Thanks Matt for an excellent (and wryly amusing) article that’s a much-needed corrective to the idea that “big data” is basically magic. To add to your list of anecdotes, I’ve been living in Europe for the last 15 months but Wells Fargo can’t update my account to store my UK phone as the customer databases were designed by folk who assumed no one would ever need any more than 10 integers. So only US phone numbers can be entered & stored.

When you ask Wells Fargo how many of their customers are impacted by this problem (for example, because their wire transfer process requires a code to be sent to one’s cellphone, I can no longer initiate wire transfers…) the answer is “none!” because, well, there are no foreign phone numbers in the database and so a quick SQL query shows there are no customers who have a foreign phone number and so, QED, there’s no problem.


Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.