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Inaugural visitors face premium prices


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    Dean Berlin in his suburban Maryland backyard. Berlin is offering to rent out space in his backyard for camping during the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama for $100 per night, per tent.

    - Nancy Marshall Genzer / Marketplace

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    Danny Matta, owners of GreatSeats.com

    - Nancy Marshall Genzer / Marketplace

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    GreatSeats.com owner Danny Matta, right, with employee.

    - Nancy Marshall Genzer / Marketplace

CORRECTION: This story incorrectly reported the amount Dean Berlin is charging campers in his backyard. Berlin is charging $20 a night.


TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal:
Twenty-four and a half million people tuned in to see the president-elect on "60 Minutes" last night. There won't be quite as many in Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration a couple of months from now. But it's probably not for lack of interest.

Hotel rooms in the capital are already scarce. As are tickets for the swearing-in and the inaugural parade. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports on how enterprising visitors and some DC residents are preparing for the big event.


Nancy Marshall Genzer:
If you want to get depressed, Google Washington hotels, inauguration. The good deals are gone. Unless you consider $50,000 for four nights at the Ritz Carlton a bargain. Some Washington residents are offering to rent or swap their places. And then there's Dean Berlin.

Dean Berlin: The primo lot comes over here in the garden. The secondary lot can be a little bit closer to the compost heap.

Berlin wants to rent out his suburban Maryland backyard to campers. A hundred bucks a night, per tent. Now, inauguration day is January 20. Berlin featured a snowy picture of his backyard in his online ad to screen out the faint of heart. It worked. Two Alaskans responded. Sitting in his cozy dining room, Berlin is up front about the hard, cold ground rules.

Berlin: No extra amenities, limited bathroom facilities, no open fires and just the land and warm tea.

That doesn't appeal to Nikki LaCompte. She's a native of New Orleans, now living in Houston. She's determined to get herself and her four kids to Washington for the inaugural. She doesn't have any money, so in her online ad, she offered to cook Cajun favorites in exchange for Washington digs. But LaCompte says one Washington man had a very different idea. He wrote:

Nikki LaCompte: It seems that you have no problem with your children sleeping on the floor, and that would be great and you can sleep in the bed with me.

LaCompte made the mistake of telling her mother about that one.

LaCompte: She said, "Have you lost your mind?"

But even if LaCompte makes it to Washington, there's another hurdle. She doesn't have any inaugural tickets. Congress and members of the presidential inaugural committee will distribute about 240,000 tickets for Obama's swearing in right beforehand. They've been swamped with ticket requests. The tickets are supposed to be free. But people who will get free tickets and want to sell them have already contacted online brokers. Senator Diane Feinstein was very upset when she heard reports the tickets were already going for $40,000.

Diane Feinstein: This isn't an NFL football game. This is something that is very special. And so we believe the tickets should be free and not be scalped.

Feinstein is drafting legislation that would make it a crime to sell the free tickets. She asked Web sites to stop the ticket sales. EBay agreed. But Danny Matta hasn't. He owns GreatSeats.com.

Danny Matta: Thank you for calling Great Seats. You're looking to sell tickets on the Web site?

Matta is listing the tickets for about $500 to $1,700 apiece. He says Feinstein is stifling free enterprise.

Matta: You know, the American way is about being able to buy and sell anything that's needed. We're not out there specifically targeting it, but if somebody has a ticket to sell and offers it to us, we're going to take that offer.

Members of the inaugural committee are thinking about adding more events to accommodate the crowds. If they require tickets, Matta will sell them, too.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

Log in to post2 Comments

I guess I would be a little more in agreement with GreatSeats.com owner Danny Matta's inspiring appeal to how he's only acting on the American Way by making money off of selling inauguration tickets, if the tickets weren't public property that I already paid for by paying taxes. The sole purpose of the tickets is to allot the scarce space resources of the public venue. Mr. Matta and the original ticket holders should be ashamed of trying to make money off their sale.

I am a Republican, and believe in Capitalism. I feel pity for anyone who doesn't see this moment in history as something more than a Presidential Inauguration.

The moment in history is not about Obama; change will not take place because of this one man that we elected to office. This man is a symbol of hope, offering us an opportunity for change that can only come about if we come together as a unified people and movie toward a future that brings peace and prosperity to all of us.

Those that are taking this opportunity to make some extra money may not realize that they are not helping in this movement for change. The only way we can make a difference is if we open our hearts and our homes to anyone who wants to be here for this event. I posted my ad on CraigsList offering my home for free. There are going to be 15 people in sleeping bags sharing my floor, and I am asking for nothing in return; not a cent.

Imagine if instead of asking for money, we all opened our doors and offered what we could. This is what the Million Man March should have been; a march on our Capitol in support of change. We are the Hope; we are the possibility; we can make a difference if we make the change now, and not wait for someone to make it for us.

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