Title: Online Allocation and Pricing with Economies of Scale
Joint work with Avrim Blum and Yishay Mansour.
Allocating multiple goods to customers in a way that maximizes some desired objective is a fundamental part of Algorithmic Mechanism Design. We consider here the problem of offline and online allocation of goods that have economies of scale, or decreasing marginal cost per item for the seller. In particular, we analyze the case where customers have unit-demand and arrive one at a time with valuations on items, sampled iid from some unknown underlying distribution over valuations. Our strategy operates by using an initial sample to learn enough about the distribution to determine how best to allocate to future customers, together with an analysis of structural properties of optimal solutions that allow for uniform convergence analysis. We show, for instance, if customers have binary valuations over items, and the goal of the allocator is to give each customer an item he or she values, we can efficiently produce such an allocation with cost at most a constant factor greater than the minimum over such allocations in hindsight, so long as the marginal costs do not decrease too rapidly. We also give a bicriteria approximation to social welfare for the case of more general valuation functions when the allocator is budget constrained.