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In a new survey, the Conde Nast Traveler finds Philadelphia the friendliest city in the country, not the snake pit of hostility portrayed in a North Carolina study just three months back.Residents in the City of Brotherly Love are kind enough to hold parking spots, give directions and take pictures for tourists.

And when it comes to needing a restaurant restroom, Philadelphia simply exudes friendliness. At the four-star French restaurant Le Bec-Fin, a door attendant wearing a tuxedo said, "Sure, please," when a Conde Nast reporter asked to use the washroom.

So what do you make of that, Mr. Duke University Researcher?

"Isn't that nice," Redford Williams said Wednesday.

Williams, with not a hint of snootiness in his voice, noted HIS hostility study was based on scientific sampling and complex polling techniques, complete with a margin of error, and the Traveler survey published this week in the September issue was based on just reporters' experiences in 10 cities.

"Philadelphia had a higher hostility score," Williams said. "It doesn't mean that Philadelphia doesn't have nice and friendly people. I have a high hostility score, and I'm a very friendly person."

Most folks here considered the Duke study full of it, and several questioned the worth of all these "most friendly," "best business environment" and "most comfortable" surveys.

"Maybe the people who said it was the worst had a bad day," said Josephine Kohler, a 52-year resident of Philadelphia. "Maybe someone who said it was the best was on their honeymoon. I don't pay attention to any of it."

Those who do should take a look at the fine print, according to Diane K. Powers, executive director of the New York City-based Council of American Research Organizations.

"What people need to do is pay a little more attention to polls and make sure the foundation of the survey is legitimate," she said. "We shouldn't underestimate the intelligence of the public. Lots of groups do that.

"Personally, I think Philadelphia is a terrific city."

So terrific that one cab driver jump-started a stranded car - free of charge. That one act of kindness - duplicated in no other city - pushed Philadelphia to the top.

One might think results of the poll gave Philadelphians a sigh of relief. Not really. Most of those friendly hostile people filling downtown streets during their lunch break didn't care either way.

"When it was hostile, we sat (inside) and ate," Tony Sophy said sarcastically. "Now that we know it's friendly, we can sit out here."

The Conde Nast study did not involve scientific observations, but there was some math. Philadelphia received 32 points derived from a "Friendliness Quotient," which used criteria such as percentage of people who gave change for a dollar and how long it took a city resident to volunteer to help people who appeared lost.

Boston had 30.5 points and San Francisco 30. Miami finished last with 20 points.

"There is no scientific basis behind this," said Conde Nast Traveler writer Gary Stoller. "You can't say that because Miami finished last in the survey, they'll finish last next week."


Additional Information

Pleasant places

Conde Nast Traveler magazine's friendliest cities:

1. Philadelphia

2. Boston

3. San Francisco

4. Denver

5. New York

6. Los Angeles

7. Chicago

8. Washington

8. Dallas (tie)

10. Miami