It sounds like the start of a bad Internet joke. As it turns out, however, Orbitz is quite serious about this, and they have their reasons. But are they good reasons?
There are things you read that amaze you, things that leave you perplexed. And then, there are the things that just make you want to shout “What the eff!” at the top of your lungs.
This one is definitely come from behind Door Number Three.
The Chicago-based online travel agency Orbitz has used what’s known as “predictive analytics” to conclude that people who own Apple computers tend to send more on hotel rooms than Windows PC owners.
So Orbitz has programmed its Web site to automatically show you higher priced hotel rooms if you’re on a Mac.
This sounds like the start of a bad Internet joke. Trust me, it’s not. Orbitz is actually serious about this. They fpund that Mac users on average spend about 30 percent more when choosing hotels, so they created an algorithm to automatically sniff out Mac owners looking for hotel rooms on Orbitz — and automatically show them pricier rooms.
The Wall Street Journal first broke this story, and you can read all about it here.
It’s not as if this were the first time that a business ever tried to track the spending habits of its customers and adjust its offerings accordingly. It’s just that computers, the Internet and analytics software give businesses more powerful, pervasive — and sneakier — tools with which to do it.
Still, am I the only Mac user out there who’s offended by this?
I’ve been Apple computer user for the last five years. I work on an iMac at home and on a black MacBook when I’m on the road. I love the easy, intuitive way they work, Apple’s willingness to innovate and reduced vulnerabiity to viruses (up to now) compared with Windows-based machines. And yes, I know that Macs happen to be more expensive than PCs.
Does that automatically mean that I don’t hunt for bargains when I look for hotel rooms?
Conversely, if you’re a PC owner, does that automatically make you a cheap mofo, the Ebenezer Scrooge of the travel world?
As you’ll see when you read the WSJ article, the company put a lot of time and effort into analyzing the spending habits of Mac owners. And yet, they still seem to have missed the most important point about us.
We Macanauts tend to be an independent lot. We think for ourselves, do our own analysis and make our choices based on what suits our own individual needs. And we’re not really big on being dictated to, by anyone for anything.
It’s why we own Macs in the first place.
If we were content to follow the rest of the herd, we’d all be on PCs.
I may or may not continue to use Orbitz after this. But I won’t be doing my online hotel shopping there, ever.
Meanwhile, if you want to protect yourself against this kind of digital snooping, the folks at Budget Travel suggest that you clear your cache between online searches to keep sites like Orbitz from tracking you this way.
For the rest of the Budget Travel story about this, click here.
Put that in your algorithm, Orbitz.
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