Utility Company Sent Black Customer The N-Word As Temporary Password

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A black customer was sent the N-word as a temporary password after trying to have access to her online utilities account. The company insists it was a mistake.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE), a Washington utility company, is under fire for sending an African-American customer the N-word as a temporary password.

Erica Conway said that when she forgot the password to access her online account, the company sent her a temporary code containing the racial slur.

“I clicked 'forgot password' and got a temporary password from PSE and it was capital N***a, and I was quite shocked,” Conway told reporters.

“It was like an emotional roller coaster. Shock, disbelief, disgusted, angry. It was just, yeah, even now I'm just kind of like I cannot believe this. I just can't believe it," she said.

Conway has been a volunteer with the Seattle NAACP for many years and said that the slur sent to her was not an accident. When she talked to a customer service agent to complain, she claimed that representative, Lydia, simply didn’t take her concerns 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?" she said.

When pressed about this incident, PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim said that the word sent to Conway was, indeed, offensive and that the company was sorry both “to this customer" and "the community for what has happened."

Still, Kim insisted, the word was an accident and it was generated by the computer.

“These passwords are generated automatically so they go straight from the system straight to the customers," Kim said. "So, it's not able to be accessed by an employee.”

Despite Kim’s comments, Conway said that she and the NAACP want to meet with the company to talk about this incident.

“This is 2018; we're still dealing with issues like this," Conway said. "It's pretty sad. As a society, it's pretty sad.”

While a computer — not company employees — might have created the password, the organization is still ultimately responsible for this heinous incident and should ensure offensive material is not sent to its customers. 

As Conway stated, it’s 2018, so it’s time we finally put racism behind us once and for all.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

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