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We received a letter from a reader who sent us copies of information on three organizations with work-at-home opportunities. Each organization required the person to pay in advance for a starter kit. They also required that the assembled items meet the organization's standards. They would not pay for items that failed to meet their standards for quality and neatness.

Our reader wondered if these were legitimate opportunities.The Hairbow Co. in Danville, Calif., was one of these firms. According to its literature, sent to us by our reader, the company pays up to $427.68 per week for three units of hairbows. Four dozen hairbows make up a unit. The family-owned business pays $100.32 per unit for production (we assume that means labor) plus $42.24 to reimburse the worker for supplies. The company will accept a maximum of three units per week per worker.

The company "reserves the right to return products that are improperly constructed or just plain sloppy."

A starter kit costs $29.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. The kit contains picture, quality checklist, fabrics and instructions for obtaining supplies and hairbow assembly. If you're not satisfied, you'll receive a refund if you return it, unused, within 12 days.

The obvious ways an organization like this could take advantage of consumers would be to accept money for starter kits and then not send them, or not pay for the items even though they were assembled neatly and according to directions, or not refund money for starter kits that had been returned.

In response to these concerns we remind our readers that any time a person pays for something in advance, he's risking his money.

We can't speculate on this particular company because its owner refused to talk to us. We asked a few questions over the phone such as "Do you advertise in publications? If so, which ones;" and "To whom do you sell the hairbows?"

The owner said he advertised in publications but he wouldn't tell us which ones.

"I really don't like a lot of media attention. I don't mind telling you and I don't mind telling her. I'll write her a letter and answer her questions."

We gave him the name and address of the reader.

Other questions we would have asked if we'd had the opportunity: How much time does it take to assemble a hairbow (that way you could get an idea of how much you'd be making an hour); and, how many hairbows has the company sold in the past six months?

The company's literature says it is in the business of showing people how to make hairbows that they may either sell on their own or sell to it.

Interested readers will have to make a judgment for themselves. The company's address is The Hairbow Co., P.O. Box 2678, Danville, CA 94526.

It has a satisfactory record with the local Better Business Bureau.