I was angry - but not surprised - to read about what I regard as a greedy, self-serving and dehumanizing business practice. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Orbitz ... has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.
The Orbitz effort, which is in its early stages, demonstrates how tracking people's online activities can use even seemingly innocuous information — in this case, the fact that customers are visiting Orbitz.com from a Mac—to start predicting their tastes and spending habits.
. . .
Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site's average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.
"We had the intuition, and we were able to confirm it based on the data," Orbitz Chief Technology Officer Roger Liew said.
. . .
The effort underscores how retailers are becoming bigger users of so-called predictive analytics, crunching reams of data to guess the future shopping habits of customers. The goal is to tailor offerings to people believed to have the highest "lifetime value" to the retailer.
There's more at the link, including more specific demographic information that distinguishes Mac from PC users.
It's easy enough to find out what operating system visitors to a Web site are running on their computers. This is what my most recent visitors used:
(The 'Win NT' label refers to Windows Vista and Windows 7 users - both of those operating systems utilize the NT kernel.)
My biggest complaint about such methods is that they appear (to my eyes, at least) to completely dehumanize our contact with corporations. We're no longer 'Peter' or 'Mary' - we're an operating system, or a credit card number, or a purchaser of object X who might therefore be a suitable target market for object Y. For heaven's sake, what happened to treating people like human beings? For that matter, isn't it basic honesty to show the same choices to all inquirers, and let users sort them into ascending or descending sequence of cost, etc., rather than try to deliberately manipulate them into buying a more expensive option without showing them the others? To my mind, and according to my code of ethics, this particular business practice certainly qualifies as dishonest.
I know, I know . . . I guess I'm a throwback to an earlier, less technological era . . .