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by Abigail Van Buren

Mooching co-worker needs a reality check

DEAR ABBY: How do I keep a co-worker from borrowing money from me? I have my paycheck direct-deposited, which means the money is available a day earlier than "Anita's."

She asked me yesterday if I would lend her money for cigarettes, and I told her I didn't have any cash on me. When I went on break to buy lunch with my ATM card, Anita came waltzing over and immediately told the cashier to ring up the cigarettes on my ATM card! She said she'd pay me back more than the amount charged to my card.

In the future, how can I handle this if it happens again? I needed the money for my own use, and now I must wait until next week for her to pay me back. -- BUCK STOPS HERE IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR BUCK: One way to handle it would be to be proactive and tell Anita that what she did was rude and you didn't like it. Another would be to inform the cashier that what Anita wanted was not OK with you, and to never do it again. Whichever you decide, don't be afraid of hurting Anita's feelings because she has a hide of steel.

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