Doomsday Bunker Operators Are Cashing in on Fear During the Pandemic

A look inside Vivos xPoint, a survivalist community in South Dakota

Vivos xPoint doomsday bunker in South Dakota
One of the Vivos xPoint bunkers in South Dakota.
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“People thought we were crazy because they never believed anything like this could happen,” Robert Vicino recently told The Verge. “Now they’re seeing it. Everybody is a believer.”

The situation Vicino is talking about is, of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic. But the “crazy” part is Vivos, the international doomsday bunker company of which he is the CEO, and which is currently experiencing a spike in interest and sales as fallout from the coronavirus continues.

In a new feature, The Verge explores both the individuals who have hunkered down at xPoint — “an abandoned military facility-turned-survivalist community” run by Vivos in South Dakota — as well as the larger doomsday shelter market. For Vicino, it’s been a boom, averaging one bunker sale a day, with his single-day revenue reaching as high as $1 million.

On the user side, the feature profiles a couple and a family of four who have both taken up permanent residence at xPoint. Both groups are sprucing up their inhospitable digs, taking on projects like installing wood over the concrete floors and solar power (because xPoint doesn’t offer electricity). “The routine is reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie or that of a minimalist Instagram influencer, except with armored doors instead of linen curtains,” writes The Verge.

If this sounds like a no-brainer, reporter Zoe Schiffer also shows the ugly side of the industry. On one hand, there are the marketing promises which range from misleading to downright dangerous, including air filtration systems which an expert equates to “snake oil.” Then there are the conspiracy theory tendencies (or shall we say prerequisites?) of the doomsday bunker community; at one point, Vicino boiled down his sales pitch like this: “The have-nots are going to go after the haves.”

But back to the original point that “everybody is a believer” in doomsday preppers now; there is a difference between believing in preppers and believing in the business model of companies that sell to preppers. The end is not near, but that’s not stopping opportunistic bunker operators from cashing in on fear.

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