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  1. #1

    Default Price =/= Quality

    This was taken from a post I made in another thread, but I think deserves its own thread. I often hear things like - "Well, this CK frag is nice, but obviously not Hermes quality" or something like that. Or, people question how a $10 or $20 frag could be as "high quality" as a $60 frag. Well, here's something to think about (quoting myself from that other thread, with a few minor changes and addendums )

    "Price does not neccesarily relate to or imply quality. Old Spice is dead cheap and still smells higher quality than a lot of stuff out there, imo. Grey Flannel, too. Just about every mainstream juice is going to be working within a similar budget, probably less than $2 in ingredients per bottle. In fact, possibly much less (my guess is $0.50-$1.00, and this is based upon pricing out my natural blends and taking into consideration the lower concentration of most designer EDTS, and the overuse of quite cheap synthetic musks and such that can comprise a huge portion of the scent (iso e super, anyone?)). Terre d'hermes is like 55% Iso E super, and is an EdT, so maybe a 10% concentration. That means that in a 100ml bottle, 10ml = actual perfume, and 5.5 of those are iso e super. Now, you can buy Iso E super for $10.50 for 80ml, and that's from a middleman (Perfumer's Apprentice).. surely the big houses get it much cheaper buying in massive bulk quantities.

    Even at this marked up price, 5.5ml of iso e super comes out to $0.72. Many of the other ingredients are in the same price range as iso e super. Yes, some of them are more expensive, some of the musks are say, $50 for 80ml, but they usually only comprise small portions of the overall blend, and so they don't contribute huge costs to the formula.

    Even if we assume the rest of Terre is made up of ingredients averaging twice as expensive as Iso E Super, the cost per 100ml bottle is still only $0.72 + $1.18 (the rest is only 45% of the solution).. so, exactly $1.90 a bottle. And that is when we purchase the aromachemicals from a middleman. I imagine the large houses can get them at least 30% cheaper, if not considerably more so. If they can get them half as cheap, the juice in a 100ml bottle of TdH in this example would cost $0.85.

    It's silly to discriminate based on price when it comes to the designers. Even many many niches are dead cheap per bottle. Ironically, those with lower longevity often times use more naturals and hence more "quality ingredients." Many Montale's just smell cheap to me (and if the oud and other ingredients were really so expensive, do you think they'd offer to increase the concentration by nearly half, for free?) - blended with a heavy hand - but their oft-times overbearing power and sillage seems to equate to 'quality' to many here. I don't get it."
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 05:30 AM.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I'm fine with paying top dollars for scents like Chergui, Fumidus, Tuscan Leather, Black Aoud, Patchouli 24, etc..

    I can never find dead ringers for $20-60 dollars.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Well, if you enjoy it and can afford it, buy it. I'm not against that at all! I don't have much of a frag budget myself these days (poor student ) but I'm considering splurgin on Bois de Turquie. I'm just not under any illusion about it being inherently higher quality or utilizing any fewer synthetics than anything else I own.. I just love the smell!

    I just think that the more we know about the industry the better. Many are either under the illusion or willfully deceiving themselves that higher price inherently = higher quality, and I think that is why many designer scents don't get a fair shake (although yes, there is a lot of derivative drivel out there, too!).

    On the flipside, just for thought, consider this: a 20% EDP strength 100ml all natural perfume (which will still likely be weaker in regards to longevity and sillage than a 7-10% synthetic based EdT) composed of just 5% Neroli oil (at about $125 an ounce bought in bulk) already costs $4.17.. now figure in the other 95% of the composition.
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 05:29 AM.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I've just finished university, so I can't really afford any scents within that price range. Occasionally I buy a decant or a sample to try some of these scents. Some of them are rather pleasant but very rarely have I come across something which justifies the extremely hefty price tag.

    With regards to nice fragrances, I did splash out a bit and bought a bottle of Acqua di Parma - and I don't regret that. I think its a wonderful scent which makes me feel extremely good.

    Other scents can be far too ordinary to justify their extraordinary price tag.
    Last edited by mlt.perfume; 4th June 2009 at 05:30 AM.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I think profumo.it fragrances are high quality and a very fair price. He uses some very expensive ingredients, so I think it is fair to price the product accordingly.

    Most other niche I have tried are not great quality but have a high price. For example I am appalled that SL Feminite du Bois now costs $120 when it used to be around $60 for a 50ml bottle. It is at least 40% Iso E Super, so what is the reasoning behind the price other than "prestige"? It is a masterful fragrance, but PLEASE!
    Last edited by Asha; 4th June 2009 at 05:35 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    You've got a point, but in case with TdH you're also forgetting the time it cost Jean-Claude Ellena and his way of playing with ingredients, the marketing costs.

    Sure you're right about the costs for ingredients, but I don't believe it's that simple.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by robbert View Post
    You've got a point, but in case with TdH you're also forgetting the time it cost Jean-Claude Ellena and his way of playing with ingredients, the marketing costs.

    Sure you're right about the costs for ingredients, but I don't believe it's that simple.
    Well, I do realize there are a lot of other extraneous costs, especially for the big name launches that have a huge marketing push. I'm sure companies pay money to have the SAs push their product at launch, etc. But what I am saying is.. all of that money doesn't make a fragrance smell any better or worse. I originally pointed this out when someone said that Halston Unbound, at about $15 a bottle, was obviously not as high quality as Aqua di Gio. Whether it is or isn't, I"m not going to debate, but I am just raising the point that just because it is priced lower does not guarantee that it is lower quality. There are many approaches to profitablity in the perfume industry.. high profit margins and low volume (something like By Kilians, perhaps?) and low profit margins and high volume (Old Spice, Brut, etc).

    I'm not saying a company isn't justified in charging whatever they want; just that the price really shouldn't affect our perception of the fragrance.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I think mostly in terms of notions such as dynamism, note articulation, strength without harshness, balance, etc. Of course, if it's not technically sound, then forget it (poor longevity or sillage). Almost all niche I've tried I've found to be "failures" but it seems as though those who buy these frags want ones that are clearly unbalanced, for example.

  9. #9

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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I'm sorry but pricing is not that simple and I think that focusing on the use of iso e super from that angle puts you farther away from the truth. Most fragrances today contain iso e super and hedione and they are VERY cheap. As mentioned before, you cannot even use this price as a reference (the prices through perfumer's apprentice does not reflect the industrial prices).

    We can talk about the pink pepper used in Terre d'Hermes which costs more than 100 times more than iso e super, and there is quite a bit of it inside TdH. I am intimate with TdH's fragrance structure, and I can tell you that it is a formula of value.

    It is the trace materials that is expensive. The smell of a fragrance has a lot to do with the price but at the same time it does not. A good perfumer can make a cheap formula smell real and good. And I have seen expensive fragrances on the market but smell cheap.
    Last edited by scentophile; 4th June 2009 at 10:15 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    It's silly to discriminate based on price when it comes to the designers. Even many many niches are dead cheap per bottle. Ironically, those with lower longevity often times use more naturals and hence more "quality ingredients." Many Montale's just smell cheap to me (and if the oud and other ingredients were really so expensive, do you think they'd offer to increase the concentration by nearly half, for free?) - blended with a heavy hand - but their oft-times overbearing power and sillage seems to equate to 'quality' to many here. I don't get it."
    you bring up a good point. I've been wondering if Montale Aoud line has any 'natural' oud. Does it?
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    But what I am saying is.. all of that money doesn't make a fragrance smell any better or worse.
    I agree. Completely

    But for instance when I would want a fragrace to smell like a rose for instance instead of something fairly abstract I have found out ( so far in my limited testing ) that I prefer natural ingredients.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by kess View Post
    you bring up a good point. I've been wondering if Montale Aoud line has any 'natural' oud. Does it?
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by scentophile View Post
    I'm sorry but pricing is not that simple and I think that focusing on the use of iso e super from that angle puts you farther away from the truth. Most fragrances today contain iso e super and hedione and they are VERY cheap. As mentioned before, you cannot even use this price as a reference (the prices through perfumer's apprentice does not reflect the industrial prices).

    We can talk about the pink pepper used in Terre d'Hermes which costs more than 100 times more than iso e super, and there is quite a bit of it inside TdH. I am intimate with TdH's fragrance structure, and I can tell you that it is a formula of value.

    It is the trace materials that are expensive. The smell of a fragrance has a lot to do with the price but at the same time it does not. A good perfumer can make a cheap formula smell real and good. And I have seen expensive fragrances on the market but smell cheap.
    Scentophile!

    I was hoping you'd chime in. I admit that I am drawing conclusions from a very limited set of info - I'd love to be intimate with TdH's or any other mainstream frag's structure - alas I have to try and make educated guesses from the outside.

    Anyhow, I know you can't divulge too many of the insider secrets, but can you perhaps tell us what the average cost of ingredients is per bottle, or what the typical budgets are for various houses (or mainstream houses as a whole?). Any info you can divulge on the topic would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 08:14 AM.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    SculptureOfSoul,

    What would those By Kilians (especially A taste of Heaven) be worth? They are 175 euros / 225 dollars, with an awsome bottle and an awsome box! I still want to get this one, but I'm afraid this is too much for any perfume.
    unico grande amore.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

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    Last edited by Trebor; 4th June 2009 at 11:44 AM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I wish I knew a pointer to a good site on economics. But clearly UMC (unit material cost) is only one part of final price. There are the salaries and the materials used by the people who create the scents. There are the plant costs, energy usage and salaries required to manaufacture the scents. There are costs for bottles and packaging. There are costs for shipping, storaging, distributing. And then there's rent and utilities and salaries at the retail store. Oh, yeah, profits for the people who own every business involved, otherwise they'd just keep their money in the bank. And the costs of failures.

    So why is Grey Flannel only $14.99 at TJ Max this week? First, it's been around a long time so all the development costs have been paid back. Second, TJM spends much less money than Sephora or Lord and Taylor on shelving and display and no money at all on SAs. This is a real opportunity if you're replenishing a supply of something you've worn & are going to continue to wear, or for me, starting out, looking for examples of different types of scents and spending lots of time shopping, looking up what I see in BN and Perfumes: The Guide, then going back. But if you want the latest thing & you want to smell 20 on the way to picking 1, don't begrudge the $70 you wind up spending.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Let's face it, the profit margin on scents are stellar. It's all about perception: if the brand equity is high enough and people want to buy it because it smells nice to them, people will buy it.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by Stereotomy View Post
    Let's face it, the profit margin on scents are stellar. It's all about perception: if the brand equity is high enough and people want to buy it because it smells nice to them, people will buy it.
    Oh yes, I doubt whether a bottle of Creed or nasomatto, all costs included, runs at more than $10-$20. Some hard insider facts would be welcome, though.
    Last edited by the_good_life; 4th June 2009 at 11:24 AM.
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  19. #19

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    We all know that the cost of the materials is a small fraction of both the retail price to the consumer and also the total cost of getting the bottle of perfume onto the shop shelf to the company. Also actual final price point has more to do with which market you place the product in than its production cost.

    Consider this though - you would be very unlikely to find a good qulaity composition realeased now and made from excellent ingredients in a low price range.
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Fine Thread. I also don´t believe that the ingredient costs of as example Tdh for hermes is only at around 1 dollar. Maybe 5 or 10 dollar but that´s not so important for me. I like it a lot and want to be never without.

    I coult test last week some of the drugstore Ulric de Varens frags and was surprized that they are really not bad for 6 € (normally in 60 ml but black and man now + 40 ml in 100 ml). TdH should cost also 6 € not 60 € it would be perfect but i don´t believe that it would be the same quality.

    It´s also interesting that frags like Lagerfeld Photo are available here in germany with an 125 ml bottle for 20 € after 20 years and the quality isn´t the same as in the 90 ties. Why ?
    Last edited by sanatik; 4th June 2009 at 01:11 PM.
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  21. #21

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Please don't think I made this thread with the intent of saying so many fragrances are overpriced or anything like that. My point was more that the price that you pay for a bottle does not necessarily have anything to do with the price of the ingredients, and hence it is fallacious to assume that a $15 scent can't be of "equal quality" to a $60 scent. I think it is that kind of thinking that leads so many to dismiss designer scents (along with other extraneous things like the celebrity who's endorsing it, etc), or cheaper scents in general.

    Now, what Hirch says is, I believe, true:
    Consider this though - you would be very unlikely to find a good qulaity composition realeased now and made from excellent ingredients in a low price range.
    But from that we can not deduce that everything that is expensive is a good quality composition with excellent ingredients. Surely something that costs $20 in raw materials per bottle will fetch a hefty price (and still may have a lower profit margin %!) but not all things that fetch hefty prices are composed of expensive formulas. Scentemental had surmised that Fumidus by Profumum was likely composed of primarily javanese vetiver oil. Turin remarked that Acqua Di Sale was an overdose of Helional (his two word review of AdS: Helional Alone). If either of those are true, that means the juice in those scents is likely a few dollars or less, for a bottle that is fetching $240. I've no problem with them charging what they will for their product - I just have a problem with the disillusionment the perfume community as a whole has in regards to the price and name = quality issue.

    It seems like the majority of reviews on the perfume blogs will point out the few redeeming qualities of a banal release by a big name, while a similar or even more interesting release by a house who garners little respect gets quickly dismissed after a cursory sniff. It's that prejudice I have a problem with, and I thought that pointing out some behind the scenes pricing as best as I could surmise would help make a dent in the issue. (perhaps TdH wasn't a great example. I used it simply because it is documented that it is comprised of a huge dose of Iso E Super. I did take some liberty in guessing the price of the rest of the formula, but tried to guess fairly based on the cost of the many synthetics out there. Also, I was working with the prices of the materials bought in small quantities from a middleman, and I am sure that these ingredients are significantly cheaper when bought in massive bulk for large production runs.)

    I really don't have any problem with a company charging what it will - we just need to stop smelling with our eyes and our wallets, and instead only with our noses.

    An aside: Alex, does that pink pepper cost 100 times more than the price of the Iso E Super I have listed, or the price that the companies pay for Iso E Super? Or rather, can you just tell us about how much that pink pepper costs per ounce, and how much of the composition it accounts for. If not that, could you tell us approximately how much is spent on pink pepper for each bottle of TdH without going into its per ounce cost and compositional amount. Thanks! .
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 01:28 PM.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    If anyone doesn't want price be an influence on which fragrances they buy then I suggest that when you purchase some samples of the different fragrances your interested in, cover the whole sample vial apart from the area that expels the fragrance and than test each fragrance once at a time (so the fragrance name is covered up)

    This way you will know if you truly like the fragrance instead of price or brand name effecting your decision.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    Oh yes, I doubt whether a bottle of Creed or nasomatto, all costs included, runs at more than $10-$20. Some hard insider facts would be welcome, though.
    I have no idea. I can tell you that I've priced out various all natural blends that are heavy with some expensive ingredients (say, 2.5% rose otto, 1% champaca absolute, 5% neroli, 5% orris root, etc) and the cost for a 20% dilution 50ml has fallen in the range of $10-40 (of course it can go higher, but it would have to be a quite economical formula to get under the $10 mark.. and this is for a 50ml size!). That is calculated with ingredients purchased at a small scale production size (maybe enough for 50-100 bottles at a time) and so does not figure in the bulk savings the larger companies would surely enjoy.

    Given the ridiculous longevity of the Nasomattos, I am sure they are loaded with synthetics. I believe most Montales are at 20% concentration to start with (can anyone confirm this?), so the Nasomattos are probably in the 20-25% range. Given that they're only 30ml bottles though, i'd wager that the cost of ingredients in the average Nasomatto is < $10, and probably less than $5. In fact, it wouldn't even surprise me if some of their formulas were cheaper than some of the designer scents out there.

    The Creeds *seem* to use a higher portion of natural ingredients from what I can smell, and based on their low longevity despite being EDPs, but I wouldn't doubt that you are still on the mark or even quite high with your estimates.
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 01:38 PM.
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    If the profit margin on scents is so spectacular why are so many houses either filing bankruptcy or severely scaling back their operations?

    Unless required by law or scarcity of raw materials, why would any company jeopardize a successful product by reformulating it if product costs are already so insignificant?

    Take L'Air du Desert Marocain for example. LDDM's success allows Andy Tauer to develop, introduce and market new scents on a fairly regular basis. Not all of the recent introductions have been well received so it is not fair to assume that LDDM's profit equals the House of Tauer's profit. The successful fragrances have to carry everything else.
    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, ...... I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

  25. #25

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Unless required by law or scarcity of raw materials, why would any company jeopardize a successful product by reformulating it if product costs are already so insignificant?
    For the same reason that Microsoft didn't install $0.50 bumpers to prevent a spinning disc in the Xbox360 from bouncing up and hitting the laser mechanism, thereby ruining the disc. When you factor in the huge number of units moved (millions, in this case), that 50 cent savings per unit becomes noticeable.

    Reducing a formula from say, $2.00 per bottle to $1.25 is a noticeable change, especially considering the packaging and other things are going to be as cheap or cheaper than the cost of the juice (and also, a relatively fixed cost).

    If you move 60,000 units a year, that $0.75 cent savings just pocketed you an extra $40,000.

    Tons of industries bring in bean counters to help them cut costs (and corners!) wherever they can. Unfortunate but all too common.
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Well, think about it in this lens.

    Halston Unbound, $13 @ Luckyscent - Chemically, cheap quality IMO
    Bond no. 9 Chez Bond, $198 @ Saks - Amazing, luxurious, smooth quality

    To my nose, the difference is clear. At the designer level, its hit and miss. Building on what you said with Terre, Chanel frags are the same price, but use much higher quality ingredients.
    Last edited by Sokkou; 4th June 2009 at 03:07 PM.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    For the same reason that Microsoft didn't install $0.50 bumpers to prevent a spinning disc in the Xbox360 from bouncing up and hitting the laser mechanism, thereby ruining the disc. When you factor in the huge number of units moved (millions, in this case), that 50 cent savings per unit becomes noticeable.

    Reducing a formula from say, $2.00 per bottle to $1.25 is a noticeable change, especially considering the packaging and other things are going to be as cheap or cheaper than the cost of the juice (and also, a relatively fixed cost).

    If you move 60,000 units a year, that $0.75 cent savings just pocketed you an extra $40,000.

    Tons of industries bring in bean counters to help them cut costs (and corners!) wherever they can. Unfortunate but all too common.
    Since you didn't disagree, I assume you agree with my main points: that unsuccessful fragrances drag down the profitability of the House as a whole and that raw material costs represent a small fraction of the total cost of operating a fragrance business. I have been self-employed for 26 years. Even though material costs are very significant in my business, they are only about 30% of our total operating expenditures.
    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, ...... I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

  28. #28

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    I agree entirely with your points TwoRoads. I just don't understand the reasons why people who are aware of this still buy into the hype and marketing of so many niche houses, etc (I'm not saying there aren't houses out there that are generally "higher quality" than various designer scents, but *none* of that changes how something smells. On the other hand, research shows that our expectations and preconceptions DO change how we perceive things. If we can get rid of the House X = junk and Cost > X = some guarantee of quality ingredients mentalities, we could be more objective in our assessment of fragrances, and that is what I'm really hoping and fighting for, here.
    Last edited by SculptureOfSoul; 4th June 2009 at 03:22 PM.
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  29. #29

    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    Oh yes, I doubt whether a bottle of Creed or nasomatto, all costs included, runs at more than $10-$20. Some hard insider facts would be welcome, though.

    I have two "hard insider facts" in my post in the following thread one of which confirms your point:

    "Purchasing Bond No. 9 on eBay" thread

    scentemental

    Last edited by scentemental; 4th June 2009 at 03:27 PM.

  30. #30

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    Default Re: Price =/= Quality

    Scentemental's post is interesting but there are so many costs and other levels from A (formula) to Z (wholesaler).

    All that I can say is that I go to a restaurant in France and buy a salad and pay 20 euros for a great salad. I can buy a head of lettuce for less than an Euro in the markets. I buy a dress shirt for 50 euros and I'm sure that it was pennies to make....

    The mathematics and economics of perfumery is not very different than the clothing industry, the automobile industry, beverage industry, etc.

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