[Journal:] American Economic Review [ISSN:] 1944-7981 [Publisher:] American Economic Association [Place:] Nashville, Tenn [Volume:] 111 [Year:] 2021 [Issue:] 7 [Pages:] 2127-2151
Allocating appointment slots is presented as a new application for market design. Online booking systems are commonly used by public authorities to allocate appointments for visa interviews, driver's licenses, passport renewals, etc. We document that black markets for appointments have developed in many parts of the world. Scalpers book the appointments that are offered for free and sell the slots to appointment seekers. We model the existing first-come-first-served booking system and propose an alternative batch system. The batch system collects applications for slots over a certain time period and then randomly allocates slots to applicants. The theory predicts and lab experiments confirm that scalpers profitably book and sell slots under the current system with sufficiently high demand, but that they are not active in the proposed batch system. We discuss practical issues for the implementation of the batch system and its applicability to other markets with scalping.