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Threatening to Kill Telemarketers Apparently Illegal

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Ohio man gets thrown in slammer for doing what we all want to do.

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An Ohio man who received one unsolicited phone call too many did the only logical thing: He allegedly threatened to burn down the telemarketer's building and slaughter all the employees.

This type of logic got Charles W. Papenfus tossed in jail and charged with a felony that could get him 4 years in the clink.

"He shouldn't have mouthed off on the phone, but this is overkill," his wife Tracie told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch without a trace of irony. "…He's not a criminal. They make it sound like he's a terrorist, and he's far from it."

Papenfus, 43, is held in Missouri -- the location of the telemarketer -- in lieu of $45,000 bond. One possible defense: He takes out the garbage 3 days a week -- proof-positive that he's housebroken.

Chances are, Papenfus just flipped out. But there's a simple solution: the National Do Not Call Registry. Signing up puts a stop to most telemarketing calls, and simply mentioning that you're on the list quickly shuts up the rest.

You can put an end to unwanted credit-card applications and other junk mail by signing up with DirectMail.com's National Do Not Mail List. It's free. Those labyrinthine, environmentally-unfriendly bills from Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), or Sprint (S), however, will unfortunately keep on comin'.

Poor Papenfus's predicament underscores a basic fact of life: It's the little things that drive you nuts.

Ever had your phone service switched to another carrier without your permission? The Federal Communications Commission will help you sort it out.

If you've got a consumer complaint, the Federal Trade Commission is a good place to start. Then try your state's Consumer Affairs Department or the local Better Business Bureau.

There are many company-specific websites pitched to gripes and general outrage. Just punch the company you love to hate into Google, and you'll find kindred souls flecked with spittle and brimming with outrage. A few websites might even help, but in general think of them as cheap therapy.

Two examples picked at random: American Express (AXP) and United Airlines (UAUA) Tossing spitballs at the ceiling would be about as edifying as these sites. However, sites such as Ripoff Report might give you a heads up about possible problems and how to avoid them.

Beware of commercial sites that offer to fix your problem for a fee because most don't do anything that you couldn't do yourself. Most companies work hard to retain customers and will work with you. But as just about everyone except the customer service department knows, the trick is often finding someone on the other end of the phone who's at least semi-conscious.

If it's kvetching you want, focus on something real. Here are 4 suggestions:

1. The dingbat at the movie theater who's always about 45 seconds behind the plot but nevertheless insists on explaining each twist and turn to his date in an authoritative voice.

2. The ninny who asks the subway clerk how much 10 rides will cost after the single fare has been raised to $2.25. Do the math, dummy.

3. The twit who dutifully watches the supermarket clerk ring up each item and then takes 5 minutes to dig to the bottom of her potato-sack-sized purse in search of her debit card.

4. The "civil servant" plopped behind the front counter at City Hall who points to the clock and refuses to answer your question because the help desk doesn't open for another 2.5 minutes.

Argh!

Mr. Papenfus, if only you had developed a little public-relations sense (and maybe a basic grasp of felonious behavior), you could have been the people's hero in perpetuity.
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