Flakey "apprentices" (Looooong)

Decorating By RobzC8kz Updated 29 Apr 2008 , 12:50am by aligotmatt

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RobzC8kz Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 5:15pm
post #1 of 32

Good Morning All,

I'm wondering if anyone out there has had the same experiences with wanna be "apprentices" that I've had. As my order count has been increasing, I've been looking for much needed help to keep up. The ladies from my local bakery supply store have been great!! They are very skilled, professional, and fun to be around when decorating.

But they are not always available when I need them due to each having their own side jobs and customers, and families, etc. themselves.

So I've been looking for an assistant. Part time. Not every single weekend, just when I'm really busy. I've had a few contact me and I'm starting to get serioulsy annoyed with the quality of people I'm coming across.

Let's start with talent. Two of the three were pastry school grads with about 1 month of actual cake decorating "basics" each. Anyone who's gone to pastry school knows that you don't spend much time decorating cakes. It'd be great if I was a full blown bakery and needed specialty pastries and stuff, but I don't. I need a decorating assistant.

You know, someone to torte, fill, crumb, fondant, etc. to get the cakes ready to be decorated. Someone to help me clean up, do dishes, mop the floors, etc.

In my opinion, anyone with 1 month of decorating experience and a certificate of completion is perfectly suited for this job. Not to belittle their training or committment, but seriously, 1 month of decorating out of a 13 month course, and a certificate does not make you an expert decorator. Nor does it necessarily mean you have the raw artistic talent to pull it off even if you do it for years.

I mean, I've been doing this for over 20 years and I'm completely self taught. Not 100% completely self taught...I learned from my Mother and Grandmothers for years before I started doing it on my own. But I don't look at perspective assistants from a "time in service" perspective. I look at them from a "do they have the basic skills and talent and willingness to be taught?" perspective.

Well...the two pastry school grads had neither the skills, talent, nor work ethic that I would've preferred. Plus, they come to meet with these giant chips on their shoulders telling me how much I'm going to pay them, when they're going to help me, what their duties are going to be, etc. etc. So needless to say I gave them the heave-ho.

Now, another perspective candidate is referred to me by a friend of my Wife's. She has a website so I check out her pics. Very skilled beginner. Very young though. Barely out of High School. Wants to go to pastry school, but wants to learn from me as well since I do all the types of cakes she's interested in (3D, weddings, etc.).

So I meet with her, give her a run down of her duties, how much I'll pay her, when I'll need her, etc. Everything's going great until she asks me, "When did you graduate (insert local prestigous culinary school)?"

"I didn't. I enrolled and then dropped out when I learned I'd be paying $30,000 for schooling I didn't need."

"Oh...so you're not a professional?"

"Twenty-two years of baking and decorating experience say I am. Not a piece of paper that costs $30,000."

"Oh...well...I'd prefer to learn from someone with formal training."

"I did. My Grandmother was a professional chef and cake artist and she taught me everything she knew. So were my Mother and her Mother."

"Well...I'll let you know."

So here I am, with no assistant, orders piling up, and being snubbed by these hoity-toity kids with a pastry school diploma!!

Should I be the one who gets to choose them based on their level of experince?

What's up with these kids??

Has anyone else had any experience with this, or am I the only blessed one???

And for those of you who did graduate from a pastry school, what were your expectations post-graduation?

Granted, I am home based, but for a part time, under the table assistant, I'm offering a pretty darn good hourly wage!! Which leaves them free to go work for someone else.

The people who've come to me expressing their desire to learn and help me are either no experienced wanna be's, or slightly more experienced certified "Master Chefs" who expect me to allow them to dictate their terms while paying them $100,000 year!!

Anyone??? I'm about ready to start turning orders down and just keep my load down to 2-3 cakes a week.

31 replies
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HerBoudoir Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 5:36pm
post #2 of 32

Honestly? I think if a person is skilled and reliable AND has certification, they're going to be looking for full time jobs with regular hours. A part time on call job doesn't seem to offer a great deal of reliable income, stability, or experience.

Hiring good employees takes a fairly high level of finesse - you have to be able to offer them what they need and want as much as them having to be able to offer you what you need and want.

From the sounds of it, you may be better off finding someone who wants to learn to do the things you say you need done, and is willing to work the odd hours in order to learn. In return, you'll need to spend some time training them.

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indydebi Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 5:50pm
post #3 of 32

I got into a heated discussion with the VP of a company I worked for. he was hell bent and determined to hire nothing but college grads. I told him, "I couldn't give a rat's a$$ if they have a degree or not. I need someone who can answer a freakin' phone! I need someone who can argue with manufacturer's about getting an order in here on time. I need someone who can be headstrong with a trucking company who never delivers on time!"

Maybe this is just a sign of my age, but I've seen too many young kids who have been brainwashed by the academic world that they are now a "college grad-u-wait!" and they can walk out the door and get into CEO'ing. Worked with one young man who was making $25K a year.... he gets his standard 3% raise ($750) and starts throwing a hissy fit because he honestly thinks after 8 months, he should get a $5000 a year raise ... because big corporate attorney daddy makes that kind of money!

There was an article in this sunday's paper about whether a college degree is worth it or not.....student loans and the cost vs. actual payback. I know a young lady who went to a VERY expensive college and ended up with a job paying $15,000 a year. Heck, my son was making more than that in the Sears shoe dept in high school!

So I say find you some mom who is looking for extra money while the kids are in school and screw trying to find someone who's going to school for the industry.

As I tell all of my young friends re: their hoity toity attitude, "Don't worry .... you'll grow out of it before long!" icon_twisted.gif

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Cakenator Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 6:37pm
post #4 of 32

No one wants to work for anything anymore, or work to climb up the "ladder". No one wants to start at the bottom anymore.

And why should they?

They have a degree!

Please note my sarcasm.

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Lenette Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 6:38pm
post #5 of 32

I think you may be better off finding someone who WANTS to learn. Not someone who thinks they know it all already. I pity the young girl who turned you down. It's a shame that she isn't aware of how beneficial learning under someone with experience can be. She'll learn more working with you for 6 months to a year than in school if she truly wants to be a decorator. I would say 20+ years makes you just as professional as a grad of formal education, possibly more so. That was incredibly rude!

I do think college grads have a bit of an expectation about what that education should offer them career wise. No one thinks they should start and work their way up anymore. It's unfortunate because so many young people miss the opportunity to learn from those of you that have more experience.

I hope you find someone to help you soon!

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doreenre Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 6:39pm
post #6 of 32

I wish I lived near you...I'd be there in a heartbeat! I'm no culinary grad, but I LOVE to decorate w/ so much still to learn.

Good luck with finding what you need.

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Melvira Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 6:49pm
post #7 of 32

Well, the first two sound like real pieces of work, but it's the third candidate that I think needs a reality check!! Makes you just want to slap someone when they act like that.

I have a cousin who I taught some basic skills to, and she is sort of my assistant at times, so I haven't had the 'pleasure' of dealing with this. Your experience is enough to make me never want to!! Sorry about your luck with this!

On a related note, I think college is a 50-50... depends on what you want to do, and where you go! I paid a bunch of money to go back to college in my late 20's for web programming, and ended up making less money than before I quit and went to school. (I was an office manager with tons of experience and making good money!) And here I am paying school loans as a self employed SAHM, doing nothing that has anything to do with my degree. (BTW: I wish I could sue the school for the really poor education they gave me as well... I learned NOTHING from them, but I DID graduate as valedictorian. How is that possible?) (Sorry, that's another rant!)

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BrandisBaked Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 6:58pm
post #8 of 32

I'd blame it all on the schools.

When I signed up for culinary school, I was shocked at the bull they were trying to feed us. Most of my fellow students were fresh out of high school and ate it up - but at 34 years old, I knew better.

Basically, their standard line is that as soon as a student graduates, they are almost guaranteed an executive chef position makinng over $100k/year. LOL!

It's really not the students' fault - culinary schools deliberately lie and mislead very young "kids" just to keep up their enrollment and keep the $$ rolling in. It's very sad.

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akgirl10 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:21pm
post #9 of 32

I think indydebi has the right idea. I have a toddler and an infant, and I stay at home, but i would love to work with someone now and then for a few hours, even to just roll fondant and mop floors. Because I love decorating and could really use some tips and tricks. That would be invaluable learning for me, but these young uns don't know that yet. If you ever move to Alaska give me a ring! icon_smile.gif

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ashcake Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:35pm
post #10 of 32

If I was in CA I would tell you I would help!!! I would love to be able to do those things, but watch how you decorate and maybe grow my skills that I have learned. I'm just getting into the cake decorating and love it. I want to learn more and more. I unfortunately cannot afford to go to school. I have taken the wilton method courses, but everything else I have taught myself or learned from here. I hope that you could find someone to help you!

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cakesbycathy Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:36pm
post #11 of 32

What about a high school student? Check at your local high school and ask to speak to the home ec teacher. If you explain exactly what the job responsibilties would be and what it would pay, I bet he/she would be able to reccommend someone.

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toodlesjupiter Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:39pm
post #12 of 32

Hi! I'm in Riverside, and would love to do something like this! I sent you a P.M.

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TexasSugar Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:40pm
post #13 of 32

What about going to the local craft store that teaches Wilton classes and ask the WMI there if she had anyone that stood out to her that looked like they really enjoyed what htey were doing and wanted to learn more?

Wilton classes give you the basics you can build on, so then they would have some knowledge of what they are doing, and you can train them for the rest.

You could also look in to a HS kid that wants to make some extra cash that has an interest.

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tippyad Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:46pm
post #14 of 32

Right time, wrong place. icon_sad.gif That's exactly the type of job I'm interested in. I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3. My youngest will be in preschool full time next year. I've been baking/cooking all my life, took 2 Wilton courses a few years ago. Besides baking cakes part time I help 3 days a week in the school cafeteria of my older two. It's really the only job besides being a teacher that will allow for me to still have the summers off w/ my kids. Maybe you should get in touch w/ the moms at your local school. This would be perfect if anyone is interested. Good Luck!

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peg818 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 7:51pm
post #15 of 32

What about the local wilton classes, maybe find someone that wants to learn. I also think i would go with someone alittle older or at least more mature.

Check with your local ICES chapter perhaps they could put the word out.

Personally, having trained many people to work in a commercial kitchen, i would much rather have the person with little to no experience but a willingness to learn, then one with all the schooling and/or bad habits that other kitchens can cultivate. At least if you train them from the ground up then you train them the way you want them.

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Swede-cakes Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:00pm
post #16 of 32

I certainly agree with the advice given earlier from cakesbycathy and Texas Sugar about inquiring at a local high school.

The bakery owner I decorated with hired two high school kids (one girl, one boy) for front counter service, as well as clean-up help. But she also taught them how to make all her pastries and pies, and the young man picked it up particularly well. (we always teased him that the girls who learned he could make from-scratch pecan sticky rolls would think he's hot! icon_wink.gif Anyway, they were not "trained formally" prior to being hired, but could follow instructions, wanted to please, and needed an after school job. We even put them on "cake construction crew" duty one month when we had so many wedding cakes. They torted, filled, and crumbed really well. Worked out nicely!

Give it a shot. Sometimes the best student is one who has NOT been formally trained! thumbs_up.gif

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Penny7271 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:01pm
post #17 of 32

As college instructor for the last 8 years, I can tell you that many students/graduates today have a sense of entitlement...I find it very disappointing to work with them at times. Many of them feel that they can say anything to anyone, have everything they want they way they want it, and they don't need to take any responsibility for anything they do. And if something doesn't go their way, they will send their parents to yell at you.

I am hoping that the pendulum starts to swing back the other way - soon!

I do however agree with the PP that someone with experience and certification may be looking for full time work, but that there are LOTS of other possible assistances that would be able to help you and really benefit from all of YOUR WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!

Hang in there - and good luck!

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Mike1394 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:05pm
post #18 of 32

I'll answer the school part. For me it's a tad different. I'm in the middle of a career change. At 48 it's not the most fun thing to do. Our school is one of the higest rated CCs in the country. Half of the kids I wouldn't hire. maybe I'm just turning into the grumpy old man. The kids these days are much more polite than my generation was, but they don't have a clue about anything. I'm suprised most can wipe thier nose.

The big box schools are terrible. They are franchising the name, and selling spots, that's what their business is. It's not to teach someone to cook/bake. My expectations. I don't expect the highest, but I don't expect the lowest either. Our pastry ciriculum is pretty intense though.

If I were you find a kid with no experience at all. Teach them how you want it done. Groom your succesor, and when you need a day off one will be there.


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Iheartcake Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:06pm
post #19 of 32

doreenre wrote:


I wish I lived near you...I'd be there in a heartbeat! I'm no culinary grad, but I LOVE to decorate w/ so much still to learn.

Good luck with finding what you need.

I second that! I work full time, would love to get a second job but it just gets too hectic.. but something like this, where it's not every weekend, just when you're busy.. would be perfect. Hopefully the right candidate will come along. You may have to go through a few bad ones to get a great one.

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lovetofrost Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:10pm
post #20 of 32

I know how you feel. I haven't had your experience with cakes, but I have in the insurance business. I was the one without the degree and some pig headed snooty guy with a degree in broadcasting comes in and gets more pay than I do and I was there for 3 yrs. and I had to train him. I don't see where people come off thinking a degree makes a world of difference. I commend the people that do get degrees and earn the money they get paid. But not the ones who demand more money just because they have a degree and no training or experience. Good luck with everything. I think putting an add in craigslist or something being totally honest about what you are looking for is a good idea.

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CeeTee Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:15pm
post #21 of 32

A college degree means nothing in the long run unless you are going for a specialized degree that demands a Masters or higher. Pretty much all Bachelor degrees (like Business, Liberal Arts, or Languages) are worthless unless you decide to become a school teacher. In the real world, all it says is that you spent a lot of money on a piece of paper.

I went to college for seven years and racked up a 40k student loan debt, and graduated with a BA in Marketing and Visual Communications (Fancy way of saying Advertising Degree.) I have never made more than 26k a year ever in my life. The school I went to gave me the same line about walking into a high paying job right out of school that they would help you secure, but all they ever have in their Job Assitance office are menial entry level job postings.

Yeah...nothing feels better than just getting your Bachelor's and having your post-grad Job Placement Advisor tell you that the Fry's down the street is hiring cashiers. (This actually happend to me.)

And I wish I could find an oppertunity like the one the OP is offering. I'd be all over it in a heartbeat!

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teenycakes Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:31pm
post #22 of 32

I'm not sure why so many grads are demanding such high sums of money. Demanding 6 figure salaries is just unrealistic.

I have a business degree and interviewed with a local bakery, and was so bummed out, not from the pay, but from the lack of customer skills from the people at the bakery.

The owner offered me $7 an hour to do the same skills you mentioned above. I think this is too low, but I would have still taken it, except the environment was yuck. In fact, I would have worked for free just for training, but the owner was so nasty and the other worker was so arrogant, along with the blarring heavy metal rock music. I decided to wait. I'm more interested in a pleasant place, with competent people that I can learn from.

Have you thought about checking at the local Joann's or Michaels and contacting instructors to see if they have any students they think could help you? (Someone may have mentioned this already, not sure.)

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Etta1025 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:37pm
post #23 of 32

I completely agree with Penny727! I'm afraid this is a "trend" with young people these days. I work at a fairly well-known publishing company, and we hire interns on a rotating 6 mos basis. We get a huge crop of college kids to interview. I have been SHOCKED at the since of entitlement these kids have walking through the door. I'm 34 years old and have been out of college for almost 12 years. Maybe I'm getting old, but I can't believe how much things have changed. Every one of them has been to Europe (some multiple times), drive fancy cars, wear clothes I wish I could afford, and expect to be given upper management jobs and pay. It's really upsetting. I want someone who will do whatever I need them to do, with a smile on their face, and be darn glad I'm willing to pay them $10 an hour to do it!

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Melvira Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 8:59pm
post #24 of 32
Originally Posted by Etta1025

I completely agree with Penny727! I'm afraid this is a "trend" with young people these days. I work at a fairly well-known publishing company, and we hire interns on a rotating 6 mos basis. We get a huge crop of college kids to interview. I have been SHOCKED at the since of entitlement these kids have walking through the door. I'm 34 years old and have been out of college for almost 12 years. Maybe I'm getting old, but I can't believe how much things have changed. Every one of them has been to Europe (some multiple times), drive fancy cars, wear clothes I wish I could afford, and expect to be given upper management jobs and pay. It's really upsetting. I want someone who will do whatever I need them to do, with a smile on their face, and be darn glad I'm willing to pay them $10 an hour to do it!

You are SO right... but like I tell my sister... they weren't born like that. They were raised to believe this, and they have a hard lesson ahead of them unless Daddy can get them into some company that will give them everything they want. It starts with the parents that teach these kids to never take anything they think is beneath them... and by the way, EVERYTHING is beneath them. I mean, honestly, look at people like Paris Hilton who are famous for NOTHING. They've never had a redeeming thought in their lives. These are the people that most kids want to emulate. Not someone who worked hard to get where they are, and appreciate every bit of it. We're lucky to have a work ethic. Most of these people never will.

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TheButterWench Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 9:19pm
post #25 of 32

I don't know what schools these yo-yo's graduated from, the school I went to drummed into our heads that we were going to do crap work for crap pay working crap hours.

Our internships pay us 7.50 an hour if we were lucky.

Top of the line pay was about 12.50 an hour and I managed to interview for a $15.00 an hour job and they didn't even hire me because I made the mistake of coming after school ( told them that I didn't have time to go home an change to make the available times) in my uniform.

they gave me a pot of icing that I'd not worked with in forever and timed me.

Now I KNOW I can ice a cake in less than 5 minutes and cover a cake in fondant in under 30. Becaue I froze, they felt they had the right to make snide remarks about my education.

The ohter place that I managed to get a job at I was a speed demon, completely decorating a cake in 15 mins flat, had to keep the coolers filled in 3 shops!

I'd have to stand there icing my cakes and listening to my boss making rude comments that it didn't take a college degree to ice a cake.

so, that attitude goes both ways. I was there to work, putting in my hours because I was saving to open my place, I couldn't get out of there fast enough.


I never asked the kids that worked there to clean up after me, I set myself up and cleaned up after myself and they loved me for it. I was even teaching the kids there to decorate cakes.

The boss was horrible to me and I couldn't wait to leave.

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Etta1025 Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 9:31pm
post #26 of 32

You're right Melvira! I think kids today are way too influenced by the media, and unfortunately, their parents aren't teaching them the difference between what they see and reality. Their only role models are Paris and Lindsay, and they watch shows like Laguna Beach, The Hills, and My Super Sweet 16, where everyone is rich and beautiful. Now I admit, I secretly indulge in those shows on occasion icon_smile.gif -- but I'm old enough to know that's NOT reality.

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mkolmar Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 9:50pm
post #27 of 32

A lot of people now a days feel entitled to so much. However, I think these people over shadow the ones who are not like this. I'm almost 30 and will be graduating in 2 days with a culinary degree. I'm in class with a lot of fresh from high school kids. I have to say that all of them work hard and earn what they get. The only person I question is actually in her 40's with an "I'm better than you attitude".
I fully believe it depends on how the people are raised and the line of bull society gives them. I know when I graduate I'm starting at the bottom and will have to work my way up. That's life.

If you lived closer I would help you in a heart beat. I'm actually looking to apprentice for free under someone to gain more skills.

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Jayde Posted 28 Apr 2008 , 10:13pm
post #28 of 32

I am actually looking for the same thing here! They just opened a Dierberg's (grocery store) 5 minutes away from me. I called the Human Resources to apply for a job in the bakery, and they told me that to work in the bakery I have to have a culinary degree, and work in their baking department for 1 year prior icon_surprised.gif .

I was taken aback! I mean I think their cakes are a little nicer than Walmart maybe, but not that much nicer. They are all sheets, and they are all decorated with a shell border with maybe a little airbrush work on top. I was SHOCKED! I know I dont have all of my pictures in my gallery, (for some reason they wont load) but still! I have more raw talent than anything, and I really want to work under someone who can teach me! You are all right about those pastry classes. They teach you how to bake and plate, but not how to decorate cakes. I have learned all I know all on my own. AND covering with fondant is my specialty!

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Denise Posted 29 Apr 2008 , 12:14am
post #29 of 32

I agree with getting someone out of Wilton classes. That is really the level you are looking for. You may have to "train" them to do the cakes as you want them done.

Probably the reason your getting the attitude is that it is not full time - and not that many hours. They are looking for a full time job with advancement possiblitities.

I have had several kids email from the local collage with the hotel/food management certificates wanting to apprentice to me. I work from home that would not be a good fit for me and I always invite them to join our cake club but can't employ them at this time.

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indydebi Posted 29 Apr 2008 , 12:18am
post #30 of 32
Originally Posted by cakesbycathy

What about a high school student? Check at your local high school and ask to speak to the home ec teacher. If you explain exactly what the job responsibilties would be and what it would pay, I bet he/she would be able to reccommend someone.

I spoke to a home ec class all day just about a month ago (3 classes). I announced I was looking for help in the kitchen. Counting my daughter, I now have 6 high school girls working for me, keeping me stocked in cookie dough balls and they will be learning the front side when we turn the front end into cookie retail.

Yeah...this works!

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