DEAR ABBY: I've been in the retail business for 12 years. A customer has started spending every day in our store, wasting our time.He bothers customers with his stories and traps them for hours at a time. He has purchased some items, so he is buying from us.

I don't know how to tell him he can't hang out at our store. I want to say it in a nice way, but I think any way is going to hurt his feelings. — UNPLEASANT SITUATION

DEAR UNPLEASANT: You seem to be a compassionate person. Check out what services are available for seniors in your area. Then explain to the customer that while you appreciate his business, you and your employees have work to do, limited time to do it and cannot socialize with him. Then suggest some places where he can spend time, volunteer, etc.

DEAR READERS: A group of distinguished psychiatrists, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP), needs help from some of you. They are seeking to understand how faith identity — being spiritual, religious, spiritual but not religious, or neither religious nor spiritual — positively or negatively impacts mental health and well-being. Below is the URL to an online survey, which will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The questions address the following topics:

— Do you identify as religious, spiritual, both or neither?

— What religious and/or spiritual practices do you participate in, if any?

— What are your current levels of anxiety, and what is your current mood?

Readers, your input is important. Understanding your beliefs, including how they affect your mental health, could benefit individuals who need help and haven't gotten it. To participate in this anonymous survey, you must be 18 years of age or older. The URL below will direct you to the online survey. For those who have no internet access but would like to participate, please send a letter to:

GAP Religion/Spirituality Survey

P.O. Box 570218

Dallas, TX 75357-0218


Thank you in advance for helping them out. They are a wonderful, caring group of doctors. — Love, ABBY

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips