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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are newly married and have been working for a large, well-known retail store for several years.

When a store posts its hours on the front door, there is no excuse for a customer to waltz in three minutes before closing time and expect to shop the entire store. Even if no hours are posted, one can assume that the doors will be closing at 9 p.m. This is standard for retail stores. (Holidays and weekends may vary.)

Almost every night people stroll in three to five minutes before closing time. We will approach them and ask, "Is there anything I can help you find?" Invariably they say, "No, thanks. I'm just looking." (On rare occasions, a considerate customer will say, "Oh, thank you, I'll come back tomorrow.") Thirty minutes after we have locked the doors and are waiting to close the registers, these "lookie-loos" stroll out, without so much as a thank-you or apology.

How I wish I could say, "You may have nothing to do and nowhere to go, but most of us clerks have families waiting for us at home, sometimes a hot dinner cooling on the table, or a child waiting for a goodnight kiss. We're tired and want to get out of the store. Please give us a break." -- ANONYMOUS, NATURALLY

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Some stores have public address systems over which they announce that the store will be closing in 15 minutes, and it's the policy in others to flash the overhead lights to signal closing time. In others, clerks are allowed to approach the late customer and say, "We are closing in three minutes. May I help you find something?"

Discuss closing policies with your manager to determine if one of these practices can be instituted in your store.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter about using closed military bases for vocational schools. I'm not criticizing the idea, but I am criticizing the writer's misconception of vocational school students. I was offended at his statement that those of us who attend these schools are disadvantaged kids who are not college material.

I am a girl completing 10th grade at a vocational-technical high school in Delaware. Students must achieve a certain grade point average and fill out an application even to be accepted into this school. If they get into any trouble or don't keep up their grades, they are removed from the school. Furthermore, 60 percent of the students here go on to college after graduation.

My grandmother told me that vocational schools were first established for disadvantaged "problem children," but times have changed since Granny's day. These schools are not for dumb kids who come to learn a trade because they'll never do anything else productive in their lives. Students at my school are intelligent and excel academically as well as in their "shops."

Abby, people need to change their views about vocational schools. I speak for many of us students when I say that we are not "disadvantaged" and we are, indeed, "college material." -- HONOR STUDENT ATTENDING VOCATIONAL SCHOOL IN DELAWARE

DEAR HONOR STUDENT: Thank you for righting this misconception. You are living proof that vocational students can be college material. There are also students attending vocational schools who are learning a trade to provide themselves with comfortable livelihoods. My hat is off to them.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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