On Twitter, Orbitz CEO rebuffs explosive WSJ story about Mac users

People are talking about The Wall Street Journal’s report that Orbitz shows Mac users pricier hotel options; Orbitz CEO Barney Harford disputes the claim.


At least you’re not dealing with this today.

The Wall Street Journal published a big story this morning that says Mac users spend more per night on hotels than PC owners—something Orbitz has identified and is reportedly exploiting. According to WSJ‘s Dana Mattioli, Orbitz shows Mac users prier hotel options. Call it the Mac Tax.

Orbitz disputes the report and is using the Twitter account of its CEO to spread the word. (In the story, executives at the company confirmed that it shows different rooms to Mac and PC users, but said the rooms are not priced differently.)

Since the early morning hours of Tuesday, Barney Harford has tweeted numerous times, insisting the report is “nonsense” and that there’s “no way” the company would charge Mac users more. He also said the WSJ story is confusing. In one tweet, Harford told WSJ editors that they “need to fix” the headline.

He has shared a blog post he wrote for USA Today in May, in which he explains that Mac users book fancier hotels.

However, the WSJ story quotes the company’s chief scientist and chief technology officer, who seem to contradict Harford’s tweets. For instance:

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 percent 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 story ends with this quote from Yee:

“Eventually, Orbitz may start to test if Mac users have identifiable preferences for car rentals and flight bookings. ‘It would be nice to say they book more Porsches, but at this point we’re only looking at hotels,’ Mr. Yee said.

The story could be disastrous for Orbitz, particularly because WSJ points out that Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity don’t look at a person’s computer when offering them hotel prices.

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