You say you're an '80s cynic who figures it's every humanoid for himself out there? You say you don't expect businesses to admit that they're wrong, much less do anything about it if they are?

I think it's time you heard about Mark Lipowsky and Jim Spirer.

Mark and Jim are owner and manager, respectively, of Prime Plus, a restaurant at 727 15th St. NW, near the Treasury Department. They treated a customer so absolutely wonderfully last month that I couldn't help backslapping them a bit. They get those slaps the old-fashioned way; they earned them.

The beneficiary of their kindness was Barbara Shames of Silver Spring.

Barbara and a companion had taken advantage of a package that Prime Plus offers: dinner for two, followed by tickets for two at the nearby National Theatre, for $129.

If that sounds like a steep tab, you must not have been out to dinner or to the theater lately. Without a package deal, an average classy dinner for two and seats at the National for two would run you $175, easily.

That was especially true during the run of "Cats" at the National. The best seats in the house were $60 apiece. Barbara was delighted to take advantage of Prime Plus's deal so that she could see a show she was dying to see, and save a few bucks in the process.

But then came confusion. Barbara changed the date of her reservations. Jim Spirer forgot to write down the new date. When Barbara called to confirm her reservations an hour before she thought she was scheduled to show up for dinner, Jim didn't have her on the book.

Jim didn't try to alibi, filibuster or blame someone else. "I had screwed up," he said, succinctly.

Jim and Mark huddled for a minute. Then they gave Barbara several options. One of them was to come to dinner in an hour, and hope that Prime Plus could get her two tickets for that night's performance of "Cats."

If you know longshots the way I know longshots, this had all the earmarks of 5,000-to-1, especially because "Cats" had been a sellout since it first hit town.

But Barbara decided to gamble. So off went Mark to try to make good.

He stood in line at the National's box office for an hour. By the time Barbara and her companion arrived at the Prime Plus, third-row orchestra tickets were ready for them.

Best of all, Jim and Mark charged Barbara only $80 for the tickets ($40 off face value). Dinner was on the house.

How did Mark conjure up some of the best seats in the theater on zero notice? "We're not going to tell you," he quipped. "But this restaurant is going to be auctioned off next week."

Blessedly, that's a joke, folks. Any restaurant that treats people as well as Barbara was treated deserves to prosper. And if Prime Plus keeps treating people that way, it can't miss.

Elsewhere on the local business front, matters are a bit more curious.

How's this for curious?

Many shoe stores in town don't sell shoelaces.

James Morris of Northwest found this out the hard way the other day. The 30-inch laces on his best black dress shoes went snap, so James strolled into his local Hahn's Shoe Store, a branch of one of the largest shoe chains in town. He was amazed when the clerk said that Hahn's doesn't stock laces.

I speculated to James that Hahn's was only following the dictates of the market. After all, I pointed out, most men wear slip-ons these days, even for business.

It turns out that I was right on the money. Listen to Ron Ruble, manager of the Hahn's store at 14th and G streets NW:

"First of all, it's an item accessible in drug stores, five-and-dimes and shoe repair shops. We had boxes and boxes of extra laces sitting around and couldn't sell them."

Nor is this a Hahn's-only phenomenon. From the competition:

Shelby Owens, salesperson at Mazyck's, 1627 Connecticut Ave. NW: "We don't sell them. I have no idea why."

Ted Atkins, manager of Hess Shoes for Men, 3222 M St. NW: "We sell them, but we're out of stock of 30-inch ones. We might have them, but not in black or in cherry or brown." Ted's tone of voice indicated that he wasn't breaking down the doors to restock.

Of course, some places still carry what shoe stores have always carried. "Yes, we do sell them," said Doc Freedman, owner of Public Shoe Store, 3137 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. "I thought all shoe stores did."

Sorry, Doc. All shoe stores probably should, but "should" isn't the same as "do."