Couchsurfing… a Long Overdue Post Of Frustration…

If my profile gets deleted, you guys can be witness to their censorship! And my BeWelcome profile is available on the sidebar of my blog. I really hope BW won’t disappoint me the same way CS did.

I was part of couchsurfing since I started university in 2005. My initial profile was deleted in 2006, together with other thousands (server crash or something). For a while, I stayed away, just sharing my floor and couch with friends and friends of friends, kind of having my own couchsurfing through my connections. I came back in 2009, didn’t remain active and made a new profile in 2011. Since then, I have organized events, sang praises about the community, hosted several people in my house, showed the places I have lived (and not lived) to strangers I couldn’t host. It’s been great.

Since the very beginning, I have donated quite a bit of money to the place and gained the “pioneer” badge… donated money to a community that, at the time, was non-profit and had no intention of making money out of it. Well, who needs hotels when you can have the kindness of some amazing people?

When I rejoined in 2011, as usual, I got that nice welcome email, showing how great the community was etc. And it indeed was a great community. Soon after, I got another email, saying that couchsurfing was no longer non-profit, but it didn’t mean it was for-profit. Quite a heart-warming email from the co-founder.

Here is a copy of the main point of the email that still shocks me:


Just because we’re not a non-profit doesn’t mean we’re actually “for” profit. CouchSurfing is not for sale, and money is not our goal. We recognize that the community is what makes this movement real and supporting it is what our organization is here for. Everyone on our staff is a CouchSurfing member, and we want to keep it that way.


Well, fair enough… since thousands of us donated money, I am ok with no one capitalizing from our donations.

Again, not soon after this email was sent, this time with no email sent to members, CS became a for-profit company.

In my view, this is what happened:

  1. While still a non-profit, they accepted donations, both through money and goodwill of people, and managed to build quite a big operation;
  2. The non-profit, which was built with donation money and marketing done with its thousands of ambassadors/users who dedicated their time to organize events etc, became full-on for-profit and got massive injections of capital from venture capitalists;
  3. They ruined the website and absolutely destroyed community.

Ever since these changes happened, CS has been accused of censorship (don’t you mention BeWelcome in their website, otherwise you will have your account deleted!), amongst several other things.

I am still part of the community… but bringing my business elsewhere. I don’t think it is fair for a company to capitalize on the kindness of others. Take your favourite charity: Would you be ok if, after years of service, it got privatized and made a fortune?

11 thoughts on “Couchsurfing… a Long Overdue Post Of Frustration…

  1. Thanks for that post! I didn’t know they changed their business model. It’s a shame that this is happening and now another reason why I won’t use the website any more. I hosted a few times back in 2012 and was thinking of hosting again but just the sheer amount of weirdos sending me impersonal at best, sexual messages at worst was unbearable. It’s all just copy and paste, 90% of people don’t take the time any more to even read the hosts profile. So my couch is sadly only for friends these days because I don’t have the time to filter through 50 bad couch requests only to keep my “replied to” quota good.

    • Share, if you can!

      This post is overdue… I can send you a copy of the entire email, if you want. But they shot themselves in the foot. The CEO at the time made a boo-boo and ruined everything. CS is now bankrupt, pretty much!

      I don’t agree that they are capitalizing on people’s good will, since they started with a completely different speech. If they were for profit from the beginning, I’d be ok with that, but don’t preach to be one thing, rely on people’s kindness to build a company and then do what they are doing… I don’t like that at all!

      Women suffer more. My friend just joined and she keeps getting requests from men quite often. Most people don’t even have a profile, I have no idea why they join it, really.

      Thank you very much for the comment!

      • You’re right it’s wrong to preach water and then start drinking wine. And this way they’ll lose their loyal, good people and soon the site will only be full of weirdos or people that want to save money. If the requests weren’t of sexual nature the second most I heard was “Dublin is so expensive, I want to save money. Can you host me?”. These people should sleep in a hostel if all they think about is money rather than the local experience.

      • NOw I make a case to host only people who has had previous experience. I have hosted dozens of first timers. Even though they were nice, after they spend a few days in my house, they never logged in again. Then I saw that they just needed a free place to stay. It really pisses me off. I host way more than I surf, but not I only do it if you are a frequent user of the community and you contribute with something other than just surfing. A few of the first timers were ok with staying in my place, but said that they would never allow someone to stay at their place. It’s quite sad… I won’t leave the community, I will just transfer, slowly, all my contacts to BeWelcome… I don’t think it’s fair what’s happening…

      • How sad. But that’s a good idea to only host people that have experience. I’ll make sure to check out BeWelcome! All good things come to an end, it’s natural and people move on somewhere else 🙂

      • If humans weren’t so greedy, they could last much longer… people are willing to give, as long as it is being given to many, not to a few

    • It can be a good thing, under a completely different management. BeWelcome is couchsurfing as it was in 2005. Simple and with a dedicated crew to make it work! There are only 50 thousand people signed up, unless I can do something about it!

      • And I will thank you for it! If you are ever in the UK, drop me a message! (In case you don’t live here, of course!)

      • Starting at the end of September I will be in Spain, but I have cousin who will be starting her masters at a university in London so there’s a good chance I will be visiting her. I will let you know if it al works out! And if you’re ever in Spain, let me know 🙂

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