- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

The hottest free ticket in town is getting expensive.

After the Obama White House distributed passes to the annual Easter Egg Roll online Thursday, six tickets apparently sold on eBay for nearly $1,000, while dozens of ticket seekers posted ads elsewhere offering everything from Redskins seats to a professional photo shoot for a chance to attend the April 13 event.

Leticia Barr said she thought it was a “brilliant idea” when the White House decided to give away tickets to the annual Easter Egg Roll over the Internet. But then she saw that some tickets were being sold through an online auction house - and now she’s not so sure.

“Like so many parents in the D.C. area, I thought about camping out in past years. And this year, when I heard they were giving the tickets out online, I was happy they made the move,” Ms. Barr said in a phone interview. “But it’s unfortunate that people would profit from an event that’s supposed to be free and available to the public.”

In previous years, people had to stand in line to get tickets. By Thursday evening, tickets were distributed online to people in 41 states, though many parents complained about the ticket distribution site crashing.

Semonti M. Mustaphi, deputy press secretary for first lady Michelle Obama, said Friday that officials were working with online sellers to prevent scalping.

“We monitor Web sites that facilitate third-party sales to ensure that tickets to White House functions are used properly,” Ms. Mustaphi said. “Companies are cooperating, and sales of the tickets will not be valid.”

According to the White House, the tickets have bar codes and a name printed on them to prevent duplication. Officials also said they are giving out tickets to D.C. schoolchildren and military families.

A link on the eBay Web site notes that two adult tickets and four children’s tickets sold for $979.99 on Thursday afternoon. The same seller also was offering tickets to a Dave Matthews concert and had recently sold local basketball and baseball team tickets.

On Craigslist.org, would-be attendees offered deals to anyone willing to give up their prized tickets.

One ad offered two regular-season Redskins tickets for one game (no parking) for two adult and two children’s Egg Roll tickets. Another bidder offered to provide free consultation for a solar hot-water system installation in exchange for tickets.

Ms. Barr said the Obama administration ought to consider fixing the glitches or going back to giving out tickets to those who stand in line.

“It was disappointing for us in the D.C. area,” she said.

On her blog at www.techsavvymama.com, Ms. Barr joked that next year, “if they switch to Ticketmaster, then I might just have to vote for another president in four years.”



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