Reader Opinion: MLM at Craft Shows and Handmade Events = Bad for Small Businesses

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[Red:] The Anti-MLM Coalition recently received a message from a reader by the name of Una (not her real name). As an event organiser and genuine small business owner, it infuriates her to see MLM sellers brand themselves as such – so much so, that’s she’s asked us if she can get it all off her chest. Naturally, the coalition are happy to oblige.

Before reading Una’s article, please remind yourself that all views presented here are those of the authors, and simply reflect their own opinions and personal experiences. Your own personal experiences with MLM companies may differ, negatively or positively.

I’ll now hand over to Una.


cropped-mlm.jpg[Una:] Thank you, Red.

Regardless of what an MLMer might tell you, MLMs are not small businesses. MLMers do not design, create, or market their products. MLMers do not own trademarks, copyrights, formulations, or any other intellectual property. MLMers are not artists, creators, or makers. Most MLMers don’t have business insurance, business licensing, or any of the other responsibilities associated with small business.

At best, MLMers are a low-paid contract sales force.

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Occasionally, real small business people may hang MLM off of their existing small business — and usually to the detriment of that business (such as hairdressers that sling Mary Kay on the side, or directly to their real customers)…until they figure out that this was a bad decision that results in the loss of business, not improvement of business.

MLM is not a wholesale business-to-business vendor relationship either. MLMers are not paying wholesale prices, they are paying marked-up retail prices and then marking those prices up further to sell directly to the public. No one really makes money just selling the products, which is why the rare 1% of MLMers that are making money are making that from recruiting downlines to make retail purchases underneath them.

You are not “supporting moms who are trying to feed their kids” when you purchase MLM products. You are not “supporting seniors who are trying to stretch their pensions” when you purchase MLM products. You are not “supporting small businesses” when you purchase MLM products. You are supporting big corporations, and big business, and the 1% at the top of the pyramid when you purchase MLM products.

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This is all very relevant to you if you are a small business person who handcrafts for a living, because MLM booths have, for many years, been a formidable presence at craft shows and hand-made events.

What?!?!“, you say. “You mean that just because a fair or event is advertised as ‘handcrafted‘ or ‘local small business‘, that doesn’t mean it’s true?

That is exactly what I am saying!


So how does this happen?

There are a number of ways that MLM ends up in our handcrafted fairs and small business events. Quite often, but not always, the organizer of a fair or event will have an association with MLMs themselves — friends involved in MLM, or the organizer themselves will be involved.

Another way is that the organizer doesn’t really understand what MLM is, and may genuinely believe that these are small businesses. The organizer may also simply not care and is looking at the bottom line in regards to filling booth space just to keep the event going. Regardless of what the reasons are behind why an organizer would allow MLMs into handcrafted and local small business events — it’s bad for small business. But, it’s also bad for the lifespan of the event.

When a fair or event advertised as handcrafts or local small business ends up with a lot of MLM, eventually these fairs and events will lose traffic and cease to exist. This is because the patrons tire of seeing the same MLM vendors all of the time, instead of the crafts and small business they are actually seeking.

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If the organizer of the event refuses to serve the customer base, those customers will not return to the event. An artisan who handcrafts or the local small business person who invests in booth fees that cannot be recouped will stop coming too, leaving the MLMers to circle jerk with one another. At this point, patrons stop coming altogether and the event ceases to exist.

Some event organizers may not allow a complete MLM takeover, because they understand this will eventually kill the event altogether. They may try for a ‘happy medium’ that — in their estimation — fulfils their need to fill booth space and keep the event going by allowing in a select few MLMers, and making sure the rest of the booths are actually are small business or handcrafts. This is a tactic I’ve seen at many farmers markets, in particular, but it also is a tactic used at events advertised as small business handcrafted fairs.

This ‘happy medium’ strategy, while it can keep a fair or event from collapsing entirely, can create disgruntled customers who are expecting a totally local and handcrafted event. It also really rankles the best of the handcrafters, because our experience in these kinds of events is that MLMers from the other booths will approach our tables and booths and pester us to trade products with them or attempt to pitch us. I’ve spoken with a number of handcrafters who complain that MLMers will brazenly stand outside of the handcrafted booths, and attempt to pester customers walking by or into our booths. Not all handcrafters have the personalities needed to shoo these pests away or firmly tell them NO.

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But, if you are a crafter or small business who finds yourself at one of these ‘happy medium’ fairs or events, you have every right to protect your business interests by setting firm boundaries about what can or cannot go around the booth area that you have paid for. You may need to develop these skills if you show your work at these kinds of events, because otherwise it can cost you both money and reputation too if a customer thinks that you are associated in any way with MLM.

Many handcrafters are now discovering the #AntiMLMmovement, and Timeless Vie‘s MLM-Free Network. In fact, I was relieved to recently find a Facebook group of like-minded individuals, No MLM Allowed. Advocates for MLM-free Craft Fairs and Markets.

Many of us see this as another tool to help save our local small businesses. Distributing factual information about MLMs in the form of a free small flyer or card in your booth for customers to pick up and take with them is a wonderful idea to begin educating the patrons attending the fairs and events that you are at. Many of us also sell our wares online and include a page on our websites about MLM, and information resources to guide consumers is another positive strategy to support small business.

Whenever possible, encourage event organizers to avoid including MLM in events altogether. But be aware that open opposition to MLM may get you banned from an event, especially if the organizer is an MLMer or is supporting friends and family in MLM schemes.

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I would personally avoid confronting an organizer — but if a fair or event was not profitable for me, I would decline to come back. An organizer may want to know why that is. Tell them the truth. The event is not profitable for you as small business handcrafter — and if they can figure out a way to make this a more profitable event for the handcrafted business owners, you would like to hear about what they have in mind. If the new business plan doesn’t involve excluding MLM, then their event is not for you.

If you are a craftsperson or local small business in need of support in the sea of MLM that is sure to invade many of our local fairs and events in the spring and summer, consider joining hands with other craftspeople and small business owners of like-mind, to strategize together about events and fairs!

~ Una

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[Red:] Thank you to Una for sharing your opinion piece with us. Our own Bot Watch has also provided a handy Complaint Letter Template to help articulate concerns about the presence of MLMs at such events.

For those interested in further reading about why MLM is not a small business, take a look at this selection, initially noted in Elle Beau‘s article You’re About to Lose Your Younique Presenter Status? It’s Really Not Your Fault:


Cover Image by Dane Deaner on Unsplash.com.
Stock Images kindly supplied via Pexels.com.


Would you like to share your MLM story or opinion with the Anti-MLM movement? Be our guest and check out our submission guidelines – we would love to hear from you.

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38 comments

  1. Wow what a chock full of pathetic lies and whining up the wazoo. Anyone working a booth at an event regardless of their business must practice proper etiquette and when working, stay in their booths and promote & sell their products.
    Aside from that there are no shortage of individuals in direct sales/network marketing who earn a meaningful extra income by just retailing their products, no shortage at all. Of course earning a massive income in this profession which I have been in full time since 1990 and have practiced 100% stellar ethics and etiquette, requires a great deal of effort in building a sales/marketing team just as if I were to go after the big bucks in the insurance field for example.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the network marketing business model. As many informed individuals are aware, Warren Buffet owns 3-4 companies that utilize the proven power of person to person word of mouth advertising. Also several insurance outfits use the model and hey, ever hear of Keller Williams Realty??? yep, they use a network marketing/mlm business model as well.
    Trust me I’ve been dragged to a few arts and craft shows over the years, not the wisest bunch I’ve ever come across and no shortage of unethical folks that are found in any and all businesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aside from that there are no shortage of individuals in direct sales/network marketing who earn a meaningful extra income by just retailing their products, no shortage Aside from that there are no shortage of individuals in direct sales/network marketing who earn a meaningful extra income by just retailing their products, no shortage at all.

      A bare-faced lie, and the repetitious “no shortage, no shortage at all” shows how desperate a lie it is. The only way to make money in MLM is by recruiting others into the scheme. Every product sold by an MLM has a cheaper competitor of equal quality that does not have to build MLM commissions and admin into the price. Direct sales to customers outside the scheme are therefore virtually non-existent.

      Of course earning a massive income in this profession which I have been in full time since 1990 and have practiced 100% stellar ethics and etiquette, requires a great deal of effort in building a sales/marketing team just as if I were to go after the big bucks in the insurance field for example.

      The difference is that if I built up an insurance business with a sales and marketing team, everyone on my sales and marketing team would get paid a salary. If I was using the network marketing model, typically 99% of them would be paid virtually nothing, or lose money working for me.
      Nobody cares what Warren Buffet invests in. This is a blog about MLMs, not prudent investment.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You are hilarious!! and you obviously did not read what I wrote. I SAID that retailing can make one a nice ‘extra income’ and for the larger financial earnings, then you build a sales team just like if one was building an insurance sales team. Btw Einstein, 99% of all insurance agents are on a commission only pay plan. Way to brush aside Warren Buffet, I guess he must not think companies that utilize network marketing as their distribution of choice are anything special…. since he owns no less than three of them you ignorant fool. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I SAID that retailing can make one a nice ‘extra income’

        Which is a lie as it is impossible to make extra income from retailing overpriced products with MLM commissions and admin built into the price. The only way to generate significant (> minimum wage) income from MLM is by recruiting.

        and for the larger financial earnings, then you build a sales team just like if one was building an insurance sales team.

        No, not “just like”. If I am building a sales team in a conventional insurance business, my insurance products will be competitively priced and all of my sales team will make money, as long as they’re competent salespeople. If I am recruiting people into an MLM scheme, 99% will be paid virtually nothing or will lose money.

        Btw Einstein, 99% of all insurance agents are on a commission only pay plan.

        Even if that’s true where you are, it’s irrelevant if they are not part of an MLM scheme. If they are selling insurance from a non-MLM company, the insurance will be competitively priced and they will have a reasonable hope of making commission. (They won’t hang around for long if they don’t.) If they are selling MLM insurance, the premiums will be twice as high as rival insurers because of the need to build in MLM commissions. This means that nobody will buy the insurance unless they are connected to the MLM scheme. And 99% of the agents will not make any money unless they recruit.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. About Warren Buffet. It makes good business sense to own an MLM. He wouldn’t have to pay wages or healthcare or training or any of the normal business expenses. He gets a free workforce that buy the products. These MLM CEOs are the winners. It is everyone who joins that loses.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I make a very good income with my(mlm)business. People should worry about their selves and not what other people are doing. That’s what’s wrong with this world today! I work very hard at my business and no one is going to tell me it’s right or it’s wrong. I make 3 times more a year than I did at my job! And I do it all from my home I spend time with my kids my grandkids and we go on vacation 1 week a month. Try doing that at your job. I didn’t get there overnight it took some time to do it but now that I did all the hard work at the beginning it’s all paying off now. Retiring from Corporate America at 50 is awesome I love it!

    Like

    1. Stooooooooop lying. If your life is that great, you wouldn’t be on here looking at anti-mlm articles. You’d be laughing about how rich you are, over a Sex on the Beach cocktail, sunning it up in the Maldives! “People should worry about their selves and not what other people are doing” take a leaf out of your own book and fuck off!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh you ignorant and sad inbred, why so miserable reading about one’s success and happiness?? Don’t like others who aren’t pathetic pieces of excrement 💩 like you??

        Like

      2. This a thousand times. Why oh why if MLM is so wonderful aren’t they on vacay sunning themselves on the best beaches in the world showing us pathetic craftspeople and artists what lowly trash we are working for a living? lol

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Hi granny,
      The point of the article is that these people who showcase handmade items at craft fairs are worrying about “their selves”.
      When MLMs have booths in a handmade craft events, people who would have shopped at these events don’t come back to the events because MLM items are not handmade.
      Why would anyone want to go back to a craft show when they see 20 high pressure booths selling non-handmade garbage?
      Your MLM “business” is actually hurting real local and small businesses.
      Maybe if you focused on the point of the article, rather than trying to brag about being able to take unpaid vacations you would understand why people don’t want MLMs in craft fairs.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Then find more arts & crafts people to step up and either pay for more booths or start your own shows and keep things in your itty bitty circles.

        Like

    3. Lindsey, you are not retired from ‘Corporate America’. The company you work for is a big American corporation with a rich CEO at the top. You are bringing in money for the company on a commission only basis with no protections that employees would get.

      I am suspicious of your holiday each month. Do you work for an MLM that sells holidays? Are you a customer of the company, pouring your money into it and telling yourself it is an investment?

      Please keep a close eye on your income and expenses and watch that you don’t spend more than you earn.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Did you make your product though? If the answer is no you do NOT belong at a handmade show or an arts & Crafts one (MLMs are neither an art form nor a craft). Period.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Great article!
    This reminds me of the poisonous effect a certain MLM had on a local farmer’s market. I have to admit that I can’t prove anything(unlike MLMers who expect you to accept their lies as facts), but when there are three farmer’s markets in an area and the one that was open to MLM went under, it gets you thinking.
    I remember it well because this happened last summer. In the farmer’s market in town 1, no MLM in sight, it’s thriving, and everyone seems to be happy. The farmer’s market in town 2, again, it’s thriving and everyone is happy, there’s even live music and no MLM in sight. Now there’s the farmer’s market in town 3, where at first it seemed everything was just wonderful and it was thriving, but week after week attendance kept going down. Eventually it became a “ghost town” farmer’s market. The biggest difference between this town’s farmer’s market and the others was the presence of representatives from a big MLM health product company. Right in the middle of everything. And these representatives did not look happy. The organizers didn’t look happy either, and the same can be said for most of the sellers.
    Besides attendance going down, the number of booths also went down as a result: There were maybe 15 booths in the beginning, to maybe 6 when I last went by(rough estimates). And this event often had live music(he eventually disappeared as attendance fell).
    I don’t know if this MLM poisoned the reputation of the farmer’s market, but it does seem like a real possibility, especially when you consider that the other farmer’s markets just a few miles away didn’t suffer from the same problems.
    Regardless, we definitely need to get the word out that MLM has NOTHING in common with farmers, artists or craftspeople selling their products at markets and events.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you’re a customer who likes local produce and there’s three farmers’ markets within easy reach, are you going to go to the ones with genuine local businesses, or the one with MLM-bots blathering on about how you should join their scheme and how much money they make while trying to sell you absolute crap?

      If you’re a local business with three farmers’ markets within easy reach, are you going to go to the one where consumers want to go, or the one with MLM-bots blathering on about how you should join their scheme and how much money they make while rugby-tackling the increasingly small number of consumers who come anywhere near your stall?

      I know whether the MLM poisoned the reputation of your farmer’s market.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. ooooooh looks like I totally hit a bossbabe and bossbro nerve with my article! Ha! Come at me MLMers! You guys DO NOT belong at our handcrafted fairs and local small business events.
    And I’ll tell you why you do what you do coming to our fairs and events: Because you know that an event stacked with nothing but MLM circle jerking results in ZERO customers every time. No one shows up for events they know are mostly MLM. You guys are envious of the real artists and craftspeople and think you can chip off of our customer base. No way in hell that will ever happen. You may be able to kill an event, but you cannot convince the customer base for the artists and handcrafters that your dumb MLM garbage is worth their wallets! HA HA HA

    Liked by 3 people

  5. David Greene, I love that you think this of me. This is the difference between us. My message has clearly touched a nerve with you. Your response doesn’t make me angry, it just encourages me to shout the message even louder that MLM’s are bad business with bad representatives. You can thank your glorious MLM personality for that. Lets go through a couple of points:

    “Oh you ignorant and sad inbred” – Getting personal – Eeeeek. I’ve woke the beast. Please elaborate on my ignorance? (but not on my inbred upbringing please, it hurts so bad).

    “Why so miserable reading about one’s success and happiness?? ” You got a tone of misery from my reply? Interesting. Success and happiness cannot be measured in Lindsay’s response. Anyone can type out on a web page how successful they are.

    I own my own business (a business that I would never encourage anyone to join unless I knew I could pay them a good wage – that’s another difference between us. A conscience). I choose my own working hours. I work with a wonderful client and they pay me a lot of money to do, in hindsight, very little because my expertise are highly sought after in business. I have been extremely lucky. I go on a couple of modest holidays a year with my family because if I went on any more I don’t think I’d appreciate them as much. Maybe I’m lying………or maybe I’m not? I guess you’ll never know.

    “Don’t like others who aren’t pathetic pieces of excrement 💩 like you?? ” I have no point to make on this (it’s my favourite bit) because your words alone have said everything about you and the MLM world. You’re Richard Branson in the making my darling.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. As a photographer who offered my work on the art fair circuit for about 12 years, I agree that products or services offered by MLM companies should not be allowed at shows that restrict exhibitors to those that produce what they offer.
    Almost{St everything this writer says about MLM, however is not true.

    Like

  7. Sorry so long, but please read it😚💖🤗
    I couldn’t even read the entire article due to so many false statements.
    Sorry, but the govt. considers Network marketing a legitimate small business & allows us to write off things on our taxes.
    It’s a shame that you don’t understand that a business is a pyramid in structure.
    In business- isn’t the structure
    Owner
    Stock or shareholders
    Managers
    Co-Managers
    Workers
    Who do you think gets the less pay for the most work? The bottom (where many fall & have no say in what they get to do). There is no incentive only to work like a dog & get treated like garbage, full or part-time for 40 yrs or less. Companies have been going out of business like crazy due to Amazon (their hrs are slave driving) like in the beginning of the industrial age of America & Walmart(is getting ready to go self check out & terminate even more ppl who are already struggling) .
    I listen to financial planners & they suggest starting a network marketing business to have a back up plan that has a potential to be your best plan.
    Like all things in life, you must work hard or you don’t get paid.
    The bible says pay a laborer his fair wage. God (if you believe in him) hates dishonest scales & will punish those who practice evil.
    I have met many in the MLM I just joined May 9th, 2016, who have become Debt-Free, retired from their traditional job early, building it full time & have blessed many others by showing them what to do. It’s not hard, breaking mindsets like yours is the hard part.
    Here are articles from financial planners I heard on Moody Bible in Illinois.
    They are archived: Please check them out & let me know what you think.
    A young woman felt like you do about it & they told her it’s a viable way to make a living & make a difference in the lives of others. She said Oh!😮 please listen for it.
    Money wise
    Feb 10, 2018 Who really owns it?
    Marker 18:29-23:24
    https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/moneywise/listen/who-really-owns-it-643918.html
    Chris Brooks
    Feb 15, 2018
    https://www.moodyradio.org/programs/equipped-with-chris-brooks/2018/02-2018/2.15.2018-biblical-business/
    I truly hope you listen to it & contact me.
    I love what I get to do.
    I get to help others get their freedom back from these dead end jobs or just have a back up plan using something we already buy-Jewelry!
    Everyone that sees it falls in love with it & you have to see the jewelry in person cuz the catalog or website doesn’t do it justice. Our company uses real Swarovski crystals, leather, silver, etc. Gold is too expensive @ the moment, so to keep the cost down, it’s gold toned til the market improves.
    One necklace (Girl’s Best Friend) does 30+ configurations.
    This company is a Christian company & has been in business since 1985.
    They started to help moms & missions by giving us 50% of our sales the same day & 10% commission for helping others build up others.
    No other company can say that & I love Amway too & will rejoin once I get my jewelry one off the ground.
    I plan to have 3.
    Jewelry, Amway & Travel
    Also, I’m a Christian, Divorced, Disabled mom of 2 who is fighting MS & struggling to type this out, but hope you feel my heart on this issue.
    Here’s my website & number if you want to contact me.
    Be blessed & have a wonderful evening.
    Kris😚💖🤗🙏
    Premierdesigns.com/KrishnaMooreTolbert
    (708)359-6956

    Like

      1. You know I looked at your website. I overlooked all of the MLM spam and just tried to judge your site and your motivation and talent based on everything else. Here’s what I think: Get out of MLM, you are too smart and too talented. Start a business making your own jewelry or something else you love. A business that is truly YOURS. You can do it. You don’t need this MLM crap and you are doomed to fail if you stay in it.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Krishna, you are confusing a hierarchy with a pyramid scheme. In a heirarchy, there are differening levels of skills and responsibilities. More skills, experience, and qualifications equals more responsibility and pay. In pyramid schemes/ MLM people have to recruit people to recruit people to recruit…. the people who bring in more people and are higher up earn more. The ones who always earn are the CEOs who actually own the company.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I’m a (former) vendor of jewelry at craft fairs. Only all of the jewelry I sell is handmade by me and I only use glass, shell, or gemstones.
      When I compete with MLM jewelry that is often poor quality (lots of plastic, metals that turn your skin green, falls apart easily, etc), it makes my product look bad. Someone who sews clothes doesn’t want to be next to a table selling Lula Roe leggings that fall apart prior to the first wash.
      Also as a customer, I could care less about your faith (or lack thereof). In fact it might turn me away as a customer because I don’t like proselytizing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Gosh, I just hope one of the MLM defenders will shut the argument down by posting their 1099 and outgoings and ingoings. Data is precise and makes great evidence. I pray a few of them will take this opportunity to put the argument to rest. Otherwise, well, I guess it’s a bit like puffery. Or lying. Definitely lying. Prove your making bank or shut up.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. One notable difference between the pro-MLMers/MLM apologists and anti-MLMers is that this group actually lets all the comments stay. Even the vulgar ones. Even the rude ones. On the other hand, the MLM supporters can’t delete negative information fast enough when they control the medium it’s posted too. Even when it’s respectful and based on factual news – you know, like the MLMs own financial disclosure statement which inevitably shows that their sellers aren’t making much at all. Not a living wage. Not even minimum wage. Most lose money in fact.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly, Heather. Us critics of MLM can afford to have open forums that tolerate even the nastiest of MLM apologists because we have facts and logic on our side. Pro-MLM forums have to heavily censor views critical of MLM because MLM is a house of cards that can’t withstand even the slightest criticism. Inadvertently, the MLM apologists are doing our work for us; it can be highly instructive for lurkers who are on the fence about MLM seeing pro-MLM views and anti-MLM views juxtaposed as they are in the comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/multilevel-marketing
    https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0175-work-home-businesses
    https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0065-multilevel-marketing
    https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/trade-regulation-rule-disclosure-requirements-and-prohibitions-concerning-business-opportunities-ftc.r511993-00008%C2%A0/00008-57281.pdf
    Every self-employed person should be very familiar with this form, and judge their success from what the bottom line literally says:
    https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/schedule-c-form-1040-profit-or-loss-from-business
    The ultimate proof of your business success is the bottom line on your Schedule C. Unfortunately, many mlmers don’t even know what that is.
    And by the way, as a Christian, I abhor how the Bible is used by these schemes to lure people in.
    Also by the way, “You are not “supporting moms who are trying to feed their kids” when you purchase MLM products. You are not “supporting seniors who are trying to stretch their pensions” when you purchase MLM products. You are not “supporting small businesses” when you purchase MLM products. You are supporting big corporations, and big business, and the 1% at the top of the pyramid when you purchase MLM products.”
    Thank you. That is all. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I concur with mlm police. The comments are the most enjoyable part.
    My favourite being someone trying to use religion to shill overpriced junk. Honorable mention to the guy who is sooooo professional, then calls someone who disagrees with him an inbred.
    Fab article.

    Liked by 1 person

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