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TLDR:

My former company is the example of start-ups malpractices. They're also vastly lying about themselves. They put me in a difficult situation in the past and I'd like to avoid others to fall into the same trap. I may use GlassDoor (or other means) to post an anonymous review, but my former employer will most likely link it back to me.

This company being part of a very tight industry (specifically, video-games), I'd like to know if them badmouthing me (small company, some recruiters doubtful about them) would be potentially dangerous for my career, while I have a flawless record with a big consulting company (but which is not related to video games at all)?

At the question "If I do X, would it be dangerous to Y", there are three possible answers: Yes / No / Don't do X. So far I only received "Don't do it", which is helpful (and I'll take it into account). I'd be interested in the opinion of someone (preferably HR) working in a small industry, based on experience, for a Yes/No answer.

Edit: Regarding the possible duplicate, my former employer can not retaliate directly. I'm more worried about the impact inside the videogame field, from a HR point of view. So it is not directly GlassDoor related, though the link has been helpful.


Short summary of red-flags for a company I met in my (short career)

  • Lie to you during the interview.
  • High-turnover.
  • Micro-management, toxic behaviour.
  • Ask you to go "above and beyond" without any compensation whatsoever (acknowledgment included).
  • Unpaid overtime (mandatory)

One trickier one I encountered was the classical cliches used by start-ups: "young, dynamic, on the verge to break through. Challenging environnment. You must be able to put yourself into question". While this is not a 100% indicator, the few start-ups I saw used these arguments to justify a deeply unhealthy company culture.

Long read for the list of red-flags for a company I met in my (short career)

I graduated a few years ago in Computer Science, in order to work in my dream-field: videogames. (Totally unexpected and not cliché).

I spent a few months applying everywhere, due to a lack of experience and a high competition. After about six months of active search, I finally landed a job in a "dynamic and ambitious start-up, now on the verge of breaking through". Interviews went well, company being about 10 people, I directly met the CEO and he seemed like someone very reasonable.

I moved from my hometown to the capital for this job, with what should have been a undetermined-duration contract, 3 months of trial period renewable once. I was really eager and enthusiast to find a job after all the time I had been looking.

First surprise: Once I get there, the CEO inform me that yes, I was right during the interview, the salary on my employment promise (before tax) was indeed what I had calculated and effectively lower than what they had advertised. (So I get around a hundred euros less than what I was promised). Plus I have to withdraw from that the mandatory employer-part for public transportation (which isn't a benefit, but something they are required by law to provide). Also, my contract states a 35h/week schedule, but the mandatory hours make it a 37.5h/week. Not paid, not compensated overtime. The offer I accepted was already well below market, especially in that area. The videogame average rate is in addition, well below what I can get with my degree.

By then, I'm already cringing a little. But hey, I'm working in the field I struggled to work with for five years, so I can make this work until I get more experience. Plus, they're soon launching a new secret project, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it, since the size will allow me to have a real impact on the final product.

But the months weeks days go by, and my coworkers slowly inform me that between what I've been advertised and what really is, there's quite a gap.

Second surprise: The boss directly lied to me. I specifically asked if they had turn-over, to which I was answered "Only a few cases since the company was created a few years ago".1 They, in fact, renewed completely the team over the course of the past six months or so, except the "core" of management.

The job is awful. Of course, under adversity, we, the "grunts", support each other, and all non management team is pretty good to work with. But the process is unbearable, set by a know-it-all, micro-managing, big mouthed CEO that has no experience in code what-so-ever (despite what he pretends). We're, to put it bluntly, working our asses off to pay the "company-related travels" of our boss (and his SO. Which are more like vacations). We silently comply to the mandatory overtime, while everyone agrees it is unfair and doesn't get us anything, not even consideration.

Three months of this, and my trial period gets renewed. They do it "for everybody, there is nothing to be worried about".

The only other full-time developer leaves, and while I'm happy for him, I also have the selfish thought that I'm now temporarily un-firable.

Things gets gradually worse, and I raise a number of concerns/propositions to improve our workflow and general product quality. During this time, most of the team is renewed/replaced, mostly by interns. Some of them quit shortly after beginning for breach of their internship agreement (again, unpaid overtime, boss being unsufferable, not what they signed for, all of this at once).

While I'm still in my trial period, I begin to look for work again, as I think it's a bit too early in my carreer to go for a burn-out.

Other problems happens, and at the fifth and a half month of my six month period, I learn the news: I'm being terminated. The official reason is they're looking for people ready to go above and beyond (read - do more unpaid overtime for a killer salary). I did not find a new job yet. I now live in one of the most expensive cities of the country (and the world). And I can't even say I quit of my own volition.

I clench my teeth, nod, and do the notice period to the best of my ability without raising a complaint.


That was a few months ago. I now have a new, decent job in consulting that pays me fairly. I settled, I'm no longer financially endangered. There is nothing my old boss can do to reach me in my current position.

I have a newsletter updating me about what offers are currently available in the video-games industry. More than often, I see offers from my previous company, looking for the same job they took an intern to do a few months ago, and need to fill in now that he is gone. I know from internal source that they pulled the same stunt for an undetermined-duration contract, same as me. The offers go on about the numerous benefits the company provides - which were of course, completely fake while I was working there, despite being advertised when I signed up.

The other dev that left posted a review on GlassDoor, explaining the problems and his personal experience. Recently, the company posted a review too, saying how great they are, how good it was to work with them, etc, etc. They even copied-pasted the list of fake benefits (that are still non-existent in practice).

That tips it. I really want to help others not to fall into the same trap I did, considering I got lucky and found a job quickly after being fired. Plus, I admit, if I can get back at them for what they did to me, it's a welcomed bonus.

The thing is, videogames is an enclosed industry. Everyone knows everyone, and a bad reputation, even unjustified, can be a death sentence. I still hope to get back into it one day, but I fear that giving my opinion, even anonymously, could trigger retaliation. Considering the number of former employees and the methods used by the CEO (collective punishment) and his pettiness, it's more than probable he will badmouth anyone he thinks have or may have spoken against him.

I'm unsure if the opinion of an obscure, old employer, will weight unfavorably in the video-game industry, even if I have model record in another big company (that is not part of said industry)?

1: I'm intentionally keeping numbers vague, as not to point too obviously at said company.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Mar 19 at 13:51
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    If turnover has been so high, why do you think they would be able to tell it was you that left the review? Of course, I wouldn't make it anywhere near as long and detailed as what you wrote here, otherwise they probably will be able to tell just by matching it up against the list of complaints you made while working there. But a short and sweet review of the most common complaints should be pretty hard to trace back to you months after you left. – stannius Mar 19 at 16:19
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    I'd say don't worry so much about about the industry impact. In the ten of so years I've been in the video game industry, I've found it's more about the network of people you know, rather than word spreading between companies. A lot of the time hiring managers talk to the team before hiring someone, and I've seen people get interviews because they either worked with a team member at a different company, or they have a common reference (i.e., you and the guy interviewing both worked at the same company/with the same person at different times). – Sinenomen Mar 19 at 17:54
  • Some votes date from before my edit explaining the "no duplicate" + I explained the reason and rephrased my question to disambiguate, yet it is closed for "duplicate". While I could understand a closure given the wildly different opinions presented here, I disagree with the closure reason. – Nyakouai Mar 20 at 8:20
  • @MisterPositive I'd like to ask for a reopen (even temporarily), at least so I can award a bounty to a particularly helpful answer. If it has to be closed, at least it should be for a proper reason - Some viewed that as a rant, which does not follow Rules of Conduct of SE, but it does not qualify as a duplicate. – Nyakouai Mar 20 at 8:24

10 Answers 10

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Caveat: I’m coming from a US mindset where jobs are largely at will and most employers are fairly tight-lipped about what they’ll say about a former employee, though small companies tend to not be as careful. Hiring companies vary in how likely they are to check references and unless they know someone at a former employer would rarely reach out to that company.

From that perspective, it comes down to 1) your assessment of possible damage to self and 2) your own moral compass. I can imagine some slight ways you might actually help yourself but overall you’ll probably either be unaffected or have a modest risk of backlash.

Consider if he’s well-connected in the industry or just good at fund-raising and has no real sway. Does the industry see him as serious competition or another wannabe. If it turns out he’s held in lesser regard by others than he is by himself, I would write something. It’s true your one experience won’t dry up the entire pool of possible victims, but you may save a few. At some point, he’ll run out of funding and fail. You might slightly help that along.

If you do write it, be straightforward and professional in your critique. A rant may feel better, but is taken less seriously. It is conceivable a prospective employer will dig in and find it. If they are just as unscrupulous, you may never know the bullet you dodged. Yes, a few reputable ones may still worry you’re a troublemaker. I suspect most, though, 1) won’t dig that far and 2) won’t really care so long as you’re factual and professional.

Ultimately, you'll never have much idea of how much the action impacted you or him. I do know that as I look back on my career, some of my favorite moments are when I took a stand.

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    On top of "If you do write it, be straightforward and professional in your critique" include any positive points about the work environment. This helps avoid the Glassdoor sanitizing companies that accuse you of being a troll and have your review removed. – Myles Mar 18 at 18:35
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Don't think about them. That company is living rent free in your head right now. Just throw them out and move on.

I too have given free rent to a former company, and it was hard to forget them. But I mostly have now, and I am better for it.

That company will likely go belly up soon anyways if they can't keep any talent at all. And the problem with people being burned will be solved without risk to you.

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    "That company is living rent free in your head right now". That's sadly is reality for lot of peoples, and it's only damaging for you. – VarunAgw Mar 19 at 10:16
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    This shouldn't be the #1 answer. This "just forget about it" bullshit only perpetuates the vicious cycle of giving exploitative companies a carte blanche to rot the whole industry to the core. The state of affairs where 99% of the industry has this "everyone for themselves" mentality is what makes the rare honest voice stand out like a sore thumb. I say you are all fundamentally wrong. Maximizing your income to ensure your livelihood is not one's only responsibility -- I strongly believe that having a moral compass, and speaking out against wrongdoing is simply your duty as a human being. – Will Mar 20 at 0:34
  • I understand the sentiment and thank you for your answer and time, however, it does not really adress the "will it have an impact" question. For this reason, I'm going to validate an answer adressing the question, despite the massive amount of vote. Just know that you have mine too. Thank you. – Nyakouai Mar 20 at 8:23
  • @Nyakouai I am always wary of editing a high upvoted answer, but the answer is, no, there is no positive outcome from this, but a whole bunch of negative ones. Any action would represent a high risk on your part, with no potential reward. And thus, my advice, is to forget about them. – Trevor D Mar 20 at 12:35
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    @Will No, I think you need to re-read that and understand the metaphors and similes a bit better. – Trevor D Mar 21 at 2:07
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+50

From the "mandatory employer-part for public transportation" and standard 35/h per week, and the fact that your profile say you are in France, I am assuming that your job was also in France.

Having a 37.5/h week contractually is fairly standard but has to come with compensation (namely, extra days off, or "RTT" 1). In the same way, you mandatory 50% payment of public transportation charges is an obligation, not an option.

Your employer is violating the labor law. You can report those problems on Glassdoor or similar, but most importantly, you should contact your local "Inspection du Travail" 2. Your report to the "Inspection du Travail" is cover by secret, they cannot disclose your name to your employer. And given that there was a high turnover, it is unlikely that they can pinpoint exactly who contacted them.

The "Inspection du Travail" has the mean to make sure that the company at least comply with the law. A Glassdoor review only go so far. If you want to protect future employees, this will have a bigger impact.


1. RTT = RWT for Reduced Working Time 2. Inspection du Travail = Labour Inspection

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    Astute deduction. I am indeed in France. From your answer, I'm not sure I was clear: I got a contract for 35h, and was forced to work 37.5. I don't have a problem to do a 39h week, as long as my contract reflects that and is adequately compensating me. Can you do that for a former employer? The thing they used to cover themselves for the extra hours is "We never expressedly said it in a written manner". So it's my word against their, sadly. – Nyakouai Mar 19 at 13:23
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    Most of the violation employers does is never written anywhere for obvious reason. The inspection du travail is well aware of this and can still do an investigation. There is usually always proof somewhere, whether they be emails between execs, testimony from current or past employees, and other means. It is not a guarantee that the IDT will be able to prove past offense and condemn the employer. But just having a visit from the IDT and being under scrutiny is usually enough for employers to start complying. – Maeln Mar 19 at 13:30
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    Also, even if the IDT cannot prove your complaint, it is quite easy for them to find minor or big violation of the law when they start rummaging through the company paperwork or workplace. There is, however, no guarantee that you will get any compensation back. To do it, you would have to, most likely, go to the prud'homme, which, this time, will be public. So keep in mine that if you contact the IDT, you will probably do it with nothing to really gain from it. But you would do a great service to others who will come after you and to the start-up ecosystem. – Maeln Mar 19 at 14:28
  • Unpaid overtime is sadly very common in this country. @Maeln do you have some experience to share on reporting to the inspection du travail? Does it work? Wouldn't someone's complaint about doing 37.5h w/o getting any advantage be dismissed? – avazula Mar 19 at 17:25
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    I'm from a different country but from what you write @Nyakouai, it sounds like you could easily win compensation in the courts for breach of contract from your former employer (salary, hours were in writing, right?). Talk to a solicitor. I think this would be more constructive and a better "revenge" than posting a negative review about them online. That might help others, but not you – ᆼᆺᆼ Mar 19 at 18:54
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Let it go. You had a bad experience and hopefully you learned from it. The reality is that you can try your best to inform as many people as possible about how terrible the former company was, but you will never reach everyone. They will find someone and abuse/exploit them the same way that they did to you.

Your only possible recourse is if they are conducting illegal activities and you have evidence to support it. You can speak with the proper authorities if this is the case, and let them handle it from there. You stand to gain nothing by simply posting your opinions of this company.

  • "They will find someone and abuse/exploit them" - indeed, their entire business model seems to be exploiting fresh grads who don't know any better and are dying to get in the video game industry. There will always be people they can do this to as long as universities are pumping out CS grads. – corsiKa Mar 19 at 19:06
  • "Let it go." Are you chinese? Are you trying to save "face" Really, what moral character do you have. In this day and age you don't have to shoot yourself in the foot to post reviews some months after so other peers do not have to be injured by this company. – NDEthos Apr 1 at 6:40
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The kind of experience you had is not uncommon in startups. Startups are a unique environment where sometimes people feel that anything goes, and the ends justify the means. Nothing you do is going to change that. Although it might make you feel better, it's not likely that many will ever see your review, and even those who do may ignore it or discount it. Look at the reviews for Amazon on Glassdoor. Almost every single one says the same thing: work-life balance is terrible. (Even Jeff Bezos admits that.) But plenty of people keep going to work for Amazon and other places like it.

I once got fired from a startup by a guy I never even met. He was hired as my manager and decided to clean house and hire his friends instead. So he called me up and fired me. I was shocked and surprised and really angry for a while. I took great pleasure when I heard he had himself been fired a few months later, along with the horrible CTO. But when the company inevitably went out of business 18 months later, I didn't even care. I was far enough removed by then that the anger was gone, but even more important, I had found a job that I liked, where I was appreciated, and I was excelling in my work. I just don't give a damn anymore about my previous company.

Chalk it up to experience and say a silent thank you to whomever fired you for pushing you out of a bad situation. Life is too short to dwell on it. As others have said, let it go. Your best revenge is to prove them wrong, so spend more time working on that instead of thinking about some form of revenge.

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I would like to share my experience. I worked at a small startup that got lucky and merged into a Fortune 200 Company. Myself along with other old timers were referred to as founding members. Salary was above par. Needless to say, I devoted more than just the 40 hour week at work. I was awarded Employee of the Quarter award twice but I had drained myself to the point I needed help from psychiatrist to manage stress.

There were malpractices everywhere, Micro management, abuse that I cannot describe here, legal violation, racial and explicit sexual slurs, software license violations and what not, I chose to look the other way most of it over the 8 years I worked there. I finally quit when the toxic environment got to me since my personal life was falling apart and I could no longer take the stress. Never got married, mother diagnosed with Cancer, Dad had passed on more than a decade ago.

When I finally quit, I was asked to pay for not serving notice period. Then they held on to my Provident Funds for more than six months. I needed the money for my mother's cancer treatment. I felt the same way as you do about warning others and getting even for being forced out. I knew about software license abuse, employee harassment, verbal abuse which had sexual overtones etc. I took to LinkedIn, Glass-door, Twitter and Quora to reveal all that I had seen and heard while working there.

The end result was a legal notice served to me to remove all content and offer apology. My Career was ruined as I could not get the past experience out of my head. Lost my mother a few months ago, she died a worried mess. Point is, move on, despite your best thoughts to warn others regarding this employer. Some times in life people need to find out for themselves. Your efforts will only invite trouble for you and keep you from achieving peace of mind and happiness in life.

Life is not about them or what they did, life is about who you are and what you achieve. There is evil all around you need to avoid it and try to be the best you can be in life for your own sake and your family's sake. Time that passes by thinking about them will never come back and the things you miss out on will never be on offer again in life. Trust me it is not worth it.

People are like time as well, once they pass by and move on, they are gone. Concentrate on your well being, career and your own family's welfare, forget the past and move on.

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    I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, but I contend you did make a difference. The company would not have made legal threats had your comments not drawn their attention. Evil may simply exist but taking no stand against it allows it to thrive. We must each choose what we’re willing to endure in fighting it, and the customs and laws of each place have bearing to be sure. But you played some role in putting it in check. – John Spiegel Mar 19 at 21:07
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    Seconding @JohnSpiegel. Are you sure you are drawing the right conclusion from your past experience? It seems to me that your mistake -if any- was not that you made a stand, but how long it took you to get to that point. – Will Mar 20 at 0:12
  • Thanks for reading and providing your views. Appreciate it a lot...Thanks for your concern as well. I think my views stem from the belief that the time spent taking them on could well have been spent by my mother's side and working on my career ahead. My actions did help a lot of people some of them personally appreciated the steps i took. But my mother would not have needed to request her sisters and my younger twin brothers to promise to look after me once she is gone towards the end of her days...I guess its a matter of choice whether one is ready to pay what it takes to walk the path... – SiD Mar 20 at 15:03
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From a video-games industry perspective: Stop worrying

The thing is, videogames is an enclosed industry. Everyone knows everyone...

This is absolutely true, a fair chunk of the industry is built on close friendships and connections (for better or worse). A significant portion of moves in the industry are simply friends and colleagues moving to work for each other.

However, you mentioned that:

and a bad reputation, even unjustified, can be a death sentence.

Which, while has some truth to it; does not apply in the way you think it does. The reputation that matters in this industry, is your reputation amongst peers.

Most of the moves are between friends, but not necessarily friends who are hiring managers. Mostly, it's that if I worked well with somebody at company A; I'll happily recommend them to join my team at company B. The reputation of how well somebody works in a team, and what they bring to a team - from the perspective of their peers - is the reputation that counts.

As such, you don't need to worry about this abusive CEO at all. They will not manage to hamper your career in any meaningful way. Ignore the flack, move on.


I feel given the experience you've had, it's unfortunately worth adding this though. What you went through is not particularly unusual in this industry. It isn't right, or justifiable - you have every right to be personally annoyed. But when you speak to others about this, you'll find that everybody in this industry has either experienced or knows somebody who has experienced these problems.

Again, that doesn't mean you need to normalize it. But it will hopefully give you the confidence to know that it's unlikely people will doubt you on this.

More importantly, most people have developed a fair nose for people like your CEO. It's extremely unlikely that anybody with much experience won't see them for what they are; and simply disregard anything damaging they try to say about you.

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    Thank you for sharing your experience, and also reassure me. I'm still annoyed some people may have to go through this, but at least I know I can maybe do something. (True, that will happen to most people, as you pointed, but letting it happens seems morally wrong to me and I'd like to do something). Gave me food for thought. – Nyakouai Apr 11 at 12:45
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    I agree on this, your reputation is based among other programmers, manager don't know themselves so much and don't change many jobs. I have been personally asked about people I work with and had to either recommend that person or warn about their work practices. If the other programmers know how you work (and you are good at your job) they will be the ones who recommend you, the CEO of a company isn't approached for this stuff, specially when there are so many professionals who could have seen your work on first hand (and know what it actually did) – Javier Bullrich May 15 at 13:26
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Let it lie. You've been there, seen how it is, and moved on. Leave it at that. Take the moral high ground. It's not your job to be a whistleblower unless they're doing something illegal (in which case, talk to your lawyer first).

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    Not sure why this got downvoted - it says the same thing as other, highly voted answers do, it's just short, sweet and to the point. Maybe simply because it's not verbose enough. – FreeMan Mar 19 at 12:43
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Sounds like you got the typical bad-startup song and dance. it sucks and I feel you.

It's up to you if you want to do a review on Glassdoor. Just remember not to rant and stick closely to the facts. This is important in any such situation but may be more important in the videogame market.

The videogame industry is, and has always been since the videogame crash of the 80s, heavily reputation-based; a bad reputation can kill franchises, studios, companies, even videogame giants. SEGA got absolutely destroyed in the late 90's/early 00's due in large part to the bad reputation they got with the Saturn. Point being, without a reputation, you don't have ANY influence on the industry.

A start-up won't have influence, and a bad one will be on the way out regardless. If your ex-boss knows about how important reputation is, however, you can bet they will try to come after you if you have said the slightest thing out of line. They have no ammo if everything you say is true and not in the slightest bit exaggerated.

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I wouldn't put a negative review on GlassDoor for this. It's more likely to hurt than it'd be helpful for someone else.

You're a full-time developer. I've noticed you and I are from the same country. There's so many job offers for software engineers in that country and abroad, right now. People have the choice and can easily switch if the job they're currently doing isn't what's best for them.

I'm a software engineer and I also had a terrible experience in a start-up a few years ago. It was my dream job as well, I was working in the healthcare industry, I felt useful, it was great. Then I slowly discovered my manager's true colors and they made me go through a living hell of "everything you do sucks" to stealing my work by publishing without my name on the paper. I didn't badmouth them when I left, solely because it'd potentially have made me appear to other healthcare companies as the bad guy / a complainer, and you can't prevent people from leaving if the conditions you're offering aren't enough to keep them.

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