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Are we a weakening industry? And is it our own fault?

Discussion in 'Polls' started by Joe Diaz, Jun 24, 2008.

Are we a weakening industry?

  1. Yes, and we are to blame.

    43 vote(s)
    39.4%
  2. Yes, but it’s not our fault.

    26 vote(s)
    23.9%
  3. No

    40 vote(s)
    36.7%
  1. Joe Diaz

    Joe Diaz Very Active Member

    I’m all for helping out new sign shops and beginners in this trade, but the truth of the matter is that this industry is over saturated with new guys, that in a lot of cases (but not all) can’t manage to keep their shop open for more then a couple of years. And to me, a lot of times, it’s evident to me who might make it and who might not, right off the get-go.

    Everyone knows the classic saying: “you have to start somewhere”, but the people that started somewhere and made something from nothing usually do for one big reason: Hard Work! You stay in this business and hopefully become successful by learning from mistakes, by listening to people in the industry that have been at it longer then you, not by asking for handouts, tracking down freebies, and looking for shortcuts. You become successful by focusing on quality not by doing it cheaper then the other guy.

    If you’re new, and want a shortcut, try this: go work for someone else. Learn form them. Understand this industry first. That is the quickest shortcut you can ask for. And that ends my advice for the new guys. The rest of this post I want to direct towards the vets. I want to know what your opinions are. Are we, as an industry, making it too easy for novices to start up and compete? Do we help too much? …so much that it begins to hurt us???

    Are we creating a negative public opinion of the sign industry that hurts us in the long run? Do we let our customers walk all over us? Is the customer always right?

    So the absolute most basic and general way of putting it is: Are we a weakening industry? And is it our own fault?

    How would you handle these situations?

    Competition or new guy wants to know what you charge:
    How do you deal with this situation? We flat out refuse to give out this information. I’m all for helping out fellow sign makers on just about everything but pricing. Other sign companies that call asking us for this information are either lazy and don’t want to do the proper research to develop their own pricing structure, or they plan on competing with you on a dollar and cents basis, either in the present or in the near future. I refuse to help these businesses. Besides, pricing depends heavily on overhead and time which when comparing two shops is often very different.

    Customer wants the vector artwork for your sign design on disk or wants you to email it somewhere else (possibly to your competition):
    How do you handle this situation? We used to do this, but I believe this is bad business. Why give the customer the means to take your artwork to your competition to get it done there. Of course their prices are going to be cheaper, you did all the work designing and setting up the file. They want to take the artwork to get it printed on business cards and T-shirts? Why not get paid for that work too? Anymore, we rarely give away source files without being justly compensated for our time and expertise. What, the other sign shop lacks the abilities to develop their own designs or at the very least trace the customer’s purchased artwork? Why should the shop that lacks those abilities get the work? Because they’re cheaper? Of course they are! Like I said before, they aren’t charging for design work because you did it for them. We need to educate our customers “you get what you pay for”
    I’m all for helping out our customers and offering the best services but at what cost? And where do you draw the line? Should we let them walk all over us?

    Speaking of educating the customer, is it worth our time to explain the ins and outs of our business to our customers?:
    Not only is it worth our time, but is it a wise thing to do? Where do you draw the line between educating and simply selling the job?

    Selling materials and tools to competition:
    How do you handle this? Sure you’re getting money for your material. But your competition is the one that can’t keep track of his or her inventory. If they know you will easily supply them, then will they keep coming back for more, rather then buying from the supplier like you and everyone else does? In some case we will be helpful but we will also put our foot down if we feel our friendship with a nearby sign shop is being abused.

    Charity Work:
    Does it seem like we are the easiest marks on the face of the planet when it comes to people that want custom work for nothing? We tell a lot of people that come in that we can’t possible take in every charity job that comes in. We have to pick and chose. And 99% of the time we give only discounts, maybe only charge for material cost and enough to break even. People need to understand that it’s more important for you to be able to provide for your family then to help them out with their cause. The moment word gets out that you do work for free your in real trouble. How do you all deal with charity work?

    Free sketches:
    Why is it okay to give away your intellectual ideas for free? What other industry does something this stupid? It’s gotten so bad that customers expect this treatment and are dumbfounded if you have the audacity of asking to be paid for doing work. How do you guys handle this problem? Why are we letting the mistakes of the new guys in this industry control how sign businesses should be run? If we give away free sketches aren’t we just asking to be ripped off?

    Anyway, I could go on and on. What are some other things that bother you about our industry? I guess it bothers me when people that are new to the industry ask for advice, then when you give it, it almost seems like they do the exact opposite. The poor business decisions and lack of common sense used by these individuals hurt our industry. By us blindly coaching them and holding their hands we become responsible for our own hardships. We all have set the entry level bar waaayyy too low. Now, what can we do to fix it?


    :U Rock::signs101:
     
    Tags:
  2. zoiko

    zoiko Member

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    Wow ...... I will respond to this later, i have to really put together what i want to say. but you have some great points. I will tell you how i started in the vinyl side and how much harder it is then getting into the shirt printing side.... from my view.
     
  3. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    Things have changed in my 33 years in the business (OMG I'm old).
    And then again there were always hacks and fly by nights, pricing was always a complaint and the new guys always sucked ( I know I was one of them).
    But one HUGE difference is the advent of computer sign making, this allows hacks to make "letter perfect" bad signs, overnite! And the customer doesn't always realize the difference. That is something we have no control over and a lot of other businsses are in the same boat, just try talking to a print shop or graphic designer or even a landscaper or painter.
    Of course it's our fault for not embracing a license of some sort like plumbers and electricians have. And talk of this was always shot down. So we're stuck with our history and our present.
    Two things on the boards bug me...someone who asks for advice and then fights it, or asks for a critique and then spends the next 20 threads defending their design.
    Oh and one more, I put in as many hours as it takes, this is what I do for a living, if prices go down I still need to sell signs,if costs go up I still need to make signs, I can't lock the door and go fishing. Sure I push for more money and sell quality and service but the bottom line is I need to be in business to support my family.
    When I see new sign shops that are never open I can't feel bad when they go permanently dark.
     
  4. OldPaint

    OldPaint Major Contributor

    nyway, I could go on and on. What are some other things that bother you about our industry? I guess it bothers me when people that are new to the industry ask for advice, then when you give it, it almost seems like they do the exact opposite. The poor business decisions and lack of common sense used by these individuals hurt our industry. By us blindly coaching them and holding their hands we become responsible for our own hardships. We all have set the entry level bar waaayyy too low. Now, what can we do to fix it?

    WE WHO HAVE BEEN in the industry, are not the problem.
    it is the inept, untalented, many that see this indistry as a "golden goose", just ready to be stolen away from those of us who have been at it for years.
    as a PRE 80's painter, who has seen the deteroration of the "want & need " for ARTISTS, with the advent of the VINYL CUTTER/COMPUTER, i can say the QUALITY OF PRODUCT EXPECTED by the client has dimished to all time lows.
    what used to be, a job for someone with TALENT, & ART KNOWLEDGE has become a lower class commodity that most anyone can produce.
    got a computer, got a printer , IAM NOW A GONA MAKE KILLIN IN THE SIGN BUSINESS... seems to be the mantra of all the wanabes and newcomers.
    only problem is how do you get some work, well since joe, sam, geo, and harry down the street all got the SAME EQUIPMENT AS ME, ill just reduce the PRICE......they will all come to me. there ya go, so now you do this, 2 months from now another guy thinks like you, takes youre business away because of price. and one day you wake up to find that its COSTING YOU MORE TO PRODUCE SIGNS then what youre making....well time to sell and find something else to make easy money. then the cylce starts again, WITH THE ALREADY LOWERED PRICING that now the CLIENTS EXPECT!!!!
    so you wonder whay people PRICE SHOP or ask CAN YOU DO IT FOR LESS?
    sure wish the oil companies would work this way, gallon of gas would be .25 cents a gallon)))))))))))
     
  5. The Sign Dude

    The Sign Dude Active Member

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    I think we are partially to blame but its companies like sign warehouse that really hurt the industry the most. There is a flood of cheap eq. on the market today that can price just about anybody into our industry. Most of them start out with a $500 plotter and software but when they get it hooked up, they realize they have no design skill and usually have no idea what substrate is best for which job. I can say that I am guilty of helping a couple of small shops out from time to time but I found out quickly that can snowball into " hey buddy when you get time can you stop by and help me for a minute or 30". I have figured out that is a one way street with a dead end. Its frustrating but what can we do but provide a better product and better service?
     
  6. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    No....
     
  7. speedmedia

    speedmedia Very Active Member

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    I to will reply to this later as to what I think of your questions. You bring up some very good points.

    I do not think it is a weakening industry but I do think it is a damaged industry. I think the biggest reason for this is people now buy based on price and not quality. Unfortunately it is like this with everything from cars to household items, people just seem to not care for quality as much as they do quantity.

    Thanks,
    Kurt Dietrich
    Speed Media
     
  8. THATgirl

    THATgirl Very Active Member

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    The thrill is gone
    It's gone away for good
    Oh, the thrill is gone baby
    Baby its gone away for good
    Someday I know I'll be over it all baby
    Just like I know a man should

    You know I'm free, free now baby
    I'm free from your spell
    I'm free, free now
    I'm free from your spell
    And now that it's over
    All I can do is wish you well


    I agree with Kurt's words. It is a damaged industry. I still plug along my merry way making signs, but don't see it as the amazing career it was when I started. I don't have a desire to get into digital, but do admire those who have the enthusiasm for it.
     
  9. Joe Diaz

    Joe Diaz Very Active Member

    I personally think talent isn’t dependent on the tools and technology we use. A good artist or craftsman, is a good artist or craftsman no mater what tools they are using… brush, computer, plotter or printer. I think the real qualities needed to become successful in this industry is the willingness to learn, the want to do the best work possible, The business sense to protect yourself and make a living, and the self realization of your own worth.

    In other words, I’m not sure computers are totally to blame for all the negative aspects of this industry, especially when you compare it with all of the great things they do for us. On the other hand it’s hard not to admit that they are, without a doubt, partially to blame… but remember they’re just tools. And even if they were 100% of the problem, there is no turning back now.

    I think the things that hurts this industry is the negative image that we helped create, the image of this industry that the general public has adopted and sees every time they walk into our shop. There is an ever growing lack of respect for the knowledge, time and efforts that goes in to creating custom products. I feel like this opinion stems from the novice sign makers that make bad business moves just to get work. And I feel like we help fuel this problem by helping these very people. Where as I realize there is nothing we can do to the computer factor of this equation, I do think there are things that can be done to change the publics perception of our industry.

    And it’s not competition that bothers me. Some of you guys have posted that people can’t tell the difference between quality work and crap, but I disagree. Some people can’t, but there are those that can. We have been fortunate enough to develop a good customer base of those clients that respect what we do and find our prices fair even if they are more. It’s hard, but I try not to let the price shoppers bother me. I look at it this way: do I really want a customer that wants only the lowest price regardless of quality? Why should I bend over backwards for them? They tend to be the worst to work with anyway.

    I believe that there will always be some out there that purchase quality over price, but what worries me is that one day that number of good customers will start falling below the number of price shoppers… Then, I will have to spend the majority of my day fielding calls from people that don’t respect my profession, developing quotes and sketches for jobs we might not get, and less time doing what I love. Meanwhile the new guys keep making it even harder by making bad judgment calls that reflect on us all.
     
  10. OldPaint

    OldPaint Major Contributor

    I don't have a desire to get into digital, but do admire those who have the enthusiasm for it.
    as an OLD SIGN GUY, we never had much respect for the PRINT people. most where putz's, ran macs, and didnt have any idea of making copy for anything bigger then an 11 x 17" place mat!!!!!
    printers work from a different perspective from that of a sign painter/artist. printers are alway loadin up on copy, in lower case, make no distiction between actual point of purpose as to MAKIN AN IMPACT & DRAWING ATTENTION TO what is being done.
    i see this happening with alot of the WRAPS being done by NON SIGN PEOPLE. most of it is unreadable, disoreinting and so full of similar colors it becomes UNREADABLE.
    i still see it as SIGN PEOPLE and PRINTERS... now if the printers ever figure it out to make signs.....instead of flyers, then they will make it.
     
  11. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Are we a weakening industry? No. We are a changing industry and the change is accelerating.

    Is it our own fault? No. The industry has been absorbing new technology for more than 25 years now. Every step of the way, the technology has added productivity while the financial barrier to entry has gotten lower and lower. We can all produce higher quality work in less time as a result. But at the same time, someone lacking in skills (both artistic and business) is more able to pick up a piece of the available market.

    The issues you point to about competitors and customers alike are simply an indication that they are viewing our evolution as being about the technology and not what you can do with it. Who can forget watching a plotter cutting for the first time! Wow! Gee whiz! Ain't technology great!

    Some, perhaps too many, customers and competitors alike, think it's all about the equipment and just hitting the start button. That can be annoying but it is what it is. Most of us know that design, execution and experience makes all the difference.

    So should we help the new people? That is the core reason for the existence of Signs 101. There is such a thing as a brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the craft. But that aside, it's just good business to do so. Among those who enter into the profession of sign making will be those who will succeed and those who will not. We can't change that. But what we can do is to offer advice and help to those who ask because it will improve the overall level of professionalism while reducing below market pricing and substandard workmanship.

    At the same time, no one should have to suffer a fool or help those who will not help themselves or are possessed of egos too large to benefit from good advice. If we lead a horse to water and can't make him drink, does that mean we should stop watering the herd?
     
  12. Flame

    Flame Major Contributor

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    Do I dare post a pic of your signs again with your squished up copy and horrible fonts? Hop on down from that horse there OP.

    And just because you run a printer doesn't make you what the old timers referred to as "printers". Newstype kind of guys. A printer is a tool, a tool to produce an image you form in your head. Just like a brush, a pencil, a chunk of wax or coal, a plotter, a sandblaster........... they are all tools. I've learned that knocking on someone's tools just means you're jealous because you can't use them.

    I use to knock the old time sign painters, but I guess I learned it was just because I was jealous of what some of these guys could do with a brush, that I couldn't. I still do not see it as the right tool for many jobs, but it's not because of lack of talent, but just the wrong tool for the job.

    What would you do if someone asked you for window perf? Tell the customer that only stupid printers can do that and send them away? Or how about wraps? Tell them only the untalented can wrap their vehicle, you'd rather paint it? What if it's a lease vehicle? Then what? Re-paint it later?

    My point is there are tools out there. Computers. Brushes. Pencils. Printers. They are just TOOLS. What makes a good looking piece of art is not just the tool, it's the person who uses the tool. And the more you can master, the more well rounded you become.















    Just my $0.02
     
  13. speedmedia

    speedmedia Very Active Member

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    LOL... Unfortunately the bad eggs made an impact on you OP. I think there are several designers on this board in each genre whether it be hand painted or crafted signs or digitally created pieces that are extremely talented. I agree completely with Joe you are either good or your not and you learn to utilize the tools that that you are most efficient in. That being said I couldn't paint my way out of a wet paper bag, but I have no desire to and never will, It is not my thing much like computer generated graphics and digital prints aren't yours. I always get a kick of how you put all computer users and digital printers in the same category. That is much like me saying all hand painters are dope smoking hippies because a few of them in my area are, not really that fair is it?

    Thanks,
    Kurt Dietrich
    Speed Media
     
  14. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    If you’re new, and want a shortcut, try this: go work for someone else. Learn form them. Understand this industry first. That is the quickest shortcut you can ask for. And that ends my advice for the new guys.

    I think it's good advice, even better advice is to work for a few shops, who's to say the shop you are working for is doing it right. And check out different types of sign shops, just like graphic design has many specialties, so does the sign industry....

    ________________

    Are we, as an industry, making it too easy for novices to start up and compete?

    Almost every industry has a pathway from start-up to novice.

    –––––––––––––––

    Do we help too much?

    I don't think so, at least not directly... it's the current mood of people in general.
    There is a movement called DIY that is pretty much hitting all of the creative and decorative industries. My belief is DIY is the biggest culprit in allowing a person to drop their fears, demystify creativity and the design process, lower expectations and devalue talent and experience with the idea that anyone can do anything with no experience but a afternoon class and a step by step article.





    Are we creating a negative public opinion of the sign industry that hurts us in the long run?

    I think in general, graphic arts has a negative public opinion, sign shops are not equal and they should not be, but that fuels the idea that anyone an do it.

    _______________

    Do we let our customers walk all over us?

    This is not a "we" question, it's a personal one. My answer is based on how much I need the money.

    _______________

    Is the customer always right?

    Another personal question, it's based on how we interpret this saying. The customer always right is not based on profitability, craftsmanship, design principles or satisfaction of a job well done. To me its the idea that the lowest common denominator is in charge of my business. I prefer... "The customer signs the check"

    _______________

    Are we a weakening industry? And is it our own fault?

    No...

    _______________

    How would you handle these situations?

    Competition or new guy wants to know what you charge:
    I like the idea of partnership, my whole business is based on the idea. My freelance is a partnership, my consulting is, and my contract with a client, the more friends I have, the more chances i have to do the work i like to do. I don't believe I have competition, just a different solution. Newbies rarely come to me for help, and when they do I usually get the initial work because it's more involved then they like to get or out of the range of their expertise.

    _______________

    Customer wants the vector artwork for your sign design on disk or wants you to email it somewhere else (possibly to your competition):
    How do you handle this situation?

    Since i do not make 99% of the signs I design, it's my job to forward files and i get paid enough to do it.

    _______________

    Speaking of educating the customer, is it worth our time to explain the ins and outs of our business to our customers?:

    This depends... Should a restaurant with a 1 million dollar startup ask a sign shop for a logo? Should a sign shop take on ADA signs without knowing the local or state building code, ANSI or ADAAG? What is your scope of expertise? What is your clients? and will they be compatible. Is the sign shop actually in a position to educate a client? I'm not looking to educate, I'm looking for compatibility. If my client is a complete idiot and I take on a job from them, what would that make me? I the job is beyond my abilities, then I would dumb down the clients job. Compatibility is better than education, most people learn the hard way by old fashion trail and error.

    _________________

    Selling materials and tools to competition, How do you handle this?

    Never had that issue but believe in the idea or partnership.

    _______________

    Charity Work:
    I only do pro-bono wrk on causes I believe in and will only work for people who make the process enjoyable.

    _______________

    Free sketches:
    I am a design firm first, so I usually get paid for design first. On layouts established clients and larger projects get billed monthly so sketches are sent for approval and manufacture. I have a contract for ongoing work.

    _______________

    Poor business decisions and lack of common sense is not just a sign industry problem. The bar has always been where it has been, it's society's idea that has shifted to the idea that there is no mystery to making things, or they can make it with their own hands or that when they hire someone, that with their limited information they may have read, make decisions opposite of a successful outcome.
     
  15. geezer

    geezer New Member

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    I have been amazed at the amount of people wanting to do signs that will not invest in any training. Maybe not all of these items apply to everyone, BUT...I subscribe to 5 different trade magazines, I try to make at least 1 trade show a year (local and ISA @ Vegas.) I have shelled out a lot of money on seminars and workshops....most of them excellent. Or maybe I'm just a slow learner :)
    geezer
     
  16. GregT

    GregT Very Active Member

    I think it's what you make it. If you let your customers "get away" with layouts and telling you that they don't pay for designs or whatever, they will take advantage of you.

    As far as helping local small shops, I don't have a problem helping them...someday I may need a good employee once his shop closes.
     
  17. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    I'm relatively new to signmaking. I don't have the brush experience or the time into signs that many of you do, but I believe that I have the design and business qualities that would have allowed me to do well whether I had entered this profession using those tools or the computer that I'm on now. Newcomers haven't weakened the profession. To me, a good sign-maker is someone who has good commercial art skills, but borders on being a full graphic designer no matter what he uses to achieve the results.

    If someone wants to learn - and I mean really learn - then I am more then happy to help. As a rule I share with others in the business because I see no reason not to. Of course I keep some secrets to myself - we all have those little tricks we aren't giving up - but I believe some amount of knowledge in any profession should be shared those starting out. It raises the level of professionalism. I was smart - I came here first (thanks Trixie) and took the knocks and learned. That's why I do whatever I can to return that huge favor.

    As far as sharing pricing... I will to some extent. It's not like it's a big secret if you give blind phone quotes anyway. I have traded vinyl, banner tape and even blades when other shops who have had an emergency. In turn I know that I can ask for the same courtesy. And some of those shops have sent us jobs they couldn't do.

    So no, I don't think the profession has been weakened, I just think it has been changed like so many other with the advent of cheap technology.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2008
  18. It Is Like This!

    There will always be new comers in every field of work. Of course, some will make it & some will not. What will make the difference in the end is not how cheap their prices are but the hard work and effort they put into it. Think about the huge number of landscaping, painting, or remodeling businesses that are out there. They all have huge amounts of competition. All you need is a tool belt and hammer. But, that doesnt mean that they will succeed in the business. Many will fail, just as in this business. But that is OK. So what some guy opens a shop down the road and low balls prices. Not your problem. There is enough work not to have to worry about that. If you want a particular type of client, market yourself that way. People still know the difference between quality work & crap.

    As for computers and plotters, etc. Times are changing, you have to adapt. New technology is all around us & is not going anywhere any time soon, Those who adapt to this new way of doing business are going to come out on top.
     
  19. hammered

    hammered Member

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    You cant blame the newer people joining the industry for the way the industry is heading. Its a bunch-o-crap. You have the older sign shop who have had a corner on their little area for a few years charging more than say a shop in a more saturated area. You have those saturated areas participating in Bid wars driving prices down in those areas. You have an increase in material cost due to God only knows how many factors (from raising fuel prices to demand) You have new entries into the industry that dont have a clue on pricing or business management. You have wealth of instant information at the customers fingertips that is, either misunderstood leading to pricing disagreements or unfair comparisons to other regions prices. And you also have to figure in greed. Too many times, I see some of the exact same work (stickers) for 4 and 5 times what I know is fair for the DC area I left just a year and a half ago.
    Its not fair to dump the whole ball in the "newbie" lap. Yes they do contribute to the problem, but lets be honest, there are some sh**ty old timers out there. And how they have held out for so long is amazing. This isnt anything new and unique to just the sign industry, its happening all over. Hell every jackleg with a Lowes welding machine is a Master welder now. I know this still just a hobby for me, Im having to go slow because I cant stop drop and start up a new company with what little I know about sign making. Im too damn old to quit my job to apprentice somewhere. So I come to places like this and 201 and steal and store every bit of info I can get my hands on. Just my take on an indusrty changing.
     
  20. The sign industry is incredibly strong here. In my case I believe it may be possible this downturn is helping my business.

    When a competitor asks for a price and we KNOW it's a competitor, we politely decline. Otherwise, we do it.

    When a customer complains, we fix it and MAKE IT RIGHT. We would be unwise to do anything else.

    When a customer asks for their files, we bite the bullet and GIVE IT TO THEM. We try to be smart and charge appropriately for our work on the front end. We avoid customer confrontations, unhappy customers can be blabbermouths. Make friends, not enemies.

    We NEVER do SPEC work, no apology necessary. (http://www.no-spec.com/)

    We stand by our standard pricing. If someone says they can get a better price and it is considerably less than our standard price, we politely let them walk. We strive to work smarter not harder.

    Is this any help?
     
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