I was wondering, what were the most common issues you feel like you needed clear answers to, and couldn’t find (i.e - my host kicked me out, someone made a move on me, my guest littered my house etc.)
I didnt have real issues. No one litterd my house, just one time i was asked to leave, when hosting luckily noone made a move on me (i filtered a lot with writing- but in hangouts yes that was most common, but not when hosting).
So my most common issue was when guest accepted but than didnt show up. This happened a lot with new members that didnt really know what it was about.
Do you mean things you wanted a FAQ for or some tool to help you handle them, or just to be able to see if the thing happening was normal/under CS values?
I have scores of things I could complain about but a little more details would be good!
I mostly hosted and the most common issue was people who clearly did not know how to send a good request – and in many cases clearly did not know or share CS values. Along the same lines, some people did not know how to write a good reference (meaningful, thorough, helpful, etc).
I also found it incredibly difficult to get answers/clarifications to policy questions (at least in a timely manner - if at all).
About 10 years ago when I started using hospex platforms:
as a HOST the main problem I had was caused by my lack of experience: a few times people did not show up and this kinda messed my agenda for that day as for me hospex has always been about spending time with the people I am hosting/visiting and not as a “free hotel”. After a few times that this happened, the solution that I found and that since then proved to be effective is that no matter how much time in advance the person writes to me the first time, my answer to them (if I want to meet them) is always this: “write to me in the evening before the day we agreed to meet to confirm that You are coming; if I don’t receive your confirmation before 20:00 UTC of the day before the day we agreed to meet then I will consider that You changed your mind.” Never had any problems any more with no-shows ever since I adopted this method.
as a GUEST was also caused by my lack of experience I was making the mistake not to plan the time and meeting point with my potential host before starting the trip, so a few times it happened that while I was on the road to them, just like 10 hours before meeting they said something like “sorry, I cannot host you anymore because…”. Then I realized I had to change my approach and I had the idea that a way to prevent potential hosts from cancelling our meeting was to agree in advance, before I get on the road, where and when to meet exactly (either a place in their village/town/city either directly at their home in which case they are supposed to give me the address. I leave no room for misunderstandings or doubts about the precise time and meeting place. Also in this case after adopted this method I never had any problems anymore with potential hosts cancelling our meeting.
I think expectations are really helpful to set.
There have been times that I was a surfer, and my host worked super long hours, so we rarely saw each other at all. I am pretty independent so I don’t mind doing my own thing, but not seeing your host can make it feel a bit isolating.
I suspect there have been times where that is the case when I was hosting as well, when I would have limited time to share with surfers because I was very busy. Similarly, there have been CSers who had a full itinerary planned out and people to see when they were in my city, which meant that I barely saw them, and my place was more of a crash pad than anything.
I think it’s important for surfers and hosts to create time to spend together - even if it’s just dinner together at the host’s home. Similarly, a lot of people need their alone time, so being up front about how much time a host/surfer can or wants to spend together during the stay is important.
It always came down to communication and lack of, especially when you’re constantly on the road, it’s good to keep in touch and up to date. Once hosting was agreed upon there were far to many times where getting contact information like mobile#, address, or even just a meeting spot was like pulling teeth.
I get people are busy and have their lives and last minute requests can be difficult, but even a week in advanced should be enough time to provide proper details. I felt like hosts are so habituated to their routine and city that they forget what it’s like to be in a new city let alone a new country trying to figure everything out at once. Knowing where you’re going to be the night you show up is a relief.
Also on a completely different note, the issue of all the “Naturists”, “Naturalists”, and “Nudists”. No judgement on how people live their lives, but that shouldn’t be imposed on by the host. CS had a lot of that and I felt like that wasn’t the place for it, or at least not the reason most people joined.
Guess there’s not that many other places to impose the dress code is in birthday suite…
It’s good to hear this. I send my surfers such detailed info about how to get to my place by any mean possible that I’m afraid I look crazy sometimes (I am not crazy, it’s a huge city and it’s easy to get lost or scammed, I just try to make it easy for them)
Honestly that makes a huge difference, I’d rather have a ton of info than none at all.
I’ve been blessed because I only had neutral or good hosting experiences.
So no-shows (30%?) has to be the most common problem for me. No big deal though, it’s frustrating at first, but then I learned to:
- never change my schedule / never wait for a guest
- give personal information / address only at the last moment
- never consider a guest booked until they show up at the door
It goes with the easy-going-ness of CS I guess
I used to have a notepad open with super detailed directions (from any direction and at any time) that I could copy and paste into a message to a surfer
It was probably a bit extra, but nobody ever got lost trying to find the place.
Oooh I would much prefer that someone is up front about that so that I could decide accordingly, rather to be surprised when I get there.
Some people are nudists, and I don’t think it should preclude them from hosting willing/informed surfers
This attitude led me to leave a negative reference to a potential host because this attitude only created confusion in my case.
Who is able to access Couchsurfing is possible to read the negative reference I wrote by seeing the References section on my profile http://www.couchsurfing.com/people/4driano
(Please notice that at the moment of writing this I am locked out of my CS profile because of the paywall, so if You want to contact me, contact me via my profile here.)
If when I show up at one’s door and I see that things are not as agreed, this is a valid reason for me to leave a negative reference.
I went to the link you suggested to have a look at on CS regarding negative references.
First of all you don’t have any references from surfers or hosts which is something I like to read first to see what others have experienced.
I’m not trying to be critical, but you are accepting guests on CS but can’t access your own CS page and nothing in your profile has been verified with no references in the two sections I look at. That to me highlights a lot of common problems in hosting/surfing…especially trying to determine what someone is like before staying with them or accepting them as a guest.
I think it’s more than appropriate to be critical about that, just not towards individual users, but the company responsible for this mess. By locking out everyone that is not willing to pay without any notice, they effectively distorted the entire database around people’s availability. You are a paying customer on couchsurfing now? Why not let them know how they devalued the usability of the site by rushing a policy that flooded it with ghost profiles, that are not even discernible as such?
Trying to get a good idea about who you’ll be staying with or hosting is one of those problems that couchers needs to overcome. Trust and safety are big factors if couchers wants to attract members and be successful.
In fact, maybe a new model needs to be invented. Couchers doesn’t seem to be going too far away from the CS model. CS was extremely good for its time, just like youth hostels were in the decades before that.
There will always be the need for hostels and a website for free hospitality. Instead of a re-invention of couchsurfing, perhaps a new invention for the next big thing in travel is needed.
Does something come after the cheap hostels era, then the free beds era.
If the ideas to overcome common problems in this pre-launch are good, there’s nothing stopping CS from stealing these ideas and adopting them as their own as they already have the system in place and membership - it just needs improvements and CS will be doing their own surveys and analysing where they went wrong and how to fix it.
But is couchsurfing itself the real problem and outdated by not satisfying the needs of tomorrow’s travellers?
I’m not sure yet what you are aiming for here, but that could be an interesting topic on it’s own, in case you want to start it?
But I’d say let’s get back on the topic at thand here:
Adrian gave an example of a host that insisted on the formal process of accepting an invite, rather than just providing him his address to drop by. In his reference he accuses the host of only doing that because he’s kind of greedy for official references, instead of being sincerely sympathetic to travellers’ needs. He also complains about hosts not willing to understand that travellers have limited access to the internet and can’t easily respond in a timley fashion.
I’d actually disagree with that view in both mentioned aspects and rather see problems as such:
- Surfers not respecting the formal request process
I’m actually a big fan of trustroots and would say all the exchange can work great without much formality. But not if you aim at a bigger scale. The formal process supports some valuable goals beyond providing ‘official’ hosting references:
- introducing and educating new members how the platform works
- integrating your exchanges with a calendar and availability options (that’s especially helpful if you host a lot)
- emphasizing references that are indeed based on personal interactions and not online exchange. I’d actually argue for entirely dropping the option to leave references without personal interaction. Or call these references differently.
- Surfers not caring about online internet access when travelling
It’s really not so hard nowadays. And you’re just being a big pain to someone offering their house to you, by responding every 6 hours or such. I remember a guy publicly complaining on our city forum about the bad hospitality culture in the city and that he had to sleep in the park in the rain that night. When in fact he received hosting offers and just did not take care to get access to the internet.
So I think we should actually communicate this strongly to new members: Show some respect to your host and take care to respond in a timely fashion when receiving offers!
It’s really not so hard nowadays.
I do not think that matters. But if a surfer choose not to be online during his traveling then he can communicate that clearly in advance. Also when traveling in areas without internet coverage. It is just about managing expectations.
True, guess I overstated that! Probably also eager to move a bit out of the recent kumbaya vibe on the forum…