I’m the Martha

I’m the Martha

Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary.  Picture from The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments books collection published in 1885, Stuttgart-Germany. Drawings by Gustave Dore.Perhaps it’s due to the looming Easter holiday*, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Martha and Mary lately. Do you remember these ladies from the bible story, where Jesus is due to visit and Martha is busy preparing the setting, the meal, everything. Martha drops it all to go be social. Martha continues on in the background. I’m the Martha.

The story goes like this:
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

I want everything to be nice, to keep everything moving as it should. It’s not always feasible to drop everything in the background to go out and party, to go out and socialize. The others will carry on without you. They are the ones who’ll keep the party fun, while you’re in the back, focused on other necessities. I’m not like the Martha in the story who wants Mary to join her back in the kitchen. Mary has her spot in the party, and I’ve got my spot making preparations. I’ve got responsibilities.


I am supposed to focus on behind-the-scenes operations on certain days. Time passes with interruptions, some warranted, others frivolous. Stay late, try to get office time other days, or get behind: Two steps forward, one step back. I tell myself, “A little ahead is better than further behind.” All these partial projects are driving me crazy.

And the projects, all important.

  • The cyclical, each month and quarter I must complete and file revenue, employee, and alcohol reports. State and Federal requirements, these deserve the utmost attention.
  • The dull, weekly bookkeeping entries, scheduling and payroll, account reconciliation, filing, pricing new products, identifying price increases and decreases, putting beer on sale, taking it off sale, writing price tags.
  • The repetitive, stocking product, organizing back stock, processing sales, packaging beer.
  • The creative, snapping photos, researching product, writing newsletters, crafting ads.
  • The social, interacting with customers face-to-face, by phone, and online: email, facebook, twitter. Online reviews…

…bad reviews make me crazy because I’m working so much and trying so hard to do it right.

Friends tell me not to look at online reviews. But where else am I going to get a pulse on how the public views my store? I am mortified by some. How can I be the worst at customer service? I give and give and give. Every day, stepping out of my comfort zone. Striving to do-right for my customers.

My goals: To give accurate information. To thoughtfully guide toward beers they’ll like. If I don’t know, to check with others, consult opinions of beer clerk staff. To let people shop in peace. To be approachable. To share. To be in a happy, well-adjusted environment. To run a shop that people like to visit, who love the product, who want to share the experience.

Realizing: My only control is over me. I can encourage others, but they will act as they do. How they act, what they say, affect my store’s reputation, my reputation.

Wondering, “Is it easier to impact unknown expectations or cynical attitudes?”

Realizing: I’m not cut out for this job. I don’t have the interpersonal skills.

Servicing customers

Complaints. Criticisms. I see the flaws. I talk with my partner, with staff. What is the customer service experience people seek? What is their expectation? To feel thanked …not have feet kissed. Just to feel appreciated. A simple greeting, an offer to assist. That’s what I request my beer clerks extend. I don’t like pushy salespeople, staff who ask over and over if I need help. When I’m shopping, if I want help I will reach out … but the staff needs to be approachable. This is what I ask of my staff, my partner, to treat the customer as they’d like to be treated, to be approachable.

Are people not extended these easy, kind courtesies?

Even a person entering with an attitude, they are deserving of these simple things. But then, are the ones who curse at you from moment one. Yes, this happens. It’s hard not to let those moments go, when you’re one to obsess over things.

I wanted our store to be the start of beer microcommunities. A place where people can meet and visit about beers at in-store tastings, where they’d get selections of beers to share with friends. It started that way. Tasting turnouts have diminished. I’m not a social leader, not a bullshitter, not a small talker. I’m not the person to be pouring at these events. But I am.

I’m an information prep’r, a researcher, a worker bee. Far from socialite.

I ruminate over this.

It’s hard to let go

How does one just let go? I’m a bit of a brooder and an obsessive-compulsive, so I tend to focus on things and hash through them over and over in my mind. What could I have done better? How can I do this well? Can I step out of my shell and make others feel more welcome?

How can I better handle negativity directed at my business establishment? Though many love what we’ve created and enjoy sharing with others, why do some want to hate? Yes, hate. In their online reviews they tell others not to patronize my business. And here I have given so much, tried so hard, to make this a nice place for them. To make a great place for beer lovers.

It doesn’t live up to the hype. Beer Nazi! Put down? I have no control over these things.

I do, occasionally, feel my social awkardness.

I’m socially awkward

My best method of communication is far from verbal. Words get jumbled. There seems to be a brain-to-mouth disconnect as the wrong word tumbles out. What? That’s not what I meant to say! I make the correction.

I get nervous. I repeat myself, three times. That’s three. Three times, as in 1 – 2 – 3. OCD shines thru. My head goes down, ashamed. I wasn’t trying to drive home a point.

I’m just the Martha.


3 thoughts on “I’m the Martha

  1. My wife tends to be the Martha. She is much better at the behind the scenes stuff than I ever could hope to be. I admire the Marthas of the world because they have so much strength, especially when they have to put up with people like me.

  2. I think you’re a lot like me … and better “vocalize” by writing rather than speaking. I totally understand where you’re coming from and how it feels. I was just reading an article on this …

    … how often we take things personally when a person’s words and actions are not really directed at us personally. How often do we become short tempered or frustrated by things and it comes across in our words or actions at the people we encounter when it really has NOTHING to do with them. Sometimes we are so buried in our own thoughts, problems, and struggles that we don’t even realized we are being abrupt or curt with others until we do actually take a step back (or someone brings it to our attention). This is part of what the article said:

    “reactions to personal offenses are often emotional. A person may feel anger, a sense of betrayal, the desire for justice… Emotional responses to real or supposed offenses can be very strong…giving yourself time to calm down and view the situation more dispassionately may help you…

    Try to determine why you are upset. Is it because you have been treated unfairly, perhaps discourteously? Or is it because you feel that the other person deliberately attempted to hurt you? Was his or her action really so bad? Analyzing and understanding the reason for your reaction will allow you to consider what would be the best and proper response. Such reasoning may help you to be more objective…

    …take a moment to analyze matters … we can lessen anger, disappointment, and other negative emotions with understanding, open-mindedness, and a willingness to forgive. “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended,” says Ecclesiastes 7:9 … Do not take things so personally. On many occasions, what may be thought of as a deliberate personal offense is nothing of the sort; it is just a result of imperfection or a misunderstanding. Try to be open-minded regarding what seem to be unkind acts or words, and be willing to forgive out of love. You will be happier if you succeed.”

    The article also acknowledged that this “is easier said than done”, yet worth the effort.

    We can berate ourselves and feel miserable or we can acknowledge that we have done our best and can’t please everyone (much as we would love to!). We can step back and acknowledge that maybe “someone is having a bad day” … sadly some people ARE miserable and try to make everyone else miserable too. We can choose to give them our sympathies without letting them rob us of our joy.

    I struggle with this – sometimes from both sides. That’s why this article struck a cord with me. It seems so easy to become angry and cynical when surrounded by idiots, yet doing so robs you of your joy and you’re suddenly finding yourself heading down to their level.

    I’m going to try to me more mindful … more open-minded … more patient … more forgiving … and forgetful 🙂 I’m going to try to enjoy every moment as much as I can … with whoever I can … and those that have a problem with my best efforts can either offer to help me or move on.

    Choose to accept your limitations and what you do/don’t have control over. Continue to do the best you can. Try not to ruminate. Keep your sense of humor – let it rescue you in troublesome times. Breathe and enjoy. You’ll find there are a LOT more who like you for who you are than otherwise.

  3. Most the complaints are about the Mary. The partner, the staff, whoever is public-facing at that moment in time is the Mary. The main complaint: Mary was rude. She was short and grumpy.

    In six years, there’s been two online customer service complaints specifically directed toward me; one I remember, which the fellow came in with attitude and there was nothing I could do to smooth his visit. Another, I don’t recall because I was busy in-out of the office and was relying on the on-duty beer clerk to do the greeting, which means they also address for questions so I can focus on my other roles. But from the review, it sounds that no greeting was extended, and I was seen in/out of the office, also didn’t extend greeting. That would have been normal; I don’t stop and say hello to every customer when focused on other tasks. It was a total Martha-Mary breakdown.

    …until last week, when I was called “one of the worst” of small business owners and in customer service. When I contacted the fellow, I learned I was just thrown in due to experiences with others at my shop.

    You see: My shop, my reputation.

    I’ve seen Mary give short, snappy replies. I’ve seen Mary neglect customers in the shop. I’ve witnessed Mary giving a loud, curt response. I encourage using a voice that sounds like a kind, extended hand rather than a rough Brill-O pad. Mary gives an inconvenienced look. Mary gives an eye roll. When Mary acts like this she is damaging my store’s reputation, my reputation. But Mary doesn’t care. She’ll do whatever the fuck she wants. I have no control over the Mary. The only control I have over the Mary is when I’m playing Mary. But I’ve got so much on my plate, I’m really the Martha.

    The reviews are personal. I take them personally.

    Maybe my friends are right. I shouldn’t read the reviews. I have talked to my partner, my staff, over and over again about the complaints. And the complaints against our customer service, nearly always the same. Not something to capitalize on. Not something to strive toward being: “Curt, abrupt, Beer Nazi, doesn’t care about me.”

    Meanwhile Martha is here, working her ass off trying to keep things going. Martha strives to do right for the entire party, she finds herself breaking down, exhausted and in tears as her work is undone in a second by a grumpy Mary. Martha can’t be both Martha and Mary; there’s simply not enough time in a day. How can I get them all to be more like the Mary in the bible story? Attentive, kind, caring, showing interest.

    I never expected this Yin-Yang part of retail.

    I find it exhausting, frustrating.

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