• Hi everyone,
    I want your advice on something. I am getting increasingly irritated with getting couch requests from people (notably, if they are native English speakers - I can get why a non-native speaker wouldn't read my profile) who meet all of the following criteria : a) have 0 references (if they are male - I don't host men with 0 references, but I'd be open to it if they showed me a number of ways to prove their safety), b) make no indication that they've read my profile (despite the fact that the very first thing I say, in bold, is that I am really busy, and only host people who I think would be a really good match with me), c) send a really vague message that has clearly been copy/paste, d) in the "why I want to meet you" section, it doesn't refer to anything about me, but just about why they want to go couchsurfing....



    It's getting a bit out of hand. I've been getting at least three a week (if not more), and it is making me not to want to log into couch surfing. I've actually missed the chance to meet good people BECAUSE I am starting to avoid my the 13 low-quality couch requests in my inbox. I decided to change my profile to "not able to host" because of these messages; I can't host very much (since I am pretty busy), but I do love to host people who are good matches for me, who have taken the time to write a good profile, who have a few good references (or, who send a REALLY awesome message), and who take the time to say why they want to meet me! However, I can't leave my profile on "able to host," or apparently even "maybe" because I will get 30 very low-quality CS requests.

    I've been on this site for almost three years now, and I've always lived in fairly popular places to visit. I usually get tons of requests (I was quite popular when I offered a full room to surfers in Toronto..! but, a lot of the requests were really good!).
    However, this phenomena of overwhelmingly inappropriate CS requests has taken off, for me, in the past 6-8 months. Has anybody else noticed this?

    If so, what have you done to deflect these terrible requests? I've been telling people that I am declining their request, and exactly why I am declining their request. Then, I have been providing them with advice on how to find hosts. There has also been a lot of "CS is great! It's FREE!"-type messages that I didn't get before...

    That being said, if I got a message from someone who was clearly very busy travelling, but who was looking for a host, and who then sent a vague message, I'd be 100% fine with hosting them (if they had lots of references). I get that people are busy, and I want to be able to give back to the members who are committed to this site.

    However, just today, I got another CS request from another user who said that I was being "too paranoid" by not accepting males with no references.... Uh, it's my choice, since I am opening up my home for $0 in hopes of making a friend, not to accept males with no references....! I don't think that's being terribly paranoid!

    What are your thoughts? Do members who have been here longer have a role jn pointing out to newer members how to send good requests?

    Do you ignore bad requests, or say why you are not accepting them?

    Everyone was new once, and I totally want to give new users a chance. However, it is getting harder and harder to do this when there are so many terribly written requests/requests from people who did not read your profile!!!

    Sorry for the rant! Anyone have any insight?

    Thanks!!
    Samantha
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    Hi Samantha, I haven't been hosting (I have been considering hosting now that I have my own place) but ever since the influx of "spam", I'm happy I didn't host. I can't speak of my experience with hosting, but the board itself is really driving me up the wall. I think veteran members stopped helping the newbies because it gets repetitive, you help one newbie, 10 newbies will appear.

    I'm not sure when this whole thing happened, but I think it's because CS became "mainstream" and everybody uses it, and don't know the purpose of it. For them, it's "oh hey i get to stay at somebody's place for free 'cause my friend did it so i'll do the same and i don't have to spend a penny" (i know it's a bit cynical and exaggerated but you get the picture). It might just be a coincidence that the influx of spam started right around the time they created this awful new interface. Kind of like Facebook (I have been using it since the very beginning when it was exclusive for students). It was great at first, then it got mainstream and it's filled with junk.

    I even got a case where I'm not hosting and somebody PMed me asking if i could host.. pretty much ignored it. It's a shame that CS has become like this. I have only been around CS for 1.5 years, and I had wonderful experiences meeting new people, unfortunately, I don' think i can rely on this anymore next time i go on a big trip.
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    What would you guys think about possibly synthesizing some of the information already on this site, and then adding some of our own, about how to properly send requests, behave while being hosted, and to leave feedback for newbies? We could make it multi-lingual, and then provide a link. Or, perhaps we could even make a short video (perhaps there would be a way to make this multi-lingual too/accessible to people with intermediate/low English skills)....
    I've got a sound engineer girlfriend who knows the basics of video editing. I could write the script, and I'd be fine with acting (maybe the do's and don'ts?). We don't have a camera that records high quality video though. Thoughts?
    Perhaps, one video could be about what couch surfing is and is not, and then another video about how to be a good CS member.
    Does something like this already exist in a comprehensive/accessible way?

    What do you guys think?
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    that's a great idea but there is no SPACE to put such videos ever since they changed the new layout. There were tons of videos in the past (I met the film makers when I was in oz, and they were interviewing some of my friends and i was somewhere in the background), on how to write a good couch request and what CS is all about. They were amazing videos that is on the home page and the top of page too.

    You can check on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDB2594CDEE2D3987
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    Honestly I don't know why I'm on here posting but I couldn't help it after reading your rant and it striking a chord in me. I've CSed a lot (as a guest) for years and the whole thing has changed so much in the last year or so.
    CS really has gone mainstream and I don't know if you can win anymore. The way it's advertised and spread gives the wrong impression to the newbies. You see it mentioned in articles and ads without explaining the concept instead of more of a word of mouth thing between travellers and/or friends of hosts.
    Sadly, since they changed to this latest format I find it much harder to deal with and priorities shifting to a more party/activity base rather than individual surfer/host interaction... This makes things a) less personal and respectful, b) tiresome having to sift through more crap to find what you want and c) harder to have a good experience overall. Surfers feel more entitled and expect to throw up their schedules and have hosts through themselves at them and it's no wonder they have bad results and hosts get offended. Without hosts the system collapses and I suspect there are many more surfers than hosts running around at any given moment.
    I've always taken a very serious and personal approach to looking for compatible hosts and had amazing results. I read the profiles. I rarely bother with newbies at all on this site because fewer and fewer are "getting it".
    I think as non-newbies we do need to put our foot down and tell people what we expect and teach the serious newbies how it all works, but the broad approach won't work. If you put just hang out and then make a note in your profile that you'll host the right kind of people don't worry, because the right kind of people will actually read your profile and know what it means. You won't miss out on many of them really. The newbies that are disrespectful and get no positive responses will eventually give up and not stay long in the system. We don't need them anyway....
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    Hi Samantha, I´m sorry to hear all that. As a newcomer to couchsurfing I read your posts with great interest. I have been setting up my profile the last couple days and sent my first three requests yesterday night. Don´t worry I am not going to ask you for a couch here, I have been living in Vancouver on a Working Holiday Visa for a year now (I am German) and have an own apartment which I share with two girls. I just felt like offering an attempt to rebuild your trust in men, although I don´t exaclty match the pattern since I am not a native speaker. So, in my case, I actually do prefer requesting couches from female hosts, simply because I like the female style of talking and of using a toilet (sorry for the details, but that´s just how it is). I´m just more interested in maybe more female=intellectual things rather than sports and cars, this is certainly unfair, I apologize to all the other men, but that´s the way I feel sometimes. However, since I am new here, I do not have any references, I am just hoping it´s going to work without. And I really try to find good matches since I am interested in getting to know each other a bit and not only have a couch for free, hope this is gonna work out, because I´ve already seen that many female hosts tend to prefer other females as guests, which I totally understand, but would you already know me, you would know that I am not only completely harmless concerning women, but that I also make a pretty good woman myself sometimes. This is what I wanted to say, hope it helps to remind of all the good and decent males who just prefer conversing with females. Let me exclusively for you conclude with some "broken German": Ich hoffe, du wirst bald wieder bessere Erfahrungen machen mit Couchsurfing.org. Nicht aufgeben! Grüsse, Joerg
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    Thanks for all of your thoughts, everyone. :) I just wonder what can be done... I guess helping serious people out is a good place to start (Joerg, I am going to message you), and then I am just going to leave my profile on "I can hang out." I think, if I ever turn it onto hosting again, I am going to outright decline newbies who send me an inappropriate request, and make a list or something (and, post it on a blog) about how to start couchsurfing, and all the reasons their request could have been declined. Maybe some people aren't being straight-up with these newbies (which, as a Canadian, it would not surprise me if many Canadians would feel uncomfortable doing)...
    Maybe we need really direct messages, "saying you joined Couchsurfing because it is expensive to travel in Vancouver is not a good reason to go couchsurfing. I will not be hosting you. Sorry!"

    Argh. I am sad that so many people have had this experience as well. I wonder what these adds were saying about couchsurfing...and, also, as older members, I guess we have to be really careful when we tell our friends about this site. I've always said "it's a great FREE way to travel, and to get a genuine experience." Maybe it's better for us to leave out the discussion of cost when trying to attract our friends to this site, and focus on the other things....and then slip it in that it's free to use and free to sign up.

    As for negative references, I feel the same way; I've had a few people that I would leave "they're okay" reference for... but, I think seasoned surfers and hosts know how to read through the lines to tell if you actually had a good experience.

    I really hope the site administrators step it up, and do something to stop this kind of behaviour (such as contacting people who have gotten more than a 50% "bad request" rating after sending 10 requests, or creating a "thsi is what couchsurfing is NOT video.)
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    Argh! This is exactly the kind of thing that is not cool: https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/threads/vancouver-british-columbia-canada-hey-hello-i-am-a-dutch-guy-and-travel-this-week-around-chillywack-like-to-visit-some-places-around-have-a-car-who-want-s

    Newbie telling me to chill out, and take info AWAY from my profile? What is going on here?! This is not called "you get help from us, and contribute nothing to the community." Gaaah!
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    I'm glad people still want to make this project work, but unfortunately, even if you have the best texts and/or videos or ideas, unless they change the layout and the "user experience" of the site, things will never change.

    Being a guy that works in IT (and web development) as a career, the first thing i noticed that there is NOTHING that states the mission of couchsurfing. As a newbie, if i were to go on the homepage, it says "find people to connect with", which for me, gives me the image of "meet new people". That's it. Nothing about cultural exchange, or what this is about. Then once you log in, you're brought to this awful page that is just a wall. Not personal. No indication to "click here to find a host" or guidelines, so my first intuition, as a new user for example, is to post here for a couch search, because they are assuming that's what they are supposed to do. Nobody reads the little words below saying "looking for a place to stay?".

    I'm afraid that until they change this layout or improve the user experience, the influx of spam and bad requests will just continue to increase exponentially.

    Another thing that is bugging is the so called "news article" about CS. I had a look at the times article (which is at the footer of the login page, along with articles from national geographic, forbes, etc). "The nonprofit site [couchsurfing.com] (they even got the URL wrong!), which aims to connect travelers, or "surfers," with hosts willing to offer a free place to stay, has some similarities to Facebook in that it includes user profiles, photos and friend requests. But it also incorporates a familiar eBay feature: feedback. [...] I first learned about the site last fall from my mom's friend, a middle-aged divorcée in Greenwich, Conn., who was planning on hosting travelers in her home to add a little excitement to life after her oldest son went to college. She recommended I use it for an upcoming trip to Europe." Nothing has been said about cultural exchange or travel exchange. It is advertised as a place to stay for free and people who hosts wants more excitement to the life, not because they want to share their travel experiences with other travellers.

    I'm actually not surprised that CS is going down this path. So sad, such a great concept. I guess uncle Ben Parker was right, with great powers comes great responsibilities.
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    I used to try to give gentle guidance to people when they gave shitty requests but I found that most people get way too defensive. As a result, I just ignore them now.

    It's a shame but people who really want to be involved in the hospex community usually know how to ask for help too.
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    Hi Samantha and everyone else!
    What you described doesn't happen only in Vancouver.
    A lot of people see couchsurfing only as a way to find free accommodation and don't even bother reading the profile or the guidelines. That's why I think that making a video would be a waste of time. If someone is interested in how to write a proper couch request, there's plenty of way to find that out on the website. If they are not, there isn't much you can do about it.
    That's very annoying... But if they don't spend a minute on you, why would you spend time on them? I think you should just refuse without an explanation or put a link to this topic in your answer or you should do the same, answering with a copy-paste message saying why you don't accept this kind of requests. A word is enough to the wise. If they are interested at getting better they will be glad you pointed that out and will make an effort next time, if they are not, they're probably gonna abandon couchsurfing soon because they won't be able to find any host (even copy-paste takes some effort). If you wanna be able to tell apart who had good intentions but it's a newbie and who just doesn't give a sh*t you could write a "password" on your profile saying to mention that word in their request.
    You could also leave your couch status on "I can hang out" and just invite people who wrote an open request and you think you might like.
    But I definitely agree that something should be done about people with a high percentage of "bad request".
    Cheers!
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    Even as a guy i can understand your concerns about just any one into your home . But as a guy who just heard about this site and signed up 4 days ago, i dont have any references. I understand rejecting people based on having no references but if everyone thought like this, people like me wouldn't get a chance to get a reference. I can understand your frustration though
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    Hey MacKenzie. The issue isn't people without a reference (it's very understandable to not have references if you just joined), it's people who copy pastes their request and not bother reading the host's profile or have a completely empty profile because they are too lazy to write something and hope to get free accommodation because they are too cheap to pay for a hostel. This isn't a free loading website.

    Newcomers might have trouble at first but if you have a complete profile and write a good personalized request, it will increase your chances of finding a host by a lot.
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    Fair enough. I dont know what im doing wrong then. Perhaps you could tell me what is so wrong with my profile then.
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    if your not happy on this pad follow an other pad
    how was your status when you started ??
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    Hi Samantha,

    I totally agree with you!

    I have been a member of couchsurfing since it started (well, a few months after it started). I was/am a member of similar sites to couchsurfing (been doing this kind of travelling since 1999), but I preferred this site because of the layout and Casey (the founder of this site) seemed like a really cool guy with a great vision.

    I used to only get a request perhaps once every few months, but as the years went on it was almost daily and I took many hiatuses from this site (and my response rated dropped from 97% to around 50% now) because I couldn't stand the stupid requests I got from people who obviously didn't read my very detailed and blunt profile. I actually do say "I will not host you if you are new, have no references or have never hosted before." There was a time when I was getting requests from homeless people who were accessing this site from a public computer in the downtown library.

    On the flip side, I have hosted people who have never hosted/are new to the site, but that has only been when the person's profile is completely filled out and when they send me a letter that is obviously not a copy and paste one.

    I used couchsurfing not just to save money on accommodations, but to meet people so I can immerse myself into the place where I am visiting. As this site has become more mainstream and "corporate" (click on About at the bottom of this page to see the board of directors), part of me has thought about quitting this site.

    Anyway, when someone messages me who I do not want to host/didn't read my profile, I just send a quick message saying, "sorry, can't host on those dates." And yes, there are hundreds of messages that I left unanswered because I was on one of my hiatuses and didn't want to log in here.

    There is no point in explaining that you won't host them because you're a single female, blah, blah, blah. Keep it simple. There are people who will host those with no references.

    As for that guy who said you're paranoid... I would have told him to F-off. It's your home after all and it's up to you who you will allow in it. There is a reason why in some countries it's legal to shoot trespassers on your own private property.
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    all the fus for what ?
    just ignore these people
    an put your time in the ones you wanna have to visit you
    are you put names here of people that you don t like after they stay
    at your place
    just to make them black
    ??
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    and cristopher
    do you like to stay in a country were people shoot you when you enter there propperty ??
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    Jeroen...

    Samantha obviously wanted to vent and she mentioned one person who was pushy even after she said no.

    And yes, I do visit and stay in COUNTRIES where it's legal to shoot someone for trespassing on private property. I just don't try staying in places/homes where I am NOT WELCOMED.
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    oke thats oke i hope you r not go by ecedense in to some ones his propperty and get shot
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    Hi everyone,

    CS is a tool!

    Each one of its members decides the rules to apply, which means there are no general rules. I accept males with no references, depending on my feelings about the request sent to me. But that's my problem.

    Yes, there's a risky/uncontrolled part in hosting/surfing and that's what makes CS so interesting. It's like hitch-hiking, a quest for spontaneity, genuine exchange and generosity. Total security is boring as hell.

    As to people who don't get the message, we as experienced csers, have the responsability to educate newbies, wether their approach is genuine or not. That's part of the job -unfortunately?

    All the best,

    Sebastien
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    Re Mackenzie - I just replied to you in a message. Welcome to couch surfing! You're totally on the right track, and you're a perfect example of someone who won't have any trouble finding a host (since you filled out your profile, and seem to be here for reasons other than a free hostel). I told you this in a message, but I am going to post it here in case other people stumble on this thread: I don't mean to express frustration with people like you, and I'd love to meet you (and, any other new people who want to be here for an exchange RATHER than "you = free sofa" who I have things in common with) for coffee, and proceed to get to know you/leave a positive reference after. Meeting members, or just getting a friend on the site already, to vouch for you, is a good place to start. Thanks for taking the time to fill out your profile. If you're still having trouble, offer other members outside contact info (like Facebook, or whatever you use) so that they can verify that you have other connections/that you don't just have 0 references because you're a robber and deleted your other profile or something. :)
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    Re Jarett - I totally agree with you.
    I am not complaining about people with limited internet time (I talked about this with a few CSers before, and people that I've hosted who had limited internet time), and language/culture/ect. need to be considered when evaluating the "quality" of the requests. I am frustrated not because of people with 0 references, but because there seem to be a lot of new members who do not understand what the aims of CS are. For example, a year or so ago, I got a total of 0 requests outright stating that "I want to stay with you because hostels are expensive." This is not facilitating the aims (at leas, the aims that I understand, of CS). I am worried about what caused this shift in public perception about what CS is, and about what I can do, as someone who talks about the amazingness of CS a lot/loves this site/has met many great friends here/who has - aside from this - nothing but good things to say about CS/has used CS a lot/ has loved hosting people/ ect. to help new members learn about how to use the site.

    Most importantly, I am frustrated with the fact that I've stopped logging in due to "message debris," and ended up not meeting/helping/getting to know a lot of people due to the fact that I've been getting a lot of inappropriate messages from new users about wanting things from me.
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    re everyone -

    I am conflicted. I want to keep being involved with this project, and help provide new members with resources (as others provided me with) on how to start off on CS.

    I think, to do my part to help serious new members get involved, I want to make a series of short, 1-2 min. multi-lingual videos about what CS is, and is not (focusing on the languages commonly spoken by travellers to Vancouver), and how to properly get involved.

    I picture a series of videos (1-5 mins) about how to properly send a request, how to properly fill out a profile, how to get started on CS, how to behave in a host's home, and how to leave references.

    I think it would be really cool to alternate the spoken languages/text in the videos, and provide subtitles underneath for the other languages (I am thinking French, German, Mandarin, and Spanish as a base, but I'd be interested in other languages too).

    Do you think this could help? We could provide this to CS hosts to post in their profiles/to use as replies, and use these videos to reply to bad requests.

    I am really upset about this because I love CS, and I hate to see people being turned off of it because of newbies (some of whom may be good, some of whom may be bad, and some of whom may not be engaging properly due to linguistic barriers...which is not their fault).

    Before I start to even think about doing this/writing a script/whatever, do you guys thing this would help? Futhermore, are there any videos that are accessible to multi-lingual users that exist already ? (Notably, for non Anglophone surfing in Anglophone regions? I wonder if the videos in other languages would be different..)

    Please give me your honest thoughts. I want to go ahead with starting to conceptualize this if you think it is a good idea/if it would be helpful in helping new people learn what to do :).
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    ANTARKEIA - thanks! I agree. I do think we need to educate new members... I have written people back in other languages to help them try to understand how/why their request wasn't good, and I have also replied to all of the requests I have gotten..... I do think I will make a standard reply.

    One thing I've got from this is that I need to make my profile French/English bilingual (adding terrible German where possible); I also want to add that I need readers with limited time to connect to the internet to tell me that.

    Thanks for the help, guys!!! :)
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    Samantha, It's a great idea if you do want to produce videos such as those! However, I suggest you post it to YouTube and/or make a blog, so you have a single repository of that information.

    Myself and dozens of other couchsurfers spent hundreds of hours building the Wiki for Couchsurfing, but after 4 years they took it down - so that was very disappointing.

    Some of that information was migrated to the independent site http://Couchwiki.org. Also, I have a beginners guide http://roymarvelous.com/projects/couchsurfing-for-dummies-guide-tips/

    To any newbies wondering how to build references, the easiest way is to host first, go to events and contact couchsurfers in your area to meet up for a coffee and ask them for tips. Participate before you take.

    One last note, if you're interested, check out http://bewelcome.org
    It's a smaller hospex but completely non-profit, open-source and run 100% by volunteeers.

    Roy

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