Simple mechanisms for a subadditive buyer and applications to revenue monotonicity

Aviad Rubinstein, S. Matthew Weinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We study the revenue maximization problem of a seller with n heterogeneous items for sale to a single buyer whose valuation function for sets of items is unknown and drawn from some distribution D. We show that if D is a distribution over subadditive valuations with independent items, then the better of pricing each item separately or pricing only the grand bundle achieves a constant-factor approximation to the revenue of the optimal mechanism. This includes buyers who are k-demand, additive up to a matroid constraint, or additive up to constraints of any downward-closed set system (and whose values for the individual items are sampled independently), as well as buyers who are fractionally subadditive with item multipliers drawn independently. Our proof makes use of the core-tail decomposition framework developed in prior work showing similar results for the significantly simpler class of additive buyers. In the second part of the article, we develop a connection between approximately optimal simple mechanisms and approximate revenue monotonicity with respect to buyers' valuations. Revenue non-monotonicity is the phenomenon that sometimes strictly increasing buyers' values for every set can strictly decrease the revenue of the optimal mechanism. Using our main result, we derive a bound on how bad this degradation can be (and dub such a bound a proof of approximate revenue monotonicity); we further show that better bounds on approximate monotonicity imply a better analysis of our simple mechanisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number3105448
JournalACM Transactions on Economics and Computation
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing
  • Computational Mathematics


  • Combinatorial valuations
  • Revenue monotonicity
  • Revenue optimization
  • Simple auctions


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