For the last several years, I've been using Priceline any time we need a hotel. I use the Name Your Own Price feature, and have always been pleased with the results.
The thing about Name Your Own Price is that you cannot choose the specific hotel. You can choose the area and the hotel star rating, but within that category there are usually several hotels, any one of which might accept your bid. You have to enter your credit card when you enter the bid; if the price is accepted, your card is charged right away and there are no refunds.
Needless to say, you need to be pretty certain you'll be happy with any of the available hotels in the area you are bidding on. I've developed some strategies that have served me well, and I thought you might find them helpful too.
1. On the first page, fill in the city and hit "search". I put in Chicago.
2. On the second page, click on the orange "name your own price" tab. Now you will be able to narrow down the area further, and look at a detail map of each area to make sure you are where you want to be. I chose North Michigan Ave.
3. Now click on the "list view" tab. This will show you the participating hotels in that area. You can further refine it by star rating. Once you have looked at all the listed hotels with your desired star rating, and are satisfied that you would be happy staying at any of them, you can go back to Name Your Own Price.
4. Fill in your dates, the area you desire, and the star rating. You will get at least that rating, possibly higher. Put the price you want to pay per night, then all the rest of your info, including your credit card number. Priceline will come back and tell you if your price was accepted or not.
If it's accepted, it will give you the hotel info. If it was not accepted, you can try again, but you have to change something...add another area, change the star rating, or raise the price by a certain amount, etc. That's more or less how I do it. My main thing is to know what hotels are in the area before I place a bid. Once your reservation is accepted, then you can call the hotel and request a non-smoking room and bed preference.
For this trip, I bid $90 for a downtown hotel. I was beyond thrilled when my price was accepted by The Drake!! It's a historic hotel built in 1920, and many famous people and dignitaries have stayed there. If you go to the website, the least expensive room is $199/nt. It had a comfortable room and a lot of character.
For the beach portion of our trip, we got a Holiday Inn Express for $75/nt, which is about $20 less per night than the listed rate. It was a nice moderate hotel and a hot breakfast bar was included.
In Schaumburg, we got the Marriott for $55/nt. The listed price on the website is $199. This was a very nice hotel, with a well-appointed room and seriously one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in!
As William Shatner says, don't be a namby-pamby. Name your own price and start low. Just do a little research first!