Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Shop Owner's Family Are Becoming Store Fixtures

DEAR ABBY: Last year I opened my own business. It's a small clothing store for men and women. My problem is I am unable to get through to my family that they cannot visit me there all the time. I love them dearly, but my shop is a place of business -- not a second home for them.

My husband is unemployed. He is constantly at the store. He'll sit on a chair near the entrance, holding his cane. Sometimes he falls asleep and starts slipping off his chair. He's the first thing customers see when they walk in. It is very unprofessional.

My daughter drops in daily with her two young children. She brings their lunch, which she sets up on the counter next to the cash register. In no time the kids are running around the store making a mess and throwing merchandise off the shelves onto the floor. My daughter yells at them and then an argument ensures. Time after time, it ends up with me snapping at them to go home, my daughter becoming upset and the kids bursting into tears. Customers sometimes turn around and walk out when they see the commotion. I have lost sales because of this, and I can't afford for it to continue.

How can I make it clear to my family that they can't make themselves at home at my store? I feel like a broken record. -- EXASPERATED SHOP OWNER IN PHOENIX

DEAR SHOP OWNER: Since your husband and daughter do not seem to get the message that they cannot just "drop in," you must be more assertive and draw the line for them. Get some books on retail merchandising and customer relations and SHOW them that what they are doing is hurting your business. If they persist, stop them at the door and say, "It's nice to see you, but you cannot stay. Love you all -- and I'll see you later."

Please be firm -- your economic situation depends on it.

DEAR ABBY: I am a married Jewish woman just shy of 30. For the past year I've been searching for a better job. Without fail at almost every interview, I'm asked some outrageously illegal questions:

"Are you married? How long have you been married? Do you have children? Are you planning on getting pregnant? Exactly when are you planning to start a family? Will you want to stay home when your children are young? What's your biggest health concern? How religious are you? Are you willing to work Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?" (the most religious days on the Jewish calendar).

Abby, what's the best way to avoid answering these questions? The next time it happens, can I press charges? Thanks for your help. -- ETERNAL JOB CANDIDATE

DEAR JOB CANDIDATE: Simply smile and say: "I want you to know that I am sincerely interested in this job, but the questions you are asking are illegal. I'm telling you this because I'm sure you're interviewing other applicants, and I wouldn't want you to get in trouble with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)."

If the questioning persists, the EEOC should be notified because the questions are discriminatory.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: Abraham Lincoln said: "If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." (Submitted by Andrew W. Hanley)

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600