NYC COVID hotels are handing out ‘surprise’ Coach bags

New York’s quarantine hotel program is no cockroach motel, former residents report — and the gift bags were truly luxurious.

In fact, it is more appropriate to call the free, taxpayer-funded isolation residences Coach motels, as many visitors received designer handbags as parting gifts.

“It was very strange,” Williamsburg resident Sam Szabo told The Post after receiving a Coach bag on the way home from an eight-day stay at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in Queens.

The 32-year-old performance artist caught COVID-19 last November and opted to self-isolate at the hotel for fear of infecting his Williamsburg roommate.

“I was really grateful to have a quarantine space away from my roommate,” said Szabo, whose bag is currently not for sale on Coach’s website, where similarly sized bags are selling in the $300 range. “I have to say the whole system is incredibly impressive.”

Yet, due to the situation, their stay had a number of surreal moments, including having to empty a glass jar of salsa into paper cups before bringing it to their room and walking around in circles. a car drop-off area alongside fellow COVID-positive guests during supervised outdoor breaks three times a day. The most bizarre moment, however, came at the very end of their quarantine when, while waiting for them to return by free taxi, a member of staff took them aside and informed them that they were to receive a present.

“They were like, ‘The taxi driver has to leave, but we’ve got a parting gift for you if you want him back,'” Szabo recalled. “At this point, I was so tired of being here, but [I thought], ‘Okay, fine, whatever parting gift, cool.’ So I drop my bags in the cab, and they lead me to this table that’s just full of Coach handbags.

Sam Szabo with their gifted Coach bag outside the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel, where they self-quarantined when they had Covid.
Stefano Giovannini

There were shelves of Coach heels, loafers and a variety of bag options to choose from. Szabo picked out a purse, at which point a staff member asked them to take photos with him for social media before leaving — a reality bag, stuffed full of loot.

“Leaving something so liminal – a hotel but with hospital amenities, very spartan, efficient and clean, absolutely no luxury – and then walking out with a handbag was a surprise,” Szabo said of the experience. “Now I have this Coach handbag. It’s a really good icebreaker story.

Szabo wasn’t the only one to receive the generous, albeit bizarre, gift after taking advantage of the isolation program.

“As you leave they sort your laundry and then they tell you you have a present from Coach which is the funniest thing ever – why would you want to get a present for all that?” recalled a 34-year-old small business owner who spoke on condition of anonymity and stayed at the same hotel as Szabo near the end of August. “You take the elevator to the lobby, and just as you come out there’s a stack of Coach bags behind a retractable rope and you go up and take what you want and someone behind the rope hands it to you .”

The Queens native, who currently lives in California, was visiting family when he contracted the coronavirus. He chose an accessory “in the style of a wallet clutch”, which he ended up gifting to his brother’s girlfriend.

covid hotel coach bag
Szabo’s bag is not currently available on Coach’s website, but similar sized bags sell for around $300.
Stefano Giovannini

Overall, he found the purse to be a hilarious cherry on top of an inspiring, generous and well-run municipal program. “It’s already a gift that the city takes such good care of you during this crisis, and on top of that, you are rewarded for it.”

When he got COVID a second time, months later, he went to another coronavirus quarantine hotel and “had the same great experience, but we weren’t given any gifts at the end – not that ‘there is reason to complain’.

In response to the Post’s request for comment regarding why residents of random quarantine hotels were receiving designer gear, Coach was quick to explain: The bags were a weird but sweet part of an initiative by community support of more than $2 million launched through the Coach Foundation by the luxury brand house Tapestry. A press release about the April 2020 initiative – when New York City was the global epicenter of the pandemic – brims with the passionate intensity of charitable donation announcements in those early days of the plague, and focuses about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency funds being given to frontline workers and the repurposing of New York-based Tapestry 3D printers for manufacturing medical equipment.

A representative from NYC Health + Hospitals clarified that the free bags were part of a more recent initiative, in March 2021, when the Coach Foundation offered to make a one-time corporate donation of Coach products to New Yorkers who received COVID-related care in the city’s public hospital system. Most of these goods ended up being given to guests of isolated hotels, the representative added.

“We are grateful to Coach for his generous donation to lift the spirits of New Yorkers recovering from COVID-19 or quarantined at a NYC Test & Trace Corps Take Care hotel,” the rep told The Post in a statement. “They, like so many caring New Yorkers, were there to support those hardest hit by COVID-19.”