Want to Buy Tickets to the Obama Inauguration? Let The Buyer Beware

November 14, 2008

DAYTON, OHIO, November 14, 2008 - While a record number of Americans want to be a part of history and attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, only 250,000 tickets are up for grabs. While many Web sites are claiming to sell tickets online, your Better Business Bureau is advising the public purchasing scalped tickets could leave you out in the cold with empty pockets on Inauguration Day.

So, how does someone get a ticket to the most popular event of 2009? The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies is responsible for divvying out tickets to Congressional representatives. It’s then up to the Congressmen and women to hand out free tickets to constituents the day before the inauguration. According to the Times Wires Services, some members of Congress—who usually have several hundred tickets to pass out at their discretion—have received thousands of requests. Senator Cardin (D-Md.) told the Washington Post his office had received 40,000 requests for tickets.

The fact tickets haven’t even been distributed to the members of Congress yet hasn’t stopped online scalpers from trying to rake in cash from patriotic Americans. A CNN.com report found some online ticket brokers were selling VIP seats for upwards of $20,000 each. While many online brokers offer a money-back guarantee if they can’t secure the tickets, the purchaser will likely already be en route to Washington, DC, before receiving the bad news the broker couldn’t provide the promised tickets.

"Considering these online brokers won’t even know for sure they have tickets until just before the Inauguration, someone looking to be a part of history might travel all the way to Washington and spend January 20 watching the swearing in from their hotel room," said John North, BBB president and CEO.

Not only are scalpers trying to sell tickets they don’t have, Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Inaugural Committee, plans to introduce legislation this month that would make scalping inaugural tickets a misdemeanor crime. The inaugural committee is also alerting lawmakers it’s a violation of Congress’ code of ethics for members or staff to sell their tickets.

While there are a number of issues associated with purchasing inaugural tickets online, for those willing to assume the risk, the following steps should be taken to reduce the chances of being ripped off:

  • When buying from an online ticket reselling company, always look for the BBBOnLine seal. The logo is a sign the company has a good reputation for satisfying customers and a secure Web site for processing payments.
  • Paying with a credit card or through PayPal will provide protection and the opportunity for potential reimbursement if the company is fraudulent. Never pay with a cashier’s check or wire money to a seller because there’s no way to get money back if the tickets don’t arrive.
  • People who have been ripped off buying tickets online can file a complaint with your Better Business Bureau online at www.bbb.org or by calling (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301. They can also file complaints with the state Attorney General’s office.

Because of the overwhelming requests for tickets, some members of Congress are planning to distribute tickets via a lottery system. You can contact your local Member of Congress (www.house.gov) or U.S. Senators (www.senate.gov) to request tickets and get your name in the hopper.

Contact your BBB for more advice you can trust on avoiding scams and fraud. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley

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