I'm going to start this blog post off with the fact that I do love what I do, and I'm privileged (so very privileged) to have the life I do; a flexible schedule, living the dream by following a career path I didn't even know existed. So yes, I'm thankful. Very much so. July marks 6 years of this Mockingjay taking flight to find her own way.
But there are some days. I'm guessing most of you have them - in fact, I know a lot of you do because it's what we talk about over nachos, slices of cake and wine. Lots and lots of wine. So please don't take my post here to be ungrateful, uncaring or even unaware of the fact that each and every one of us could likely write a venting post...probably 4 out of 7 days a week!
I decided to write some musings from a Market Manager perspective on the ins and outs, the day to day of dealings in the seedy world of Farmers Markets and event planning. I assure you, it's not a Hollywood romance. In fact, it can quickly turn into a thrilling suspense. Not yet a murder mystery, but there are days that it comes damned close.
Yesterday, for example, was one of those days. The thing is, looking back on it a day removed, nothing was really THAT big of a deal. It likely wasn't worth the energy put into it, or the negativity that tainted the day. But, in the moment, it's painful. It's gut-wrenching because the people raising complaints, giving attitude or just overall complaining have ZERO idea what the person on the receiving end is going through. Perhaps in their personal life, perhaps in that minute. And likewise from the opposite end of the "transaction." So, let's make fun of it - here and now. A true lesson is one you can reflect and laugh about right?
We'll start with the general idea I'm growing attached to: folks no longer know how to read road signs. Whether this is a ROAD CLOSED sign - complete with a steel barricade and ample fluorescent orange cones surrounding it - to posted colorful signs stating NO PARKING with a specified date and time range. It may surprise you to know as many as 10 vehicles per week do not heed these signs. Contrary to popular belief, I don't actually like ruining someone's day by towing their car, and so I go around to various businesses trying to be kind and find the owners before calling the tow truck. What's even more surprising? The reasons they give once they've been "found out." I've had people yell obscenities at me, and I've had people give THE BEST excuses. I'm talking about things I wouldn't ever think of even if I was trying to be creative. Here are some of my favorites, along with the response that I wanted to give (but did so only via my internal monologue):
- "I just got back from college." Wow, I'm really sorry our education system has become so flawed that you're unable to read simple signage.
- "I'm not from Washington." Okay...I didn't think that our dialect of English was different in this state than any of the other United States of America. The sign still says "NO PARKING THURSDAYS 11a-8p"
- "Well where am I supposed to park?" Well, Karen, anywhere in a 29 block radius that isn't THIS particular street?
- "I was at an appointment at that XYZ business." Cool, lots of people are throughout the day, but that doesn't mean a clearly-posted road sign doesn't apply to you. Especially when I know the business owners and the fact that they warn their clientele for our market days.
- "I am a Fed Ex/UPS/Mailman/Uber Eats/Pizza Delivery person." Rules still apply yo.
Yeah, so most of those excuses above are just in dealing with the parking. Let's talk about the fact that people will physically drive over those cones I mentioned above, or push through barricades with their vehicles and feign surprise when I am running down their car, going 25 mph down my supposed-to-be-closed street.
Here's the thing. Market Managers don't close down a road, parking lot or otherwise just to make someone's life difficult. But we do have the authority to do so - via City permits, police permission and generally a combination of several organizations that are respected and obeyed. Why close the street 4 hours before a market starts? Well, 2 reasons really. 1) Despite common belief, Market Managers don't perform magic. It takes time and effort for a market to appear, including hours of loading in and loading out. 2) For the safety and security of our market vendors. Those loading in and loading out are focused on their own 10 by 10 space. But, they know what they're doing - they're pros - so they are used to paying attention to other vendors coming in, vehicles passing dangerously close to their wares, and the like. In other words, they're trained professionals. While most folks will swear up and down they're just "trying to get through," neither the market manager or the vendors know their capability of navigating a vendor obstacle course. So, long story short-ish...they're not coming through.
Now, yesterday, I had the pleasure of dealing with a semi-entitled pizza delivery kid from Papa Johns. Not only did he bypass the Road Closed barricade and cones, but he decided to try my patience when I stood in front of his car and used the universal "STOP" sign with my hand. He rolled down his window and let me know what he was doing, who he was, etc. It went something like this:
Pizza Guy: "I'm trying to deliver a pizza."
MM: "Ok, unforutnately the road is closed, as evidenced by those signs you drove past, so I'm going to have to ask you to turn around."
Pizza Guy: "Well then you can call my GM at the Lake Stevens Papa Johns and tell him why I'm not able to deliver this order."
MM: "No, I'm not going to do that because I'm not restricting you from delivering your pizza, I'm simply asking you to remove your vehicle from a road that is closed. I have a permit that closes this road every Thursday. We did our best with the signage, but obviously that was missed. So, if you'd like to go through this gravel lot here it's the best exit strategy to get you on your way."
Pizza Guy: "Fine."
As he pulled over to the gravel lot, I said out loud "I can't even." Mind you, this is after I had already towed 2 cars that were dead center in the middle of my set up. There may have been a touch of frustration in my voice.
Pizza Guy: "What did you just say to me?"
MM: "I made it pretty clear, but I CANT EVEN."
Pizza Guy decided to stand strong in his point, so he remained parked in my market space, and walked his pizza order about 6 blocks up to a business that clearly had accessibility via car. We only close down a small portion of a not-even-main street in Snohomish. I had the pleasure of encountering him again as he walked back from hoofing his order down the street. Upon seeing me we had this interaction:
PG: "So, who can I talk to about issuing a complaint? That business is furious that their order was late and I want to speak to someone about it. I would like the phone number"
MM: "Well, that phone number is mine, and it's clearly posted on the Snohomish website, along with the email address and any other pertinent information you'd need to know."
PG: "Why are you being so rude?"
MM: "Why are you trying to be confrontational with me when you were clearly in the wrong trying to access a street that is closed?"
PG: "I'm going to issue a formal complaint and the business is as well - you are beyond rude and I don't appreciate your attitude. There are going to be complaints filed against you."
MM: **I was quite fed up here, I'll admit "Ok, well join the club."
I proceeded to make things right by calling his manager and offering to pay for another order of pizzas to the business, but I did refuse to apologize to this millenial that had a chip on his shoulder. She (not he as PG previously stated) let me know that he had already complained to the City, but that they had had a bad day so far. I apologized and empathized - again offering to do something to make it right. She said it was no big deal and she appreciated my call.
I then had to field the City coming to me (in person) to let me know they had complaints. Both from Pizza Guy and from the 2 vehicle owners that I had towed.
All of this happened in 2 hours. The first 2 hours of my market day. This wasn't a typical day, but it also wasn't an atypical day either. This stuff happens all the time. Here are a few more examples:
Customers complain that a certain vendor isn't there. When I (or my staff) try to explain that they had an emergency, are sick or whatever reason (they're human too!) the customer generally responds with "Well they said they'd be here." I bet they did, and I bet they had every intention of doing so.
Customers gripe about there not being a certain type of produce available. I try to use these conversations as educational opportunities, often ending with "sorry miss, I don't know of any farms that have blueberries in May, unless they're in South America."
The music is too loud.
The food isn't plentiful enough.
The market is too busy.
The market isn't busy enough.
The weather isn't great.
The hours of the market are "impossible to get to."
These are just a few in the arsenal that folks seem to have up their sleeves on any given week. Now, after 6 years of doing this, I've grown a thick skin and have tried to open up conversations in ways that make people aware of how they sound. Sometimes it works, many times it doesn't and I'm given a new title that I'm not super fond of.
The jist of my musings here are to remind folks that, unlike Amazon, bot calls and the like, there is a human on the other end of the market. Usually, just one, or a handful of creative, amazing souls that really like to see their community thrive. Rain or shine, good day or full moon crazy...they're there hucking tent weights, fielding stupid questions, dealing with vendor personalities and towing cars. I can tell you that I average 8-10 miles on my feed in the course of an 11 hour day that starts well before I'm even on the market site. It's a labor of love, so that also means that negativity is taken very personally. It doesn't have to be, but a lot of us are empaths and would rather take on the role of Captain Marvel and shield our vendors from the wrath of everyone else. God knows they work a helluva lot of hours themselves, and often longer than Market Managers.
So, in a world full of hatred, bias, and prejudice (and so much more) take a moment to remember the humans on the other end of the line. The ones that love what they do, in spite of all the ways you may point out that they could be doing it better.
More Market Maven musings soon...time for that aforementioned wine.