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How to Handle Online Couch Surfers

Written by Tara Hall

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.

Tactfully Honest

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.

About the author

Tara Hall

For the longest time, Texas transplant Tara Hall wanted to be a profiler when she grew up. A bona fide FBI agent with mad analytic skills who could take on crime and the jacked up minds that commit it.

Instead, the long and winding road has led straight to writing.

It all started with an obscure undergrad study spot: the usually empty upstairs of a local live music dive in Austin, TX. Psychology books in tow, Tara would grab a seat in the balcony and read her assignments between performances of local musicians, ultimately leading to an internship with Austin's Citysearch office in the late '90s.

Skip ahead a little more than a decade to present-day. Tara now spends her time interviewing musicians, researching stories and penning articles for entertainment-centered publications and websites such as Metro.pop magazine and SoundSpike.com.

Best part of the job: Researching topics I'm perplexed by and interested in.

Secretly obsessed with: Eyelash extensions. Instant femininity and loads of compliments!

Current dream vacation: An exotic beach locale with a beach bag full of new fiction. A hot man alongside wouldn't hurt either.

Theme song: Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"

Snacking on: Light rye Wasa crackers, little dollop of Dijon and thinly sliced turkey. That, or a spoonful of Nutella, my semi-healthy chocolate fix.

If trapped on a desert island: Cherry Chapstick and a fun, resourceful companion.