The curious case of the Helpx host from Hell aka My first Helpx experience was beyond awful

You know, this post was meant to be a positive one. I was eager to recommend the virtues of Helpx to every Malaysian (and non-Malaysian) out there. You work a few hours a day in exchange for free accommodation while travelling. Sounds like a good deal.

After all, I read so many blog posts about people’s experience with HelpX and they were almost always positive. (For example: Jonathan, Rhianonabike and Michelle.) I’m a naturally suspicious person and found Helpx too good to be true. So I looked up blogs writing about the experience. Since an overwhelming majority loved their Helpx experience, I thought it sounded safe enough to try.

I thought it would be a fantastic way to get to know Australians and Australia in a unique and intimate way before settling in. But somehow I lucked out with a super controlling, tyrannical and abusive Helpx host instead.

The tale began when I contacted Boss Lady (I came to call her that for reasons you will soon see) for a place. We exchanged a few emails but in the end it didn’t work out because I couldn’t fly in at the time she wanted me too. I was actually a little glad it fell through because her tone in the emails made me comfortable. The remark that got all my alarm bells ringing: “I’m always helping people, but somehow people never return the favour when I need it.” She seemed to have a big sense of entitlement … Also, she kept complaining about how life is unfair to her, and how people didn’t help her the way she wanted. All in all, I sensed that she had a negative mindset and was depressed.

Lesson 1: If you’re uncomfortable with the remarks the Helpx host makes, listen to your gut and skip that host, no matter how alluring the location!

I arranged with another Helpx at The Barossa, and packed for my big move to Australia.

Then, Boss Lady emailed me a fortnight before I was to leave and asked if I could still come to her place as she has now postponed her plans.

I had initially thought of staying in a hostel before heading to Barossa, so her invitation and offer of free accommodation was welcome. I took it despite my reservations. I mean, how bad could she be?

Lesson 2: Do not let your desire to save money overpower your reasoning faculties.

She picked me up and took me to her place. And that’s when I found out that her cheery ad on Helpx did not reflect what she really wanted me to do. In fact, she wasn’t very clear in our email conversations. Initially she told me that she’d like me to do “some cooking, help her with her office and memoirs”, utilising my skills as a writer. I sent her a link to my website so she knows who I am and what my skills are. From my impression, she wanted me for my skills as a writer. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough for her, but it seemed obvious to me that I’m telling her that I’m not a professional cleaner or au pair.

Lessons 3: Be very sure to find out what’s required of you.

Thus began two weeks of house arrest. Yes, you read that right. I had to work almost 9 hours a day, six days a week. My duties include babysitting, mopping, vacuuming, cooking for the people in the house, organising her incredibly messy office, garage, gardening, wiping, and washing dishes. I didn’t mind the hard work. What I minded was that she didn’t like me going out of the house on working days.

At first, she didn’t mind when I went out for dinner with a couple of friends. Later, she got more controlling.

Once, I realised that I forgot to buy shampoo, and asked her if I could go to the nearby supermarket (just a walk away) to buy it. This was after 8 hours of work, mind you. She said stiffly: “You should’ve done that on your off day.” Later, after days of not being let out, I was going stir crazy, and asked her if I could just go out for a walk. She was very unhappy about it, but allowed me to go out. Once, the other Helpxer left the house after completing his duties. When she returned and found him gone, she quickly called him and demanded to know where he was. To her credit, she didn’t demand him to return.

I ended up sneaking out to do personal things or never telling her what I’m doing on my off days lest she thinks I’m taking advantage of her!

And I thought, this is crazy! Am I not a free person? Who does she think she is, restricting my movements like this? And how am I suppose to experience Australia cooped up in her house being her cleaning lady and au pair?

Granted I was give two days a week off (first week was just one day though), but I resented not being able to go out of the house on “working days”. I felt like a prisoner!

Lesson 3: Be sure what the working conditions are like. Sometimes Helpx hosts are vague or flat out lie in their ads. Privately contact other Helpx hosts who lodged there before if possible.

Still, I did not mind the hard work. I know that the amount of time we worked vary among Helpx hosts. I was more annoyed with myself – that I didn’t make sure how many hours I was required to work.

What I couldn’t deal with was her demanding, abusive, mercurial and mean personality. For example:

She would often complain about her previous Helpx helpers – how they always never helped her the way she wanted to. When your Helpx host does that – run! Because you may be the next one she complains about. She was never really thankful for what they had done for her, which includes renovations and such.

I soon realised that it was nearly impossible to please her because she expects you to know instinctively what to do. Boss lady expected me to read her mind!

Once, after completing about 15 over tasks in six hours, she scolded me for not doing two items not on her list.

“Any reasonable person would know that you should do this,” she insisted.

No [$#@!]. We are not mind readers. And no thanks on the 15 tasks I completed.

She would often compare me with her previous Helpxers. As much as she disliked them, she was upset I wasn’t like them. I told her flatly that I was not them, so she better just deal with it. She wasn’t happy that I thought that way either!

She would watch every morsel I ate or utilities I used. She kept complaining about how much food I and previous Helpx helpers were consuming (fyi: I usually only ate twice a day, and meals were often just celery and dips with some cheese and meat slices; she stopped cooking for us after my fourth day there). When I dared to eat more meat than usual, she would remark how expensive I was becoming. She took away my hair dryer and hinted (strongly) that I shouldn’t use the heater. I admit, I was stubborn enough to continue eating those meals because I felt that that was the least she could do for us after her nasty behaviour!

I tried to comply as I know utilities are simply expensive in Australia, but when she complained about the electricity I was using skyping with my parents (she didn’t provide me access to her Internet, so I had to use my mobile connection), I just couldn’t believe it. First of all, I was using my laptop’s battery power, I was just making an innocent remark and I bloody skyped in the library!

Which brings me to this point: I had to watch what I said carefully.

There’s no such thing as an innocent remark with Boss Lady. She looks at my every remark suspiciously and seem to think I’m just up to no good. For example, when I innocently remarked that I was helping my fellow Helpx housemate plan a trip, she said:

“You mean you’re taking away my helper?”

I was flabbergasted. Boss Lady, did you think that we’ll stay with you indefinitely just to provide you free service? That’s not the spirit of Helpx – Helpx is about cultural exchange, friendships. At least that’s what the glossy website said.

If all this is not clear enough – she’s super controlling and demanding.

Once, while mopping, I answered a call on my mobile. She quickly told me to put it away: “I don’t want you distracted while working. No mobile phones while working.”

She told me that she wanted me to go on my hands and knees and wipe the bathroom floors with a rag. And I remembered how a friend told me that in Australia, people premium for detailed cleaning. I didn’t really mind the work – not even when she insisted I use a toothbrush to clean the corners of rooms, but I saw no reason why I couldn’t use a mop.

She didn’t like me sleeping late because that meant I won’t be alert working the next day. I told her that I had to work on my writing at night as I couldn’t do it any other time. She remarked that I shouldn’t be on another job while working with her. I told her pointedly that I told her via email that I was writing a book and she knows that very well.

Lesson 4: When you have a personality clash with your host, it’s just best to leave.

The final straw came when, after a 9-hour day of 20 tasks – where I cooked for five, she tells me imperiously: “You’re not trying hard enough.” I looked at her incredulously.

“Oh, I know I am.”

“Oh, I don’t think you are.”

(Since I know she’s convinced that I’m not trying hard enough, what else is there to say? Besides, I felt like we were in a kindergarten bralw: You did too! No I didn’t! Did too!)

Boss Lady: “I have to supervise everything you do! I mean, look at X. The other day, you mopped the room and just didn’t bother flicking the throw off the sofa. X did it without even being asked to.”

Me: “I’m sorry that you think that way. I admit that because I’m so focused on the list, I overlooked that.”

Boss Lady: “You wrote to me, offering all that help, but I have found you to be practically useless! You’re just not making an effort at all.  I mean, that dinner you cooked for us – you kept saying it was simple. Yet when A & B came, they prepared [some fancy French dish].

Me (incensed): “I explained to you that the reason why I cooked that simple meal was because I didn’t want you to spend money on unnecessary ingredients! You are always so concerned about finances, so I thought of the simplest, cheapest dishes to help you out! Furthermore, you kept saying that your kids are fussy eaters – any of the exotic dishes may turn them off as they are spicy or taste very unusual!”

Boss lady: “Yes, but you see – I don’t think you’re helping me much at all. I’m having trouble finding your niche. You wrote to me offering all that help but I find that you don’t have any skills. I thought that you could at least do some cleaning. But even that you’re bad at. You just have no initiative! You don’t arrange the books in the shelves, you don’t arrange the things in the office without being told…”

“You wrote to me saying that you like my skills as a writer. But never once did you ask me to help you with your writing projects. Instead you put me on cleaning. I’m not a professional cleaner, and a lot of times I do not dare to touch things in your office as I am afraid of filing an important document in the wrong place. I need to be told how to do things – I need to know your system. I do not want to mess up your system!”

Boss Lady: “But I told you that I have no system. And I just don’t have the time to tell you in detail what you should do.”

Me: “Well, in that case, I don’t think is working out. Do you want me to leave? Because, I should just leave if you think I’m so unhelpful.”

Boss lady looked a little uncertain, and I thought – Wait, you actually thought I would stay after this conversation? But in the end we agreed that I should leave.

Admittedly, after that conversation, I was really shaken up. For nearly two weeks I had been criticised, called useless, micro managed, told never to go out, had to sneak food from the fridge, and sniped at whenever I make an innocent remark. It was the worst possible way to get to know Australia. Luckily this is not my first impression of Australia as I’ve had extensive travelling experience, but if I was a newcomer to Oz, I would seriously think that all Aussies are tyrannical users.

Tearfully, I called my friend Yin and asked for her help. I was at wits’ end. I couldn’t find a new place to bunk in time, had turned down accommodation because of Boss Lady (she also promised to rent me the room for a great price). She was in the neighbourhood and offered to whisk me out.

In an hour.

So, I packed up and took my bags to the street. I waited in a corner a few metres from her house, afraid that Boss Lady would throw more abuse at me if she found out I have “escaped”. Yin came, and we made a daring escape. We laughed all the way – partly because of the exhilaration and partly because it’s so hilarious that we’re even doing this.

By the time Boss Lady came back, an hour after our conversation, I was GONE.

I was polite enough to SMS her that I left.

She texted me: “I didn’t expect you to leave so soon. You didn’t even say goodbye to the kids.”

And then, the best thing:

“Keep in touch.”

LOLLOLLOL.

Lesson 5: If you’ve had a bad Helpx experience, move on and just be more careful next time.

Sadly, Helpx is not perfect. There are people who abuse the system such as Caroline’s experience in Germany where she was treated as slave labour. This is why I felt annoyed at the two glowing reviews left by people at my host’s place. I’m going to break the trend by leaving a two star review – but I may have to face the repercussions.

The sad thing is most people who have had bad Helpx experiences would rather not leave a bad review as the host can retaliate and leave a bad review for the Helpx-er, making it difficult for the Helpx person to find another host. I think this system has to be improved so that we can avoid abuse. However, I can flag the host, so I plan to do so. As this is my first Helpx experience, getting a bad review could just nix my chances of getting another one. It’s annoying, but I did pay 20 euros for the website, and I’m calculative that way.

Anyway, if you’re in Australia – and you want to know who this host is, please leave me a message and I will tell you who it is. I want your first helpx experience to be a good one, not a disaster like mine.

If you like this post and want to warn folks from Helpx experiences like these, please share it on Facebook or RT it on Twitter. You can also “like” me on Facebook.

65 thoughts on “The curious case of the Helpx host from Hell aka My first Helpx experience was beyond awful

  1. Hi Susan,

    I am glad you stumbled upon my blog, it\’s nice to know it reaches a wider audience than just my family and friends. I read your post, and I am angry and disgusted by your experience. Who the hell does she think she is! Your not allowed out of the house after finishing helping? 54 hour weeks? Im glad you got out of there, and I think you should name and shame her in your post – she deserves that at LEAST! HelpX says on the front page that 24hrs per week is what the exchange is, and maybe up to 30hrs per week if there are additional benefits (rock climbing, horse riding, etc). I have been Helpx\’ing for 9 months solid, and have had a great time, but even then, there have been hosts that I haven\’t connected with fully – or whom have used the word \”flexible\” to disguise a 7 day working week (one of which I completely disagree with, even if Im only working 3-4hrs per day to make a 28hr week) – everyone deserves a day to do what they want. Read this blog post I wrote a while back… http://www.backpackingsolo.com/123/what-qualities-are-essential-for-a-great-helpx-experience … I have blogged extensively about HelpX – you should read more about my good experiences, and I hope this will retsore your faith in volunteering. Im really sorry you had a bad first experience, but keep going, and you will see how unlucky you really were.

    Peace and love,
    Jonathan

    • You know, Jonathan. I may actually do that. I am just too dispirited from this HElpx experience to try another one that quickly, and so what if I get burnt?

      About your blog – have been reading it for months :) I want to do what you’re doing, traipsing around the world like that. I would also love to work in a hostel!

      • This time you will know you are getting burnt (if you are) and you can act on it quickly this time. You will do what I am doing – the time will come. Working in a hostel is cool, but the work isn’t much fun. Can you message me the host profile as me and my current host are interested to see.

        Peace and love,
        Jonathan

  2. Since I have just came back from a hostel in Mount Gambier, and met up with a backpacker there, you might want to keep away from a place called Penola, about 4 hours+ drive away from Adelaide city.

    The backpacker told me horror stories (his own experience) of living and working there as a backpacker.

    Just thought of giving you a heads up, in case you ever wander that way!

  3. Hi Susan, I have been following your blog. Too bad that it didn’t turn out that well at Helpx. But hey… just stay positive! Am sure something good will come around soon.

    Hope to read more of your experiences in Adelaide. I have just started applying for migration and taking things one at a time.

    Take care!

    • Yes, that’s the only way to go about it. Sometimes when you think too far in the future it makes life way too difficult and stressful! Talking from experience here.

  4. Hi Susan, I really enjoy reading your blog. We will be landing in Adelaide 8 Dec and yes, we are going through exactly what you went through, ESP the cold feet part. But after reading your blog, I’m encouraged to move forward. Tks and really hope to meet you in Adelaide soon.

    God bless,
    Yvonne

  5. Pingback: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… | Malaysia to Adelaide

  6. Hi Susan, an interesting post and I hope it gets read my many first-time volunteers.
    I think your first ‘lesson’ about going with your gut feeling is very important when choosing a host.
    As you point out it is not always easy to spot a bad host by reading their feedback as we don’t want to get negative feedback in return.
    Since I started volunteering (WWOOF, 2007, France) I have only had one experience that was bad enough to put me off ever going there again, that was last year in Rutland, UK.

    My tip for finding a good host is look for feedback where the HelpXer says they would like to return.
    I am currently in Spain and enjoying every minute.
    Hoping you will try again and not be put off by that awful woman, I’m sure there are many more genuine, honest and friendly hosts than tyrants, you just have to be careful and try to learn as much as possible about them through other volunteers.

  7. Hi Susan,

    We literally left a vineyard today and had a very similar experience. I was googling to see if other people had also had similar experiences.

    We were working 8 hour days on average, when told we would only have to work 5 hour average days. When I asked her yesterday what the outlook for the rest of the work was in terms of workload she accused me of being lazy and ra da rah.. despite the week before us working 38 hours in the week. I had asked this question at 5pm after working since 8 and having not been given lunch. After that she just gave us the cold shoulder and were still keen to stay, until we returned thismorning to the bodega (winery) and I expressly tried to clear the air. We were again insulted and told that we were not working hard, we were lazy etc. So I just said, fine we will leave, and we rode out of there thismorning.

    Such a shame, we have had 3 other very positive helpx experiences. Places we still keep in touch with and one of which jokes about putting up a statue of me as their favourite volunteer.

    I might mention, that it is best to know exactly your options to leave the place you are at, that way you can get out of there quickly if you need to. Don’t rely on it working out.Go in with a level head, set clear expectations and leave if things go too far away from the expectations set out.

    Happy days :)

  8. Pingback: HelpX – Mais uma opção | Ecodesenvolvimento

  9. Pingback: Finding a home in Adelaide aka How to be a nomad without trying to | Malaysia to Adelaide

  10. I found this posting very interesting and I would like to approach this with a perspective not yet voiced here. My wife and I are helpx hosts in Canada and I have learned to not jump to judgement about someone, be it a host or volunteer, until I hear both sides of the story. Yes, this sounds bad but what would the host say about this situation if she were asked. We have had mostly good experiences with volunteers (over 80 so far) but there have been some bad ones and they seem to be increasing in the last few years. Remember, it’s not just hosts who can lie on their profile. Many volunteers misrepresent their skill level, experience and intention. I was alarmed by one of the first points made in this blog post, something about helpx being a great way to save money on accommodation and meals. Far too many people treat the program in this way and have no interest in the work of the place they are visiting. We have a small scale grass based livestock and vegetable operation. Many people are very curious and interested in what we do, but many don’t care at all, work the bare minimum and show up for every meal even on their days off. It’s people like that who are taking advantage of the generosity of hosts and should not be in a volunteer program, try couchsurfing instead. And remember, we are taking a big chance as well. We are letting complete strangers into our house, many of us have small children so we put a lot of trust into you. For most hosts you are helping us out with our livelihood and if we have people who don’t care, serious damage and financial losses can occur. We have had people destroy a vehicle, forget to feed and water animals for a full day, pull vegetables that were mistaken for weeds etc. And we can also be hurt by a bad review left by a disgruntled volunteer. While we don’t depend on volunteer help an extra hand is very helpful at certain times and to have our reputation destroyed probably has a greater impact than a traveler who has a hard time finding the next cheap bed and meal. My advice to prospect helpxers is to please think about why you want to do this, what do you hope to get out of it and remember that hosts are (usually) generous people who want to share a piece of their lives with you so treat them with respect, not as cheap accommodation.

    Thanks
    Warren

  11. I am Edwin a victim of demonic opression, I want to share my Experience and Testimony of God. so that everyone may understand every mystery that imprisoned us and Losing us into the reality of existence. The World that be impossible to be explain by normal people, I’ was Heard voices from different place that distressing me , I have mental illness and experienced Hallucination a mental Disorder, The voices was attacking me that made me weak and restless, I hear demons wisphering me, Satan have deceived my parents, brothers, sisters, and friends they use them to Fall me into the Trap of Everlasting destruction,They are Opressing me by mental, Physical, and in spiritual. I was totally in pain!! I was in a Horror. They were injected me and hurt I can’t do with myself,I was very powerless. they were not believed me of but what I have experience. the demons force them to fool me, but my movement was uncontrol, I Lost my self control, ‘I was not the same before ,I Try myself to be normal but it does’nt work that way. i need a complete recovery and a lot of rest , The Fear and Deppression was very hard to remove out, myself has doing Hallucination I can’t resist it , The eyes of my parents was very Fierce, they were really look so evil and I was always in a danger situation. they read my mind and they know my thoughts Only the Devil has a power who could do such thing. my everyday prayer was Only way to be scaped from Horror and Opression. They were insulted and cursing me, it made my heart sick if they attack me that way, it was powerful.The devil has a full control over people to rape, to kill, and torture. And The God was called me to Testify and witness of what I see, feel, hear and experience to warn people of the secret of satan. The demons are working and using Phychiatrist for not believing every patient who have experience hallucination, to hide their very secret and that everybody Lost and does’nt know the reality. They were lost now and demons driven them foolish and useless.

    Read my Complete Testimony

    The 288 Persons of God

    visit my site: http://godheadfamily.wordpress.com/

    help me spread the message for I cannot do this alone..
    satan has order all demons to inserted a thoughts on all people for not Believing in my testimonies.. do not be deceived by a lies on our thoughts help me…
    Godbless….

      • I think he needs a hell(pun intended) of a lot more than luck, Susan.

        I’m going to empathize with him though and suggest he was fine until he ran into the same host from as you, except you’ve emerged thankfully (I hope) without lasting mental damage.

        On a side note I’m going through a bit of drama trying to list on helpx, not sure if it’s worth the bother. There is an alternative: http://www.workaway.info
        Anyone had experience with it ??

  12. Sorry that you had a bad experience.

    I am a HelpX host, we hosted about 20 people in 2012.

    I think that your experience was not so common at all from what I have heard from our visitors ! Most helpxers have had great experiences.

    Perhaps you are right with the reference system, I have heard of cases where people have really had a bad experience somewhere but posted a positive review; it doesn’t make sense to me! I think the helpers are so scared of getting a negative review after staying with someone that they did not get on with or who treated them badly, so they post a positive review.

    Often I am disappointed if I have worked hard to make a HelpX experience good and then the visitor does not bother to leave a reference….

    Also I agree with Warren, it is a risk as a Host to take people on. You know, we hope that no one is light fingered or nosey in our house while we are out. Also sometimes it seems that it is quite a lot of work having a HelpXer in terms of us hosting them, talking about their country, taking them places, making meals etc. We hope that they will take care of our bikes/kayaks etc and not damage anything. I get annoyed if someone stays 5 dinners, 5 nights and only works for 4 hours for 4 days- that is something perhaps I should spell out before the person arrives.

    We have an amazing historic house and garden, with an indoor pool and spa, in a fantastic location and like to host joint HelpX gettogethers with some other friends who are hosts – but I have recently changed my listing to describe our place modestly and only included one photo. I am interested to see if that changes who we have ask to come and stay with us.

    Kind regards
    Sophia.

    • Hello Sophia,
      You sound so intriguing that I may just come over and stay at your lovely place one day!

      I’m currently based in Adelaide, and may give Helpx another go, who knows? But I understand your point of view. I can’t imagine opening my house and pantry to someone only to have it abused. It must take quite a bit of trust on your side!

  13. Thanks Susan !

    I guess it’s a learning experience for both parties – but as Hosts, we have a longer time to learn what works and what doesn’t !…As for me, I need to toughen up a bit and think more about my own and my family’s needs, rather than put Helpers first…

    We had a family come and stay one time with two toddlers. It was rather exhausting as they spent a lot of time in the house looking after the kids, and I forgot how much mess toddlers make and how they break things…

    Another time one of our HelpXers asked if he could return in a month’s time for dinner, and bring his two parents who were visiting from the States because he had “had such a good time”, but you know, he didn’t really think that maybe they should bring a contribution to the meal etc..

    We have had people ask to stay on, and I have let them stay another day without contributing work or food.

    (None of these helpers bothered to leave references..)

    Of course there have been some great Helpers and some people that I do miss because we connected really well etc. (-: – And I hope we see again !

    So overall I think the Scheme is a great idea, but a couple of lessons for hosts (in response to your lessons for HelpXers):

    – Think of your own and your family’s needs : you are not a paying B&B
    – If a guest offers to cook a meal for you, be aware that they may take up to 3 hours.
    – Don’t feel guilty about not taking someone to stay, even if you have “no good reason”. Gut feeling is enough. They will easily find somewhere else to stay.
    – Don’t write a reference for someone unless they write one for you first – otherwise you most likely will not get a reference from them.
    – Put the jobs down in writing as some Helpers will find some jobs boring and wander off to find something more “interesting”, such as sharpening tools (without asking), pruning maples that shouldn’t be pruned etc. A map of the property with circles around the parts of garden to be worked on might help.

    • I would’ve been perfect helpxer for u – I was so hardworking! Haha. One day, who knows? I may just wander to your place…

  14. Hello Dizzy, heard good things about workaway as well. Just that their network is not as big as helpx, I believe :)

  15. Hello Susan,

    Enjoyed your story, sorry you had to experience such a mess. You mentioned that hosts will often misuse helpx in order to find people to do whatever… I have found this to be true, my most interesting experience was when I stayed at a host’s site that advertised for help with their “Jewish Homeschooling Family” but was really a Survivalist, polygamist Family looking for sister-wives. You can read about my experience here:

    http://donnawinegarner.com/blog/?p=152

    I agree with you fully in that the most important thing to do is pay attention to gut feelings, and never let the need for/lack of money override your good judgment.

    Best to you!

    Donna

  16. hi Susan! Sorry to hear about your negative experience with this host! We are heading to Australia soon and hope to use Helpx. Can you message me the name of the host so we don’t go there? Thanks

  17. Can`t believe you put up with this Lady`s crap! Clean the corners with a toothbrush? I would have told her to shove the toothbrush up her A***e! I hope you gave this host a bad review and reported her to the Helpx website. Seems she wants slaves not people on a culture exchange!

  18. Hi Susan,
    We are also hosts for Helpx and have to say in the main we have had such positive experiences with our Helpers.
    We treat our Helpers as we would our own kids and usually find we gain much in return.
    Helpx has been a great learning curve for us and we try not to generalise by nationality because we are all different, but we have learnt what to look for now in a Helper so that both sides are not disappointed with the outcome.
    Exchange of culture for us is important and we place great emphasis on sharing our life style together as well as encouraging English language. Each and everyone of our Helpers have bought something special into our household in general.
    We put a lot of effort into ensuring that our Helpers are comfortable, happy and well fed and endeavour to show them the sights around Tasmania.
    Communication is the key word. It does pain me when I see advertisements for Helpers who are basically to be used as unpaid skivvies, in either a building sense or working within a business….. why Hosts cant use local paid labour is beyond belief on occasions and in my opinion is not the idea of Help x.
    Yes we have had one or two disasters which was decidedly unpleasant and we took the appropriate action but in the main our lives are very empty without our wonderful Helpers, I am so pleased we stumbled upon the website.

    Wishing you well.

  19. Hello, just an update here! Was off the face of this blog for a while but now I’m back. To be honest, this HELPX experience has made me swear off Helpx, but since some hosts have come forward and offered an alternate view, I’m reconsidering my stance. If you have tips on HOW to find a non-exploitive host that doesn’t make you clean the floors with a toothbrush or could recommend one in Australia, it’ll be great ;)

    • Hi Susan,
      I think its all about having enough money in your pocket for travelling rather than finding a Host in sheer desperation. Desperation usually finds yourself in a rather negative situation.
      Read the reviews… and then read between the lines… Positive reviews could mean that the Help x’er is scared to lead a negative post, but the Host that leaves behind a positive review usually is pretty straight forward and honest.
      We have a “guideline on line booklet”…. this we send out to all new Helpxers so that they are prepared for what awaits them.
      Give us a try Susan lol.. I provide a very large toothbrush with a protective handle to prevent calluses. !!!
      Luckily for us most of our Helpers have stayed for two months and more, the problem is, can you advise e how to get rid of them lol.

      • I agree. When I came to Oz, it was a way for me to get to know other people and since I didn’t know anyone, I was a week desperate. Tasmania, huh? That’s actually a place I hope to visit this year. I mayjust visit you guys, but probably not as a Helpx-er … I don’t know, still on the fence :) I think Helpx can be a double edge sword; some hosts may be on an edge from Helpxers who are trying to get things free and some Helpxers may be worried to be taken advantage of. Perhaps it’s just better to be a nice tourist with no strings attached.

        I just want to expernce a place (be it Tasmania) that is beyond the usual tourist trails. Helpx seems like a way to do it… still thinking!

    • Oops. I meant to say, after you know who and where, could you call or write to a church or charity in the area and ask for a recommendation for or against? Or if they have kids, ask the nearest school “Does this person give you trouble?”

  20. My daughter is working from 7am to 10pm everyday on a placement. She’s seen nothing of the nearby City and doesn’t even have time to go to the shops.

    She has said she might as well be working in her home Country as she’s seen nothing of that one. She’s not a student, but has taken a year out of her very responsible job with long hours to travel.
    I’ve only just found this out and when I urged her to leave, she won’t as she is worried about getting a poor review and not be able to work at the next stop.
    I’d be concerned too, as that would leave her wandering in a Country that’s not very safe. Sleeping arrangements don’t matter as she can afford to pay, if not I would.

    As for the host posting above who advises not leaving a review until the helper has, well that is just mean spirited. If the helper was good, leave a review. If they don’t return the compliment, that’s too bad. Maybe they’re waiting first for yours, you could play the waiting game for ever and is very petty.

    I would suggest every host states the working hours in their profile, if they don’t ask them.

    • That’s crazy ! She should definitely leave immediately ! That is slave labour, don’t you think ?!!. I think she should not be so worried about getting a bad review. Just leave and move on. I think 3-5 hours of work per day is fair. As a host, we offer dinner and accomm and extras like bike, spa, pool, own bathroom etc in exchange for 3 hours work per day plus help over dinner (dishes etc). The HelpXer must supply own breakfast and lunch. I sincerely hope she can get the courage to leave soon and move onto a better experience. :)

      • I said in an email to her yesterday how slavery was abolished only to be replaced by back packers.
        She has developed a really bad cold so I’ve suggested that rather than contaminate the place with germs, she tells them she is staying in an hotel for two days to recover before flying on the next leg.
        At least it would give her two days to see a little before leaving.

        You sound very fair Ingrid, but you know how it is, the minority spoil a good thing.

  21. We are Helpx Hosts and have been for some time. We stipulate 6 hours of working a day to basically cover ourselves when there is a busy period. All our Helpx’ers are treated as members of the family.. we allocate days off and make sure we all sight see together…. 3 full meals are provided per day, inclusive of snacks, wine, beer or soft drinks. Personally I couldnt provide meals for our Help x’ers, this isnt what living in a family is all about.
    Reviews are done on an honesty basis and quite frankly I think as a host and a helper you know when the arrangement isnt working out for you and both sides have a mouth in their heads and can basically say “this isnt for me” !
    Basically when a Help x enters into our doors not only do they get to stay in beautiful accomodation, with excellent surrounds and food, but they see quite a bit of Tasmania and never have to put their hand in their pockets.
    This is how I wish my own children to be treated!
    Hosts can be demanding no doubt about that, but there is also a lot of of bludgers as far as Helpers are concerned. We have been very lucky and manage to weed out the latter pretty quickly.
    I hope your daughter recovers.

    • We are Helpx Hosts and have been for some time. We stipulate 6 hours of working a day to basically cover ourselves when there is a busy period. All our Helpx’ers are treated as members of the family.. we allocate days off and make sure we all sight see together…. 3 full meals are provided per day,
      inclusive of snacks, wine, beer or soft drinks. Personally IF I couldnt provide meals for our Help x’ers, I would be a little ashamed.. this isnt what living in a family is all about. We as a family need to eat so do our Help Xers.
      Reviews are done on an honesty basis and quite frankly I think as a host and a helper you know when the arrangement isnt working out for you and both sides have a mouth in their heads and can basically say “this isnt for me” !
      Basically when a Help x enters into our doors not only do they get to stay in beautiful accomodation, with excellent surrounds and food, but they see quite a bit of Tasmania and never have to put their hand in their pockets.
      This is how I wish my own children to be treated!
      Hosts can be demanding no doubt about that, but there is also a lot of of bludgers as far as Helpers are concerned. We have been very lucky and manage to weed out the latter pretty quickly.
      I hope your daughter recovers.

  22. To Concerned Mum: That sounds like a very gracious way to handle things. I hope she takes up your suggestion !

  23. I have noticed that in New Zealand, hosts typically do put the number of hours in their profile which is a good thing for HelpXers to understand their expectations. Generally it is 4 hours in exchange for food, accommodation and sightseeing.

    We reduced it to three hours because we are not offering breakfast and lunch. I had found I was putting on weight as typically I like to “grab” an egg on toast and a piece of fruit for lunch, but found I was making more elaborate/calorie filled lunches for our guests… (with the associated time – sometimes making and eating lunch could drag out to an hour). While it costs our guests to provide their own food for these meals, I believe it gives our guests a little more comfort in being able to choose when and what they can eat (esp some Asian guests who found cereal a difficult choice for breakfast) and gives our travellers more leisure time to explore our beautiful city and region.

    There are so many different experiences in HelpX, whether it be a farming experience in the wops, a fantastic city location with lots to do, amazing hosts, learning about sustainability, taking part in family activities, a homestay with beautiful views, great conversations, or maybe even staying with someone who is a fantastic cook & baker (aka the Watsons ?!).

    • Hi Ingrid… I note your comments and know where you are coming from… also every Host offers a different deal… your place sounds lovely , I quite fancy it myself lol x

  24. Well she stayed until the due leave date and is now flying on the next leg of her journey.
    She said the hosts were in fact very nice, just sorry she couldn’t get away to see anywhere.

  25. Really interesting conversation going on here, folks. Thanks for stopping by to comment. I may just try Helpx once again since I know there are honest folks out there.

  26. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with HelpX, but I’m really glad you took the time to post a detail account of what happened. I was considering using HelpX, even though it seems like a paid version of Craigslist for travellers/volunteers, but now I’m having serious doubts.

    I understand that this doesn’t happen to everyone, and many people had great experiences using HelpX, but I have to admit that I’m not too surprised that hosts are taking advantage of the HelpX system. No offence to all the Aussies, but I was in Australia for a year on a working holiday, and I’ve seen people take advantage of travellers/volunteers first hand especially those who are learning English. Again, I know this is not the case with all Australians, but I have seen it more than a few times while living there.

    To be fair, this happens in the reverse as well in non-English speaking countries to English speakers. I have a friend who went to Japan to teach English, and his host family treated him like a slave for months taking advantage of his limited command of the Japanese language. He was finally able to get out and left Japan as soon as he was able to get financial support to buy a plane ticket.

    I know these examples are not from HelpX, but the risk exist no matter what website or company you use to find work abroad. However, be really careful when it’s a homestay type of arrangement with no pay. You never know what goes on in people’s homes. Also, I find that anyone who uses free helpers in exchange for free accommodation can be people/business owners who are too cheap to hire someone. Again, this is not everyone, but there are people who take advantage.

    • Dear Traveller Girl,
      This is the risk you take anyway in life. Woofing, Help x , fruit picking.. yes even paid jobs are at risk of being underpaid, or taken advantage of.
      Personally I dont agree at all with businesses taking on Helpx’ers…. but I must say that I do have a very small boutique type of bed and breakfast which is more frequented in the summer months. Should I have a Helpx with me at the time, I dont expect help from them in this quarter at all, BUT should they insist on participating then any money from the B & B is then put into a kitty and we as a family and the Helpx’er enjoy the fruits of our labour by going away together and seeing some of the beautiful sights incorporating accomodation away as well…. I really find it very tacky to earn money myself and using “slave labour”.
      Regarding Helpxers participation with any clients, we all eat together which is the norm and they make a very positive contribution in terms of conversation etc.
      They are actually introduced as members of our family which they are for the duration of their stay to ensure that no one misreads the situation.

      Helpx has a reviewing procedure and whether you believe the comments or not (some believe that leaving a crappy review will ensure difficulties further on in the Helper’s quest for future bookings) you are free to contact past Helpers to clarify the truthfulness of the review!.
      There are of course the obvious downsides on both sides … from the Host’s point of views, we have encountered dishonesty, people not turning up, laziness etc…. its a question of both parties sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
      I like to think that we treat our Helpers who invariably end up as long term friends as we would love our children to be treated . We are human though and from time to time we get a Helper that just doesnt fit in with our family(or maybe they dont like us, it is possible lol) so communication is the key issue here and we ensure that we talk about any problems and if we as a team decide that things are not working out, ensure they leave in a safe and friendly manner armed with a some food)(Chucking people out doesnt come into the equasion).

      Finally I have to say this… that there are a minority of Helpx’ers who will use the site as a means to eek out the remainder of their stay minus funds…. whereby we like to feel we are very generous but we do take exception to our toilet rolls, shampoos, soaps , food from the pantry etc disappearing due to lack of funds…. this I feel is unhealthy for the Helpxer who leaves themselves very vunerable as they feel obliged to stay to finance themselves for their onward travel. Being financially stable gives you the option of leaving, thats exceptionally important.

      Like I say, my advice for all parties is to do your homework but there are thousands of happy Hosts and Helpxers out there so its not all bad!

  27. Interesting post will add my 2 pence worth :)
    This is life. Shit happens on both sides – though no-one should be mistreated – Hosts or Helpers – but it happens, even living in a backpackers.
    I have been a HelpX host since Dec 2013 and like anything it has its ups and downs.
    My opinion on the whole is the experience has been rewarding.
    Right at this minute while I write this post, there are 2 lovely girls from Asia, who havent a clue – don’t even know one end of a broom from the other,
    the 2 from France one with carpentry skills the other an Electrician in France [ no the electrician is not doing any electrical work here - this is illegal] – but sitting around the kitchen table relaxing, the girls are knitting a scarf after a few lessons and the boys… well I think Facebook and cars are involved.
    I have found with being careful – you can get caught and its hard to say OUT like I had to one couple, who decided to do what they wanted not what was needed, damaged tools, and when they bought their campervan stole food, and materials to help on their way – but this didn’t cause me to give up .. Some mother do have them and are them.
    I am on my own and don’t have a car, live in a country area, but it has good public transport, and some lovely places to go if you have the money. I have 4 hours a day listed for 5 days a week – flexible – meaning if you with to have a day off during week instead of weekend you can. The work is not heavy nor is anyone pushed, some of the helpers have never done a days work, others are experienced.
    Our system has been modified to suit the helpers and myself, and I will probably get some comments on this. Helpx is not couch surfing – and the help we get needs to cover all the costs incurred. I believe that all of us once we are adults need to be responsible and pay our own way.
    The cost of food is shared by everyone in the house – this way everyone can help choose food and take turns in cooking, and all help with the cleaning up. This makes the 3 meals a special family time, and getting a variety of meals from different countries, It also gives the helpers an understanding of the cost of food in Australia and it interesting how they have more respect for the food etc when they contribute. All helpers know we all need to respect each other and the guidelines don’t just apply to them, they apply to myself as well. Usually the evening meal is the major English class, and with this group they have and obsession with the card game UNO. The first 2 weeks was horribulous, as there written English was very good. But we muddled through with the help of an English/French dictionary, But they like I didn’t think we would make it through the first week… now one can carry on an English conversation with no problems, the other 2 are getting there.
    We sit down and work what meals we each want and any luxuries – this works for everyone and is still way cheaper than travelling around in a backpackers – I have had 3 of my helpers return for a visit and help for a week before going back home. I have had a few who wanted everything for nothing, and didn’t want to help, their idea of work was to wander around and pretend. All the ups and downs make each section of the visits interesting and educational for all.
    The house is old, but clean, and in need of repair – Some of the work is dirty and messy but everyone is treated with respect and everyone contributes – the conditions are better than some backpackers but it is definitely not a 5 star property, and they know up front what to expect, and if the photos on HelpX don’t put them off then they are generally a possibility.
    I do treat them like my grandchildren and this has worked for me and the helpers, and its their decision on how much they see of the surrounding areas. Some are homebodies, others have been adventurous. Some have more money than others. The feedback from the ones who have left a review has been on the whole positive. Some haven’t left any review but that is their choice, I have left reviews for all, and all bar 2 were position, one was no comments and the other was neutral as the couple arrived to stay for a week, got a phone call and left 36 hours later.
    Personally, I wouldn’t let one bad experience colour any situation, Life is a gamble, take it with both hands and make the most of any situation, but if it gets to the point of being imprisoned or abused we do have a great police department – use it – they will do what HelpX or any other site wont or cant do. Police are there to protect visitors as well as Australians, and don’t worry about reviews. This is a short period of your life get the most out of it.

  28. Howdy exceptional website! Does running a blog like this require a great deal of work?
    I have virtually no understanding of computer
    programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog in the
    near future. Anyhow, should you have any recommendations
    or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off subject however I simply had to ask.

    Thanks a lot!

  29. I emailed the HelpX folks to lodge a complaint. They came back to me and said that “Curious, there weren’t any complains about this person before.” Huh! What do you think? Most HelpXers are afraid of getting a bad review from their lodgers, so they hesitate to complain. I admit I was the same since I was a new person in a new country, and felt particularly vulnerable. Anyway, my complaint, in black and white, is in their records and I do hope they act on it.

  30. How wonderful to read your blog post! And I thought I was the only one!

    I went down to another US state for a HelpX position at an animal shelter. My “accommodations” were a 10’x10′ room in a horse barn, with horses, horse puckies, horse flies, etc. And in August, this was beyond awful. I brought a small student refrigerator and had to set it up outside my door. There was no room inside.

    I was lured by good congenial conversation over the phone. What could go wrong? Raging alcoholism and co-dependency! That’s what could go wrong. The owner borrows and keeps equipment from an alcoholic neighbor who is in love with her. In exchange, he comes over and they argue for hours in my presence. As I don’t drink, I (and really anyone) found this to be extremely unpleasant.

    Still, the things we do to appease. I kept suggesting and offering to do helpful projects, hoping that the situation would improve through my selfless labor.;-)

    Then, one Sunday at the noon day meal, I was raked across the coals for not offering to cook. I am not a cook, but the host entry just called for help with cooking and cleaning, which I can and was eager to do. The host, in front of another volunteer, started grilling for details on my private life and why I did not cook. I refused to offer any details, which made her furious. She grabbed her Marlboros and stormed out of the house.

    The next day I decided to leave. She then grabbed her drunk neighbor, pounded on the door of my “accommodations”, and both proceeded to give me a good “yelling at”. She later locked me into my room and turned on the overhead light (which oddly can only be switched on and off only from the outside).

    This was really becoming an increasingly bad situation. In the morning, I called 911 and had a police escort help me out of that.

    The host may have flamed me on helpX.net. I decided not to post anything on her profile, because I can’t say I was blameless here. The stress of being there was so intense, I started having health issues I had never encountered before–and that affected my ability to do good work.

    Yes, well, if my health issues were brought on by the circumstances, then how was that my fault? I should have mentioned that I had pre-existing conditions that might influence my ability to work (at least I think I should have). I did not think they would be problems. But, believe me, in those circumstances, sustainability could have caused a plague! The scheduling was haphazard. I think that if I hadn’t insisted on a schedule, we would have been working everyday. I left after just one week.

    Good luck to you! I hope you find better. Me, I do want to continue volunteering, but I think it will remain local.

    • My word, you really had an awfuk time! I am lad you got out of it because it sounds like something out of a horror show

      • Yes, well, stuff happens!;-) Funny, but after reading your story, I realized that not all HelpX position could be as bad as your experience and mine. So, already, I’m giving it another shot. This time, I’m protecting myself. I’m offering the minimum stay and will have an exit strategy.

  31. Hello, I signed up in Helpx and was planning on paying the fee to get a place to stay in the USA in exchange for some type of work. But now I’m scared to go through a bad experience.
    I’m wanting to go to the USA to develop my English, but the accommodations are very expensive. For this reason I thought I’d work in exchange for accommodation for a few months.
    Know of any safe way I can get accommodation in exchange for work?

    • Hi Gilvania, don’t be too afraid. My experience, apparently, is a rare one. I would say pick Helpx hosts with good reviews and a long history of accepting helpers. I went for a new one with one or two reviews. Also communicate with some Helpxers directly. they can be more honest that way

      • Thank you, Susan. I’m looking for a accommodation in exchange for work in an English speaking country, but in other sites. If I do not find through other sites I will think about the possibility of paying helpx. I’s hard to find a place and I want to go this year. Thank you

  32. I checked out your article because I was reading comments on Workaway and they were overwhelmingly positive and common sense tells you that people do not always get along.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s