Not too long after the coronavirus took hold in New York City, rich Manhattanites started to flee the city for their luxurious summer homes in the Hamptons, where they believed they could more comfortably ride out the pandemic. But in the rush to get out of town and avoid the virus, they forgot one thing: How on earth would they get their mail?
It was a question without an answer. That is, until Mark Vigliante relented to their requests to have his fleet of limo drivers do it for them. Vigliante is the president of M&V Limousine Limited as well as Hampton Luxury Liner, a high-end bus service that typically shuttles people back and forth between the city and the beaches of Long Island. But at the request of his wealthy clientele, his drivers started making runs from Manhattan to the Hamptons, so the rich could open their packages, bills, letters, and junk mail themselves.
Eventually, he made it official: For hundreds of dollars, his drivers will grab the rich's mail from their apartments on the Upper West Side and drop them off right at their doorsteps in Montauk.
"I had to be innovative," Vigliante told VICE, as he ordered at a drive-thru. "There wasn't a choice. This was it. I had to work. Plus, you can only have so much family time, you know?"
The coronavirus outbreak, he said, had brought his business to a "screeching halt." The wedding and funerals that usually sustained his primary business had halted, and nobody wanted to pack onto a bus, even a luxury one, from New York City to the Hamptons.
So Vigliante adjusted. Over the last month or so, he estimates that mail deliveries make up 30 percent of Hampton Luxury Liner's business. He replaced his buses with black cars like limousines, Cadillacs, and GMC SUVs, offering private transportation for his affluent clients and same-day delivery on anything, so long as it can fit into the trunk. He assures patrons, of course, that he santizes everything and requires his drivers to wear gloves, but for a little extra money, they can request a vehicle with a divider for added precaution.
It has also allowed him, he said, to keep up to 15 percent of his drivers employed. They did not care about becoming a de facto shuttle for the upper class.
"It's a lot of mail and a lot of packages," Vigliante said. "It's a lot of groceries, too, and luggage. Some of it's more odd. One dude had us transport a bicycle."
Some Hamptons customers have tried to negotiate group deals, meaning two neighbors can get their mail delivered for a slightly discounted rate.
"It's a limo service for your things," Vigliante said. "To be honest with you, if it keeps going well, we'll probably keep doing it after things get better."
He isn't alone in his innovative response to the crisis. In Toronto, Rosedale Livery Limited, a chauffeur company primarily for the corporate world, has partnered with a number of local Neapolitan pizza restaurants to deliver artisanal pies to customers in and around the city. It was a service he had been developing for some time, complete with heated bags and technology that promised the most efficient routes.
"COVID-19 sped it all up," said Craig McCutcheon, the president of Rosedale. "At the moment, it's the sole revenue stream. We're helping keep some kitchens afloat, and some of our drivers working. It's been our only bit of luck."
Just like everybody else, the wealthy have had to alter their lifestyles since the coronavirus outbreak. Though Vigliante and McCutcheon have found creative ways to respond, it hasn't always been easy. Or even appreciated. In the Hamptons, there have been numerous reports described as imminent class warfare—with full-time residents telling New Yorkers who usually just flock there for the summer months to stay away.
"There was an email I received that was basically telling us that we had to stop—that people shouldn't be going to their summer homes," Vigliante said. "But 99 percent of the response I've gotten has actually been positive."
"Capitalism," he added, "will always prevail."
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