How to Handle Online Couch Surfers
Question: A Facebook friend recently told me via email that she had booked a ticket to my city and subsequently asked if she could stay at my place. My two-bedroom house barely fits my family, and though we're "friends" online, we're really more like acquaintances. How do I respond?
My take: You know how some refer to alcohol as "liquid courage?" It seems your "friend" has some serious online courage. That or just big cojones. I don't know about you, but I don't let just anyone into my personal space and, based on your question, it sounds like you don't have much free space anyway. So that means the answer is, "No, you can't stay at my place." Now, how do we say that eloquently?
First, it's important to realize that this "friend" may not, and in fact mostly like won't, understand where you're coming from, no matter how syrupy sweet you say it. She's shown she's awfully bold and pushes beyond boundaries most of us wouldn't dare touch. So email her back, matching method of response with method of request, and keep in mind your goal while compiling your reply: to be tactfully honest while coming from a good place.
Personally, I like the short and sweet approach. Too much explanation can lead to loopholes, which cojone-d people are swell at seeking out and manipulating. I'd go with something like:
How exciting that you're planning a trip to My City! Unfortunately I won't be able to host you while you're visiting, but if you need hotel recommendations or would like to get together for a cup of coffee, let me know.
There you have it -- short and sweet. I love giving recommendations, so it's easy for me to throw that offer out there. Plus, I work from home most days, so an excuse to get out for a cup of coffee is music to my ears. If those are actions you'd despise, don't suggest them. The point is to be honest. If that means your email is a two-line turndown, so be it.