Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 03:08

Cookie pricing, geocoding and other nice ways to get to your money

Some, maybe some more, people will ask what the hell cookie pricing might be.  Well. Ever wanted to book a flight? Ever decided to talk about it first with your better half? Ever realized that you were damn lucky to still get the flight for just 25% extra the next day?

That's cookie pricing. The price has an exclusive 25% extra just for you. This is quite common with flights, hotel reservations and other related crap. And apparently it's sort of legal as well.

The dealer knows that you have been looking at the very same product before. For example a flight because this information is stored in a cookie. Now when you come back to the very same product it's very likely and common that you are doing this because you decided to buy it. Maybe you had to talk about it first with your better half or you decided to buy it tomorrow because there's still enough time. In any case the price just upped by quite a margin and most people would - in the case of a plane ticket - not suspect fraud but bad luck. Airplane tickets can get more expensive depending on available seats as empty planes are bad business. But in this case the plane is still perfectly empty. The system just plays with the fact that you A have most likely made a decision and B may have doubts about the price further going up if you don't buy now.

And statistically those assumptions are well founded.

If the price went up it may be because of limited availability. You are however well advised to double check that price with a clean browser. You may be surprised about the sudden discount.

Speaking about which.

Ever wondered why your Linux buddies in their crappy apartment downtown always seem to find the better price despite claiming they aren't really doing anything special? It's just you who always runs into some sort of shortage. Even with digital copies!

It has most likely nothing to do with bad luck. The vendor is simply pattern matching you against a price structure. You in this case means whatever information he can obtain about you...which is quite a bit. He knows that you own a Mac and he knows you're living in an upscale neighborhood. The first is revealed by your browser's signature. The latter through your geo coded IP. That usually suggests you have more money and are more inclined to buy at a higher price if there may be a delivery problem if you won't buy now.

And that's why your freeloading Linux buddies downtown get a better price ... today and projected to the near future. They simply don't smell like easy money as you do.

While the cookie above is rather easy to defeat this one is a little harder. While you can tell some browsers to lie about their environment you can't lie about your IP unless you are using a proxy server. Which is not necessarily a great idea when buying stuff. And using a proxy would also require some knowledge about its physical location. You wouldn't want to trade your middle class neighborhood for the up-link right next to the Ritz Carlton do you?

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