City dwellers of all ages are not short of time-saving apps, from grocery-delivery services such as Instacart to odd jobs marketplaces like TaskRabbit and Handy, but Sapone has found a business in shortening people’s to-do lists. Her millennial clients, she told me, “are not lazy; they just value their time”.
The value is such that 88 Leonard Street tenants who use Hello Alfred are 60 per cent more likely to renew their leases, making it an attractive proposition for a building owner in a market like New York, where a surfeit of “luxury” towers has sparked an amenities war. 88 Leonard also has doormen, a swimming pool and a roof deck; other properties offer bowling alleys, golf simulators and meditation lounges to lure a generation favouring experiences over stuff.
“We were looking at how to differentiate the experience,” explains Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown, the building’s management company. “I think you’ll see this become the norm.” Hello Alfred raised $40m this year from investors who thought the same, financing an expansion to reach a possible 100,000 apartments in a dozen US cities by the end of the year.
Sapone says her clients treat their homes less as a place to accumulate possessions and more like a personalised hotel room, where the duvet cover is always crisp, the mini-bar is always stocked just as they like it, and samples from one of Hello Alfred’s partners periodically introduce them to a new toothpaste brand or local artisanal business.
They are also choosing a different relationship with the people who make their days run more smoothly. Long before anyone branded them “gig economies”, our service economies were full of freelance cleaners, handymen and home helps with little job security, no benefits and low professional status.
Lee and his colleagues are hired by Hello Alfred as full employees rather than contractors – a selling point for middle- and upper-class millennials who are growing more aware of their own precarious place in the workforce and want the people who get them through the week to be on a more even footing too.
What struck me most about my outing with Lee was how queasy everyone became when I suggested he was a contemporary twist on a butler or housekeeper. Sapone prefers to call Alfreds “home managers”, describing them as “advocates”, “sidekicks” and “curators” for their clients, helping them make better decisions. For some millennials, it seems life is enough of a struggle without having to worry about the class struggle too.
- Edgecliffe-Johnson is the FT’s US business editor
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018