Orbitz Story Skyrockets into Social Media Orbit

A recent Wall Street Journal story detailed how Orbitz tailors search results to Mac computer users, in some cases showing them costlier hotel options than Windows users. The news lit up the social media sphere as soon as the story published on Monday night. Here are some of the highlights.

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  1. Here's the story and tweet that kickstarted all the buzz:
  2. Much of the early reaction on Twitter and Facebook was decidedly negative with several readers saying they'd stop shopping on the online travel site:
  3. As an avid Mac user for personal computing, I will never ever book travel on Orbitz!!!
  4. Others raised privacy concerns: 
  5. What happened to net neutrality and freedom of information?
  6. If it was just "advertising" the more expensive options, it might have been acceptable as a marketing tactic. But showing you an entirely different set of information is unethical. Information is supposed to be free!
  7. But as the news spread, so did rumors and misleading information as some confused details from the report. This tweet, for example, suggested that Orbitz was charging Mac users more when booking a hotel: 
  8. The story only cites a difference in search results that at times give preference to pricier hotel options for those using Mac computers. 
  9. As our story notes: "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." 
  10. Barney Harford, CEO of Orbitz Worldwide took to Twitter: 
  11. He even blamed The Wall Street Journal paywall for spreading a "distorted message":
  12. The Journal story has since been made available to non-subscribers.
  13. Despite the myriad outcries from consumers, many stood behind Orbitz. Some argued the approach was "genius" and comparable to any other marketing effort. They questioned all the fuss:
  14. Sorry, I think it's genius. Sounds like weren't totally hiding the cheaper rooms from them, but we're just highlighting the pricier rooms first for Mac users. This is no different than a company marketing or advertising thier more expensive products in more affluent areas. Identifying a customer by browser is no different than identifying them by the car they drive or the area of the city they work or live. If people don't want to be identified by browser, use privacy mode, folks.
  15. Why not? They pay more for computers. A room is a room, and a computer is a computer. BTW, this type of marketing is hardly new. Plumbers and other service people have been tacking on a "luxury neighborhood tax" since long before Orbitz or for that matter the internet was a glimmer in anyone's eye. A leaky faucet is a leaky faucet, and a sucker is a sucker.
  16. It's just marketing, folks. Companies use information like this every day to decide whom their dollars should target. Is anyone really surprised that Mac users prefer style over substance?
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