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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Certain credit-card companies have adopted a practice that you and your readers need to be made aware of. An advertiser sent me some junk mail sponsored by a credit card that I owned. It concerned a 50 percent discount in green fees at selected golf courses. Since it was junk mail, I glanced at it and threw it out.

About a month later, a charge that I didn't recognize appeared on my credit-card statement. I called the credit-card company to have it removed from my bill. It turned out to be from the advertiser who had sent the junk mail about saving money at certain golf courses. The credit-card representative then informed me that this company had an agreement with them that silence means acceptance. In other words, somewhere in the small print in the junk mail, it stated that if I chose NOT to accept this offer I'd have to notify them; otherwise my credit card would automatically be billed!

I think this practice is sleazy, immoral and should be illegal. Please warn your readers that they must thoroughly read all junk mail sponsored or endorsed by credit-card companies. -- DISGUSTED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR DISGUSTED: I, too, think the practice should be illegal. But until it is, you're absolutely right: The only protection a credit-card holder has is to carefully scrutinize mailings that have been authorized by their credit-card company. The only alternative would be to cancel the card and find a company that doesn't use these tactics.

DEAR ABBY: It may seem unfair for a fourth-grade boy to be shunned by the boys in his new neighborhood, but I see another course of action for his mother to take that might provide a possible solution. At this child's age, it is important for his parents to become acquainted with his potential playmates and their parents. Why not suggest to the mother who wrote you that the newcomer PARENTS take the initiative and invite the neighbor boys to come to his home to play?

I am the mother of five (now grown) children, who are less than seven years apart in age. After school, playtime at our home (or elsewhere) had rules and limits for the children's safety and my sanity.

Shortly after moving to Texas, our youngest, "Betty," who was in the third grade, asked if she could accept an invitation to play at "Donna's" house. Donna didn't live in our immediate neighborhood and I didn't know her parents, so I suggested that Donna come to our home to play. I phoned her mother, who insisted that the girls play there. The invitations pingponged several times before both of us admitted that we were just cautious about unfamiliar households.

I don't remember who went to which house first, but Donna and Betty became good friends -- and my husband and I have enjoyed knowing Donna's family.

The mother of the new kid on the block is herself new on the block, and she should be willing (even eager) to become better acquainted with her neighbors. -- TEXAS GRANNY

DEAR TEXAS GRANNY: Thank you for sharing your experience with that young man's mother, as well as any other parent whose child is in the same situation. If the problem can be resolved as simply as this mother reaching out to other mothers in the neighborhood, I'm sure your letter will encourage her to do so.

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