Are you using the travel site Orbitz to plan your next vacation? If you’re a Mac user, you might want to ask a friend if you can use his or her Windows PC. If you don’t, you’ll be charged more.
The Wall Street Journal published a story yesterday stating that in October of 2011 Orbitz realized that consumers who accessed the site via a Mac computer versus a Windows PC were spending 30 percent more a night on hotel rooms. So, as the WSJ points out: “the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.” And while this might seem a bit unfair, let’s consider who’s buying Macs, iPads, et al: People with money. And what do people with money do? Spend it.
What Orbitz did isn’t really that surprising because they had the metrics to back this up. According to the same WSJ article, this is an example that “demonstrates how tracking people’s online activities can use even seemingly innocuous information—in this case, the fact that customers are visiting Orbitz.com from a Mac—to start predicting their tastes and spending habits.” But do Mac and Windows users really spend their money online differently? It’s impossible to to tell, but I’m leaning toward “yes.” The first thing you have to consider is that Apple’s least expensive MacBook comes in around $1,000, whereas a Windows laptop can be purchased for under $300.
Also, according to Orbitz’s data, Mac users are spending between $20 and $30 more per night than those using Windows machines, which is significant considering the average price on Orbitz is $100. The data also stated that PC users were less likely to search for four or five-star hotels than Mac users. Those Mac users sure seem to be fancy, and this got me thinking. This is no different than what Google does. It’s well-documented that Google likes to spy on its users, which isn’t a huge deal if you’re behaving yourself, and most of that spying revolves around Google making money. Google’s bread and butter is its search product, which gives it treasure troves of data about what you, me and even my six-year-old brother search for.
It’s this information that Google uses to assist in accurate ad targeting. I do a lot of Google searches for music, hockey, technology and history stuff, so naturally the ads I see in Google are more closely related to those topics, and if Apple users are already buying more expensive rooms, why shouldn’t Orbitz show them those rooms by default? It’s not as if the cheaper rooms are unavailable to the bourgeoisie Mac users. They’re available, it just might take a few more clicks to get there. So, Person on Your MacBook, stop complaining about Orbitz targeting more expensive rooms toward you. Chances are you were going to book them anyway.