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Mark Sommelier

Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)

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The only restaurant that we didn't bring our kids to last week in DC was Citronelle. I want to enjoy my meal, too. Our 15 and 13y/o's would have enjoyed it, but they were needed to babysit for our 5y/o. The other restaurants we chose because they had reputations for great food (well deserved), but less formal and less time consuming. We were confident that the 5y/o could and would handle them and he did. We will be facing a similar situation in Paris this summer. I am planning mostly bistro fare, but I do intend to do at least one restaurant along the lines of Pierre Gagnaire. Obviously, we won't bring the 5y/o. Unfortunately, one of the other boys will need to stay behind with him at the apartment.


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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The problem of children being taken to inappropriate places, is more than a restaurant problem. I'm a member of a group of artists who meet monthly and work on projects, and one member often brings her son. Even though he's old enough to behave well, and pretty much does, the other members resent his presence and his use of supplies, since Mama usually insists that the kid participate. At an informal dinner for the members last year, the kid was the first one in line, which was extremely inappropriate, and everyone but Mama could see the steam coming out of the hostess's ears. Whenever this issue is addressed in our (national) e-mail list, the gloves come off and things get really nasty. We haven't found an answer yet, either, although some groups are willing to specify "no children" and just let the chips fall.

I think you would be well within your "rights" to approach the restaurant manager and describe the problem. Perhaps the manager would be willing to set aside restaurant hours or sections for people who wish to engage in child-free dining. Or if the hostess or whoever does the seating understands your preferences ahead of time, surely you will receive cooperation for your request to be seated as far as possible from families with children.

My heart goes out to you, and I hope you are able to find a solution to your problem. I know you're not alone in your feelings.

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Did anyone see the story in Toms chat yesterday about the parents who brought a portable DVD player into a restaurant, plugged it in and let the child watch Toy Story, while they ate a meal - poor kid....

Dinerboy and I were actually seated next to a small child (with three adults) at Rays a few months ago that was watching Monsters, Inc. (I believe) on a small laptop. It didn't bother me, as the sound was very low and I'm a generally easy-going diner who rarely even notices kids. And I don't think anything could have ruined that meal, anyway. But it certainly was the first time I'd seen that. Could it be a new trend?

I can't see how it's good for the kids...

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I think it's the height of absentee parenting. If you're insisting on using the video as a babysitter, bring a pair of earphones for Pete's sake!

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I will say that last Christmas, we were staying with my brother-in-law and his family (wife and 2-year old who's very adept at tantrum throwing when the mood strikes). We wanted to take them out to dinner one night (to a family friendly pizza/brewpub joint) as a thank you. We went early to try to beat the inevitable crowd, and when we got there, it was already mobbed. The wait was going to be at least 30 minutes. They were smart enough and mature enough to realize that Junior was NOT going to be able to manage that, and graciously told us to enjoy our meal, to call them when we were done, and they'd come pick us up. We got them a gift certificate to the place and gave them cash for a babysitter for a night out on their own instead, grateful not to have to listen to Junior have a meltdown.

Now if it had been my brother and his brood, we would have been forced to deal with cranky, hungry kids tugging at our sleeves, whining, and at least one probably kicking or being loud.

Really, isn't it all about the parents? Last time I checked, kids didn't come pre-programmed to behave appropriately for any particular situation, and it's the parents' job to teach them.


"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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The only restaurant that we didn't bring our kids to last week in DC was Citronelle. I want to enjoy my meal, too. Our 15 and 13y/o's would have enjoyed it, but they were needed to babysit for our 5y/o. The other restaurants we chose because they had reputations for great food (well deserved), but less formal and less time consuming. We were confident that the 5y/o could and would handle them and he did. We will be facing a similar situation in Paris this summer. I am planning mostly bistro fare, but I do intend to do at least one restaurant along the lines of Pierre Gagnaire. Obviously, we won't bring the 5y/o. Unfortunately, one of the other boys will need to stay behind with him at the apartment.

If you think you're five year old can handle and enjoy Pierre Gagnaire or a restaurant along those lines, I don't see why not.

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I used to work in a very high end restaurant in Key West, it is no longer there... BUT the owners had an interesting way of keeping unruly children out of the restaurant.

Posted alongside the menu in the box outside was a cartoon (probably from the New Yorker or something) that showed a maitre'd telling a couple with several rambunctious rugrats in tow, that "There are no chicken fingers, no crayons and no children's menu".

It seemed to work.

I love children, but there is a time and a place. Nobody wants their elegant, expensive, romantic etc. dinner ruined by a whining child or cranky baby; especially when you have arranged for your own sitter- to enjoy the night out!

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Really, isn't it all about the parents? Last time I checked, kids didn't come pre-programmed to behave appropriately for any particular situation, and it's the parents' job to teach them.

amen to that. for that last three years, my wife and i haven't hesitated to take our children (now ages 8 and 13) to any restaurant. they order off the adult menu (the 8 year old's favorite is always oysters and the 13 year old cannot get enough raw tuna). often other diners approach us with a comment on how well behaved our children are.

our secret .... (drum roll please) ... we talk with our children throughout the meal. parents need to recognize that if you go out to dinner with your children then that implies that its dinner WITH your children.

of course, other than that, we're awful parents :wink:

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People who are not self aware enough to NOT bring children with bad manners out to dinners are the true horror behind this thread. These people are the thong-crack-low strung jeans people, the nose pickers, and the street spitters of the world. Children are as diverse and differently mannered as we are, and should be approached as such. When you start limiting the patrons who may eneter a restaurant because they "may behave badly" we tread on dangerous ground. In a perfect world; drunks, gobsmackers and people with ugly hair do's would not be allowed in my restaurant. Why? It might ruin my enjoyment of my meal or cause a potential problem. See? poor logic. I feel strongly about this because I was brought to fancy restaurants from the time that I was a child, and it has shaped me immensly. Had my sister or I misbehaved the unspeakable wrath of my mother would have been upon us. All I know was we were always old enough to understand when it was important to behave. There were plenty of times in my youth when we were naughty, but we were brought to understand that the dinner was for us too, and that it was a special treat. I don't remember if we were brought to nicer restaurants as babies but my mother likes to actually eat at dinner so it's rather unlikely.

Should babies be allowed? yes. Should they be asked to leave if they annoy people. Absolutely and so should that guy and that other guy and the other one I hate, it would just be so much quieter and more peaceful that way.


does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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Some of you know, I work in a very high end restaurant. I had the pleasure of working Christmas Eve and Christmas this year. This happens occasionally in our place, but, these two days saw lots of infants. I'm not talking about quiet, sleeping, adorable babies. I mean the kind that are squalling, talking loud, cholicy, throwing food and untensils, and screaming. What do you do? What can you tell these parents? Lots of other clients were visibly unhappy about the noise. People don't expect babies at Daniel, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Trotter's, or my place. What the hell do you do? Can't tell people not to bring babies. Can't throw them out. Real dilemma. What do you think? Have you had an expensive meal ruined by an innocent baby?

Interesting. I had started another topic somewhere else in the forums and it has since been moved...

I don't know WHAT we all can do about it.

Does a co-diner have the right to go over to the disruptive table and tell the people they're upsetting A LOT of other customers? Or are you afraid that would cause MORE problems?

Or is it up to the Restaurant manager to say "We've had a number of complaints from other customers about the disruption at your table. We respectfully ask that you find a way calm things down."

I have gone into stores... especially ones with say expensive china, where they post a sign basically saying that guardians need to keep track of what their children are doing and that if there is any breakage, the guardians will be held financially responsible. Is that an option for restaurant managers/owners? A sign saying that "Children are welcome, but it is expected that they are in good behavior and do not cause disruption for other diners."

And I know this sounds extreme, and it IS... but, there have been a FEW meals where the disruption was so bad, I secretly wished I could hold the parties responsible for the price of my meal. I admit I've day-dreamed about suing them for the cost of our meal. I know that may sound ridiculous -- and I'm not a sue hound by any means, have never sued a soul in my life -- but the sense of frustration and powerlessness to do anything about it did have me fantasizing a bit.

And there's a "reverse" problem doesn't have to be "upscale" either. I remember going into this local "dive", a blues bar that served lunch in the afternoon, sans music, and had blues music at night. So, there's four of us at a table ... and there's a couple with a 4-6 year old boy sitting near us. One of the men at my table was in a particularly funny mood that day ... and yes, the "F" word came out of his mouth about 3 times.

Can you BELIEVE the father asked him to watch his language around his child?? They were in a BLUES BAR for goodness sake. It was a dive with LOTS of "character". The man at my table was silent for a moment and then just turned away from him. I was lucky I was able to keep my mouth shut because now I was "F'n fumin'. :blink::angry::raz::wink:


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. - Maya Angelou

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Its funny how you make your statement then run away from the conversation, isn't it?

Not running away. Just not wasting my time repeating myself on a subject that, to me, has been discussed to death.

Well, since there really hasn't been a real solution to the problem, I doubt it's discussed to death. Restaurant managers and other patrons usually feel powerless to do anything about a disruptive table if the disruption is due to children.

If it were common and even EXPECTED that restaurant managers had the right and SHOULD insist that disruptive families be asked to leave, then the subject would be moot. But, since that's typically not the case, I think it's about time more and more people are speaking up about this very real situation. And hope people continue to do it.

Parents are responsible for their kids when they take them out to eat (and incidentally-once a child is in that range-roughly 2-4- that they cannot control their emotions very well, it is probably better to take them out to someplace that is suited for loud active behavior-not fine dining-that being said, I always enjoy seeing parents out with sleeping babies ) and to teach them to behave. The trick is that they should be able to behave reasonably well BEFORE you take them out to eat. Manners start at home-not the first time they sit down at a public table.

I agree with much of what you say here. But, I think one of the ways parents can teach kids to behave IS to start bringing them to more "refined" situations. The parents need to understand though, that if they're child can't behave, they have to be prepared and willing to pack up and leave. It may be impractical, but it's the reality of the situation and it's not fair to have their children learn at everyone else's expense. Otherwise, you're right. They should just stay home, or get a baby sitter if they can afford one.

I think the REAL issue is that too many parents seem to feel it's everybody else's "duty" to tolerate their children's behavior or conform to their needs.

No, if I'm paying $80 bucks for a meal, I think I have a right to not have it disrupted.


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. - Maya Angelou

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I am aslo somewhat conflicted about women who insisted on breast feeding their child in a high end restaurant.  On one hand, I think it's every woman's right to breast feed their child whenever and whereever she feels like, on the other hand, I find sitting at a table with woman opening breast feeding her child is somewhat embarrassing.  Then again, I don't have any children.

If it quiets the child I'm all for it!! And if I'm embarrased about it, then I'm aware that's MY problem. It's a child who needs food, and the boob provides the food. If I have a problem with that, then I should get over it. After all, I don't have to look if I don't want to.

However, a screaming child is impossible to avoid.


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. - Maya Angelou

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People without children often feel they have to tread lightly on this topic, because they fear they'll seem insensitive.  But since I have two small children, I feel no such trepidation.

You shouldn't bring really small kids to premium restaurants like Daniel in New York, or Mark's place in D.C.  You just shouldn't do it.  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.  If you can afford a night at such a restaurant, you can afford a babysitter.  And if you can't leave your kid with a sitter, there are numerous-- hundreds, thousands, it doesn't matter where you live-- of places you can eat that are very nice and are known to be family-friendly.

I also think Bux's example may be the one exception to the rule I outlined above.  Very small infants-- I mean less than four months old-- often sleep for long stretches of the day.  During such times, I believe it might be acceptable for a parent to bring the child to a premium establishment for lunch or a very early dinner.  But even then, I wouldn't begrudge any super-fancy restaurant the right to say "sorry, no infants."  Restaurants have no reason to trust what parents say about their kids' behavior.

There seems to be a creeping permissiveness towards children (and I mean real youngsters, not 10 or 12 year-olds) in places like high-end restaurants, movie theaters, even (as I saw once, to my extreme displeasure) in concert halls.  I have no patience for this phenomenon.  Parents with young kids are deprived of certain entertainments they once took for granted.  This has always been true.  With time, freedom returns.  In the meantime, there are many ways to seek entertainment and good eating without spoiling others' pleasure.

BEAUTIFULLY stated. Thank you.

As someone who doesn't have a baby, I AM afraid to speak up for fear of being accused of being "unfriendly" to families. I'm not. I'm 1/2 Sicilian. Believe me. Our tradition is to have kids all over the place 99% of the time.

BUT, there are certain times, we hope to get away from that. To have a change of atmosphere. And often a nice restaurant is a place to do that.

It really isn't about being unfriendly towards children/parents. It's about spending a LOT of money on a meal and having it made very unpleasant ... and having NO control over that at all.

For some people, sometimes they're lucky if they've been able to save up enough money to have a romantic dinner at a "fancy" restaurant ONCE every year ... or only on "MAJOR" anniversaries ... only to have a french fry thrown into their creme brulee' from two tables over or listening to a 18 month old sneeze bubbly snot over their high chair.

Geez. Kid and families have Disney World, can't adults at LEAST have "Le Bec Fin"???


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. - Maya Angelou

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Ok, so I'm admitting out loud that I'm not a fan of misbehaving children anywhere, muchless fine dining establishments but I've managed to come up with a way to tolerate crying/whining bratty children that makes my meal a lot more pleasant.

Children only have so much lung capacity, so they'll cry/whine for a while, and then when they run out of air, they'll take a deep breath to commence crying activities. That deep breath is what cracks me up. It reminds me of when kids take sips of drinks, and inevitably, there will always be that "ah!" after they've had their sip, and that too amuses me to no end.

Until the NEXT kid starts the whining and crying.

Besides, at $80 a meal, 30 seconds of having to listen to screaming is more than enough to tolerate.

If there were an ADULT sceaming at the top of their lungs throughout the dinner would you find the humor in that, or would you expect the management to do something about it?

Let's put it this way. In a restaurant with say ... 100 diners. There's ONE kid at a table of four who makes the atmosphere very unpleasant for 96% of the other diners.

Is that reasonable to expect everyone else accomodate the child/family by attempting to ignore the disruption while still paying $80 a person per meal?


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. - Maya Angelou

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Gentle Readers,

This thread is years old, and many heated points have already been made. If you have something new to contribute, please do. However, referring to year-old posts as if they were written last night makes no sense.

Discussing kids at restaurants can easily settle into nasty little camps (see above). Let's face it: the same child can be seen in two very different ways, with parents enjoy their child's babbling and gestures with love and devotion and diners across the dining room watching that tender scene with annoyance and frustration. Neither is right, and neither is wrong.

So let's try to resist that moralistic urge and instead talk about how we might think about solutions to these dilemmas, shall we?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Solution-focused: other than suffering in silence, there are only two things you can really do -- address the parents yourselves, or complain to management. I would complain to management.

That way, if you are not the only person complaining, the manager can roll up all the comments into one. Also, as we've seen ourselves, things can escalate between individuals and get very unpleasant very quickly.


Edited by jm chen (log)

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Makes sense to me. One thing I've learned both as a parent and as a principal of a preschool: if a kid is losing control with a parent, you do not want to be offering advice or intervening to "help"! :blink:


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris, agree this is a chestnut, but a recurring problem, and you want solutions.

Agree with jm chen that you can complain to the management, but they are already aware of the problem and most likely have no idea how to handle the situation, or don't have the cojones to do so.

The only way to get some grit into the management is to walk out, which is what we do.

If our meals are being cooked, that is the restaurant's problem. I will pay for what we have already eaten or imbibed, and leave.

No tip, this is a FOH problem and if they cannot handle it why should I toss in a gratuity?

The solution is that the management of a fine dining restaurant is responsible for the atmosphere as well as the food and must act appropriately.

They can deny service to any person who is disruptive, be it a loud drunk or a kid.

If the management finds if awkward to do so, that is their problem.

The only impact I can make is to leave.

Not a great solution I will admit, but maybe the restaurant will get the idea that they are offering a fine dining experience, and the food is only a part of the package.


Edited by auntdot (log)

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The problem of children being taken to inappropriate places, is more than a restaurant problem. 

I agree whole-heartedly. I've ranted about this for awhile now, because I worked for over a year at a Pottery Barn, and had to deal with many, many, many screaming children whose parents actually encouraged them to "play on the couches while Mommy and Daddy shopped." I can recall couches, dining tables, almost everything being ruined (once, a child peed on a couch!), because of the lack of discipline of this type of parent.

But I digress.

I was only ever taken to family-style restaurants when I was small, but I was a quiet, nerdy girl anyway. I'm sure my parents weren't worried so much about me, but I know that when my little sister came along eleven years later, I'd have to take her outside the second she started throwing a tantrum--even if we were at a family-style restaurant like Chili's or something similar. My parents didn't have any trepidation whatsoever about this, it was always just considered the courteous thing to do. I think I thought that this behavior was normal, until I realized that there were still screaming children everywhere. I feel like it's only worsened, though, and I'm not sure why. It seems like whereever I go, there is at least ONE child acting a fool somehow. It's just... awful.


"i dream of cherry pies, candy bars and chocolate chip cookies." -talking heads

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Here's a rather different solution. Manage to showcase how badly a restaurant deals with ill-behaved children in a restaurant review penned by the most important food critic in the area...

Today's Michael Bauer review in the Sunday SF Chronicle devotes a good chunk of the review to the antics of a couple of children:

That evening made me ponder the problems of children in restaurants. Two young girls at a nearby table progressed from high-pitched whines that sounded like Marge Simpson after a hit of helium to bunny-hopping around the room to activate the red lights on their sneakers...Only the parents seemed oblivious to their performance. As one couple got up to leave, they pulled the owner aside to let them know that they enjoyed the food, but not the children...Yet disruptive children become a problem for the restaurant when they affect the dining experience of others.

The entire review is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...1.DTL&type=food

The whole sequence is rather funny. Or infuriating, depending on your mood.


Edited by Hest88 (log)

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Here's a rather different solution. Manage to showcase how badly a restaurant deals with ill-behaved children in a restaurant review penned by the most important food critic in the area...

Today's Michael Bauer review in the Sunday SF Chronicle devotes a good chunk of the review to the antics of a couple of children:

That evening made me ponder the problems of children in restaurants. Two young girls at a nearby table progressed from high-pitched whines that sounded like Marge Simpson after a hit of helium to bunny-hopping around the room to activate the red lights on their sneakers...Only the parents seemed oblivious to their performance. As one couple got up to leave, they pulled the owner aside to let them know that they enjoyed the food, but not the children...Yet disruptive children become a problem for the restaurant when they affect the dining experience of others.

The entire review is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...1.DTL&type=food

The whole sequence is rather funny. Or infuriating, depending on your mood.

Maybe if the reporter had NAMED the errant family in his review and described the adorable antics of the children :rolleyes:

The mother shouted from across the room that it was OK to give her a glass.

Well, THAT pretty much says it all, to me anyway. Idiot.

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The restaurant in that review clearly failed, in my opinion. It's hard to confront customers, and I can understand management not wanting to say anything if the kids are just, say, talking loudly. But if they're running all over the place, it's very easy. You just tell the parents that they can't be running around unsupervised for their own safety. In fact, it's not safe for them or for staff who might be coming through carrying large heavy objects.

Solutions? I think the only long-term one is to complain to management, as the couple in the review did. If no one is complaining, they don't really have an incentive to do anything. If they get enough reasoned complaints, they may start to keep an eye out for stuff like that. I don't usually mind kids making noise-- strangely, what really bugs me is hearing parents ineffectually shushing them over and over-- but seeing them run around the floor of a restaurant really does bother me. Next time, thanks to this thread, I'll not only complain on the spot but also write a letter.

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The professionally approved manner in which to deal with poorly behaved children in restaurants, is to quietly -- but firmly -- take them aside, and whisper, "If you make any more noise, I will fill your mouth with spiders," according to the Concil of Competely Irresponsible People.

Hey, I saw it in a Jean-Claude VanDamme movie once -- it worked! :smile:


Edited by Grub (log)

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Miss Manners says to firmly grasp them by the wrist and say,"You will get hurt if you keep doing that." Look 'em in the eye when you say it. :angry:


sparrowgrass

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The restaurant in that review clearly failed, in my opinion. It's hard to confront customers, and I can understand management not wanting to say anything if the kids are just, say, talking loudly. But if they're running all over the place, it's very easy. You just tell the parents that they can't be running around unsupervised for their own safety.  In fact, it's not safe for them or for staff who might be coming through carrying large heavy objects.

While the spider comment that Grub gave probably works extremely well on the kinder, it isn't likely to keep a reasonable tone between management and diner. :blink: Here's another suggestion.

At our preschool, when parentas pick up children and the little ones immediately start running around the office and screaming, our standard approach is to walk up hurriedly and say with concern, "Is everything ok? I heard your children running around screaming and was worried that something had happened." Gets the point across nicely -- without mentioning, you know, insects in orifices.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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