Apple MacBook

Travel-recommendation website Orbitz Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:OWW) found that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac owners spend as much as $20 to $30 or around 30 percent more on hotel rooms than an average PC user.

According to the WSJ, Orbitz has new software that can track people habits, and the company is using it to recommend rooms to match their spending habits. Orbitz executives confirmed that the company is experimenting with showing different hotel offers to Mac and PC visitors, but said the company isn’t showing the same room to different users at different prices. They also pointed out that users can opt to rank results by price. Already the company has been alleged of showing the same room to different people for a different price. For example, the WSJ found listings for a Baton Rouge hotel room were 13 percent more expensive on a search from a Mac compared to a PC. In essence, Mac users are shown the nicer rooms.

In support of the study, Forrester released a research last October saying Mac users are falling into the “power laptop user”, who earn 44 percent more than average, “Most of the Macs today are being freewheeled into the office by executives, top sales reps, and other workaholics.”

Orbitz is not the only website that is tracking consumer’s habits. Google’s Gmail is very open about tracking emails to feature more relevant ads. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) does a lot of tracking through cookies.

Along with hotel rooms, Orbitz could also use the information to recommend flights and car rentals, to offer more expensive flights cars to Mac users.

In one of the studies by Bundle, they found that Mac users are fashionable and style-conscious, while PC users are less about style and more about utility.

The tactics like this may prove costly for Orbitz Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:OWW) as its competitors Expedia Inc (NASDAQ:EXPE)  and Priceline.com Inc (NASDAQ:PCLN)  were quick to seize on the news. An official from Orbitz’s competitor (Expedia and Priceline are both owned by Sagamore), said “That’s incredible, but I wouldn’t want to miss out on PC users.”

Update: Orbitz just emailed us this:

What we’re actually doing – from Orbitz CEO Barney Harford:

Nonsense that we’d charge Mac users more for the same hotel, which is unfortunately the incorrect impression that many readers seem to be drawing from this article’s “subscriber content preview.”

However, just as Mac users are willing to pay more for higher end computers, at Orbitz we’ve seen that Mac users are 40% more likely to book 4 or 5 star hotels as compared to PC users, and that just one of many factors that determine which hotels to recommend a given customer as part of our efforts to show customers the most relevant hotels possible.

More on what we’re actually doing to create a personalized experience in my recent USA Today blog post: https://bitly.com/JWLTzz.

Unfortunately WSJ editors have chosen to hide the full story behind their pay wall, so most of the world is reacting to a confusing headline, while the key point “the company isn’t showing the same room to different users at different prices” is hidden because… the WSJ is steering users to pay more to be able to read the full article and understand what’s actually happening.

Barney Harford
CEO, Orbitz Worldwide