Going to Massachusetts? Read this. (Everyone else, go away! Nothing to see here)

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If you happen to be going to Massachusetts (or if you live there already, since I don't see anything about residents not being allowed to use this...) you may be interested to know about the Mass Value Pass. Today, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT), along with the state's lodging and restaurant associations, announced that they're instituted a program that will run until March 31.

Coping With the Economy

    To try to spur tourism and help out local businesses, the state of Massachusetts is sponsoring a new program called MassValuePass which has coupons, special offers and huge discounts.

    www.massvacation.com

    You don't have to just let unwanted gifts sit around in your house, gathering dust. With belts tightening, you need to make use of all your assets, so a new site, barterquest.com has found a way to match up people and their stuff to barter.

    barterquest.com

    To deal with the rising cost of food, Royal Caribbean is adding a surcharge for steaks served in its dining rooms.

    AP

    Hybrids are one option for fuel-conscious drivers, of course, but many are now opting for even smaller vehicles: scooters. Sales are up 66 percent so far in 2008. Honda is releasing its 2009 model early to capture as many customers as possible.

    M. Spencer Green, AP

    Blaming inflation and rising food and energy prices, the 99 Cents Only discount store announced it was bumping its top price to 99.99 cents -- or one-hundredth of a cent less than a dollar -- the first price increase in the chain's 26-year history.

    Nick Ut, AP

    As economic troubles keep diners at home, restaurants are starting to cut back on portion sizes and are using cheaper ingredients -- even high-end hot spots. In New York, restaurant owners admit to shrinking lobsters, subbing shiitake mushrooms for morels and offering discount appetizers.

    Larry Crowe, AP

    To combat high food prices, many shoppers are turning to bulk purchases, which is driving up sales of stand-alone freezers. A new study shows that sales were up 7 percent in the first six months of the year.

    M. Spencer Green, AP

    Soaring prices for scrap metal may make demolition derbies a thing of the past. Owners who used to sell their worn-out wheels for $50 to $100 are turning to scrap dealers instead, getting nearly triple the price.

    Al Fenn, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

    Cities are cracking down on people who steal from recycling bins, but the practice is getting so widespread that some weekly newspaper publishers going further and hiring private detectives and setting up stakeouts to catch poachers in the act.

    Paul Sakuma, AP

    With foreclosures at an all time high, homeless is rising sharply. One study says that 54 percent of foreclosure victims list moving into emergency shelters as one of their plans. More details.

    Mario Tama, Getty Images

You download their Mass Pass, and you'll save at least 25% at over 300 hotels, restaurants and attractions. So if you go to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, you can buy two tickets for the price of one, and you can get 25% off admission to the Salem Witch Museum. In Nantucket, at the Cliff Lodge, prices are 60% off the regular rates.

All of that said, I can't imagine that a lot of tourists drop by Massachusetts right now. I just checked Weather.com, and the temperature looks to be about 5 degrees. Still, that's kind of the point. There probably wouldn't be a need for a Mass Pass if these were warmer months. So if you go or were planning to travel there between now and March 31, you can save some money using the pass, and at the same time help their tourism industry, which is probably flagging right about now.

Meanwhile, all you folks from North Dakota or Iowa who aren't traveling East and clicked on this story anyway, don't say I didn't warn you.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist, author and blogger.


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