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nateonyx

Custom Cabinets Arrived Unfinished

nateonyx
10 days ago

I ordered some custom cabinets for some built in's and breakfast areas that were done in a nice wood. I sent the cabinet maker photos of what I wanted it to look like. They delivered them and installed them and are completely unfinished. There was no mention during our talks of finishing or not and I had no idea it was a thing. I've gotten quotes to get them finished from finish companies and its 1.5x what it cost to have a mobile finishing company come do it. They all have to be sanded multiple times with multiple coats and having the finish sprayed in the house is horriable. This is something that should have been done in the shop.


Is it resonable to expect custom cabinets to arrive stained/finished or is this supposed to be somethiing that is on the home owner? I haven't paid the final 50% for them and am not really wanting to at this point. It will be cheaper to pay someone else to make new ones that are finished in their shop than get these refinished.

Comments (38)

  • cpartist
    10 days ago

    Tell him to take them back and go with a legitimate company. Or ask him to take them back and finish them correctly.

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  • Helen
    10 days ago

    I don't understand how this is possible because when you order custom cabinets you need to designate a stain. I had to actually initial the sample door when I approved the stain.

  • nateonyx
    Original Author
    10 days ago

    He never asked nor was anything in the contract be it finished or unfinished. I just provided photos of what I wanted them to look like. He has a "company" that looked official. He was also not a "bargian" or the cheapest. It was $7,000 for them.


    Looks like i need to get them returned and get a refund.

  • Danielle Gottwig
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    Have you tried reaching out and expressing your confusion that you got back unfinished wood, when your perception is that the cabinets would be finished in a (natural? clear?) stain as shown in communications between you. (What's in the contract? Are there emails? There's some basis for the transaction, right?)

    One or more balls have gotten dropped if I'm tracking with your story so far...so now seems like a good time to get very explicit about what you perceived your order to be and the quote to include. Maybe he's willing to clarify, finish, or discuss the price?

  • M Miller
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    Just to be frank, it is hard to imagine ordering cabinets and relying on a photo. As mentioned above, ordinarily you would see a sample of what you are purchasing before the cabinets are made. Especially since you said you wanted a specific appearance. Chalk this up to lessons learned.

    I don’t know that you’ll get any refund. What does the contract say about refunds?

  • PRO
    PPF.
    10 days ago

    Looks like I need to get them returned and get a refund.


    The cabinetmaker is not Amazon where you can return things for any reason. He delivered a custom built product. Why do you feel he should accept a return and issue a refund?

    I do think he should have discussed the finish, or stated that they would not be finished, and I think you should have asked about the finish and even about the construction. I can also understand if you sent pictures of finished cabinets, that you would expect the cabinets to be delivered matching your photo.

    You said " I sent the cabinet maker photos of what I wanted it to look like ".

    Did you meet with the cabinetmaker in person? Did anyone come to your home and take measurements?

    Could you attach pictures of what you wanted and what was delivered?

  • Raimondi
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    You are not getting your money back. You received "cabinets". With no contract specifying anything beyond "cabinets", you still received more than was in writing, if they were installed. A 15K cabinet job that you got for 7K still has room in the overall budget to hire that professional cabinet finisher. You are not getting anything for 7K anywhere else. Except maybe someone to build in Ikea bookshelves. Even that would cost more.

  • Miranda33
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    The crux is, how does the contract describe the cabinets? Can you please tell us what it says? Since the company's business is to make cabinets, they have surely written many contracts and they know how to describe the work being contracted.

    I think @millworkman is right, that we are only seeing half the story. I find it hard to believe that nothing was mentioned regarding finish. The phrase "I had no idea it was a thing" makes the OP sound like they are 19. I am not buying it - I looked at other posts from the OP, and evidently they research their contractors on other projects and research their home improvement projects.

  • mama goose_gw zn6OH
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    Were you present at installation? If so, why did you allow them to install the cabinets if they were not what you wanted/expected?

    I can understand if you were feeling overwhelmed or intimidated but letting them install the cabinets implies acceptance.

  • bry911
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    Just to be clear, there are still regions of the country where custom cabinets are often painted on-site. It is not really unusual it just isn't the most common way custom cabinets are made nationally. People will often claim that site finishing is bad or poor quality, but it actually has both advantages and disadvantages.

    I strongly suspect that you will struggle to return the cabinets. This certainly is common enough to be reasonably acceptable and I simply don't see the manufacturer taking them back. Nor do I see the manufacturer applying any decent finish for any reasonable amount of money.

    ---

    Now let's work the problem. If the cabinets are otherwise acceptable, there are two really good options for getting the cabinets finished on-site.

    The first, is to have a professional finish company come in and spray a coating on the cabinets, a good company is going to likely use some sort of catalyzed coating such as a 2k polyurethane, if you are living in the house consider the safety of this. If they are spraying a typical isocyanate catalyzed coating you want to stay out of the house for 24 - 48 hours after spraying (no safety precautions, exhaust fans, etc. are going to change this and after 48 hours the coating will be safe regardless of those procedures). Other coatings have other safety precautions, you should be able to look them up or ask on various boards. These are generally very durable coatings that require a professional and significant time to apply but are maintenance free coatings.

    The next, is really a DIY coating that will produce great results, but they are not maintenance free for life. Rubio Monocoat Oil plus 2C is a Belgian hard wax oil that you can absolutely do yourself and it is almost impossible to mess up. It is a durable coating that is incredibly repairable. Unlike built-up finishes Rubio Monocoat reacts with the wood itself on a molecular level but will not bond to itself. You simply scrape is on, work it in with a white Scotch-brite pad and wipe off the excess. However, it is not a maintenance free coating and you will need to apply a renew coat every couple of years (just buy it and set a reminder on your phone, it is a one-day weekend project).

    It is likely that the cabinetmaker already sanded the cabinets to at least 150 (which is the recommended sanding level) and you will only need a quick sand with 150 grit sandpaper or a green Scotch-brite pad. There are plenty of videos and tutorials on applying the coating so you can get great results. The great thing about Monocoat is that if there is a problem with the finish years later, you can just sand it off and reapply.

    Note: if you go the Rubio route you might want to get the UV coating if the wood is likely to change color significantly over time.

    Good luck.

  • nateonyx
    Original Author
    10 days ago

    Yes I did research him as much as one can online. He has a cabinet company and a gallery of work done - all of which is finished. There was no site visit for measurements. He asked for photos of where its going and measurements from me which I sent. First time and only time he showed up was to deliver the cabinets.


    Zero mention of finish in any communications whatsoever. Contract is less of a contract than an invoice on company letterhead hand written with trip charge, depth of base cabinet and floating shelf above, angle cavity base and depth box with walnut inserts, and the sitting l shaped breakfast nook at the window. with the prices and grand total. There is not one word of terms, conditions, or anything contract related. Nor did i think a complicated contract was needed as this seemed rather straight forward. Prior to the invoice he sent hand drawn diagrams of each piece with measurements - again ZERO mention of finish or unfinished.


    I was not present when they were delivered or installed. I had other unrelated construction going on in the back of the house and he came in that way past drywall guys. I didnt see him until it was done when I got home from errands and he gave me a bunch of trim pieces told me to call my painter to use oil based and not use lacquer to finish as it will delaminate the cabinet faces with the veneer and left. I was a bit taken back and had no idea of the finishing costs or process until calling around after the fact. Now he would like his remaining 50% and i’m stuck with unusable cabinets that cost more to finish than they were to have made.


    He has been unwilling to negotiate and says its not his problem its mine to finish them and would like the remaining 50% paid. I am a home owner and this was going in my house. I am confused to think that this is reasonable and common practice to think a home owner is going to finish their own cabinets and have a carpenter come put all the trim pieces on. Is this all common practice with custom cabinets or is this off base? Everything i’ve seen from other companies the pieces go in finished.

  • bry911
    10 days ago

    @nateonyx - Everything i’ve seen from other companies the pieces go in finished. - How much do those cabinets from other companies cost? You have to compare apples to apples, you have custom made kitchen cabinets for $7,000. I don't know the size of your kitchen, but that is incredibly inexpensive for custom cabinets for even a modest sized kitchen.

    Cabinets are delivered unfinished all the time, it is not rare at all. So, to answer your question, it is not common, but it is not off base. We can't adjudicate whether or not you were misled. Nothing anyone here says is going to make the cabinetmaker finish them nor relieve you of paying the remaining 50%.

    ---

    You really have three options. Pay him and go your separate ways, don't pay him and go your separate ways, file a lawsuit (probably with an attorney) to make him fix your cabinets. If you decide not to pay him, there is a good chance he will file a mechanic's lien and then you can either pay him or hire an attorney to fight the foreclosure. Can you post some pics of the cabinets, it will help determine if the cabinets themselves are decent because the delaminating comment seems a bit off.

  • nateonyx
    Original Author
    10 days ago

    @bry911 It was rather on par with other quotes I got - which did in fact specifically call out them being finished. This wasnt for a full set of kitchen cabinets. This was a 6'x6' L shaped breakfast nook bench with back, 2 x 36" W x 34" H built in cabinets one with two doors the other with drawers and a floating shelf. All in walnut vaneer for drawers, solid walnut for backing, and looks like plywood for the bases/sides.


    I was leaning towards not paying him and taking the loss on the 50% I paid up front then paying one of the other companies to remake them that can finish them properly in their shop. I just wanted to make sure I was not crazy that this was common practice that unfinished cabinets are sold to home owners and installed with a good luck on finishing them, finding someone to do it, and turning your house into a hazmat zone while the chemicals are sprayed! Everythiing i've seen on social media of custom cabinets they always go in finished if they are stain grade most of the times with paint grade as well.

  • bry911
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    @nateonyx - Everythiing i've seen on social media of custom cabinets they always go in finished if they are stain grade most of the times with paint grade as well.

    You ask a question and then you ignore the responses. If you just took a minute to search this site you would find several posts in the last month about site finished cabinets, and dozens of posts last year. I can assure you that despite your social media searches, site finished cabinets are not that rare, especially in certain parts of the country.

    In fact, it is so common in Texas that @Wacky Tacky actually said above, "You are in TX, land of the unfinished low quality built in place cabinets capital of the world." I don't see where you noted that you are from Texas, but I assure you that unfinished custom cabinets are quite common there. So feel free to withhold payment, but I would advise you take the blinders off and recognize that there is a risk.

  • pricklypearcactus
    10 days ago

    I was leaning towards not paying him and taking the loss on the 50% I paid up front


    I am not a pro, but since your invoice/contract did not specify a stain, I have a hard time imagining that you will not end up with a lien on your property if you choose to just not pay the cabinet maker. Then you're presumably going to be hiring a lawyer to address the lien. Unfinished / site finished cabinetry is certainly a thing, so I have a hard time imagining that you are going to prove you are in the right when your invoice/contract does not state anything about finishing (paint or stain). I am sorry you are going through this and I do think you have reason to be upset. But having a right to be upset is not the same thing as legal right to refuse to pay when there isn't a clear contract violation.

  • KW
    10 days ago

    It seems clear the cabinet maker didn’t share your expectation that he would provide cabinets with a finish on them as you said he gave you the trim pieces and told you to tell your painter to use oil base and not lacquer… That was the time to say ”But I thought you were doing the finish…”

  • cat_ky
    10 days ago

    I agree, the contract, says nothing about finishing. I know you expected differently, however, this is as much your fault as his. I havent heard you say anything about the construction, and work he did, so assuming they are nicely made. His price was more than reasonable, so pay him, and hire someone to finish them. If you dont pay him, he has every right, to put a lien on your house, and he will. By the time, you get it all straightened out, you will end up having a lawyer to pay (big bucks), and still have to pay for the cabinets, all which will cost you a lot more, than just hiring someone to finish them.

  • dan1888
    9 days ago
    last modified: 9 days ago

    He didn't provide specifications. He worked off the photos you provided. They're part of the agreement. If they show cabinets with finish, he agreed to supply finished cabinets. Send an email including the photos you and he agreed on. Point out the specifications of the cabinets in the photos. These specs include finishing. Request he complete the agreement to give you what is in the photos. Inform him that no payment is due until he completes the job.

    Post pictures of the supplied cabs and the photos you and he agreed on.

    nateonyx thanked dan1888
  • Danielle Gottwig
    9 days ago
    last modified: 9 days ago

    I'm reading what you have written carefully, not as a pro, but just as a regular academic type who deals in paperwork and fine print.

    It sounds like both you and the cabinet maker have left enough details unspecified about the scope of the work to be done that a reasonable person can drive a moving truck through it going either direction. If so, that might explain why the cabinet maker and you have developed separate impressions of what can be assumed. The cabinet maker seems to have "evidence" on his side: if the receipt/agreement you signed doesn't specify anything about finishing and what finish is going onto the cabinet, then this does imply you two didn't agree on one. The only thing that might trump this is if you have some documented communication between the cabinet maker and yourself in which this was discussed/acknowledged--the pictures you traded and any notes that went along with it.

    If you haven't burned your bridges of communication with the cabinetmaker--are things still friendly?--you might gently point to what communication you do have about the scope of the work to be performed and ask them to discuss resolutions. Whether that works depends on which of you is more motivated to keep out of disputes / time sinks / etc. and if at this point reputation / egos are a problem. If you don't easily get some kind of responsiveness back, you have to think about what's really in your best interest. Do you want to fight this person? Don't start a fight you won't win or that you will win but leaves you at odds in the local community. Do you have the ability to chalk this up to a mutual misunderstanding and find a good finisher to complete the project? If the cabinets fit the space and look good and are made from a nice wood and the drawers glide nicely and so on and so on, you did get something nice back for your investment. If so, ripping out and starting over seems a bit extreme. You can just complete the cabinets.

  • M Miller
    9 days ago

    The OP should have posted photos. This forum gets thousands of posts from people not getting the cabinetry they expected, for a myriad of reasons. But they always post photos of the cabinetry. @nateonyx why won’t you?

  • Helen
    9 days ago

    I would think photos that were sent to the cabinet maker would be helpful in determining what the expectations were. As was posted, contracts often will incorporate exchanges of written information


    Also it is a bit confusing regarding whether the cabinets are to be painted or stained. I think having unfinished cabinets that are to be painted might be less unusual than stained cabinets.

  • Iri
    9 days ago

    Walnut usually isn't stained so finished walnut might look like unfinished walnut in a photo.


    I do agree that HE screwed up by not making clear what he was providing--it's HIS business so he should be communicating with customers and not rely on them to know what boxes need to be checked--but there's not much you can do about it. You're pretty much stuck. You can certainly offer up Yelp reviews but do try to be honest and say "terrible communication leading to total disappointment" instead of "dude lied to me and is dishonest" or whatever.


    I would pay the guy and finish it myself. It is not difficult, especially on new wood (as opposed to refinishing old pieces).

  • Lyndee Lee
    9 days ago

    As much as I want to be sympathetic to the homeowner, I am having trouble understanding why the question was not asked at the time the quote came in. The homeowner noted that another quote specified how the cabinets would be finished. Any time I get multiple quotes, I compare them to each other trying to understand exactly where the proposals differ and look for information not included in all of them. 

    Given that color and finish are an essential and unique aspect of any finished item in a home project, I would conclude that if it wasn't specified, it wouldn't be included. I would pay the bill, rather reluctantly, but I would pay it as it was a detail I should have caught up front.

  • raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio
    9 days ago

    I have to agree that the OP made the largest error here - he never specifically asked or told the cabinet man anything about what he wanted in terms of finish, assumed that he would be able to infer what was wanted from a photo, and now is disappointed that the cabinet maker assumed wrongly. ("If it isn't in writing, it doesn't exist" applies here!). Also it sounds like he perhaps never got any references from past customers?

    However, I also think that the OP should politely and calmly - taking the tack that there was an unfortunate miscommunication between them - ask the guy why he didn't match the finish in the photo, since it was provided as the example of how it should look. "I gave you this photo as the example of the finish I wanted", and "since you never asked me anything about a finish I thought you understood that I wanted you to match it." Continue with the fact that all of the examples of his work on his website are of finished cabinets so you naturally assumed that was included in the manufacture and quote.

    He might not get anywhere with this approach, but, perhaps the maker might be willing to offer some compromise if he is willing to see that he dropped the ball when he never asked the buyer about finish.

  • ci_lantro
    8 days ago

    I can't imagine ordering cabinets without inquiring about what finish the builder will use. So I would have an idea as to how appropriate the finish is for the purpose and what kind of durability to expect. Traditional lacquer or shellac?--both beautiful but not appropriate for the intended use. Old school varnish, oil based poly, oil finish, water based poly, or modern catalyzed finish?

    turning your house into a hazmat zone while the chemicals are sprayed! ... he came in that way past drywall guys.

    Totally avoidable but dependent on which finish you choose. Need to wait until the drywall is done; you don't want suspended drywall dust to foul the finish.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    8 days ago

    "They all have to be sanded multiple times with multiple coats and having the finish sprayed in the house is horriable. This is something that should have been done in the shop."


    You are correct; bry911's idea of leaving your home while it's turned into a custom finishing shop for several days is ludicrous. I cannot believe he can't see the preposterousness of spraying highly flammable coatings inside a residence. Finishing shops are equipped with explosion-proof lighting for this reason, but bry911 thinks your cans in the ceiling will illuminate safely. It is one thing to do something hillbilly on your own, but to endanger the kids and firefighters in your neighborhood is beyond irresponsible.


    Check your local laws please. Vendors may be able to keep deposits on custom made items; such is the case in Florida.


    Call his bluff on the demand letters and liens please. He can't cost effectively take you to court on a case this small. If he's got any brains in his head as a businessman, he's already covered his costs; your balance is his profit. You've got to make him think he'll give it all to his lawyer in order to collect which isn't much of a stretch these days.



  • nateonyx
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    This is the photo that was provided to him that I wanted them to look like. No i didnt specify or even think as a home owner i needed to know to specifcy it was shallac or a stain or whatever because I DONT KNOW i'm not a wood finisher and have no clue about what finishes exist or require. Nor did I specify what type of screws he uses or anything else beyond I want walnut cabinets that look like this. I'm a home owner not a contractor. I asked for cabinets of xyz measurements that look like this. I did not ask for a half done project that needed a finishing crew for nearly $10,000 requiring my house to be turned into a hazmat zone where some finish can be sprayed and the cabinets can be sanded down multiple times for several days along with a trim carpenter to finish at the end. I'm a home owner in an existing home that is lived in. I paid what I thought was top dollar for expensive walnut cabinets to look like the photo I provided. I also paid to have them delivered and installed. As a home owner when I pay for something to be installed perhaps I'm crazy but I expect a finished usable product to be installed not half the parts.




  • M Miller
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    Of course you should not have to know shellac or stain or those kinds of specifics. However, it is difficult to understand how you could present a photo like that, which shows cabinetry with a very specific appearance and finish, and not ask to see a sample or make any inquiry about what it is going to look like. It is simply hard to understand why you did that. That is all.

    As an aside, the walnut veneer you have pictured is one of the most expensive wood veneers there is. And it's vertical continuous matched too. The $7,000 you were charged is insanely low for that look. People pay $50k-100k or more for cabinets with that finish.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    8 days ago

    Swami Joe makes a prediction as to how the judge rules after he asks "Is this the picture the homeowner showed you?" That's a slam dunk.

  • M Miller
    8 days ago

    It is getting more uncomfortable as this thread goes on that you continue not to provide photos of the cabinets you received, despite several requests on this thread. It makes it seem that you are not telling the full story, and that you are seeking sympathy when you may not deserve it due to undisclosed information.

  • M Miller
    8 days ago

    @Joseph Corlett, LLC - I would think that a judge would look at the contract to make a ruling. If the photo is not mentioned in the contract, and the contract does not specify that the cabinets are finished, I don't see how it's a "slam dunk". It sounds like you've had experience with a judge making a ruling off of a photo with nothing contractual, so can you please describe in more detail?

  • bry911
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    @nateonyx - I am going to make another attempt to help you make lemonade out of lemons. I understand that you are upset but you are also working with some faulty assumptions and you can't make a good decision with bad information.

    I did not ask for a half done project that needed a finishing crew for nearly $10,000 requiring my house to be turned into a hazmat zone where some finish can be sprayed and the cabinets can be sanded down multiple times for several days along with a trim carpenter to finish at the end. I'm a home owner in an existing home that is lived in.

    It is not going to cost you $10,000 and there is no need to turn your home into a hazmat zone to finish the cabinets. I have already told you how you can DIY it and get a great durable finish that is really idiot proof. I will endeavor to explain the problem.

    Rubio Monocoat is a great and durable coating for cabinets. It is a food safe, easy to maintain finish that looks great. It is popular for floors and furniture, 99% of the stuff that I make uses Rubio Monocoat and I have full spray booth with supplied air and UV lamps. I assure you any coating highly recommended for floors, desks, and tables will work for kitchen cabinets.

    So why are painters quoting you $10,000 for coatings that are very likely inferior and hazardous? Because there is no profit in a painting/coating company doing a wipe on finish. The 1.3 liter Rubio plus 2C is $180 and more than enough to do a large kitchen and will take a day even if you are bad at it. A painter just can't generate enough $1,000 jobs to stay in business so they avoid wipe on finishes and apply spray on finishes precisely because they are toxic and difficult and therefore people are willing to pay $10,000 for it. That money is actually well spent when a customer needs an opaque finish (paint color) but for clear coats and stains it just isn't.

    ---

    Again, do some research and if you have questions feel free, but if the cabinets are otherwise high quality you can achieve a great result without resorting to ridiculous amounts of money and/or effort.

    Good luck

  • bry911
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    The contract and the court issue, and the pictures are largely moot.

    Contracts are just pieces of paper (sometimes not even that) and are worthless until you take some action to enforce the agreement. What reasonable action is the OP going to take to enforce the contract?

    If the OP files a small claims case for the $3,500 they already paid, they are incredibly unlikely to win, as unjust enrichment is going to require them paying something for the cabinets that they have. Additionally, the cabinetmaker is going to file a counterclaim for the $3,500 he is owed and there is a fair chance he is going to win. The only chance the OP has at winning is hiring another company to remove the cabinets and keep them so that the cabinetmaker can pick them up after the small claims court rules, but again, it is pretty questionable whether or not the OP will win and stands a good chance of losing.

    If the OP doesn't file (which is likely the smarter move) then they run the risk of the cabinetmaker filing a mechanic's lien. A mechanic's lien is incredibly easy to get, but harder to perfect. The OP would then have to either hope that the cabinetmaker doesn't attempt to perfect the mechanic's lien, pay the amount owed, or pay an attorney far more than $3,500 to fight the lien. The problem with hoping the cabinetmaker doesn't try to perfect the lien (as it is expensive and annoying) is that once perfected your home is in foreclosure and they are going to notify your mortgage holder and others that your home is being foreclosed on. That is a whole other basket of ugly.

    The OP's best bet is to finish the cabinets themselves and negotiate some lesser amount because they were unfinished.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    7 days ago

    "It sounds like you've had experience with a judge making a ruling off of a photo with nothing contractual, so can you please describe in more detail?"


    Not exactly. I've had experience where a judge allowed the testimony of an unlicensed handyman masquerading as a legal plumber to override a sink manufacturer's installation instructions which are Florida plumbing code. Demonstrating that justice depends upon the sympathy of the interlocutors, not the law, facts, or fairness.

  • herbflavor
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    some built ins and a breakfast area .."in a nice wood" what is the wood? this is not the kitchen work zone. there are waxes that render a nice furniture grade look and other ways to complete this. Start exploring various options. If you want to show the space in a picture and indicate what the wood species is you can probably learn of easy ways to complete this and leave the miscommunication behind. Is there anything wrong with the install or the cabinets???? if you got that much accomplished just move on.

  • bry911
    7 days ago

    @herbflavor - The OP noted it was walnut

  • herbflavor
    7 days ago

    maybe he thought you wanted a clear finish so he just left it. what type of

    Painted Kitchen & Built-Ins, Fireplace Built-Ins with Walnut Mantle and Hearth · More Info

    pic did you show? anyway ..with walnut the easiest of options will give you a nice outcome so this wont be that difficult.

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