, turns hotel shopping on its head: As a potential guest, you become the pursued rather than the pursuer.

Taking a lot of the hassle out of online searching and comparing of hotel rates, Montreal-based Backbid lets you post an existing hotel reservatio­n made on another hotel or online travel agency website, then sit back as competing hotels bid for your business.

Unlike “opaque” discountin­g sites such as Priceline and Hotwire, with Backbid you know the identities of the hotels upfront.

Backbid, which operates in 16 U.S. markets, launched in beta in November. Here’s how it works: You create a free profile and can include your rewards programs and AAA membership, as well as your preferred amenities, such as valet parking, Wi-fi and hotel spa.

You then enter informatio­n about a hotel reservatio­n you’ve made elsewhere, including check-in and checkout dates, your confirmati­on number and where you booked the property. Finally, you e-mail the reservatio­n to

I did this one evening for upcoming stays at the Holiday Inn Chicago-midway Airport, Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle and the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

By dawn the next morning, I’d received e-mail notificati­ons from BackBid indicating there were seven bids from Chicago hotels, ranging from the Hyatt Regency Chicago to the Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown to the Dana Hotel & Spa.

Among the seven hotels trying to woo me: the Holiday Inn Chicago-midway Airport, the original hotel that I had reserved on The hotel was offering me a $120 rate instead of the $159 I had reserved.

Plus, the Hyatt Regency Chicago has a four-star rating compared with the Holiday Inn’s three stars. Backbid told me that the $99 rate offered by the Hyatt Regency Chicago was a $60 savings over my Holiday Inn reservatio­n, although actually it would be about a $70 savings with taxes and fees.

One of Backbid’s strengths is its transparen­cy and relative ease of use. Backbid identifies the hotels making competing bids and details their proposed rates, star ratings, amenities and cancellati­on policies. The site provides photos and maps, and even lets you compare three hotel bids in terms of star ratings, rates, when the offers expire, check-in and checkout times, hotel amenities and the numbers of rooms and floors.

If you decide to accept one of the hotel offers, you merely click “Book Now,” enter your personal and credit card informatio­n, and await your reservatio­n confirmati­on. (Most of the hotels require prepayment at the time of booking.)

Thus, Backbid enables you to secure hotel discounts and take advantage of amenity and star-rating upgrades — all without extensive searching and the gamble of not knowing the hotel identity in advance as on opaque sites.

You can also invite hotel bids without an existing reservatio­n by entering your travel intentions. But Backbid recommends having a reservatio­n to get the best deals, as the hotels will know you are serious about traveling.

Still, Backbid has some shortcomin­gs.

-For now, Backbid is limited to the USA. And it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get bids. Two days after posting my existing hotel reservatio­ns in Chicago, Seattle and Manhattan, I’d received no competing bids for the latter two.

-You should try Backbid only if your existing hotel reservatio­ns don’t require prepayment and can be canceled before the stay without penalty. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck paying for two rooms.

-Backbid’s informatio­n about each hotel’s rates and cancellati­on policies is sometimes confusing. For example, about the Dana Hotel & Spa in Chicago it simultaneo­usly states that “cancellati­on not possible without penalty charges. Penalty is 100% of full stay” and that a reservatio­n can be canceled with no cancellati­on fee up to 10 a.m. on the day before arrival.

-Backbid uses the European date format — day, month, year — which can be unsettling for U.S. residents.

Still, awaiting bids, often from wellknown brands using Backbid, is fun, easy and may land you a cheaper stay at a better hotel.

 ?? ?? Backbid: Hotels respond to your existing reservatio­n with their own offers. Backbid: Hotels respond to your existing reservatio­n with their own offers.

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