On Orbitz, Windows users directed to cheaper hotels(Read article summary)
Orbitz is experimenting with different criteria as it creates lodging and travel recommendations. The site sometimes looks at operating systems to decide what hotel options to show you. Mac users may be shown pricier options first.
The fun economics story of the day is that Orbitz sometimes looks at your computerâ€™s operating system to decide what hotel options to show you. Dana Mattioli breaks the story over at the Wall Street Journal:
Orbitz WorldwideÂ Inc.Â has found that people who useÂ AppleÂ Inc.â€™sÂ Mac computers spend as much as 30% 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.
The Orbitz effort, which is in its early stages, demonstrates how tracking peopleâ€™s online activities can use even seemingly innocuous informationâ€”in this case, the fact that customers are visiting Orbitz.com from a Macâ€”to start predicting their tastes and spending habits.
Orbitz executives confirmed that the company is experimenting with showing different hotel offers to Mac and PC visitors, but said the company isnâ€™t showing the same room to different users at different prices. They also pointed out that users can opt to rank results by price.
The WSJ emphasizes that Mac users see higher-priced hotels. For example, Mattioliâ€™s article is headlined: â€śOn Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels.â€ť
My question: Would you feel any different if, instead, the WSJ emphasized that Windows users are directed to lower-priced hotels? For example, Windows users are prompted about the affordable lodgings at the Travelodge in El Paso, Texas. (Full disclosure: I think I once stayed there.)
As Mattioli notes, itâ€™s important to keep in mind that Orbitz isnâ€™t offering different prices, itâ€™s just deciding which hotels to list prominently. And your operating system is just one of many factors that go into this calculation. Others include deals (hotels offering deals move up the rankings), referring site (which can reveal a lot about your preferences), return visits (Orbitz learns your tastes), and location (folks from Greenwich, CT probably see more expensive hotels than those from El Paso).