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Just did the same search, about 1 minute apart, on Expedia for a hotel with the same dates, number of occupants and filter both in a window where I was logged into Expedia and an Incognito Chromium one and got wildly different results for many properties.

Logged in:

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Incognito:

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The price when logged in is almost triple! It's the same room, of which 3 are left, and they even give an extra day to cancel with the cheapest price. It allows me to purchase directly without logging in, so the lower price is maintained.

Now, this is one of the larger differences but some times, the logged in price was slightly lower than the incognito one, so going incognito does not seem to guarantee the best price. Perhaps there are other prices too, depending on referral links, ads, etc (There is an office supply store that gives almost 30% discount when coming via an ad but in that case, it is always consistent).

Notice that the address is the same but the phone number is different. Presumably so that agents know which pricing level callers are coming from.

How can one get Expedia to show its best price for hotels?

  • Note that one was pay when you stay, while the other was not. That alone has been seen to cause price increases on booking.com, so presume similar for expedia...cancellation dates also different, so maybe not 'identical' room, even if same search, date, and hotel... – Mark Mayo Jun 25 at 3:35
  • Phone number is different too for each one. That's odd. – Mark Mayo Jun 25 at 3:36
  • You *Sure it was the same date? – Mark Mayo Jun 25 at 3:37
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    The first one says "Expedia For TD". As far as I can tell, that's a specially branded version of Expedia that lets you spend credit card points. So that may also be complicating things. – Nate Eldredge Jun 25 at 3:55
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    If you "share" the incognito listing with yourself using the share link, which appears to the right of the Reserve button, and open it in your logged in window, what happens? – Michael Hampton Jun 25 at 5:55
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Some sites are now doing price adjustments based on your setting, your history, and even your location / device type. Makes sense if they get more money.

Orbitz targets Mac users with more expensive hotels is one example.

A study on price at Northeastern University indicated:

We saw price steering from Sears, with the order of search results varying from user to user. We saw price discrimination from Home Depot, Sears, Cheaptickets, Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity, with product prices varying from user to user.

So what user attributes trigger personalization? The problem is that real users have a long history of browsed sites, searches, clicks and online purchases that we as researchers don’t know. Thus, when we observe personalized results in our experiments, we can’t tease out the underlying cause.

So the reason may not be apparent, but many online retailers do seem to be starting to do this to some degree. Even a travel site that I've worked with (not mine) has started showing 'recommended' flights (often the ones with higher margins for them).

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