Consumer Reports, Jan 2004 issue:
A new study by Consumer WebWatch, a grant-funded project of Consumers Union, looks closely at Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, “blind” travel Web sites that promise great deals and big savings but keep you guessing until the last minute about which airline, hotel, or car-rental company you’ll use. The study’s conclusion: These bargains may not be worth the trade-offs.
The WebWatch study, involving 135 side-by-side comparisons with “open” sites such as Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com, found that the blind sites provided the lowest rates no more than 53 percent of the time. But the blind sites also have some major drawbacks:
• The sites charge booking fees.
• Reservations are nonrefundable.
• The sites usually don’t allow you to earn frequent-flyer or guest points.
• Priceline.com, alone among these travel sites, may require you to change your departure or arrival dates, airport, hotel location, or type of rental vehicle before it accepts a bid.
<more details in the article> http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/news/opaque/index.html