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Unprofessional Couchsurfing Safety Team?

The Couchsurfing Safety-team has never been without criticism. They are too closed, communicate not well enough and are too paranoid for legal actions against them, are just some of the regular comments I have heard in the past 4 1/2 years I am a member of Couchsurfing. I have no insider knowledge on this side but am a bit shocked but not surprised when I came across this posting:

Ulto contacted CouchSurfing to report the host’s misconduct and left negative feedback on his profile warning other women to stay away. The host retaliated by posting nasty comments to Ulto’s profile, including calling her a “psycho.” CouchSurfing remained silent. So, she contacted them again. Silence. On the third try, she threatened legal action and got their attention. But even that failed to keep it.

The amount of misconducts that happened due to hosting or being hosted by and through people met on Couchsurfing and other hospitality networks are as far as I am aware thankfully limited. But is seems that the safety-team is not up to understanding how to deal with acute safety issues adequately.

Still, the online service ignores complaints from women and LGBTQ travelers who have been attacked, drugged, raped, molested, and harassed by hosts. (These complaints can be found on CouchSurfing’s own message boards, and elsewhere around the Internet.) CouchSurfing denies responsibility with the pat response that victims should more vigorously vet potential hosts and report illegal behavior to the proper authorities in the country in which they’re traveling. The onus for safety is on the victim, not CouchSurfing. But this manner of thinking ignores the way the system itself facilitates illegal behavior, or at least, does little to prevent CouchSurfing from being used for nefarious purposes.

How the safety-team currently operates might even become a reason why hospitality exchange networks soon will be on the decline again, or change how people trust strangers. Maybe it is time for Couchsurfing to come out in the open about their safety-policies, have their policy more public and facilitate a public or at least a semi-public debate about it.

Find more information and critique through this comment posted on an earlier post.

8 Responses to “Unprofessional Couchsurfing Safety Team?”

  • Well written comments, Robino, glad to find them here. What you’ve said, is a valid concern, though I wouldn’t hold out any hope for any changes within CS. It’s also just something they can’t act as a “cop” or “judge” on, too often. They can only warn people to be careful.

    I once stayed with a host, for only one night. I worked hard to be a model guest, and was really hoping to obtain a fair or positive “rating” from him/her, because I was brand new, with a blank page. And I wanted to travel, and would be hindered by a blank slate with no recommendations at all. The first one is the hardest, and I really “needed” it, or so I felt.

    Well, I obviously pestered him/her too much about it, after waiting patiently for two weeks for something to show up. S/he then posted a wild, long, nearly 100% fabricated, hateful, scathing review of what a danger and stalker I was.

    Completely unfair, and way, way exaggerated. None of the “complaints” about my actual stay were based in reality. The only thing I was guilty of, was being impatient or too pushy in requesting a recommendation. Nothing I did as a guest was ever less than respectful.

    Really pissed me off, and yet there was no recourse. I had also noticed s/he seemed to be drugged, or depressed, or something. Some kind of mood or mental imbalance, to begin with, which had nothing to do with me.

    However, don’t think I’m defending Casey,Inc. in the least, they shouldn’t even have a “safety team” if all it is is a hollow title, and they’re not actually going to lift a finger. Then again, deceit and BS are their greatest talents! Spin, denial, and secrecy, just keep those fees and checks rolling in!

    I also feel like the female guest of the male host (in this story) has a legitimate gripe. But, how do you fairly handle these issues? What if she’s actually just slightly nuts, and her accusations and description are false or exaggerated? As the host, wouldn’t you be furious?

    If this is the same ol’ story that’s been floating around for a while now though, I think there was more than enough evidence to judge this particular skeevy dude; there had been repeated reports about his questionable behavior.

    I don’t know, as I guest, I kind of keep my options open too, I don’t really know the host, or even other guests sleeping around me, if that’s the case. I’ve arranged my things to make pilfering more difficult, too.

    As a woman, if the host dude is rude, I’d be looking for another spot to crash immediately (like that very night), and would never put myself in a situation where I can’t run outside quickly and scream for help. I know it’s not always that simple though.

  • “They can only warn people to be careful.”

    That would be a good start. The current feel-good, “we are all a happy family – everyone is nice – 99.9% of all member experiences are positive” feel of the website and communications isn’t helpful for encouraging people to be careful and to listen to their instincts.

    Another thing they could do is prevent profiles which haven’t uploaded a picture of themselves from communicating with members. Perhaps face detection software could be used to screen profiles for further scrutiny by volunteers.

    They need to stop claiming safety is first if they cannot or don’t want to live up to it. Current policies unfortunately protect offenders more than victims.

  • Hmmm ....

    The safety team are a joke.

    I was sexually assaulted by another couchsurfer at a couchsurfing party when he crept into the bed in which I was sleeping. When I was woken up by his fingers inside me, I pushed him off and went straight to a member of the “safety” team whom I had spoken to earlier that night. She and another Couchsurfing ambassador then spent an hour and a half screaming at me, and telling me I should not report what happened, as the man was a respected longterm couchsurfer and nobody would believe me. I was still in shock, so I did not say anything which I still really regret. Later on, people told me that the safety team member was good friends with the man who assaulted me. I later met another couchsurfer who told me that she and her friends had been seriously harassed many times by a different couchsurfer at Couchsurfing events, and when they tried to tell the same safety team member about it, she abused them and said they were just imagining it. The harasser was also good friends with the safety team member. The safety team are only interested in protecting their friends, and don’t really care about safety at all.

  • seamus young

    and what is it with banning people just for intellectual forum posts.My friend was banned for daring to argue with some lesbians in a forum who launched a cynical campaign against him.
    Nothing to do with his travel experiences just political correct totalitarianism.

    also there is this double standard. Hetero men are not supposed to use it for dating but women use it to check men out and the queers go loco with sex tourism on it.

  • They are simply bastards…

  • Shortly after Couchsurfing became a for-profit organisation, it was announced that all but two of the “Safety” Team were being sacked (using the euphemism “having their duties reduced”).

    I guess the investors running Couchsurfing realised exactly how much of a legal liability it was to have a “Safety’ Team that openly protected their friends from negative references, while simultaneously deleting or harassing Couchsurfers their friends disliked or felt threatened by.

    Unfortunately, it appears the two people who spearheaded this unprofessionalism, Rachel D

  • Shortly after Couchsurfing became a for-profit organisation, it was announced that all but two of the “Safety” Team were being sacked (using the euphemism “having their duties reduced”).

    I guess the investors running Couchsurfing realised exactly how much of a legal nightmare it would be if it became public knowledge that the “Safety’ Team openly protected their friends from negative references and ignored complaints of rapes for months, while taking the time to delete Couchsurfers their friends disliked.

    Unfortunately, it appears the two people who presided and abetted this unprofessionalism, Rachel DiCerbo and Kalliope Tsouroupidou, will still be involved in the Safety Team. Hopefully the investors will realise the need to have people leading the team with better qualifications then “failed actor and office temp” or “failed interior decorator”.

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