The Patron Saints of our Supermarkets, in Photos
Photos by Kina Sai


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The Patron Saints of our Supermarkets, in Photos

Day after day, women of all stripes set to work scanning and swiping and putting up with shit from the general public. They are the backbone of our grocery stores, toiling to keep your cupboards full—and their own families fed.

There are many reasons to live in West Auckland, New Zealand: lack of money, rough surf, a medium-to-high propensity for crime. You can even pick up some kitsch beach art, like sandals painted on seashells. It's nothing if not colorful.

A lot of the guys here get into the trades, and many the women take to the supermarket checkout. Mums, students, migrants; Thai, Filipino, Niuean, Tongan, Indian, Chinese. All earning a crust under the great diplomatic blanket of the supermarket.


They are the backbone of the neighbourhood's Pak'n'Saves and Countdowns; the key transactors of pies and juice and soft white bread. They've seen some stuff, and put up with countless idiots. Their patience is staggering.

"People get really angry when things aren't on special," said one.

"I watched a customer throw a dip at another checkout girl," said another. "It hit her in the chest and splattered on her face. She didn't even freak out, she just wiped off the dip and kept working. The craziest part was that the customer was a 60-year-old white chick."

You'd don't need that kind of stress, girl.

"Shoplifters get righteous when we try to stop them," they said. "These guys were like 'You're profiling us, you're profiling us,' and we were like, 'Nah, we saw you take the stuff.'"

And: "There was a woman who didn't like that we have fish in the aisle—she said we shouldn't have fish here. We told her to hold her nose."

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The male-to-female checkout ratio is about 1:20. Many enjoy the work, its predictability and camaraderie ("If you're not sleeping because of your job, you don't need that kind of stress, girl"). Another, heavily pregnant, said "I may never come back."

Most of all, they couldn't believe anyone would want to take their picture. They work hard for their hourly wage, then they go home to cook for their husband/father/grandparents/five kids. Who'd want to photograph that?