We got a free credit report the other day and so discovered that a few local charge accounts that had been inactive for several years were still open. They should be closed, said our credit adviser.

But how do you close a Garfinckel's account? We called the main number, which was to the old store downtown. No answer. No recording or new number. Just 28 rings and no answer.

We called Hechinger's,

where we got an answer: "You want to close the account?" Total disbelief. "I'm not sure where you would write to close an account."

Next was Sears. The phone listing is thus: "General Credit Information," followed by the subheading "Customers Names Starting A to J," followed by a phone number. End of listing. No K to Z, at least not in the old phone book we have. Fortunately for us, our names fell within the covered category.

But the best call was to Hecht's. "May I have your account number, please," said the polite young woman who answered. Charge number given, the young woman searched for it via computer.

"It's been inactive for a couple of years," we said helpfully.

"Oh. Yes. Well, that's why I can't find it. How may I help you?"

"We'd like to close the account."

"Ma'am, if it's inactive, no one can use it except you anyway."

"But we want to close it."

Pause.

"I can't do that, ma'am."

"You can't close our account?"

"I can't close your account. It's inactive."