August 17, 2023 Reading Time: 3 minutes

Publix: They say it’s “where shopping is a pleasure,” and if you live in Miami, it looks like it’s where you might bump into Lionel Messi and his family. Their trip to a Miami Publix produced a lot of viral videos and photos (my favorite headline: “Lionel Messi officially becomes Florida man after Publix sighting.”)

Messi is the international soccer megastar who led Argentina to the World Cup championship in 2022 and shocked the world by signing not with European powerhouse Barcelona, but with Inter Miami FC of lowly Major League Soccer. International superstars like David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have played in MLS before–Beckham is part of the ownership team that brought Messi to MLS–but with all due respect to Beckham, Ibrahimovic, and others, the Messi signing is on a different level. Some say he is the best player of all time and, perhaps, still the best player in the world.

All of this has me wondering why he is wasting his time shopping at Publix. Messi’s time is extremely valuable, and if there is anyone in the world who should be using a shopping service like Instacart or Shipt, it’s Lionel Messi. First, he gives up time and energy he could spend practicing or earning money with endorsements. Second, there’s the curse of celebrity. While Messi is more anonymous in Miami than he would be elsewhere in the soccer-mad world, he attracts attention wherever he goes.

There are a lot of things Messi shouldn’t be doing, given what his time is worth. Should he clean his own house? Cook his own food? Mow his own grass? Do his own shopping? No, no, no, and no. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners” in the Miami earn a little less than $30,000 per year, on average. Private household cooks are a little more expensive at $45,510, and I would imagine they could pay the cook a little extra to handle the Instacart and Shipt accounts. To take care of the lawn, they could hire a kid from the neighborhood or a landscape architect for just under $68,000 per year. 

Frivolous waste? Not when you’re Messi, who makes $130 million a year on and off the field. One more endorsement deal or a few hours sharpening his passing would more than pay for people to keep Messi’s toilets clean, his pantry full, his food cooked, and his lawn neat. Questions about whether or not A-list celebrities and star athletes should mow their own grass are staples of introductory economics courses, and students who are halfway paying attention know that if you can earn more than half a million dollars an hour (as Messi does, assuming he puts in a standard 2000 hour workweek), then you should pay someone else to do household chores if you can hire them for anything less than that. By doing his own shopping, Messi wastes his time and invites distraction. 

Or does he? Commentator, podcaster, and former US Men’s National Team stalwart Alexei Lalas says he thinks the Messi family’s trip to Publix “was absolutely orchestrated.” Publix, he points out, is “ubiquitous” in Florida and, it turns out, the Official Supermarket of Inter Miami CF. As the New York Post points out, “If the shopping trip was indeed a publicity stunt, it surely worked, as Messi was seen snapping pictures with fans inside the supermarket.” It became fodder for this very article and will no doubt be discussed in loads of economics and business classes this coming Fall.

So maybe Messi isn’t wasting his time shopping at Publix. After all, they’re writing some of the checks to cover his eight-figure annual salary, and maybe conspicuously shopping there is part of the bargain. And given how much attention people are paying to the contents of his shopping cart–nothing screams “father of growing children” like family-size boxes of cereal–he might want to get his agent on the phone about even more endorsement deals.

Art Carden

Art Carden

Art Carden is a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

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