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.

Gift from officiant?

DEAR ABBY: I am a funeral director by trade, but a couple of years ago one of my good friends asked me to officiate at his wedding. I was happy to do it, and I have since been asked by several other friends to perform their wedding ceremonies, too. I did three last year and have two scheduled for this year.

I am always happy to help, and I don't charge an honorarium. My question is: Am I required to give the couple a gift? I'd like to do what is appropriate.

- Marrying & burying in California

DEAR M&B: No rule of etiquette requires you to give the couple a gift in addition to the services you are performing for free. If you would LIKE to give them something in addition, by all means do, but it shouldn't be expected.