Online travel service Orbitz has been experimenting with showing Mac users pricier hotels than the rooms shown to PC users, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move came after data mining showed that people visiting the site from Macs were spending US$20-$30 more per night for their hotels than PC users.
PC Users and Mac Users Choose Different Rooms & Hotels
Orbitz is not charging Mac users more for the same room, which some kneejerk articles on a few sites erroneously concluded. Instead, the company is showing Mac users a more expensive series of choices under the default “Best Result” view. If you want to see the choices our (evidently poorer) PC cousins are seeing, Mac users can simply order their choices by price, instead of “Best Result.”
What is, perhaps, the most interesting aspect of this story is the fact that the company readily owned up to the practice, calling it an “experiment.” On the one hand, it could tick off Mac users who see the story and feel like Orbitz is preying on them, or perhaps figuring them as suckers.
On the other hand, Orbitz found that not only are Mac users spending $20-$30 more tonight—20-30 percent more than the $100 average—Mac users are also 40-50 percent more likely to book a four or five-star hotel than PC users. Wai Gen Yee, chief scientist for Orbitz told The Journal that even when Mac users and PC users stay at the same hotel, Mac users are more likely to stay in the more expensive rooms than their PC counterparts.
With that in mind, why shouldn’t Orbitz show Macs users the kinds of hotels and rooms they are more likely to be interested in than their PC counterparts? For that matter, if there is a difference in the way geographic-based demographics book their hotels, why not order their search results accordingly, too? The same thing could be argued for time of day and all manner of other data points statistical geeks delight in finding in the data.
Orbitz told The Journal that it recognized the difference in Mac users back in October of 2011, and began working that in to a complex set of algorithms used to determine search results. So far, Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity are not using the operating system of the customer as a factor when determining results.
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