Bad data management in a two-letter word


Big data? What about the small stuff?

In preparing for an upcoming business trip, I decided to rent a car on I could have sworn that I had registered on the site at some point, but I couldn't find my user name and password. Call it a senior moment.

I can't imagine that this is an uncommon occurrence on most popular e-commerce sites. I don't have a photographic memory, so I filled out the password reset form. What followed, however, was nothing less than shocking, at least to me:

Click to embiggen.

I couldn't believe my eyes:

If you entered a valid email address?

If? Really?

How do you not know this?

I have a really simple question for Enterprise's CXOs: How does your company not know whether I entered an email address that exists in its CRM system? I don't know which application you use, but it's logical to surmise that email address is a required field – or at least it should be. It is 2014, after all, right?

I no longer code very much, but I'm pretty sure that building in logic here can't be terribly difficult. I would suspect that the business rule/code would look something like this:

If [ENTRY] IS IN CUSTOMER.EMAIL_ADRESS THEN "YES" ELSE "We're sorry. We cannot find this email address in our system. Would you like to try another or register here 
<insert link>?"

Yet,  Enterprise gave me a conditional statement on a data element as basic as my email address.

Simon says

It never ceases to amaze me. Big data is here. There's no doubt about that. Still, there are plenty of large and ostensibly successful organizations that don't manage their small data terribly well.

Messages like this may very well not resonate with the vast majority of the public. After all, most consumers don't think about things like master data management and referential integrity. To those in the know, though, this is a clear signal that the company can use its data to provide for a better customer experience.


What say you?


About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.


  1. While it's definitely possible their coding/data searching is not up to snuff (who hasn't had a problem with a rent-a-car agency at some point or another?), this could also be a purposeful implementation to ensure that anyone who is just phishing, doesn't get confirmation on whether an e-mail address does in fact have an account.

  2. Robert Allison
    Robert Allison on

    Perhaps they're trying to cover their bases, in case the email address is in their system, that that email address is no longer valid these days - in that case, the mail can't successfully be sent to that address(?)

    Or, perhaps this is a way they prevent hackers from trying to "guess" which email addresses are in the system, by not giving them an easy way to verify whether it's in the system or not(?)

  3. Phil Simon

    These are all possibilities. I just wonder why simple contact forms include authentication and captcha. Those seem like effective ways to combat phishing and spam.

  4. Pingback: Phil Simon: 3 Things that Marketers Can Learn from Message Not Received

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