The importance of references (and how to write one)

"Are you crazy??!!" she almost screamed. "You are going to let a complete stranger stay in your house?"

That was the reaction I got from one of my friends when I first told her that I was joining a hospitality exchange group as a host.

Her fears were understandable. How do you trust a person whom you have never met?

In our modern world, we often engage with people and businesses we don't know. How do we judge if that hairdresser, mechanic, babysitter, or plastic surgeon can be trusted with the job?

We look at the online reviews. If there are a substantial number of positive reviews—especially those containing detailed information—we feel more confident in the business or personal service in question. Trust: an essential element of couch surfing When selecting a potential host or deciding whether or not to accept a couch request, the first step is to review the person's profile. There you will find information about the person, their personality, and their home. These are the details that they write about themselves as an introduction.

The second step is to review the references they have received from other hosts, guests, or people they have interacted with through the platform. Here is where you will find details about what others have experienced.

The more positive entries that are recorded by others in a person's profile, the better the trust factor. These references are usually classified as coming from a guest, a host, or a friend so you can have a better idea of what to expect from your own interactions with them. Time is of the essence! After you have hosted a guest or have stayed with a host through the Couchers platform, you will receive an email with a prompt to write a reference for that person. It is important that you do this as soon as possible, as there is a limited amount of time allowed for the review to be classified properly as guest or host reference. The other person will also have received a prompt to write a reference for you.

Neither of you will be able to see the other's reference until you have both submitted your own, or the time limit runs out. This feature is designed to produce more honest references and eliminate retaliatory reviews in case of a less-than-positive experience.

What to include?

Your reference for the person does not need to be lengthy, so don't feel obligated to be Tolstoy. But it will be very helpful to future hosts/guests if you include some details about your stay and the person you spent time with. Did they do something especially nice for you? Were they helpful with information about how to find attractions and which bus to take? Did they have a friendly dog that loved to play? Put that in your reference!

You can include information about activities you did together with that person, such as going to a local restaurant that you wouldn't have found on your own. Or perhaps your guest cooked a special meal from their country for you.

When you write a timely reference, it helps continue to be a community built on trust. If you're not sure how to create a reference, follow the template at the bottom of this post.

What if the experience was not positive?

This can be an uncomfortable topic, but it is absolutely necessary to discuss. Member safety is one of the most important components of a successful HospEx (hospitality exchange) service like Couchers.

If your host or guest acted inappropriately towards you, or made you feel unsafe, it is vital that you include this in your reference. If you don't, then the next person may find themselves entering a situation that could have been avoided.

You may wish to reflect on what happened before you write the review. Perhaps there was a miscommunication or cultural custom you were unfamiliar with, but if you are certain that the other person acted improperly towards you, do not hesitate to make that clear in your reference.

Some experiences are simply negative, a case of rude behavior by the person you are writing the reference for. Other times, the person's behavior may border on, if not fully cross into, dangerous territory. If any person you meet through the platform—whether a guest, a host, or just a traveler you're meeting up with—makes you feel unsafe, be sure to report this to the Couchers Safety Team so an investigation can be made and prompt action taken.

References preserve memories

Fortunately, bad experiences are generally rare. Providing a good, detailed reference not only helps future hosts/guests to choose wisely, but gives an added bonus. As you continue to travel or host, those references can become treasured reflections on the wonderful experiences you have helped to create.

You'll be able to re-read them from time to time and look back in amazement at your adventures and the incredible people you met along the way!

Template for writing a reference

Here are some ideas on what to include in your reference:

  • Their name
  • Describe their personality. Funny? Nice? Quiet?
  • Activities you did together
  • Their home was clean/they were polite to guests
  • Anything else that you liked about them
  • Would you recommend them as a host/guest?

Written by Bob. Published on 2023/02/25

Want to submit to our blog? Sign up and let us know.