Author Topic: Warm Showers  (Read 4791 times)

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Offline Gus

Warm Showers
« on: March 09, 2022, 09:13:44 pm »
Starting the TransAm in May going E-W. Just curious what experience anyone has had with Warm Showers? Would you recommend it? Thanks.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2022, 12:21:34 am »
I used to LOVE WarmShowers.  However, about 4(?) years ago, they hired a new "Executive Director" who is paid something like $70k year to work very part time.  They now charge for the app to request a night (desktop website is still currently free) and they "upgraded" the phone app when reality it went hugely downhill.  They also fired the volunteer board that worked for free then installed a Board that I think gets paid money now to rubber stamp the CEO's decisions.  One of the things the volunteers did was do the computer work.  Well after they were fired, it is my understanding WS hired a computer "expert" who charged something like $100k to "upgrade" the website and it was all a huge mistake.  They still pay for ongoing computer work and the salaries where before it was mostly volunteer and free and mostly worked fine.

They also radically changed the Forums so you can't even comment about the website or point out bugs and much worse, to me, they delete any negative comments about the board and only occasionally respond with the typical "corporate speak".  I would tell you how I really feel but who knows, they may try to sue me. 

All of the aforementioned is strictly my own OPINION based on information I believe to be true but in fact may not be. Hopefully, that will cover me legally.

All in all, I like the hosts but really dislike what the Board has done.  I will no longer donate to them. 

As a guest, I think they are fine (except now you have to pay if you use the app).  The HUGE downside is that the site has become filled with TONS of people who sign up just to get free housing and never host anyone so you end up in a city like Tulsa where you send out 10 requests and maybe get only 1 or 2 responses which may or may not be able to host. Due to the poor website communication interface lots of potential hosts frequently do not get requests.

I still host and will continue to use as a guest, but will not do anything to further the WS "board" use of being paid for shoddy work including donating. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2022, 07:53:28 am »
I have stayed with WS hosts only a few times.  It generally doesn't work for me since I don't like to plan ahead in any detail.  I don't want to be nailed down on which towns I will stop in or when.  Hosts typically want some notice.  I can't blame them.  How much varies, but it is usually more than works out for me.  I actually am often unsure if I will stop in a given town until I am there.  I may get to a town I thought I might stop in and decide to press on another 20 miles or I may stop for a break in the afternoon and decide to stay.  I don't think it is fair to bother hosts that I am very unlikely to wind up staying with.

On one long tour I tried to have a list of folks I could have queued up and kind of ready.  I sent out a lot of emails expressing interest and a general timeline saying I'd contact with a date when I was closer.  I got a very low hit rate of replies.  I think I only actually stayed with one on a multi week tour.  I wound up staying in my usual town parks, church yards, and so on.  I sent everyone a nice thank you for replying explaining that I wound up not needing a stop in their town any way.

Oh, I have used a WS host for the first night of a tour since i know where I will be.  WS hosts can sometimes be willing to offer various logistic help as well, like a place to store a shipping case.  Also as a host I have driven out and picked up a broken down tourist in a storm.

I do wind up staying with folks I meet along the way sometimes.

I have been a WS host in the past too.  It was a positive experience in Maryland, but we were not close to any AC route so we didn't see much traffic.  When we moved to Tallahassee we had the opportunity to host more, being right on the ST, but we have an issue here with folks that I think abuse the system essentially living off of staying with hosts.  A few seem to perpetually be "doing the ST" but are actually staying with one host after another until their welcome wears out.  My read of that may be wrong, but I stopped hosting via WS because of it.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2022, 07:57:01 am by staehpj1 »

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2022, 08:53:18 am »
A few seem to perpetually be "doing the ST" but are actually staying with one host after another until their welcome wears out.
There is a definite sub-group of "cyclists" who's route is basically to go to the next closest house and then try to stay until they are no longer welcome.  To me, that is why it is so important to leave truthful FACTUAL but emotionally-neutral feedback if you encounter such a guest so others who read the feedback have an idea what they may be looking into.  On one occasion early on, I did allow such a "cyclist" but that was only because there was severe inclement weather forecast (strong storms, hail, tornado, forecast for that night.  In the morning, the guy whined and danced about how he really needed to stay an extra day because he was not feeling well, his body hurt from riding (the previous night was on the other side of Tulsa), etc. , but I politely said no, one night was it.  A month or two later, he deleted his account.

That said, 99% of guests are great.  It is just the admin I disagree with.



Offline Ty0604

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2022, 01:00:47 pm »
WarmShowers has been great for me but I don’t use it very often anymore. As John mention, the app isn’t free and new members need to pay to sign up. I believe it’s $30. I use to donate to the board and would much rather donate money to them instead of being forced to pay. Because of this, I’ve ended my donations.

A lot of people don’t reply either which is unfortunate. It does show you when the user was last active though.

I understand the need to give advance notice but that can be hard while touring. A day of strong headwinds, a mechanic issue and your “schedule” is off.

On my first cross country ride, from Oregon to Maine, I used them probably a dozen times. Another time I hit up a host in Ohio because the local law enforcement wouldn’t let me bicycle across a bridge and, after waiting hours on end at a rest stop asking others for a ride, I gave up and called the only guy in that town on WS. He gave me a ride and I bought him lunch on the other side of the bridge. I’ve texted WS host to get suggestions on routes sometimes. On my second cross country ride, from Chicago to San Diego along Route 66, I used it only three times. Not many host along that route. In Florida, I got stranded in Hurricane Sally, and hit up a WS host who ended up hosting me for a night and giving me a ride out of the storm damage. I wouldn’t normally hit up a WS host day of but it was an emergency. All the campgrounds were closed, roads east of the city were flooded and impassable and the hotels were also closed. I’ve used them sparingly on other tours. A few times WS host have approached me (rest areas, gas stations etc) and offered me a place. I’ve also used them to begin/end trips. They’re great resources. This May I’m doing Delmarva and am staying at WS host in my starting and ending cities of Philadelphia and Charlotte.

I’m also not too social and when I stay with a WS host I feel the need to socialize. At the end of a long day I prefer to be alone and therefore the local city park or churchyard is good enough for me.

As a host, I hosted a bit when I lived in Portland. I lived in Denver for 4 years and only hosted once as no routes really pass close by. In Nashville I’ve hosted a few times as my place is close to the Northern Terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. But I also travel a lot so I’m not often available. I would love to live on an ACA route and be a stop for cyclist. I think it’d be cool to have a camp or something. My friend in Darby (Montana) host hundreds of cyclist (and thru hikers since the CDT passes by) a year.

I also use to be a fan of CouchSurfing but they now require a donation to have an account. Talk about an oxymoron. I can’t even log into my account without getting past the paywall. It makes me feel guilty cause I get messages from CouchSurfing guest but I can’t reply because I refuse to pay. I contacted CouchSurfing to have my account closed and they wouldn’t help me unless I logged in, paid their “donation” and closed it myself.

Lastly, please leave reviews! That’s always the first thing I check when requesting a host or hosting someone myself. Don’t be afraid to ask your host to leave you a review as well. Most of them probably will already though.

Happy Touring!
« Last Edit: March 10, 2022, 01:10:05 pm by Ty0604 »
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline staehpj1

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2022, 05:16:07 pm »
A few seem to perpetually be "doing the ST" but are actually staying with one host after another until their welcome wears out.
There is a definite sub-group of "cyclists" who's route is basically to go to the next closest house and then try to stay until they are no longer welcome.  To me, that is why it is so important to leave truthful FACTUAL but emotionally-neutral feedback if you encounter such a guest so others who read the feedback have an idea what they may be looking into.  On one occasion early on, I did allow such a "cyclist" but that was only because there was severe inclement weather forecast (strong storms, hail, tornado, forecast for that night.  In the morning, the guy whined and danced about how he really needed to stay an extra day because he was not feeling well, his body hurt from riding (the previous night was on the other side of Tulsa), etc. , but I politely said no, one night was it.  A month or two later, he deleted his account.

That said, 99% of guests are great.  It is just the admin I disagree with.
The thing is that the guy who was the catalyst for me ending my hosting didn't really actually do anything wrong during his stay.  He was quite charming and polite and while manipulative didn't do anything that we didn't allow him to do.  I didn't feel he did anything that would allow me to fairly give him a bad review.  I was annoyed, but not that much.  It was more on hindsight when I talked to other hosts about him and others of his ilk.  I continued to list myself as a host for a while, but screened out folks that sounded like they might follow his MO.  Pretty soon I gave up on hosting when sorting them out seemed more trouble than it was worth.  I guess I could have made it a firm rule that it was a one night stay up front and perhaps that would have eliminated most of the folks I was trying to avoid.  The thing is I'd have no problem putting someone up a few nights if they actually needed a break on a long tour.  I didn't want to host folks freeloading by hopping from host to host in town until their account is burned and creating a new one.

Offline LouMelini

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2022, 10:13:45 am »
As a former member of the board of Warmshowers (2012-2015), I find the conversations interesting. Currently I am very much out of touch with what is going on with the administration of Warmshowers (WS). I have only heard through another former board member that the website and apps have cost a lot of money.  I still donate small amounts, I host after carefully scrutinizing the profile of the guest, and my wife and I were guests to 2 wonderful hosts on a tour last year. There are issues with WS that has been described in the posts. In my opinion, the organization grew too rapidly during my time on the board. The "free lodging" attracted a lot of people that did not share the mission of reciprocity. At that time I was on the board, we were a volunteer group. The Executive director that created the website in 2005 put in hundreds of hours each year but burned out in 2014. We voted to pay him during his final year but that did not help. The replacement volunteer executive director did not work out and left the position within a year. Having a perfect guest/host mix in WS has been difficult. Those that post in the forums have a clear idea of what a good guest and host should be. Fees can control growth and perhaps mitigate problem guests on WS, but fees are obviously not popular. I don't know what the answers are to solve the problems of non-responsive hosts and guests that are primarily looking for free housing. I've been subjected to both. I hope to continue to be a good, but careful host, and a good guest.  To answer the original question posted, we only stayed at the home of a host once on our 2018 TransAm ride. The experience was simply OK as there are differences in hosting from people that have toured and from those that do not have experience traveling on a bike.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2022, 10:32:34 am »
Lou, thank you for your post.  If my information or perception, please correct me as I truly do want to get it right.  To me, WS used to be a really good organization, granted with some issues do to its fast growth.  Now that WS no longer allows posts regarding the Board/decision/etc., much more info is becoming speculative. 

In your opinion, what was the primary reason for the board changeup?  Was it burnout, a "coup" as some have described, didn't like the new direction, or ????

I firmly believe at its core, WS is a good concept.  The the current execution of that concept is not going well.
Thanks for any input you feel comfortable to give.

Offline LouMelini

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2022, 10:55:27 am »
John:  thanks for asking. I have hosted people whenever possible soon after my first tour across the US in 1975. You have been touring for many years and may remember the Touring Cyclists Hospitality Directory that was started in 1976 or 77 (disbanded about 2004). I think your comments are appropriate but I am currently out of touch enough that I can't confirm nor deny your concerns.  I have not used or even looked at the forums of WS for a couple of years as they are rarely informative. In my time on the board, the primary reason for Randy leaving the board was burn-out. Though I have not spoken to him in many years, I still admire the work and dedication he put into the organization for nearly a decade. Since I left, I don't know enough of board politics to comment on the "coup" comment. My friend on the board left about 3 or so years ago. Our conversations were primarily grumbling about the host/guest issues inherent in WS. As you stated, at its core, WS is a good concept and as you said, the current concept is not going well, though at times the concept goes very well if hosts and guests understand and buy into the mission. In summary I think I am currently out of touch to comment further other than to say that the growth of WS created problems and the concept of free (lodging) is not without it owns creation of problems.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2022, 11:08:27 am »
The "free lodging" attracted a lot of people that did not share the mission of reciprocity.
I am pretty out of touch and never had any real knowledge of the workings of WS, so this is just the view from the perspective of a former sometimes guest sometimes host.

I kind of figure that was inevitable and even okay.  Those who were moved to host would host those who weren't wouldn't.  Some would only be guests.  Some may not be in a position to host, some may just not be moved to.  I think it shouldn't be a requirement that folks actually host in order to be guests, but that is just my opinion.  Certainly many are college students living in a dorm or otherwise do not have the ability to host.  They are the very folks that most need the hospitality.  The ones I do have a problem with are the ones who try to live off of WS hosts with multiday stays hopping around town and changing accounts when thier account is burned.

Many folks were the recipients of hospitality from folks met along the way when on tour and were inspired to be WS hosts hosting others.  I know that is how it was with me.  I don't think I had ever stayed with anyone via WS when I started hosting, but had stayed with hosts met along the way.  My memory is a bit hazy on when I may have stayed with the very few WS hosts I stayed with though.  In the long run I  stayed with way more folks I met on the road than ones I contacted through WS.  I also hosted more than I stayed with, but I don't mind folks who were guests and not hosts as long as they were actually touring.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2022, 11:13:27 am by staehpj1 »

Offline LouMelini

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2022, 11:54:26 am »
Staehpj1: Nice comments. In my effort to be succinct, I should have clarified that not all guests can host due to housing or other circumstances that you mentioned.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2022, 12:11:15 pm »
Staehpj1: Nice comments. In my effort to be succinct, I should have clarified that not all guests can host due to housing or other circumstances that you mentioned.
I get that and am totally fine with that.  However, it is my understanding that WS is supposed to be a reciprocal group in that you are supposed to offer free overnight lodging (tent space or inside) if it is reasonable for you to do so.  There are lots of perfectly fine reasons why you may not be able to host.  You are out of town, have guests already, don't have space, you are sick, you just need a break from it, etc.  After all, it is your home.
It is the ones that sign up with no intention of ever hosting even though they could that I have an issue with.  Ironically, these seem to be the most demanding.

Anyway, I will continue to host but will not donate again to WS until their policies change.  Finally, if I have to pay to host, I will no longer host.

Sorry to get so far off topic to the OP!

Offline ray b

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2022, 02:37:38 pm »
Many thanks to all.

Not really off-thread, as the answer to the posted question is no longer a simple, "Yes."
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nelson

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2022, 09:44:51 pm »
Warm Showers is just a collection of individual hosts and guests, so experiences will vary. Good hosts and guests mean good experiences. Bad hosts and guests mean bad experiences. I believe there are many more of the former than the latter, and you can make a guess as to what you will experience by the interactions you have with them before you meet. Yes, there does happen to be an organization that runs the show, but that organization will have much, much less to do with your experience than the individual hosts and guests you encounter.

Offline j1of1

Re: Warm Showers
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2022, 08:50:20 pm »
I'm a WarmShowers host and user of WarmShowers.  My experiences hosting cyclists and staying with hosts has always been very positive and I will stay with WarmShowers simply because I want to continue hosting long-distance cyclists so I can help them achieve their dreams.   Having said that I've also moved to Be Welcome [  https://www.bewelcome.org/ ] which is another hosting site that is HUGE in Europe and growing rapidly in the USA.  Check it out.... 

One more thing... I gave up on CoachSurfing.  It is good concept, gone bad by those that like to take advantage of the host.