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boagman

Gratuities tacked onto bills...where's the line?

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I agreee its how its described. If its a service charge, then its part of the contract, but bundling it in the prices would be more honest and make more sense and allow variablity with high and low value items. Howeve if its a service charge then how its distributed (FoH, BoH, or none at all, to one server or distributed proprotional to age, seniority etc ) is up to the management.

If its a gratuity then its voluntary, and what the customer pays, and to whom is up to them. I find I get better service and food if I tip the line chef/expiditer before the meal.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I understand that servers are paid differently in Europe, I just resent the implication that it requires no skill!

You are preachin' to the choir.

But I think you put the server in a weird position not willing to cough up the 80 odd cents, the charge is probably in the servers till and she/he probably has to drop the 145.80 odd cents no matter what you give him/her so its not necessarily that you are shorting them the 80 cents but actually 1.60,

The way I see it, the server doesn't have to pay 80 cents, it's 80 cents less that they earn. Just the way it should be, considering the poor service.

Stand your ground Boagman...don't let these head in the clouds people bully you..


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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So what have we learned from all this talking in circles?

1. The "service charge for large parties" or "autogratuity" or whatever euphemism we wish to use is part of the check. You agreed to it upon ordering. By choosing to underpay the bill, you're effectively thieving services. Not terribly different than the old "dine and dash" walking out on the check. That .87 cents is part of the check. The server's paperwork will not be correct if you shortchange them. They will have to pay for you. There's no reason they should be expected to do that.

2. If the percentage charged stated on the menu was different than the percentage charged on the check, a swift complaint should be made to management. The server doesn't set policy. They merely follow it. We also didn't create the "less than minumum wage" pay scale. We simply have to live with it. Misdirecting one's anger at the server is not going to solve anything and will only serve to peg you as an HMC, or High Maintenance Customer.

3. If the service was substandard in any way, it should be brought to the attention of management. Immediately. Because the manager isn't clairvoyant either, and if you nod and smile on your way out the door, you've denied them the opportunity to solve your problem or try and appease you in some way. The scathing letter/email/phone call next week is useless at that point. You've made it impossible to please you now. At this point you'll just tell all your friends how much the restaurant sucks and bitch about it on sites like eGullet. But you never even gave them the opportunity to concede that there was an issue and try and be concilatory.

4. Whether or not there were other tables in the restaurant has nothing to do with the percentage of gratuity that is appropriate. Only if the other tables effected your service (as in there were LOTS of other tables and the server was absent) does that come into play. The implication that it's OK to tip less because the server didn't have any other tables (that you could see, anyway) is completely illogical. Nor does the style of restaurant change the appropriate tip percentage. Only if it's a self service buffet and you're actually fetching your own food and merely having beverages brought or plates cleared is it appropriate to tip less. Does that mean the diner waitress only deserves 8%-10% because it isn't a fancy white tablecloth restaurant? Or the waiter in the fine dining restaurant that's done less of the heavy lifting because he has food runners, busser, sommelier and a back waiter doing the work deserves more? The gratuity should be 18-20% and go up from there for exceptional service. Regardless of where you're eating.

My tip average is about 22-30% on any given night. And I think I earn it. I provide sommelier services for a 40 bottle by the glass wine list, waiter service/menu advice/explantions to the bar customers, beer guidance, and mix exceptional cocktails. I had a group of four customers at my bar this evening that ran me ragged, asked all kinds of questions about bourbon, which I calmly educated them about and provided small tastes of our various offerings. Their bill came to $38.50. They gave me two twenties and I placed the $1.50 change back in the check folder and returned it to them. They didn't add anything else and started to walk out. I asked the gentleman that seemed to be the host of the group (and who was the most difficult of them) if there had been a problem with the service or if I had offended them in some way. He looked at me quizzically and I explained that the gratuity seemed to indicate that there had been some failure on my part to please them. He tossed another 3 singles into the folder and seemed embarrassed. He damned well should have been. Their tip was barely 12% even after he "corrected" it. The owner of my restaurant was sitting right there when it happened and applauded me for handling it the way I had. And so did every other customer at the bar that saw how nice I'd been to them even when they were condescending and difficult. Some nights there ought to be an automatic gratuity on every single check. :rolleyes:


Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Katie does this mean you expect 20% plus?

If so should it not be an automatic service charge, rather than a gratuity?

I thought the point about a gratuity was that it was voluntary, and you get what you are given.

Let me see, I go to an establishment and accept the goods and services offered. I pay the amount asked, so fulfilling the advertised contract. I now have to do a side deal for an addiional 20%? In my European view the service is part of the services I contract for when I agree to pay the the price advertised by the bar or restaurant.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Katie does this mean you expect 20% plus?

If so should it not be an automatic service charge, rather than a gratuity?

I thought the point about a gratuity was that it was voluntary, and you get what you are given.

My 20+% is a gratuity. Don't forget I live in Philly which Zagat has named as the best tipping city in the nation. Except for that party of four at my bar earlier this evening, apparently. :rolleyes: I feel I provide the service to warrant it. Given the wage structure for waitstaff/bartenders (and again, I didn't create the system, I just make my living in it) I think an 18-20% gratuity is about the norm. By arguing that the gratuity is "voluntary" and that service staff should "take what they get" is missing the point. There are cultural norms in this country and the days of the 15% gratuity are somewhat passed.

The "service charge" or "autograt" policy and percentage are set by the restaurant management, not the server. But why should it be any less than the usual customary percentage? If it's to cover the extra effort of a larger party in theory it ought to be more, no? I think nickel and diming the server rather than making an appropriate complaint to management (if there's something legitimate to complain about) is never the answer.


Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'm not arguing about the percentage.

I'm arguing it is not advertised as part of the price and the implied contract - printed on the menus for example. "The server requires an additional 20% after tax"

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I'm not going to argue with you over how illogical the system is. I'd rather make a higher hourly wage and get an average 10% gratuity that really tells me I'm doing a great job. The "implied" gratuity percentage here is what it is. It is part of the system. Before I travel to another country I research what the norms and customs are. I expect others to do the same. And I really expect natives to know better. If you refuse to tip the cultural norms here you will only be branded as a cheapskate and an ignoramus. Sorry. That's just how it is. No one prints it on the menus. It's simply how it is.


Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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In my view (IANAL) you are on doubtful legal ground without an advertised notice, or even a notice the "Gratuiities in this bar are 20%". There is quite a lot of law (at least here) about hotels, bars restaurants and inns having to display their prices outside so the traveller can make an informed choice before entering. I expect your establishemnt has a menu card box or the like outside.

As staff you should pressure your management to at least exhibiting a notice so that you have some basis for your request. Or put your own handwritten notice on the bar.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Good luck with that. Let me how that works out for you. That's an awful lot of menus to change.

You're pushing a rock uphill that doesn't require any pushing. And yet will still roll backward and crush you needlessly. Whatever. :shrug:

I'm done talking in circles. I'm going to bed now.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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When I take the $145 to the server, she says, "...and eighty-seven cents?..." rather expectantly, as if she's somehow *owed* this amount.  Keeping my composure, I explain, "Well, since the tip has already been included without our being consulted, I think we're just going to let that eighty-seven cents go."

If the real issue for you is you didin't think the level of service matched the charge, why did you not take the lead at the time you paid? You didn't give her the bill and your cash and say, "we're not happy about the gratuity being added to the bill without prior notice. The gratuity is short 87 cents, and we're not inclined to make it up since we didn't feel the service tonight warranted 20%."

Instead, you waited for her to figure it out and then you're telling us you kept your composure as you responded to her? Sounds like you were spoiling for a fight...

Did you really not expect her to say anything to you?

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I'm done talking in circles.  I'm going to bed now.

You're only talking in circles because you are convinced you are right. Some of your points border on ridiculous, others are complete hyperbole. If it is your opinion that these diners entered into a contract, entitling the server to 20%, what about the other side of the contract, where the server is expected to fulfill basic services? Oh wait, she is a server, so she can do no wrong. She is hard-worker, exploited, and underpaid. Clearly she deserves 20% when she only provides 5% worth of service. Your point of view as a server is inhibiting your ability to see both sides of the story.

I wonder how many people, when realizing they were 87 cents short, would call over management and explain that they weren't going to pay the arbitrary 20% gratuity because the service didn't warrant it, but instead were going to pay 87 cents less. I'm fairly certain most people would just pay the 145 and leave it at that.


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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In my view (IANAL) you are on doubtful legal ground without an advertised notice, or even a notice the "Gratuiities in this bar are 20%". There is quite a lot of law (at least here) about hotels, bars restaurants and inns having to display their prices outside so the traveller can make an informed choice before entering.  I expect your establishemnt has a menu card box or the like outside.

As staff you should pressure your management to at least exhibiting a notice so that you have some basis for your request. Or put your own handwritten notice on the bar.

That's not necessary. All diners know wait staff expect tips. All wait staff know diners expect to make a decision on tipping. There's an old saying, "The only law is the law of public opinion." Tipping is a law in the US.

The world is crazy enough without further legislating wait staff tips.

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Its not a law, its a custom.

Of course being the US you only get locals I suppose. Many other places in the world have different customs.

I don't know the going rate, last time I was in the US 10% was normal. The IRS http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/indust...d=98401,00.html seem to assume 8% of turnover. Perhaps someone should tell them its now 20%

In Europe things are different. Here is an extract from a London Club regulations:

"Members are reminded that it is contrary to Rule 33 to give personally a gratuity to any Club staff. The appropriate way in which to show appreciation is by contribution to the Staff Holiday and Christmas Funds."


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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. . . I didn't stiff her, and in my opinion, as a table, *we* didn't stiff her.  I'll agree that, somewhere down the line, one or two of my compatriots didn't ante up, and that's wrong...on them.
It's common for a restaurant to include a gratuity for larger tables. . .

I thought these two comments dovetailed nicely. As someone who has often been "in charge" of taking large groups to restaurants, I have observed two things about large groups:

1. It is common for large groups to drive up the total cost of the bill. There will always be someone who guzzles through 5 beers when everyone else is having 2, and things like "one more bottle of wine for the table" can always sound like a good idea when the connection between the added cost and each diner's wallet isn't as clear as it is with smaller groups. In my experience, the extent of a restaurant bill is almost always a surprise to the members of the group, most of whom expect it to be considerably smaller. This is how places like rodizios make their money.

2 It is common for members of large groups to be cheap when making their contributions, and you almost always end up short if you leave it up to each individual to decide how much they will kick in. The guy who went through those 5 beers will never pay twice as much as the guy who only had one, and the people who had a glass or two of that extra bottle of wine usually won't feel it's their responsibility since they weren't the ones who actually ordered it (and, of course, the person who ordered it also won't feel it's his responsibility, since other people drank from the bottle). And, of course, some people are just cheap and believe this is a context where they can get away with it. It's also common for large groups to be cheap because of my observation #1 above: the bill is higher than they expected it to be. As a result, when managing these groups myself I always added 20% and then told each person what they would be paying -- making sure that I charged the heavy drinkers more than the light drinkers.

These two reasons are why restaurants add a service or gratuity charge to the bill for large groups: because, if they didn't, the server would end up getting stiffed 90% of the time. As other people have observed, serving one 12 top can be considerably more work than serving two 4 tops and two 2 tops, and the risk is a lot greater. Adding the mandatory gratuity charge is standard because, without it, restaurants in the US system simply wouldn't be able to serve large parties. Arguing about the word that is used (if the menu says "service charge" it's okay, but not if it says "gratuity") is nothing more than nitpicking -- everyone knows what it means. Trying to wiggle out of the responsibility because the menu says "gratuity" is... well... simply an excuse for being miserly.

I don't know the going rate, last time I was in the US 10% was normal.

I think you'll find that a lot of things in the US have changed since 1973.

The IRS seem to assume 8% of turnover. Perhaps someone should tell them its now 20%

That is a misrepresentation of the IRS's policies on reporting tip income. Employers are required to report tip income to the IRS for tax withholding purposes with respect to their waitstaff and other tipped employees (all of whom are paid at a rate substantially lower than minimum wage because it is assumed that they make the bulk of their income from tips). When reporting such tip income, the amount reported may not be less than 8% of total receipts.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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phlox, do not be too hard on jackal, the European system is much different from the US. Waitstaff actually make a salary and tips are for exceptional over the top service. What you describe is a typical night for ANY server anywhere.

Jackal and I have been over this, he understands the system in the United States, but does not tip, ever while in the united states, because he disagrees with the system. There is a previous thread where he explains his thoughts on it.

Between understanding the system and not tipping because you don't agree with the system, and not paying the 87 cents, people are really unforgiving of wait staff. Walk a mile in their shoes.

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Jackal and I have been over this, he understands the system in the United States, but does not tip, ever while in the united states, because he disagrees with the system.

In other words, it's a justification for being cheap. Unconscionable.

Personally, I don't believe in the UK system that says customers should pay for the meals they order if they do not feel it's worth the price advertised. So when I'm there, I just leave whatever I feel the meal was worth (always much less than the amount of the bill, since those Londoners are notorious overchargers) on the table and slip out the back door when no one is watching.


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Talking to the manager about the 5% discrepancy in the mandatory "gratuity" as stated on the menu vs. the amount actually charged would have been a good thing.

Informing the management of the lackadaisical service would also have been a good idea.

Not paying even a little of the check without having done the above is unacceptable IMHO.

87 cents.... Sheesh.

:huh:


Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Its not a law, its a custom.

Of course being the US you only get locals I suppose. Many other places in the world have different customs.

I don't know the going rate, last time I was in the US 10% was normal. The IRS http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/indust...d=98401,00.html seem to assume 8% of turnover. Perhaps someone should tell them its now 20%

If the IRS considers it it's way much more than a custom.

The only law is the law of public opinion.

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My 20+% is a gratuity.  Don't forget I live in Philly which Zagat has named as the best tipping city in the nation.  Except for that party of four at my bar earlier this evening, apparently.  :rolleyes:  I feel I provide the service to warrant it.  Given the wage structure for waitstaff/bartenders (and again, I didn't create the system, I just make my living in it) I think an 18-20% gratuity is about the norm.  By arguing that the gratuity is "voluntary" and that service staff should "take what they get" is missing the point.  There are cultural norms in this country and the days of the 15% gratuity are somewhat passed.

Katie, Your comment here touches on one of my pet peeves about tipping. The standard tip has forever been 15% until recent years when it has crept up to 18% or even 20%. How is the increase in the standard tip justified?

Is it because service has gotten better? I don't think so, if anything as part of the overall dining experience I feel service has declined in recent years.

Is it because of inflation and the rising cost of living? If this is true then the servers cost of living adjustment would come from the fact that the price of dining out has risen as fast (or faster many cases) so the standard 15% tip would be based on a larger bill, thus the servers income should rise in proportion.

Since neither of these appear to be the reason for the increase in the standard can't I'm not sure what is. The diners as well as others that work in the restaurant (back of a house etc.) have been lucky to see their salaries keep up with the rising cost of living. Why should servers who in many cases see a higher level of income than most of the restaurant staff expect their salary to grow faster than the cost of living is rising?

I won't even get into the topic of mandatory gratuity since I also have very strong feelings on that topic also.


I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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As a proportion of income, the cost of living has risen far more for people in lower income brackets -- which includes plenty of people making their living waiting tables. I also don't agree that the cost of restaurant dining has increased commensurate with the cost of living, or even necessarily with inflation overall.


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I'm done talking in circles.  I'm going to bed now.

You're only talking in circles because you are convinced you are right. Some of your points border on ridiculous, others are complete hyperbole. If it is your opinion that these diners entered into a contract, entitling the server to 20%, what about the other side of the contract, where the server is expected to fulfill basic services? Oh wait, she is a server, so she can do no wrong. She is hard-worker, exploited, and underpaid. Clearly she deserves 20% when she only provides 5% worth of service. Your point of view as a server is inhibiting your ability to see both sides of the story.

I wonder how many people, when realizing they were 87 cents short, would call over management and explain that they weren't going to pay the arbitrary 20% gratuity because the service didn't warrant it, but instead were going to pay 87 cents less. I'm fairly certain most people would just pay the 145 and leave it at that.

Actually, I'm not the one talking in circles. My points are very clear. If you choose not to understand them because it gives you no grounds on which to attack me that is your choice. It's semantic whether we call it a gratuity or a service charge. And I think the overwhelming level of agreement with my points vs. yours makes it pretty obvious who is "right".

If the service was sub-par then the appropriate response was to bring it up with management. Instead they chose to short-change the waiter. It's ridiculous that anyone would attempt to defend those actions without having taken the steps to explain their displeasure to the waitress (instead of assuming she'd simply understand why someone wouldn't pay the total stated on their bill like everyone else does) or confront a manager both with the percentage discrepancy on the menu vs. the check and to explain exactly why their service didn't warrant any service charge, regardless of the clearly stated policy on the menu.

At no point have I said "the waitress can do no wrong". If the service was substandard then do the right thing. We've all explained what that was to death here. "Most people" would have done that, not been too cowardly to deal with situation the right way. Shaking down the cheap assed friends might have been a good strategy too.

The standard tip has forever been 15% until recent years when it has crept up to 18% or even 20%. How is the increase in the standard tip justified?

Women now routinely leave their homes with their bra straps showing. I don't understand that either, nor can I explain it. It's simply a cultural norm that has evolved over time. The standard tip is now 18-20%. Perhaps it's tied to inflation and cost of living, perhaps it's a leftover after effect of the dot-com boom. I don't know. Certainly my $2.87/hr. hasn't gone up in years. If one recognizes that the norm is now different, then why would they tip less? Simply disagreeing with it isn't enough. As Sam said, that's merely a justification for miserly behavior. I'm pretty certain most salaried individuals have seen at least a slight increase or raise in their pay levels whether or not it's kept up with inflation. And they most certainly aren't relying on the kindness of strangers to make their rent. Does a server or bartender have to earn it? Absolutely. But choosing not to pay it for any of the reasons that have been stated so far is unconscionable. I don't agree that doctors and lawyers should make as much money as they do, but I'm forced to pay my bill when it arrives for their services. And many times they aren't very nice either.


Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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2 things hit me:

1) you took your displeasure out on the wrong person. The waitress, who probably hasn't been trained to love, honor and respect her profession, looked at the check and saw you were .87cents short. She has to account for the money, and it's a reflex to say, maybe you made a mistake, the bill is 'x' amount.

Your problems with the tip and/or the service should have been taken up with management. The need, the custom, the existence of tipping is altogether another discussion.

2) someone in your party didn't ante up.

IF your problem is with the percentage of the tip, that's a great topic for discussion and Katie makes a clear case for the situation in the US.

IF your problem is that service is a dying art in the US: that's a valid topic for discussion.

IF you question automatic gratuity: excellent topic.

But, to Flo or Candy the waitress, who works at the Mexican joint, has a baby, sore feet and a demanding boyfriend, you were just .87cents short.

You make valid points, but choose wisely with whom, and where you stake your battles. Life is far too short and precious.

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The problem with this for me is that the printed bill was 145.87, and you paid less. Simple as that. It was printed on the bill -- if you didn't agree, go to the manager. If it was on the bill "it is suggested that large parties add an additional 20%, and this is what the bill would be with 20% extra", then sure you can be the one who leaves nothing extra.

And jackal, once I read through those other threads about your ideas on tipping, I just figured it would be best to ignore your posts altogether.


Rico

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Yet the harried waitperson making about one third of minimum wage plus tips that got your order correct, and made sure all of the food for your large party came out at once should have to suck it up and take hard earned money out of their own pocket ??

Comments like this one imply that you see the waitress as someone who can do no wrong. Without even knowing the full details behind the level of service, you feel it is your right to assume that she was an excellent server, providing above average service. What made you think that she was deserving of 20%??

How often do you ask to speak to management when 87 cents worth of your experience is not quite right. I'm sure it's all the time.

And as for the fact that "you must be right because everyone agrees with you", you can save that BS for someone else. A few people on eGullet is hardly a representation of what people really think. Not to mention, it's probably easier for people to speak out against the OP actions, which would invite more posts. Not everybody is willing to take the side of dissent, just like most people don't speak up when the manager or waiter asks how everything is. The wonderful Zagat's is full of "well though out" "opinions" of "people who think everything is great" "even when it isn't"

But, in the end, I'm sure none of this will change your mind since you are always right.


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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