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We lost our database administrator over a year ago - and even then she was promoted into the job internally and sort of learned on the job. Basically I say this to establish that strong data standards have not been enforced for a long time. We have a company that set up and administers our database - but they are particularly unhelpful and different people give different answers so I am really just looking for some best practices and maybe some key things that I should be asking for so that I get their attention and we are on the same page.

Our biggest problem is, in my opinion, that we have many many duplicate records. People make new records when they donate, they make new records when they sign up for email newsletters, they make new records when they sign up on our new app...etc etc. This causes problems down the line because then our website returns errors when it finds multiple profiles with the same email and won't let people buy things/register etc. - and we waste money mailing to the same people several times. We really need to tackle this problem - especially for our certified tree farm members because they are getting tired of getting multiple emails and mailings plus we need an accurate count for real programmatic reasons. I know I'm asking a big question - but how SHOULD these things be set up? I know there must be a better way because other websites seem capable of handling these issues fine. For instance - if we have a husband and wife - should they each have their own profile or share one? What if they share an email address (our population is a bit older so many do) right now we can create a 'shared email' relationship - is that a real thing or is there another way to do this?

I know it would be impossible to give a really specific answer - I'm just looking for a gold standard of functionality so I know what we should be aiming for and what we should be able to do. I don't really trust this company because they tell us things are impossible, but I see them working well all around me.

Thank you for any advice!

closed as too broad by Max Vernon, Mark Storey-Smith, ypercubeᵀᴹ, RolandoMySQLDBA, Paul White May 7 '14 at 12:23

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Many sites have taken to using an email address as the login id. This works well for me as I don't have to remember the user id that goes with the email address used by the site. This solution would require the couple to share a profile, if they use the same email address.

Some mail sites allow adding a prefix following a punctuation character. This gives email addresses like me.site@example.com or me+site@example.com. This can be used to separate customers in the case like a husband and wife sharing an account.

Getting your data cleaned up will be a problem. Instead of blocking users where there are multiple records with the same email address, you may want to offer to provide the user id(s) matching the email address. I would send the id or list by email with a link that allows them to switch their id to the email address.

Some sites allow or require an alternate email address. It may not be appropriate to make that address unique. However, you may want to monitor the number of accounts linked to the same alternate address.

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