I am a regular Priceline customer, but tried Hotwire with their $25 app offer. They also had the hotel I wanted, and Priceline did not, which was surprising, but I was happy to have a great scenario to try out Hotwire.
The Hot Rate advertised 43% off a $189 price, for $107. There was only 1 hotel this could be, all the other hotels were LESS.
I was awarded a $149 regularly priced hotel. I called customer service. I am all about giving a company a chance to either explain what I missed, or correct their error. Unsuccessful conversation. They said "$189 was the median rate". Uh, no it isn't - I can see the hotels and their prices and do the math on median rate. Seven hotels with available rooms between Hotwire, Priceline and Expedia. Their prices were $125-$189 (one hotel at $189), with the average median rate of $146.70. There is no equation where $189 is the median going rate! That simply was inaccurate and inadequate as an explanation.
In all my dealings with Priceline I've never had anything resembling this come up, this is unethical. When Priceline says a Great Deal is at a % off, you can bet that is the deal you get. I've never, ever had a switch and bait with Priceline.
If the customer person on the phone would have acknowledged this error and cancelled the reservation (which I presume is because I used the app code for $25 off), I would not be writing this. I often sell people on using sites like Priceline and Hotwire for their hotel rooms because they know how successful I am as a regular user, but I will now be sure to warn them to not deal with Hotwire.
Hotwire's "standard price" has always been misleading (though it's not "bait and switch" -- that's something different); people new to using Hotwire often incorrectly assume that this rate is the retail rate for the hotel being advertised. It's similar to the "median retail price" that Priceline shows for Name Your Own Price bids, which Sheryl and I have always advised people to ignore -- the numbers are unhelpful and often not very accurate. And because the methods used to obtain them are vague ("Savings based on median published rate we've found on leading retail travel sites in the last 24-48 hours for the same neighborhood, star rating, hotel type, and stay dates."), it's really impossible to get anywhere with complaints about their accuracy.
I don't use Hotwire often, but I have found it to be useful on occasion. But you do need to research carefully, and it helps to be a bit of a pessimist.