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Outsmarting Internet Cookies For Cheaper Holiday Deals
Ever surfed the internet, searched for a hotel or flight, not booked it but returned 24 hours later only to find that the price has risen considerably?

It’s because you have just fallen victim to price discrimination or, put simply, ‘cookies’ have assessed your buying behaviour and, based on a range of factors, determined that the chances of you making a purchase are pretty high so they have unilaterally – and automatically – put the price up.

Job done, the supplier’s just boosted their profits at your expense!

Welcome to the world of the internet!

Recently, I booked a flight to Manila with Emirates. It cost £528. Many colleagues making the same journey paid more with different airlines but the best result was around £450 with Cathay Pacific. The person in question had gone into private mode on their search engine, meaning cookies could not detect their search behaviour so the price was ‘genuine’ not ‘manipulated’.

Browsing habits, device model, and location information can make you overpay for any travel booking.

To many, the holiday planning process itself is the beginning of a well-deserved rest. However, it does cause frustration when after a couple of price checks, you can start to notice how flight ticket and apartment booking quotes take an upward trend. Price discrimination is now a prevalent tactic across the travel industry, although there are ways to protect yourself.

Intuitively unfair, the concept of price discrimination (if not based on race, religion or national origin) is legal and can take many forms. Its general principle is that potential customers get to see different prices of the same product or service based on their willingness to pay as perceived by the seller.

“Many online retailers use special algorithms to create an illusion of high demand and an increasing price so that quotes for all the hotel rooms you checked yesterday then increase only to encourage you to make a fast decision to book,” explains Naomi Hodges, Cybersecurity Advisor at VPN software company, Surfshark (https://surfshark.com/). “The same goes for flight tickets and car rentals so that excellent offer you found an hour ago might have deteriorated to ‘it’s still ok, but I have to hurry’ at your second check.”

“Various online businesses are using personalized pricing techniques to manipulate people’s emotions. The leaders in this field, for example, Uber, hire behavioural economists who help to craft the logic of algorithms of differential pricing.

“The core ingredient to make the algorithms work is your online data which is acquired when websites insert cookies into your browser and get to know your IP address.

“Such information can reveal where you live, how new or expensive device you use, which websites you visit, what are you interested in, whether you are an easy spender or not, and much more,” says Hodges.

When your data is being used for personalized pricing, the car rental might become expensive if you already booked a flight to some destination. The same goes for hotel and domestic flight booking.

The price manipulation can go even further by knowing that you are the user of a brand-new iPhone model which indicates higher purchasing power and in turn, your willingness to pay more than other customers.

Avoiding Price Discrimination?

Naomi Hodges says it is easy to check if you are being differentiated from other potential travellers. If you notice a higher flight ticket/car rental/hotel booking price than before, follow these tips:

Clear your recent digital footprint. You can do that by clearing your browser cache, history, and cookies in the browser settings.
Turn on a virtual private network (VPN) app. This trick can help you change your location by giving you a different IP address. In many cases prices are based on the device’s location, so you can avoid higher prices simply by pretending that you are in another country.
Turn on Incognito Mode (Chrome), Private Mode (Safari) or Private Window (Firefox) in your browser. This step will allow you to browse cookie-less.
Check the prices using a different device. Differentiating between desktop and mobile users is a common practice.
Change the top-level domain (.com, co.uk, .fr, .net) to a different one. For example, http://flights4u.com might display different prices than flights4u.de.

Best results can be achieved if all these tips are used simultaneously.

About Surfshark (https://surfshark.com)
Surfshark is a privacy protection suite based on Virtual Private Network (VPN) architecture. A VPN is a service that encrypts your internet traffic and protects your online activity.

Outsmarting Internet Cookies For Cheaper Holiday Deals, 16th April 2019, 12:03 PM