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Q BACK IN THE SUMMER of 1989 my 83-year-old mother had a permanent done to her hair and, due to the negligence of the operator -- who left the processing solution on long after the timing bell rang -- suffered burns on her neck and had hair that was burned, brittle and overprocessed.

The salon gave her a hair treatment in an attempt to reduce the damage but they had to cut off a lot of her hair that was hopelessly damaged. They offered to return her money or give her a gift certificate and she chose the certificate so she could use it during the summer of 1990. (She spends the winter in Florida and could not use it until then.) They agreed.

When she went back this summer, they were very rude and said the certificate was no longer any good because the girl who had done the work had been fired. They told my mother to "go find" the girl who had done the work and have her do it. I feel that the shop should remain responsible for the actions of their employees and that they should honor the gift certificate issued to my mother.

They were very rude and said it was "just too bad" that she lost out. We complained to the Better Business Bureau here but the salon never bothered to respond to them. The certificate is in the amount of $40 and, before I take this to Small Claims Court, I thought I'd see what you can do for her.

-- J.B., Williamsville
A WE HAVE SEEN a photocopy of what purports to be the $40 gift certificate issued to you, and it clearly offers a "gift of your choice" to your mother with no expiration date or other restrictions on its use. We feel your mother would have little trouble in winning a suit against the shop in Small Claims Court but she might be willing to accept the following explanation (and offer) from the salon's operator.

He says, in part: "We were traveling during the time of her first inquiries and the letter from the BBB was accepted by an operator and did not reach management's possession until recently.

"One year ago, this client had a permanent in our shop, given by an operator who is no longer with our shop. It appears she had a slight reaction to the chemicals used in the process, which caused irritation to the back of her neck. A partner in the shop looked at the irritation and offered her a reperm, which she chose to have upon her return from Florida, almost a year later.

"When she returned for the reperm she found the the operator she had was no longer in our employ and the other technicians in the shop refused to do the reperm because of the problems she had had before. When management became aware of the problem, a partner in the shop with 25 years' experience as a beautician contacted her to schedule the reperm but she said, 'Everything has been taken care of,' and she hung up.

"The gift certificate had been issued to her without management's authorization, but we were willing to stand behind it for the sake of good customer relations. By her own admission to the BBB and News Power, she states the offer was extended and she chose the reperm. We regret the inconvenience to this customer and feel we took the appropriate and professional steps to rectify the situation. We hope for a quick resolution and we are most willing to uphold our end of the situation with a reperm."

If you decide in favor of the reperm (by the partner, we assume, since the other operators don't want to become involved) your problem should be resolved. We believe, however, that the shop's obligation is clearly to provide you with $40 worth of any product or service in their shop as per their gift certificate. Since that would probably require the assistance of Small Claims Court, the easier solution is obviously the reperm.

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