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Survey Results from "Overly Opportunistic Member" Survey

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WS Member ユーザー Warmshowers Administrator の写真
Survey Results from "Overly Opportunistic Member" Survey

Edited Nov 23 to change the title from a commonly used pejorative term to "Overly Opportunistic".

As long as I can remember there have been rumors of guests who were overly opportunistic, living off the system, eating people out of house and home, inappropriately using the site, unlikely to ever give back. However, I haven't experienced them, and rarely hear first-hand stories. So I decided to put up a survey asking people for their first-hand experience.

Some notes first. I read through all the comments and they were very much appreciated:

  • Nobody is expected to reciprocate during every part of their life. Most people have a long period in their youth when they can’t. All are asked to reciprocate with hosting "someday".
  • Based on the comments, people have different ideas about what a "leech" might be. Some think it’s people who are unprepared as they travel, depending too much on the kindness of others. Others think it’s people they don’t expect to reciprocate with hosting. Others, those who eat too much. One host reported 75 guests, 70 they’d invite back, but 15 were leeches.
  • A few hosts seem to have much higher standards for their guests than others (or far worse experiences than most), including the one that hosted 25 guests but wouldn’t invite back 15 of them. Another host (obviously rounding) reported 200 guests, 100 who wouldn’t be invited back, 25 leeches. One who hosted 30 would only invite back 10. I’m a bit taken aback that with those experiences people would continue to host.
  • This survey was for members who have hosted guests, most having hosted many (the median number hosted was 10)
  • One or two mentioned they fear "tit-for-tat" feedback, especially when traveling themselves. Note that we watch for tit-for-tat feedback and don’t allow it, and you can contact us if you think it has occurred.

OK, some numbers:

  • 225 people responded from the Facebook Group and the site postings.
  • Together they hosted about 3859 guests
  • Of those, they would invite back 90% (3480) (They would not invite back 10%)
  • 276 total guests (8%) were labeled as "leeches" by their hosts
  • The median number of guests per respondent was 10, average or mean number was 17.
  • 62% of respondents had never experienced a guest they would call a "leech". 38% of respondents reported experiencing at least one "leech"
  • 56% of respondents say they would invite back every single guest that has ever stayed with them. 44% have had at least one guest they would not invite back.
  • 64% of the respondents are careful always to leave feedback

Noting that this is an unscientific (if valuable) survey, I take this away:

  1. Although most hosts will eventually have a less-than-satisfactory experience, the vast majority of guests are good ones that would be invited back.
  2. Although there might be many definitions of "leech", only about 8% of guests would be categorized that way by the respondents. That’s a pretty small number compared to what you might hear in conversation. And many people said in the comments that they could have avoided those by reading their profiles ahead of time.
  3. There are an awful lot of awfully generous hosts out there!
  4. Most successful hosts count on the feedback of others to inform their choice whether to host or not. (Gathered from the comments.)
  5. Feedback is the most obvious way to filter out the leeches that do exist in our system. Most people read feedback from previous hosts and use it to determine who they will host.

If you’d like to view or process the original data feel free to copy it and slice and dice it as you see fit. I removed the comments as it seemed they were intended to be private.

The survey questions, now offline, can be viewed as they appeared

-Randy Fay Webmaster

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真

After 12 years I had my first real live 'guy with a bike' guest.
This is the cleaned up feedback I posted to Edward F. Jones:

'Greyhound lost his bike and wheels to his trailer. I picked him up at the bus station. He looks like a homeless guy. I give him the benefit of doubt and bring him home.

I rebuild bikes for 'Chain Reaction Ministry' (for homeless in OKC) so, I get a bike ready for him and he finds a trailer on craigslist which I take him to buy. Now he can move on, but don't.

He wants to, "Stay till I can get my feet on the ground." He wanted to work for me and he was helpful, but I don't need any live-in employees.

So, on the tenth day he ask, "What's on your schedule today?" "My plan for today is for you get your stuff packed and I'll ride with you to downtown Oklahoma City.

He don't really ride a bike much. End up loading his 200 pound trailer and bike into the truck and I take him.

I'm going to change my profile: NO SMOKERS! NO MORE RESCUES! If you can't ride to my house, I can't host you.'

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Good to know

It is almost always interesting to do a survey like this (scientific or not) in that it often reveals how the reality of things contradicts the perception of things.

In this case, it seems we humans remember the bad things more strongly than the good things. Our perception of the preponderance of "leeches" is skewed, clearly.

Thanks for doing this, Randy. It's good to know that what I've heard over the years from my guests remains true - there are a lot of very good people in the world and many of them are hosts and guests using Warmshowers!


WS Member ユーザー の写真
host satisfaction survey

Thank you so much for doing this. It sparked some good conversation here at Whispering Pine and we are happy for the opportunities Warm Showers provides us as both hosts and guests. Grateful to you for all your efforts!

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
The Survey

I found the survey very interesting but i do object strongly to the word "Leech"
I acknowledge that the word is put into commas but still does not describe the people that some hosts might find differcult sometimes eg leeches.People are individuals and it is the responsibility of warm showers to find a word or term that is at least accurate and more open.Leech is a term that might be used by the popular right wing press.
People are not leeches and using the word only makes hosts more angry, and ultimtely doesnt help warm showers.
Admittedly I have just joined warm showersand so never had cyclists/guests staying with me yet but I have had over 200 volunteers staying with me for weeks at a time over 15 years through workaway and WWoof. I would never demine any of them to say they were a leeches but would say ocasionally I had volunteers who didnt meet my expectations or I needed to chat to them more about misunderstandings around their stay.
One way to avoid problems is for guests to clearly state what the arrangement is. This should be enough to deter anybody who may have the wrong idea.It also gives a legitimate way to mention problems with the guest.
I hope this is of use and though it is a bit late to change the word hopefully next time it can be phrased differently.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Thank you for the survey

Thank you for the survey Randy.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Hosting few, more often as a guest

I guess I'm a sort of leech. Stephanie and I live in a tiny apartment with no room or anything but floor space to offer in the Portland area where there are a few hundred hosts that are better able to host long riders. We DID happen to host a German Guy at the last minute. We were at a local dive bar on a Saturday after dark and a guy rides up on a bike with panniers and gear, asking where the market was. I took him (I was on my bike), we got stuff to cook and beer, went back to the apartment so he'd have a place without spending any money. Made burritos and drank craft beer, then took him to a nearby AT&T to get his international phone issues squared away. In the meantime, I set him up with another W/S host in Beaverton and a few more down the Oregon Coast. He was riding from Alaska to Argentina.

I've stayed with W/S hosts at least 30 times in my 20,000+ miles of excursion riding. As I can't host (except maybe in an emergency as above), My Mom in Baton Rouge hosts a cyclist or two a year.

When on the road, I do not stay more than overnight unless there's a problem. I have gout and suffered a very severe attack once while at a W/S host, asking our host if we could stay another day in exchange for us buying groceries. He insisted we stay until my condition improved and refused my offer for groceries, saying our stories from the road were payment enough. I have never met a single one that was offensive or dangerous in any way. Met a couple of characters, but, hey...we're two middle-aged hippies running around the country on bicycles, so I guess we're characters, too.

I'm disappointed in the numbers above. I had hoped the approval rate would be closer to 75-80% or better. Perhaps this is impetus for us to be that much better as guests so that we encourage our hosts not to give up because of a few jerks or leeches. Besides--you can always throw 'em out.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
I started touring in the

I started touring in the early 1980s. I was living at home with my parents and was able to briefly host 2 guys I had met while touring. Several years, numerous hosts, and thousands of miles later, I finally have a home well suited to take in travelers. So, it has taken me 30 years to reach this place. Remember, some seeds need nourishing, and in time, will grow into something awesome!

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真

There are always going to be people who take advantage of other's goodwill, but that is the risk and generally speaking most WS participants have their heart in the right place. If you remember we are blessed to be a blessing life, seems to work out ok...( derived from a misspent youth hitch hiking )

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
I officially started hosting

I officially started hosting this year and have something like 11 or so hosts/assists.
Although I've helped bike travelers all through my adult life, this has been a new angle on that experience and I've been extremely happy with how this first year has gone!
I appreciate a place like Warm Showers, the ability to connect, critique, and carry on.
It's the low-point in the biking season around here but I do still see a few on the 101.
I am looking forward to the height of next season!

I feel like I was able to quickly come to a definite set of issues/needs that I could help with and those I was not able to or not interested in dealing with, such that, in my lengthy description I feel I've been positive and clear about what to expect.
My dealings so far with all the travelers I've hosted and helped has been truly awesome!
I'm still in contact with a few of them, and almost all of them have at least let me know they made their destinations!

I accept that I may come across someone, down-the-road, who might not fit my definition of the right guest, but in setting up my accommodations, I believe I have also prepared for that eventuality. Hopefully it will be a peaceful, fairly trouble-free send off if need be.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Who is really doing the leeching here?

In your notes above you wrote that some people define "leeches" as people who use Warm Showers as a guest, but don’t expect to reciprocate with hosting. You also wrote that "all are asked to reciprocate with hosting someday". These types of comments suggest that hosting is a form of "repayment", something we should "give back" to the cycle touring community after being guests. I don't have a problem with this type of attitude as a means for people to start hosting, but I hope, over time, that their attitude changes and that hosting becomes something which is enjoyable and valued in it's own right. Guests can provide hosts with an authentic cultural experience, an abundance of entertainment and a gargantuan of inspiration, all from the comfort of their own home. Maybe it's not the guests who are being the "leeches"...

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Well said. A lot of

Well said. A lot of assumptions being made here about the nature of the hospitality 'transaction' - I was hoping I wasn't the only one who had a different perspective.

From another hosting leech.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
The power of language

When this thread began I was a little concerned by the word "leech." Even though the word was presented to us, the site admins, by hosts who felt they were being taken advantage of by guests who barely interacted or behaved badly or were oblivious to what the host considered "social conventions," it is still a loaded word.

Clearly, not everyone thinks alike, for which I am eternally grateful. It helps keep things interesting, does it not?

And now, this turn of the screw brings us hosts as the true "leeches." I would never have considered that perspective had it not been presented here. Thank you!

I would really like to see this conversation turn to solutions and away from the urge to bash each other. We posted the "How to be a good guest" and "How to be a good host" in an effort to address some of the issues that got us here in the first place. What is your take on those documents?

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
You look like a major host

You look like a major host leech Mark - when are you going to be a guest and give back to the community?

But seriously, I've seen a number of hosts in hospex give it away angry and bitter and each time my sense was that at the centre of it all was an idea they had that from the very first handshake at their doorstep there was an unequal relation of creditor and debtor, that they were owed something (a gift, overly obsequious behaviour etc) and with each insufficient reimbursment, each perceived wrong, their resentment grew, and as their resentment grew so did their idea of being owed something from the next unsuspecting guest.

Some of the comments I see on this forum seem to reflect this attitude - and it can be very easy to be drawn into that paradigm - but it's something I think hosts need to be mindful of and resist. I don't expect any more from my guests than from anyone else I meet - that is being treated with respect. Nobody is forcing me to host, I do it because I enjoy it (most of the time) - if things don't work out I ultimately have to take responsibility as I am the one who chooses who stays in my house and who doesn't.

Hosts will always be a minority on hospex sites, we need to value them and look after them but I do have a problem with the sense of entitlement some attach to hosting. It might serve some here well to consider taking a break and reassessing.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
I agree! Mark is a guest

I agree! Mark is a guest hoarder! He needs to get out and visit some of the people he has so graciously hosted!

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Hi Randy, As with any

Hi Randy,
As with any questionnaire, there are problems with interpretation. I think the question about guests being invited back asked how many were "great" guests. I guess it depends on your definition of "great" as opposed to, perhaps, 'average'. Answers might have been different if "great" has been left out and the question had been simply "how many guests would you be happy to host again?".

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
to leech or not to leech

I host a lot. I've never been a guest. And I have ideas and opinions about what makes a good guest. My criteria may or may not be the same as someone else's. I think life, in general, is all about the spirit in which things are done. Some guests are needy, because they are just not good planners. Cyclists all have different agendas. Some, it's about the miles per day. Some it's about the $$ per day. Some, it's about the social aspect and the connection that a stay with a real human provides. I have to say that as a host, I have learned to be more flexible with my expectations of guests, because of the above reasons. I am at a crossroads of many routes. I've hosted thousands of cyclists. I have an area set up just for cyclists. They have their own space, bathroom, hot shower. I feed most all of them. And for the most part, they appreciate the food and social interaction. And I do as well. Occasionally, we have had leeches..and these cyclists don't realize that *how* they say things impacts my feelings about the whole experience...When the conversations boil down to basically what *they* can *get* for free and me, me, me..that's a little demeaning..I have put a lot of thought and effort into providing a place and experience for them that is truly cycling tourist friendly. For the most part, my experience has been positive. Now, if someone asks if, because we host so much, I've ever had a negative experience, my reply is "yes, but not enough to really talk about". I don't want to devote a lot of conversation to negative, mostly I want to build the positive experience. I've had guests (leeches) steal tools, I've had more toilet paper stolen than I like to think about, lots of different little things that will conveniently fit in bike bags disappear..But, my reason for hosting is that I feel like I contribute to the traveling experience in a good way to 99% of the cyclists who stay here and just chalk up the crappy experience to life in general.
Someone said to just state what you expect in a guest..and I do try to that, but it's amazing how many different scenarios present themselves and to state everything just comes off as being bossypants. I do my best to always try to remember it's not MY's theirs. This past weekend, I had 4 cyclists. 2 were expected. One was a comeback, he was sick and evidently retreated back here to convalesce, and the other was a newbie, no notice with a wheel that was toast..he could NOT continue without mechanical intervention. (I am also printed on the ACA maps as a bike hostel, so the no notice riders come off the map information)
I like hosting. It is work, it is occasionally exhausting. I like helping those who truly need help and appreciate it, and learn something from it. I like just being here for those who need a place to simply crash, sleep and continue the next day.
If I generalize about the warmshowers experience, I would generalize in a positive direction. I have learned so much about people, how to tolerate, how to adapt, and how to not really have an opinion about something, but to just appreciate each person each day for what I may learn from them.

Unregistered ユーザー anon_user の写真
Thanks for taking your time

Thanks for taking your time on this, Randy. It is surely helpful for lots of people on both sides of the hosting/hosted equation.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Does location matter?

Only real cyclists can reach me by bicycle. I live a long way from anywhere and am guarded by big hills and rugged weather. This seems to block leaches. All my guests have had a good understanding of their obligations.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Opinion on "leech" survey

I don't want to take side but its good to know that this survey exist. I really don't have much to say, so i better be quiet. So much hostility in the forum. Name callings etc. I am not able to evaluate the situation regarding the "leeches" but its good to know that this "leech" survey serves a purpose. It helps to get the ball rolling. That it may lead to improvements and better provide a definite host-guest relationship.

That is my opinion. I am very sorry if my English is very confusing. I hope i can get that point across.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
My opinion by Ogawa J.

I don't really understand what's going on but i do get that part regarding that some people might "leech" off the hospitality of Warm Showers. I never experienced it either since i am a new member of Warm Showers. I registered on Warm Showers this year. And other than that, only had a couple from Netherland as my first guest.

The idea of a hospitality exchange, well, i don't really know. How does it work? I certainly do not want to have member of the public to abuse the hospitality given without returning anything back into the community. So far, i have had completed a round trip around the State of Sabah, Malaysia. Along the way, i encounter so much kindness and help. Or is that just being a stereotypical Asian trait? I am an Iban, which is part of Asian ethnicity.

As i tour, strangers has paid for my meal, paid for my accommodation, provided lodging for the night at their home, gave directions, etc. Note that these people are not member of Warm Showers. One thing i noticed is that these people do not expect their assistance to be reciprocated. Unless i have offered it first, such as money.

In return, these people benefit from touring cyclist. I take photos, upload it to social media website, and write about the experience. Words travel fast. These people, who have rarely venture out of their village, of course, they are curious. Its a passive two-way exchange. They don't necessarily get much of it.

The first encounter usually is just a pioneer contact. In truth, i am sort of a promoter, advertiser, marketeer etc. Things that does not appear on Trid Advisor or Lonely Planet. Its always the little thing. Basically, i put those locations i have visited back on the map.

The point is, if there are people who abuse Warm Showers or any other similar hospitality exchange, essentially kill off the system and in the long run, the community itself. Do you know how difficult it is to tour without proper logistics etc? It would have been a different story if i have tonnes of money to burn and travel in style. As an environmentally conscious traveler, there are reasons why i chose to tour by bicycle. No, i am not making a holier-than-thou statement. We are all guilty at one point in time or another. I am just trying to subsidise my carbon footprint.

I really don't have much to say. Really. Only one guest and as a new member, i really don't have that experience to leave any comment. Right now, i am in difficult period time in my life. Being expelled from school, my front disc brakes is bent (Thanks Malaysia Airlines! Even with proper packaging and a big red FRAGILE sticker), only have 2 backpack of my personal belonging, and unemployed. So, tell me if i am just yacking away.

There are reasons why i decide to sign up as a member. I want to pay back those who have helped me, even though i might not be able to help the same person. I just pay it forward. To the next person in need of my help. And yes, i did sold my beloved first motorcycle. When you get financially desperate, everything goes.

My opinion on a "leech" is a person who take advantage of the community. It's like sort of a person who has a job, a car, and a fully stocked pantry enough to last until the next 6 month, and yet still rely on food stamp.
I don't put any standard to my guest. You message me, tell me the nature of your problem, and i will assist you with whatever resources available to me at that moment. A yes means Yes, a no means No.

I will continue to host for as long as i can hold out. If circumstances are not viable for me, i will inform others appropriately. There are features in Warm Showers if you are not able to host.

I don't understand "tit-for-tat" feedback. Is that sort of "scratch my back, i scratch yours" sort of deal? If so, i don't do that. If you help me and you expect me to return that favour, thats not how hospitality exchange works.
I understand that the survey is not that methodological and there are some allowance for margin. The purpose of the survey is to have a general overview on how things are in Warm Showers, especially the "leech" issue.

Some problems that i face when traveling is no respond at all from the host. Sometimes i would inform them a few month in advance and when it is not possible to do so, i would do so in short notice, as in 2 weeks notice. If you can't host, at least respond to my note. A text. An e-mail.

Other than that, my tour last October takes about 21 days to complete 1580km. I wear out about one 26" tyre, nine 26" inner tube, two pedals, and one set of front cable gear. I only load one pair of Ortlieb rear pannier and camping set placed on top, secured with a bungee chord.

I understand my opinion on this "leech" issue is divided and it is not made clear enough. I am terribly sorry if my English grammar or comprehension is a little difficult to understand. Note that the "you" in my opinion does not refer to a personal context of the reader. It could be anyone. I just want to participate in the forum as i see fit.

*As i read through the forum, i noticed some form of hostility. Name callings etc. Thats none of my business. I just want to voice out my opinion on this forum and specifically to respond the "leech" survey. I really think this is not the sort of attitude a cyclist should have. I don't know about the West especially USA but as the only Asian from Sibu, i think i have a rough idea why driver has a certain dislikes towards cyclist (taxes, sharing the road etc)

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
After 17 years of hosting

After 17 years of hosting 8 to 10 WS members a year, I can only think of one person who I would not invite back. There has been a dramatic drop in guests this year. My only guest in 2019 was in January with one other request when I was out of town. 

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