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eBuyer & online seller

Haggle for a room with RoomAuction

It’s easy to bag a great-value hotel room for the night

Although the promised UK heatwave seems to have been a bit of a damp squib, it's not too late to take yourself off on a jaunt somewhere more interesting, and most probably hotter.

There has been a boom in cheap travel options over the last few years, with low-cost airlines taking off (sorry!), as new and ever cheaper destinations open up across the world. But those tropical hotspots come with worries of their own. Airline delays, hurricanes, unpredictable weather - we're even being told that the flight itself can give us deep vein thrombosis! So why travel to far-flung shores when some of the most beautiful scenery and fascinating culture can be found on your doorstep? The lush greenery of the Lake District, Scotland's rolling hills and rich historical background, the bustling streets and excellent night life of London - just a few reasons not to head for the runway this autumn!

Paying for somewhere to rest your weary head is invariably the most expensive part of any UK holiday, but you can get great value for money if you know where to look. Keen bargain-hunters will be pleased to see that the trend for auction sites has stretched as far as the leisure industry, meaning that a relaxing break needn't be a strain on the wallet. Indeed, many of the big net names are catching up with the auction trend - Lastminute.com offers a rather low-key auction element where you can snap up exotic foreign breaks or cultural city weekends at slashed prices. Well, we've unearthed a great hotel site that can offer a break in a UK hotel of your choice - where you name the price!

Of course, it's not quite that easy. Business is business, and the hoteliers featured at www.roomauction.com still need to make a living, but you can get around 30 per cent off the standard price of a hotel room (this can be as much as 50 per cent at quiet times such as Sunday night). This leaves both parties happy - you've got a great deal and the hotel has filled an otherwise empty room! With 5,000 rooms on sale every day, RoomAuction.com certainly offers plenty of choice.

It’s not a true auction site, as you'll see, but the absence of competitive bids makes booking your break a less stressful ordeal. Unusually, very little of the bargaining part happens through the site itself. You'll be able to search the guesthouses and bid down for the room you want at the price you're prepared to pay, but after that you'll need to do your wheeling and dealing with the hotel itself. It sounds unorthodox but it's actually a great way of getting back to a more genuine, human way of dealing through the internet. Many of the guesthouses featured are smaller, family-run affairs - these are far more personal places to stay than personality-free chain hotels, and are bases from which to explore the UK!

Trade Secrets
Judging your bid
In posting rooms on this site, these hotels rely on customers who put forward sensible bids. Don't waste time with insulting offers that are far too low for the proprietors to consider - if you bid £25 on a room that usually costs £150, you are likely to receive no response at all The hotels here pay a set fee to advertise on the site - they are not tied into offering rooms regardless of cost.

Explore the variety of lodgings on offer
01: Browse about
The RoomAuction.com home page is easy to navigate. Although you can search for a specific hotel by name, we found that the best way to browse is using the 'Region' drop menu, as the database can be limited in some areas.

02: Hotel hunt
After browsing for hotels in the Lakes, we are presented with three options, all in Windermere (you'll find that bigger cities yield many more results) . Click on the 'Details' hyperlink on the right to read a little more on your chosen hotel.

03: More detail
Here you can browse your chosen lodging in more detail. Many of the hotels will link through to their own websites, so you can have a proper nosey at what's up for grabs (it's also an opportunity to cross-reference the prices touted here).

04: Make a bid
Scroll down to the auction and details section and prepare to get tough. Read through the packages, along with the usual hotel price and decide what to offer. Tap it into the box on the right, fill in a few of the usual details and click 'Send'.

05: Is it a winner?
Within 24 hours your chosen guesthouse will telephone or email to let you know if your bid has been successful. If you want to obtain any further details, there is a wealth of click-through menu headings available under 'Typical Questions'.

06: Make cash
Own your own site? Why not become a RoomAuction.com affiliate? There are no setup fees or charges, and you could earn up to £20 for encouraging hoteliers and guests to use the site. Your site needs to be fairly relevant to the industry.

07: Latest news
The RoomAuction.com newsletter features special promotions, unusual or distinctive hotels, such as the site's individual range of castle hotels. There's also a link you can use to sign up to the free newsletter back at the home page.

08: Site souvenir
The 'Free Mug' link on the home page gives you a chance to get your own RoomAuction.com souvenir. All you need to do is tell five friends about what the site offers, or actually take a hotel trip through the site and then send in your feedback.

Jargon Buster
RoomAuction Active
This is RoomAuction.com's term for the section where you tap in your bid. Most of the UK hotels are 'Active', but the international guesthouses give minimal details, indicating they are willing to negotiate but can't accept a bid via the site,
Affiliate
The term used in website eCommerce to refer to those that link up to a site in order to try and make some extra cash.
Bidding down
This isn't exactly the same as bidding with eBay, as you're not fighting for a room against other travelers. Only one 'bid' is made through the Web site - you're just suggesting how much you'd like to pay. From there, it's up to the hotel to bid you up!