Bad PR

A week ago Friday, a severe storm blew from the Midwest through to the Mid-Atlantic, knocking out power for millions of people. In the Washington, DC area, Pepco lost 56 percent of its customers. Full restoration took the company 8 days.

Whether or not that length of time was justified, it certainly hasn’t sat well with DC and Maryland customers. Already under pressure for acknowledged poor reliability in the past, Pepco has been subject to some very intense criticism for the last week. To give you an idea of what really bad public relations looks like for an electric utility, let’s review some of the things being said about Pepco.

[Disclaimer #1: My power, usually provided by Pepco, was out for 4¬Ĺ days.]

[Disclaimer #2: I recently turned down a job offer from Pepco, for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of their service.]

Of course, someone started the obligatory Pepco Sucks website.

There’s also a No Power Pepco Facebook group.

A small Independence Day parade turned into an anti-Pepco protest march. Apparently, the company’s automated call-back system for updating customers on the status of restoration work was programed to say “Power has been restored to your area.” People took this to mean, “We think you have your power back,” which it wasn’t. In actuality the message was supposed to mean, “We’ve gotten closer in working our way towards your home.”

Another television news story concerned a teen injured by a downed power line and Pepco’s poor response when alerted to the hazard by the boy’s father.

[Disclaimer #3: These are friends-of-the-family.]

An article in The Washington Post’s Outlook section detailed “5 Myths About Pepco,” three of which were basically, “Don’t believe their excuses.”

Some DC musicians recorded a song titled “F*ck You, Pepco” [WARNING: as if it wasn’t obvious from the title, the video includes some strong language].

With all this bad PR, there’s certain to be consequences for Pepco’s recent rate request. An online petition asks Maryland’s governor to “Fire the utility regulators, reject rate hikes, fix PEPCO!” Another article in The Washington Post this week (Local section) was titled, “Pepco Wants to Stick Customers With Cost of Arguing its Upkeep Was Fine.”

This story is far from over and it’s not looking good for Pepco.