Did I Just Buy a Lemon From a Used Car Dealer !?!

in #life5 years ago


So you know the stereotype. Used car dealers.. slick, lying, cheating crooks selling a lemon for the price of a car is what people say. But you can’t always go around stereotyping everyone… you have to give people a chance don’t you?

So I found a minivan on Craigslist. (I’m trying to convert a minivan to a camper van for an extended road trip, but will write about that later on!) Was casually looking for a deal for the past couple months and kept missing out on some deals on vans that got sold as soon as they were listed. I recently found one that was at a price point I was looking for, but it was from a dealer named Fremont Auto Sales. I prefer buying from individuals, but decided to give this dealer a shot. I knew a good amount about the minivan I was looking to buy. I drive a 2000 Honda Accord that has the same engine as the Odysseys and know of the common mechanical issues that these cars encounter. I was comfortable knowing what problems to focus on. Overall Hondas are great cars, however transmission problems with Honda Accords and Odysseys are very well known. odysseytransmission.com is a website that allows consumers to share their transmission issues with others and will give you a pretty good idea how prevalant the problem is.

Many of the minivans that were on sale on Craigslist were mechanic specials with bad transmissions or had them rebuilt in the past. Repairing a transmission could cost thousands of dollars so my entire focus was to make sure the minivan I bought didn’t have transmission issues.

The Dealership


This past Tuesday I made the first call in the morning to Fabian from Fremont Auto Sales to ask if the minivan was available and one of the first questions I asked was about the transmission. As soon as I asked about the transmission my phone call dropped (or I was hung up on). That should have been the first red flag. I thought that was weird, but my phone has disconnected at inopportune times before so I decided to give Fabian a call back. He mentioned the phone got disconnected and without missing a beat reassured me that the minivan was inspected by a mechanic and they went through the whole inspection process and that there was no transmission issue.

I decided to take the train over to the dealership to test drive the vehicle. Fabian picked me up and drove me to the dealership. He highlighted the benefits of buying from dealerships, about the company’s inspection process and shared a story about a sobbing woman who had a bad experience buying from another individual on Craigslist. As we drove back to the dealership we again discussed the transmission and he pointed out that the car was fine as he speed up from various stops to 40+mph. There were no warning lights on the dashboard. The tachometer did seem to be a little jumpy. (FYI just because there aren’t warning lights on the dashboard doesn’t mean anything. It’s easy to clear the codes and it can take hundreds of miles before these check engine lights are triggered again…)

Test Drive


So I got the keys and test drove the car. I eyed the tachometer and the van generally drove fine, but I don’t have the experience to tell if there was anything major that was wrong. I did notice the tachometer would move fairly quickly at times and sort of spike & bounce here and there, but I couldn’t really couldn’t tell how unusual that was. I drove a few miles on the freeway and around the streets back to the dealership. Other than some gurgling noise from the A/C and some cosmetic items, the car didn’t break down so I didn’t think there was anything major that couldn’t be fixed. Besides... I'm not a mechanic, and the check engine light was off.

Bad Cop/ Good Cop


Fabian had to leave for another appointment and left me with Andrea who handled all the paperwork. She was pleasant. BTW She even spray painted my windshield wipers and cleaned the windshield before I drove off with the car. On the flip side it feels to me that this was just all part of a tag team duo game. You have the sales guy that takes more of a hardline approach as the bad cop and another that tries to accommodate and be sympathetic as the good cop. Bad cop is less responsive and harder to negotiate with. The good cop is the opposite. In the end they communicate on how to deal with customers. Anyways Fabian said they couldn't sell it for the $2,500 I requested and could only give $100 off the $2,800 list price. I negotiated for an extra $100 off that ‘I wasn’t supposed to get’ just from Andrea. Good cop, bad cop.

So I brought cash to the table… paid.. signed and drove off.

(See Appendix B for some details about the transaction for reference.)

Let There Be Light!....the Check Engine Light!

1-How to Reset a Check Engine Light-Check engine light.jpg

As soon as I left the dealership and drove roughly 10 miles the TCS light and Check Engine Light went on. My heart sank. I took the next exit and stopped when the reality set in knowing I was sold a car with issues and was about to deal with a lot more hassle.

I made a u-turn back to the dealership to explain the situation. Good cop Andrea came out with a diagnostic tool, turned on the engine and the dreaded P0740 code cames up. I knew what that was since I googled the error codes after pulling over at the exit before turning back. It’s an early warning sign of transmission issues. Without much of a conversation, Andrea already knew to put the dipstick in the transmission fluid reservoir and matter-of-factly said ‘it’s low.. it’s probably just that….and also added ...I’m not a mechanic’ .. (where have I heard that before?)... I’m sure that’s a commonly used phrase in this business. I heard the the same line from Fabian as well.. ‘You’re not a mechanic.. I’m not a mechanic.’ True, but we ALL know that a check engine light ain’t a good sign.

So Andrea referred me to a mechanic Jackie who was just a few minute drive away. When I explained the issue by phone to Fabian he immediately ... (when I say immediately I mean immediately)... knew the problem and started downplaying the issue and talking about how the problem can easily be fixed by replacing a Solenoid (Yeah the Solenoid problem. Appendix A). Sure replacing the solenoid or cleaning some transmission filters could very well be all that is needed and hopefully that’s the case, but on the other hand there could be far more serious transmission issues that could cost thousands of dollars. I requested that the dealer either fix the problem or just pay me the cost to replace the Solenoid. He urged Jackie the mechanic to just reset the check engine light and that he'd ask the boss about fixing the issue if it reoccurred. (So I was supposed to believe just clearing the check engine light would have magically fixed the problem?) Anyways as expected on my way drive back home both the TCS and check engine light appeared again.

I'm At A Meeting ...


I followed up with a text message in the evening and sent one this morning without a response. Later in the afternoon I left a voicemail message indicating I was going to take next steps to resolve the situation. That finally prompted a response. Fabian texted back the usual 'I'm at a meeting'...and let me know they won’t pay to fix the issue they passed off to me.

The strategy of typical salesmen at dealerships is to just not respond and hope people just deal with the problems they pass along to the consumer. Most people are too lazy to do anything or even write a review. For every negative review there’s probably many more that have just been too lazy to say anything.

I offered by text the following ways to resolve the situation:

  1. to return car with a full refund
  2. have them just replace the solenoid with their mechanic
  3. have them pay me $200 to fix the issue on my own
  4. or share my experience in online reviews

Part of Fabian's response included: "Your threats don't bother me"
As well as: "In the past we have litigated and won for slander, libel and loss of businss"
Good cop. Bad cop.

Well I guess this is option #4. Here they are:
Yelp Review
Google Review


  • The chances that this TCS/CEL issue was there before I bought the car? 99.9%
  • The probability that those at Fremont Auto Sales knew about the issue? 99%
  • The probability that people at dealerships will lie to you in situations like these? 99%

Sometimes there are reasons why stereotypes exist….
Your ultimate recourse is to share your experience and to let others know. It will serve as a warning for others. It helps the free market evaluate companies that provide a good or bad product/service. Online reputation is becoming more important these days. Share your reviews on: Yelp & Google Reviews. Of course share your story on Steemit and get paid to share your problems!

Other lessons:

  • Be careful and skeptical when buying cars from a dealership. Car salesmen are a dying breed in this Uberized world so those that have survived know how to play the game.
  • Research as much as you can to understand common problems with the vehicles you plan to buy.
  • Try not to be in a hurry to buy. I’ve noticed many of the reviews are from those that got bad deals were probably taken advantage of because they were in a hurry.
  • Expect sales people to lie to you, but be prepared to just manage the process regardless.
  • Make sure you check all the additional fees and don’t pay anything that’s not required by the DMV. Just negotiate the price down if they don’t remove the fees because you wouldn’t pay an individual seller these extra document processing and emission charge fees.
  • Check engine lights can easily be temporarily cleared so don’t be comforted that there are no check engine lights showing
  • Bring a mechanic with you.
  • Seriously consider the $75 option for a contract cancellation fee.

Appendix A: Value of the Internet and Reputation

All this is a hassle I didn’t want to deal with, but I’m too old to get really upset. I figure the worst thing for a business is to have a bad reputation. I decided to review some of the negative reviews to see if there were any similarities to my situation and just listed them here. Not all the reviews are bad of course, but I’ll highlight some of the negative reviews of Fremont Auto Sales here. It was fun reading some of them (emphasis added by me):

From Yelp:

“me and my wife recently purchased a car and the women works there she told us all about the beauty of the car. me and my wife we both don't have any experience about car. and honestly the body of the car was so pretty and we though is a great car for us. but the bad think about it that after a couple day we drive the car start making a weird noise and we take it to the mechanic and what a surprise they told us that the car has a bad transmission and we call the dealer to let then know and they hold our car for days saying that they will take it to another mechanic for a second opinion and they never do anything about it. please people if anyone thinking to buy a car please don't go in this place look another place.

they sale you a lemon for a price of car.

Luis C.

So this review has been long overdue. I feel extremely obligated to warn others of my personal experience here, which has been quite bad.
Last summer I bought a 1999 Audi which had 150K plus miles on it. I saw this gorgeous older car for 2888, which was overpriced to start with. The actual KBB value of such car is a mere $800, don't believe me...you can go to the KBB website and you can look it up yourself. This wasn't the problem, however.
I was deceived on multiple levels into buying a car that was a terrible value for the money. It was folly of me to be in somewhat of a hurry to buy a car as I was finding it almost impossible to get around town in a suburb, and to come as a solo female to car shop as I had no one at the time to accompany me.
While the dealer and I were discussing the details of the car owner transfership, he showed me the mechanical report that everything was fine with the car, and apparently that they even invested over $100 into fixing a few minor repairs with the car. The car was apparently smogged and all ready to go. I was quite sold, and boy was I sold!

It was not too long later that the car began having SEVERE mechanical issues.

the first repair cost me nearly $500, as I noticed only a few weeks later that I was having issues turning the wheel, and a concerned friend noticed that the car sqeaked and vibrated when making turns. As I am not very handy with cars, I'll post my car records to back up my report when i find them.
The next disappointment was in early Aug of 2014, when my car mechanic informed me the car failed the smog test. Yes, I mean outright, majorly failed. I could have been fined by the state by driving around with a car that failed smog. And I bought this car in May 2014! A mere THREE months after purchase!!
I gave up on this car in late August, when the car starting having more issues, and I was starting to feel as if the repairs were too much for me to handle. Lesson learned, I'll never shop for a car by myself again, only ever with a trusted male friend who actually has my best interests at heart.
So what ended up with the car? I ended up selling it to someone for KBB price for their teenage son to use as a tester car,....meaning a car to be dinged and danged while being used as a learning tool.
Seriously, just take my word for it, and PLEASE go somewhere else. That, and have an independent mechanic inspect the car. the mechanical report was obviously a fake intended to lure me into a false sense of safety.
Sophie L.

Bought a used car there.

Their service was ok, after I bought the car noticed it had a multi oil leak, oil was low, has an awful burning oil smell when driven for a while and the right axel boot was torn.

Also, the price was on the higher end and I don't think it was worth it overall. I would have assumed that they did a dealer inspection and would have let me know upfront. But, NOT. So I don't know about them seems a little shady if you don't pay close attention and are in a rush to buy a car.
Bambina B.

Terrible Service, the car i purchased their was in horrible condition when it was claimed to be, Weeks later they wanted to fix my repairs through their Dealership Auto Repair Guy at Sky Car Repair in Fremont. Turns out the asshole didn't even fix the problem and took my money.

Roberto U.

I purchased a 2001 Honda Accord from this place July 22nd and have had nothing but problems...1st it was the brakes on the vehicle which they compensated me for because I still had a small payment due in the amount of $101.00, which I still feel this should not have been a problem if everything was tested and approved before the car was sold.

Now here we are today not even 3 weeks after replacing the brakes the car has broken down completely...Driving down 880 the car started to jerk so I pulled off the freeway, as soon as I got off the car s check engine light came on along with the battery light and the SRS light, it shut down completely and would start back up. I contacted my roadside service and had it towed to my mechanic.

He said that the spark plugs had never been changed which he could tell by all of the build up so this explains why I've been needing oil constantly EVERY 2 Weeks even after getting an oil change and driving from Hayward to Pleasanton on a full tank of gas upon arrival I'm on 1/2. Not to mention he also said the distributor cap needed to be replace. I understand the car is sold AS IS but there is know way that everything was checked on this car that was explained to me at the time I signed the contract. I will tell everyone to do your homework before purchasing because this place sells junk! The people there are really nice and convincing which I understand it's their job but I just don't have the kind of heart to get over on people to put some extra cash in my pocket...GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE SALES!


Today 8/10/15

they are texting me because I had the car towed back to their lot... Saying that I have been threatening them which is not true... How unprofessional is this?...I beg you all never to business with these JERKS!... Terrible service & unprofessional business & lousy RAGEDY CARS... Can't get any worse!

Kim H.

These guys are a Ripoff , sold me and my wife a Subaru Outback with a bad engine , have had nothing but problems with this car , now we are spending another 2000 dollars for headgasket repair . DO NOT BUY ANY CAR FROM THESE IDIOTS . ZERO REVIEW !!! Look elsewhere, these guys are crooks .

Joseph F.

I bought a 2002 Honda Accord from them on 2/24/16.

I get there and the guy does tell me repeatedly that the car has a transmission problem and that it "could" be the solonoids.

Witch I was aware of so that's not the problem i had an issue with. It's how much I bought the car for. They were selling it for $1750 and I test drove it. As noted before the transmission had a problem shifting. So I drove back to the lot. And I gave him an offer of $1300 out the door. He said he can sell the car for $1300 with taxes and fees. But I told him $1300 out the door and he said that's too low the cars worth $3500 and said he can't go lower the $1650 out the door. I told him I only have $1500. Then he said I can take $1500 now and $150 in a week. Being how this was my first dealer car (as I always bought my used cars on craigslist) and looking at the car and the carfax report. I said ok. The thing is. Is that I live in Merced,CA where the tax there is 8.00% so the car should have been lower on the price right? Nope. The dealer has to charge the tax from what city I live in and I didn't realize it till I started to look at the paperwork AFTER I bought the car that it wasn't $1300 + taxes and fees that I paid for the car like he said. It was $1350 + taxes and fees and total out the door was $1654.31 Not only did they charge me the whole $1650, but they also charged me another $4.31 extra. And that's what I don't like. I wish he explained it more better. But of course I had to trust the guy. Smh! Not only that but the car is worth $2100-$2200 with the already high miles (224,xxx on the odo) but that's with the transmission working according to kbb. Now on to the transmission problem. During the negotiations he said he can help me get a transmission for $400 or $500 and that they get it at wholesale prices. Well after I signed the paperwork he didn't mention it. So I guess there not gonna help me with that since I didn't get it in writing?

Lol. And I got the transmission checked and it's not the solonoids. The whole transmission needs to get replaced.

And like I said I already knew about the transmission problem. And had I got the car for the right price I wouldn't even be mentioning it. But the transmission is gonna cost me around $2500 to get repaired. So all and all a car that's only worth $2200 kbb price is gonna end up costing me $4100. And he only knocked the price down $100 from what he was selling it for. I guess I learned my lesson and the dealer is raking in the money. I'm only giving the dealer 2 stars because at least they told me about the transmission. Had they been honest on the pricing and a little bit flexible instead only knocking off $100. And charging me the fair tax I was supposed to be charged for the car. It would have been a 5 star review.
Jonathan D.

I would never ever buy a car here again!!!! They are overpriced above Kelly blue book and they start to have Major Engine issues. My transmission went out on one under a month and The owner Fabian refused to repair it. The other overheats!!! These are issues an honest dealership would have fixed.
2nd thing is that they will add extra fees even though the sticker value is listed....when I challenged the issue Fabian makes a false police report that I made threats to him and his property to scare me from filing a civil claim

Think twice about ur purchase
Geronimo D.

I would give this place 0 stars if possible! I'm warning others now!!

DO NOT I REPEAT DO NO BUY A CAR FROM THIS PLACE. ever since I got my car from here it has been nothing but problems!! I was told everything worked and guess what! They lied! My AC didn't work at all and it took them waaaay too long to get I fixed for me. It didn't even get fixed completely because Andrea ordered two of the same part!! I tried calling Fabien about it and he didn't even care about what I had to say he just put me on hold and kept me on hold for a long time.

I was also told my rear view mirror cover was gonna get replaced. I was expecting an actual Volkswagen jetta covering not some cheap piece of plastic from china! What kind of place is this?! You guys are ridiculous and some scam artists! No wonder you said your hours are being cut! You guys suck!!
Andrea L.

Paid for my spare keys and paperwork, been a couple of months and still have neither. Do not do business with these people.

Tim T.

Don't come here for business. Fabian refused to give me my spare keys that we had asked for. He switched his words from guaranteed to "will try" to give me the keys. Then it's been 6 months since I've gotten my car but still no paperwork for my license plates has been filed. I went to the DMV last month and asked for an update and they said no paperwork has been filed.

Had Andrea call me personally and told me she would handle the paperwork herself and told me to wait 2 weeks before it would get to me. It's been 1 month and Q week but still nothing. Horrible customer service. Avoid here at all costs.
Thuan C.

Bought a car missing a gas-cap, he promised he would order it and it would be placed afterwards. 10 months and several calls later.....nothing.....Easy to talk to... yes he is, but most con-artists are smooth talkers.

NEVER ever do business with this "dealer"....sorry got to go...going to bug him some more with calls…
Ronald S.

From Google Reviews:

Here is a list of things that have needed replacing in the last year, since buying a car from these crooks. Valve cover gaskets, spark plug tube gaskets, steering rack, tie rod ends, ball joints, cv axels, rear main engine seal, head gaskets, front stabilizer bar, front rear upper and lower bushings, air conditioning compressor, driver side door panel. In addition to this I spent 500 dollars to try to figure out why I had a dead battery every morning. Turns out their is a parasitic draw that the mechanic couldn't figure out. These snakes also failed to disclose thst this car had a salvage title and snuck it into the paper work without me noticing. I paid 3800 for the car plus trading in the car I had. I would of been better off putting money into the car I had. It didn't need as much work. The positive about this car is that it forced me to learn a whole bunch about cars and I'll never be fleeced by a sleezy used car salesman agsin.

christian herlihy

Sold my pregnant daughter a car that needed the transmission replaced 2 months later....also, have not completed their side of the registration for the DMV. Now she can't drive it until they do their part....and they are not returning phone calls.

Kim Vinson

Maybe in a few days my rate will change.

I bought a 97 BMW as is on 2/13. the customer service was great. but I hadnt even had the car 12 hours and it staretd over heating. The guy who sold me the car FABION is unresponsive. They gave me a valentines day special for free maintenance, mechanical work as long as I had the car. My car over heated in SF. I had to get it towed to my house in San leandro $300. They told me not to bring it back to their lot. i started speaking to someone else instead of fabion the guy who sold me the car. he stated that I should go only through him, but he doesnt respond to my texts or my phone calls.

They tell me they made an appointment with their mechanic, fot thursday 2/18. I called the mechanic to confirm my appointment they said they know nothing about it. I put down $2800 for the car and owe $1400. and on top of that I have to pay for another tow to get it to their shop in fremont!!! I am a single parent, I cant get to work, Im assed out of 2800$ my hard earned Income tax refund!!! with a nice car in my driveway!! no cummunication very unprofessoional. LIKE I SAID IF THEY FIX THE PROBLEM WITH MY CAR< MY RATINGS WILL GO HIGHER!!!
Kiki t

Appendix B - Some transaction details:

  • There is a 8.75% sales tax I had to pay based on the county I live in .

  • I was also charged $138 for a document processing and emission testing fee. These are not government fees so these are additional admin fees that you wouldn’t pay if you didn’t go through a dealer and could negotiate down from.

  • $38 for Title transfer fees.

  • There is a contract cancellation option fee for $75 mandated by the State of California that allows buyers to cancel the contract for any reason after 48 hrs or 250 miles. I didn’t want to pay the $75 dollars, but next time I would highly consider it. Usually you’ll notice anything wrong within 48hrs. The only bad thing is they can charge you a restocking fee of $175 or more.

  • I received the Carfax as well as National Motor Vehicle Information System title reports that showed maintenance and smog/inspection history.

Some of the interesting things the dealership also offered me to sweeten the deal:

  • a certificate for free diagnostics on the car (How did they know that would come in so handy!)
  • wholesale discounts for O’Reilly parts (They told me they can use their company account)
  • access to mechanics that charged $70/hr (probably around half the cost of retail mechanics)

Image attribution:

Pic 1 - From nolemons.org
Pic 2 - Bruce Laurance / Photolibrary/ Getty Images
Pic 3 - I Dunno Meme - I Dunno where this comes from
Pic 4 - From tvtropes.org
Pic 5 - From yourmechanic.com
Pic 6 - From iStockPhoto by Getty Images




First of all, a van conversion is something I'm really into myself. Been watching a ton of videos like that on youtube. Maybe you should take pictures from doing the conversion and write about it!

Second, I hope the bad experience doesn't ruin your upcoming roadtrip. Learn from the experience, move on and enjoy converting the van! Make it a beauty :)

Thanks! Yeah I've seen a few videos as well and it's great to hear people like you who are into it. And I do plan to write about it. My conversion will be super simple and minimalist because I'm not all that handy, but will be fun. And yeah I think just fixing the mechanical issues will just delay things, but otherwise I agree I'll just move on and enjoy the journey!


I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you! What did you decide to do? Did you decide to return the car???

Anyways, if you are into traveling, fitness or self-development feel free to check out my channel. Otherwise have a fantastic evening. HUGS 💛

Thanks @sandrastarud! I purchased the vehicle as-is and didn't purchase the contract cancellation option so it will be a tremendous effort to return it. So right now I'm stuck with it. Hopefully it's just a $200 fix and not a serious transmission issue. I know a good local mechanic so I'm hopeful.... otherwise I'd probably end up writing a blog post about how some auto mechanic ripped me off .... will check out your blog!

Oh, feel bad for you! Hopefully everything will be okay. I wish you all the luck! 💛

That dealership was dirty with you man. I would have given the 5th option to punch him in the face.

Lol. Wouldn't go that far, but that is a funny 5th option.

That sucks man, I must give you props for playing it cool throughout, like giving them the four options etc.

As you say, the stereotype exists for a reason, and it's a shame. I remember studying economics and you have the notion of adverse selection and "lemons", which the schoolbook example refers to cars in this exact way, sucks.

Hope you get it sorted out brother 🙏🏼

Thanks @williamwest! Yeah online reputation systems like Yelp are becoming more relevant and can help consumers more peacefully resolve issues. Sometimes businesses will change their tune and offer some compromise. Otherwise these reputation systems will at least help others make better decisions.

I like how you brought up the idea of adverse selection in economics... very relevant!

I bought a lemon van for the same purpose years ago, it was a nightmare. I too learned a lot of lessons from that experience.

And expended road trip! I can't wait to hear about that! Good luck with the details of your adventure :)

Hey Ren! Did you write about your story on Steemit? Would be great to learn about your experience as well...

Yes we'll see how soon I can start the van journey... but will definitely visit your homestead in Santa Cruz!

That would be awesome! I haven't written about my bad van experience on steemit, it has been years. The van conversion was great though. You are going to have an amazing time.

I loved that good techniques :)

Continue posting your best brother @steemrollin

Oh man! that sucks! In Oklahoma, we have a lemon law. Any used car sold by a dealer has a 3 day return period. Of course, you lose a little in restocking and all that, but they must give your money back if you decide it's not worth it. I've never had that issue, always had good luck. But, I too prefer to deal with individuals. People putting their personal reputation on the line are more careful, and easier to suss out when they're full of BS. Well, good luck man. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and thanks for your support, with a little upvote. very informative article, nothing I didn't know, having purchased and driven used cars for 30 years. I find bigger dealers are more reputable, and have more care.

Ouch. My brother also bought a second hand van before and I think they kept having issues with it too.

This is why I think it is better to buy a new car/vehicle instead of a second hand one.

May I be friends with you I want to have more themes in steem

Nice story to look upon. You got an upvote from @steemit-city. Join us on telegram https://t.me/joinchat/EliqQEYSR2zLbRjKg9H8kQ

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So sorry to hear about the unfortunate experience @steemrollin! I'm interested in hearing how it all turned out. When you buy a used vehicle it really is a crap shoot. I recently bought a used 2016 Prius and the hybrid batteries died the same day I drove it off the lot. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the dealership replaced the entire battery, which would have cost me thousands if it would have happened 30 days after it was purchased.

@steemrollin you were flagged by a worthless gang of trolls, so, I gave you an upvote to counteract it! Enjoy!!

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