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Mac Users Spend More Money on Hotels

This article was written by in Travel. 6 comments.


For one to be an aficionado of Apple’s line of computers, it might be fair to generalize that one is willing to spend more money than necessary for perceived superior form — as a device that carries the same function, just on the more common technology modeled after the IBM personal computer costs considerably less. Orbitz has measured this tendency. Mac users pay more for hotel rooms than travelers using Microsoft Windows, and in order to take advantage of that, Orbitz shows different results to shoppers depending on their computer technology according to the Wall Street Journal.

To clarify, Orbitz is not repricing the same rooms higher and showing different prices based on technology. The website is apparently showing different results, emphasizing the higher-priced rooms to Mac users, perhaps hiding some of the low-cost rooms that they predict Mac users would ignore anyway. If Orbitz has found that Mac users almost always ignore Howard Johnson in favor of Hilton or Wyndham, showing options for lodging at Howard Johnson in the search results just creates an obstacle in presenting the information most relevant to the user.

Hotel RoomI’ve never used Orbitz to find a hotel room — call me old-fashioned. I usually use Google Maps, visit the websites for hotels in which I’d consider staying, read reviews of that location on Travelocity, which seems to have the most comprehensive reviews, and use the hotel’s own website or call to make the reservation. Although I generally ignore one- or two-star hotels today, that was not always the case. When I didn’t have as much cash available for vacations or travel, I would stay in Motel 6 or an equivalent hotel when unable to stay with friends or family. I just looked for the cheapest option that didn’t involve camping.

The discovery that Mac users see filtered results is not too much of a big deal. I would have liked to see the filter as an option available to everyone. The option to ignore “budget” hotels should be a switch one can turn on or off regardless of technology used to visit Orbitz. I’m not sure if the algorithm is as simple as filtering out one- or two-star hotels, but if it is, that’s simple enough to replicate for Windows users or to include all results for Mac users. But it doesn’t seem to be that simple. The default setting for search results is to sort by “Best Value,” which is some kind of algorithm that adjusts which results are shown first. A search for hotel rooms Gaithersburg, Maryland presents the best value for me as being Wyndham Garden Gaithersburg at $117 a night, a three-star hotel. This might be listed first because it is located more conveniently than all other options, but my third result is a four-star hotel, Crowne Plaza, for only $90 a night. I’m not sure why Orbitz would consider the Wyndham a better value than the Crowne Plaza, but Mac users might see these results differently and might be unable to replicate the result order.

I performed the same search on my iPad, and the results were wildly different. The first result was a sponsored listing from La Quinta, without a price listed. The next listing was the Gaithersburg Marriott for $149 a night. So the first price listed for my search with an iPad was $32 a night more expensive than the first result when searching with my Windows computer.

Search engines like Orbitz are not neutral parties just delivering facts. They are salespeople intent on making the most money by providing hotel listings designed in such a way to get customers to spend as much as possible. The advice should be obvious.

  • More than ever, it’s important to shop around.
  • Don’t limit your search to one aggregation website.
  • Once you select a hotel, always call before booking online to ensure you’re getting the lowest price possible.
  • Check Google Maps to make sure you haven’t overlooked a possibility excluded from aggregation websites.

What do you think about Orbitz prioritizing more expensive hotels in search results just for using an Apple device?

Photo: zevhonith
Wall Street Journal

Published or updated June 26, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar krantcents

Very interesting! I know we entered the age of personalized marketing, but this is personalized based on stereotyping. This was true with catalog marketing too. My wife and I can receive a catalog from the same company and be very different. When I travel overseas, I like a combination of Hotwire, Tripadvisor and checking the hotel websites.

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avatar jim

Very interesting. I use Orbitz occasionally to shop for hotels. I’m happy with the selection and prices. I wouldn’t have guessed they’d present results based on something like the OS of the user. But if they notice strong preferences then it just makes sense. I’d be interested to see their data and find out how Mac users really differ. I doubt its just that Mac users blindly pay more, but maybe they prefer higher rating hotels or more boutique hotels.

I just searched for Gaithersburg myself on a Windows system. First result was the Wyndam and 3rd result was the Crowne plaza. However the Wyndam was about $25 cheaper for the date I tried. I wonder if those rankings are permanent based on long term trends rather than flexible for every user.

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avatar jim

By the way, in case people don’t know : Orbitz isn’t doing anything shady to find out what computer you have. The OS platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc) is normally noted by the browser software for every visitor to any website. They aren’t prying into your computer to find out that you have a Mac or Windows, its just anonymous detail your browser tells the website.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

I’ve actually seen this before with airline tickets. In this case the results on the same computer were different depending on what browser i used. Internet Explorer gave different results than Firefox. Extent this to Safari and you might be able to duplicate the findings all within a Windows PC. This is not always a good vs bad posturing. It is knowing what your customers want and giving it to them.

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avatar Lance@MoneyLife&More

I think they’re doing their job to make the most money. I don’t have a problem with it and I also don’t have an apple computer. I think that people should expect this and I bet it is true more often than not so it probably makes apple users’ experience better on Orbitz. I bet other sites are doing similar things they just haven’t been exposed yet.

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avatar Mike Collins

Interesting. there is probably a lot more of this going on than anyone realizes. As qixx noted they could easily determine which browser you are using and customize the listings based on that or on how you arrived at their site (for example, Google users see one set of listings while Bing users see another set).

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