Monday, June 25, 2012

Orbitz Shows Apple Users Higher Priced Options Than PC Users

We've all heard of the ages old "Apple tax", where as Apple customers are know to be willing to pay a premium for their Macs and other devices over the PC equivalent. Well soon there may be a new meaning to the term, as at least one site is working out plans to push OSX users to more expensive options than their PC and Window user counter parts.

According to the Wall Street Journal, popular travel site Orbitz has been tracking users based on operating system. Their findings suggest that people who use Apple's OSX equipped Mac computer spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels than do users of other operating systems. So the online travel agency is starting to show Apple users different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.

Targeting users based on browser and operating systems is hardly a new concept. Most ads you see now days are going to be targeted ads geared towards your device or your operating system. The question here is rather or not Orbitz (and likely others) are acting deceptively.

Orbitz executives insisted that the same room wasn't being shown at different prices to Mac users, and that customers always retain the option of searching by room price first, the Journal reports. And while the details given in the Journal's report appears to show a legitimate business practice, Orbitz has in years past been hit with fines for employing deceptive practices.

In October, 2011, Orbitz was hit with a $60,000 fine for violating rules prohibiting "deceptive price advertising," by not displaying all the hidden fees in its airline ticket prices, CNET reports.

In 2009, a congressional investigation found that Orbitz and other online retailers had used "marketing companies (that) were found by the government to have "tricked" consumers into entering their e-mail addresses just before they completed purchases at Orbitz and the other retailers. A pop-up ad, which many consumers said appeared to be from the retailer, offered them cash back or a coupon if they keyed in their e-mail address. Those who provided information often had no idea that they were agreeing to join the programs because--you guessed it--the disclosure was buried in fine print."

My thoughts
This makes you wonder how many sites out there are employing this practice and the true legitimacy of the practice. Sites could really easily maintain two separate databases, one geared towards Windows users and one geared towards Apple users. Or they could simply push users from one browser or another towards higher priced items. If Orbitz is simply showing higher priced better equipped rooms that is one thing. If however, they are changing prices based on operating system that is something else altogether, and could be discriminatory.

We put a lot of faith in websites, especially deals type sites, to show us the best options available. If they are specifically targeting one set of users over the other for better/worse deals then you really have to questions the faith in the site's deals.

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