"Pay what you want" as threshold public good provision

Vincent Mak, Rami Zwick, Akshay R. Rao, Jake A. Pattaratanakun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Prevailing wisdom on "pay what you want" (PWYW) pricing focuses on the influence of altruism or fairness on consumers' payments. In this paper, we offer a different perspective by demonstrating that, if the seller and consumers interact repeatedly, and future provision of PWYW depends on whether current revenue under PWYW is sufficient for the seller to achieve financial goals, then paying under PWYW can be likened to paying for a threshold public good. Our model implies that continuous provision of PWYW can be profitable even when all consumers are self-interested. We find in two experiments that if there is pre-payment online chat-room-style communication among consumers, then efficient tacit coordination at the payment stage can be accomplished to achieve continuous PWYW provision. We also show experimentally that pre-payment communication can sustain PWYW provision even when consumers have limited feedback about each other's payments, or limited information about the market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Communication
  • Feedback
  • Market information
  • Pay as you wish
  • Pay what you want
  • Social dilemma
  • Threshold public goods


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