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Apple users get pricier hotel options from Orbitz

Booking site offers PC users cheaper choices

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Online booking site Orbitz has run into PR problems with an experiment in differentiated selling between Apple and PC users.

Analysis by the Wall Street Journal showed that on Orbitz's basic search Apple accounts were shown hotels at the pricier end of the market, costing an average of 30 per cent more than those offered to PC users. Naturally some sections of the media are up in arms because this sounds sinister, but actually it makes business sense.

Last month Orbitz CEO Barney Harford wrote a USA Today piece that explained the situation. The company's analysis of 750TB of its data showed that Apple users coming to its website were 40 per cent more likely to book at the top end of the hotel room market with a four or five star room. Consequently it was reflecting that in its rankings.

It also knows that the first results it puts up are the most likely to be used, for the unstated reason that people are generally lazy. Harford noted that 90 per cent of its customers reserved rooms displayed on the first page of their searches, with a quarter picking the first hotel on the list. If Apple users pay more, it is logical and good business sense to organize search in this way.

Orbitz is, after all, a business. It makes its money from bookings and the more expensive the better as far as it is concerned. Apple users generally spend more for their technology than other computer buyers and are, on the whole, wealthier. The booking service's practice might make Apple users feel put upon, but there's nothing compulsory in these listings and they are free to find cheaper options if they prefer, something Harford has confirmed on Twitter.

Nevertheless, plenty of Apple users have taken to Orbitz's Facebook page to protest at the apparent injustice of having to sort their choices by price. Maybe they should Think Different about the whole issue. ®

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