DEAR SUN SPOTS: Back at the end of November, I received a card from Haband Clothing Co. It was sort of a contest, and after scratching off the card I found I had won two gifts with a total value of $299 that had to be claimed with an order. I placed an order on Nov. 30 through their toll-free number for a pair of suede leather boots and paid with a credit card. I told their agent about my gift card and winning number. The lady who took my order didn’t know what the number was all about, but she said I would receive gifts with my regular order. But I did not.

Around Christmastime I called their customer service number, but a recording said all their representatives were with phone orders and there was no one to take the calls. I tried many times in the next two weeks with the same message. Please advise me as to what I can do. I’m sure the gifts are not worth $299, but it’s the principle of the thing. If they are dishonest, I want the public to know. I am enclosing documents showing I did everything right. — D. G., Greene

ANSWER: Sun Spots wishes that the minute her readers see the dreaded words “free gift” that they would toss the offer in the trash or recycling bin. Invariably, “free” means you jump through hoops to get something you really don’t need or want anyway, often buying something else, too, which is, after all, the goal of the promotion.

Sun Spots is not sure why you didn’t get your free gifts. On one of the papers you sent, the fine print said this offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Perhaps you got free shipping, which negated the gift offer? It also says there are a limited number of the premium gifts of a messenger bag and executive pen set as compared to the key rings, which also set off warning bells.

Sun Spots did try to contact Haband, but she got absolutely nowhere. She suggests that if you haven’t worn the boots you bought for the promotion that you return them with this column clipped from the newspaper.

If you can’t return the boots, she suggests you send a complaining letter and this column to the corporation that owns Haband. Address your letter to the Director of Marketing, Orchard Brands Corp., 30 Tozer Road, Beverly, MA 01915-5510.

Sun Spots thinks you are unlikely to get your free gifts, but you have warned your fellow Sun Spots’ readers, which is a valuable service in itself.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Thank you for your wonderful service. On March 10, there was an inquiry for premade scrapbooks. Julie Therrien was looking for a scrapbook for “birth through 18 years.” I would be happy to help her with that. I have created a scrapbook specifically for that purpose. Ms. Therrien and anyone else interested in personalized scrapbooks may reach me at 782-5118. — Anita Poulin, AP Graphics & Fine Arts

DEAR SUN SPOTS: You have helped me in the past, and I really appreciate it. I am writing again this time as a veteran of Vietnam in 1963. I have been tested at the VA for Agent Orange. The VA told me they needed proof that I was there. They also said if I knew anyone who was there at the time that they could verify that I was there.

Well, my best two buddies were Hector Morales and Jesus Bedia. If I could find these two people to testify that I was at Utapo, Thailand, in 1963, 635th Security Police Squadron. Or if there were other veterans who were there at that time. Any veterans could help me. They can call me at 897-2290. — Sgt. Edward T. Quinn, Livermore Falls

ANSWER: Sun Spots is somewhat puzzled by your dilemma. Doesn’t the military know where its soldiers are at all times? Surely they didn’t just let you wander around Southeast Asia? She also doesn’t see how this local column will help you find Hector or Jesus, who could be anywhere, but veterans deserve all the help they can get, so here’s your letter. Good luck with your health.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to [email protected]