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Out-of-State Baby Shower Gift Logistics & Etiquette

Mar26

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Hello Amy,

I read your article on the wording for baby shower invitations when the mother-to-be lives out-of-state. Most people realize my daughter lives out-of-state but these days things have to be spelled out and unless it’s not mentioned, they don’t think about it.

My daughter is listed at Buy Buy Baby and Bed Bath & Beyond. These places offer free shipping on most items however I don’t think it is appropriate to mention this. I am pondering back and forth and looking for a more current response in today’s world.

What are your feelings on noting in the invitation the following:
Please consider shipping large gifts to their home.

There must be something that would be appropriate to mention without getting people upset. Also it is important for the mother to have gifts to open.

I realize I am one of an ever-dwindling number of hopelessly old-fashioned people who still (STILL!) cringe at the idea of putting any registry- or gift-related mentions/instructions directly on invitations. I know, I know. Today’s world, these days, the times, they are a’changing.

But this is my advice column, and I’m sorry. I’m probably never going to give anybody a free pass on this, when they’ve specifically asked for my opinion. The proper approach is to offer registry information (and appropriate accompanying preferences like shipping large gifts or what stores are local to the guest-of-honor for gift card purposes, etc.) when people RVSP via phone or email, and when they specifically request said information. The end.

“BUT BUT BUT WHEN I’M A GUEST I LIKE JUST GETTING THE REGISTRY INFORMATION ON THE INVITATION I DON’T THINK IT’S RUDE AT ALL SHUT UP AMY.”

Yep. I get it. I see your point. It is a bit silly, I suppose, to even pretend at this point that gifts aren’t completely expected and obligatory at baby/wedding showers. I’ve certainly gotten invites with a small, discreet registry line on them and thought nothing of it, beyond clicking over to the website to see what I should buy. (Though if you put something super-grabby like WE WANT CASH MAKE IT RAIN GIFT CARDS on your invitation that’s a guaranteed “I’m sorry I can’t attend,” right there.) I also don’t find it to be all that inconvenient to simply type “I’m so happy I can come! Where is she registered?” when I RSVP to the host. And then the host is completely in the etiquette-free and clear to provide any and all guidance on gift-buying, because I have now indicated my desire to bring a gift, on my own, without being TOLD I need to buy a gift.

It’s a small distinction that I just…find more polite. Because technically, no one who comes to your daughter’s shower is obligated to bring her anything. Gifts are still optional. That is why they are gifts, not an entry ticket/fee for admission to your party. Putting registry information and other gifting instructions tells your potential guests that 1) yeah, we totally expect you to buy us something if you come, and 2) we also expect you to buy gifts the RIGHT WAY as to guarantee that your generosity does not inconvenience us in any way, shape or form. (Be it from having to return “unwanted” off-registry items, shipping things out of state, or getting weird tacky handmade stuff from your eccentric aunt.)

Again: I’m sure a large percentage of your potential shower guests will not care at all if you put registry information and a note like “if purchasing gifts online, please consider shipping directly to her home at [address].” But there might also be a couple old-school etiquette hold-outs who you’ll rub the wrong way. Completely up to you whether or not that matters all that much. (I’d suggest leaving out the “large” distinction, by the way, since that also implies expensive, big-ticket items and might make someone on a tight budget feel badly about only being able to select something small.)

Note that if your daughter definitely plans to open gifts at the shower, the folks who shipped directly to her house (as requested) might feel a little left out or self-conscious. “Oh great, now it looks like I didn’t bring a gift, so would it be tacky to suddenly be all ‘I BOUGHT YOU A CAR SEAT’ in front of everybody? Because that car seat is dope.” I remember once seeing a shower forum where someone suggested people ship gifts and then bring a photo of their gift, and the response was pretty divided as to whether that solved the issue or just amped up the weirdness. Personally, I would hate for someone to have to pay to ship my gift back home…but also can see how it would be find of a bummer to splurge on like, a stroller and not get to see the recipient open it while everybody’s oohing and ahhing over stuff that better fits in a suitcase. I dunno. Just throwing half-formed thoughts out at this point, I guess.

A solution that puts no strings or obligation on your guests could be to 1) return large gifts locally after the shower in exchange for a store gift card, which your daughter uses to repurchase the items once she’s home, or 2) bulk ship items together (discard boxes and packaging, use baby clothes/receiving blankets in place of bubble wrap, etc.) using the cheapest ground option you can find. Just accept that expense as part of the cost to host the party. (Honestly, if she’s flying, you’re probably going to have to ship or return even the small gifts, given the crazy checked bag number and weight restrictions the airlines have these days.)

I wonder if there’s also a way to get the “OUT OF STATE” reminder in the invitation in a way that doesn’t explicitly relate to gifts. If she’s flying in for the shower, perhaps you could get invites with airplanes on them, and do some creative wording about how she’s flying in for a visit, so let’s celebrate with her before baby comes in for a landing or she takes off for motherhood. (Only less…corny and ham-fisted. I DON’T KNOW. IT’S NOT LIKE I WRITE FOR A LIVING OR ANYTHING.)

Or you could just make sure you mention how excited you are that she’s making the long trip in from [STATE] for the shower to as many guests as possible.

Again, once a guest has RSVP’d and inquired about her registry, you are completely in the clear (proper old school etiquette wise) to be explicit and direct about the idea of using the store’s free shipping to get large or unwieldy items to her home. Just remember it’s hard to have it both ways — if she wants gifts to open at the shower, reminding people too pointedly about her out-of-state-ness might lead to everybody shipping everything out of courtesy (no one wants to inconvenience a mother-to-be!), or shying away from larger items she might really need altogether. In that case, it might be better to simply accept the fact that an out-of-state shower is going to involve some shipping expenses or returning/repurchasing and be okay with that. And then have a great time at the party, no matter what the gift-related logistics end up being.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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33 Responses to “Out-of-State Baby Shower Gift Logistics & Etiquette”

  1. brandi Mar 26 at 1:35 pm Reply Reply

    My mom hosted a shower for me in Texas (I live in Tennessee) and we did the return for a gift card thing. It’s basically impossible to pack anything bigger than baby clothes… I know when you say big items you’re thinking strollers and car seats but we even returned bottles and drying racks and toys and such. I just rebought them here with the store credit and it worked out great. 

    • Emily Huston Mar 28 at 5:57 am Reply Reply

      I would also say that the plane themed invitation is actually a great way to subtly remind people and then returning for gift cards should take care of the rest. The idea will work great until and unless as you don’t have the guests address the envelopes for their thank you cards at the shower.

  2. Danielle Mar 26 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    I just had my shower in Pennsylvania (and I live in Florida). I only registered on Amazon so if anyone bought from my registry, it automatically got shipped to my house. Then those guests brought something small (clothing, pacifiers, toys, etc) to my actual shower. Some guests just brought a card to the shower to accompany the gift they already sent to my house (through Amazon). 

    I was able to fit most of the small stuff in my oversized suitcase that I brought specifically for that reason, and the stuff I couldn’t take back with me on the plane, my mom boxed up and shipped back to me later that week. It all worked out really well, with no advance notice to the guests!! 

  3. Rachel Mar 26 at 2:28 pm Reply Reply

    I assume your daughter is flying in for the shower? Maybe you could just mention that fact to as many people as possible, and say that your daughter is hoping some people take advantage of shipping the gift to her house. I’m pregnant and registered on Amazon, which makes it SUPER easy to ship to your house instead of the gift-giver’s house. My baby showers were all local and a couple of people sent the present to my house, and gave me a card with a picture of the present on it at the shower. (FWIW, I don’t think I’ve ever received a wedding or baby shower invite without the registry information on it. It seems like a major hassle to expect guests to have to ask for it – I’ve always had enough trouble even getting people to RSVP).

  4. Stephanie Mar 26 at 2:44 pm Reply Reply

    Honeymoon registries make me cringe. I shouldn’t be funding your totally optional trip. Registries included in actual wedding invitations make me a little twitchy. Include a wedding website link for that stuff. 

    A shower? Well, a shower is supposed to be about showering the mom-to-be with gifts, right? I guess I just don’t care that much anymore. 

    Won’t attendees notice when they look up the registry info that the mom-to-be is lives in a different state? That should be enough to give them pause. Return everything and get a big gift card. With BB&B you can use 20% off coupons when you buy back each individual gift and you can save even more!

  5. Cait Mar 26 at 2:54 pm Reply Reply

    I’m doing an out of state shower in a week or so and what my MIL suggested to guests was that they “wrap” pictures of what they got if they would rather ship it directly to my home. So if someone got me say a humidifier, they could print a pic “wrap” it and then have me open that at the shower. Still kinda cheesy but it saves anyone the embarrassing feeling of “now it looks like I didn’t get anything” 

  6. Erin Mar 26 at 4:05 pm Reply Reply

    My mom hosted a shower for me in Ohio last fall (I live in Texas), and we just kind of hoped people would figure it out. What ended up happening is that most people brought gifts, some brought gift cards, and a couple had things shipped to our home. A group of my parents’ friends went in together on our stroller, and thought they had it shipped to our house–but then it arrived at the orderer’s home instead! She felt terrible, but we worked it out–Mom returned it to BrU, got a gift card, and shipped that to me. Bonus was that I was able to use a big coupon on the stroller and saved enough that I could buy a Boppy, too! As for the stuff folks brought, I stuffed what I could in my suitcase, Mom boxed up the (METRIC TON) of books (I’m a professor and my husband’s a librarian–people know we love books) and shipped them media mail, and then she brought the rest in a big suitcase the next time she came to visit (she gets a free checked bag when she flies because she has the Delta credit card).

    All of this to say: you can figure it out, and it’s really not that big of a deal! We worried about it, but it ended up being easy peasy.

    And…congratulations, grandma/pa!

  7. Liz Mar 26 at 4:23 pm Reply Reply

    When my husband and I moved states shortly after our wedding, we found the big stores (including BB&B) offered us a nice solution to hauling big things across country: we returned unopened gifts to the store in NY and then picked up the identical item once in CO. You could do this through store credit, or in the case of more special items, they worked with us to make sure the exact item would be there. This would be a good compromise!

  8. Incognito Mar 26 at 5:04 pm Reply Reply

    Like Amy I’m a stickler for old school etiquette in these sort of situations. I think the plane themed invitation is actually a great idea to subtly remind people and then returning for gift cards should take care of the rest.

    Mostly I think you’ll be fine as long as you don’t have the guests address the envelopes for their thank you cards at the shower. The host of one of my showers did that and I was absolutely mortified! I couldn’t even bring myself to use those envelopes and wound up re-doing them myself (except the one for the host because that would have been rude). Probably no one noticed but I felt better. 

  9. Suzy Q Mar 26 at 5:36 pm Reply Reply

    Imma be the Debbie Downer and bring up another bit of etiquette that Amy skipped: relatives are not supposed to host showers. See Emily Post, Miss Manners, et al.

    That aside, it seems that quite a few commenters have done the out-of-state shower thing with great success, and I wish you all the best for yours.

    • Summer Mar 26 at 5:44 pm Reply Reply

      Actually, if you read this updated Emily Post article (http://www.emilypost.com/social-life/celebrations-through-life/462-welcoming-the-new-baby-with-a-baby-shower), you will see she believes it’s perfectly fine for mothers or siblings to host showers, especially when the mother-to-be lives faraway.

    • leslie Mar 26 at 5:49 pm Reply Reply

      That rule has really fallen by the wayside recently, especially for baby showers. I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I have been to scores of showers, both wedding and baby, hosted by family members. No one cares. As for the whole out of state issue, just hope for the best. Most people get it, and for those that don’t, like others said, just return the stuff and then buy it again when you get home. Done and done.

  10. Summer Mar 26 at 5:37 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy on this one. Shipping gifts will just need to be factored into the cost of the shower. I don’t really balk at registry information on a shower invitation, but a suggestion that I ship my gift would irk me. I LOVE buying gifts for people, and I love watching them open whatever I picked out (even if it is something the bride or mother-to-be already chose for a registry).

    I had an out-of-state wedding shower. I brought an empty suitcase (2 bags fly free on Southwest!) and packed a few things in it, my mom shipped the bulkier things over a few shipments. She also brought things with her when she visited. It all eventually made its way to me. That might be an option if you’re planning a trip to see your new grandbaby after the birth – especially for things intended for an older baby.

    I was invited to a baby shower in Texas where the parents-to-be lived in New York City. The invites were adorable and said something like, “Let’s give our littlest New Yorker a big Texas howdy!”

    Anyway, enjoy the shower and your new grandchild! I’m sure it will be a fantastic time of oohing and ahing over all the sweet baby gifts!

  11. IrishCream Mar 26 at 5:38 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amy, for your hard line on shower etiquette. I cringe when I receive an invitation that includes registry info or any mention of gifts. It just seems terribly tacky to me. Maybe most people think it’s okay, but there will always be a few (young) fuddy-duddies like me who will be turned off. And it’s your right to roll your eyes and send the registry information anyway, but at least you can do it with both eyes open. :)

    I had my shower in Ohio and anyone who brought a large gift then shipped it to our home in NYC for us. We brought an extra, empty suitcase with us, and all the clothes, bottles, books, toys, etc fit into that. If people are close enough to be invited to the shower, they presumably know that your daughter doesn’t live there anymore, and will plan accordingly.

    And YAY for Wednesday smackdowns!

  12. K Mar 26 at 6:12 pm Reply Reply

    I understand not including registries on invitations to weddings.  I’m kind of hardcore about that one, myself.  

    I don’t understand not including them on shower invitations, though.  The point of a wedding is that people get married.  Gifts are optional.  The wedding can happen even if no one brings gifts.  But the point of a shower, as was mentioned above, is “showering” with gifts.  I cannot imagine, outside really extenuating circumstances, someone having the brass to show up giftless (or without having shipped a gift or whatever).  And, therefore, putting registry information on these invitations strikes me as much, much more appropriate.

      Unless there’s some kind of cultural divide where in some areas showers are just parties?  Reading the parts of this column about “if she wants to open presents at the shower…” made me go, “huh? Wha?”  I did not know that was optional.  I’ve always been under the impression that was, more or less, the point.  

  13. Susannah Mar 26 at 6:26 pm Reply Reply

    My registry compromise has always been to print little enclosure cards and stick them in the envelope with the invitation. That way I satisfy myself that it isn’t printed DIRECTLY on the invitation and it covers all those (SUPER RUDE) people who don’t RSVP but show up anyway and if they aren’t going to RSVP how can I share the registry info with them.

    However… when it is a case like this, I think that including the information about shipping large gifts on an enclosed registry card is entirely appropriate. That’s pretty important info that is above and beyond just the standard “here is where to buy things.”

  14. Katie Mar 26 at 7:26 pm Reply Reply

    I also had an out of state shower…with no mention of a registry on the invitation.  But…whenever people called to rsvp, the hostess always mentioned that we were registered on amazon, and that she personally was having her gift shipped to us, and putting a printed picture in the card.  My mom also helped get the word out, and between the two of them, we found that the people who know you well enough to be buying the big ticket carseat/stroller/highchair stuff?  Generally know you well enough to realize that hauling that stuff multiple states just isn’t going to happen.  All of them shipped their gifts to our house, and a few brought a small wrapped package–babyclothes, burp cloths, etc, to the shower itself.  Almost everything else I was able to fit in a giant suitcase (and Southwest lets you check two bags free!).  The other stuff I did like others have said–returned, and then rebought when I got home.  

    But, that said….I probably wouldn’t be terribly offended by a enclosure specifically suggesting this…

  15. Brooke Mar 26 at 8:56 pm Reply Reply

    Interestingly, Emily Post says that while printing registry info on the invitation itself is verboten, a separate piece of paper with the info can be included.
    http://www.emilypost.com/social-life/celebrations-through-life/577-baby-showers-gifts-and-registries

    • IrishCream Mar 27 at 11:16 am Reply Reply

      My goodness. Emily Post must be spinning in her grave!

  16. Jenny Mar 26 at 9:22 pm Reply Reply

    Generally, I think shower guests try their very best to get you the best gifts possible.  I know that I always over analyze gifts wondering if they are something that the person really wants or could use.

    But I do get kind of crabby when I see too many ‘orders’ when it comes to gifts.

  17. Karen Mar 27 at 2:00 am Reply Reply

    Also someone who appreciates the fine line between between directed to shop a certain way and having my inquiry about gifts answered by the hostess when I RSVP.

    I went to a shower recently, everyone was local, wasn’t an out of town thing, the mom just only wanted to register on Amazon. All the gifts sat in Amazon boxes piled up in the house where the shower was while we sat around and ate apps. Of course I shipped my gift to my house, took it from the box, wrapped it and was the only one who did that. It felt like a fundraiser except I didn’t get to find out what the total funds raised were.

    And finally, just want to point out that there was a column on Alphamom a few months ago, the author wrote about writing on her older kids’ bday invitations that cash was requested in lieu of gifts (since the kid could take the windfall and buy something she actually wanted instead of the bric a brac that guests would bring). Seriously?

    • Lydia Mar 27 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

      Huh, I only registered on Amazon and am having a local-to-where-I-live shower. I just assumed people would buy stuff and have it shipped to them and bring it with them.  But if the shower is all Amazon boxes, no wrapping, you better believe I am opening those boxes at the shower…

  18. Katherine Mar 27 at 7:05 am Reply Reply

    I live in the UK and had a shower back in the States.  I handled this by only registering for small items.  My registry was a little scarce, but it did help.  If guests did go off-registry,  people were generally quite thoughtful about my luggage allowance – though one person gave me a huge diaper genie!  When packing, I unwrapped EVERYTHING to reduce space, and I was able to fit most things in. And as an unexpected and added bonus, some of the bigger things  that didn’t fit in our luggage I left at my my mom’s, so that when we came home for a visit to Grandma there were already some supplies. 

  19. KR Mar 27 at 11:37 am Reply Reply

    Just wanted to jump in and say, from the perspective of a midwesterner living in New England, expectations about these things vary A LOT regionally and culturally. I’ve seen extended family and friends in Indiana get PISSED when registry info isn’t included in wedding and other invitations, and then watched Connecticut friends be super offended when it IS included. I appreciate the spirit of the never-include-registry-info rules, but I do think they need to be tempered with a healthy knowledge of your audience.  (For our wedding, we did separate little slips of paper with registry information, so that we could slip it into the invite for people we knew would expect it and leave it out of everyone else’s.)

    • jill Mar 27 at 4:20 pm Reply Reply

      That’s funny.  I’m from Michigan but live near DC and people I know in both places tend to shy away from registry info on an invite because it’s rude.  But I agree you should know your audience.  I’ve noticed more people in the DC area trending toward evites and the like (which I personally don’t like for anything more formal than a backyard BBQ type of event)

  20. Kate Mar 27 at 12:09 pm Reply Reply

    Sorry, I didn’t read all the other comments closely enough to know if this was already suggested — Isn’t there a way to include the suggestion that gifts be shipped directly to the mom-to-be’s home on the actual online registry?  I seem to remember there’s a place to indicate if the baby is a girl or a boy, when the due date it, etc… Could you include the shipping info there?  That way the suggestion is only going to be people who have inquired about the registry and choosen to seek it out.

  21. LBE Mar 27 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    If you purchase a gift from a person’s registry online, you usually always have the option to ship it directly to the registrant’s house or you can ship it to yourself to bring to the shower. It’s spelled out pretty clearly. That usually minimizes the need to tell people that it’s a good idea to ship any large gift’s to the registrant’s house. 
    I try to take the alllllmost Emily Post approach. I never think it is ok to include registry information anywhere on a wedding invitation, even if it is a separate card within the envelope. It’s tacky, and honestly, I don’t know who would show up to a wedding without a gift. 
    For a shower, (which honestly, a shower is mostly about the gifts and regardless of where you live, everyone knows that) I don’t think registry information should be included on the registry itself but a separate little card within the envelope is totally acceptable. It puts less stress on the host who would have to field phone calls and/or emails about it after the fact. 

  22. jill Mar 27 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    I also think it’s tacky to put the registry information on the invitation itself (or included as a little slip of paper.  I actually think that’s even worse)
    I would give most of your guests the benefit of the doubt.  There are really only so many places people register for a baby, so with a quick internet search they should be able to find her registry without even asking you about it.  Also, there is usually a ‘comments’ section on a registry where the mother-to-be can include info like “It’s a girl/boy!”  or “gifts can be shipped to [address]”  And I think a lot of stores even have a “ship gift to” option.
    Anyone you invite to this shower is theoretically close enough to the mom-to-be that they know where she lives.  If I were invited to a shower for someone who was from out of state I would probably get something small plus a gift card, or ship a gift and then give her like a onesie at the shower so she had something to open.  Assume most of your guests would do the same, or just plan to return things if she can’t get them home.

  23. Tracy Mar 28 at 5:44 am Reply Reply

    Just to let you know, I worked for Bed Bath and Beyond in college. It is a wonderful placeto do a registry (and Buy Buy Baby is the same company). There would be NO PROBLEM with going to the store after the shower, returning ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and sitting down with an employee and having them order everything you want online (in the store) and having it shipped to your home. For free, natch.
    Plus, this is a great time to bring in a 20% off entire purchase coupon (if you happen to have one) , or just as many 20%s as you can get your hands on. I don’t go for extreme couponing, but I’ll work that BB&B coupon system as much as I can.

  24. Ang Mar 28 at 12:39 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you, Amy!! I am from the South, and my stance on invitations with registry information is exactly the same as yours. TACKY! Also, the point of a shower (bridal/wedding/baby/whatever) is to shower the recipient(s) with LOVE AND GOOD WISHES. NOT GIFTS!! I bristle whenever I see an invitation that says “let’s shower them with gifts” or better yet, “instead of a card, bring a book”. GRRR!! I really hate being dictated on what to bring and think it’s crazy rude and ungrateful. Hmmm, I seem to be a little 3rd-trimester stabby about this issue. I will now step down from my soapbox.  

    • K Mar 29 at 7:15 pm Reply Reply

      Actually, if you look up the etymology of “baby shower” or “wedding shower” it is definitely, historically, referring to showering with gifts.  Love and good wishes are great and all, but the purpose of a shower is about expressing that in practical and useful ways (i.e., gifts).  I don’t see why these shouldn’t be gift-centric affairs.  New parents need things.  Is fact.  Giving gifts is a lovely gesture and a way people do, in fact, show love and care.  Showering people with the things they need to help raise their child is… not problematic to me.  At all.  

      Demanding gifts or giving too many instructions on gifts is a problem, I understand — but, then, that’s why a person doesn’t host their own shower (which, I think, is also part of the difference between putting registry info on a wedding invitation vs. a shower invitation).  If you’re going to a shower, it’s understood that you’re giving a gift (exceptional circumstances aside).  A small note or a line with the place of registry printed on it is hardly rude in that circumstance.  It’s helpful.  

  25. Whozat Apr 07 at 8:19 pm Reply Reply

    We live in PA and had a shower here (supposedly a month before baby – turned out to be two days before!) and a “Sip and See” shower in Texas when we went to visit my family for Christmas when she was 2 months old. 

    From what I remember, we didn’t get a ton of big things at the TX shower. That may have been because it was after she was born, so we needed to have any gear before that. 

    Irrelevant, but a year later, my brother and his wife, who live a couple of hours from my parents, had boy/girl twins, so we did the whole thing all over again, with the theme “Tea for Two – In Pink and Blue!” :) 

  26. Laura G May 08 at 8:53 am Reply Reply

    For my SIL’s shower, my husband and I bought a bigger ticket item, and then I also got a few small items for her (outfits or whatnot). That avoids the awkwardness of “oh, it looks like I didn’t bring a gift”. We enclosed either a not eor photo of the big itcket item in a card with the gift so she would know it had been shipped to her.

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