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DEAR ABBY: Is there a polite way to refuse giving store clerks personal information? It seems like every time I shop, the clerks demand email, phone number, even birthdate, and they get testy when I say I just want to complete my purchase. I find it so intrusive that I'm tempted to leave the items on the counter and walk out.

On a similar note, how can I politely tell my doctor or dentist that I prefer not to be treated by anyone with cold symptoms? A few days ago, I was at the dentist and the hygienist had a cold. I didn't want to be a complainer, so I didn't say anything because I couldn't find the right words, but I should have. Frankly, I was floored that she hadn't been sent home. Please advise. -- BARBARA IN KENTUCKY

DEAR BARBARA: You are under no obligation to give your private information when making a purchase because, too often, the information winds up on a mailing list that can be sold, and often is. The polite way to refuse is to simply say, "I would prefer not to share that information."

I found your question regarding dental hygienists to be of particular interest because in the dental office I use, the hygienist wears gloves and sometimes a face guard to prevent her from catching something from her patients. Of course, her hands are thoroughly scrubbed before she even picks up an instrument, so the danger of her giving me anything besides a thorough cleaning is practically nil.

Because you are concerned about catching colds, tell your dentist you would prefer to reschedule your appointment if you will be in close contact with anyone in the office who is sick -- and repeat that to his/her receptionist.


Tale About Giraffe Is a Stretch

DEAR ABBY: At an amusement park recently, I was unable to win the woman I'm dating the oversized stuffed giraffe she desired. I tried valiantly, but winning wasn't in the cards for me. She forgave me, but I'm afraid she harbors more resentment than she let on. Since then her behavior has been peculiar. She emails me pictures of giraffes, stretches her neck to frightening lengths, and got a giraffe tattoo that extends from her wrist to her shoulder.

I know the ability to win a stuffed animal for a lover is a potent measure of a man's worth. My failure has left my masculinity sagging. Is there anything I can do to reaffirm my manhood and salvage my relationship? Or should I troll the avenues of Manhattan in search of a lady whose faith I have not shattered? -- PRIZELESS IN NEW YORK

DEAR PRIZELESS: Do not troll the avenues hunting for a woman you won't disillusion. New York has several zoos; if you take your girlfriend to visit a real, live giraffe, it may raise your standing.

I'm often asked if I can spot a fake letter. So I'm taking the opportunity to wish both of you a happy April Fools' Day! Your tale of woe is about as tall as the giraffe you didn't win for your beloved.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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