DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been a regular at the town deli for years. The men behind the counter know my name and are always very friendly. Recently, they have stopped charging me for my drink and give it to me for free. The first time it happened, I thanked them and took the drink, expecting it to never happen again. Now, every time I come in, the drink is free. I don't know whether I am supposed to accept this gift or graciously contest it until they allow me to pay. What do I do? -- Drink Dazed, Seattle
DEAR DRINK DAZED: It is the practice of some retailers to show gratitude to regular customers by giving them small tokens of appreciation, such as a free drink or a discount on a purchase. This is considered a courtesy that tends to be offered to special customers. Your town deli operators are likely offering you this same courtesy. What you may want to do in order to feel more comfortable is to purchase other items to go along with your drink. If they attempt to give those to you as well, put your foot down and tell them that you absolutely must pay for them. You have been a regular customer for years, and you want to continue that tradition, which means you have to be able to buy something. Say this with a smile so it does not come off as a confrontation. Speak with strength so that they know that, as the customer, you remain in charge of yourself.