With winter upon us in the northern Hemisphere, I am not riding as much so have more time to ponder the problems in life like how one of the biggest and perpetual and seemingly growing complaints with WS are No-Shows (from the Touring Cyclist) and/or No Responses (from Hosts). As I was pondering these eternal questions, I was wondering how to solve them thus making the world a better place for everyone, or at least The Touring Cyclist Community.
Then during an epiphany (or maybe it was the slight buzz from the wine), I thought what does Uber do? They allow anyone to request a ride from a pool of strangers and an individual in that pool or group of strangers can decide if he or she wants to drive that person around. That led me to ponder if there was a way that when requesting to be hosted via WS, a small refundable charge could be applied to the Cyclist (requester) in case that person no-shows for whatever reason. Say the charge is US$5 (or equivalent in the local currency if the system could handle that). If the Host agrees to host through the WS system, the WS system somehow marks the request as "fulfilled" and a small charge is applied to the Cyclist's credit card, monies on file with WS, etc. Ideally, the Cyclist would be able to make multiple requests at one time for the same night and then the system would automatically notify the other potential hosts who had not responded yet that they are not needed after all. The unfulfilled Request could automatically expire after 24-hours (or could be rescinded by the Cyclist at any time) so the Cyclist could then be free to try other options.
Should the Cyclist fail to show up on the “reserved” day for whatever reason without, say, at least a 12-hour notice they could not make it after all, the Host would indicate as such in the Cyclist's Feedback section via a "check box" and then the Cyclist would lose the deposit. Any forfeited deposits would go solely to WS for website support, not the Host.
The Pros are it encourages Cyclists to actually show up as requested. It also may provide feedback quicker. You could even require the Cyclist to provide Feedback also to receive the deposit back. With the “multiple requests” option, it allows the Cyclist to not have to Request, wait, get denied and/or ignored then repeat again.
The Cons are obviously a change (probably expensive) to the WS system. I have no idea as to the effort required for this since I have very little computer experience. Also, the Host would have to be truthful and/or not lazy about the providing expedient feedback. To prevent a lazy Host from not providing feedback, if no feedback is provided within 48-hours of the requested departure date, the deposit would be returned automatically. Additionally, the Cyclist could lose the deposit if he or she was unable to arrive even with a totally valid reason such as being hit by a car and in hospital. Maybe the system could provide a way for the Host to check “No Show but for valid reason” so the fee would not apply. Another big Con is that the Cyclist may not get their preferred choice but say the 4th choice. But hey which is better, 4th Choice or play the “Request, Wait, Repeat” game.
To encourage better Host responses to the initial inquiry, it might be helpful to more frequently (at least quarterly) send reminder "are you still available, if not, click here to remove yourself" emails. Also, maybe don't allow people to request to be hosted if their response is less than, say, 65%. To prevent new members or those members who receive very few requests from being penalized due to no or little feedback, the blocking would not begin until they have had at least 5 requests.
I have been on the receiving end of both sides of these issues and of course there is not perfect answer. It really sucks to send out 7 requests 3 days in advance for the same city/night and get no responses and then wonder if you should retry, hope someone eventually replies positively, assume no one is available, or what. Conversely, it sucks to make plans for someone to stay and they not only do not show up, they do not even say why, just no-show.
Other thoughts are after a request is “matched”, both the Cyclist’s and the Host’s location would appear on the WS website and/or phone app.
I am just trying to encourage better “behavior” and/or expectations on both sides regardless of human actions. Uber system’s works fairly well and thought maybe some of the features could be copied. I would guess a lot of “perfecting” the no show and/or no response issues system would require a lot of programming but that may be way too expensive for a volunteer organization.
Anyway, these are some suggestions on how to make WS even better. If you disagree, disagree on reason, not opinion or just because you think this is a stupid idea. Say why it is a stupid idea. If you have other thoughts to improve the system, feel free to offer them.
Wishing you a wonder 2018 full of great Hosts and Guests!