When backpacking around the world, you may find yourself short of cash and in need of a job. During my travels, I have had a few unusual jobs. I am going to share with you in a new little series called;
‘ Jobs on the Road’
Selling Strawberries up and down the North Island, New Zealand
When I arrived in Auckland, my bank balance was extremely low. I was lucky to get a job in a hostel that gave free accommodation while I looked for work. I got a job in a cafe and a clothes shop, and continued to work in the hostel. But even with two part time jobs and working for accommodation, saving money in Auckland was still really hard, and I wasn’t loving having three jobs at once.
Then, the opportunity arose to sell strawberries. Other people in the hostel were doing it and claimed there was money to be made.
This was something I never thought I would do, as I never thought of myself as a salesperson. But I decided to give it a go on my day off.
My first day as a strawberry seller started really, really early. Like, too early. I was passing people on the hostel stairs who were still up from the night before, and their messy drunkenness only highlighted how weird it was to be awake and sober at that hour.
The group of strawberry sellers from the hostel waited outside in the dark to be picked up. We piled into two cars and drove to pick up the strawberries. Outside a warehouse-sized fridge in the scarce pre-dawn light, we loaded crates of strawberries into the car until there was barely room for us to get in. The car became a Mary Poppin’s bag for strawberry storage. Just when I thought there was no way we could fit another crate in, the boss just kept stuffing more and more in.
The person in the middle seat (who turned out to always, always be me!) had a wobbling tower of strawberry crates next to them that reached the ceiling. They strained against their ropes and threatened to crush me at every turn. They really poked into my arms as well and I was usually left with a scattering of bruises by the end of the drive.
On my first day, I was with the manager and his girlfriend. They were really nice but I was really tired and the only opportunity to get a coffee was the coffee milk that New Zealanders love. It is delicious, but doesn’t pack the same punch as an espresso, so I failed to fully wake up for quite some time. We drove for ages and the gorgeous New Zealand scenery made up for the early hour.
When we reached the first town, I was told to get out and grab a crate and take one side of the road.
I was scared!
I am naturally very shy and awkward, so lugging a crate of strawberries into an office was terrifying!
I think the fact that I was red-faced and struggling to get in the door worked to my advantage. The people were so nice and friendly and willing to buy.
I think friendly Kiwis + delicious strawberries = a win.
When I reached the end of the road I was bursting with pride, I had sold all my strawberries and was feeling more confident.
On that first day, we took off from Auckland and drove to so many gorgeous places around the North Island. At that stage, I had only been to Auckland, so I was grateful for this free tour of the amazing countryside. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was.
By the end of the day I was exhausted, but I had seen more of New Zealand than I ever thought was possible in a day, and I had a sweet lump of cash in my pocket.
The next few days were even better. I realised there was a Mc Donalds right by the strawberry farm, and so I started a new habit of going to the bathroom there and conveniently picking up a breakfast and a large coffee on the way. That much needed shot of caffeine and a big feed was exactly what I needed to start the day.
I got a great insight into how New Zealanders live. When you are darting from hairdressers to lawyer’s offices to antique shops you really get to see a variety of people in their working environments. I loved going to to all the tiny towns and admiring the architecture and character. It proved what I already knew, that New Zealanders are the nicest people ever! Seriously though, everyone was so friendly and nice.
It was the start of the New Zealand summer so it felt so nice to be out in the sun and earning money.
However, strawberry selling is not for everyone. My friend A started and wasn’t much of a fan. On her first day she was with me and we went to a big town. We were sent to the main shopping street, which was packed with people shopping. We had to hurry around, carting wobbly trolleys piled with crates of strawberries stacked precariously and held with a piece of rope. As soon as we got out of the car, my rope snapped, which didn’t fill A or me with confidence.
We had to go into each shop on the street, and it seemed like the street was never-ending. The amount of people shopping made getting in and out of doors even harder than before.
A was then stationed at a low wall to catch people as they passed. She was lucky because she didn’t have to lug her trolley around, but it was a little embarrassing as she was meant to be calling out ‘Fresh strawberries for sale!’ She was feeling pretty miserable after a while.
At the start of each day of strawberry sales, everyone has a rough number of strawberry crates to sell. When I was working with the couple, they would fill the car with as many as possible and then she and I would split them, then the boss would do a few himself.
But, if you are in a car where you haven’t managed to sell many strawberries, then technically you have to sell them, as they will be ruined by the end of the day. So, on A’s next day, she and her friend were put with a different group. They had a bad day, and they had a lot of crates left between them. They hadn’t made any money either. So, by the time they got back to the city, they had to resort to selling them on Queens Street, Auckland’s main street!
At this stage, she was feeling tired and fed up, and she had a lot of strawberries to get rid of. I was on a day off, so I came to help and it was really tough. People rushing home from work aren’t as willing to stop and buy strawberries, especially as we weren’t doing a great job of convincing them. There was a big difference in standing on the main street in Auckland and popping into country businesses, where people are willing to stop and have a chat with you.
After a while, a guy from the Council came over, and it turns out you can’t even sell strawberries without a permit. So we had to move along, and ended up down by the harbour, where all the fancy restaurants are, trying to flog rapidly deteriorating strawberries for a quarter of the original price.
It was a disaster!
By the end of it all, both girls were nearly hysterical, and never wanted to see a strawberry again!
Selling strawberries is hard work and the days are long, and if you have zero upper arm strength like me, then the first few days will be a struggle, but if you are looking to make money when in New Zealand, then I would definitely recommend it to anyone. You get paid in cash everyday, more than you would in a cafe or shop, and you get to see a lot of gorgeous New Zealand for free! It’s win win!