Everyday Ethics

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I was just on my way out the door, rushed for time as usual, when the phone rang. Caller ID said, “000-000-0000.” I had a pretty good idea who it’d be (in a general sense) but I was expecting a call from an out-of-town business associate that day, so I couldn’t afford not to answer.

“Hello?” I said warily. Suspicious pause. (This, in my experience, nearly always means an automated system is hooking a telemarketer up to the line.) And sure enough, “Yes, hello ma’am, may I speak with a… (pause) …Mr. William J. Fields?”

“There’s no one by that name at this number,” I fairly growled, thumb already reaching for the disconnect button. 

“Well then, ma’am,” asked the voice before I could complete the move, “Is there a Hillary Fields?” 

Grrr. I couldn’t deny it. I hardened my tone even further and answered, “What’s this about?” in as abrupt a fashion as possible.

“We’d like you to answer a few quick questions about your long distance plan…”

Click. I’m done with you. 

What I did may have been bad manners, but it’s nothing compared to the story of an Ohio man named Charles Papenfus, recently arrested for ‘going postal‘ on one of those extended service auto warranty telemarketers who wouldn’t stop harassing him. According to

Charles W. Papenfus, 43, of Fostoria, Ohio, allegedly told a sales representative during a May 18 telephone call that he would burn down the building and kill the employees and their families. He was indicted for making a terrorist threat, a Class D felony; and he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if convicted.

Wow, now that’s consumer rage. 

I don’t know the specifics of his case, but I must tell you, I work primarily from home, and these telemarketing jackasses call at all hours of the day (particularly the auto warranty ones telling me my warranty is about to expire, which is ludicrous since I don’t own a car.) I’m on the do-not-call list, but they always seem to find a way around it. And they’re often automated calls, so I can’t even do a Papenfus and take my fury out at them directly. I’m forced to fume helplessly and one-sidedly at the automated voice waking me up at 7AM on a Sunday, breaking into my dial-in meeting, or interrupting my romantic dinner with my husband.

I’m not advocating specific threats or any sort of violence, but let me ask this: When these callers have violated the sanctity of our homes in this insistent and unwelcome manner, do they deserve anything resembling courteous treatment in response?

I realize that some people who are telemarketers are simply desperate for a job and know what they’re doing is annoying, but I can’t imagine taking that job unless I were destitute and responsible for feeding my family and there was no other way. Must I be nice to these callers just in case that’s who’s on the other end of the line? Hmmmm.

What do you say? Give ’em a piece of your mind, or mind your Ps & Qs?

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Image by flickr user Vlima

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