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Roomer is a new hotel booking site with a radically different concept. Roomer gave me $250 in credits to test out the site.

Over the weekend, I stayed in a hotel room I booked on Roomer, a new hotel booking site and app.

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Roomer claims it is a radically different way to book hotels, mainly marketing itself as a way to get steep discounts by purchasing the prepaid hotel bookings of other people who can no longer use them.

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Roomer entices people to sell their prepaid rooms with the offer of giving them money for a booking that would otherwise be unused and worthless.

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Roomer lets the seller set the price of the room, encouraging at least a 30% discount, and takes a fee from the seller of up to 15% of the selling price if the room is sold.

If you go down to the bottom of Roomer and select “Best Deals” and “Roomer’s Top 100,” you’ll see some of these offers.

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For instance when I clicked “Best Deals” last week, a suite at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas was available for one night for $137 per night instead of the list price of $972. Awesome…if you need to be in Vegas on July 16 for one night.Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.49.17 PM

The Hotel degli Orafi in Florence had a suite for $91 per night for three nights instead of $444 per night. Also great…if you needed a room in Florence for exactly three nights starting the day after I searched.

(The $91 didn’t include about $8 per night in taxes and fees, but even $99 per night is a great deal.)

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When I clicked “Top 100,” I was given the top 100 Roomer destinations. I investigated Washington and Philadelphia where I thought I might want a hotel room this week. Washington didn’t have any of those mega-discounted prices.
Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.51.32 PM Philadelphia had one, but it was for two nights in two weeks, not dates that worked for me.Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.52.17 PM

So far everything was a bust for me, so I just did a regular search for my dates on the front page of Roomer. I wanted to stay in a hotel near downtown Fredericksburg, VA over the weekend, and one of the closest options that came up was the Quality Inn for $80 per night.

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There are a couple interesting things:

  1. Roomer’s site only mentions buying prepaid hotel reservations, but this is not someone else’s prepaid hotel reservation. This is just a booking of the hotel through an online travel agency just like if I booked on hotels.com or Expedia.
  2. Prices are listed for competing sites.

First I checked out the competing sites. Roomer claims to have a Best Price Guarantee, but my search showed it did not have the best price.

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The $80 room on Roomer was $78 from Quality Inn directly, and Roomer hadn’t included taxes and fees.
Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.58.30 PMThe total came to $155.80 on Quality Inn’s site…
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…and $181 on Roomer’s site.

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Of course I booked it on Roomer’s site because I had the free credits. Oddly credits only covered $161 of the $181 price, so I put $20 on my Citi Premier to earn 3x on travel.

Booking

After booking the reservation, I got the wackiest email:

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Processing my booking? Transferring from the seller? Come on, Roomer. I know that you just booked the room on my behalf like any online travel agency.

In fact, contemporaneous with that email, I got another confirming my reservation.

When I checked into the hotel, the clerk said that he saw I had booked through Expedia, so that must be who handles Roomer’s non-person-to-person reservations.

Bottom Line

I see very limited use for Roomer.

There are not enough listings in the person-to-person market to make it worth your while to search for the heavily discounted hotels there. I mean how often really will you want to go to the exact city on the exact dates as someone who can’t use their prepaid reservation.

If the number of listings in the person-to-person marketplace dramatically increased, Roomer would be worth a look.

The vast majority of Roomer’s bookings will be normal hotel bookings through Expedia. You don’t get a better rate on Roomer from these bookings, and you may lose benefits by not booking directly with the hotel, so I see no reason to use this side of Roomer.

My question is: does Roomer really expect the person-to-person market to take off and be its big source of revenue or is that a marketing trick to get people to the site who will then buy regular hotel rooms, generating fat commissions for Roomer? (If you doubt that booking hotels earns fat commissions, consider that Kayak defaults to hotel searches, Rocketmiles can afford to give you thousands of airline miles out of its commission and still make money, and the hotels will give you free internet for avoiding booking on websites to whom they must pay a commission.)

 

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