Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


The Optimal Admission Threshold in Observable
Queues with State Dependent Pricing

Christian Borgs*, Jennifer T. Chayes*
Sherwin Doroudi, Mor Harchol-Balter, Kuang Xu**

December 2012


Keywords: Queues, optimization, pricing, admission threshold, Lambert W function

We consider the social welfare model of Naor [17] and revenue-maximization model of Chen and Frank [5], where a single class of delay-sensitive customers seek service from a server with an observable queue, under state dependent pricing. It is known that in this setting both revenue and social welfare can be maximized by a threshold policy, whereby customers are barred from entry once the queue length reaches a certain threshold. However, no explicit expression for this threshold has been found. This paper presents the first derivation of the optimal threshold in closedform, and a surprisingly simple formula for the (maximum) revenue under this optimal threshold. Utilizing properties of the Lambert W function, we also provide explicit scaling results of the optimal threshold as the customer valuation grows

24 pages

*Microsoft Research, Cambridge, MA
**Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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