Orbitz Gives Mac Users More Expensive Hotel Results

Are you a Mac or a PC? Orbitz already knows—and it may treat you differently based on your answer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that booking site Orbitz has begun to display altered travel options depending on the kinds of computers customers are using. According to the report, "Mac computers spend as much as 30 percent more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see."

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That doesn't mean that Mac users are seeing jacked-up prices. They're just encountering a different set of hotel results than a customer using a PC would.

Orbitz executives told The Wall Street Journal that users always have the option to sort by price, which probably quickly remedies any unwanted deviations in results display. They also noted that this is, at present, just an experiment.

We searched for hotels in multiple destinations on Orbitz and saw no difference in results displayed on Macs compared to PCs. The Journal, however, reportedly saw more expensive hotels when it ran a search for hotels in Miami Beach and Baton Rouge on a Mac.

Orbitz is by no means the first company to do this kind of thing. The Consumerist reported that Capital One was displaying different car loan rates to customers based on the browsers they were using. And targeted ads relating to browsing-history data culled from cookies, which is just another way for companies to analyze an audience using online behavior, are fairly common online.

CNET News had a thought-provoking take on the Orbitz initiative: "From an analytics perspective, targeting by operating system and pricing accordingly may not be such a bad idea. The bonehead move of the century is Orbitz yapping about it."

According to The Journal, though, Orbitz C.E.O. Barney Harford has "made data mining a priority." So why try to hide it? Since the difference in searches done on Macs and PCs is barely noticeable, the Orbitz revelation could have little effect on customer loyalty. I imagine most travelers who've heard this news will just make a point to use that aforementioned sort-by-price option.

Will you steer clear of Orbitz because of its altered search results?

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(Photo: Shutterstock/Smit)

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