Booking That Hotel From a Mac? You Could Pay More

Mac users could see pricier travel options when they log onto Orbitz.

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Owning an Apple computer or gadget comes with a host of associated connotations, but could it also mean you'll pay more for booking your hotel reservations online?

Maybe. According to the Wall Street Journal, online travel agency Orbitz is experimenting with showing Mac users different, sometimes pricier travel options than PC users based on the search and purchase behaviors of the site's customers.

Back in October, Orbitz found that users accessing the site from a Mac-based browser spent as much as 30 percent more a night on hotel reservations and were 40 percent more likely to book more expensive 4- or 5-star hotels. The company has used that data in conjunction with several other factors to modify the way Mac customers see travel options in order to boost sales.

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And it could use the boost. Orbitz lost almost $40 million in 2011, and its stock has tanked almost 75 percent since the online travel agency went public in 2007, according to the Journal.

But Orbitz isn't the only E-commerce company data mining to improve its bottom line. An increasing number of retailers are poring over data culled from customer transactions to predict future spending habits and provide more targeted experiences for shoppers.

"This has been going on since Day One," says Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight. "The game changer is actually how many people are using their smartphones—the [space to display information] on a smartphone is significantly different than a desktop or laptop or even an iPad."

With more consumers equipped with iPhones capable of accessing increasingly sophisticated information on the go, space is at a premium when it comes to presenting information on diminutive smartphone screens.

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"That's what they're thinking about until the next new thing comes around," Christopher adds.

Orbitz is still in the beginning stages of testing out tailoring search results for Mac and PC users, and variations aren't yet evident across the site, the Journal reports. The company stresses that different prices for the same hotel room aren't being shown to different users and customers can always sort results by price.

Still, simply logging onto Orbitz from a Mac could ultimately influence the travel options a user sees and, according to one commentator, be a sign of increasingly invasive practices by retailers to get consumers to spend more, sometimes without their knowledge.

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter.

Corrected 6/26/12: A previous version of this article misstated 2011 losses for Orbitz.