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Beta Panel Repeatedly Wanted Too Much, Offered Too Little

STAMFORD, CONN. ( — After a secretive, month-long market test, has scrapped plans for a "Name-your-price for money" service after its panel of beta testers, "abused the system" by "repeatedly requesting more money than they were willing to pay," said a frustrated Priceline executive.

According to Priceline vice president Gathswani Jordan, who requested anonymity but didn't get it, 1,000 Priceline customers participated in the test, which required them to enter an amount they wanted to receive and a price they were willing to pay for that amount. Consumers left a credit card number in case the offer was accepted, and Priceline attempted to match bids with funds from banking partners, including Chase Manhattan and The Money Store.

How Priceline's Offering Would Have Worked

During the test, however, the average request was for $10 million, while the average price visitors were willing to pay was 55 cents. All orders in which the bid fell below the requested dollar amount were rejected "rather tersely" by financial institutions," Jordan said.

"We still believe the idea is sound," Jordan continued. "It's these damn beta testers... I don't know what they were thinking."

One beta tester, Philadelphia resident Stephanie Garvey, offered to explain: "We were thinking, 'Cool. Free money.' I mean, what did they expect us to do, bid more money than we were willing to get back?"

"Actually," Jordan replied, "yes, that was the idea."

While Jordan said Priceline has shelved the service, he noted not every tester attempted to abuse the system. Three panel members actually bid more than they asked for, and two of those requests were filled, he said. The sole rejected request came from the nation of Russia, which submitted a bid of $10 billion to receive $8 billion, but left a bad credit card number.

Jordan refused to identify the other two participants, but Garvey said she was told they were NASA employees who mistakenly thought they were bidding under the metric system.

While Garvey and other beta testers contacted by The FNwire confirmed Jordan's story, Priceline has offically refused to acknowledge it considered the service.

"I won't say that we even attempted it," Priceline CEO Jay Walker said in a statement. "However, I should make clear that if it's true, then assume we have applied for a patent on it and will defend our rights vigorously."


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