SHPM: The Hidden System by Expedia to Undercut Hotel Rates

Hidden system, meaning, none of us is supposed to be knowing about it.

Google it: I bet, you won’t find a word.

NB: This is an article from Direct Your Bookings

The reason I do know about it, is quite funny, but beyond the point now.

Let’s cut to the chase, to what really matters.

What is SHPM?

SHPM stands for Standalone Hotel Price Modification.

It works in conjunction with a so-called BRE – Business Rules Engine.

It may sound very techy, but ultimately very simple.

Essentially, it’s an algorithm created by Expedia that undercuts your hotel rates, as soon as certain conditions are met.

Which conditions?

Expedia only knows exactly, however, these are the ones I have seen being the most used:

  1. IF the search comes from a different country than the one the hotel is located;
  2. IF the search comes from a Metasearch Engine, e.g. TripAdvisor.

Still confused? Let me show you a real example:

Case Study

This hotel is in Sweden.

By the time I conducted the following search, I was in Germany.

And I am a prospective customer who is looking for this Swedish hotel on TripAdvisor.

On TripAdvisor, Expedia shows up with this fancy cheaper deal, as opposed to Booking.

TripAdvisor - Expedia cheaper
TripAdvisor – Expedia cheaper than Booking.

I know, there are other OTAs even cheaper, but that’s beyond the point for now.

Let’s click the View Deal button next to EX: clearly, I am being redirect to Expedia site and being delighted with this price, which is ultimately the total price for the search I conducted.

Expedia price from TripAdvisor
Expedia price from TripAdvisor

Everything seems to be in order so far.

Keep following for one more minute.

Same Search, But…

I can be fussy at times. Picky.

This time is one of those, because I don’t trust, and I decide to make the exact same search – same hotel, same arrival and departure dates, same number of adults and children – but this time directly on the Expedia site, thus without involving TripAdvisor.

Expedia price from TripAdvisor

So far so good. I’m being offered the exact same rooms and prices as before via TripAdvisor.

Cookies that are not for eating.

I admit it: I am not just picky. I am a big pain in the ass sometimes (btw, people from my city, Bergamo, are quite well known in Italy for being knuckleheads).

Because, again, I don’t trust! And I know that cookies are not only for eating.

Simply put, let’s see what happens if I clear the cookies in my browser. More specifically, let’s clear all cookies from Expedia.

I’ll show you in a bit how to do that.

Oh, I am lazy other than picky, so now that I have cleared my cookies, I don’t even make a new search again, I just refresh the page with the results EX showed me when searching directly on its site:

Expedia shows prices as they are supposed to be
Expedia now shows prices as they are supposed to be.

The Role of Cookies.

Succinctly put, cookies are pieces of information that get stored by your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).

What kind of information, that is up to the owner of the website you are visiting.

In the case above, I (user) visited the site of Expedia, so Expedia decides what cookies to store in my browser and what each of them contains.

The very first search I made, was on Expedia via TripAdvisor.

Essentially, as soon as I clicked the View Deal button on TripAdvisor, and the Expedia site opened up, EX installed a cookie in my browser, that contains exactly this information.

Expedia and the cookie that says where I come from
Expedia and the cookie that says where I come from

Because of this cookie, when I then made a second search, same as the first one, directly on the Expedia site, EX was anyway able to identify me as the same user who previously made the search on TripAdvisor.

Thus, EX kept on showing me the same price I had seen before.

On the contrary, after I cleared my cookies, EX was no longer able to recognise me, thus they showed me the (right) prices as they were originally supposed to be shown.

Searching from the same country of the hotel.

Think about it: if it were so simple as I just showed above, you could expect many hotels complaining with EX.

Instead, even though we, hoteliers, all know that OTAs, in general, do undercut our rates, lack of proofs sets us in the most annoying powerlessness situation of having to accept everything that is going on around us.

Re this SHPM topic, this lack of proof derives from the first condition I explained above: most times, the SHPM system gets automatically activated when the search comes from a different country than the one where the searched hotel is located.

What follows, it the exact same search I made before, same hotel, same dates, same adults and children, on TripAdvisor, but this time I made it as if I was located in Sweden, same country of the hotel.

Expedia - TripAdvisor - Search from Sweden
Expedia – TripAdvisor – Search from Sweden

Like A Virgin Crystal Clear!

You Need a VPN.

Even though I was in Germany, I simulated a booking search, as if I was in Sweden.

The way to do that is extremely easy: get yourself a VPN, a very simple tool that allows you to do just that.

This is the one I’ve been using, called ExpressVPN. You can get a good one like this for less than 10 bucks a month (so, the excuse of “I don’t have budget” doesn’t work this time).


P.S. If you plan to sign up for ExpressVPN by using this link, you’ll be extended extra 30 days of free trial.

Clear Your Cookies.

Cookies are what tell EX the information they need to know about you and how you previously interacted with their site, so that they can put their strategies and tactics in action.

Cookies are not the only way that allow website owners to do tricks like the one explained in this post but, to certain extend, is the most flexible.

This is how to clear specific cookies on Google Chrome. If you use other browser please google it, there are tons of articles and tutorials on how to do that.

On Chrome >> Click the 3-dot menu on the top-right corner >> Settings >> enter the keyword “cookie” in the search box, then select Site Settings:

Cookies Chrome

In the next page, select Cookies and Site Data >> See all cookies and site data >>  enter “expedia” in the search box, then remove them all.

Remove cookies from Chrome

Usually I clear both Expedia and TripAdvisor cookies.

You can also avoid all this mess of clearing cookies by using opening an Incognito Window of your browser, however, it was important to show you the role of the cookies and, therefore, how to deal with them.

2+ Nights.

Again based on my experience, rarely have I found the SHPM system in action when searching hotels for one night.

Of course I can’t say why exactly. However, in my opinion one of the reasons is that it’s easier for EX to hide the trick when searching for multiple nights.

In fact, when 2 or more nights are entered, the prices shown on MetaSearch Engines are most times total prices for the whole stay, making it more difficult for anyone to debug and detect exactly where the price drop happens and what for.

Read more articles from Direct Your Bookings