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Work Assignment Abroad Makes Waves Back Home

DEAR ABBY: I took an assignment with my company that posted me to Hong Kong for two years. My adult children, ages 21, 26 and 29, were supportive, although my youngest was not especially happy about it. We video chat with our kids, trying to stay involved as much as possible. We have also visited multiple times. It's not always ideal, but we try. We have also offered to pay for them to visit us as often as they would like.

My company has asked me to stay one more year because I haven't completely finished what I was sent here to do. I'm inclined to do it. My youngest child, however, is so angry at me for even considering it that she won't talk to me. She refuses to come and visit, and is punishing me for needing to stay an additional year. Am I choosing my job over my children? -- PROFESSIONAL WOMAN FROM MICHIGAN

DEAR PROFESSIONAL WOMAN: Yes, you are, but there's a practical reason for it. Also, your adult "children" aren't children anymore, even though your youngest is acting like one. As a career woman, if you feel you should stay in Hong Kong to complete your assignment, that is what you need to do.


DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letter from "Unsure in the West" (Oct. 9). You advised that you "see nothing wrong with what she did" in opening a box in a grocery store and eating some of the contents before paying at the checkout. You should know that legally, eating or using the contents of an unpaid item in the aisle is considered "shoplifting." The perpetrator can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I am a certified protection professional. While the intent may not be to "steal," retailers -- whose industry loses billions of dollars to theft each year -- require that items in their stores be paid for before they can be used or eaten.

An employee of mine was assigned to work in a major grocery chain. He took a bottle of eye drops and used them while he was in the aisle. He had taken the exact change from his pocket and was holding it in his hand as he walked to the checkout. Before he could get there, he was arrested by store security. As a courtesy to me, the chain agreed to reinstate him if he passed a lie-detector test determining his "intent to steal." (He passed the test.) I strongly recommend that the practice of using or eating items before paying for them never be condoned. -- ALLAN IN YONKERS

DEAR ALLAN: I apologize for saying otherwise and thank you for your letter. Other readers also responded to that column citing firsthand experiences working in the retail field.

Several of them mentioned that it is impossible to correctly charge for food that is sold by weight if someone has eaten some, such as fruit. Others said that customers sometimes get to the register to pay and realize they have left their wallet at home, or their credit card is rejected.

A reader also suggested that if someone wants to pay for food after consuming it, that's what restaurants are for. In restaurants, if the customer can't pay, there are dishes to be washed.

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