A client of mine was telling me about a problem they have with fraudulent credit card charges, which require a bit of work on the behalf of accounting staff to fix. As we discussed the issue, it dawned on me to ask “How often does this happen?” The response: “Once every couple of months.”

The message here is simple: Because we are pursuing success and not perfection, we’re never going to have a system that will control for every possible exception. While the chargebacks are annoying, they occur so infrequently that it’s not worth our time and effort to try to address this problem. We just have to learn to manage these exceptions.

So whenever you get into a discussion about what the database can’t do but should be able to do, remember to ask how often this situation actually occurs. You may be surprised to learn that the problem is so exceptional, it’s not worth discussing.