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Priceline will change the world

By creating a big hassle out of shopping

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The US online bartering business Priceline.com is making a big racket about moving into Europe and because the head of Burger King has quit and joined it.

But what is Priceline is the question everyone has posed. Well it's consumer championing taken to the highest degree because your consumer - that's you and me when we're not working at the office - will be able to tell companies what price he/she wants to pay for goods. That's right. We get to decide and these darn companies can just go along with it. Or they can tell us to bugger off. Ain't that great?

Priceline claims it is the second biggest Internet brand in the US, beaten only by Amazon. We'd been interested to hear whether our US readers agree with this. Anyway, the site works mostly with the usual suspects - plane tickets, hotels, shopping etc. You select something then email the relevent party with what you're willing to pay and they either accept or decline.

The idea is of course that companies save themselves a lot of time and trouble and so don't mind cutting the retail price. One example with groceries: you get your Priceline card from a supermarket, go online, select what goods you want, offer a price for each. The machine gets back to you and tells you what it has accepted and declined. You print the list out and rush down the supermarket, pick your goods, zap them through the checkout and ideally you end up having paid less online than the bill at the checkout comes too. Amazing - unless you're an idiot and offered more than they usually charge. (Incidentally, we spoke to most of the UK's top supermarkets and they didn't have a clue who Priceline were - adding to the likelihood that this was a PR timing thing rather than an actual launch announcement.)

Now we can see how this works, especially with many people's (easily manipulated) mentalities of catching a bargain. And while the whole thing is a hassle (what if I have to have potatoes. Do I keep tapping in prices until they accept it? What a waste of bloody time), we can also see why this concept may have taken off in the States.

But it all seems a little alien this side of the Atlantic. Despite what anyone claims, we still love our corner shops and coupons. Plus, we hate bartering or arguing over money. It may be an enormous success, it may strike a chord, but none of us here at Vulture Central will touch it with a bargepole.®

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