Ever dreamt of staying in a world-class, five-star hotel at rates that would be more appropriate for your local inn? Off & Away, a new site that’s launching at TechCrunch Disrupt, may be exactly what you’re looking for — assuming you’re not afraid of a little risk. If you’ve ever tried ‘entertainment shopping’ sites like Swoopo, then Off & Away should sound familiar.
When you visit the site, you’ll see a listing of upscale hotel rooms at rock-bottom prices. Click on one, and you’ll see that the price is actually slowly increasing — that’s because Off & Away auctions off each reservation, and other people are bidding for the same room. To participate you need to buy bids (they’re a dollar apiece); then you can bid as many times as you’d like until time runs out. Once that happens one user will walk away with the cheap hotel price. Everyone else can use the money they’ve put towards bids toward reserving the room at its normal price. The site itself looks great, with attractive graphics and slick transitions. Each hotel room page features numerous photos.
The site makes money by making a commission on rooms sold, and also gets “casual bidder revenue”. The site’s first auction for a suite in NYC goes live today at 3:30. Retail value for the stay is $40,000. As a promo, use the promo code DISRUPT for free bids.
These bidding sites have been quite controversial — some consider them to be scammy, while others enjoy their more exciting, game-like nature (and the potential to get major savings). Off & Away helps mitigate this a bit by allowing you to put money you’ve spent on bids toward a reservation at the hotel’s normal price. The logic being, if you’re going to reserve a hotel room anyway, you might as well do it on Off & Away and give yourself a shot at getting a super cheap deal. Of course, if you were only bidding on the hotel in the first place because you were tempted by the low price, then you’re probably out of luck.
Don Dodge: Just hotels?
A: Starting with hotels, could expand to restaurant etc later.
Chi-hua Chien – Can you bid with friends, get them to help them?
A: Not yet. But on the roadmap.
A: Hotels we’re working with think of it as progressive new marketing channel. Their rates for the masses stay about the same as they would otherwise.
Yossi Vardi: I think they should auction it minute by minute.
A: 2-3 auctions per day to start. Ramping up as we go on.
Chris Sacca: Do people get the bidding?
A: We’ve done our best to take confusion out of that model.
Off & Away’s presentation is at 21:00 in the session one video: