Etravnet To Roll Out Haggling Tool Feb-01-2000


EtravNet to roll out `haggling` tool

Web Service to begin with hotels; other supplier products to be added

by: Jennifer Dorsey Marschak

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, NJ - ETravNet.com, an agency franchisor based here, plans next year to introduce Haggle With Us, a tool that combines Internet and telephone service so that Web-connected consumers can negotiate hotel room rates directly with hotels.

With Brentwood Hotels signed on as the the first participant, the hotel bargaining service is scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2000.

By midyear, cruises, tour packages, air fares, and car rental versions will be added, Etravnet.com said.

Stephanie Abrams, Executive Vice President of Etravnet.com, said Haggle With Us will be incorporated into the Web Sites of the company's affiliates so that the agents can earn commissions on any transactions negotiated by their online clients.

If a consumer goes to an Etravnet.com agency affiliate site and negotiates a deal, the agency earns part of the transaction fee that Etravnet gets from the supplier.

Those transaction fees paid to Etravnet.com will be in the range of 12% to 15% of the sale price, which includes the franshisor's credit card merchant fee, Abrams said.

Haggle with us will also be part of a new Etravnet.com site scheduled for unveiling soon, and there will be a Hagglewithus.com site.

Agencies outside the company will be able to use Haggle With Us to obtain good rates for their clients and will be able to charge a service fee for their efforts, said Abrams.

Consumers who want to bargain online for their hotel rooms will click on Haggle With Us icon, choose a participating hotel, select the type of room and the number of days reserved, propose a price and input credit card information.

The Haggle With Us technology converts the Internet based request into a telephone cal to the hotel reservations desk, where the reservations agent who picks up the phone will hear an electronic voice describing the offer.

The negotiations are capped at three consumer bids, Etravnet said, and if the deal is made, the consumer prints out a confirmation sheet and the transaction is charged to the credit card as a nonrefundable purchase.

"Our service doesn't require hotels to change the way they do business. And it doesn't force the consumer to haggle in an uncomfortable manner. There is no fear of confrontation behind a computer screen," Abrams siad.

One of the advantages Haggle With Us has over other name-your -price services is that users know exactly what hotel company - or, later, cruise line, tour operator, etc. - they are negotiating with.

"This is not a grab bag," she said.

As a result even price-conscious consumers can select a hotel, for example, on something other than the room rate, such as neighborhood or amenities, Abrams said.

For suppliers, Haggle With Us offers an opportunity to do one-on-one sales without having to advertise or disrupt their marketing plans, she said.

Etravnet.com, a publicly traded company, is the parent of Travel Network, which has approximately 400 locations in the U.S. and oversees. For the international locations, the franchise uses the name Global Travel Network. The company also has 50 Travel Network Vacation Centers in Wal-Mart Supercenters, as well as roughly 75 agencies in its Etravnet chain, composed of agents based at home or in small offices.