Foursquare, Travel And Why I Stopped Using It

It might seem odd that someone who make a good portion of their living working with social media within the travel industry would have last checked in with Foursquare on the 23rd of August 2010 at their local train station. Foursquare is an excellent social media channel for travel … but as people seem to keep following my dormant account, I seem to keep answering the same question. The question is obviously “why aren’t you checking in on Foursquare?


FourSquare and I had an on-again-off-again relationship. I initially saw a lot of potential for Foursquare in the travel industry, but personally badges do not drive me. Badges and titles are pointless, I am pretty good at discussing where I am without leaving a trail of check-in breadcrumbs. At some point I had to begin checking in during certain client projects, such as working with Bombardier Aerospace at the Farnborough International Airshow. After the Airshow I got in the habit of using Foursquare and used it more regularly, however my last few check-ins were removed and I ceased using it as a channel for myself. Let me explain why …


… I had joked for quite a while that Foursquare was the perfect stalker tool. While I did not encounter a stalker, I did encounter an unwanted visitor. One night, while at the Vagabond Inn next to San Francisco International Airport, there was a knock on my door. When I opened the door I encountered a person with a roll-aboard bag and a backpack asking me to help them deal with an airline and rescheduling their flight that evening.


I was stumped and asked the person why they were at my door. The answer I received was one that instantly caused me to turn off the location services of all my social media channels. This person was searching for help rescheduling flights on Twitter and happened on my Tweets to people that evening, they then found my Foursquare check-in from a hotel next to the airport. Rather than send me a Tweet, an email or even look up my (very easy to find) phone number for help, they hopped on a hotel shuttle and ended up at my door. I still have no idea how they got my room number, but the idea of someone showing up at my door rather than sending me a Tweet bothered me. I was bothered not only for my own safety, but that I have three kids. We don’t live in a cave, nor are we in witness protection, but the idea of someone showing up where I am and hunting me down to help them deal with an airline issue that could have been resolved at the counter or by tweeting an expert for assistance freaked me out … a lot.


I sent this person on their way, without helping them. I checked out of the hotel shortly there after, not tweeting a thing and sat in the airport all night waitng for my morning flight … having never used Foursquare again.


Does this happen often? I have no idea, but once was enough for me.


So, if you feel like following me on Foursquare, don’t, I never check in. If you have questions or need help, just find me on Twitter at @flyingwithfish or drop me an email, there is a link right here on the blog.


Happy Flying!




  1. Scary stuff man. I only used Four Square for the 50 free hilton points each day for checking into Double tree hotels. after checking in 78 out of 80 days in a row, the company who uses Four Square told me not so, so I haven’t used them since then. Not to mention 50 hilton points a day seems more worthless now than ever

  2. Dont think you are such a celebrity that you cant help people, if you are social media with location on, you are doing it to your self

  3. John,

    I help people all day long, I help entities connect constantly. I am happy to help people when I can. Twitter, Facebook, email , even the rare phone call, but not when someone shows up at my hotel room. That’s just totally different.

    Happy Flying!


  4. Wow. That is just plain weird. And kind of scary. That said, I never turn on the location services on social services, and even my facebook is exclusively restricted to people I know.

  5. Wow I would have freaked out slammed the door in there face and called the hotel desk with the words how did this is idiot get my room number ? I think the only way they would got these is someone in the hotel must have told them totally out of order

  6. I discovered many great places with foursquare (restaurants, cocktails bars, etc…), that I would not have found otherwise 🙂 I love foursquare for that. Sure, I also use yelp. But, you don’t find the same information. For me, it’s great to have both. Checking in helps me getting better recommendations in foursquare (with the explore function). I am so glad we now have these tools. Thanks to these, I can’t remember last time I had a bad meal (yes, I am a foodie).

    I don’t use it to get extra points or miles, and I am not planning too. Mostly because I want to know whom I am sharing my location with. For the same reason, I am not connecting any external application with facebook and I create a separate login for all my apps.

    Of course, I would be upset with somebody knocking at my hotel door. But I think it is easy to avoid. You can easily change your privacy settings in Foursquare. You could uncheck “Include me in the public list of people who are currently checked in at a venue” (I don’t uncheck it, but I am not a celebrity ;-))

    As far as I know, to “follow you”, somebody must be in your friends list and ask for that, except if you are an organisation (Lufthansa for example). I am not sure why you would accept somebody you don’t know in your friends. If you uncheck the box above, only your friends will know where you are. So make sure you carefully select your friends 😉 You can also uncheck “let venue managers see when I check in to their business”, although I don’t know why you would do that.

    About Twitter or Facebook, I never use their location features as I don’t see any value there and I don’t want to broadcast my location to the world, only to a carefully selected group of friends 🙂

  7. I used Foursquare for a while last summer to check in and collect Hilton points. But I was concerned about PERSEC issues the whole time, and stopped doing it after a while. I leave more electronic breadcrumbs than I want to by using credit cards as much as I do–going further and telling folks where I specifically am in real time isn’t attractive.

    That guy getting your room number is extremely uncool. There should have a chat with the hotel desk.

  8. I have used FS on and off for a few years. But I have my privacy settings set so that only my “friends” can see me and I know everyone who I am “friends” with. I have heard one or two slightly less strange stories then yours and will sometimes make a point to check in when I’m leaving a location instead of when I arrive.

    I actually find it annoying when people auto post where they are to FB and Twitter. I really don’t care that they are at the drug store. If you’re somewhere that cool that you want to share it with the world, write the post/tweet yourself.

  9. You’ve turned off FourSquare and yet still constantly broadcast details about where you live and where you are on FB/Twitter. It still wouldn’t be too hard for someone to track you down. If you’re that concerned then you should actually cut the cord.

  10. Seth,

    There is a difference … if you look at what I tweet and Instagram , it is never a hotel or where I am staying. Foursquare adds an address or specific location, I never provide that info.

    Good luck finding me in a public place vs a hotel room.

    Happy Flying!


  11. Seth,

    I also do not broadcast where I live. My town, yes, the beach … we have more than a dozen here … but not my house.


  12. I stopped using FS long ago. The badge system is pretty lame almost childish.
    Now if they started rewarding people with points or miles then I’d come back. I know they have check-in reward with Starwood but I’d like to see that sort of thing across the board for every check-in.

  13. I use foursquare quite a bit to find places in new cities, and it’s brought me to many places I wouldn’t have found on my own. It helps you pick the better restaurant out of 10 on a street sometimes. They’ve refocused towards the exploration of new venues recently. I do also check in sometimes, but only my friends can see my check-ins and I don’t use my full name on my profile.

    What you say about this service used as a stalking tool is very real, but in no way is this specific to foursquare. Since you’re a photog you’re probably aware which smartphone apps upload photos without stripping the geolocation. A lot of people aren’t careful about geotagged photos.

  14. Wow – you’re an experienced travel industry expert… And yet, you left the hotel without so much as telling the front desk that this happened – or more to the point, demanding to know HOW it happened? I find that astonishing. It’s a disservice to the security of others who stay at that property. I don’t blame you for leaving – but you should have found out what happened, and whatever it was, you should have made sure that the staff on duty understood why it was a problem and that they need to prevent a reoccurrence.

  15. Crosscheck,

    I was so irritated that I just left. I did email the hotel a day later to inform them of what occurred and ask them to explain what happened. The hotel, one I have stayed at countless times since 2005, sent me a non-answer reply. I pressed the issue and was simply told they were reviewing their policy for giving out room information prior to a call to the room from the desk and making sure the party in the room speaks to the person asking for the room info directly.

    Happy Flying!


  16. In fact there is an interview in this month’s Hemisphere’s magazine with one of the founders of FS and he mentions that they are moving away from the gamesmanship aspect of the original vision and moving more towards using the check-in data to become more of a location recommendation service like Yelp.

    I do use FS extensively every week as I travel, not only to let co-workers, family and friends know where I am but also to explore the area for hidden gems.

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