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Mark Sommelier

Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)

597 posts in this topic

Seth, as a musician, I disagree with the idea that kids shouldn't be brought to concerts. Kids are the audience of tomorrow and should be introduced to live music.

As a bad amatuer musician, I completely agree that children must be introduced to music as early and as often as possible, and I never meant to suggest otherwise. There are many concert settings designed with children in mind or held in places (i.e., outdoors) appropriate for children of any age. When I made reference to the "concert hall," I meant to evoke more formal concert settings. The concert I was remembering was a piano recital at Carnegie Hall. There was a young child who behaved remarkably, even astonishingly well. But he still fidgeted throughout the first half of the show, and often whispered this or that to his mother. These were distractions from Maurizio Pollini's wonderful performance, and I'll never get that performance back.

Sorry for the off-topic chat.


"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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One dining situation where children seem to fit in well is dim sum restaurants, especially the large places with a continuous flow of carts. There's enough general din that even if kids get noisy, it just blends in. And if a child starts to cry, a parent can take him or her outside for a while and resume eating later without missing much, if anything. But there is one very high end dim sum place in town, and I have never seen young kids there.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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I work in a small restaurant in Saratogo, NY that the owner has taking alot of pride in the childrens menu which is not often seen. Not a chicken nugget in sight. If we do not teach are children about fine food and farm fresh ingredients then the next generation will know nothing other then McDonalds and Taco Bell.

RR

Robert, the no-chicken-nuggets kids menu sounds fascinating. Can you share a couple of items on the menu with us?

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Having been married to a person who regularly pulled passive-aggressive stunts designed to inconvenience people, preventing them from objecting without looking bad, I have a little experience with the type.

Things like this happen.

perhaps you're overly sensitive to this type of thing then? we agree that it's certainly not the majority, and i can't imagine the percentage of people who are doing this as a "power" play is significant at all. probably about the same percentage as the people who drive SUVs because they have a small penis. it's an interesting theory, and yeah, maybe a few people with small penises have bought SUVs, but probably not as many as people want to think.


Edited by tommy (log)

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Although the anti-SUV lobby would have you believe that behind the wheel of every SUV is a prick.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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I just knew when I started to read this topic that it would be one that would turn my face beet red before I was done. As I do have very strong opinions on this subject. I believe we tend to see chicken tenders on childrens menu's in restaurants because we as parents have pretty much instilled in the mind of restaurant owners that this is what are children want to eat.

Pretty much my opinion is in the same ballpark as docsconz.

Should babys be in high end restaurants? Well that depends upon the parents. If you are the type of parent who believes that everybody around you should tolerate a crying baby while dining, then likely not. My youngest daughter Brianna, now two has already been to: Babbo, Django in Philly, when she was a infant. While most of the time she slept threw the meals, there were moments when she started to cry that I had to step outside to soothe her. But that is daddys job? Isn't it? If I wished to sit in a restaurant and ignore my crying child then maybe I should not of had children. My other children Robbie 13, and Renee 11, have been dining in fine restaurants most of their life. At Babbo my son started with the lambs tongue salad. Then went on to the calfs brain ravioli, and Rabbit alla Cacciatora, and loved every mouthful. He and I also dined at Blue Hill last year. Which was one of the finest meals we have ever had together. I have no doubt it was a outing with his dad that he will never forget. Dan Barber told me personally that it was a inspiration for him to see my son enjoying his meal so much. My son will also be my dining companion at Per Se when it opens, which we are looking forward too.

I work in a small restaurant in Saratogo, NY that the owner has taking alot of pride in the childrens menu which is not often seen. Not a chicken nugget in sight. If we do not teach are children about fine food and farm fresh ingredients then the next generation will know nothing other then McDonalds and Taco Bell.

RR

I am not sure why you are turning red?

You have spent a lot of time and effort with your children. I agree that dining with a well trained and disciplined child is a delight not often surpassed. From the time he was about 12, my son enjoyed being "in charge" of dinner when he, his older sister and I traveled together. He chose the restaurant, made the reservations and escorted "his ladies" to the table. He asked intelligent questions of the wait staff. We had intelligent discussions about the food. I think he also enjoyed the astonished looks of the staff and other diners. :laugh:

Now... If you had your kids into a restaurant before they were ready for that particular experience... and they caused a disturbance.. and you ignored it... and justified it as their getting "experience"... and I was there... You likely still have the dagger scars from my stares.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Well, here was the specific scenario last night: Couple number 1 arrives with infant, toddler and granny in tow. They are shown to a small semi-private room in the restaurant where the infant immediately starts wailing and the toddler starts unpacking toys on the floor and singing. Couple number 2 arrives, also with infant and toddler and granny. They are shown to an adjacent table. Mother comes flying to the hostess stand where she complains that the other children are making noise. She is then shown to another alcove in the restaurant where her children can now start wailing and singing without being bothered by the other children. At one point in the evening, it seemed the children at both tables were communicating in screams "I've got this part covered, too". The daddy in the main dining room picks up the infant and starts slowly strolling THROUGH THE RESTAURANT, oblivious to the 4 food runners, 6 waiters, 2 sommeliers, and other 80 customers. This is in contrast to the night before when an African diplomat brought his family, including 3 small children. They sat perfectly poised at the table. The maitre d' offered children items to the parents, pasta and such. He was astonished when the littlest boy said in perfect French "I want the lamb. I really like lamb". It was a rough night.


Mark

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Having been married to a person who regularly pulled passive-aggressive stunts designed to inconvenience people, preventing them from objecting without looking bad, I have a little experience with the type.

Things like this happen.

perhaps you're overly sensitive to this type of thing then? we agree that it's certainly not the majority, and i can't imagine the percentage of people who are doing this as a "power" play is significant at all. probably about the same percentage as the people who drive SUVs because they have a small penis. it's an interesting theory, and yeah, maybe a few people with small penises have bought SUVs, but probably not as many as people want to think.

I think the SUV/penis analogy is not a good one. (Although, I have noticed that as SUVs gain greater market penetration, the drivers seem to becoming less aggressive and more passive-aggressive.) A better analogy is that of the SUV in the left (or center) lane driving at 50 mph, with the driver who gets aggravated that other cars pass on the right. Or the "friend" or associate who is always late and always makes you wait, because their own time is too valuable to be spent waiting. Or the person who savages a cashier because of the store's policies. Or someone who cuts you off to take a parking space, when there's a more convenient one they could have gotten, but that you can't get to.

I think that, according to their mental scheme, in doing all these things they get "points".

This is one reason why what seems to you to be not really so much fun (taking your own ill-behaved children out to a nice restaurant) might be plenty of fun for someone else.

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I'm beginning to wonder if this is a cultural thing. Thinking back, I cannot recall one instance of small children in a high end restaurant in Canada or anywhere in Europe or Mexico. Or India.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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Well, here was the specific scenario last night: Couple number 1 arrives with infant, toddler and granny in tow. They are shown to a small semi-private room in the restaurant where the infant immediately starts wailing and the toddler starts unpacking toys on the floor and singing. Couple number 2 arrives, also with infant and toddler and granny. They are shown to an adjacent table. Mother comes flying to the hostess stand where she complains that the other children are making noise. She is then shown to another alcove in the restaurant where her children can now start wailing and singing without being bothered by the other children. At one point in the evening, it seemed the children at both tables were communicating in screams "I've got this part covered, too". The daddy in the main dining room picks up the infant and starts slowly strolling THROUGH THE RESTAURANT, oblivious to the 4 food runners, 6 waiters, 2 sommeliers, and other 80 customers. This is in contrast to the night before when an African diplomat brought his family, including 3 small children. They sat perfectly poised at the table. The maitre d' offered children items to the parents, pasta and such. He was astonished when the littlest boy said in perfect French "I want the lamb. I really like lamb". It was a rough night.

Um... 80 other customers versus 2 small groups that are a real PITA... Not much of a contest there. The one complaining about the other is a prime example of the self-absorbed navel-gazers I was talking about. And wandering through the dining room with a screaming baby? That would have been the last straw, if just on the safety issues. The kids playing on the floor aren't exactly a safety measure, either. I don't think I would WANT them to come back.

Also no mystery why the diplomat is a diplomat, is there? And he is obviously passing his skills along to his children. Admirable.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Having been married to a person who regularly pulled passive-aggressive stunts designed to inconvenience people, preventing them from objecting without looking bad, I have a little experience with the type.

Things like this happen.

perhaps you're overly sensitive to this type of thing then? we agree that it's certainly not the majority, and i can't imagine the percentage of people who are doing this as a "power" play is significant at all. probably about the same percentage as the people who drive SUVs because they have a small penis. it's an interesting theory, and yeah, maybe a few people with small penises have bought SUVs, but probably not as many as people want to think.

I think the SUV/penis analogy is not a good one.

i was using the analogy to point out that the percentage where it holds true is probably insignificant. although sometimes i have little faith in the human race and assume the worst as well. other times i think they couldn't get a baby-sitter.

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Well, here was the specific scenario last night: Couple number 1 arrives with infant, toddler and granny in tow. They are shown to a small semi-private room in the restaurant where the infant immediately starts wailing and the toddler starts unpacking toys on the floor and singing. Couple number 2 arrives, also with infant and toddler and granny. They are shown to an adjacent table. Mother comes flying to the hostess stand where she complains that the other children are making noise. She is then shown to another alcove in the restaurant where her children can now start wailing and singing without being bothered by the other children. At one point in the evening, it seemed the children at both tables were communicating in screams "I've got this part covered, too". The daddy in the main dining room picks up the infant and starts slowly strolling THROUGH THE RESTAURANT, oblivious to the 4 food runners, 6 waiters, 2 sommeliers, and other 80 customers. This is in contrast to the night before when an African diplomat brought his family, including 3 small children. They sat perfectly poised at the table. The maitre d' offered children items to the parents, pasta and such. He was astonished when the littlest boy said in perfect French "I want the lamb. I really like lamb". It was a rough night.

While I think that you made a nice start sticking them in an out of the way place, I think that the moment that the child was placed on the floor with a handful of toys that it was incumbent on the restaurant to gently tell the parents that this was not acceptable and that if the toys were an important part of the meal, perhaps they should consider other dining arrangements for the evening.

"Excuse me sir, but we have safety and insurance issues with children playing on the floor. Do you think that you will be able to control your child and keep him in his chair? If not, you will need to find somewhere else to dine this evening. We certainly appreciate you coming in this evening, but some because of safety and health reasons we will not be able to allow your children to play on the floor and out of concern for our other patrons we will need your children to behave at the table. I am sure that you understand"

Next, right after they finish yelling at you and telling you how their children are better than the other kids-You grab Dad and throw him out on his ass. His family is sure to follow him out of the door and the problem will be solved and you will be a hero to the other diners and to your staff :wacko::laugh:

If reservations are difficult, maybe you could have offered to give them another at a time when the children could have been elsewhere?

It is a very difficult thing. Seats are hard to fill and every cover counts, but on the other hand it is just as difficult to get repeats and a screaming child unchecked by anyone is a good way to make sure that some of your other customers will not return.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Other diners have likely reserved a lot of money for a special night out, and they don't want to hear your kid screaming, even for a second.  They don't need the stress of WORRYING that your kid might start behaving badly and ruin their special night.  It isn't fair to them. 

This is ridiculous -- the idea that I shouldn't bring my well-behaved children to a restaurant because other customers might be worried that they might misbehave. Bad behaviour is inappropriate whether from adults or children -- we all agree. Beyond that I don't see why there should be special rules for children -- I have had more meals disrupted by noisy drunk businessman bragging about themselves than by children. I think restaurants should feel free to throw out disruptive customers whether they are adults or children.

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Childless here.

Happy to have a childhood where dining out was a regular event. I believe (memory may be faulty) that the 3 kids were well behaved in the restaurants. We knew these were special events, we were taught respect. Spent a lot of time in Las Vegas, when it was still an adult environment - and went to the shows to see Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Carol Channing, Juliet Prowse, etc. The staff usually gave us great seats (and service), we dressed up (far more than I ever do these days) and ate from the full menu. Same with dinners close to home.

So, I've never understood the contemporary child in restaurant syndrome with tantrums, toys, etc. I am always impressed with the adult who takes the squirming child outside for a break, or asks for their meal to be packed up to go, when they realize the kid isn't going to settle down. And even more impressed when someone from the restaurant offers to take the child into a back room to be entertained so that the adults can eat a meal in peace. But a parent, I can imagine, might have mixed feelings about that.

I know children who have managed to be good diners from very early on. I know parents who chose not to take their kids to nice restaurants since the kids don't sit still.

I don't think it is necessary to ban children from restaurants, but I think it is reasonable to have a written policy on what to do if any diner is disruptive, which would cover children as well as drunks, fighters, and others.

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I'm in the camp that has a child (now an adult), truly enjoys being around young children and babies (when they're not being totally obnoxious) and also sympathizes with folks who find that having young ones radically alters their life but hey... YOU SIGNED UP FOR IT. I eat out in high end resaturants only on rare occasions and consider them (the restaurants) to be appropriate for adult experience. There may be the occasional baby or toddler who is so remarkably well behaved that they could be taken into almost any environment and not be a distraction for other diners but those kids are and exception.

Regardless.... if this practice becomes a problem at any estabishment it's on the proprietors to establish and enforce the ground rules. I'd put up with the toys on the floor and whining and crying of young patrons only once before voting with my wallet and dining elsewhere in the future.

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This is ridiculous -- the idea that I shouldn't bring my well-behaved children to a restaurant because other customers might be worried that they might misbehave. Bad behaviour is inappropriate whether from adults or children -- we all agree. Beyond that I don't see why there should be special rules for children -- I have had more meals disrupted by noisy drunk businessman bragging about themselves than by children.  I think restaurants should feel free to throw out disruptive customers whether they are adults or children.

People who have saved for a special night out aren't going to be happy about seeing a toddler seated next to them. It's going to detract from their evening, because enough parents have been inconsiderate enough to bring ill-behaved children to fancy restaurants. A group of businessmen can be controlled by a restaurant before they get drunk and disorderly, and if the restaurant fails at exercising this control, the restaurant should take some blame for the situation. But the restaurant can't do much about the toddler once he or she is in the door.

Again, I'm not talking about your average restaurant. I'm talking about very expensive, fancy restaurants. And I'm not talking about pre-pubescent but mature kids who can be dressed up and told about how special a place is, etc. I'm talking about toddlers.


Edited by SethG (log)

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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People who have saved for a special night out aren't going to be happy about seeing a toddler seated next to them.  It's going to detract from their evening, because enough parents have been inconsiderate enough to bring ill-behaved children to fancy restaurants. 

They might not be happy about seeing a black man being seated next to them. Or a group of American tourists. So what? I am not interested in people's prejudices -- the important thing is how individuals behave. I don't see why well-behaved children should not be allowed into fancy restaurants just because some children are badly behaved, any more than we should ban all Americans from Arpege just because someone ordered a Coke there once.

Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the drift :wink:

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This thread has certainly provided a lot of interesting fodder for discussion. As a parent who likes to expose his kids to the finer things in life, I agree that it is imperative that their behavior must be able to stand up to the experience or the experience no longer is one of the finer things in life either for me, them or the other patrons.

I also agree that a restaurant or other primarily adult-oriented experience such as a show should have general groundrules for any disruptive patron, adult or not. It is wrong IMO, however, to discriminate entirely on the basis of age.

If a parent wants to bring a child into that environment it is his or her responsibility to make sure it will be a positive experience for all concerned in so much as that is ever possible. Some things to help this happen may be as posted above, earlier seatings, no tasting menus unless the child is truly up for it (One of the best and most enjoyable dining experiences I've ever had was sharing a tasting menu with my wife and then 12yo son at Susur in Toronto. That was the meal that really opened up the world of fine dining for him) and judicious restaurant selection.

As far as what restaurants can do, I think the best thing would be to expedite service to any table with young children or where there is some indication of possible disruptive behavior. The bigest problem with younger children in a restaurant is one of patience and boredom. While the meals there are not geared for rapid turnover, increased pacing can solve a lot of problems. The worst thing is to ignore the table or slow down service.

On a side note I hate chidren's menus in finer restaurants. They just encourage bringing in children without an interest in the food and they sidetrack those children developing a burgeoning interest in good food.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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High End Restaurants on occasion serve a bad meal, which normally are dealt with on the spot, in an explicit, manner. This should be expected to happen from time to time, as no one, or thing is perfect, 100 percent of the time.

On the other hand, consumers need to respect the nature of an establishment, serving high end food, and service. The restraurant has the obligation, to deal with customers who intrude on not only the service of other paying patroons, but also the ambience and atmosphere, which one would normally expect to recieve as a patroon.

ie; I don't care if the individual is 2 or 92 yrs old. Dont "f" with my dining pleasure.

woodburner

edited for age discrimination


Edited by woodburner (log)

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The few posts above this one indicate to me that we really need to differentiate between "youngsters" (10 and above maybe?) and toddlers and infants. They are entirely different people. The older kids are capable of reason and control... IF they have been taught. Younger children are not. They are still in the "learning" mode and cannot be trusted under all circumstances where tedium and fatigue can exacerbate the situation. I had delightful experiences with my kids from maybe 8 or 9 on in fairly high end restaurants (not necessarily the top end) but would have been reluctant to include them any younger.

Unfortunately, I have been in situations where even 12 year olds behaved abominably. That is definitely the parents' fault.

If I am a diner in a high end restaurant and I see a "youngster" at a neighboring table, I am not too worried about the situation. If I see a toddler, I am likely to request another table or simply leave.

BTW... Dim Sum is great fun with children. It is normally a family affair in a bustling room and an excellent way to start younger children on dining "out".


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I think even younger children can appreciate fine dining although it is unusual. I think they must be "trained" first. Parents shouldn't start out at the top, but they should start dining out with children at an early age in appropriate restaurants - dim sum is a good example as are various family restaurants- with good behavior always being stressed and gradually advancing them as their behavior allows. Sometimes a child's behavior may never allow for graduation beyond McDonald's, but when it does, it is a special thing, especially if the parents are genuinely interested in food and respect it and from whence it comes. I said earlier my 4yo is certainly not ready for prime time nor are we with him, although he is actually pretty well-behaved and a good diner in "family" oriented restaurants. My wife and I like to enjoy our meals as well.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Mark, I strongly believe that management can, and should, ask that a disruptive child be removed from the dining room until the child's behavior is appropriate. Whatever ill will you might create with the child's family will be more than compensated by the appreciation (and potential return visits) of the other diners. If the family refuses to do so, they should be asked to leave. Comp part of the check if necessary. I mean, what would management do if two adults kept up a screaming argument or insisted on wandering uninvited from table to table? I also think it's perfectly ok for a restaurant to set whatever policy they would like concerning children, although I would focus on behavior rather than an age limit.

I agree with this entirely...

I also have a suggestion on how to acclimate your children to fine dining establishments. First, set up a special date with ONE child. Tell him that you will be going here with him on this date, he will need to wear " a tie and fancy shoes" (which is our family code for dressing up) and try to couple it with an event he would enjoy. For some children, this can start at ten. My daughter would love to put on her fancy dresses, and we would bring only her to see the Nutcracker, and then to a white table cloth restaurant. During this dinner,t here would be very specific instructions and reminders. Since there were no sibs around, she would be receptive and interested in the menu, atmosphere, etc. Takes about three "one on ones", and the kid's get it. My youngest started the process at about 12, and this year at almost 14, Mom and son dined at Lahiere's in Princeton, a stuffy old club restaurant, but formal and elegant, and then saw " A Christmas Carol". He was a gentleman, a fine and interesting dining companion, and he even paid for my coffee at the theater!

And , to come full circle to the specific subject, my son commented on the trerrible behavior of two 6 year olds in the restaurant, and wondered why the restaurant did not tell their parents to leave! :laugh:

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They might not be happy about seeing a black man being seated next to them. Or a group of American tourists. So what? I am not interested in people's prejudices -- the important thing is how individuals behave. I don't see why well-behaved children should not be allowed into fancy restaurants just because some children are badly behaved, any more than we should ban all Americans from Arpege just because someone ordered a Coke there once.

I think there is a tremendous difference between racial prejudices and "age" discrimination -- in this case unruly children in high-end, fine dining.

The key, at least for me, is the propensity of a child to misbehave. As I noted above, children become crabby and tired, which may very well be a child that 99.999999% of the time is an absolute angel with their track record of public behaviour. Well rested, excited and enthusiastic children can become overbearing as well, just to the brink of another diner being made uncomfortable.

I for one, do not appreciate the exaggeration being applied here.

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I'd be interested in seeing whether there are similar experiences to Mark's at places like FL, CT, JG and ADNY -- over the course of a year.

Maybe a blog is in order. :hmmm:

Soba

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Good point. I wonder what "policies" some of these places have.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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