Priceline Bids On The
Future"> Priceline Bids On The Future If he had to pick a song to describe whats been going on at Priceline.com this year, William Shatner might consider crooning The Long and Winding Road. Though the name-your-own-price service earned a place among the top 10 business-to-consumer (B2C) revenue generators on this years Interactive 500 list, Priceline has had to contend with a few unpleasant turns this year: lower than expected revenue for its third quarter; a high-profile investigation by Connecticuts attorney general into consumer complaints about buying airline tickets and gasoline through Priceline; and the closure of WebHouse Club - Pricelines first licensee - after less than a years operation.But the company says that despite these turns, things are looking up for the service that allows consumers to bid on everything from airline tickets to hotel accommodations to cars and trucks and home mortgages. While other B2C players may be experiencing a reversal of fortune amid the investor shakeout that has seen many e-tailers shut down, Priceline shouldnt be lumped among them, says company spokesman Brian Ek. "Several of the models in the e-commerce sector are, in fact, demonstrating that they work. I certainly put Priceline.coms model in that category," Ek says. " In two-and-a-half years, weve attracted 7 million new customers, sold 5 million airline tickets. So in the travel sector, weve done quite well. Weve got a customer repeat rate of 39 percent in calendar 2000. Weve made steady progress in reducing losses." As for the shutdown of WebHouse Club, which was set up as a separate company to protect Priceline investors, Ek says it wasnt the lack of consumer endorsement that led to the decision to shut down the service. "They were in business less than 10 months and attracted 2 million customers," Ek says. "WebHouse had everything to do with the capital markets and nothing to do with customer response. Unfortunately, the capital markets were such that they couldnt get their second financing." Its a familiar tune to many e-tailers. But even without Shatner in its customer base, Priceline says it has no plans to join in the chorus. "The company," Ek says, "has demonstrated a commitment to building a business for the long term."
Oh, and Shatner, the companys high-profile singing pitchman, admitted on national television he had never used Priceline to bid on low-priced airlines tickets, telling the TV newsmagazine show 48 Hours: "I think of myself as having to fly first-class."