Limousine operator Thomas Harris has three luxury vehicles off the road after a 90 per cent drop in business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of sitting at home and waiting for business to improve the 27-year-old Sydney man has offered to drive elderly shoppers to supermarkets for free.
Mr Harris watched senior citizens struggling to buy essential goods during panic-buying binges that have caused shortages in items including toilet paper and food.
‘I guess we’ve lost our way with all that’s going on,’ he said. ‘It makes me sad, mate. It’s not the Australian way. Normally we’ll help each other, no matter what.’
Mr Harris imagined his own family members being in a similar predicament, not being able to buy basic food or getting a prescription filled.
Limousine operator Thomas Harris has experienced a 90 per cent drop in business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of sitting around waiting for business to improve the 27-year-old Sydney man has offered to drive elderly shoppers to supermarkets for free
On Thursday Thomas Harris went out to fill a shopping list for a man who is too ill to leave home and face crowded supermarkets. He is pictured taking the man’s groceries out of his Mercedes E220 which is usually used for his limousine business
‘I was thinking of my grandmother – just thinking I wouldn’t want to be in that situation,’ he said.
‘I figured I’ve got time so I might as well offer my services to whoever needs it.’
The generous chauffeur has already been dealt another set back – one of his three vehicles, a white Audi Q5, was stolen from a mechanic’s workshop at Milperra on Tuesday.
Mr Harris nonetheless wants to use his two remaining work cars, a white Mercedes-Benz V220 van and a black Mercedes E220 sedan, to help those most in need.
Following news major supermarkets would reserve the first hour of trading from 7am for elderly customers and those with disabilities he came with an idea and turned to social media.
Mr Harris said he was sick of seeing selfish people stripping supermarket shelves of goods such as toilet paper and pasta.
‘It’s atrocious,’ he said. People just need to be calm and everything will work out in the end.
‘I wouldn’t want my grandma to go through what some other people have gone through.
‘So I figured why don’t I offer a service to people who can’t get to places to do what they need to do?
Mr Harris posted an offer to help elderly shoppers on a community Facebook page for residents of the Botany, Mascot and surrounding areas in Sydney’s inner southern suburbs
The reaction to Mr Harris’s Facebook offer to help others was immediate. ‘Now THIS is what community is all about!’ one wrote. ‘I take my hat off to you Thomas’
Mr Harris, from Botany, posted a notice on a community Facebook page for the Botany, Mascot and surrounding areas in Sydney’s inner southern suburbs.
He initially offered transport to any elderly or disabled person who needed a lift to Eastgardens shopping centre for the early morning shopping session, for free.
On Thursday he was given a shopping list by a man too ill to leave home and visited five outlets to purchase everything he needed.
Mr Harris said he would ferry customers to the supermarket, wait for them to shop, load their groceries, drive them home then unload their goods.
His post was met with praise from scores of admirers. ‘That is so lovely Thomas,’ one wrote. ‘Thank you for your kindness!’
‘You’re such a breath of fresh air mate,’ wrote another. ‘The world needs more good people just like you.’
A third commented: ‘Now THIS is what community is all about! I take my hat off to you Thomas.’
Mr Harris, who started TJS Limousines three years ago, had not set out to win plaudits from anyone.
Major supermarkets have begun restricting shopping between 7am and 8am to elderly customers and those with disabilities amid panic-buying driven by the coronavirus pandemic
‘With everyone panicking, people forget about those who need help the most,’ he said. ‘It’s the least I can do.’
Mr Harris said 90 per cent of his work came from transfers to and from Sydney Airport – most for international travel – and almost all that work was now gone.
‘Obviously with what’s happened it’s died down a bit, but that’s fine,’ he said. ‘Things do take a dive sometimes.
‘I’ve currently lost 90 per cent of my work. I’ve got time to help others so I might as well do the right thing.’
Mr Harris said he had been contacted by an aged care home and the Junction Neighbourhood Centre at Maroubra which provides community services and programs in eastern and inner Sydney.
Mr Harris said he thought of his own family – particularly his grandmother – when he saw shoppers hoarding essential goods. It’s not the Australian way,’ he said. ‘Normally we’ll help each other, no matter what.’ He is pictured with his sister Victoria
‘I’ve had a few people contact me so far – hopefully there’ll be more,’ he said.
‘That’s just the Aussie way, isn’t it? We just need to put our hands up and help the people that need it the most.
‘If I do something good maybe other people will start to follow suit.’
As for his own business, which also includes chauffeuring clients to weddings, school formals and on tours of the city, he knows it will eventually pick up.
‘I’ve got a bit savings in the bank that I’ve put away for a rainy day,’ Mr Harris said. ‘Running your own business you’ve got to think ahead.
‘You’ve always got to be prepared for something because you never know what tomorrow’s going to hold, unfortunately.’
Thieves stole Mr Harris’s white Audi Q5 (pictured) from a Milperra workshop on Tuesday