A local utility company in Washington says that it accidentally sent an African-American customer a racial slur as the temporary password for her online account.
“I clicked 'forgot password' and got a temporary password from PSE and it was capital N---a and I was quite shocked,” Erica Conway told KIRO 7 on Wednesday, referencing her reaction to an email from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) after she requested a new password for her account.
Conway, who is a longtime volunteer of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, said that she believes the slur was intentional. She also says that she complained to a customer service agent named Lydia at PSE's Bothell call center, but that the representative did not take her seriously.
“I had said 'Do you guys screen out certain words?' and Lydia was, like, 'Yes, we do.' And I said, 'Well you guys didn't screen out this word' And she said, 'Why would we?' and I said, “What do you mean why would we? This is an offensive word.' And she stated to me, 'No one uses that word anymore.' And I was like, where are you living, what planet are you living on?"
PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim told KIRO 7 that the password was offensive and that it is sorry "to this customer" and "the community, for what has happened."
But PSE insisted that it was computer-generated mistake.
“These passwords are generated automatically so they go straight from the system straight to the customers," Kim said to KIRO 7. "So, it's not able to be accessed by an employee.”
Conway told KIRO 7 that she and Seattle's NAACP want to have a meeting with the company to discuss the incident.
PSE said that it has taken steps to ensure temporary passwords are a scrambled mix of letters and numbers. It also said it would get rid of temporary passwords all together by September.