Earlier this year, my kitchen sink sprang a leak. With Brazil bracing for coronavirus, how to find a repairman willing to risk Rio de Janeiro’s pathogen-friendly public transit for a one-off job in a stranger’s home? Lucky for me, Antonio was game. A freelance plumber, Antonio is part of Latin America’s vast shadow economy, where today’s gig is tonight’s meal. Unfortunately, most Brazilian handymen prefer cash, just the sort of high-touch tender I had foresworn in times of Covid-19.
We settled on a bank transfer, and a few pecks at my phone app and a hefty transfer fee later, I’d whisked the money from my account to his. Or so I thought. Two days, four phone calls and several worried text messages from Antonio later, the funds finally landed.