the lawnmower message, the mangled journal articles, and other stories of deliberately burnt bridges

I recently asked about bridges you intentionally, happily burned. Here are 12 of my favorite stories you shared.

1. The fish tank

In college, I worked as a cashier at a national chain pet store. The pay was dismal but it was pretty easy work, so I stuck around. After working there for three years and getting promoted, I broke my foot (not at work). When I went in the next day and said I would need a stool/chair, the manager flatly refused, scoffed, and said, “If I can’t sit down, no one can.” (He definitely had a chair in his office so this was total BS.) I was the only cashier scheduled for that evening (and generally this was the case; there was never a back-up). I said, “Oh, okay, then I guess I have to quit.” I walked over to the fish tank area, dropped my register key in the biggest tank, and left out the side door. They called me three times the next day (and my emergency contact!) to ask where my key was. I never responded.

2. The glitter

Not me but a coworker. This coworker had been at this department forever, and the company offered early retirement payout twice during their time at the company, which they applied for but the department rejected both times. So they were BITTER and rightfully so.

This coworker had reached retirement age and quietly arranged it all with HR and didn’t tell a soul. Didn’t announce it, didn’t give notice, and got HR to delay routing all the paperwork until the day they left.

I came in one morning to find a trail of glitter from the front door to their office and the room practically wallpapered with comic strips and memes about bad bosses/quitting/see ya never. It was amazing. Funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

The cherry on top? The department replaced the carpet in the hallway a few months later and to this day I am convinced it is because they couldn’t get the glitter out of the carpet.

3. The training

I’ve burned exactly one professional bridge in my entire career and I 100% stand behind it. I worked at a really toxic job for a number of years and my resignation was just as toxic, but I made the mistake of agreeing to come in on Saturdays (for an abysmally low hourly rate) to train my replacement and answer questions (via email or text, specifically noted not to call during work hours) after I started in my new role. I wish I had known about AAM back then, because Alison’s advice about not doing this after quitting is spot on.

I was getting absolutely swamped with questions from the staff member who was temporarily covering my duties while they trained my replacement. When I didn’t immediately answer her emails, she texted. And if I took more than five minutes to text back, she called my personal phone. And if I didn’t answer my personal phone, she called my work number (it was listed on a public directory, I never gave it to her). I emailed my former boss about it the response was, “We’ve [management] discussed this and concluded that this is a personal issue between you and [staff member]. You can work it out between yourselves.”

I was just … livid. I sent an email back, after getting payment for the Saturday training I had already completed, stating, “I’ve discussed this with myself, because [staff member] is not my coworker or employee, and concluded that this is outside the scope of what we agreed on when I quit. I will no longer be answering questions or coming in on Saturdays to train [replacement], you can work out the transition between yourselves.” I blocked the staff member and my former boss on both my personal phone, marked emails from the company as spam, and screened any calls from them on my work phone. I was going through my spam folder a couple months later to look for something else and came across a reply from my old boss calling me wildly unprofessional while also simultaneously offering me an extra $10/hour to keep training on Saturdays. Gave me a good laugh.

4. The lawn

In college I worked for my local township’s Parks Department, mowing lawns. They usually sent summer workers out in teams of four, but when they realized I got my work done and didn’t break the mowers or trucks, they started sending me out alone, but with the same length punchlist as the four-man crews. I complained, but none of the bosses cared because the work was getting done. It was annoying, but the overtime money was good so I stuck around.

After I graduated college, I worked one last summer before starting my “real” job several states away. From the start of that summer, I repeatedly told my boss that if he kept sending me out alone to do the work of a full crew, I was going to mow my name into the big park next to city hall downtown on my last day. He thought I was joking. I had absolutely nothing to lose and I was not joking. On my last day, I dropped the deck on my mower so the blades were almost low enough to scrape the dirt and signed my name in 20-foot tall letters in the field next to city hall. It was a dry summer, so it took almost two months to grow out.

5. The flowers

Early in his career, my husband worked for the IRS and was up for promotion to the next class of government worker. He was passed over twice – the third time would have been an automatic promotion. His boss closed the rec instead of giving him the job and he started looking in the private sector. Once he got a new position and started climbing the corporate ranks, he sent his former boss a thank-you card when his salary hit twice what he’d been making at the IRS, and sent flowers when it hit three times.

He understands from former coworkers that the flowers went right in the trash.

6. The scientific articles

A lifetime ago, I was a copy editor at an international science journal that took itself very seriously. Despite this self-seriousness, the work atmosphere was a hot mess (lots of employees dating each other with regular office breakups and drama, many inappropriate comments said openly, some real problem employees tolerated for eons), mostly due to the intensely hands-off attitude of the department manager. If I had been paid in peanuts it would have been a raise, and I had the worst benefits allowable by law at the time. But they promised to train me and prepare me for a shiny, exciting future!

Well, after a few months it was made crystal clear that the training I was promised was not to occur, and then several of us overheard our great-grandboss declare there were “just way too many employees” in our division. I correctly deduced, as the most recent hire, that my time was probably coming to an end. So on my last day, I took a bunch of scientific articles (“The Precise Tensile Coefficient of Llama Fur: An Exhaustive Report”) and did a find/replace on key words so as to turn them into instant parodies (“The Precise Time-Traveling Mysteries of Llamas: An Exciting Exposé”) and sent them out as proofs in progress to the scientist authors moments before handing in my badge and going home.

I was told later by someone who stayed slightly longer that it caused a collective massive eyebrow raise from various science orgs, some very long talks about what was going on with the editors, and while a few authors found the “edits” terrifically funny, the rest were simply confused. Although I was told via email I was never to be hired again, the organization ended up firing the whole department for budget reasons and outsourcing cheaper editors in another country, so … oh well.

7. The maternity leave policy

I was pregnant. My nonprofit employer had seven full-time employees and no leave policies. My commute was 90 minutes, each way. Our board had just finished conducting a benefits analysis and every member of the org shared that we needed a family leave policy. So I told my boss at eight weeks I was pregnant and needed to start talking about what a leave policy would look like.

This seemed like a no-brainer – we should create a policy, right? Wrong. Our board chair, upon discovering that I was pregnant, claimed she couldn’t “waive a magic wand and create a maternity leave policy!” She refused the flexible arrangement I proposed (six weeks off, then part-time and remote until my child could go to daycare), and a few weeks later replaced my boss with someone who’d start 10 days before my due date. And as it became increasingly clear that I would, in fact, give birth (and therefore be out of the office, with or without “permission”), it was equally clear that no one was willing to tell me what leave I’d be provided.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon, exactly one month before my due date, the week before Christmas. I get an email from my new boss – who I haven’t met and won’t return my calls – laying out what my leave will be: four weeks, unpaid. I can’t work remotely at all, so I’m expected to commute (this job could be done from literally anywhere – I was a department of one!). And after four weeks I’m to be back in the office (…with my baby? I don’t know what they expected, because I told them my daycare started at 12 weeks).

I weighed my options. I was young – these were powerful board members. They had sway in the community. But also, I’m tired. I’m eight months pregnant. I literally have zero f**** to give at this point. So I decided to burn it all down. I forwarded the email from my “new boss” to the entire board and laid it out for them – that the team had asked for a leave policy, that I spent six months offering to negotiate this including with [board president], and that I was going to pack up my things Monday morning.

Our biggest funder – who’s on the board – immediately responded, “Can someone explain why we are refusing to provide a leave policy?” and then I logged off.

8. The psychic

I used to work every Saturday for a psychic who owned a used bookstore, because she needed someone to run the bookstore while she gave readings in the back room. She was a very difficult person to work for, and one day when she asked me to work overtime but later refused to pay me for that, I had enough. The next Saturday, I just didn’t show up.

She called me and said, “Why aren’t you at work?” I said, “Because I quit.” She said, “You quit?” I said, “You should have seen this coming. You’re supposed to be a psychic.” And I hung up.

9. The contract renewal

My former employer definitely sees this as bridge burning, but I see it as justified karma for rampant gender bias. I started my career in a consulting firm in a historically male dominated industry. Almost immediately I noticed a distinct pattern – a man and woman would be hired to the same team at the same time, with similar levels of experience, but the man would always come in at a slightly higher level and with significantly more pay than the woman. There were always justifications – “He had an MBA, not an MS” or “He spent two years working instead of getting an MBA”, etc. The only consistency was that the men always came out higher.

The final straw for me was learning that an incompetent (male) coworker of mine at the same level as me was making 30% more than I was. I literally had 10 times the sales as he had that year, which supposedly made up 80% of our performance evaluation metric. Soon after, one of my clients gave me an offer to come in-house for close to double my salary, which I happily took.

Then the “bridge burning” started. My new company still had a contract for the same work with my previous company, which I got to manage from the client side now. My old company replaced me with one of the incompetent, overpaid men on their side. Predictably, he did a subpar job – missed deadlines, significant errors (which he blamed our team for), and an arrogant attitude on top of everything. This wasn’t just my opinion – my new boss and coworkers all noted this man’s arrogance and how much of a drop in quality there was compared to my previous work. Our contract was up about a year after I joined, and we sent the project out to bid. Even though we knew we wouldn’t choose them, we still invited my former company to bid on the project (which is a lengthy process), but ultimately chose a different vendor.

When we shared the news, one of the partners from my old job called me up to tell me how much I’d regret this and how much I had messed up his metrics for the year by losing this project, and how disrespecting “where I came from” would haunt me in the future. So far no haunting yet, our new consultant does an amazing job, and at least six other women from my previous firm left to work for clients and then fired our old company. So maybe it was our old company that burned the bridge with us.

10. The screeds

Not me, but someone who used to work for my employer. Apparently he was fired and viewed it as wrongful, so he took the time to write and send an email with six HEFTY paragraphs before he lost access about how the company was Doing Wrong By Him, how they’d abused his goodwill, how everyone knew him and should raise a fuss with HR, etc. This was the politest, quietest member of our office facilities team; I’m not sure he ever said more than about three words to most people. IT quickly came in and deleted that email from everyone’s inbox.

24 hours later, the guy managed to email the all-office distribution list from his personal email with a second AND THIRD lengthy screed about how terrible they were to him, how he’d been sick, how dare they fire him, here’s his contact info in case anyone wanted to go work with him when he found a new job…

Pretty sure that bridge was burning merrily. And hey, IT discovered a gap where outside addresses could email our all-office distro system because of him.

11. The truth-telling

I was working at a very dysfunctional company where the CEO’s brand of chaos and tyranny was most of the problem. When people would resign (frequently), he would insist that no one could be notified, but would still often make them work their notice period. So people would just suddenly disappear with no announcement – before or after, there was no transition documentation or delegation of tasks or roles, people would just suddenly be gone (like unpersoned). Their email would bounce and no one would know anything about it. Even managers would be out of the loop on who was supposed to do their work or where their deliverables were, etc.

So when I resigned, I told my manager (with whom I had a good relationship and who was also on his way out) that I was giving notice and telling everyone. He just said, “OK.” I toured the whole company, announcing to everyone, en masse, loudly, that I was giving two weeks notice and if they needed anything or had any questions, to come to me. Then, last and least, I popped by the CEOs office. He looked up and said, “I have a call, what do you need?” and I responded, “I’m giving two weeks notice and I just told everyone in the whole office, so I wanted to tell you quickly as well.” I was critical path on so much stuff that he couldn’t risk pushing me out early.

During our exit interview, he said, “This is a very stressful environment and not everyone can handle it.” “Well,” I said, “It’s your company, so if it’s stressful and people don’t want to work here, it’s because you want it that way.” I realize that this was all terrifically rude and not at all professional. I regret nothing! My manager was an excellent reference for years and I don’t think it harmed me professionally at all.

12. The sticker chart

A few years back, I wrote in about my bizarre dysfunctional office where we had a sticker chart where we had to indicate how we were feeling that day. We were treated very badly in that workplace but there was one woman who received some uniquely horrific treatment that I still struggle to comprehend. My favorite thing I’ve ever seen in a workplace was when she handed in her resignation, she strode right up to the sticker chart and slapped her sticker into the “feeling fantastic” box.

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. Juicebox Hero*

    #4 is magnificent. Gives me an idea for my building’s front lawn when I retire – it’s much smaller so a weed whacker ought to do it.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      There’s a great video online of a guy who was asked to mow his neighbor’s lawn while he was away. The vacationing neighbor was a Michigan graduate, the guy who was going to mow was an Ohio State fan.

      He set up a video camera and mowed Script Ohio into the lawn, finishing with a weed whacker instead of a sousaphone, including the high-stepping and the hat-doffing salute.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        As a Michigan grad, even I think that is kind of awesome. Basically harmless, but hilariously petty.

    2. Me, I think*

      All I can add here is that using Roundup to write in a lawn works really well, better even than a mower. Maybe, um, use it on the side of a hill so that everyone walking by can see it. Not that I have any personal experience doing this. (Really! I don’t! But, er, I have seen the results.)

      1. Fertilizer*

        Use fertilizer instead. The result is much darker green and thicker/healthier grass for a LONG time in those areas (as long as you don’t use so much fertilizer as to burn the grass). Longer, perhaps, than just waiting for the grass to grow back from the RoundUp.

        er.. so I’ve heard anyway.

        1. Certaintroublemaker*

          Yeah, somebody did a fertilizer smiley face at my local park, and it was so cute!

        2. Claire Beauchamp Randall Frasier*

          I knew a guy at college who had done this as a senior prank in high school. In the middle of the night in May, he and his friends spread grass seed and fertilizer in the shape of their grad year on the front lawn of their high school. By the time they left for college in late August, their class year was shining clear as day in the grass. No idea how many seasons it lasted.

          1. whimbrel*

            I got to the end of the second line and was shocked when it turned out to be something other than what I expected a bunch of high school students to do as a senior prank, lol!

        3. Worldwalker*

          Also, it takes a while to show up — Roundup will be obvious in a day or two, as a really obvious brown spot, but it’s much less immediately obvious that one patch of grass is growing really, really well. It’s not just taller; it’s greener. If they’ve been slacking on lawn care, much greener. Also, Roundup and similar herbicides are short-lasting; they could just reseed it (of course, there’s the stuff that claims to kill anything living for a year, too, but do you really want to do that to innocent grass?). But the only way to get rid of the fertilizer drawing is to go out and fertilize the entire lawn so it matches. And that might in fact burn the grass, so it’s still going to show.

          Yeah, I had some evil-minded friends in high school.

          1. Bananapantsfeelings*

            Grass is a blight and an ecosystem dead zone. Grass needs to DIE. But not by chemicals, by being shoveled up and replaced by clover and wildflowers.

            /sorry I held it in as long as I could on this thread!!!

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              Instead of just fertilizing the words or picture, you could fertilize and reseed with clover and wildflowers. They might like it so much that they reseed the entire lawn. Two birds/one stone.

            2. tangerineRose*

              I am so tired of having a lawn! It has to be mown and weeded and watered and sometimes fertilized. It seems like a LOT of work for something to walk over.

      2. Frieda*

        I’ve always thought liberally seeding someone’s yard with mint would be the ultimate long game. You’ll always lose in a battle with mint.

        1. Athersgeo*

          Also chives (the previous owner of the house I grew up in had, at some point, grown chives in his front garden, and they inevitably got into the lawn, leading to you always being able to smell when our front lawn was mown!)

        2. metadata minion*

          Catnip. Mint family and you’ll attract all the feral cats in the neighborhood.

        3. Bananapantsfeelings*

          You’re evil and wonderful in equal parts.

          I once had an all-mint lawn at a rental property. The only thing that can outmatch an all-mint lawn is a roommate with an on-again-off-again tortured relationship to process via aggressive weeding.

        4. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Even geese won’t eat it. (Mint fields are often weeded by releasing the geese, who will go nuts on the weeds, but won’t touch the mint).

      1. Mama Bear*

        I remember nicknaming a boss (not where anyone but my family, which at that time was pretty extended, could hear it) Richard Cranium…

        Funny enough? I did go back to work for that company, _for a different boss_… and then stumbled into a job interview a year and change later and promptly doubled my salary. Revenge was HAD.

    3. H.C.*

      Can someone write a romantic fanfic of him meeting the woman who spelled out “I Quit” in cod?

    4. Inkognyto*

      I really hope said person used the older nickname for Richard…

      it would be poetic Karma

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Haaaaa, right? That’s the perfect retort most of us would come up with two days later.

  2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    LW #9 – your old boss was an ass, and I hope he got managed out. I’m also in consulting, and if I knew there was even a remote chance that a new buyer (whether they had experience with my consulting company or not) was not happy with my company, I’d be messaging that and bringing in heavy hitters to try to retain the business. If I lose a big account and it’s a surprise to my leadership, for sure that’s on me and not the buyer.

    1. OP #9*

      The fact that he’s still there (and, in fact, in leadership) tells you everything you need to know about how this company manages things. They continue to elevate lesser qualified, lower performing white men into leadership positions, while finding every excuse in the book for why talented, high performing women or POC are not qualified for those positions. Not only does this continue the cycle of bias, but it leads to terrible business decisions because the leaders lack specific expertise or context to make good decisions in these positions. And, instead of ever taking a look inside, they blame people who left for “stealing” clients, other consulting firms for “poaching” the talent they refused to value, and even the market for why things aren’t going well.

      It’s hard to watch from the outside, because the company truly had a lot of potential and had a good thing going for awhile, but they wasted it on upholding sexist systems.

  3. Dadjokesareforeveryone*

    I did not see number 12 when people were posting and am making a heroic effort to contain my delighted guffahs.

  4. So much for COPE standards?*

    Sorry but as an academic publishing professional #6 really grinds my gears and I’m kind of surprised it’s being presented as funny and quirky anecdote of instead of a major ethics breach. The authors you worked with didn’t deserve that even if your colleagues were idk, dating each other and also being underpaid.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        I have to agree. An innocent llama fur expert shouldn’t be punished for the sins of the journal’s management.

        1. Chicago Anon*

          As someone who publishes in academic journals, if I got such a doctored set of proofs I would both be confused and find it funny, and if I ever got an explanation of why it happened I would be sympathetic.

            1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

              during a department wide meet, a colleague’s retirement was announced. when given a moment to speak he stood up and said “I can’t say it’s been a pleasure” and sat back down.

          1. Reebee*

            You’re in a distinct minority of opinion, then, considering the entire context of academic publishing, especially everything that rests on it.

            1. Your former password resetter*

              sounds like theyre in the majority, actually?
              And while it’s not perfect, it’s not like they did any damage, gave wrong information, or spread confidential information kr anything like that. It was very harmless overall.

              1. Reebee*

                Well, here, sure; by “minority opinion,” I meant, the entire academic world. As for “harmless,” I’d leave that up to the authors to decide for themselves.

                1. Princess Sparklepony*

                  For some, it may be the one time their article was fully read and thoroughly enjoyed by more than the small group that it was targeted to!

            2. Good Lord Ratty*

              The “entire context of academic publishing” is a trashfire of publishers who make make their reputations on scholars’ intellectual labour, pay said scholars nothing, and rake in the cash from subscriptions and one-off article access fees. I used to be an academic librarian and I know how it works; it’s all BS and everyone knows it. Except maybe the publishers and people who – for whatever reason – enjoy licking their boots.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            It would be amusing if it were blindingly obvious that it were a problem, and needed to be corrected, and absolutely would not make it into the journal. Something more subtle that could be missed would be more along the lines of deliberate sabotage of someone’s career.

            Also, I’d want a discount on the page charges for the inconvenience. In my field, we pay to publish (from grant money, not personally, but typically > 100 USD per published page) *and* pay $$ for the subscription to the journals (at an institute level – they’re not priced for individual use).

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              I would think the company would have to reprint the articles gratis since it was a mess up on their turf.

    1. Amused by the editing*

      OP sent out A copy of the documents with her changes to the authors. Not THE copy.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Indeed, this is not the era when you sent out a carbon copy of your manuscript and watched the return mail to see if the SASE you’d sent was plump (rejected) or flat (contains a check).

        Most editing software could just revert the changes, even if they didn’t have a duplicate handy.

    2. Frank*

      I’m an academic researcher. Sorry, but I think #6 is funny.

      Some copy editors do excellent work, but I’m quite used to receiving page proofs of unacceptable quality anyway.

      You mention COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics. This is an organization, many of whose members charge thousands of dollars for a year’s subscription to a single journal, while outsourcing copyediting work overseas, as OP #6’s company did.

      Personally, I believe that sending out joke page proofs is much less of an ethics breach than paying miserable wages, breaking promises to employees, or instituting mass layoffs. I hope that your employer is much better in these regards.

      1. pagooey*

        I’m a technical writer and editor, and in my first corporate job, I had an *author* who would put snarky or obscene asides in his drafts, to keep me on my toes. We laughed about it then, and that whole company had way too many other HR crises perpetually going on for it to matter in the long run. But also it was 30 years ago, and I shudder a little at my stupid, stupid youth and how badly I could have shot myself in the foot!

        1. The Man from Chicago*

          Yeah, this is like when the DB guy slips in a funny message in an error handler because “you’re never supposed to end up there” – very funny, until a new guy in Operations (or worse, a client) gets a popup that says “D@mn son you broke it! Call [Name] at [Extension] to fix it, if your dumb-@ss can figure out how to use a phone!”.

          A little story about that:

      2. Banana Pants*

        I’m an academic researcher and this site needs a “cosign every word of this comment” button. I pictured myself getting proofs like that and laughed out loud.

    3. BioBrains*

      Came here to say the same thing as an academic: they essentially messed with the client, not with the company. As an author I would not think that was funny.

    4. anonymouse*

      Copy editor here. Anything that was global find/replaced can easily be undone with another global find/replace. If the poster had somehow sent this stuff to the printer I could see being outraged, but just sending it back to the authors this way really does not rise above the level of a prank.

      And sure it’s unfortunate that the blameless authors were caught up in this, but if you treat your employees like garbage, you run the risk of all sorts of consequences, including some that you have to apologize profusely for.

      1. Astor*

        Just because I’m worried about someone accidentally testing this: global find/replace can only be easily redone with another global find/replace if the words won’t cause collisions! Sometimes this happens by accident and sometimes you have to be purposeful, but there are definitely cases where you can’t undo a global find/replace.

        For example, if I did a global find/replace on this webpage to find every version of garbage and replace it with trash, and then another global find/replace to find every version of trash and replace it back to garbage, the original and final versions would be different and it would also introduce some incorrect words like garbageing.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          You can prevent the “garbaging” example by adding a space after the word you’re searching for (so “trash ” instead of “trash”) and selecting the option to find the exact text you’ve put, though.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            Yes, but in that example, now “he went to trash the llama grooming plan” would still come out wrong.
            Replacing a dozen or so nouns with “thingy” would be both hilarious and nasty (as in not easily reversible).

          2. Bananapantsfeelings*

            Unless you have a period or comma after the word.

            Why yes, I’ve replace-all mangled things aplenty.

    5. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

      I used to be editor of an academic journal, and you can toss my name into “I thought that was hilarious” pile. Don’t get me wrong; I totally get why a lot of people don’t think it was funny, and it definitely caused pain for people who didn’t deserve it. I discourage anyone from emulating that stunt. But if that happened to me as an author and/or editor, I would’ve been gleefully recounting that story for the rest of my life.

      1. Scholarly Publisher*

        See name, and would never do this to an author, and also thought it was hilarious.

    6. Zona the Great*

      Come on, now. Let’s not do this. Alison asked for bridge burning stories. This was one. Let’s just let people tell their stories as solicited.

      1. Dhaskoi*

        I have a sneaking suspicion that the people most offended are people who *aspire* to publish academically, not people who actually have.

        1. A Genuine Scientician*

          Eh. I’m thinking back to some very tight deadlines journals have given me for dealing with page proofs. One was 48 hours and sent to me at 4pm the day before Thanksgiving. Another was 48 hours and sent to me on Christmas Eve. Given the amount we have to pay the journals to publish stuff, and those sorts of windows, I’d be outraged if I got back proofs with a ton of ridiculous things in. Most journals don’t let you just track changes; you have to specify every correction by line number, so it becomes a lot of work for the authors, not for the company that had mistreated the OP.

          1. Nancy*

            Agree, I would not be happy if I got this and was then expected to correct it line by line. I’d probably just send it back and say the entire paper needs to be copy edited again.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      I used to work in academic publishing and think this one was hilarious! Obviously, it wouldn’t be funny if the find-and-replace-o-rama made it into print, but it didn’t.

    8. Another academic who thinks this one is funny*

      Another academic here-I don’t think this is an ethical breach, and I do think my students would find this hilarious, especially if we found out the story behind it. I’m guessing the page proofs would find their way onto the lab wall for future lab members to enjoy during procedures with a lot of waiting time.

    9. Anonymous cuz it’s funny*

      Oh please. Also in academia. It was an easily corrected prank. Nothing was ruined, nothing was disappeared.

    10. Moira's Rose's Garden*

      Since it’s the proofs, meaning that the article is accepted and is going into publication, I’m having a hard time seeing the professional harm or major ethics breach?

      After laughing my arse off, I’d just contact whatever person I was working in and ask them to resend proofs. My article is going to be published and corrective action belongs to them. I’d defo be rethinking *submitting* to that journal again. Who knows what other violations of ethical peer review are going on at a journal with “hands off management” that had a system which allowed for this kind of thing?! Shady and predatory journals are definitely a much bigger ethical problem in academic publishing.

  5. DeskApple*

    “it’s your company, so if it’s stressful and people don’t want to work here, it’s because you want it that way.”


    1. Jackalope*

      Yeah, there are some jobs that will be inherently stressful – EMT, for example, or emergency phone line operator. But outside of that sort of work there’s no good reason that a job NEEDS to be stressful.

    2. N C Kiddle*

      I don’t know why OP said it was unprofessional, it seemed completely professional to me as well as thoroughly deserved.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I had to sit back and contemplate all the joys life can offer when I read that, utter perfection.

  6. Catgirl*

    These are all amazing. The best I’ve personally encountered was a colleague who was laid off. His changed his office phone’s out of office message to a bitter message explaining his layoff and ending with “have a nice life”. We have no idea how many clients heard it before the company found out and erased it.

  7. Naomi*

    #11: Thanks for pointing out why it’s not really a flex to brag about a workplace being so intense that some employees “can’t hack it.” Some jobs are more difficult than others, but no one owes it to their employer to prove their fortitude!

    1. Lacey*

      Yes! I worked at a place that used to make a similar brag. It was not actually that intense of a place to work. It was just poorly managed. But they chose to act as if this meant only the best of the best could hack it there, when it really meant that people laughed in interviews when I told them where I worked.

      1. Sovreignry*

        I used to work at a law firm where the Boss was exactly like this. People would unprompted mention that my boss was an a-hole when I mentioned who I worked for, and another fellow associate was told, “I can’t believe you survived two years there.” when he was applying elsewhere.

        1. Cj*

          kind of off topic, but I got the same response about my step brother to be when I told people who my mother was marrying. fortunately we’re almost kids were adults by them, so I didn’t have to deal with him much.

    2. Wolf*

      Yeah reminded me of the classic “it’s not that people don’t want to work anymore, it’s that you made it unpalatable to work for YOU”.

  8. Ultimate Facepalm*

    I loved sending flowers to the old boss when the former IRS worker’s salary doubled and then tripled. That’s petty as hell and I support it.

    Come to think of it, I had to work at a grocery store for a while as a THIRD job during my divorce and at the height of COVID. One lady was SO mean all the time. A year or two after I left, I went up to her and told her she was nasty to everyone and that’s why nobody liked her (nobody did). I also told her I was making six times what I used to make there, and that I hoped she was happy still being at the bakery. She pointed out how hard her job is because of working at that company, and I reminded her that it is hard for everyone who worked there, except that most of the rest of us managed to treat each other with respect.
    Then I told her to enjoy the rest of her shift because I was going home. I’m usually pretty nice to everyone, but am not sorry about that conversation one single bit.

    1. tangerineRose*

      At first I thought the lady was a customer when reading this. The thing is, if people are rude to others, then the others won’t want to help them, and that makes the rude person’s job harder.

  9. Baby Yoda*

    I really thought the IRS story would have a different “gotcha” ending — like a surprise audit.

    1. Not the IRS*

      I’m a public servant (though not for the IRS or in the US at all) and if the IRS/American civil service is at all like the one in my country, it would be an ethics and values breach of such titanic degree for someone to punish the LW’s husband for this pettiness with an audit that they’d be immediately canned and blacklisted if there was even a whiff of evidence that said audit was punitive. This simply would not happen. (In large part because the IRS is underfunded and understaffed, from what I hear.)

  10. Awkwardness*

    I was cheering heavily for 1 to 4 – and then there was number 5. This is greatness!

    And mad respect to number 7.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      OMG, yes, on #7! I remember all too well how stressed out I was about taking maternity leave. My husband and I were living hand to mouth in those days and literally needed every penny both of us brought in to make ends meet. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my baby but really couldn’t afford to lose any income. Fortunately, my employer at the time was quite family friendly and had a very sensible leave policy.

      If I’d been in a situation like #7 described, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown. I’m really happy that #7 was in a position to tell her lousy employer where to stick their shitty leave offer. I felt like standing up and cheering for her!

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I used to work at a buffet place that catered to senior citizens. There was this one woman who targeted me with constant complaints. I couldn’t do anything right, and she freely yelled at me all the time. My bosses refused to do anything because “the customer is always right.” (Not even the original sentence and certainly not the original intent.)

    When my co-workers and I went to McDonald’s for lunch, I saw her working there. A friend of mine who also worked at that McDonald’s told me the Angry Lady worked there as part of a retiree program to stay active and involved in the community. She wasn’t working there because she needed the money.

    So all my friends and I called the McDonald’s customer service hotline separately to complain about her. We repeated all the complaints she used to scream at me only we didn’t do it in public with everyone else watching.

    It’s not exactly burning a bridge, but it’s what she deserved.

  12. Bookworm*

    I love all of this and got such nice second-hand glee. Also want to point out, “So maybe it was our old company that burned the bridge with us” really hit home.

    Employees hear ALL. THE. TIME. about being professional, you don’t want to burn bridges, etc. Like…there are a billion more of these stories (and sadly, many are so much worse) but the employers are really not told the same thing. When there’s no other accountability, what’s left?

    Some of these bridges should be burned and tossed right back at them.

    1. Ostrich Herder*

      I absolutely agree! Sometimes people escape OVER a burning bridge, and it’s burning because they place they’re running from is already on fire.

    2. Texas Teacher*

      Yes. I’m in public education and I would love to see schools be made to publish their teacher attrition rates as part of their “report card”.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Not only did I burn bridges with my last workplace (I emailed upper management, including the CEO to explain why I was looking for a new job), but they are currently in the process of having to transfer a contract they had with my current employer to a different vendor.

      I feel so deliciously happy every time I read their name in the materials I edit explaining this transition.

    4. MrsThePlague*

      I think of this when I think about the letter from a couple days ago, about the OP whose interns B&E’d a restaurant their company was using and stole a $250.00 bottle of liquor – and the response from the leadership was a collective shrug. I would think that as a company, you wouldn’t want to have a reputation for employees who commit felonies with no repercussions, (as that seems like something that could pretty easily burn a bridge) but apparently that leadership was…unconcerned. So strange!

    1. Quinalla*

      Seriously, amazing! Loved them all, but that was my fav especially the old company actually burned the bridge with them, so true.

    1. I Am On Email*

      Same!! LW7 was my absolute favourite and the ending felt like an excellent TV cliff hanger. I genuinely squawked and wish wish wish there was another paragraph about the fall out.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      And I want to know how long ago this was and if OP7 has suffered any repercussions because of that email. Go you, OP7!

  13. Llellayena*

    I really want to see the rest of the email chain (and board meeting transcripts) for the maternity leave one. How did that president explain away NOT creating a leave policy when it was requested by EVERY employee?

    1. pally*

      No doubt someone offered up the usual “It’ll break the budget” excuse and nixed any action to create a policy-for the “good” of the company.

      When I served on an HOA board, if anyone made any kind of request, big or small, the response was always, “Sure! We’ll get right on that. It will raise the monthly dues by a significant amount, but you’re good with that -right? And we’ll let everyone know it was your idea! Raising the dues is the only way we can make your request happen. And we’ll have you to thank!”

      Sure enough, any and all requests were always rescinded. Folks soon learned to not ask for anything.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I can only conclude that she believed maternity leave policies are found under cabbages at certain phases of the moon.

    3. Zephy*

      Also “I can’t just wave a magic wand and create a leave policy!” – ma’am, yes you can, waving a magic wand and creating policies is your entire job as president of this organization.

    1. TJ Morrison*

      I had to re-read that one, and I admit I’ve never had fish, but how does a single key dropped in a tank affect the fish?

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Depending on the fish, you have to be very careful with what you put in an aquarium.

            1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

              When I was a kid, I found a cool rock and we put it in with my fish. The fish died. Apparently, you have to boil the rock first. So, yeah, I think the key could have killed the fish.

      1. loggerhead*

        Why even take the chance on trashing some poor animal’s habitat to make a point?

    2. Worldwalker*

      If it was salt water, yeah, could be bad. But freshwater fish are remarkably tolerant of random things ending up in the water. If they weren’t, most people couldn’t keep fish. It’s highly unlikely that the fish suffered. Key: brass, not toxic to fish. Keychain: who knows, but probably some form of plastic that’s old enough not to be giving off plasticizers. Given that the aquariums in a chain pet store are all on the same circulation/filtration system (which is why you always treat fish from there for Ich, because odds are at least one fish in at least one tank has it and is sharing) you’re talking about thousands of gallons of water — that’s a lot of dilution.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        If they weren’t, I don’t really see how they could live in the world. Or are pet shop fish the equivalent of dogs so overbred that they can’t breathe?

        1. Aqua*

          Eh, while I agree the key was probably fine, the type of things that can accidentally end up in water in a fish tank are different to the kinds of things fish are likely to encounter in the wild, and the volume of water involved is very different.

          For example, I wash my hands thoroughly in plain water before putting them in my tank to maintain it, to remove soap and oils. I also add a water conditioner to tap water before putting it in the tank to neutralise chlorine and heavy metals. Some materials could also react with the water to change the pH balance, which fish may have different levels of sensitivity to.

          But as worldwalker says, a key is unlikely to do any harm.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    I am ABSOLUTELY going to use #9 as an example of how illegal discrimination WILL bite a company in the backside. Well-deservedly!!

  15. Fluff*

    I have a wonderful day dream of so much Bridge Burning:

    1. quitting in cod,
    2. Dropping the keys in the fish tank,
    3. Emailing the board,
    4. Leaving a glitter trail from the break room to the exit,
    5. Topping off the sticker chart with ‘feeling grand’ before my exit,
    6. Walking to my car by my landscaped resignation signature.

    Then 2 years later:
    7. Sending flowers with my doubled salary,
    8. Emailing old boss with, so sorry, we won’t be going with your company for the contract, but nice hearing from you.

    This is the plot of a Great Resignation movie. Schadenfreude part 1: Bridges. This could be the next Legally Blonde movie.

        1. linger*

          On my final day of notice, I gave my company:
          Twelve cod a-quitting,
          Eleven random edits,
          Ten glitter trails,
          Nine cancelled contracts,
          Eight shredded docs,
          Seven smiley stickers,
          Six screeds of email,
          Five board forwardings!
          Four drowned keys,
          Three home truths,
          Two mowed words,
          And a flipped bird, ’cause I am free.

          1. Bananapantsfeelings*

            Oh my goodness.

            That was either a remarkable amount of effort or a genius at improv.

            1. linger*

              I will note I did spend enough time to work out that, if you try using whole matchsticks to stand in for cod, you need exactly twelve to spell out “I QUIT”.
              If I’d had just a little more editing time, I’d have rearranged some of the items, and definitely gone for “Ten trails of glitter” and probably “Four hidden keys” to better match the original’s scansion.

          2. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            EPIC. Even though it put a Christmas music earworm in my head and I absolutely despise Christmas music!

  16. jd*

    When I was offered my first professional position in the field I went to grad school for, I called the store manager of the retail store I was working at to give my notice. I didn’t give a full two weeks because I didn’t want to work Black Friday. He told me that if I didn’t give a full two weeks then I wouldn’t be able to come back to work for them again. I actually laughed at him and said “I don’t ever plan on coming back to work for this company ever again.” They are lucky I even finished out the shifts I did have.

  17. Carole from Accounts*

    I once worked at a giant, multinational company that produced widgets was a wholly-owned subsidiary of a well known Japanese company. We had archaic data and accounting and sales systems that were always wrong and didn’t talk to each other, and a fancy c-suite office with a zen garden. It was bonkers how the c-suite always needed info and reports and was always upset that the info was never accurate or complete, but never missed an opportunity to deny funding for better systems or tech.

    One of our project managers was in a meeting where they were being blamed for the millionth time for the systems being out of sync. The c-level person was yelling at the PM in the meeting like the PM personally sabotaged the data. The PM stood up, walked out of the conference room, strode across the lobby, opened the door to the zen garden and did snow angels all over the garden. Just before security arrived, they exited the facility, never to return again.

    The company didn’t have money for tech, but they did have money for a zen gardener, who made a very expensive off schedule visit to remove the snow angels. That PM was still being talked about when I left 5 years later.

    1. Little Bobby Tables*

      This is an epic battle of pettiness. Snow Angels in the Zen garden is over the top already, but then calling in an emergency Zen gardener to fix it? I don’t know much about Zen, but I was under the impression that making a Zen garden was some sort of mental exercise for the benefit of whoever was arranging the rocks.

      1. Carole from Accounts*

        I think, in general, yes people can rake their own zen gardens for zen purposes. But it seems that all Japanese-owned-subsidiaries in a tri state area of the US south east were contracting someone with a zen gardening business to make the gardens appropriately zen for overlord site visits, and in this one case, to remove snow angels.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I love this, and also think that Snow Angels in the Zen Garden would be an A+ username.

  18. RetiredJunkie*

    I went to rehab at 22, and during my stint – I was working as a front store manager at a drug store.

    I took a leave of absence while I attend 90 days inpatient, only to return to find out that the general manager told ALL staff members about my ‘heroin addiction’ (… which it was not). It was difficult being so young and trying to do the right thing and stay clean. This was one of the many issues occurring at that workplace.

    I found a new job pretty shortly and on a random evening I locked up the store and left a key with a note that said ‘Goodluck. Hope you can find someone to open up the store tomorrow.’

    I am now over four years clean and work in a fantastic field making double. No love lost!

    *Fun fact: despite the GM outing my ‘heroin’ addiction… little did she know it was actually stimulants and that’s why the store was always so cleaned and organized LOL! Grateful for my sobriety.

      1. RetiredJunkie*

        Thank you!

        Would I do it differently at this point in my life? Absolutely.

        But I can objectively say that despite my struggles, I was a good employee! Showed up on time and got the job done.

        I mean shit – I was promoted to a manager at 22! That’s gotta count for something :)

        1. Jessica*

          At 22, while grappling with drug addiction! absolutely!
          Congratulations on leaving that ridiculous joint behind on your path to a better life.

    1. starsaphire*

      Congrats on your four years! That is a serious accomplishment.

      Best of luck to you!

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Everything about this is perfect from your username to your footnote.

    3. CowWhisperer*

      Wow! You were working hard at getting clean and you got out of a seriously toxic job!

      I’m proud of all the hard work you did and do!

  19. Junior Dev (now mid level)*

    3 seems reasonable honestly. They tried to fix it through normal channels and the company refused to help, and they were only coming in as a favor to them it sounds like.

  20. I can do it with a broken heart*

    Two questions/thoughts:
    1) what does “unpersoned” mean???
    2) I don’t know a lot about fish but I feel like dropping keys into their tank can’t be good for them??? I know big box pet stores like PetSmart et al aren’t known for their stellar handling of fish, reptiles, guinea pigs, etc but damn, that seems cold even for them :-( Those poor fishes :-(

    1. Lily*

      “In George Orwell’s novel 1984, an unperson is someone who has been expunged by the state, someone of whom all trace has been erased.”

      1. I can do it with a broken heart*

        Thanks for the FYI!

        I wish they would have just said something like, “when someone gives notice, the company treats them like they don’t exist anymore.”

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          “Unperson” is deeper than that – it includes rewriting records and history to remove any trace of them having ever existed.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            It’s based on the real practices of dictators like Stalin. He frequently purged people in his inner circle, so you can find the paired photos from before and after the purge: one has Stalin standing next to someone, and the other is the exact same photo with Stalin standing alone. Someone clearly went to a lot of trouble to paint over the purged person so it’s as if they never existed.

        2. The Man from Chicago*

          Unperson is more than that – it’s not that “they don’t exist anymore”, it’s “they never existed to begin with”.

          I worked in a place like that. People would disappear – I’d say “the city opened its heaving maw and swallowed them whole”. You’d say “where’s X” and the response, universally, would be “who’s X?”

  21. Not Jobless (Yet)*

    I’m reading these and taking notes for when I finally get to quit working for my chaos demon boss! My only plan so far is to take copious notes on some untruthful memos she has written about how bad my work is and share them with HR when I leave. Most of the fallout is that she doesn’t know that I’m the only person who knows how to do some things (it’s been a long-term problem that there’s not a backup for a lot of my job duties). She’s also planning on revamping the website, and I think she’ll miss me very much then.

  22. Irrational Number*

    #8 the Psychic was pretty funny. I laughed out loud. And no, I didn’t see the punchline coming…

  23. Adultiest Adult*

    Apparently the maternity leave policy is… Have maternity, leave! Also I am pretty convinced that Mower Person and Fish Quitter are siblings!

  24. Your Oxford Comma*

    In high school I got a job in a textile mill, in the lab, mixing colors for clients who wanted a particular shade on a 50/50 cotton/poly yarn. I wasn’t a chem major but I have an eye for color and was good at the job, working most of my jr. year, that summer, and all of my senior year.
    They hired a retired military guy who had no people skills and was always berating me about how to do my job, although he had no experience in textiles or management. I was going to quit because I wasn’t getting support from my bosses, when the new guy fired me.

    I had just graduated high school and needed the money (for 1973 it was quite good) and was very upset. My parents were pissed, thinking I caused my own firing. I was so mad from the lack of support from my bosses and my family that on my last day I altered several formulae for several 10,000 lbs. dye-jobs. What should have been hunter green may have been lime green, and the lovely burnt Sienna was probably maroon. I have no idea how much money they lost but I didn’t care at the time.

    By the mid-80s the textile mill closed, and I’m sorry my then-friends and colleagues lost their jobs. Blame outsourcing.

  25. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I did this exactly once.

    I had been hit in a car accident head-on while waiting to make a left-hand turn across three lanes of traffic. The oncoming minivan drifted left of centre; insurance picked up most of the tabs, but replacing my vehicle and my deductibles pretty much wiped out that summer’s earnings. Thankfully, I walked away with no worse than bad seat-belt bruising on my waist, hip, and left shoulder.

    After reading the hospital note, the cult took me off the schedule for 2 weeks, then front-door duty for 2 weeks, then back onto the registers… which was a problem for me as I only had maybe a quarter of my strength in my dominant arm. I relearned how to do the job right-handed, asked customers to leave their goods in their carts and became good at hand scanning, etc. I made it work for 4+ days…

    Until a woman who would today be called Karen came through my line. I asked her to leave her dog food on her flat twice between helping customers before her in line, and she ignored me; when I turned around to check her out, there were something like 20 bags of dog food on the belt, each weighing 80 lbs and I couldn’t lift any of them.

    I asked her why she hadn’t followed instructions. She covered the mic on her cell phone with her hand (this was a few years before the R3zr made flip phones popular) and started to tell me off to “just do my job,” laced generously with personal insults. After about a minute or two of the tirade, I straightened my posture back up, locked my register drawer, turned off the light over my lane, and told her “Now you can put them back on your kart and get in another line, because I’m sure as Hell not going to help you,” turned my back to her, turned on the light and started opening up the register behind me (at full complement, two employees would work back-to-back in adjacent lanes).

    Her silence was deafening. Just as I was about to invite the next person from my original line over to the new register to check out, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. My supervisor had witnessed the entire exchange. He told me, quite gently, that I was overdue for my break, and to make it a double (claiming he had missed my earlier break but really trying to tell me to go cool off). He opened my original register back up and checked her out himself, I walked straight out of the building, and he was just finishing checking out the last person in line when I re-entered the building a half hour later.

    5-6 weeks later, I had my exit interview before returning to school. He cited that incident, very dispassionately and plainly, as the reason why I couldn’t be eligible for rehire. I agreed and cited it as the reason I couldn’t consider being rehired.

    Until the last of them left the place, my peers would continue to give me the employee discount on the rare occasions I had to shop there–it was the first and last time any of them saw someone stand up to an abusive customer.

    1. tangerineRose*

      A better manager might have made sure to let the employees know how to deal with customers like this. Maybe in this case “Call the manager.”

  26. CubeFarmer*

    The glitter!

    I had a colleague who had a chip on his shoulder because…reasons. Oswald just seemed like an angry, bitter person for reasons that had nothing to do with his job. He basically got angry any time someone questioned his work or had any suggestions for improving his work. Clearly, he was not a great fit for any job where he wasn’t the last word.

    ANYWAY, after Oswald had alienated most of his office mates, he put in his notice for a new job far, far away from here. We were, honestly, thrilled. We took the excuse of summertime during the pandemic to “forget” to hold a farewell lunch for him. I think that was a relief for both sides.

    He had a lot of work-related photos on our server. These were images that he, and us, needed of projects we worked on. Oswald thought because he used his own camera equipment to take the photos (his choice–the photos didn’t need to be professional quality) he owned the images. Of course, that’s just not true.

    But, true to form, before his last day, he deleted all these photos. Honestly, it took us a few weeks to notice. Then, for a few months all of us were like, “Do we have photos of X? Oh, we don’t because Oswald deleted all that.” Then, one of my colleagues thought to ask our IT consultant about the situation. Within an hour, the consultant had restored the vast majority of Oswald’s files from a backup version.

    So, said colleague burned a bridge (that quite honestly, I don’t see him ever needing again–I think he knew his time in our city was done,) and it didn’t, ultimately, get him the revenge he wanted.

    See ya, Oswald! We’re glad that you left, too!

  27. MassChick*

    #9 (contract renewal) was so satisfying from a gender justice standpoint
    #11 The resignation grand tour (truth telling) made me smile
    #12 The sticker board (feeling fantastic)had me cheering

  28. Neddy Seagoon*

    This story may or may not be true. I heard whispers about it (as well as the original story from the person who was supposed to be behind it) but I would have expected a much bigger splash. But then, publishing has quite a few failures that are never discussed openly. (Such as paying large advances to Big Names, which becomes sticky when Big Name loses his position or refuses to help do publicity, etc).

    A few years ago, a middle ranking publishing house decided it was going to outsource the editing to a certain East Asian country. If you are thinking this was an insane decision, you are correct. They wound up playing with nearly every stereotype of important work being outsourced to people who don’t really know what they’re doing, resulting in edited manuscripts that had to be checked and edited (often from scratch) by the original editors, who were not very happy about this. When they pointed the problem out, they were called racists. That did not go down very well. The colour of their skin was of no importance, but the combination of poor English and a complete lack of understanding of the United States was disastrous.

    The person behind the revenge scheme, from what I was told, created a paper trail to ensure that the senior editor (who was supposed to read and review the final manuscript, and normally just rubberstamped the documents forwarded to him) confirmed in writing that the person was to just approve all the changes – a mass approval, done through MS word – and send the manuscript to printing. (In layman’s terms, the senior editor said he had read the manuscript when he actually hadn’t.) The person did as he was told, then took early retirement (which he had been encouraged to do).

    The manuscript reached the printer, who printed a sizeable number of copies and forwarded a handful of samples to the critics. The critics, contrary to most people’s suspicions, actually do try to read the books. They discovered, very quickly, that large parts of the book were effectively unreadable, and to a very large extent the plot was lost in the garbage. Luckily for the author, the copies had not yet been distributed, but they had to be recalled in a hurry and the senior editor wound up in hot water. The cost was apparently quite high and there was no way to recover any of the expenditure, as the books were beyond salvation.

    I don’t know how much of the story is true, but it always gives me a smile.

  29. Kristin*

    These stories are all so great, but the statement “I’ve discussed this with myself, because [staff member] is not my coworker or employee, and concluded that this is outside the scope of what we agreed on when I quit” had me in stitches! I genuflect to this absolute genius.

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