If you own a Mac, the chances are you are more likely to book a 4 or 5 star hotel, according to online travel agent Orbitz. So visitors to the site might be offered costlier options than if they were using a PC. After a Wall Street Journal report of Orbitz’s pricing experiment went viral, Apple fans took to Twitter to voice their opinion of what they thought was unfair.
The brand’s Value reputation, which is measured using YouGov BrandIndex, remains positive among consumers but has been declining consistently since the WSJ story broke on June 26. Orbitz and the travel agents sector had a pre-story score of 12.7 and 10.2 respectively, currently at 9.1 and 9.5. The score asks respondents: “Does it give good value for what you pay?”
Confusion resulted from the WSJ piece, as some consumers mistakenly took this to mean Mac and PC users were being offered different prices for the same hotels. Orbitz CEO, Barney Harford, aimed to clarify this by tweeting: “Nonsense we’d charge Mac users more” and wrote in an article for USA Today’s Travel page: “Unfortunately the WSJ chose to initially hide the full story behind a subscription pay wall, so many readers and bloggers were initially reacting to an attention-grabbing yet confusing headline.”
The WSJ story alone was not enough to cause the perception decline for the brand – Orbitz’s Value had already been on a downwards trend starting in mid-May.
This marked the end of a climb in Value perception for the travel site, which started the third week in April with a year to date low of 8.1 and climbed to 12.7 my mid-month. This coincides with a court ruling in the same month which ruled travel firms couldn’t be required to pay state and local tourist taxes. It was also announced in February that there would be no more hidden fees when customers book online – both potentially altering consumer perception of the brand’s value offering.