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Approximation Schemes for a Unit-Demand Buyer with Independent Items via Symmetries

We consider a revenue-maximizing seller with n items facing a single buyer. We introduce the notion of symmetric menu complexity of a mechanism, which counts the number of distinct options the buyer may purchase, up to permutations of the items. Our main result is that a mechanism of quasi-polynomial symmetric menu complexity suffices to guarantee a .99-approximation when the buyer is unit-demand over independent items, even when the value distribution is unbounded, and that this mechanism can be found in quasi-polynomial time.

Our key technical result is a polynomial-time, (symmetric) menu-complexity-preserving black-box reduction from achieving a .99-approximation for unbounded valuations that are subadditive over independent items to achieving a .99-approximation when the values are bounded (and still subadditive over independent items). We further apply this reduction to deduce approximation schemes for a suite of valuation classes beyond our main result.

Finally, we show that selling separately (which has exponential menu complexity) can be approximated up to a .99 factor with a menu of efficient-linear symmetric menu complexity.

Joint work with Pravesh Kothari (CMU), Divyarthi Mohan, Sahil Singla and S. Matthew Weinberg (Princeton)

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