An African-American woman in Washington State says she forgot the password to her utility account. and when she asked for a temporary one, she says she got a racial slur.
Erica Conway believes the insult was deliberate and wants the company to get to the bottom of it.
Essex Porter spoke with Conway and the company.
PSE promises to create a better energy future, but when CNN sat down with PSE customer Conway, she told CNN the company just sent her an ugly racial slur created in the past.
“I clicked ‘forgot password’ and got a temporary password from PSE, and it was capital N-A, and I was quite shocked,” Conway said.
Conway showed CNN the temporary password email she got from PSE.
“Man, it was like an emotional rollercoaster–shock, disbelief, disgusted, angry,” Conway said. “It was just, yeah. Even now, I’m just kind of like, ‘I cannot believe this. I just can’t believe it.'”
She also showed CNN that a past temporary passcode was just random letters and numbers.
So, she believes this passcode slur was created deliberately.
“It was, it was,” Conway said. “I was truly in disbelief. Because this is not normal and this is not what a temporary password is supposed to say.”
CNN sat down at the computer to reset its own PSE password. The temporary passcode the system sent back is just gibberish, nothing like a word at all.
Conway told CNN she complained to a customer service agent at PSE’s Bothell call center but that the agent didn’t take the slur seriously.
“He 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,'” Conway said. “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?”
The company says it has already taken steps to make sure temporary passwords are a scrambled mix of letters and numbers.
“This was offensive, there was no question about that,” PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim said. “We apologize to this customer, the community, for what has happened, and we are trying to do what we can to make it right.”
And next month, it will begin using a new system that gets rid of temporary passwords altogether.