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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Do you sell to consumers? Do you collect data on your customers? If you do you need to protect it, or there will repercussions . Protecting it properly is expensive, and you’ll be in a continually evolving race against hackers and cock-up theory (the inevitability that someone will at some time make a mistake that results in a data breach). So be sure to ask yourself: “what is this data doing for me?”

This is prompted by news that Wetherspoons have had data on 650,000 customers stolen by hackers from their old website. Leaving aside questions of why the data was accessible through a website in the first place, the thing that really sticks out is the question of utility.


Does anyone actually read a pub chain newsletter?

Wetherspoons were asked how the information had been collected. They responded:

Customers provide us with their information in several ways:

Wetherspoons is a pub chain. People go there to drink, mostly because the beer is cheap and there’s no music. But apparently they have a newsletter and they offer wi-fi users the chance to receive company information.

Have they actually done any analysis on the ROI from this activity? Does anyone actually read a pub chain newsletter? Can it possibly drive sufficient sales uplift to justify the cost of obtaining and safely retaining the customer information? At £2.50 a pint?

Do you know this old joke? –

Big data is like teenage sex:

If you think freely-given customer information is free, you need to improve your cost accounting. Data costs money – at rest and at work – and if the benefits accruing from it don’t outweigh that cost, it’s not worth collecting in the first place.


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