Price Manipulation On The Web

And in today’s ecommerce news:

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has found that people who use Apple Inc.’s 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 idea being that Mac users, which tend to be of higher income are more willing to spend than their PC counterparts.

It’s important to note that this sort of manipulation is nothing new. Websites regularly optimize content based on the user. If you live in an affluent city like New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, as determined by your IP address you may be offered a different (often more expensive) price. Repeat customers (cookies help here) may not see all the price cutting someone coming in from a search engine might. Search referrers might be offered a lower price since they are already looking at competitors.

Then of course is the obvious problem with travel sites. They are based on systems like SABRE which have a long history of bias (and rules against them have since expired in the US as far as I’m aware). Expecting a travel site to reliably offer you the lowest price is like expecting a tiger to leave the helpless gazelle alone. They are for convenience, not the best deal.

This would have been slightly ironic had it been Expedia, who was originally a division of Microsoft.

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