Equitable Auction

The PS5 was released about a week ago, and, predictably, it is impossible to get one. All retailers, online and IRL, are sold out. Of course, consoles are available on Ebay at ruinous prices, so at least the scalpers are doing well.

Economists, of course, are wringing their hands and mumbling about Vickrey auctions. What Sony should do, they mutter, is to hold a daily auction for PS5s, and let the market decide the price.

The economists are, of course, quite right. If Sony auctioned off PS5s there would be no lines, no scalpers, and no uncertainty. You could put in a bid at the price that you wanted to pay, and then simply wait until demand had died down for your bid to be filled. As a bonus, Sony would make more money for producing something that people wanted to buy, and more capital to ramp up production.

Unfortunately, the economists don't get their say here, because of their arch enemy, non-economists. Non-economists, or, normal people, as they are otherwise known, as far as I can tell, don't understand that there is such a thing as an inescapable trade-off. They want everyone to get a PS5, everyone to pay MSRP for it, there to be no scalpers, nobody to ever make a profit from demand exceeding supply, and all things to be fair, based on confused and self-contradictory conceptions of unfairness.

So, companies can't hold auctions for scarce goods, and have to set an MSRP, produce whatever they can, and hope for the best.

I wonder though, if there might be some way for a company to hold an auction for their products, but in a way that would be perceived as fair.

Here is one possible setup for such an auction, using Sony as the example company, and the PS5 as the example product:

Essentially, any time someone pays over MSRP for a PS5, they ensure that eventually, someone will get a PS5 for less than MSRP. If someone rich or impatient buys a PS5 for $1000, two less impatient people can eventually buy PS5s for $250.

I think, perhaps, this would be perceived as fair. But, with real people, you never know.