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Have you ever had such a bitchy WS contact?

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Have you ever had such a bitchy WS contact?

This guy only e-mailed me yesterday. I work all day and am super busy with holiday parties, etc. so I had not yet had a chance to respond. Then he comes at me today with this salvo: 

Hi Ellen H., you have received a message on Warmshowers.org from Willi Krämer:

Store Bikes 
Why are you in Warmshowers when you don't answer. It needs a lot of time to make a request. Be proud, you are on of 16 Members who didn't answer in Miami. Only 4 answered.

Thats not the spirit of Warmshowers

Merry Christmas

Willi

 

How would you address this in member feedback? 

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You did nothing wrong.  I

You did nothing wrong.  I would expalin just as you did,  Though I wouldn't, I would be very tempted to do something like "I'm sorry in the delay. I was in the hospital watching my child die.  Hope your Christmas is wonderful.  John".

I do forewarn people in my profile that sometimes I forget to mark "not available" due to my travel schedule.  My hope is that if someone contacts me and I miss it, they would understand why.  His attitude is also why I require a few days notice.  His lack of planning (or even giving me a heads up) does NOT constitue my being rude or unfriendly.  My guess is he is just extremely frustrated with the lack of responses, which truly is a problem.

I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas, John

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Both Sides

I think there is some validity on both sides.  I would not send a message to you like he did (that takes time as well), unless several days went by.  My motive would not be to be bitchy, but just to ask you to mark yourself as unavailable if you are not able to participate in hosting.  (There are several in my city with low to zero response rates and I have heard from several guests their frustrations with finding hosts in big cities.  I have emailed local hosts for local WS hosting events that we host, and when they do not respond, I have asked them to mark themselves as unavailable...)

I think the tone is the key issue here. I totally understand the concern on both sides. 

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Feedback Him!

Consider giving him an opportunity to further explain his motives for such a message.  When we have WS guests we open our home to them.  As that message stands I would not want to inflict the writer of it upon my family.  A warning from you would be appreciated.

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Multiple requests

More to the point, why is someone contacting 20 people within the same city? You can't stay with all of them can you? Yes 4 replied, what do you do then?

It's mutual consideration, ultimately the host is helping the recipient

Personally I would never contact a second person until the first has replied or not done so within 24 hours

   Neil

  

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Reply rates on WarmShowers

Reply rates on WarmShowers are so low for much of the world that it is quite standard advice to contact every single host in a city. Of course one shouldn’t write pure copy/paste and each request should be at least a little personalized, but travelers frequently complain on cycling fora that they really do have to blanket a city in requests to get even a handful of responses (positive or negative!).

If 4 members reply affirmatively, you accept the one that best fits your route or your needs (i.e. one can offer their washing machine while the others, perhaps, cannot), and you send a message to the other 3 saying "Thank you very much for accepting my request, but I have already found a host". For well over a decade now, this has been common practice in internet hospex, so common that it seems odd when a member gets offended by it as you do here.

> Personally I would never contact a second person until the first has replied or not done so within 24 hours

While that may be your philosophy, it is an uncommon one, I think. Generally one finds success by requesting no earlier than a week in advance. If there are 20 hosts in a city and reply rates are low, then there is simply no time to do the process of "send request to one host > wait 24 hours > send a request to another > etc."

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One request at a time

Maybe I'm old fashioned having been on directories and run one before Warm Showers took off like it has, but remember the host is the person who is offering the free place to sleep and in our case as in many others a free meal and a glass of wine. 

To blanket send out a request to ever host in the city in my opinion is very wrong. Imagine yourself as a host which we mostly do. We look forward to hosting a cyclist, will make special plans and alter our day, make the bed, prepare a meal and make time for them. To know that I am effectively competing with everyone else in the area to host someone as if they are Royalty is frankly wrong. If I get an E mail from someone asking to stay (for free) I expect that person to honour their side of that request.

Yes if you are desperate for a place to stay then please blanket request, but if you're cycle touring you shouldn't be using Warm Showers as your sole accommodation provider should you? In effect that dilutes your experience of meeting people. We used a hospitality directory 8 times during a 6 month trip round the States. Every single one was special and 20 years later I remember every one, that's what for me this is all about, not a default 'let's stay somewhere free' enterprise

  Neil

 

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As I said, that may be your

As I said, that may be your philosophy, but it definitely isn’t a mainstream one. Most travelers on internet hospex send out multiple requests and they have since at least 2004. Most hosts know that.

"We look forward to hosting a cyclist, will make special plans and alter our day, make the bed, prepare a meal and make time for them. "

If you make special plans for someone before they even confirm that they received your approval of their request and, yes, they will be staying with you, that is just setting yourself up for heartbreak. Your fellow hosts have noted that time and time again here on the WS forums. You have to understand that the traveler has almost certainly sent other requests at the same time, and by the time you answered, he may well have chosen another person who invited him.

Also, it is silly to depict this as rude travelers versus innocent, selfless hosts when travelers are forced to blanket a city in requests because supposed "hosts" don’t reply to requests (whether to say yes or no). Click around on the map and look at how low reply rates are for many cities around the world.

Finally, it’s bizarre that you attack people using WS as primarily a free place to stay when that tolerance of trying to realize a cycle tour on a budget is what sets this network apart from some others. The flip side of that is that sometimes the accommodation provided is much more spartan than on other networks, such as merely a place to pitch a tent in the host’s yard. While sometimes host and guest connect and share a meal or whatever, that isn’t de rigeur on WS and an expectation of it sounds more like CS.

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Spectrum of cyclists

I am coming up on hosting nearly 200 cyclists.  We provide meals, beer/wine/kombucha, and often trips in the bay kayaking and an occasional tip to Disneyland.  Some cyclists season their journey with an occasional host, and others have bragged about their limited to no experiences camping or staying outside of free accomodations.  For me, this diminishes my experience with who I term the "overly opportunistic".  These may be charming people, but they lack humility and I would not be open to host them a second time.  I have also reflected in my feedback (once again bringing up the importance of feedback in this community) the friendly diposition of these people along with their desire to depend on others/WS for their support.  (On 2 occasions, I had guests, upon leaving, tell me that their next host cancelled and they had no where to go, and no money for camping or hostel.  NOT MY PROBLEM.  This is why we will not knowingly host this type of cyclist again).

I am not saying that there is a "right" or "wrong" way to travel on a bike, but by reading other's feedback and getting a sense of how these people travel, helps me to make a decision on whether or not I wish to host these people.

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Etiquette in a changing world

Christopher

I've trawled the forum and looked at what others are putting on their profile, gauging who says what and to be honest your views are somewhat different to many others.

Hospitality Directories started abou 30 years ago. Roger Gravel and the League of American Wheelmen ran a list. They weren't large, with about 300 on the American Wheelmen. It was a small communty where you had the wonderful opportunity to meet and stay with a  local cyclist, sound in the knowledge that any visitor was more than willing to recipricate. I ran the UK one, there was/is a French one and the German list has over 5000 names on it.

Move on 30 years and your world is a little different to mine and many others (I've checked the forums) and has been since 2004 according to yourself.

Take this senario

I fancy a holiday, don't really want to pay anything for it, I've got a bike and what's that Warm Showers thing? 

Signing up is easy, just need to put an address and a short profile in, now I'm free to contact as many people as you like in a narrow geographical area.

Amazing I've sent 20 E mails and 4 have said yes. The others suck because they haven't replied, maybe I'll send a sarcastic E Mail, that'll teach them?

Now which one shall I stay with? Mmm I've got a bag full of smelly kit, this one has a washing machine, must get that into the conversation pretty soon because it won't dry in time. 

 Well here we go, I'm on my way. But wait, I feel a little stronger today, my bike has broken, so maybe I'll turn them down and go stay with that other reply  had, after all they offered didn't they? I'm sure my orriginal host won't mind, after all they haven't made any plans, or checked that they can in fact host me before saying 'come on down'

 Get my drift?

 Fundamentally all those that host and do so are sound people, they enjoy cycling and meeting people.

For visitors it's much more of a grey area isn't it? What is their true motivation?

I would go so far as to suggest that the attitude of 'it doesn't matter, it's for the good of cycling, anyone is entitled to do this' is in fact ruining Washshowers because rather than encouraging a community where there is mutual respect, you are saying, 'anything goes' which is to the detriment of everyone (but especially those that are dedicated hosts) and might go some way to explain why response rates are low overall because many are seeing warmshowers as a free lunch with no comeback.

  Neil

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Great Retrospect!

Thanks, Neil, that was beautifully said.  

In the 80's, I knew of "the list", but respected the recipricol hosptality requirement.  I waited 2 decades before joining becuase I so wanted to give back before taking from anyone else.  Had I realized the "reciprocal hosptality someday" I think I would have joined sooner.  There is a different level of gratitude from guests who over utilized WS and those who use it to season their trip.  I can usually spot the difference when reading their profiles, reading feedback left AND given, and the type of profile pic they have (I will not host anyone without a profile pic).

Let's all be aware of the differences in how people travel, and make up your own mind as to who you would host.

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"There is a different level

"There is a different level of gratitude from guests who over utilized WS and those who use it to season their trip."

Over the last several months I've seen several complaints here that people are trying to use WS for every night of their trip. If WS is supposed to be only a rare, occasional experience, then that needs to be stated on the website somewhere, because I don’t think most hosts have got the message. When I have stayed with hosts on tour, they have often been very keen to sort accommodation for me further down the road. They either know another WS host further on and they contact them to encourage them to host me, or they try to send me on to friends or family. (This does get awkward when I would rather sleep somewhere else, but I feel that I am obliged to stay at the contact my host is trying to send me to.) There is definitely a common belief that the less a tourer has to stealth camp or pay for lodging on tour, the better.

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"I've trawled the forum..."

"I've trawled the forum..."

Then you must have seen the several posts here over the past couple of years where a host says "I said yes to a cyclist's request, and now he hasn't showed up and I made plans for the evening", and then other, more experienced hosts answer that one should never make plans involving a guest until the cyclist has confirmed that he/she will indeed be staying with you and not someone else.

Also, I personally have zero sympathy for people who complain "But I cook a meal for my guests before they arrive!" Did you actually ask your guests if they wanted a meal? A substantial portion of travelers simply want to be left alone on their first night to rest and use the wifi. As a host, you do travelers a big favour by waiting until the second day of their stay to do all the socializing, when your guests have recuperated and taken care of all the obligatory communication with people back home. Forcing your guests to sit through a meal with you when they would rather be attending to other cyclist needs, seems like anti-hospitality.

"I fancy a holiday, don't really want to pay anything for it, I've got a bike and what's that Warm Showers thing?"

Nothing wrong with that at all. It is absolutely great that thanks to hospitality exchange, people can now travel regardless of their means. Don’t you want people to see the world? That is why I host, at any rate. Why do you host? If it is because you want your guests to entertain you, that is not a healthy and sustainable approach to hospex and tends to lead to burnout and meltdowns where people complain about their fellow cyclists on forums like you are doing here.

"mm I've got a bag full of smelly kit, this one has a washing machine, must get that into the conversation pretty soon because it won't dry in time. "

You act as if there is anything wrong or shameful about this. When filling out one’s profile, Warm Showers clearly asks hosts to indicate whether they can do laundry (alongside other amenities). A cyclist using that information to choose a host and take care of that common need on tour is using the network as intended.

"But wait, I feel a little stronger today, my bike has broken, so maybe I'll turn them down and go stay with that other reply had, after all they offered didn't they?"

Again, what's wrong with that? Don’t you have a life of your own? If a traveler decides not to stay with you because another host answered him/her first, then can't you go on doing whatever you would have done anyway?

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Draw your own conclusions

What we read in the discussions above is the fact that over the time expectations, mentality, lifestyles, habits, preferences and personal standards of hosts/guest gradually change.

Modern society changes, WS-members change. Whether you like it or not, you'll have to cope with it.

 

It saves a lot of frustrations if you adapt your personal approach, profile, reaction pattern, selection standards, manners and gut feelings to nowadays, fast changing WS-behaviour.

Even with these precautions you can’t prevent that guests and hosts sometimes have a unsatisfactory contact.

 

Our WS-membership must be a general pleasure, despite our sometimes  very different principles.

Choose your own attitude, BUT be very clear (!) about that in your profile, mutual/incidental contacts and don’t care what other WS-members think of you.

We can’t wait for radical measures (if needed) from the WS-management. (However, I doubt if that will help…)

Make your own conclusions and act!

You are the guest and you are the host. Nobody else.

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I guess we're all different

This will be my last comment for a while because I've written enough. 

Peter's profile is fabulous , you know where you stand with that one, mine has changed since reading this forum and will probably change further.

Yes modern society changes but do values and politeness? The idea of a guest being forced to make polite conversation with us whilst they hanker after a night alone on WIFI blogging about their trip or fixing up the next free night may be OK with some hosts but not with this one I'm afraid. If you want to do that then don't use a hospitality directory. In reality no guest we have had has done this thank goodness. In any case I would never comit to a 2 night stay until I see who is staying, so hiding and tap, tap, tapping in a room isn't going to get another night at our place I'm afraid. 

As for breaking the 'contract' if you book a hotel or a campsite, you will lose your deposit, yet it seems appropriate to do this if you are being taken into someones home. I will concede that if you are camping in the garden and that's all you want then that's OK, but I can't recall the last time I saw a Warmshower in someones garden, so access to the house is probably expected. Like Peter we live a busy lives, so staying in and waiting for a no show does impact and never in a positive way.

  There you go, signing of

     Neil

  

 

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Sarah/Neil, People write to

Sarah/Neil, People write to lots of hosts because they have found from experience that its what you have to do to get at least one that may be able to host you. He said four replied, that is not four were able to host him. He is really frustrated and its a very real problem these days. 

I suspect he's figured out a way of quickly and easily sending a message of reply to all those who don't reply but as you can see from the above, its not going to work in his favour probably. 

But my advice to you is to send multiple messages. When we all start, most of us send to one person at a time but you quickly realise that this doens't work and can get ytour worked up and worried when no one replies and meanwhile you've lost lots of days and time spend in waiting . Your idea doesn't work. But I don't think its necessary to send angry responses either.