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How to be a helpful guest: Give all possible information in your initial contact.

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How to be a helpful guest: Give all possible information in your initial contact.

How to be a helpful guest: Give all possible information in your initial contact.

This is a story of a somewhat frustrating interaction with a potential guest, whose name I have changed.

Here's what he wrote:

Hello Anne & John Schubert,
Hi! My name is [Bill]. I'm a student.
I'm in Pennsylvania
We came from Toronto by bicycle
If you can, we want to stay for a while
Thank you!!
Sent from the Warmshowers App for iPhone/iPad

Now: what didn't he tell me?

He didn't tell me his phone number.
He didn't tell me when he wanted to arrive at my house.
He didn't tell me when he would want to leave.
He didn't tell me, within 200 miles, where he was.
He didn't tell me how many people were in his traveling party.

And . . . he didn't call. If he wanted an answer within a day, he should have called. (Not all hosts want phone calls, but I'm fine with them, and my page clearly says so.

This may be difficult to imagine, but I was away from my e-mail for TWO WHOLE DAYS. So when I did respond, here's how I responded:

Hi [Bill],
Sorry for the slow reply. I was traveling during the weekend and didn't get to my computer. ;-)
I may have to travel on business this week. I won't know until the last second whether I'm going or not.
What day or days did you have in mind? How many are in your group?
Next week (August 25-29), I'll probably be here the entire time. Will you still be around then?
John Schubert

See what's wrong with this? I have to ask [Bill] a bunch of questions to figure out the basic information [Bill] should have provided in his initial contact. This puts the onus on me to figure out if this would work. The guest should make that easy for the host.

I sent [Bill] a subsequent e-mail, telling him I'd be available that week, but never heard back from him.

- JS

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Guest Courtesy

I've found that the best way to handle host requests is in the form of a pre-written 'form letter' email where one fills in the blanks before sending. This may sound lazy, but the primary reasons are far from that notion. When emailing a form letter, there is less chance of leaving out anything that should be in there. The other is that correspondence of this nature is very time consuming and many times when on the road, you are in places that limit your time on their wifi. When that happens, I tend to rush it, making mistakes and omitting important items.

One page is enough but time should be spent in it's creation and be sure and proof-read vigorously. One doesn't want to come off as a stooge with misspellings and bad grammar. And put a little personality in there while giving a show of appreciation. The less info you give, the more chance of the host feeling used. Don't forget to place a sentence in there about them that is gleaned from their bio, such as "I look forward to hearing some stories about your ride through Italy."

That said, the reverse is also true at times. Some hosts omit their address and/or phone number in their bios and once they accept your request without that information, you have to recontact them. We all depend on Warmshowers to forward our emails but that doesn't always happen. At that point you are dead in the water and have to pass them by.

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Just my 2 cents worth

So far , with 4 seasons of Warmshower hosting under my belt, I have found communication with guests to be pretty good. I take request via email, text or even the old fashioned way by phone. Each time things have worked out.

I do find that overall profiles here on Warmshowers could use some beefing up. Host should spell out
what to expect plus pedalers should share enough in their profile so the host can have some idea of who
is going to show up at your door. I feel I do a decent job of spelling out for potential guests what
their stay here will be. Feel free to read thru it as an example the feedbacks show that my guests do enjoy their stays . For the record I would welcome back every rider who has pedaled up to my door.

But your post does reflect a communication problem we have as a society as a whole. With all the ways to contact each other that we have available there really is no excuse not to tell folks what plans are , expectations, etc. I find that folks drop the ball so many times whether it is business, community or social.
It is frustrating when people don't use the tools available to share info with others. And if you have told someone what the plans and and then change them without notifying that is even worse. Okay off my soapbox

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Short checklist for travelers

Good comments from Kevin & Jack.
Trying to keep this simple, I added the following to my profile:
"Give arrival & departure dates and number in your party on initial contact."

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Frustrating

Most of our guests have been from other countries and have limited Wifi access. So if they leave out important details, and I respond asking for the "when" and "where are you now so I can send directions", it might be a day or two before they check their account. Cyclists also may send out multiple host requests, and not respond back to all after closing one.

Remember, it is said all over this site, hosts should NOT stop everything and change their life for a potential guest.

KF

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Living in Sweden I'm "always"

Living in Sweden I'm "always" connected with my phone, so all the mails from WS.ORG comes straight there, but I made sure to put this on my profile:

"We would appreciate a confirmation of your stay as soon as we reply, if you for some reason is unable to reply to emails, please include a phone number I can reach you on."

The simple reason is as stated, people on bikes might not have roaming on, it's expensive and few can be bothered to get a prepaid phonecard for such a silly little country as Sweden.

So I always answer on the mail, even if they say respond by phone, usually the mail is something like "Answered to keep reply at 100%, will call you soon".

But yeah, I would probably just give up after the second mail if I did not get a date or reply.