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Michael Rielly

Why Bass Pro Shops’ longtime Santa won’t be back this Christmas

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Santa Gordon

I have spoken on this subject of negotiation of contract and earning power before. The Bass Pro Shop is the basic entry level contract for a High Volume Venue. The volume can reach over 35,000 visitors in a store (Happened in Canada) but remember you only see half of them as you are working half day. The offer is binary, Yes or No is your response to the offer. Take it or walk away. If you pass it up, someone else will accept the opportunity and work it.

In higher levels of work such as Mall work, over seas resort work or High end Corporate work you have those two choices but if you have something of value to offer, something more than a real beard, Nice suit and a twinkle in your eye? Then you can start to negotiate more on wage, perks and benefits. Do you speak a language other than English fluently? How many?  Have you studied and experience in public speaking? Do you have musical skills with singing and instruments? Have you studied Improv and comedy? Do you understand how the psychology of the audience is used to bridge a laugh point to an applause point? Do you have stage performance skills other than High School and summer theater stock? Can you use Performance Magic to support the idea of magical things happening around Santa but Santa is not a magician?  Can you "tell" stories rather than "read" stories? Do you have a SAG card? Can you follow Choreography and follow a script and accept direction from someone that is not a Santa? 

To make the kind of money you "hear" about from others "back in the Good Old Days"  you need these kind of skills and talents.  It takes more than a $1500 suit, $900 pair of Boots and a $500 belt buckle to be able to get there. Those are helpful but just putting them on do not confer on you the ability or value to move into one of those high pay chairs. I am NOT saying anyone is a bad Santa Performer (though there are a few that start out every year that have difficulty getting the work simply because they do not how to go about it. I am saying that as a group of "Equals" competing for a share of the "Pie" some Performers are MORE Equal than others.

The sooner you realize that, Understand that and act upon that information to start improving your "Worth" the sooner you will possibly land one of those Chairs. It is not about the chair or sleigh you own or the bling and suit you wear that makes you valuable. It is the performer inside that suit and sitting in that chair that displays the abilities the person that hires that wants and values those skills that matters.

One more little detail in this negotiation thing. No matter what you are offered at what ever level you perform, what you are paid is not a reflection of your true value. It is simply what the company hiring you is willing to pay for those services. You can have all the skills and talents combined with the personality and performance ability but if you demand/ask for more than they are willing to pay? You will hear "Thank you for your time.  Next!"  When you are one of many you are bought at wholesale and repackaged and sold a retail. That margin is where the agency or placement service lives. They have the connections YOU do not and they are not going to give you what is called "Proprietary information" of their sources.

You have to develop those on your own.  Welcome to show biz.

May your season be Joyous!

Yours,

Gordon Bailey

satbobs.com

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Coudy Santa
On 7/21/2017 at 3:40 PM, SantaJoe said:

This is frustration to say the least. I recently had a lunch conversation with a good mall Santa friend who was considering going private. The photo "N" Program he worked for years was scaling back his hours by a 1/3. Problem is, he is under contract for another 2 years.

A minimum hours clause (with an 'e') in your contract can protect you. It can be difficult to work into a multi-year contract but I would try. - Pete

 

 

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Santa Gordon
On 8/2/2017 at 1:56 PM, Coudy Santa said:

A minimum hours clause (with an 'e') in your contract can protect you. It can be difficult to work into a multi-year contract but I would try. - Pete

 

 

Noerr is no longer on the board. It was absorbed into Cherry Hill and the two companies nae is now "Cherry Hill Productions" with the former Noerr Performers being brought up to the higher Cherry Hill rate of pay and reclassified last year as "Independent Contractors".

In negotiating the contract with a Mall Photo company, you are agreeing to and working with a three party negotiation between You, The Mall Photo Company and the Mall.  Unfortunate;ly you can only talk to and negotiate with the Photo company and are agreeing to any and all changes set by the mall after you sign. Changes in hours, break room, number of events you will be required to work off the set and several other demands are simply out of the scope of the performer's ability to negotiate under this kind of agreement.

Thus the decision becomes Binary once again and you exercise the escape clause (with an "E") to get out of it while in season. That generally involves a letter in writing (Email usually suffices) giving your 2 week notice as per the contract. NEgotiating the number of hours when there is no hourly rate (and no overtime) In these contracts is a waste of time to even try. Since you are not an hourly employee but an Independent Contractor many of the protections and rights protecting employees do not apply.

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Coudy Santa
11 minutes ago, Santa Gordon said:

Noerr is no longer on the board. It was absorbed into Cherry Hill and the two companies nae is now "Cherry Hill Productions" with the former Noerr Performers being brought up to the higher Cherry Hill rate of pay and reclassified last year as "Independent Contractors".

In negotiating the contract with a Mall Photo company, you are agreeing to and working with a three party negotiation between You, The Mall Photo Company and the Mall.  Unfortunate;ly you can only talk to and negotiate with the Photo company and are agreeing to any and all changes set by the mall after you sign. Changes in hours, break room, number of events you will be required to work off the set and several other demands are simply out of the scope of the performer's ability to negotiate under this kind of agreement.

Thus the decision becomes Binary once again and you exercise the escape clause (with an "E") to get out of it while in season. That generally involves a letter in writing (Email usually suffices) giving your 2 week notice as per the contract. NEgotiating the number of hours when there is no hourly rate (and no overtime) In these contracts is a waste of time to even try. Since you are not an hourly employee but an Independent Contractor many of the protections and rights protecting employees do not apply.

Thank you Santa Gordon. All this goes way beyond my level of knowledge and understanding. I am just trying to transfer my knowledge of technical consulting to this business. I don't understand mall santa business. You have helped me understand it more. - Pete

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Santa Gordon
6 hours ago, Coudy Santa said:

Thank you Santa Gordon. All this goes way beyond my level of knowledge and understanding. I am just trying to transfer my knowledge of technical consulting to this business. I don't understand mall santa business. You have helped me understand it more. - Pete

That is why I write what I have in the past and currently. To help new performers understand the landscape they are trying to navigate. You understand far more than most due to your background but being an Independent Contractor Entertainer has more in common with Dr.s, Lawyers, Computer Techs today as opposed to the way it was back in the 80s and 90s, Costume rental agreement law, service based businesses in Retail Sales and surprisingly Building Contractors.  It has been what I do for well over 30 years and studied under several very well informed individuals that shared their practical experience with me over that time. I in turn try to explain how this actually works in the current business environment we have to navigate today.  It is a lot different from just clocking in and out on a clock, vastly different than being in a Union and very much what is how business is done in entertainment.

One other thing all of us have to understand, An entertainment "Agent" is a vastly different animal from an entertainment placement "Agency". They are very different in how they operate and the laws they have to operate under. An Entertainment Agency is like a Temp help Staffing Agency in operation and works under the same kind of law structure. An Entertainment Agent is working under a different set of Laws and has a different form of contract you work under.  Unfortunately most of the performing Christmas Workers have no idea of how those differences come into play and how it affects the contracts they work under.

For as long as I am able, I will continue to explain these differences here and on other social media. I call such writings advice and that is free. I also teach a class on being an Independent Contractor Entertainer in the Christmas performer environment which is a technical school and uses 3 text books that I have published and currently up on Amazon under the "Santa and the Business of being Santa" brand. When all three are in your possession you have 600 pages of written text but because they are "Stand Alone" reference works there is about 40 pages of repeated material in the three. The books and the class cost money. The advice is free. 

May your season be Joyous!

Yours,

Gordon Bailey

Satbobs.com

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Santa Johnny Boy

Santa Gordon,  thank you for this great insight on how the Santa contract photo industry works.  It has been an eye opener!

I wonder if there is a particular reason why BPS is going this route, besides money?

Or were they just sold a bill of goods?

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Santa Warren
39 minutes ago, Santa Johnny Boy said:

Santa Gordon,  thank you for this great insight on how the Santa contract photo industry works.  It has been an eye opener!

I wonder if there is a particular reason why BPS is going this route, besides money?

Or were they just sold a bill of goods?

I am sure BPS is doing this to control cost.  There is a black cloud over retail right now and many need to control costs to stay in business.  Whether what they are doing will work or not is yet to be seen.  Think about this, yesterday Amazon had a job fair across the country for 50 thousand jobs!  At the same time more and more retail, brick and mortar stores are closing.

 

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Santa Marty

Gordon,

I was very lucky to have become aquatinted with going back some years ago.  Your consulting was very enlightening then, as it is today.

Thanks

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Santa Gordon
6 hours ago, Santa Marty said:

Gordon,

I was very lucky to have become aquatinted with going back some years ago.  Your consulting was very enlightening then, as it is today.

Thanks

Marty,

Kind words for someone that many consider a "PITA" at best. As I did back then, I do today simply because I seem to have a deep affinity for the community we work in and hate to see people be damaged either by those that wish to take more than they give as in one particular Placement Agency but at other times it has been individuals that have done their best to take advantage of the community and the people that work in it deliberately.

In that nothing has changed since 2006.  What has changed and pleased me to no end, more performers in the Christmas community have picked up the message that it is wrong to harm or damage financially those that work for others. Since March of 2016, more people have taken up the banner and have become vocal to the point now, when a new performer asks on Facebook just about anywhere, they receive the warning from others.

So thank you for those kind words and I hope we continue our friendship for years to come.

May your season be Joyous!

Gordon

satbobs.com

PS.
For those that have not ever heard of a "PITA" surcharge, it is used in cases when dealing with exceptionally difficult clients. Usually on a sliding scale and always at the discretion of the Contractor. It stands for "Pain In The Arse" and it has become very effective in making the work easier over time.

 

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Nick Hudson

I understand that the Santa's that have been at Bass Pro now need new jobs but please be careful to respect other Santa's when doing so! 

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SCSanta
7 hours ago, Nick Hudson said:

I understand that the Santa's that have been at Bass Pro now need new jobs but please be careful to respect other Santa's when doing so! 

Is this a preemptive comment Nick, or is there a back story to go with this? Just curious if there are any turf disputes that have arisen that you are aware of...?

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Santa Marty

OPINION

I am of the mind set that in a business sense, it is easier for a independent Santa to move to Mall work than it would be for a Mall Santa to move to independent work as Santa.

 

Some thoughts that I have that have given me this mindset are:

1.  Some mall Santas are lacking in recent self marketing, promotion, and negotiating vastly different contracts.

2.  Some are use to working a single contract, a single venue, and not multiple venues, and multiple locations.

3.  In general, work in an area away from their homes, and have not had the need to establish themselves.

4.  Some just plain may not be able to adjust to a season or seasons where they do no know how their income stream are going to be.  

Those who who move to go to Mall work from an independent Santa business will probably see the items listed above as Pros, instead of Cons.  

7 hours ago, Nick Hudson said:

I understand that the Santa's that have been at Bass Pro now need new jobs but please be careful to respect other Santa's when doing so! 

While I can understand Nick's comment, I think it is going to be the other way around.  

If you happen to know of a displaced Mall Santa in your area, it would be nice to offer up any events that you either do not want or can not take.  It will be hard enough for them to make the adjustment.  Treat these displaced Santas well, and help out where you can on any aspect of their transition.

 

Possibly, (probably) I am all wrong about this, perhaps someone with more experience can chime in instead of someone with just an opinion.

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Caleb Sigmon
37 minutes ago, Santa Marty said:

OPINION

I am of the mind set that in a business sense, it is easier for a independent Santa to move to Mall work than it would be for a Mall Santa to move to independent work as Santa.

 

Some thoughts that I have that have given me this mindset are:

1.  Some mall Santas are lacking in recent self marketing, promotion, and negotiating vastly different contracts.

2.  Some are use to working a single contract, a single venue, and not multiple venues, and multiple locations.

3.  In general, work in an area away from their homes, and have not had the need to establish themselves.

4.  Some just plain may not be able to adjust to a season or seasons where they do no know how their income stream are going to be.  

Those who who move to go to Mall work from an independent Santa business will probably see the items listed above as Pros, instead of Cons.  

While I can understand Nick's comment, I think it is going to be the other way around.  

If you happen to know of a displaced Mall Santa in your area, it would be nice to offer up any events that you either do not want or can not take.  It will be hard enough for them to make the adjustment.  Treat these displaced Santas well, and help out where you can on any aspect of their transition.

 

Possibly, (probably) I am all wrong about this, perhaps someone with more experience can chime in instead of someone with just an opinion.

I think you are right on the money.  This is a big season for us, as I transition out of a mall setting into independent bookings.  Thankfully, it has been a relatively easy transition as I book my magic and theatre contracts throughout the year already.  My season is 90% full, but definitely could have been the other way around if I had been jumping in cold.

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Nick Hudson

My season is fine and nothing has happened.

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Santa Gordon

"You pays your money and takes your chances"

Since my last writing in this thread, I have helped 6 Santas find work in malls, 5 Santas find work in Bass Pro Shops and 1 Santa hook up with a photography studio that does Christmas portrait sessions. Not a one was for "BIG MONEY" but they did pay decently for the amount of effort that would be involved on the part of the performer. All those positions could lead to future employment for those individuals as well.

The economy is in flux and that leads to employers being conservative in what they are willing to pay. In times like this you must be willing to extend yourself when looking for work. Look and think outside the box. Extend yourself and your circle of search when you do look for work.

An exciting project has just started that may bring work to over 100 Texan Santa in 2019. More details may be coming in April 2018 at the ISC (Denver) and Nationwide Santa (Las Vegas) events. Keep your fingers crossed. What does this mean to You, the individual Performing Santa? Not much unless you decide to start hustling. Get out there and make sure people know you are available for Parties, Corporate events. If you are like me and see the world as "What could this lead to?" rather than "I refuse to lower my standards by taking this job!" You might well find you're making some money by getting out there showing people what you can do which leads to more work this season and in future seasons.

Several friends lost their gig making $12,500 (at $25 an hour) only to find entry level gigs that pay $6500 (at $40 an hour) with the possibility of advincing up the ladder in the new company if they prove their worth. Just saying "I am Worth $250 an hour!" does not do it on this kind of playing field. If you are happy with doing 20 visits a year, 30 even, good for you. If you wish to bring the Joy of "Santa" into more homes or Families, then you need to start hustling to find the work and then do the work.

While doing all of that, Look HARD at the people you are hoping to work for! What is their track record? How happy are the people that are working for them? Do they honor their contracts with you? Every time?  The word is out on several current employers and though we have had a "Code of Silence" in the past, today that is no longer in play thanks to the prevalent actions of some of those employers. Honesty is not something you can put in the bank or spend but it does reflect on whether you will receive the funds you contracted for if you hold up your end of the contract. Work for some of those that do not honor their commitments and Contracts and you will find yourself with far less cash to spend.

Learn to do Business! Learn what a contract is for before you say "I never use a contract, a hand shake is good enough for me!"  In life there are "ups" and "DOWNS" don't let a setback stop you! Go out and build new contacts, new relationships, New Contacts and start building your Career As a Performer NOW! This is what business owners, business people, creative people do in building their trade and clientele.  After this season, you will se a whole lot of that happening in the Southern Coast states and Eastern Seaboard. Strong weather has that effect. 

No matter what the climate (Business or Weather) those that prepare and build their base well, those people will be in a better position to take advantage of changes in the ongoing season and what happens from there. No one starts a business with a guarantee of success. In fact more new business fails in the first 5 years than succeed. What those new businesses that do succeed have in common is the ability to adjust to the changes in their industry.

Become a person that is self starting! One that is both ethical and honest. One that in 10 years from now people in the business will point at and say "That person is great to work with and gives fair value for his fees. Customer satisfaction is his/her first priority! Because when it is all boiled down, this is a service industry that lives or dies by its service  provided. Advancement up the ladder does not always go to the one making claims of high earnings or "Who" he had on his knee. It is done quietly, diligently and consistently visit by visit, customer by customer.

May your season be Joyous!

Yours,

Santa Gordon Bailey

SatBobS.com

Edited by Santa Gordon
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Ol Santa

HERE, HERE, HERE...

        ...Ol' Santa here.    My take away here is simply this.    The Photo Companies are just that.    They may be individuals or big company's with a Board of Directors...but they're in it to make a buck...in fact lots of bucks.

        That means you have two choices.   (1) -  You can either join with them and play the game by their rules.    Or, (2) -  you can do as I have and go into business for yourself and make up your own rules.

        In my case, there are two sources of income.    That which the Shopping Center Pays me.  It's not one of those huge enclosed Malls ...but it does have 85 merchants situated in a drive-up format.  The other is the money taken in for the low cost Photo's we take.    The Photo Money ($15.for a 4" X 6" up to $25. for an 8" X 10")    That and my horly rate amounts to about $30,000.00 to $35,000.00 annually.   That's not bad for about 150 to 175 hours sitting in a comfortable chair talking to children...who I might add, come to see me.   There's no chaising around trying to get two or three gigs  a day, or getting dressed and undressed again several times a day.  

        I enjoy my hours with the kids...in fact, it's the highlight of my year!   Afterall, I am retired and Uncle Sam puts a regular deposit in my bank account.

        The difference is that I keep only the hourly rate to offset my costs and to cover the cost of several trips the "Bride" and I take each "off season." as well as for some Cleaning, Gasoline back and forth from the Shopping Center, meals etc.

        Now the Photo money goes to a well respected Texas Children's Charity.    That's MY choice.    They use it for a good cause.    But if you were to include with your offer to be a Shopping Center's Santa and bring in customer Traffic the fact that you'd keep the Photo money, they'd probably jump at that!

        The way we operate is the same way it was set up 16 years ago.   The shopping center provides everything.   In return; their merchants are happy; the customer traffic goes way up and the Center is happy.    The Children' Charity...a Wish with Wings (www.awishwithwings.org) is happy since they receive $20,000.00 to $25,000.00 each year.    The parents of my visitors get to see their children receive an old fashion Christmas experience and they're happy.   I receive the joy of each child's visit; enough cash to pay for a couple of trips each year and  enough to more than cover my expenses.

      Like I've been saying fellas for the past 4 years, go into business for yourself.   It's the only way to go.   Holler if you need help!    I'll help you get started.

OL' SANTA

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Santa Marty

OL Santa,

Thanks for adding another perspective to this discussion.  There are many ways to enjoy our pursuits along the pathway of Christmas.  Many have said, we need to be able to adapt to an ever changing environment, and some how as an industry, we seem to be able to do just that.  Many of the things OL Santa mentioned are exactly what drives guys and gals to the choices they make.  We gravitate to where we feel the most comfortable, wether that be a mall, strictly residential visits, all commercial, or a mixture.  Do what works for you, and what makes you the happiest.  Do that, and do it well, and you would be hard pressed to have an unsuccessful season.

Perspectives:  We all have them, along with our preconceived notions of the many different venues available.  The question is, what is the best one for us?  If we are NOT enjoying what and how we perform as Christmas enthusiasts, we are not going to be very convincing.  We will not be able to extend that "one more season" of belief a child has, the little extension of innocence we all had when we grew up.

We all have our pursuits, and many of us are set in our ways.  We can become intrenched, and very opinionated as to what is good, bad, or indifferent.  Many things seem to divide us as a group;  beards, suit fabric, color, buttons, belts, bells, leather, make up, singing, telling stories, doing magic... the list is pretty long for a group of guys and gals that are really quite focused in overall direction.  So perspectives are important, but so is the realization that ours is not the only one.  We are all in this together.

 

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NCSanta

Ol Santa,

That works well where you live in a large metro area like Dallas / Fort Worth.   But you would starve to death in my rural (translated: poor) county of 35,000 people spread out over 887 square miles.  I tried it for 12 years before I gave up and went to work as a mall Santa. I try to land work in a metro area so that I can do home visits when not in the chair and thereby add extra income.  But as I see it mall work is my best option.

Just like our boots and suits, one size doesn't fit all!!!!

 

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Nick Hudson

'I understand that the 2 companies that have this contract is not responding to the Santas they have hired and it's becoming a mess. 

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Santa Marty
15 hours ago, Nick Hudson said:

'I understand that the 2 companies that have this contract is not responding to the Santas they have hired and it's becoming a mess. 

A little elaboration, if you please....?

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Nick Hudson

One Santa working for one of the companies that has has BPS tried for 2 weeks to go over schedule with no luck and gave up 

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Santa Bob Ford

I too am a former Bass Pro Santa. Cindy has the contract for our local store. Neither myself as well as the others who were there last year will be returning. We were offered big pay cut and fewer hours assuming we would get paid. New directions this year and its looking good.

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Santa Marty

I think with a little hustle Bob, you won't miss it one bit.  In fact, you will probably earn more and have more time off!

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Santa Gordon
On 9/16/2017 at 4:41 AM, Nick Hudson said:

'I understand that the 2 companies that have this contract is not responding to the Santas they have hired and it's becoming a mess. 

First off there are more than two companies working as outsourced HR for the Bass Pro System. The two most of you know are Cindy Claus of Party Palz our of Chicago and Nationwide Santas run by Gina Bacon out of Las Vegas. There are more.

If you work for Cindy and one of her now 3 companies good luck in getting paid what you contract for.

If you signed on with Nationwide be patient. Gina is working to fill the chairs and part of the deal is she has to submit picture of prospective Santas for approval by the general manager of the store. Gina is working every day right now working on the backlog with her staff. We have until the 11th of November before we start in the BPS chairs.  This is part of the process of working with an agency (placement) and you have to be patient while waiting. Don't want to wait? Talk to WWP for a mall job. Or AmuseMatte.

I had confirmation but no contract since February and have only in the last week returned my signed contract. The reason for my "Quick" turnaround is the General Manager asked for me by name at the store I will be working. Otherwise I would still be waiting for Gina to get my assignment fixed as well. I would be willing to wait until the middle of October.

May your season be Joyous!

Gordon

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      "Are you the 'real' Santa?"

      Read all the replies...
        • Thanks
        • Like
      • 91 replies
    • Infringement? Make up your own mind.
      In the last couple of days, on several different social media and bidding sites, an item has been offered for sale that in my opinion is cause for suspicion.  I would like to bring that product to your attention.

      There is some disagreement over whether or not it is an infringement or not.  I believe it is close enough to be considered as an infringement, but that is not the only the reason behind my post.
        • Like
      • 32 replies
    • Why Bass Pro Shops’ longtime Santa won’t be back this Christmas
      Why Bass Pro Shops’ longtime Santa won’t be back this Christmas

      Christmas is going to be a little different this year for families whose traditions include visiting Santa at Bass Pro Shops. Paul Davis, who spent the last nine years as the Bass Pro Santa in Ashland, will not be there anymore.
        • Like
      • 98 replies
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