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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am the manager of a women's clothing boutique in a small, upper-class community. My staff and I have a problem with a customer who shops in our store almost weekly. She will purchase $300 worth of merchandise, only to return it all the next day, putting a huge debt in our register that can ruin our daily totals. These returns also cost the store owner a substantial processing fee, as all transactions do.

We have tried not assisting her while she shops, hoping to cut back on her purchases, but it hasn't helped. The woman will occasionally keep a piece or two, but not often.

There is the possibility that she recommends our store to her friends. We're a rather small but successful chain that caters to our ladies, but we simply can't afford to continue the relationship with this obvious compulsive shopper. We also do not want to make a scene by confronting her in the store.

We are all, the owner included, at a loss as to what to do. Should we continue to allow her to wreak havoc on our sales records? Please help. -- IN SALES IN LA JOLLA, CALIF.

DEAR IN SALES: Yours is a common problem in retailing. However, there are two ways to deal with it: First, insist that she pay for merchandise in cash only. Second, do not refund her money for items she returns; instead, issue her a store credit -- a voucher that is valid only in your store.

DEAR ABBY: Our 29-year-old son married a beautiful girl about six years ago. We noticed before their marriage that she never said "thank you" when something was done for her, or when gifts were given to her. (We didn't feel we were in a position to say anything, but we tried to set an example by voicing appreciation when they -- or anyone else -- did something nice for us.)

Now, however, our son seems to have acquired the same behavior, and it's very disturbing because he was raised to be courteous and appreciative. When either one receives a gift, they look at it, may say something like, "Oh, where did you get this?" or more often than not, say nothing, and they just put it aside.

Abby, we don't give strange or odd gifts. The items they have received from us are either displayed in their apartment or worn.

Isn't it reasonable to expect a "thank you" or at least, "This is nice, I like it"? We'd like to say something to them without hurting their feelings, but are not certain what that should be. What are your thoughts on this? -- PERPLEXED PARENTS

DEAR PERPLEXED PARENTS: Ask your son privately why his wife does not acknowledge your gifts. She may not have been taught that it's common courtesy to express gratitude. It's time someone taught her -- and your son should gently set her straight.

Advise him that it is discouraging to spend time, effort and money on a gift that goes unacknowledged.

DEAR READERS: A tip to travelers: Do not pack your medication in your luggage -- keep it on your person. Luggage does not always arrive when you do. If you boarded late, your luggage could arrive on a later flight, or possibly the next day. And never, never pack your jewelry in your luggage -- carry it on your person.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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