We study the revenue performance of sequential posted-price mechanisms and some natural extensions for a setting where the valuations of the buyers are drawn from a correlated distribution. Sequential posted-price mechanisms are conceptually simple mechanisms that work by proposing a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer to each buyer. We apply sequential posted-price mechanisms to single-parameter multiunit settings in which each buyer demands only one item and the mechanism can assign the service to at most k of the buyers. For standard sequential posted-price mechanisms, we prove that with the valuation distribution having finite support, no sequential posted-price mechanism can extract a constant fraction of the optimal expected revenue, even with unlimited supply. We extend this result to the case of a continuous valuation distribution when various standard assumptions hold simultaneously (i.e., everywhere-supported, continuous, symmetric, and normalized (conditional) distributions that satisfy regularity, the MHR condition, and affiliation). In fact, it turns out that the best fraction of the optimal revenue that is extractable by a sequential posted-price mechanism is proportional to the ratio of the highest and lowest possible valuation. We prove that a simple generalization of these mechanisms achieves a better revenue performance; namely, if the sequential posted-price mechanism has for each buyer the option of either proposing an offer or asking the buyer for its valuation, then a ω(1/ max{1,d}) fraction of the optimal revenue can be extracted, where d denotes the degree of dependence of the valuations, ranging from complete independence (d = 0) to arbitrary dependence (d = n - 1).

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ACM Transactions on Economics and Computation
Networks and Optimization

Adamczyk, M, Borodin, A, Ferraioli, D, de Keijzer, B, & Leonardi, S. (2017). Sequential posted-price mechanisms with correlated valuations. ACM Transactions on Economics and Computation, 5(4). doi:10.1145/3157085