Orbitz showing pricier hotels to Mac users

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Mac users beware: Certain sites have discovered ways to make Mac users spend more than PC users.

A recent study found the company Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has been steering Mac users towards pricier hotels and listings without their knowledge as a marketing scheme.

“Travel site Orbitz has confirmed that it uses predictive analytics to show Mac users different and more expensive hotels in search results than Windows users might see,” said Brian Proffitt in a recent article for ReadWriteWeb.

When asked about Orbitz using this tactic, BYU senior Sophia Borich, a film major, expressed how she believed it was a good marketing tactic if it is really true that Mac users usually spend more money.

“As a Mac user myself, and seeing as I am not a very wealthy college student, that kind of seems unfair,” she said. “I would hope that they would be able to show me their actual best deals and not just use my computer as bias.”

The great question many people are probably wondering is: How can these sites tell what kind of computer is being used? The answer: When typing in the web address to a certain site, you are not the only one getting information from that interaction. By accessing a website, the browser, or user agent, creates a string that can identify the browser being used, the operating system of the computer, as well as the version of the operating system. All of this information can determine the type of computer being used.

The Wall Street Journal recently looked into the price disparity between those who use Macs and those who use PCs. “Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site’s average nightly hotel booking is around $100, Orbitz chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said,” in an article by Dana Mattioli for the WSJ.

After analyzing the data of those who use Orbitz’s site and looking into the buying patterns and habits that seem to be trending, Orbitz has revamped its search results layout, placing more expensive options toward the top of the screen for Mac users.

This kind of targeting is sure to be more common among online stores and retailers in order to boost their sales. But other factors do play a part in what is shown to certain site users as well, like the user’s location and site history.

Orbitz admitted to using these predictive analytics in October of last year, and this led them to show Mac users hotels that were 11 percent more expensive than the hotels shown to Windows users.

“I’ve had a Mac for longer than I can remember, and I got it because it was user friendly,” said Cami Jensen, a senior studying exercise science. “It seems like a smart idea, but I would hope they would still let me view hotels by price and not alter the viewing on that at all for Mac people.”

In order to opt out of this price scheme, online users will have to be more wary of their online presence by checking their site history, their online browsers and how they are using sites like Orbitz.

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