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Q I'M BRINGING THIS problem to you first before I go any further.

I purchased two dresses and one skirt, at a total cost of $192.57, for my 86-year-old mother last November at a store in Rochester. The clerk was very pleasant, even helping me decide on the right sizes.

Being from the Buffalo area, I was concerned about their return policy but was assured there would be no problem as long as I kept the sales receipt. I was told that without the receipt I could only be refunded the price of the clothing at the post-Christmas sale prices.

My mother was ill during the holidays and unable to try on the clothes until Jan. 16.

One dress did not fit, so I made a special trip to their store and then was told that the clothes should have been returned before Jan. 7. They would only give me a credit for $34.99 -- the sale price of the dress at that time -- instead of the $63.99 I paid last November. I feel I should be refunded the full amount of $63.99 plus the sales tax.

-- L.K., Hamburg
A DESPITE THE FACT that your complaint to us is now almost a year old, the store's position is unchanged. While there may have been a breakdown in communication between you and the sales clerk, the fact remains that the store has a well-established, and posted, refund and return policy that prevents them from honoring your request.

As explained by the store's president: "We work hard to fully train our staff in all aspects of company policy. We have a very liberal policy, especially for the prime gift-giving time of the year, but at season's end in late January and February we can no longer sustain the late return of merchandise at the original price.

"That policy is clearly posted on a sign directly behind the cash register and reads, 'Christmas Gifts purchased after Oct. 1 may be returned for cash refund or charge credit with receipt until Jan. 7, 1990. Merchandise returned after that date may be exchanged at current selling price only.'

"Also, the staff is supposed to verbally inform the customer at the point of sale about returns made after the 7th of January. Hence, this customer perhaps misinterpreted and/or misread the policy at the time of purchase.

"Since we sell seasonal fashion and merchandise, fall merchandise cannot be sold for the same price in February that it can be in November or December. If a customer brings back merchandise after the deadline, he or she has prevented us from selling it during the season. We will exchange it for other sale goods. All merchandise from the season has been marked down by the same percentage."

The only way for you to benefit by their policy now is to wait until this "prime" season has passed and use your store credit after their markdowns take place next year.

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