Monday, October 21, 2013

Subsidized Hubway membership: easy to get, easy to use

I signed up for a subsidized Hubway membership last week. It was surprisingly hassle-free; I just called the number, spoke to a very helpful associate, and was e-mailed a code to enter into the Hubway site that changed the yearly fee from $85 to $5. A free helmet arrived in the mail a few days later. The person on the phone didn’t need me to send in any verification that we receive low-income benefits, which was surprising. Also interesting to note: the subsidized memberships are free for up to an hour, whereas the full-price membership starts charging you after a 30-minute trip.

Using the bikes is pretty fun. There are stations at a number of the subway stops and at major intersections that aren’t served by the trains. It’s cheaper and more fun than taking the train if you’re just going a few stops, and it’s certainly faster than waiting for buses or walking to get to areas that aren’t near a train line.

The only downside is that there’s no way to take kids along with you. The bike is basically a standard cruiser setup, so I suppose one could attach a trailer or child seat if it’s the type that attaches only to the seatpost. A trailer/trail-behind might be easier because it could be locked to a bike rack once you get to your destination, whereas a child seat would have to be carried around. I couldn’t find anything saying attaching things to the Hubway bikes is prohibited, but I think I’ll wait and see if any of the car-free or cycling bloggers try it and report back before I give it a try. It would be really cool if Hubway eventually rolled out some bikes with child seats or trailers so users could carry small passengers. Tandems would be cool too for older kids or for adult reluctant cyclists, and would be a way to relax the rule that all riders must be at least 16.

Class action suits for fun and profit

You know those ads on daytime television looking for people who’ve been harmed by some drug or product? Because Americans just really like to sue each other? Sure, I appreciate living in a free country and having a less-corrupt-than-many-other-countries justice system available for times when someone is truly harmed by the actions of another.

Apparently though, we also have a justice system and a culture in which someone will sue Kellogg claiming they were duped by Mini-Wheats advertising and led to believe these little hay bales would make their children smarter. And the person suing Kellogg can actually win such a suit, or at least convince Kellogg to settle.

What does this mean for us little people, other than being funny and slightly disturbing? Well, the sue-happy person suffering from post-mini-wheat trauma disorder decided to pursue this as a class action suit instead of just a standard lawsuit. This means that anyone who opts into the class of people who were misled and traumatized by Kellogg’s Mini Wheats can receive a check in the mail for $5-$45 depending how many boxes s/he purchased and how many people opt in to the settlement.

This site and this one both contain dozens of these class action lawsuits. Obviously for the suits that will pay thousands of dollars to people whose Porsche was defective, the claimant has to provide proof of purchase. But for the ones that pay between $1 and $50 to people who purchased Naked juice or L’OrĂ©al hair products, the claimant just has to swear to having actually made a purchase under penalty of perjury.

I’m planning on going on the site every month or so and finding products I’ve purchased. Honestly, I don’t have any problem with getting some cereal refunds from a company that makes millions of dollars per year.

Food stamps can get you more than just food

If you aren’t receiving food stamps, check out the eligibility screener. Depending on housing costs and a few other variables, your family income can be up to about $35,000 a year for a family of three and you’ll qualify for a few dollars in food stamps. It’s worth applying if you think you’ll be eligible for anything whatsoever though, because once you have food stamps, you’re considered to be “receiving public assistance” and can get a number of other helpful benefits and services.