What’s with unauthorised CouchSurfing verification payments? Verification system was never community’s favourite but this time there’s something more to it.

So this is how CouchSurfing currently operates: CS tells new members they can get added benefits by “verifying” their profiles. Verifying your identity is done using credit card. CS forgets to clearly mention it actually costs. CS just grabs your money every year from then on, if you ended on having an annual plan.

That’s pretty much what’s been going on for the past few months. CouchSurfing.com is really making an effort hiding away all the mentions about verification not being free.

The price is actually mentioned, but it’s hidden until you click little shopping cart icon which brings a dropdown with the price written in small grey text (via PayPal) or if you pay via Stripe’s credit card popup, the price is visible in small grey text only when entering the card information. Click images to see them bigger. The price is never mentioned anywhere on the actual verification page.

CouchSurfing verification via PayPal, screenshot CouchSurfing verification via credit card, screenshot

Current CouchSurfing’s get verified page (visible only for registered, non-verified members), or just see screenshots from June and August 2017.

CS verification page screenshot as of August 2017

So there are multiple setups of verification going on, depending on which A/B test group you might fall into. Prices vary between 19$ and 75$ as they’re testing different sums to find optimal price point. Visuals of that verification page might be different to different users as well. Sometimes it’s pay once for lifetime fee, sometimes an annual fee. Tests like that are fine and normal, but just in case you were wondering different prices being mentioned here and there.

While it might feel that giving by your credit card information online will get you charged, we absolutely should restrain from victim blaming. The the price should just be upfront visible, the only reason not to do so is to trick people into it.

I reached out for comments from Stripe and Paypal as this surely goes against their service agreements. Stripe commented back:

I can say with certainty that all appropriate actions will be taken and we will follow up with the owner of this business as necessary.

People are angry

Twitter is full of complains from people who ended up losing their money. Here are just some:

…and there are many more.

CouchSurfing, you really think this is a great way of doing business?

How to get refunds — #CSGimmeMyMoneyBack

If you verified and want a refund refunds, you can fill a form but it will take a while before they’ll get back to you.

Here’s a better idea:

You indeed might be better resolving this via PayPal’s buyers protection or you could open a dispute via your credit card company. You could also contact Stripe and explain them the situation. Stripe is CS’s credit card payment gateway.

Alternative

Now I’m in a bit tricky position to write such an article, because I’m working on a similar project to CS. Typically I’m retraining from stirring too much negativity into air around hospitality exchange, because I think we have better things to concentrate on. This time I just felt this was important and after watching this happen all summer, I just had to point it out. Needless to say, I encourage you to give a try to Trustroots as an alternative (I’m co-founder). We’re a non-profit foundation and good people you can trust.

If you still prefer using CouchSurfing, please let them know this is not okay.

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