Bid for Hotels Like A (Priceline) Rocket Scientist

by Michael Scepaniak on February 14, 2011 in travel

Baltimore Skyline

If you are using Priceline to bid on a hotel in a city with 1 acceptable zone and 4 unmatchable zones, you can bid 16 times in a row for that zone you want – without any waiting and without any meaningful changes to your bids. How? By using what Priceline hotel-bidding gurus call bid permutations.

Additive Progression

In my initial Priceline hotel-bidding how-to, I used Chicago as the example target city, and the “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” zone as our only acceptable zone. I then explained how unmatchable zones (referred to elsewhere as “free re-bid zones”) worked, suggesting the following additive bidding progression to secure a 4-star hotel booking:

  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

I term this progression as “additive” because, with each subsequent bid, we are simply adding a new unmatchable zone to our prior bid combination. With the additive progression, we are allowed the opportunity to bid for our (sole) acceptable “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” zone 5 times before being forced to sit on the sidelines and wait 24 hours (at which point we can try bidding once again).

The benefit of the additive progression is its simplicity. It is easily grasped by Priceline hotel-bidding new-comers. But, the drawback of the additive progression is its limited number of same-day bidding opportunities. In our example, it only allows for 5 same-day bids, whereas a more advanced progression would allow for 16 same-day bids!

Full-Coverage Progression

Warning: Bid permutations can be an eye-glazingly complex topic and I don’t recommend the strategy for Priceline hotel bidders unless the following applies:

  1. You feel comfortable bidding for hotels on Priceline.
  2. You derive a certain amount of pleasure/satisfaction from the bidding process, itself.
  3. You are bidding on a city/area with a limited number of unmatchable zones.
  4. None of the conditions for which you should NOT use Priceline to bid for a hotel room apply to you.

The “full-coverage” progression (or “bid permutations”, as you’ll find it referred to elsewhere) is based on the following concept/rule:

  • The zone component of a hotel bid cannot be the same as a previous same-day bid, and cannot in its entirety have been part of any previous same-day bid.

So, what does this mean? And how does this allow us to submit 16 bids for “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”? It means that we can mix and match our 5 Chicago zones in a lot more combinations than we did in the additive progression, thereby allowing for a larger number of bids between our starting one-zone bid and our ending five-zone bid.

The one commonality between the additive progression and the full-coverage progression is the first and last bid zones. The first bid zone is still “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” and the last (16th) bid zone is still “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”. It’s the zone combinations in-between that change:

  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1 and 16

Our (sole) acceptable zone (“North Michigan Ave – River North Area”) will remain a constant thoughout all of the bids. As such, for the sake of presentation, I’m going to abbreviate it as “NMA-RNA” in the following examples.

Progressive Zone Combinations

Let’s get started. In the full-coverage progression, bids #2, #3, #4, and #5 become two-zone combinations of our (sole) acceptable zone and 1 (and only one) unmatchable zone:

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1-5 and 16

Why does this work? Remember, the zone component of a subsequent bid cannot in its entirety have been part of any previous same-day bid. None of the four zone combinations we just added are, on the whole, contained in a previous combination.

Let’s continue. Focus on the first unmatchable zone – “Franklin Park Area”. Bids #6, #7, and #8 become three-zone combinations of our first unmatchable zone and 1 (and only one) of the other unmatchable zones:

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  7. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  8. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  9. ?
  10. ?
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1-8 and 16

Follow that pattern for the second unmatchable zone – “Hyde Park”. Bids #9 and #10 become not-yet-used three-zone combinations of our second unmatchable zone and 1 (and only one) of the other unmatchable zones:

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  7. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  8. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  9. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  10. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1-10 and 16

But, why is “Hyde Park” (our second unmatchable zone) only paired-up twice here? Why isn’t an entry made for “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Franklin Park Area”? Because Priceline doesn’t distinguish between the ordering of zones. In Priceline’s eyes, the following zone combinations are equivalent:

  • “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  • “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Franklin Park Area”

And it just so happens that we already have accounted for the “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” combination at bid #6.

Following along with that logic, accounting for the third and fourth unmatchable zones (“Lincoln Park Area” and “Midway Airport North”) only yields us one additional not-yet-used three-zone combination – bid #11:

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  7. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  8. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  9. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  10. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  11. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1-11 and 16

The remaining 4 empty bids are four-zone combinations. Basically, each of the four unmatchable zones need to be combined with two of the other unmatchable zones. Focus on the first unmatchable zone – “Franklin Park Area”. Bids #12, #13, and #14 become unique four-zone combinations of our first unmatchable zone and 2 of the other unmatchable zones:

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  7. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  8. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  9. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  10. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  11. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  12. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  13. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  14. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  15. ?
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression - Bids #1-14 and 16

The last remaining empty bid is comprised of the “other” three unmatchable zones (without the “Franklin Park Area” zone):

  1. “NMA-RNA”
  2. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “NMA-RNA” + “Midway Airport North”
  6. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park”
  7. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  8. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  9. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  10. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  11. “NMA-RNA” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  12. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  13. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Midway Airport North”
  14. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  15. “NMA-RNA” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  16. “NMA-RNA” + “Franklin Park Area” + “Hyde Park” + “Lincoln Park Area” + “Midway Airport North”

Add in the only possible combination of all five zones as bid #16 and there you have it!

Full-Coverage 16 bid progression

This works because none of the subsequent zone combinations are the same as a previous zone combination (irrespective of order) or, on the whole, contained in a previous combination.

Nuts And Bolts

As I explained in my basic Priceline hotel-bidding tutorial, when continuing from a rejected bid, DO NOT re-bid from the “Try Again Right Now” page. Return to the Priceline home page and click the link or button that says “name your own price”. You need to be able to deselect/uncheck zones and the “Try Again Right Now” page does not allow you to do that.

I’ve read a number of write-ups regarding bid permutations and they all seem to explicitly state that you need to close and restart your web browser between bids. From my experience, this isn’t the case. You simply need to start back on the Priceline home page.

I’m guessing those write-ups advise readers to restart the browser so as to avoid confusion about what it means to start from the Priceline home page. In your browser’s address bar, just (re-)type the web address (URL) for Priceline – http://www.priceline.com/ – and you’ll be fine.

This may come as a surprise to some, but I haven’t seen any negative affects from being signed into Priceline while going through the full-coverage progression. The full-coverage progression strategy is not a “cheat” or bug. It’s simply the way Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” feature (referred to elsewhere as “NYOP”) is designed and implemented.

Don’t Skip Ahead

If you try the full-coverage progression and get flagged for submitting a duplicate request, make sure that you are following the bid progression in the order presented here. You cannot start with the higher-number zone combinations and work down to the lower-number zone combinations. This is because the five-zone combination contains all of the available four-zone, three-zone, two-zone, and one-zone combinations, in their entirety. Likewise, the four-zone combinations (as a group) contain all of the available three-zone, two-zone, and one-zone combinations, in their entirety. And the three-zone combinations contain all of the available two-zone and one-zone combinations. And so on.

However, the equal-number zone combinations can be organized any which way among themselves. Meaning, any of the following progressions (with the “Franklin Park Area” and “Hyde Park” zones emphasized so as to highlight the mixing and matching) will work fine in our example:

  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”
  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park”
  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  1. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  2. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Midway Airport North”
  3. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Lincoln Park Area”
  4. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Hyde Park”
  5. “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” + “Franklin Park Area”

The key is to exhaust the lower-number zone combinations before increasing the number of zones factored into the combination.

Priceline Combinatrix

If you’ve been able to follow along up to this point, you might be wondering what happens to the combinations when you are bidding on a city/area in which you find more than one zone acceptable. For example, continuing from our Chicago example, what if you find both the “North Michigan Ave – River North Area” and “Millennium Park, Loop & Grant Park Area” zones acceptable? Well, the short answer is that things get crazy complicated. 😛 Fortunately, the solution (for both simple and complex scenarios) is a site/tool called the Priceline Combinatrix by, I believe, Ashwin Purohit.

The Priceline Combinatrix is a simple little tool that figures out all these combinations (I’ve explained above) for you. You simply tell it your acceptable zone(s) and your unmatchable (free re-bid) zone(s) and it’ll spit out a perfectly usable full-coverage bid progression (like the one I slowly pieced together above). So, using our original example, I would input the following values (without the quotes):

  • Acceptable Zones: “North Michigan Ave – River North Area”
  • Free (re-bid) Zones: “Franklin Park Area, Hyde Park, Lincoln Park Area, Midway Airport North”

Frankly, you don’t need to be precise about it. You can use shorthand values for the zones, like so:

  • Acceptable Zones: “NMA”
  • Free (re-bid) Zones: “FPA, HP, LPA, MAN”

And, for our example with two acceptable zones?:

  • Acceptable Zones: “NMA, MPLGPA”
  • Free (re-bid) Zones: “FPA, HP, LPA, MAN”

Further Reading And Resources

There are other, older write-ups around the web that explain the full-coverage bid progression (or bid permutations). Bidding For Travel contains two forum posts dedicated to the topic, complete with shorthand permutation matrices:

In addition, there’s a post on the blog for The Bidding Traveler that focuses on the mathematical aspect of bid permutations:

The full-coverage bid progression is what The Bidding Traveler steps through when executing (manually or automatically) a bidding session. So, if you find this strategy appealing, but overwhelming, you might want to give The Bidding Traveler a try. But, be sure to understand the concerns I have expressed previously about The Bidding Traveler before heading down that road.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use the full-coverage bid progression. For a lot of Priceline hotel bidders and target cities/areas, the additive progression will work just fine. But, it’s nice to know that the alternative exists should you need it.

Have I presented Priceline bid permutations in an approachable and understandable way? After having read this, do you feel prepared to execute the full-coverage bid progression during a Priceline bidding session? Let me know in the comments below.

Mike
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan February 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Hi Mike,

I know this post is a couple of years old but I came across a utility that actually does this all for you, so I thought I would let others know about it. It really does make things alot easier and it’s free. If you get a chance, take a look at it. http://tripducky.com

Reply

Michael Scepaniak February 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Thanks, Dan. I wasn’t aware of this app. I don’t see any reason why it needs to be a downloadable piece of software, though. That’s a tall order. And the misspelling on the home page (“Proffessional”) doesn’t inspire confidence.

Mike….

Reply

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