In an online marketplace already rife with distortions of limited time offers, opaque pricing schemes, deal aggregators and misleading hooks, a new online entrant offers yet another time-sucking deal variant: variable auctions. The web savvy traveler already operates in an online world where travel deals abound, but the deal is rarely exactly what he hoped for. You can sacrifice certainty on Priceline, stress over price trends on Kayak, and accept suboptimal pairs in the name of bundling on Expedia.
But if you're willing to add more stress and uncertainty to your travel planning, check out Off & Away, a Swoopo-like platform to auction off luxury hotel rooms at bargain pricing. As in Swoopo, the hook comes in the form of costly bids. In order to raise the price of the room by $0.10, you need to place a "bid" which costs you $1.00. As the clock winds down, each additional bid raises the countdown by 30 seconds, so theoretically it could go on forever, in reality, the last couple of minutes take about 45 minutes, from what I've seen.
I've discussed my opinion (hint: it's negative) of Swoopo before and most of that analysis applies here. While I generally love online markets that open up new buying/selling opportunities, the Swoopo and Off & Away model is market distortion, not market efficiency. Bidding is more of a game of luck of getting in at the exact moment than a mechanism to determine true market value.