On Sunday morning, Antonio Rabbi, a native of Villa Vera, Brazil, suits up. He puts on green and white knee-high socks and a matching jersey. Black shorts and black cleats complete his uniform. He is 49 and plays in a 45-and-over soccer league.
By day, he is a working foreman at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center waxing and polishing emergency room floors. He shampoos waiting room carpets and performs various other tasks to keep the facilities in good order. His shift begins at 3 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.
By night, he works at Massachusetts Institute of Technology doing the same. Only now he restores shine to chemistry lab floors and various lobbies around the institute. The drive from St. Elizabeth in Brighton to MIT takes no more than 15 minutes. He begins his shift at MIT at 11 p.m. and works until 7 a.m.
He dry mops the halls with a shaggy red mop and then guides a self-propelled scrubbing machine down the maze of corridors. He constantly stops to drip Visine in both eyes to diminish the burn from having to stay awake for back-to-back shifts. He works both jobs full time. He has the benefit and perks, like a pension and 401k, from both. But that’s not all that he does to make a living.
On the weekends he also bargain shops to find deals on consumer goods at sixty to eighty percent off. Three to four times a year he takes a flight for the sole purpose of selling these goods in Brazil. He sells to corner stores, individual retailors, or vendors who in turn hike up the price and resells them.
At the game, he stretches to avoid stiff joints. He says that he might not play due to injuries. Most all the guys here are injured though, one wears an elbow sleeve, another pulls a black knee brace tight. He plays, even scores a goal, but their team still loses 4-2.
The referee blows the extended whistle signifying the end of the game. The men linger a bit. Some complain about missed opportunities. Others blame losing on being a few men down. Antonio doesn’t linger too long. He stretches on the grass one last time and rubs a sore right shoulder. He removes his number 17 jersey and drives home for a quick shower.
“Now, I go shopping,” he says with a thick Portuguese accent.
The rest of the day finds him at various shopping locations. His next trip home is May 7th so the casual shopping that he normally does is ramped up now to a more frantic pace. He leaves in just a few days.
He has coupons for Macy’s and Kohl’s. He has the TJX card which helps him save at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. He heads straight for the clearance area. He combs quickly through the racks. The metal tipped hangers shrieking along the metal racks. He hunts pulling and searching for clothes.
“I need a good deal,” he mutters as he inspects the red clearance stickers on a Polo shirt by Ralph Lauren. “This is not a good price.”
He leaves Marshalls; TJ Maxx is next, then the Braintree mall. And before the day of is done, he finds himself at his favorite shopping location, the Wrentham Outlets. He will spend hours there. He shops for sunglasses, name-brand bag, watches, shorts, and T-shirts. He buys warm-up suit from Puma and Hurley.
The trunk and then the back seat of his 2013, gray Hyundai Sonata soon fills with bags. He heads into Quicksilver and cleans out their entire stock of beach shorts. His favorite stores are Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and PacSun. They are all good for resale in Brazil.
Custo Brazil or the cost of doing business in Brazil is high. “They keep it this way because they don’t want competition…its economic politics,” he says. It includes taxes of up to 40% and steep customs fees associated with the import of foreign-made goods.
Bolstered by oil production and other good fortunes of their emerging economy, the middle class is strong. As a result, the Brazilian people are used to paying high prices for the things they want. The International Monetary fund reports that the GDP of Sao Paulo, one of the states of Brazil, is more than that of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and Bolivia combined.
A Big Mac in Brazil is $6.17; in the U.S. its $4.07, a mark-up of 51%. An iPad2 costs $887 in Brazil and $499 in the U.S., a mark-up of 78%. The worst mark-ups occur in vehicles. A Honda CRV is marked-up 110% to $46,020 in Brazil from $20,895 in the U.S.
He packs his suitcases efficiently and points to about 30 hats nestled inside one another. He gives a quick example of what he can make by selling just one hat back home in Brazil. They sell for triple and sometimes quadruple the price here. He buys them for $5-$10 and sells them for $30 American dollars, which is $60 Brazilian reals.
The store owner typically sells one hat for $180 reals. The Brazilian real is two to one American dollar. So, the hat he buys here on discount for a maximum of $15 should only be $30 in Brazil. The mark-up is staggering with the end price being as much as four times more. Multiply that times the 40 hats he is bringing and then times four suitcases. Then one can see the possibility if how much there is to be made.
He will also bring a few international cell phones with him. He is still looking for an iPhone at a good price, but its intended for his daughter and not resale. He will bring four suitcases this time. Two of which, he will pay the $100 extra baggage fee for.
One has a busted wheel but he doesn’t have time to shop for a new one. The most suitcases he ever brought down was last December. He and his wife took eight. He says that he made $20,000 and that’s was after paying for both their $1,200 airplane tickets and $5,000 seed money used to buy the merchandise.
He has works for St. Elizabeth for twelve year and MIT for ten. He has a condo here in America and owns what he calls an apartment in Brazil. He owns two cars, the Sonata as well as a black 2010 Toyota Camry that has a personalized license plate that bares last name and first initial “ARABBI”.
He has taken advantage of the 401k match at both jobs. And after working both jobs for the required ten years, has locked in a pension from both organizations: MIT and St. Elizabeth. It’s as if he had been working for twenty years.
He says the American winters are wearing on him and this year he might consider retiring both jobs and returning home. A better climate might be good for his aching joints. He uses a lot of sick time and goes home early from MIT often, leaving at 5 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. Having made upwards of $100k+ each year, he can afford to. When asked if life in Brazil will suit him, Rabbi's response is this: “I will live like a king there.”
Tags: MIT Feature Story | Documenting Higher Education | College Journalism