I really like Couchsurfing. I met so many people thanks to that website. I hosted 3 lovely girls and went out for drinks and parties with random people many times. I have never had any bad experiences until yesterday…
I enjoy being with others, socialising, talking, drinking. I need people around me. Travelling by myself has been tough sometimes, especially when I want to hang out in a pub. It’s been hard meeting strangers in Australia. It is not Asia, where you sit in a bar and during the first hour you you can meet 10 other travellers. Here people don’t chat you up that much, and they hang out in their own groups. It’s a bit like Europe.
So, once a week, when I feel like I want to go out I post a message on CS asking if there is anyone who would fancy a drink with me. Yes, mostly I get messages from men (and yes, I do hope they are handsome, intelligent and funny – I’m a single woman, what can I do?). Through that I met a nice Mexican guy I partied with in Had Rin, and then a Bolivian, with whom I got kicked out of a pub in Sydney (I haven’t told you that story yet, but I will. Promise).
Yesterday I got a message from an Australian (let’s call him Skippy), who wanted to show me some cool bars in Sydney. I was desperate to go and hang out with someone my age, plus it was a Saturday and what do you do on a Saturday in a city? You go out. Because of that I didn’t notice that Skippy had only 2 photos on CS and you couldn’t see his face in any them, he also had only 1 reference (positive, but still…) and he didn’t use a full name in his profile, but a nickname.
I met him in the city and went for a drink. He was nice enough, we had a good chat, the conversation flowed. I noticed that he was slightly shaky – like when you have a terrible hangover – but I thought he must have gone out the night before. Anyway, I didn’t ask.
He was drinking in a fast pace. In the second bar I had 2 drinks, he had 4.
The last pub he took me to had a hard rock theme. Downstairs was a den. People, all wearing black clothes and make up, were setting up a small stage for a band. Skippy wanted me to stay for the concert. I felt a little out of place in my long, pink – yellow dress and white top. Besides, the more I hang out with Skippy the more uncomfortable he made me feel. There was something not right about him. I made a quick excuse and went home. I still wanted to give him a good reference.
Just after midnight I received first text from him. It said: “LOL you are a slut”.
I hesitated. Maybe someone had stolen his mobile, maybe he’s really drunk. After a while I replied: “Oh am I now? It’s a very grown up thing of you to say. How about I write a nice reference on CS for you?”
Skippy replied: “Yeah whateva. You can’t say no. You are just a sad little girl. Go for it. I will get my friends to write about u”. I ignored it. He tried to call me a couple of times, I didn’t answer. He then threatened me with his friends again. This time they were supposed to search me at the airport. I ignored him again.
Then he went: “So chicken shit. You want to play that game little girl. What you going to write slut”. Another phone call. Then another text: “Coward. I will write about you. Read your profile”.
I went to my CS site. He gave me a negative reference, which said something like “Jo likes pubs. Jo likes men. Cheers. She threatens with negative references. Jo is on drugs. True statement”. It made me laugh, especially the last sentence. “Get a life, Skippy” I texted. He then proceeded to tell me that my life was shit and his was so much better. I don’t want to judge, but the guy is in his 30s, lives in some converted garage, drives a worklift for work and, looking at the texts he sent me, doesn’t have much of a social life.
I was a little angry as the whole thing spoilt my feedback a little, but then who would take that seriously anyway. I decided to wait with giving him my feedback until the next day, but I reported him to the CS administration.
I didn’t want to call police as yet. I thought that if he’d send me another couple of messages, I will then contact authorities. He texted me few more times calling me names, threatening me with his friends etc, and then he stopped.
The CS replied to me today saying that all they could do is to hide my profile. They couldn’t remove his feedback as it doesn’t breach their terms and conditions. They advised me to report the whole thing to the police. I didn’t.
This morning Skippy removed his profile. I haven’t heard from him since.
Was I scared? No. His messages didn’t scare me at all. I felt sorry for the guy as he clearly has some mental issues. He didn’t know where I lived, he didn’t know much about me, so there was nothing to be afraid of. What actually scared me more was the fact that I could have stayed with him in that pub for god knows how long, he could have gotten me drunk, or put something in my drink, he could have done something really bad to me. That scares me now, too.
Here is how you can avoid negative experiences with Couchsurfing:
- If someone has only 1 or 2 photos and you don’t see their face in them – DO NOT go out with them
- If someone has less than 3 positive references – DO NOT go out with them
- If someone doesn’t use their real name and uses a nickname – DO NOT go out with them
- If you’re gut tells you that there’s something wrong – RUN
I still think that Couchsurfing is great and can help you lots when you travel. The people I have met so far (except this guy) were wonderful and became my friends. But, from now on I will be extra careful.