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How Hubway Scams Consumers
By Daniel S. Smith
05/09/2017
On Sunday morning, I found myself strolling along the Freedom Trail in downtown Boston, MA.  I had a lot of ground to cover and an early afternoon flight to catch, so I decided to rent a bike from a Hubway station.  The least time I could check out the bike for was 24 hours ($8), even though I imagine most riders use the bikes for no longer than an hour or two.  
 

They really should charge per hour as opposed to a flat-day rate, but for $8 I wasn't going to get worked up about it. 
 
Then I got back to Detroit and noticed I had a much lower debit card balance than made sense.  I scanned my charges, and realized that Hubway had charged me $101!  Surely this must be a mistake, right? 
 
Wrong.  I scanned their website from top to bottom and they don't offer a phone number to call (which they should) but rather a place where I can write them a message (and probably hear back in 5 days) and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's).  
 
One of the most popular FAQ's is "Unknown Charges":
i. $101 security hold: When you purchase a 24-Hour or 72-Hour Pass, a pre-authorization security deposit hold of $101 per bike is placed on your card account to insure against any additional usage fees you might incur. This is not a settled charge, but if you use a debit card to purchase a pass, it might result in overdraft fees if you don’t have sufficient funds in your account to cover the hold. For this reason, we recommend using a credit card when purchasing a 24-Hour or 72-Hour Pass.
Oh, so you mean that renting a bike for an hour is actually going to initially cost me $109 as opposed to the $8 you advertised?  That would have been nice to know, say, before I rented the bike!
 
But of course you know that if you told me that, I would have never rented the bike, so you hid that important tidbit of information from consumers in order to maximize your profits because you are the only bike-sharing service in the city and don't have competition.  You make us consent to a 133 pg. contract on a tiny little screen that you know no one reads, and put that information towards the end instead of making the $101 charge just as visible at the $8 charge.  
 
As of Monday at 10 AM, I still have not been issued a refund.  Imagine had I not had enough money in my account to pay parking at the airport,  check my luggage, park at school this morning etc.  This is very realistic possibility, in fact I was only a few dollars away from this being the case.  
 
This policy, in turn, only adversely effects low-income people, revealing Hubway's true colors.  $101 could be the difference between buying dinner for your family or not eating on a given night.   
 
For this, I believe five things need to happen.  
 
1.) Hubway must immediately paint the $101 deposit on their stations
 
2.) Hubway must create a separate screen that asks their customers the consent to the $101 deposit before they swipe their credit cards
 
3.) Government regulators must require Hubway to do the above 
 
4.) Another bike-sharing company should move into Boston and send Hubway out of business 
 
5.) Jay Walder, The CEO of MotivateCo (the company that owns Hubway) should issue a press release apologizing to all consumers like me who have been adversely effected by this scam and clearly annunciate their new policy.
 
I understand that none of these five steps are good for Hubway's profits and therefore they have no incentive to change.  I hope my writing of this column causes them to reconsider.  
 
Edit:  I wrote this on May 8th, but as of May 9th, I still haven't received the $101 back and my account is overdrafted.  Therefore, I don't have any card in which I can use to pay for parking at school.  I've noticed multiple complaints online of people who have waited 10-15 days but no luck.  I called Hubway's customer service after doing a forensic investigation for their number, and there I encountered one of the rudest people I've ever met.  I recommend Jay Walder immediately resigns!
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