Orbitz defends the results the website gives Mac users. (Orbitz.com )
Mac users who search for hotels on the Orbitz online booking service are initially directed to more expensive hotels than PC users, Orbitz acknowledged last week.
Orbitz defended the practice, saying the travel search engine is simply showing users what it thinks they prefer.
Orbitz Chief Executive Officer Barney Harford said data collected by Orbitz show that Mac users were 40% more likely than PC users to book four- or five-star hotels.
“That is just one of many factors that determine which hotels to recommend a given customer as part of our effort to show customers the most relevant hotels possible,” he said in an email.
Harford’s comments came in response to a Wall Street Journal article that reported that Orbitz produces different hotel search lists based on the type of computer used to log in.
Orbitz — among other travel websites — collects and studies millions of bits of information about people who book travel through the website. Last year alone, Orbitz processed about 750 terabytes of information about its users. A terabyte is roughly equivalent to the information on printed paper that would take 50,000 trees to manufacture.
The top few hotels shown on a search engine website are crucial because according to Orbitz, half of its customers book one of the top five hotels shown on the screen and 25% book the top property displayed.
The Wall Street Journal article generated hundreds of comments from readers, some of whom said they understood the Orbitz strategy and many of whom promised to never again use Orbitz.
“It is beyond unacceptable that a company would try to decide for me what I would want to see or where I would want to stay based solely on the type of computer I'm browsing from,” a reader posted on the newspaper website.
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