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Whoever wrote, “The customer is always right,” was, well, wrong.

I’m sure you can think of ten stories off the top of your head when Ms. Jones was dead wrong. The sofa she saw in a magazine was never meant for her living room. She gave you the wrong dimensions. Her credit was declined. She twisted what you said. These are the stories you laugh about now, shocking your friends who work in more civilized fields like banking or taxidermy. But as it happens, as a red-faced Ms. Jones mastercard sputters in your face, it is definitely not funny.

Just between you and me, she was wrong. Between you and her, you’ve got to do everything you can to make it right. How do you protect her from her mistakes? How do you protect yourself? Are you a hardnosed “Dem’s the rules!” kind of company? Or are you a namby-pamby “Whatever it takes,” sort of store?

Somewhere in between must lie an area called common sense. In between “I’ll call the television station if you don’t give me my money back!” and “I’ll call the police if you don’t leave my store!” must lie room for compromise, admitting our mistakes and calling a spade a spade.

Have you ever fired a customer? There’s a time to decide you aren’t going to be pushed around like a kid on the playground and stand up to a bully Ms. Jones. There’s also a time to give in to unreasonable demands just to keep the peace.

Here’s to the days when we don’t have to decide at all, when we lift a glass to a gracious customer and thank God for decent people who make retail fun. Thankfully, most Ms. Jones don’t try to steal your lunch money.

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