4 updates from letter-writers (the unfair work-from-home set-up, the IVF, and more)

Tis the season of updates from letter-writers who have had their letters answered here in the past. Here are four of them.

1. Is my boss’s work-from-home set-up unfair?

I was kind of annoyed at the time of writing because the winter can be busy for my company, and my boss was going to be doing a series of really hard-to-set-up interviews during their ski cabin time that would have really sucked for me to try to jam into two days a week. Because of that, they decided to shorten their rental for this year which made my life a lot easier. They also took our department out for lunch on one of the municipal holidays we don’t close for, which was really nice.

The main reason I wrote though, was because I was debating telling my boss how disgruntled the staff were getting and using this issue as an opening. I can honestly vouch that there are managers here who are definitely *not* really treating their work from home days as working days (not checking email, taking calls, etc.). Ultimately I decided not to say anything to my boss, though.

However, staff mood continued to worsen and they voted to unionize this fall. The execs are supportive of their right to do so but NOT happy about it. Meanwhile my job has actually been going really well and I’ve been enjoying it lately. I took steps to get more looped into our department work and have been more successful and fulfilled, which I was NOT at this time last year. Cheers!

2. Avoiding work travel during IVF (#5 at the link)

I did end up telling my boss about the IVF, although the talked-about trip didn’t happen. He was wonderfully supportive and told me anything I was doing at home was more important then what I was doing at work. I was very grateful for this when a cycle was a bust and I needed a few extra days off to emotionally recover. I can’t imagine having to come up with an excuse during that time, or trying to tell the truth in the state of mind I was in.

When I changed departments, I told my new boss and again, was completely supported and given a lot of flexibility during a very busy time at my job. Unfortunately all of our cycles have been unsuccessful and our lives are taking a new direction, but we’ve made this decision knowing we did all we were capable of to have a child of our own. I am so glad I was up front; I’m so lucky to have had great managers at a company that truly values work-life balance.

If you are struggling with infertility, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are wonderful local support groups through the national infertility association RESOLVE; additionally it’s very likely someone you know has gone through it too. It’s such a hard thing to talk about (I definitely cried telling both bosses what was going on) but infertility can be so lonely, and my wish for all couples going through this is that they find someone to talk to about it. It’s too much to carry alone!

3. How can I convince my coworkers that I like being a temp? (#3 at the link)

TLDR: I found a better job.

It turned out that my coworkers were aware of some things going on behind the scenes, like that my manager was forbidding other managers from offering me a permanent position.

The last straw actually came from my employment agency the following January, when they retroactively challenged my unemployment claim for the client’s winter shutdown and my claim for my 30 day furlough from the client that past summer. They said that I “could have worked,” except that they hadn’t wanted to place me during my time off, for fear of angering the client. The judge at the hearing was not amused, and my unemployment claims stood. I realized then that if I stayed, this would definitely happen again. Most of the long term temps there gave up around their third furlough, so after five or six years.

I started applying for permanent positions as soon as I received the letter for the hearing. About a month later, I had an offer for a permanent position at a growing company. As it turns out, I ended up in what would have been my dream job a decade ago. I know there is no such thing now, but it’s still pretty great. I went in with my eyes open, so I have more realistic expectations.

4. Company wants me and another finalist to bid against each other on salary (#2 at the link)

I named my salary and they finalized the offer. I definitely had twinges occasionally, wondering what the other candidate may have asked for and if I had left money on the table. Well, it turns out I did. My company did a company-wide salary assessment, and I received a substantial increase as a result.

The salary assessments took place before reviews, so my merit increase and bonus will be based on my new base salary. Since it was more than I would have ever asked for, and the increase was retroactive, I’m satisfied.

I’m really thankful for your advice and definitely credit your website and book with helping me move my career forward. I have a much better idea of what’s normal in the workplace, as well as areas I still need to work on, like negotiation.

{ 87 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon for this*

    OP #2 – thanks for sharing. We are just starting down the IVF road. Never thought I would see myself here. Went from never wanting children to surprised it isn’t happening naturally to desperately wanting it to happen. I hate that so many people were right when they said I would change my mind. We were so excited when we changed our minds that we naively told a ton of people. Lots of people know we are struggling. I haven’t disclosed at work yet but I might in the future. Thanks.

    1. peggy*

      We’re in our 2nd cycle of IUI right now and I’ve been very open about it at work because there are so many appointments! (My wife is getting pregnant this time and I’m planning on having our 2nd child, but we’re doing all the appointments together.)

      1. Amy*

        Good luck to you! I’ve been through a few cycles of IUI. Here’s hoping my next one takes. Wifey would do it but she’s 46 and it’s way too risky. Wishing you both lots of luck!

    2. Em*

      Infertility sucks. I had a miscarriage about 1.25 years ago, and since then no pregnancies, and am currently on Femara.

      Currently trying to decide how far to go with fertility treatment, and when to just let it be. Thanks for your letter, OP 2. It does feel very lonely sometimes, so I like this reminder.

    3. GG Two shoes*

      I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m afraid of finding myself in your position, so I really appreciate your honesty. I really wish you the best of luck!

    4. Anon for this*

      1st commenter here – I should say, we are starting down the road of interventions after almost two years of trying. I don’t know if that will be IUI or IVF.

      1. DorthVader*

        I have my first appointment with an RE a week after thanksgiving, having been on Clomid for 6 months after 3 years of trying and nothing happening. If any local clinics (yours or others) offer support groups, I highly recommend going! I’ve been going for 6 months and it’s been a world of help to me. Fingers crossed for you and everyone else going through treatments!

    5. Green*

      I had a male colleague who was struggling with infertility in his marriage and they were going through fertility treatments. During that time, he kept getting asked to travel. Finally, he confided in me that he, um, needed to be home more because they were spending so much money on treatments and he (and his wife) were displeased that he was not home to assist in reproduction.

      He was able to then tell our boss that while he was usually happy to travel, he couldn’t travel on occasion due to a family situation, but that I was happy to take his place, and it worked out fine. (They also have two children now, so the treatments worked for he and his wife!) So if you do feel uncomfortable telling your boss the specifics (and you have a roughly interchangeable coworker you trust), that may be another way to approach the situation without needing to share details with management.

    6. Anon for This*

      The struggle sucks. I’ve finally moved onto embryo adoption/donation. And who knows if even that will work. I think the work thing is challenging, because what I’ve found is that most people are supportive, but they really don’t understand what the drugs you have to take do to you and what an emotional process it is, unless they’ve been through it themselves.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I was super lucky that when I started IVF my boss at the time had just been through several cycles with his wife. Then there was a big shakeup and I got reassigned to a different team/manager, but I was able to just tell new boss that I needed xyz accommodations that old boss had given me, and since it was already something in place in my previous team, new boss readily agreed.

    7. Bonky*

      I’m sorry – that sounds exactly like my experience; I was astonished when I realised I wanted children so badly, very late on. Telling people is important, as OP #2 says; it definitely lightened the load for us, and it made my work environment much easier to navigate while I was having a lot of clinic appointments, having to take time off, disappearing for injections and all that good stuff.

      Good luck with your treatment. I hope it works for you. For me and my husband it was unquestionably the most stressful period in our marriage. Having people around you who know what’s going on can really help with that.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        This is the exact scenario I’m afraid of. I’m 28 and at the moment I don’t have any kind of desire to have a baby, but I’m not fully sure about it and I’m not the “I always knew I don’t want kids and I actively hate the idea” kind of person that most childfree people seem to be. I know there are people who start wanting kids very late and I’m somehow afraid it could happen to me too – I’d much rather make up my mind in the next few years to have a better change of having a baby if I want it, but I’m not sure if it’s possible to speed up this kind of mental process.

        1. Bonky*

          It wasn’t until I was 37 that I realised I wanted kids, and it went horribly; I lost an ovary to an ectopic pregnancy which was diagnosed very late, and nearly killed me with internal bleeding. The IVF was hideous, and numerous cycles didn’t work. It was exhausting and horrible.

          Eventually we took a break from it and I conceived naturally in the month that we were taking off to recuperate, which I think was due to the very heavy bleeding I’d had after each failed cycle making implantation more likely (the hospital where I had her said they saw a lot of people with a similar story). I had my daughter earlier this year when I was 41 – she’s rolling around on the carpet in front of me chewing on Sophie the Giraffe right now. We won’t revisit IVF, although I’m very doubtful we’ll have another naturally, but one is SO much better than none, and she’s the light of my life.

      2. Shall we dance?*

        Everyone who says they don’t want children changes their mind later on, all they need is a little encouragement!!! Children are a blessing!

        1. Stone Cold Bitch*

          Eh, no they don’t.

          I know a marriage that ended because the husband assumed that the wife would change her mind about not wanting kids. She was very clear that she didn’t want kids but everyone in the husband’s family told him she’d change her mind eventually. He got angry because she “denied him children” and eventually they divorced. She still has no desire to have children.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Nope! I didn’t want kids. I changed my mind. I’m glad I did.

          I know several people, one a lovely woman in her late sixties, who didn’t want children and don’t want children. Some of them want nothing to do with children at all; some want to be the “auntie” and enjoy them but only when they choose, and give them back afterward. And all are happy with their choice.

          I know a lot of people who are parents and wouldn’t have it any other way, whether they knew all along or changed their minds. And I know some who are parents and, while they love their children, admit that they’re neither the parents they want to be, nor do they enjoy parenting as they thought/hoped/assumed they would.

          1. Fake Eleanor*

            I love my kids, but I don’t enjoy parenting. At all. If I could go back in time and undo the decision to become a parent, I would. I would not trade my kids themselves for anything.

        3. Alexandra Duane*

          Nope. I realized in my teens that I didn’t want kids. I’m 62 now, never had even a slight twinge of wanting a baby. Children are a blessing to those who want them, and I’m glad that you’re happy to have kids, but please don’t assume that everyone eventually wants kids. Some folks just don’t.

        4. FormerEmployee*

          “Everyone who says they don’t want children changes their mind later on, all they need is a little encouragement!!! Children are a blessing!”

          I, too, hope this is a joke. If someone had tried to “encourage” me to have children, after awhile I would simply have avoided that person.

        5. Oma Morris*

          Yes, this was meant to be a parody of people who offer exactly the same advice.

          I had hoped that would be apparent by the username I picked for the post (rather than my usual username below). I suppose I could have made it clearer by using “looooong” vowels, but as a woman I don’t do that because it makes people take us less seriously!!!

          I am sorry to the people who took me literally.

    8. Landshark*

      It’s good to read things like this. Hubby and I aren’t ready for kids yet, but we know I inherited some health issues from my mom’s side of the family that may make conceiving difficult. Hearing how supportive people’s workplaces can be for that potential scenario makes that possibility seem a bit less daunting.

    9. Not That Jane*

      Love and support to you. We’ve been in a very similar place. I was surprised by how emotionally devastating it was. I was so reluctant to admit that we probably needed IVF – it just wasn’t going to happen for us any other way.

      We now have a lovely little daughter… so there’s that!

  2. justsomeone*

    I love updates season! Especially when some of the stories are “I went and got a better job and am way happier!”

  3. Lizard*

    The #4 update just highlights how ridiculous the “lowest bidder” approach to hiring is. I’m glad the company did a salary assessment and the OP got their raise, but the potential for resentment and employee dissatisfaction really seems out of proportion to the potential savings.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I’m glad that the manager got pretty quick karma for their cheapskatedness and bad hiring tactics and had to pay LW a lot more, and then give them a raise at their review on top of that.

    2. OverboilingTeapot*

      “Here at Teapot’s Inc, we like to make people feel undervalued from day 1, instead of letting their resentment build gradually! It really saves some time!”

  4. CM*

    For #4, it’s so weird that the company started this bidding war to get the candidates to lowball their own salaries — but then did an independent salary assessment and bumped up her salary soon after! I mean, it worked out great for OP#4, but these are such radically different approaches in the same company.

    Maybe OP#4’s hiring manager was an outlier. Or HR discovered this was happening and did the salary assessment to counteract it, because it’s such a bad idea — not only is it likely to result in disparities that affect certain groups more than others, but also having low-paid employees means your high performers are going to look for other jobs.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      First Silicon Valley job I had, the hiring manager was very out of touch about the cost of living – he was still in the same house he’d bought in the 70s. He asked my salary requirement, I gave him something that was reasonable in Texas, and got about 50% more than that – which was still barely enough for rent.

      When the CEO discovered this by accident, she did a review and discovered at least three of us in the same situation, all on our first or second jobs and from much cheaper places. So we all got as much raise as possible for several cycles until we caught up, and that manager wasn’t allowed to set salaries any more.

  5. sunny-dee*

    OP#2, I just had my first (and only) embryo transfer on Tuesday. We’re paying out of pocket, and $30k once was do-able with some crunching, but we can’t do it again. (And fertility clinics straight up lie about the full costs, for those interested.) I’ve been fairly open with my coworkers (one of them did IVF for her daughter a few years ago), though I haven’t explicitly told my boss yet. I’ll let him know if I get a positive in 10 days.

    Also, best wishes to you. I know exactly how you feel. I’m optimistic about this attempt (because I need to be!), but one way or another, I never want to pee on another stick ever again. I’m looking forward to that.

    1. Too Witches*

      I’m not interested in having kids so I’m sending all my most fertile vibes your way. Know that this internet stranger is rooting for you and is hopeful about hearing a positive update soon!!!

    2. Anon for This*

      I agree many fertility clinics are not transparent about the full costs of IVF, especially the costs including medications (which can be 4-6k alone) and PGS testing (if needed). I hope that this round for you is successful.

    3. OrphanBrown*

      All the best to you. Wishing you sticky baby dust!!

      Can I ask how one handles the hidden cost issue? I’m thinking about going down the IVF road.

      1. Anon to me*

        Ask for a list of all meds and then price them out. Don’t trust the clinic as many (not all but many) underestimate those costs. Also ask for the price of all the optional things the clinic does such as PGS, ICSI, etc. it’s easy to add things on during a cycle because it gets recommended. And then keep a contingency of at least 10% of the total costs. IVF is like a home renovation. It’s always more expensive, takes longer, and has unexpected costs along the way.

  6. Secretary*

    I’m confused by #3’s update, that’s night and day from their mindset in the original post. Did I miss an update in the comments?

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        & finding out that not only was being hired as an employee a possibility, but her supervisor was actively blocking that oppotunity.

        1. Alli525*

          THIS. It’s one thing to be happy as a temp, but entirely another to realize your boss is the one preventing you from better employment terms.

    1. MoinMoin*

      I read it as the unemployment issue and finding out about the company’s shadiness, which was why coworkers were so disgruntled on OP’s behalf, really changed the equation from the initial question.

    2. k.k*

      In the original it sounded like it had always been a temp position and always will be, no big deal. But then OP found out that there were opportunities to go permanent, but one manager was being a jerk and blocking that without letting OP know. And based on the wording, it sounds like that was just one among other shady things that came out. I’d change my tune in that case as well.

      1. OP3*

        There were a lot of shady things going on that I found out about after I wrote AAM. By the time I wrote in, I was already on the fence, but I was trying to convince myself that everything was fine. More and more shady stuff came out, my boss started getting nasty, my agency contested my unemployment, and then I was done. It seemed to happen really fast to me, too. I felt like I had whiplash for a while.

        1. RB*

          #3, are you in the US? Just wondering, because you mentioned a hearing. Can anyone get a hearing if their unemployment benefits are denied or do you need a really good reason?

          1. Indoor Cat*

            IANAL, but my understanding is, anyone can appeal a denial of unemployment or disability (SSD) as long as you file the appeal within 30 days of the initial denial being filed. A person is pretty much guaranteed to get a hearing, but it is challenging to win. Two non-profit citizen rights groups, Unemployment Law Project and the SSDRC (Social Security Disability Resource Center) can help if someone needs to figure out how to do these things state by state, and what specific laws might apply to any given case.

  7. Just Another Techie*

    OT, but following links back to the original letters, and holy crap I’d forgotten ” My employee quit on the spot after her request for a therapy referral was shared.” How utterly awful! Do we have an update from that one?

    Also it feels like there’s been a lot of “my employee quit on the spot and now won’t return our calls because I/the company/another employee behaved egregiously badly” letters. And in most of them, the person who behaved badly doesn’t even realize they drove away a good employee. It’s kind of baffling how people can be so obtuse.

    1. selina kyle*

      I was just thinking that re: “what they quit because we/the company were AWFUL to them?” letters. I think sometimes people justify their actions so soundly in their own mind that regardless of how other people are effected, it just still makes sense to them.

    2. K.*

      The one that boils my blood is the one whose best employee (her words) quit on the spot because the letter-writer wouldn’t give her TWO HOURS off to go to her college graduation. The letter writer had the nerve to ask Alison if she should reach out to the employee not to apologize, but to reprimand her for quitting.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yes! And that new graduate was a foster kid who had worked really hard to get to where she was, too! uggghhh.

        1. Candi*

          On the voting for Worst Boss 2017, it’s stated the only reason she wasn’t included is because she’s the one who wrote in, and Alison didn’t want to discourage future letters from bad bosses.

          Considering Exclusive Workplace Boss saw the error of her ways and started on the path to becoming a better person, she has a point.

      2. Markov*

        That one is so bad that I think Allison was punked.

        I had a friend in college who appeared on a talk show (Ricki Lake IIRC) with some outrageous story that was completely untrue.

        1. Candi*

          1) Alison has repeatedly asked the commetariat not to question if letters are true or not, since it has a high possibility of discouraging others from writing in.

          2) If you read the comments on the original graduation post, you’ll find many many stories of people with bosses just as nasty/clueless.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Just to be clear, people can question whatever they want! I don’t want to be heavy-handed about it.

            I have no way of knowing if the letters people submit or real or not. I assume all advice columnists get trolled now and then, but I don’t really care as long as the answer might be useful to someone … and i t does become derailing to get into big debates about it in the comment section (although that didn’t happen here).

        2. WeevilWobble*

          I think the story was true (it’s just too random a punk) but that the person writing in was the victim not the boss who decided to frame it from the boss’s POV.

    3. KHB*

      I had no memory of that one either, but looking at the date it was posted (11/9/16), I think I know why. My mind was otherwise occupied that day.

    4. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I’m kind of surprised how often the OPs say that the recipient of the injustice has quit and is refusing all contact. Especially when someone or the whole company is trying to contact them to make things right. Part of it is that I wouldn’t be able to just cut off all contact or let things go that readily and part is that I’m really sorry that they don’t ever find out that someone is trying to make things up to them.

      1. FormerEmployee*

        They probably think it is just further harassment and want no part of it. Remember the bird phobic guy who got his co-worker injured by pushing her into the path of a moving vehicle? She could have been killed. Once she found out that the company was keeping him on despite all that, she wanted nothing more to do with them. And yet they kept trying to contact her. Ultimately, she had to have an attorney write them a cease and desist letter to get them to stop!

        As an aside, I always wondered if the company had made their insurance company(ies) aware of the situation. While the injured party said she didn’t plan to make a claim, you should always put your insurers on notice. Not just in case she changed her mind, but also because they need to be aware of the situation. It is likely to be considered a material fact that they have the bird phobic guy on staff since someone was injured as a result of his condition.

  8. Al Lo*

    LW1 mentioned the community around infertility; for anyone who may need it, the podcast Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure is a great one dedicated to destigmatizing infertility and bringing people together. Matt Mira, from the Nerdist and every other podcast on the planet, and his wife Doree Shafrir, a writer at BuzzFeed, talk through their own journey and read listener mail (and connect people with each other when they have thoughts or questions).

    I’m not going through IVF, but it’s a great podcast, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who would find it useful.

    1. DorthVader*

      IVFML from HuffPo was another good one. It was short, only 4 episodes I think? But it really helped me sort out some of my feelings and stresses about fertility treatments. Vegas Baby (on Netflix and available to rent on Amazon Prime) is a really good documentary on what IVF is/does/feels like, too. Highly recommend to anyone whether they’re in treatment or not.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        A friend of mine wrote a book about her infertility experiences, which she titled “Breeding in Captivity.” It’s available from the great muddy river.

  9. Liz T*

    This makes it sound like OP3 actually DIDN’T like being a temp.

    Honestly when I read the original post I’d expected OP to say something like, “I like the flexibility of being a temp and have benefits from another source so I genuinely would prefer NOT to be a permanent employee.” I was surprised when none of that was in there! It actually sounds like OP’s coworkers were right (in a sense) to go to the boss with this, since they knew OP was being taken advantage of and didn’t want to lose a quality coworker.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds like OP was ok with being a temp until they learned (1) that their manager was actively trying to ensure they wouldn’t become permanent; and (2) the temp agency kept messing with their unemployment. The first is less about being happy/unhappy with being a temp, but more about being able to trust the person you work with. The second is a massive resources and time suck, in addition to crappy treatment.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Tying to the last update, it’s like “I’m fine with $50,000 a year” when your coworkers ask “Do you feel shortchanged?” But then the context becomes “Other people at your level make $70,000 a year” and suddenly you feel not at all fine.

      1. Antilles*

        Right, except here the context is even worse: The manager was *actively working behind the scenes* to prevent OP from having any opportunity to close the gap.

  10. LiveAndLetDie*

    OP3 I’m sorry you found out that your manager was actively forbidding other managers from offering you full-time employment. Even if you weren’t interested at the time, it is really awful that there are managers out there who choose their department’s workload over the advancement of the people who do the work. It’s really not good management at all and loses them good workers in the long run.

  11. Hiring Mgr*

    Good luck with the IVF…my wife is on the board of the regional Resolve and I can attest to the help and resources that are out there….We’re fortunate to live in a state where it’s covered by insurance.

  12. DCompliance*

    #OP2- Thank you for your kind words. I am started my 2nd round IVF after the holidays and after having a miscarriage in the fall. My boss has been super supportive and I was even able to help him when his wife had a miscarriage. When your manager is supportive, it is a wonderful gift.

  13. Writebythelake*

    I’m a newer reader of this blog, and through a random search I found the letter from the intern at the nonprofit for low-income job seekers, where the clients were being given awful resume advice. I would love to know if Alison contacted the nonprofit as she said she wanted to, and what kind of response she got. The original letter was posted on April 22, 2015.

  14. Candi*

    (Googles. Looks)

    Um, that’s the same line of patter Dr. Oz and other con artists tend to send out. Believe me, I’ve read enough about cons and scams.

    One of my FB friends got a kidney transplant about, let’s see, 7-8 months ago. (And doing awesome!) He shared a lot about his journey, and resources to research farther. A very interesting topic, for those interested.

    The mind and body interact in complex ways not fully understood. Heck, it’s been less than three years since they found the brain/immune system connection. (I KNEW there had to be one!) Just being positive and relieving the effect of stress hormones on your body can have amazing effects on even chronic conditions. Then there’s the placebo effect. Scammers know and take advantage of these things.

    Education is no safety net. Some of the most taken victims have had degrees and massive education/experience in their area. The problem is, if you know a lot in one area, you forget what you don’t know in others. The only protection is to specifically educate yourself on scams -all that you can- so you know how to spot them. The goal is to get to the point where just reading or listening triggers your subconscious and your gut.

    There’s so much in this world we don’t know. So much to learn. It’s fantastic.

  15. Agnodike*

    Directing someone who is struggling with a legitimate medical issue to pseudoscience that is likely to be ineffective, expensive, and demoralizing is an immense cruelty. There’s no reason to believe that any of the “healing techniques” or supplements William promotes will do anything to improve anyone’s health, and these kinds of “wellness advisors” often rely on the idea that healthy people use “positive thinking” or “positive energy,” whereas people are ill because they’re too “negative,” which blames people for their health challenges. That’s an awful thing to do to someone who’s already struggling. You may well believe that Anthony William has helped you, but please bear in mind that just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean one caused the other. Many people who are ill are receiving other treatment for their disease (evidence-based treatment, administered by doctors) at the same time, but credit their improvement to the “healers” and not to the doctors. Many diseases get better on their own, and happen to do so around the time someone starts taking a supplement or using one of these “wellness programs.”

    People living with infertility aren’t in that situation because they’re too negative, or because of toxins (except in rare cases of significant exposure, usually industrial), or because they work outside the home and make their bodies “too masculine” (yup, that’s a thing a “wellness educator” said in the news recently). Don’t blame people for what makes them sick.

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