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Confessions of a Couchsurfing host
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Want to be a Couchsurfing host? – My Top 10 Learnings

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Have you ever wanted to try couchsurfing as a surfer or host but are not sure what to expect? Here are my Top 10 learnings as a couchsurfing host. These are based on my collective experiences as a couchsurfing host in two cities in Australia: Adelaide and Brisbane. Let’s start with the big ones.

Who are the best couchsurfers?

Surfers who also host are the best couchsurfers. They understand and have an appreciation of what it means to host couchsurfers. As a result, they are without fail friendly, sociable, respectful, offer to help & cook, show a genuine interest in discovering the city and area they are visiting and almost always bring a gift.

Who are the best couchsurfers that don’t host ?

Couples from France. Firstly, by virtue of being a couple, they are more likely than not to be sensitive to the thoughts, needs and feelings of their partner. Thus it follows on, how they treat their hosts.

Secondly, people from France have a high level of appreciation of good food & wine, not just French food & wine. They like cooking and they really want to cook. Just be sure you like butter and lots of it.

Who are the worst couchsurfers?

I should say upfront that I have had no real bad experiences yet on Couchsurfing. Through getting lots of hosting requests and having had lots of hosting experience, I can now quickly determine from someone’s profile whether I want to host them and whether we will have a connection.

However, in my experience the common traits in the worst couchsurfers are:

  • Around 21 years of age or younger
  • Have done very little travelling outside their own country or travelling on their own
  • Single
  • Want you to feel sorry for them that they have run out of money and take on the responsibilities for their problems – car broken down etc..
  • Have no money and cannot afford to spend on a local bus fare

To be a viable sustainable business in the future, Couchsurfing has to change

As of August 2012, the company has raised $22.6 million in investment capital, while reporting no revenue. Source: TechCrunch.com Aug 2012

I am not sure how long it can continue in it’s present form incurring significant running costs whilst generating little paying revenue. There are lots of articles online bemoaning the fall or death of couchsurfing that don’t need repeating here. Yes it is not a not for profit business anymore. Get over it and move on.

The major upgrade of the website in 2014 was warranted and was a significant improvement. However, without a more significant revenue stream it is understandably difficult to justify continual upgrades and product improvements.

There are lots of things that could be done to improve the user experience if there were greater paying revenue coming in to justify the expense. For me the biggest would be to block dates when I am unable to host or highlight dates where I am able to host. It is very annoying for both surfers and hosts to send and receive request after request asking for a date that is already booked and/or unavailable. You wouldn’t tolerate it from Airbnb or booking.com should I don’t see why it should be acceptable on Couchsurfing. It is just outdated to have the only hosting option as yes, maybe or no.

You are on your own

If anything happens to me or apartment whilst I am hosting someone, I don’t expect to get  any help at all from Couchsurfing. As they say on the Terms of Use section of their website

“3.1 You are solely responsible for your interactions with other members of our services….Remember, the Couchsurfing Services are just a platform that enable you to communicate and interact with other people around the world. We cannot be responsible for the interactions that you have with other Couchsurfing members, so please use good judgment and keep safety in mind when you use our Services.”

Furthermore

“3.2 Identity Verification. We cannot and do not confirm each member’s identity. Although we provide tools intended to assist with identity verification, such as our address verification tool (as described in Section 3.3), you are solely responsible for determining the identity and suitability of others with whom you may interact through our Services.”

Who reads profiles?

Most people do not read my profile (I estimate 70 – 80% do not). I have on occasion put in capitals at the top of the About Me section of my profile dates when I was unable to host. Alas, it did not deter people from sending me a request asking to stay on those dates.

If couchsurfers are reviewing a list of potential hosts, they will typically just read the overview and references. Furthermore, they will probably read every single neutral or negative reference but a only a couple of positive references if there are more than 10.

References are important sometimes

I will accept people who have no references. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. It really depends on whether they have filled in the profile in a meaningful way, whether they have made any attempt at verification and whether they have read my profile. I have had some of the best experiences hosting people with no references.

Did you get some?

There have been a lot of discussions about hosts using Couchsurfing for potential hookups. Personally I just can’t cross that line and say with a straight face to a surfer things like “Remember my bedroom door is always open..” Besides at my age, it’s wise to not even try…

How do you say no?

I try to let people down gently. If I don’t relate to someone’s profile, think they haven’t read my profile or are mostly just interested in a free place to stay, I usually say sorry I already have another couchsurfer staying with me on those dates.

Negative References where are they?

If you look through a list of couchsurfer profiles, you will start to notice that there is a amazing lack of negative references on people’s profiles. Occasionally, you will come across some neutral references. In the age of social media, this is pretty incredible.

Are negative references removed or taken offline? On the safety basics section of their website they state

“Let other Couchsurfers know about your experiences with the people you meet. Be honest and clear. You can do this by leaving reviews other members can see”

 

“Confidentially report negative experiences or safety concerns here”

I will let you be the judge. Now that I have a certain number of personal positive references, I am not worried about getting a negative reference, as people can read both sides of the story. Yes there will always be people who will place more weight and emphasis on 1 negative reference rather than 10 positive references but you should not worry about that.

I have previously given out one negative reference to a person who didn’t turn up to stay with me after confirming they would do so. They communicated that they were very unhappy with it, but I did not receive one in return.

I was also going to give another negative reference to someone recently, who in essence said that they will have to sleep in the street if I didn’t host them. They became abusive when I declined their request and tried to explain why I wasn’t going to host them (my mistake). I didn’t end up doing so as this person hadn’t filled in their profile fully and didn’t seem to have tried to use couchsurfing since my experience with them so I let it go.

Keep it in perspective

At the end of the day, people are coming to stay with you because they have a basic need for accommodation and they will in most cases stay with you only for a few days. If you forge a connection, have a great experience, become friends, stay in touch and even host the surfer in your country when you get home, then that is a fantastic bonus. Don’t be disappointed though if this does not happen with every person that you host.

 

In saying all of the above, I love Couchsurfing. Long may it continue in whatever shape or form it evolves into.

For reference here is own my Couchsurfing profile. Please read my email and profile haha when I send you a Couchsurfing request and ignore any negative or neutral references.

 

by Konrad Markham

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