OffandAway.com launched in May 2010 as a new kind of hotel room bidding website. The only opaque aspect of this site is how much you will ultimately spend in an effort to win a hotel room bidding war. Unlike Priceline or Hotwire where you simply have to reach a bid level that the company finds acceptable to win your room at an undisclosed hotel, the OffandAway concept is based on bidding against others and the last person standing (bidding) wins the known hotel room package.
The OffandAway concept is simple. Buy bids at $1 per bid and bid for high value hotel rooms in places like Manhattan, California resorts and Miami South Beach. There are descriptions of the hotel room packages on the website and a calendar of available dates.
Here is a sample room offer for The Setai, South Beach Miami from yesterday –
“The Studio Suite at The Setai – South Beach Miami. 2 nights in a king suite over looking the Asian inspired courtyard. Hotel genius, Adrian Zecha, and architect/designer Jean-Michel Gathy have come together to create an oasis in the premier South Beach location.”
This auction for The Setai started out as a 10 cent bid. Each subsequent bid raised the auction price by 10 cents. Remember each bid cost the bidder $1.
The final winning auction price was $103.
The winning bidder spent $23 in bids and ultimately paid $126 for two nights at The Setai. This is an incredible bargain — for the winner.
Mathematically though, the $103 final winning price means 1,030 bids were placed on this auction for two nights at The Setai. The winner placed $23 in bids and was competing against other bidders who collectively spent $1,007 in bids and did not win this auction for The Setai hotel.
Here is the step-by-step of how OffandAway.com sells hotel rooms.
1. Register on the website and buy bids for $1 each.
2. Find an auction. At the current time there are only two to four properties available for bidding at any one time.
3. The bidding war does not even begin until the time has run out on the auction. You could place a bid on the Bodega Bay Lodge for 30 cents, but that will be a wasted dollar since someone else will bid just before the auction ends. Each bid raises the auction price by 10 cents.
Every bid at the end of auction time extends the auction for another 30 seconds.
4. Here is The Setai auction after the Auction Time Left had expired and 15 minutes before someone actually won the auction.
5. Eventually nobody makes a bid during the 30 second window and there is an auction winner. I suspect many bidders drop out after running out of bid money. Perhaps the auction ends as competing bidders are trying to buy more bids from OffandAway.com.
6. The winner spent $23 in credits. The final auction price is $103. The winner pays $126 for two nights at The Setai. There were $1,030 in bids spent for this auction. The winner got a great deal. The losers gave OffandAway $1,000 for nothing. A portion of this money will be credited for other hotel rooms. In the end, OffandAway is the clear winner in this game.
7. Losers can apply their bids to another hotel room as a credit. The credit is not for another auction, but another hotel booking at your choice of thousands of hotels using OffandAway as an online trasvel agency, similar to booking through any online travel agency such as Expedia or Travelocity. If you spent $53 bidding for the Setai and did not win the auction, then you get 110% credit of $53 for another room. You can book a $90 Holiday Inn Express or a Hampton Inn or whatever and you get $58.30 in credit towards the alternate booking.
You have to book the alternate room within a week of losing your bids in a specific auction. You can only apply your bids from one auction to booking an alternate room. If you lost bid money in three different auctions you can’t combine those bids. The bids from each auction can be applied as a credit for three other room bookings within the week of each auction loss.
Since your booking is through a third party online travel agency you will not be eligible for loyalty program points and benefits with your hotel loyalty program.
There are some good deals.
There were only 136 bids for this room auction. $136 in bids and the winner paid under $25. Great odds for this property and this was one that I actually considered trying.
My reluctance though is the chance of hitting an auction like this for the New York Empire Hotel:
The winner here bid 191 times and won the auction in which there were 2,394 bids.
If you are lucky you can be off and away to a $1,000 hotel suite for $100 or so by placing about $30 or so in bets (bids). The gambling aspect is based on the fact that for every hotel suite winner who scores a $1,000 room for $100 and $30 in bets, there are dozens more betters (bidders) who spend $30, $50, or perhaps $75 or more in purchased credits and get nothing except an opportunity to apply the money you bet (bid) away as a credit on the purchase of another hotel room at the same prices you will find on Travelocity or Expedia.
The house always wins is the cardinal rule of gambling. OffandAway.com has hotel rooms for winners and lots of profits for the house based on the dreams and bids of numerous losers, @$1 a bid.
OffandAway.com will probably become a highly profitable website built on the hopes of gambler-travelers getting a high value hotel room for a fraction of the cost. Las Vegas was built on the dreams of the average gambler hitting the jackpot. Las Vegas is an architectural marvel built on house winnings.
Bottom Line: OffandAway is a clever concept for selling hotel rooms. I am not a gambler, so this site has little interest for me. The odds are too much of a long-shot for the typical player.