Hilton CEO Changes Stance On Tipping Housekeeping

Filed Under: Hilton

The topic of tipping hotel housekeeping is a controversial one, and there are people on both sides with strong opinions. It’s always interesting to me to hear what executives in the hotel industry think, and in particular how one hotel CEO recently changed his stance on this.

Hilton’s CEO changes stance on tipping housekeeping

Just over a week ago Hilton’s CEO, Chris Nassetta, was interviewed at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. He was asked about whether he tips hotel housekeeping, and he answered that he doesn’t — “I typically do not leave a tip.”

There are a few interesting things to note here:

  • You’d think a hotel CEO would be trying to encourage tipping as a way of shifting the cost of paying housekeepers from the hotel to guests
  • Nassetta made about $20 million last year
  • I do have to give him credit for the fact that he truly worked his way up in the hotel industry — he has been in it his entire career, and started by working at an actual hotel

Suffice to say that his comments were controversial, and he’s now walking back his statement. Hilton’s CEO now says that he will be tipping housekeeping during his hotel stays:

“When it comes to tipping in hotels, I have always had a different approach to work and personal travel. I also never meant for my approach to work stays at Hilton properties to discourage others from tipping when they are traveling. Going forward, I will tip when traveling for both work and personal travel.

Nothing is more important to me than Hilton’s culture and team members, especially our housekeepers, who are central to delivering Hilton hospitality around the world. I have always been generous with my time and engagement with team members when on property, and I will remain focused on keeping Hilton the #1 best place to work in the United States.”

It sure seems to me that he didn’t have a change of heart here, but rather is just caving to pressure. I’m not sure I see the distinction here between personal and business travel:

  • When he made the statement to begin with, he didn’t differentiate between business and personal stays
  • A housekeeper has to clean the room in the same way regardless of whether it’s a personal or business stay

My take on tipping hotel housekeeping

I tip hotel housekeeping in the US. My perspective is as follows:

  • I don’t love the tipping culture in the US at all
  • At the same time, what I hate more than the tipping culture is how many people aren’t being paid livable wages
  • Rather than protesting the system and not tipping (which ultimately punishes the hardworking people who are on the receiving end of our system), I want to do my small part to make things better
  • Not tipping housekeeping is inconsistent with the rest of our tipping culture, and I think that comes down to the fact that we don’t interact with housekeepers face-to-face, so there’s less guilt; however, they perform among the most important functions at a hotel
  • While I’d love to be able to say that not tipping housekeeping will lead to higher wages and force the hotels to pay these workers more, the reality is that this doesn’t end up happening

Bottom line

It’s interesting to see how quickly Hilton’s CEO has changed his stance on tipping here. I generally really respect Nassetta — he’s one of my favorite hotel CEOs, and has truly worked his way up in the industry to his current $20 million per year job.

My guess is that this is something he just hadn’t put much thought into before being asked about it, and he wasn’t anticipating this type of response.

  1. Anyone that tips is part of the problem. Stop tipping, and you’ll be part of the solution.

  2. When you say you tip housekeeping in the U.S, does that mean you don’t in other countries? Have to admit I always tip housekeeping wherever I go if they do a good job.

  3. As a foreign visitor to the U.S. I note that tipping culture is very strong. I don’t like it personally, but ‘when in Rome’, as they say….. I was constantly told a $1 or $2 tip is adequate for housecleaning. But I typically tip $5. Over the top? Maybe. But as a neat freak I definitely notice that my room is always extra clean and staff happy to entertain the occasional small request in the ‘thank you’ note I leave with the tip (i.e. extra towels, more bottled water, one more can of coke or chocolate, etc etc. It works both ways.

  4. @ Stephen — Generally outside the US I don’t, because as a general rule of thumb housekeepers are paid fairer wages outside the US. Obviously varies, but at least that’s my take.

  5. Mostly agree on this issue (although it’s less crucial here than in restaurants where tipping is necessary for many servers to make even a minimum wage). Obviously I would prefer if we just paid people living wages, even if that meant those costs ultimately were passed down to us (I would almost certainly pay a little more to stay in a hotel that paid its staff more) since that would prevent the freeloading problem of non-tippers, but until that happens, tipping in the US is the right thing to do.

  6. Please keep this stupid practice of tipping to the US only, and stop spreading this disease to other places!

  7. I’ve stayed quite a bit in Philadelphia recently, and had some good conversations with the front desk and bar staff. Its interesting to hear them discuss it, because they claim that the local union has positioned housekeeping base wage above that of most other general staff, many of who never receive tips. I’m not sure this is true in all US cities, but is an interesting perspective. Maybe we should be more generous with other “front-of-house” employees” who also have a big impact on our stays.

  8. I tip 10% of the room’s bill. Tipping opens hidden doors and favors untold. I have never had an unpleasant experience in hotels of which I give credit to tipping the staff around me.

  9. @ Ben — I’m more co cerned about his stance on stealing from customers through unannounced serial devaluations.

  10. This guy gets the ‘foot in mouth’ industry award. How many millions is he paid, only to be caught short for a decent answer to a very predictable question ? Looks to me that housekeeping is a low priority for him.

  11. This really annoys me because one thing is clear is the Hilton CEO knows this is a big issue in the hospitality industry and rather than being a part of the solution (pay livable wages + full benefits, increase costs for customers, and set a no tipping policy) he is choosing to continue spinning the wheel. Rather than accepting they are the problem he is pushing the problem onto the customers by encouraging a cultural mentality that the hotel guests will pay a part of your wages via tips and if your wages fall short of livable wage the hotel guests are at fault for not tipping you enough.

    I absolutely refuse to tip at hotels (except for hotel restaurants/bars), even though this upsets me, because I hope one day those employees will finally revolt nationwide (not one hotel or city) and force the major hotel chains + franchisee owners to take actionable steps to address compensation shortfalls. Trust me I’ll be behind the employees 100%.

    This tipping behavior is bad IMHO – even when I go abroad in some countries where tipping is not a part of the culture or the tip is typically leaving the small changes. Some servers recognize that we are Americans and start hoping that we would tip them only to have their face go white when they see a blank line next to tips on the receipt.

    Greedy employers are the root cause of the tipping problem; not the customers.

  12. The way I look at it-the room should be spotless when I check in. If I stay more than one night – I tip. I actually rarely use their fresh towel & clean up services – I always put a do not disturb sign on my door-but I still tip if I stay more than one night.
    The tipping culture is here to stay.

  13. @Lucky,

    Why not mention that in many union markets (specifically NYC), union housekeepers are making >$60,000/year + pensions and healthcare

  14. I usually tip $1-3 per day depending on cost of the room and this is everywhere.

    Non-tippers are cheapskates in my opinion. If you can afford a $100-$1000 per night hotel room, you can sure afford a couple bucks tip for the housekeepers.

  15. Most of America’s problems are self-inflicted:
    We adopted tipping and now its angering some of us
    We adopted gun legality and now its killing some of us
    We adopted an education system focusing basically only on ourselves and it has made others look down on us
    We have gone to war not for self-defense 90% of the time. That’s all I have to say

  16. I try not to tip whenever I can. It is difficult to do at restaurant I visit frequently. However, after a while, the waiters just get used to not getting tips from me.

  17. My man issue with tipping is that I simply don’t carry cash, and when I do, it’s 20s. The only time I have a few singles is when I’ve taken out those 20s, had to use them, and got a little change back.

    I think cash is unhygienic and inconvenient. I hope the hotel industry figures out a new way to go about this – livable wages based on the room rate is my preference – but otherwise, some kind of app tipping or venmo-type solution.

  18. @Lucky. Please consider whether an individual’s salary or net worth (for better or worse) is actually relevant to a tipping discussion.

  19. My wife and I travel internationally a lot (typically we spend more time abroad than in the USA and maintain another residence abroad as well) but when we’re at our USA place, we find the tipping culture abhorrent to the point that we seriously pare down how much we go to restaurants while here mainly for that reason. Moreover, the help knows that everyone will tip regardless (and now they are trying to standardize 20%!) and thus don’t even try to gain the tip. Sorry but if it hadn’t gotten out of hand we might go more.

  20. @DB There is a current job listing for a housekeeper at the W Hotel Union square which is unionized. Salary range is $28K-39K/year. I don’t know where you are getting the “>$60K/year” number from. It’s not easy living on $15-20/hr in NYC. One Manhattan cocktail can be >$20 in Manhattan. (plus tip ;))

  21. @Ben, Since you travel frequently, you should know that America is the 1st world country and most of the countries are 3rd world countries(meaning most people even those with good jobs do not earn livable wage that can be compared to US) with the few exceptions in Asia and Europe. When you say you don’t leave tips outside America, are you suggesting those who live in Asian countries, African and South and central Americans countries get livable wages?

    Remember what you consider as poor here is considered as luxury in most of the countries. Stop this tipping culture and let the employer take care of their employees.

  22. I almost always intend to leave a tip, but very often I either don’t have cash or small bills on hand or I simply forget to leave it. It would be nice if you were able to add it to your room bill somehow.

  23. There is no way in the world that I would tip if housekeepers are earning USD 60K +++, as suggested above. It comes as a shock to me as I’ve always assumed these are hand-to-mouth minimum wage battlers.
    On the other hand I will continue to tip in Asia ( ex Japan), because I know they earn a pittance.

  24. Wherever I travel, my wife always asks me to tip $5 for the housekeepers, no matter it’s union hotel or not. Now, if the housekeepers in union hotels in Las Vegas makes $16 per hour, that $5 probably wont make much difference. But if it makes $9 per hour, I would say yes. In third world countries where gardeners and housekeepers make less money than front of the line staff, we tip (gladly) much more.

  25. Never tipped, never will.

    Dont view housekeeping as a profession that relies on tips, the way a bartender, car valet etc.

  26. So the Hilton CEO made $20 millions just for last year and yet said “he never tipped housekipping(” “I typically do not leave a tip.)
    I hope he meant he never left a tip because staying in one of his Hilton hotels in the world and tipping as the boss/CEO would be embarrassing.
    Because otherwise what a lack of morals & world manners.
    In low budget hotels,you tip because you know the maids have a low paid job and in 5 stars or boutique hotels you also tip because of “savoir-vivre” rules.(even if the maids or staff make much more than minimum wage)
    This Hilton CEO should have said he left it to his customers to decide for themselves if they wanted to leave a $10 or $ 20 or $50 bill on the bed pillow or not.

  27. I’ve worked as both a waitress and a hotel housekeeper in the US. Those experiences influence my tipping behavior. Hotel maids work really hard to clean your room, it’s physically challenging work and can frankly be a pretty gross job. I always tip if the job is done well. I often tip when overseas too.

    But I do agree, tip expectations are sometimes out of line. Pizza delivery guy asked if I wanted change when I gave him $40 for a $30 order. 30% tip? No way. Felt like an extortion attempt!

  28. @Lucky Hilton seems to have once again undergone a silent devaluation over the past few days, in case that’s something you want to cover.

  29. @DB Well I see your point. However, there is a job posting from a couple of weeks ago:

    Marriott International, Inc – New York, NY
    Location W New York – Union Square, 201 Park Ave S, New York, New York, United States
    Estimated: $28,000 – $39,000 a year

    So something is screwy.

  30. As someone who has worked in housekeeping for years at a hilton none the less in my opinion the housekeepers do the most work and get paid the least oout of everyone i worked by butt off everyday and only made $11.10 per hour btw was minimum wage and could not make ends meet and if that wasn’t bad enough housekeeping is the least appreciated out of all other departments so when I stay at hotels I do leave a tip but when im working I don’t expect a tip it is greatly appreciated but I do the job the same whether or not a tip is given but it is greatly appreciated

  31. I don’t tip housekeepers. I do tip restaurant servers and bartenders. Servers and bartenders in the US earn below minimum wage because it’s assumed they will make at least minimum wage when tips are added in.

    Housekeepers already earn at least minimum wage. If they feel their pay is not high enough, they should take that up with their union, whose job it is to negotiate pay and benefits.

    As for “working hard”, I’d say that most people in most jobs work hard. Why don’t we tip rescure workers, garbage collectors, or tax accountants? Because they all earn at least minimum wage, just like housekeepers.

  32. I look at tipping this way. From a purely business and economic standpoint, when I purchase a product or service, that product or service is delivered in some fashion. There are costs associated with that delivery. Those costs can be priced in different ways: all-in so you pay a single price, a la carte where you select services and pay for those, a base prices with various (non-optional) line item fees, etc.

    When I stay in a hotel room, I am paying for a clean room. That is not an add-on or an optional feature, but a core part of what I am buying. (I would note, I do not leave hotel rooms looking like a disaster area.) Technically, I do not think I need to pay extra to have the very basic preparation of that room completed. It should be just what I am paying for. I do think that that one could argue that that applies to the first night and the day I leave. I can see that to the days in the middle of my stay, housekeeping are doing services (more cleaning, changing linens/towels, making beds, etc.) that I admittedly do not do at home on a daily basis. Given that that is not a “basic service” to me, I can see an argument for tipping.

    Yes, that sounds a little cold and calculated but as a former engineer and current financial analyst, that is how I think about problems. That being said, I have come to be open to leaving a tip for housekeeping for a very simple reason. I am blessed to be able to travel, often internationally, for pleasure. I am often paying hundreds of dollars for a hotel room. What kind of ungrateful Christian am I if I won’t spare (because I certainly am able given that I am paying for leisure travel) a few dollars, especially for a job a lot of us would not want to do?

    That also being said, I fully support individuals choosing to tip. I support businesses deciding to pay their staff a “living wage.” I do NOT support government forcing businesses to do that. Let customers decide if they want to stay somewhere that pays a wage lower than they would like to see. Let workers decide if they are willing to work for the pay they will receive. I will do my part willingly to compensate these workers, but I do not believe in forcing others to do so beyond the quoted price.

    Finally, on the US tipping culture, I must say I support that. I see that as merit pay: if someone works harder than their coworker they SHOULD be paid more and vice versa if they are lazy at their job. We are going to pay for the labor in some way – tipping or higher prices – so why not allow those most deserving be better compensated? Tipping allows for that while uniform pay rates do not. Also, our tipping culture results in better service, IMO. I have not had too much bad service in Europe, but it is far more attentive in the US, e.g. easier to get refills, place an order for additional items, get the check quicker, etc.

  33. @DB In NYC the cheapest 1 bedroom apartment is 2000 a month plus utilities.

    60,000 is barely a living wage in NYC.

  34. “As a one percenter I don’t bother to tip” became “As a one percenter many thanks to you the guest incentivizing our housekeeping staff paid poverty wages to not quit by tipping them.”

    Just another day in America, folks.

  35. It should be included in the Destination/Resort fee. They make enough in that to pay a very good wage.

  36. Im not their employer so im not obligated to pay them in tips to make sure they make more, sorry. America, fix this tipping nightmare.

  37. Tipping in my experience is somewhat of a US phenomenon as seemingly, US staff are so poorly paid. However, in Vegas there are some wait-staff working in high-end restaurants making a $1000 (a 30 hour) week in tips according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal article published recently.

    Anyway, last week we ate at Eataly in the Park MGM hotel. It’s based on a similar set up in the old central market in Florence, Italy. I’ve eaten at the one in Florence several times and the Vegas version is more than acceptable. In Vegas you walk up to a cashier who takes your order and hands you a buzzer that vibrates and flashes to signal when your food is ready for collection to take back to your table.

    But here the part about tipping – when you pay by credit card the first screen before you see the cost of your order asks you to select the tip – 15%, 18%, 20% or a red X for no tip. The tip is added to the bill along with the tax and then you see your total. Basically, you are supposed to tip for ordering and collecting your own food.

    At restaurants, I routinely tip 20% or more depending on the service but I selected the red X at Eataly – I mean what next tipping at McDonald’s???

  38. As a foreigner, tipping rubs me up the wrong way and is something I will never get used to in the US.

    As a former owner of hospitality businesses, it’s up to the owner to make sure his or her staff are paid a fair, acceptable fixed wage. That’s called the cost of doing business and business owners sign up for that.

    I don’t understand how in the US business owners can push the risk of being a business owner onto their employees.

  39. Bill comes, and on the bottom line has helpful ‘suggested tip/gratuity 18%, 20%, 25%’ all nicely auto-calculated for your convenience. Or you can work out your own lesser tip….. Every time I see this I will always tip under their minimum ‘suggestion’. Truly grates on me.

  40. When I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Berlin a few years ago I was surprised to be asked at check out if I wanted to give a tip for the front desk team and the concierge. I hadn’t really had any assistance from them but as they seemed to be expecting it I did. I have never been asked that before but then my experience of staying in luxury hotels like that is limited. Is it standard practice at such places in Germany?
    Re:Vegas, yeah, they leave a line for a tip at BUFFETS where you have to pay before you have even entered. Outrageous, it is supposed to be a reward for good service, how do you know before you have experienced it whether the service will be any good? All they do is bring you a drink. I never leave the server at buffets a penny although I always do at restaurants.

  41. @Ernie

    You’re seriously joking right? Maybe in Manhattan (which is some of the most expensive real estate on the planet), but this is absolutely not true in dozens of other neighborhoods. There are plenty of studios and one bedroom apartments in NYC for well under $2,000. In addition, a couple with joint income would likely be pulling in six figures and if that’s the case, could afford a one bedroom apartment, even in Manhattan.

    A random one bedroom in BK here for $1500, with that salary puts that maid at 25% of income for rent, well below the threshold many in NYC consider to be “rent burdened” (30%).


  42. Stephen they may have known (which I’m guessing they did) that you’re American and automatically expect a tip.

    They know and understand the tipping culture in USA, hence their aggressive nature.

  43. I am finding now days that my room is not being cleaned on a daily basis, even if I do leave a tip. We usually stay in medium to high end places. I don’t understand that. Never used to be that way

  44. I don’t do housekeeping. For what? I’m not s pig so the room looks almost the same even after 5 days. I neither make my bed I just leave it as is when I wake up. There are usually enough towels for a whole week, and if not I use a towel for two days and if even that is not enough I just order new towels.

    I’m only in my hotel room for sleeping, and don’t want to live in it.

  45. Who does tipping benefit? If you want to help yourself AND the housekeepers, tip at the beginning of your stay with a nice note, thanking the help. I don’t like the idea of tipping, but if I don’t tip, it doesn’t help the staff, or motivate the system to change. Nassetta will not revolutionize the pay structure, or culture, if I tip or not. He and I are fortunate that we make more money than any housekeeper, ever. It’s a small price to pay, to try to minimize the inequities.

  46. Can we please stop with the living wage fallacy? Not all jobs do nor should pay a wage to afford a livable wage. Would you pay an 18 year old working fast food job in NYC enough money to rent a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan? I’ll answer for you…NO! All jobs are not equal therefore all wages cannot be equal. Fair is what buyer and seller agree upon…not some bone head unelected bureaucrat dictating what you are allowed to earn.

  47. I’m of the opinion that you tip for a provided service that is more than satisfactory and leaves you satisfied that the service provider exceeded your expectations.

    I am a Rideshare driver (Lyft and Uber) and am constantly amazed at the tipping practices (or lack thereof) of most of my riders. I maintain a 4.96 rating, my car is always clean inside and out and I always open the door and assist in loading/unloading luggage (if there is any).

    Here are my observations over the 4 years I have been providing Rideshare service:
    I pick up a well dressed business executive (high end hotel usually in Laguna Beach California). The bellboy/valet staff usually load the luggage and open the door and they are tipped almost 100% of the time. The rider(s) seat themselves in my car and have now put their lives in my hands as I drive them to their destination which is usually a 60 to 90 minute drive in heavy and fast Freeway traffic. I provide a safe trip, great music, a comfortable environment and interesting conversation (if they so desire). On arrival at the airport I assist with luggage, make sure they haven’t left anything in the car and wish them a safe trip. Almost without exception, either during the trip or as they are leaving they say “I don’t have any cash, I’ll tip you in the App). Guess what ……9 out of 10 times it never happens.
    Who deserves the tip? … me or the hotel staff, or both?

    I think the fact that there is no face to face as is the case with the hotel cleaning staff is the main reason (or is it just greed and they want to keep as much for themselves as possible).

    I could go on and on about the way Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have whittled away at the percentage of the fare returned to their drivers but I think that has been well documented by the media.

    BTW…the people who usually tip are not the business travelers (who can expense the tip) but the waiters, servers, caregivers and cleaning staff that I often drive and can least afford it.

  48. @DB,

    I live in HI. Low income here is $67,000 for an individual set by HUD. I would bet in NYC $60,000 is low income too. In high demand places the cost of living can vary greatly from rural or suburban America.

  49. I’ll point out that there is a problem with tipping these days. Personally, I like the custom of tipping when it is done for good service that is performed with a smile. I do not like when it is automatically added to the bill for room service because that is not a tip. It is a hidden charge.

    Hidden charges begin disguised a tips are not the problem. The real problem is the “tax collectors” putting their nose directly into the middle of what is a human gesture of kindness and appreciation. Why do they do it? Because some idiots think that it is easy with technology to count tips at the source and take out what they consider to be their rightful “pound of flesh”.

    I have been staying regularly at a particular Hilton hotel in New York City for the past few years. In 2016, it was nice to give a good waiter a few bucks. Starting in 2017, I noticed that the tips were going into a general “pot”. One would think that that was to share the tips among the several people in the restaurant. No way. The city and state of New York, as well as the IRS, want to get their share off of the top. So, the Hilton accountants have to count the tips, take out the withholding, report the tips and then redistribute the tips to everyone (including the bad employees who you would never tip).

    Government interference with bureaucracy, report requirements, and fines is the problem with tipping.

  50. It sounds like a lot of comments here are about people leaving a tip BEFORE the service to ensure they have a better level of service during their stay.
    This is extraordinary that hotel workers in the US are so open to bribes to provide things thaeir employer wouldn’t approve of.
    I will never tip in a hotel, or an airline or in a lounge, before or after, whether in the US or elsewhere. The hotel rates are largely extortionate as it is, without having to sub-contract the employees to do the job you would reasonably expect when paying paying their employers.

  51. I don’t live in the U.S. but I usually tip housekeeping regardless of where in the world I am and regardless of whether I’m there for personal or business reasons. I typically leave a dollar or two under the pillow (or under both pillows if I’m with my husband).

    You can be fairly confident that whatever wage a housekeeper is paid, it’s on the lower end of the scale. And they (mostly) work bloody hard for it, scrubbing the toilet, making your bed, cleaning the floors, etc. etc. The extra few dollars a housekeeper makes in tips each day is not going to change their world but to a hard-working, minimum wage-earner, it’s a small gesture of appreciation that can make a difference in so many ways.

    I do not consider my inclination to tip the housekeeper to be “part of the problem”. Rather, I consider any kind and appreciative gesture as being part of the solution. I guess it’s all about where your values sit.

  52. Most of us starting out had roommates to share expenses. I am with Tim an 17 year old at home doesn’t need a living wage. If you are in your mid to late 20s and still working at min wage you need to step up and improve your skills

  53. I’ll tip when I can do it it electronically. We live in a digital society. I haven’t touched cash in five years. I prefer not to have strangers in my room or car.

  54. Many hotels pay minimum wage to housekeepers while other positions at the same hotel are paid higher wages. Picture this, every morning you have to go to work and clean up after someone you have never met. You see $7-$9 of the rate that the person paid that you are cleaning up after. Razors, used soaps, condoms, blood are all just part of a day’s work for you. The mattresses are so heavy you feel like you just cannot clean 18 more rooms this day. So, you say if they don’t like it, work elsewhere? In some small towns, there isn’t a lot available and people need to work. So, the next time you come your hair and it falls onto the bathroom or clip your toe nails in bed so your feet look nice in your new sandals your brought along for vacation, think about the housekeeper that gets to clean up after you. All in a day’s work? I think not. No, I’m not or ever have been a housekeeper.

  55. I generally tip every where I go and that’s because ( like many comments above) I can afford to.
    It’s never an excessive amount but it reaffirms an appreciation for their hard work.
    I usually tip at the beginning of our stay to ensure a connection and good service and that’s totally backfired – but who cares?
    I think tipping is also a recognition of their hard work at time which has been appreciated.

  56. @Lucky,
    I agree with your position on this matter. I don’t really like the tipping culture in the U.S. either, but recognize that I am fortunate to have a fairly decent paying job that has me traveling a lot and knowing that housekeeping staff have a pretty challenging and unthankful job. I actually worked in Housekeeping in a hotel in high school and know how hard they work. I always leave a tip any time I have my room cleaned and I go out of my way to be nice to them and get to know them if I am on an extended stay. I am somewhat shocked to find the Hilton CEO doesn’t tip, especially given his salary. And since he likely stays in Hilton properties all the time and gets the absolute best service, that makes it all the worse.

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