I have been a member of this site for many years now and with the exception of one sit, all my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. As for the one sit in question, I had some reservations going in based on communications with the owner but I did it anyway because in many ways I thought it would be an interesting experience and it was–middle of the Costa Rican jungle totally uplugged with very basic living, lots of inner work accomplished. So when issues did arise I wasn’t surprised and just took it all in stride. I took ownership of my choice to do a sit that I wasn’t fully confident would go smoothly.
While this certainly isn’t the case for ALL sitters having bad experiences, I notice a common thread on here in the stories many of them share: There was some sense of not feeling totally confident in taking the assignment but then doing it anyway and having their suspicions confirmed.
This was either a general intuitive sense that was more ‘vague,’ or feeling uncomfortable with specific aspects of the sit ,or the owner, from the get go, or as new information comes to light after accepting.
I think these situations often arise from a tendency to let fear and attachments drive decision making–they really want to be in a specific area, the sit is very convenient for their schedule, they want to minimize costs of paying for accommodation, they are afraid other opportunities won’t come along and the like, and feel a self-imposed pressure to take on sits that might not be a good fit.
There are so many opportunities on here and there is absolutely no reason to take a sit that you don’t feel totally good about, there is no reason to stick to an assignment after confirming if the owner starts contradicting things they originally said, start asking for things that seem unreasonable, or request things that totally change the landscape of the assignment in ways you wouldn’t have agreed to originally. If a listing doesn’t seem appealing, don’t apply.
I commend the site for trying to step up their game and be more than just a middleman connecting sitters and owners–the background checks, the forum, the willingness of membership services to try and mediate disputes and what not.
But unless THS decides to become a house sitting agency that contracts with sitters whom they personally interview, directly facilitates matches between owners and sitters and the like, at the core, this is what they will essentially remain and expectations need to be adjusted to reflect this reality.
Unless they employ people all over the world to verify the state of someone’s home, the accuracy of the photos or whether the owner has cleaned up before the sitter arrives, people could possibly end up in less than desirable environments. I personally have never been in a house that wasn’t as clean as the photos suggested, and that is one thing I really look out for.
Both owners and sitters take some degree of ‘risk’ by inviting strangers into their home, and going to live in the home of strangers. I don’t really have any expectation from the site to offer me any sort of significant ‘protection’ from this reality.
If there are true problem sitters or owners they can remove them from the site and that’s great. But that is not something that can be discovered until the actual sits take place. Again, some risk involved.
The sitters are not employees for which the site has any true, legal responsibility. The site is not directly providing owners the sitters–they are responsible for picking someone on their own. The site can offer background checks and other forms of verification to increase confidence in the process ,but anyone, barring failing the checks, can join so long as they pay.
If you look at the site for what it is truly designed to be, it’s great I think most problems people have stem from unrealistic expectations. The only complaint I believe has any real merit are the issues with the review system, and I have no doubt whatever they come up with will also have elements about which people will complain!
Everyone is here by their own choice and if they are unhappy with certain aspects of how the site operates, they don’t have to use it.
I imagine this prospect is not appealing for many sitters because no other site even comes close to the number of listings on offer, and probably serves as their main source of bookings. This of course was why so many people were upset about the new background check rules, which I imagine many did anyway, even if very begrudingly!