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Hotels vie for your business on BackBid.com

Dennis Schaal for the Boston Globe

Instead of using Priceline to place a bid and try to get a great hotel deal on Cape Cod next weekend, what if the tables were turned and hotels bid for your business instead?

That’s the premise of a Montreal-based start-up, BackBid.com. You make a hotel reservation for anywhere in the United States on the Web, or even over the phone, forward your confirmation to BackBid, and then competing hotels entice you to change your reservation with sometimes substantial discounts, and upgraded rooms and services.

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And unlike when you hunt for hotel deals using, for example, opaque sites such as Hotwire or Travelocity’s Top Secret Hotels, where you know the rate but not the hotel name up front, with BackBid there’s no mystery. You know which hotel you are dealing with, and at what price.

Discounts can be significant because hotels make them privately to you through BackBid. They don’t have to worry that others will find out that they are providing such reductions.

Here’s how it works:

 You make a hotel reservation on a site such as Booking.com, where most reservations can be canceled in advance without a fee. This is very important because you want to be able to cancel your initial reservation without penalty if BackBid hooks you up with a better deal.

 Then you forward your reservation to post@backbid.com or you can manually enter the reservation on BackBid.com. You create a free account on BackBid, indicating your preferences for a stay, including amenities such as a business center, free Wi-Fi, valet parking, or an indoor pool.

 Then sit back and get ready for competing offers to appear.

I made two reservations on Booking.com: One for Aug. 5-6 at the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill for a total rate of $635, including taxes and fees, and a second reservation at the Days Inn Hyannis for Aug. 12-13, at a total rate of $444.

I e-mailed my confirmations to BackBid, and literally within a few minutes, I received e-mails from BackBid informing me there were five competing bids, two in Boston and three on the Cape.

You click a link in your BackBid e-mail, navigate to the site, and view all of your new offers, including the name of the hotel, the rate, whether it is a star-rating upgrade, a discount compared with your original reservation, or both, and how much the savings would be. You can then prepay and book one of the competing bids on BackBid, if you choose.

Competing against the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill reservation, I received offers from the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers in Back Bay, and the Bulfinch Hotel Boston, not far from the Wyndham.

The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers was the superior offer. Not only would the savings be $74 for the two nights, but also the hotel gets a higher star rating on Expedia (4 stars to the Wyndham’s 3), and a better guest rating on TripAdvisor (4 stars versus 3.5).

On the Cape, an offer from the Heritage House Hotel in Hyannis at a total rate of $229 for the two nights would amount to a whopping $215 savings compared with my original Days Inn Hyannis reservation.

The downside, though, is that the Days Inn Hyannis earns a stellar 4.5 user rating on TripAdvisor while the Heritage House earns 3 stars.

On the other hand, an offer from the Clarion Inn in South Yarmouth, 4.5 miles away from the Days Inn Hyannis, would have generated an $82 savings for the two nights. That’s less of a discount than the Heritage House offer, but you have to weigh whether your priorities are depth of discount or quality.

That’s because unlike the Heritage House’s 3-star rating from TripAdvisor, the Clarion Inn gets 4.5 stars, and thus is on equal footing with the Days Inn Hyannis.

One note of caution about BackBid: I found that sometimes alleged star-rating upgrades in the hotel offers actually weren’t so if you trust star ratings from other sites, such as Expedia.

Still BackBid, which debuted with a handful of US cities in late 2011 but now covers nearly the entire country, is definitely worth a try, and is unique.

The site takes a lot of the labor out of searching for a hotel deal, and it is fun to consider and then book the discounts and upgrades.

Dennis Schaal can be reached at ds@skift.com.
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