In a Doonesbury cartoon strip quite a few years ago one of the characters gets arrested for a traffic violation. When his father comes to bail him out of jail and asks what the cost will be, he’s asked in return how much cash he’s brought. Upon answering “about a thousand dollars” he hears the good news:

“I have the most amazing coincidence to report”

Orbitz, a large travel booking web site, has recently begun charging for hotel bookings based on how much money visitors to the Orbitz web site have. Or at least it looks that way; if you visit Orbitz using a Macintosh computer you’re likely to see different prices than if you visit using a Windows-based PC.

This might sound pretty ugly, and I suppose that because Orbitz is making these distinctions based on information you probably didn’t realize you were giving them, it is.

But from where I sit, privacy issues notwithstanding, this business change isn’t really a business change at all. Fact is, prices change based on many factors; you have choices, and Orbitz isn’t denying any of those here so much as they’re putting pretty signs at eye level. Your supermarket does that every day.

You knew that, right?

In a world where it’s becoming all but impossible to “sell” anything, one important business change that you simply must pursue is the “upsell”; when you have someone’s attention, you need to sell them more, or something better, or more expensive. That’s marketing. It’s business change.

I told you a couple of days ago how good Louis CK is at taking charge of more and setting prices. Just a comedian? The marketing executives that Mr. Szekely no longer helps support probably don’t love it that he’s smarter than they are, but  he is, and he’s making sure that as much money as is possible flows to him—all while helping out his fans/customers.

How much does that concert ticket cost again? That DVD? Depends on where you buy it, when, from whom, etc.

Perception and Reality are driven by research statistics. As I said, it’s reasonable to be concerned about the privacy issues in play, but I think I’m more bothered that The Wall Street Journal thought that reporting this story qualified as journalism than by the story itself.

Now, since we’re talking hotels, go visit my friends at The Lanesborough.

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