Special Classifieds Feature

Buy Washington Post Inauguration newspapers, books, and more

Fraudulent Craigslist Ad Asks $300 for Hotel Room "Reservation Only"

The advertisement on Craigslist wasted no time getting to the hype: “Be A Part of History!”

It went on: “Be there to witness a moment in history that you won’t soon forget. You’ll be able to tell your children or grandchildren that you were there. America has waited so long for this moment. Witness the inauguration of our first African-American President, Barack Obama.”

So what was the product for sale? A hotel room at Hilton in Gaithersburg, Md., available for a four-night stay for $270.07 per night, totaling $1,080.28.

“What a steal!” the ad said. There were pictures of the hotel, along with a description of the hotel’s amenities taken right from the Hilton Web site.

Amid the mad scramble for housing for inaugural week Jan. 20, this might have seemed like a good deal. After all, most rooms in the District are booked and average hotels were going for up to $1,000 a night, according to booking agents.

But a closer look at the advertisement revealed that the Craigslist poster wasn’t offering the room. It was asking $300 for a “reservation only.”

“This does not include your hotel cost,” the ad noted.

So $300 was just for the right to have a reservation? Is this for real?

Inauguration Watch contacted Hilton General Manager Ed Brogan, who was stunned to learn about the ad. It was absolutely not the hotel’s doing, he said.

“My take on this is this is somebody’s way to collect $300 to try to make a reservation for them. That is crazy,” Brogan said. “This must be the latest greatest” scam.

Brogan said he has almost sold out his 301 rooms for about $300 to $500 per night, depending on the size of the room. In a normal January, the rate would be about $209 to $259, he said.

Brogan sent a message to Craigslist, flagging the ad for removal, and it was removed today.

But Inauguration Watch copied the text of the ad:

Barack Obama Inauguration Hotel Room Reservation Only! Jan.19-23, 2009 - $300 (Gaithersburg, Maryland) Reply to: sale-932439072@craigslist.org [?]Date: 2008-11-24, 2:22PM EST Be A Part Of History! Be there to witness a moment in history that you won’t soon forget. You’ll be able to tell your children or grandchildren that you were there. America has waited so long for this moment. Witness the inauguration of our first African-American President, Barack Obama.I have one non-smoking Standard room with King Size Bed (RESERVATION ONLY), available for a four-night stay for $270.07 per night (tax included) totaling $1080.28 for all four nights (tax included). What a steal! In DC, hotel rooms are going for $1000+ per night. At this price you can make it a family affair. The Hilton has a free shuttle that will take you straight to the Metro so you don’t have to drive. The shuttle will also be available on Inauguration Day. Check-in time is 3:00pm and Check-out time is 12:00pm. If you’re not able to make it, you have until 4:00pm on January 19th (date of arrival) to cancel.TAKE NOTE 1. No refunds will be given 2. Once payment is received (through PayPal), we will do a conference call with the hotel and the reservation will be transferred into your name. You will also need to give the hotel your credit card number so that they have it on file to hold the room and cover any possible incidentals 3. The $300.00 charge is for the RESERVATION ONLY! This does not include your hotel cost

By David A Nakamura  |  November 26, 2008; 12:00 PM ET  | Category:  Housing
Previous: An Obama Fan Who Isn't Coming | Next: Sources: Organizers Considering 'Day of Service'

Add Inauguration Watch to Your Site
Stay on top of the latest from Inauguration Watch! This easy-to-use widget is simple to add to your own Web site and will update every time there's a new installment of Inauguration Watch.
Get This Widget >>


we are now in an era where every brother is going to get paid...

Posted by: DwightCollins | November 26, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Dwight, I can only assume you mean "black people" when you say "every brother." Hardly in my opinion. Sounds to me more like the scamming entreprenurial spirit of a Republican.

Posted by: SteadyState | November 26, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

THAT listing may not have been legit, but this one is.... We have dorm-style rooms available for the inauguration and need to get the word out, can you help ?? Rates are $30/pp and we have food service and transportation to the city available....

Our facility is conveniently located on 175 majestic acres, nestled in the beautiful Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. Concord offers a challenging low ropes course, adventure paintball courses, indoor game rooms, and a variety of meeting areas. We comfortably accommodate groups of 20 up to as many as 150 people in our large single-story houses and cabins. Concord is under 2 hours from the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan areas, and only 25 minutes from the “I-81 Corridor” at Winchester, VA.

Gini LaMaster
Concord Retreat
PO Box 9
Yellow Spring, WV 26865

Posted by: info57 | November 26, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The ad is perfectly clear. The person has a reservation and will sell it for $300. Where's the problem?

(And yes, the first comment is more thinly-veiled racism from the losing side.)

Posted by: Dawny_Chambers | November 26, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

How is that any different from someone asking $50 to wait in line at an Apple store for when the next generation iPhone is released? (Obviously, they're only offering a space in line -- a reservation, if you will.)

Somehow the ethics of this practice take on a new bent when it's political?

Posted by: Tinkeric | November 26, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The scam here is the hotels that are charging $500 (like the Gaithersburg Hilton, which would never get that kind of daily rate except in the gouging environment surrounding the inaugural).

How is this any different than the Washington Redskins and other NFL teams selling Personal Seat Licenses (PSL) in which the buyer pays thousands of dollars simply for the rights to buy season tickets for thousands of dollars more? I guess the only difference is in the party doing the selling (a professional organization vs. an individual)

The person selling the right to the hotel reservation was being an entrepreneur. He/she was super clear what was being sold, even detailing check-out rules and information on the hotel shuttle, so I remain unsure why Craigslist felt the ad - which wasn't deceptive - should be taken down. If someone was willing to purchase the reservation opportunity, what is the problem?

Don't fool yourself...this kind of selling goes on all the time in cities with big events and sold-out rooms (go look up “Super Bowl Hotel” today on eBay, and you’ll see a similar listing to “take over my reservation” for Tampa hotel room on weekend of the big game).

It happened in Denver and the Twin Cities during the political conventions (where folks with reserved rooms sold the opportunity to take-over the reservation for a fee) From personal experience I once gladly paid an individual a fee for the chance to acquire his hotel reservation during the Final Four, when i decided the week before to attend and needed a room in a sold out town. It was the best $150 I spent for a late chance to get a good room. That was my choice and the seller was clear (and not deceptive) on what he was (and wasn't) selling. So where was the crime in that transaction, or the one being offered on Craigslist?

Posted by: 4jhawks | November 30, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company