Is it ever OK to lie to a customer?

If you’re like me, probably your first instinct is to say, ‘NO!’ But read on. I will tell you a true tale.

A couple of weeks ago, I popped into the Health Food shop to buy one of those little sticks of salt that you use as a deodorant. They were sold out of the one I like (made in Queensland–support home-made and it’s a good product).

The man behind the counter said, ‘Yes, we seem to be out of that one. I’ve ordered some and they should be in next week.’

I let two weeks go by and stop in again. A different man and a woman are behind the counter this time. The place on the shelf for my little salt stick is still empty. ‘Not in yet?’ I say?

‘I told you you should have done an order!’ barks the man at the woman.

‘Oh, that’s OK,’ says I. ‘They were ordered a couple of weeks ago so they should be in soon.’

‘Oh? Who told you that?’ says the man.

‘The other man’ says I.

‘Huh! He doesn’t know how to do orders!’ and turning to the woman says again, ‘I told you to do those orders ages ago. Now look.’

At which point, I crept out of the store.

Back to my question: Is it ever OK to lie to a customer? My answer is yes, when it stops you and your business looking like total dills. No need to make the other employee look stupid. No need to start a blue in front of a customer.

What I think they should have said was something like, ‘Gee, you’re right we’re out. I’ll phone the supplier and see if we can have some shipped quickly. Can you wait until next week?’

Have I gone back there to buy my salt stick? Nope. Went to another Health Food shop.