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November 24, 2014

Is $75 enough to print 2 sets of docs, notarize & do faxbacks?

In this tough economy, many notaries have simply dropped out. The remaining notaries, as tough or as proud as they portrayed themselves to be have simply had to compromise their standards for what they charge. Many signing agents with ten or more years of experience told Carmen (in confidence) that they were forced to accept $60 signings just to stay afloat. So, we won’t mention any names, but you know who you are. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Americans complain about what Indians would regard as a luxury!
Notaries complain endlessly about how unfair it is that they only get $75 for so much work with such high expenses. My take on the situation is quite different because I travel. A policeman in India makes $50 per month (not including bribes.) Can you imagine living on $50 per month? How would you rent a place to live? You would be living on top of each other twenty to a room and eating dahl and rice in small quantities once or twice per day if you were lucky. Can you imagine this type of poverty that hard working Indians endure as a matter of standard procedure? And what about the folks in the countryside who work for 20 rupees per day which is about 40 cents. That is about $12 per month. When you get these $75 assignments, just say to yourself, “I made four months of a Bihari farmworker’s salary in two hours! Yippee!”

If you are doing worse than last year, do you get upset?
It is a human tendency to be sad when you are not getting what you want, or what you used to easily get. But, this human tendency needs to be changed. We live in a changing world where what was impossible yesterday might be easy tomorrow, and vice versa. You need to just do the best you can do and not base your life today on whether it is better or worse than last year. Notaries base their fees on 123notary on what they paid last year. If I charge $150 this year, but only $120 last year, they are upset that they are paying more this year than last year. What really matters is not what happened last year, but if your investment is getting you a sufficient return.

Let’s do the math
If you get $75 for a loan signing, how much work and expense is really involved. You might spend 20 minutes on the phone on average including follow up calls, scheduling and making sure the documents arrive through whatever medium is used. You might need to drive thirty to forty-five minutes both ways to the signing. You might go through 350 pages of paper, and some toner or ink printing the documents which is not for free unless you have a gift certificate to office-max.

Your real expenses might be $4 of car expenses including gas, oil changes, and other wear and tear.
If you can purchase paper for a bulk price you might use up $3 in paper, and $2 in ink or toner (just guessing)
You might use up two hours of your time including everything: 1 hour driving; 30 minutes signing; 20 minutes on the phone; 10 minutes doing fax backs. (best case scenario)
After expenses, you get $66 profit and you can deduct your miles at the Federal mileage rate as well!
If you spent two hours total, you got $33 per hour.

On the other hand, if you spent an hour each direction, had to wait four hours for documents, and the signers read every letter of every page and asked a million questions, plus spent an hour on the phone with Fred the lender, then you might have invested seven hours which would leave you with $9 per hour which is still above minimum wage in most states.

$20/hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street.
I would say in all honesty, that the average signing agent probably makes about $20 per hour for their assignments. More seasoned signing agents who command higher rates like $125 or more per signing might make $45 per hour on average. Being a relatively inexperienced signing agent is not a high skilled job like being a nuclear physicist. You do not merit $50 or more per hour unless you are the best 1% of notaries in the business or are an Attorney. All you need to be a notary signing agent is to be a resident of a state (not even a citizen in many states,) fill out an application (most states don’t even have a notary exam,) get bonded, and take a quick class in loan signing; $20 per hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street and start doing loan signings. For a notary with three years of experience, they should be making more like $25-$30 per hour. That is what I made when I was doing signings with that level of experience!

You might also like:

Pricing strategies for mobile notary work
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http://blog.123notary.com/?p=588

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http://blog.123notary.com/?p=84

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22 Comments »

  1. This person has it all wrong and if this person wants to do all that work for $75 then you do it. It takes more than 10 min to fax back because you have to make a second trip out to drop the package. That’s another 20 to 30 min.

    Comment by Robert Charles — December 4, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

  2. LOL who posted this, Jeremy? Last year I made around $5000.00 and profit was only around $2000. The only closings I will do for less than $100 is Quicken, because they print and mail the borrowers copy and sometimes the signing copy and those that overnight the documents, but they still have to be local within 20 miles one way.

    I normally get $100-$150 per signing depending on package, mileage and faxbacks. So we shall see the end of the year what I actually clear. There were a few slow months, but on average I get 4-10 per month on a good month. The only grip I have is the miles, wear and tear I put on my vehicle and some of the rural areas I travel, I definitely need my truck. And for those of you that haven’t heard, the mileage rate was reduced this year by 1/2 cent. I had to laugh when I heard that because I retired from the IRS and they should have increased it to recoup some of the cost for those months gas prices were high. Thanking God the prices are finally coming back down. And yes definitely order your paper in bulk and at least 2 toners at a time to save the shipping cost.

    Hoping you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year if I don’t post again this year.

    Comment by Pamela Roberson — December 4, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

  3. I am sorry, but it is this kind of thinking that is bringing this industry down.

    We encourage our graduates to determine what their expenses are, decide what it takes for them to make a profit or decent income from their signings and stick to that price. For the most part what I hear in the following months, is that they refuse these low offers and eventually the good companies out there find their way to the NSA’s who are going to perform error free.

    A lot of signing services do not realize how much it actually costs them for notary error. The average notary error is between 20 and 40 percent. That is because a lot of the notaries accepting these assignments for $50 to $75 are usually inexperienced and/or do not have the training or experience to perform at the 100% accuracy level.

    Jeremy, you have a lot of influence over NSA’s! I don’t think you will post this response, but if you do, please let us encourage your readers to begin demanding what they as trained professionals, in a demanding and vital business, deserve. We need to ban together and STOP letting everyone else make the greater portion of the earnings when it is we who are actually doing the job.

    Comment by Carol Ray — December 4, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

  4. Yes we all should count our blessings and thank God that we are able to make a living doing mortgage signings. Some make more and some make less depending upon their level of experience and ability.In a free market economy supply and demand
    determine what is paid for any service which are provided. With this said,it does not excuse the mortgage industry and its
    affiliates from greedy practices and the under payment of those who provide services to this industry.Notaries can only be be under cut by low payments so long,before the system will break down.

    Comment by wayne — December 4, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

  5. We have a set fee for leaving our office for any reason. We add a set fee for printing e-docs. We add a set fee-per-mile for any distances over 30 miles one-way. Since costs are going up every day, we won’t compromise these fees unless it is for one of our very regular siging/title companies and the signing is very close to home. We have been in business for eight years, both my and my wife are mobile notaries, and we make sure to do our very best with each assignment. We know from our clients’ comments that we are at the top of theirs lists, and feel very confident that the work will contrinue to come in. Perhaps we are in a better position to \weather the storm\ than others, since we both are old enoughto get Social Security checks, but we still need the notary income. We take to heart the line from Diosney’s \The Happiest Millionaire\: \Do your best, and leave the rest to Vertuosity\.

    Comment by Theodore — December 4, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

  6. First and foremost anyone doing this type of work for more than a hobby should treat it like a real business.

    I built a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet that I will only occasionally because I know the facts in my head and don’t need it when I get ‘the call’ but it is a good sanity check.

    Forget considering only incremental charges for things.

    In my mind I charge $.10 per page for copies. I use a ‘real’ hi-speed, office quality Lexmark printer with multiple trays. My charges include depreciation so I can buy the next one when this one wears out (and they do require periodic maintenance), Toner isn’t cheap, I keep my paper costs down buying in bulk (but I have paper ‘inventory’ as a result), and don’t forget your time to make and ready the copies and maybe even a bit of home office depreciation, light heat and power and health insurance. At $.10/page a 180 page reverse mortgage times two copies is 360 pages or $36. If you are charging $5-6, you’re not in business, you’re playing at a hobby.

    Other than your time, your car expense is the next biggest expense. I assume a rate of $.565/mile (the IRS rate) for mileage. For a 30 mile round trip assignment that’s about $17. Again, forget using the increment costs only. When you get your next vehicle for $35,000 how are you going to pay for it?

    Don’t forget your training, your business fees, and notary supplies.

    Your time…you have to decide your hourly rate but don’t short change yourself. In my spreadsheet I assume things like 1 minute/mile for driving on a pure interstate (60 mph) and somewhere in the 2-3 minute per mile for local driving. Yours will be similar.

    So add up all your time: time to respond to your ’employer’ and make one+ phone calls to set up the appointment, time to print the copies (may be in your ‘per page’ rate), time to ready/sort/prepare the copies, round trip driving time, time in the clients house – 1- 1.5 hours isn’t unheard of for a large doc set, time to drop off the docs at Fedex/UPS, time to finalize the deal with your ’employer’ and finally the time to do your booking keeping and deposit the check.

    If you aren’t thinking this thru, you really aren’t in business. Of course, if you are just filling your time because you do this as a hobby and have nothing better to do…good luck!!

    Remember, you can get a nice job at Walmart for minimum wage without any of this hassle.

    Comment by Tom Porada — December 4, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

  7. My base fee is $75 plus $25 for edocs. Most of my signings entail a 2 hour time frame. 30 min each way in driving, 1 hr. for the signing, I take the time to help the borrower through the process. Many borrowers are older and want to talk a bit and that can take 1 1/2 her for the signing. I have been in business for over 10 years and will not take a signing for less that my basic fee. If I have to drive more than the 30 minutes then I charge accordingly for the extra time, fuel and car expense. I also charge extra for fax backs. If an agency will not pay my fee they will have to go else ware, any \many\ do find another notary who is willing to take less. As has been said many times by other notaries, if we cut our rates then the Signing Services will be happy to pay less and keep the difference.

    Comment by Gary Williamson — December 4, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

  8. No offense, but I wouldn’t want the author of this article calculating my overhead expenses, in relation to a 300+ page mortgage signing, and expect a profit.

    Comment by RidgeRunner — December 4, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

  9. Jeramie: I think you are not thinking like a business man. First of all I do not care what prices and cost of living are in India. Has no relationship to the cost of living where I live. Yes, I could get by on $65.00 signings, but it is just that getting by. I might as well grow a garden, get a cow and just get by. Your equation that you only spend a couple of dollars on gas falls short of what the true cost of owning and operating a vehicle is. NADA states it is about $0.75 a mile regardless of the IRS deduction.

    You then go one about the cost of the paper and other printing costs. What about building up the reserves to replace the equipment? How about those business licenses, taxes from local, state and federal. What about Social Security payments which are 15% for self employed people. Health Insurance, maybe Dental and Eye care as well. Bonds license renewals and the list goes on. Cost of that home office, cell phone, internet access, land line for fax machine. Retirement account and what the heck profit to feed the kids/wife and a little extra so I can go on a paid vacation from my sole proprieter business.

    So is minimum wage a benefit that we should look at in this business. Yes you are correct any ole notary can get a license and do loan signings. Those of us who get the training to do a great job should be able to expect to command fees of over $20.00 an hour. A real business person understands that if they have employees that if you pay them any dollar figure per hour that your true costs are 1.5 – 2 times their hourly wage to cover goverment required costs and paper work. So to make your minimum wage figure of $9.00 you need to make just in wages $14.50 to $18.00 just in wages not including all the costs of business.

    I think you need to review your thoughts about what a notary charges. Unless you think this is a part time job by many who do not operate as business. Many notaries as you would state do not operate as a business its off the books income. We do not operate for free. In GW work we may do some free notaries and many states regulate the fee structure in such a way that for GW work your expenses out weigh what you can charge. That is why banks do it for free for customers. I think you get my point. A $65.00 signing is not profitable.

    Comment by Daniel Stephens — December 4, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

  10. As a Certified Signing Agent, former Calif. Senior Certified Escrow Officer, and former math teacher, I would flunk the original poster! $4 in total car expenses for 30-45 minutes one way! You must be driving an electric car like a Tesla or BMW i3, and not amortizing the actual cost of the vehicle in your business. My time is worth at least $30 per hour with my experience, and I believe in charging for that. If I wanted to work for just over the minimum wage (mentioned in the last paragraph of OP’s rant), I would get a job in the tourist town 5 miles away and at least have some fun at work!

    Comment by Mary Voelker — December 4, 2014 @ 9:42 pm

  11. That was very interesting and entertaining. I live in California, in a large metropolitan area, not in India. According to Wikipedia, in India, the minimum wage in 2012 was $689 per year based on 48 hours per week. If my math is correct, that comes out to about 0.28 US per hour. The reality is that the cost of living in India has no bearing on the cost of living in the US, especially in areas such as the San Francisco bay area in Northern California, or the Los Angeles area in Southern California. Further, I do not understand the comparison of the starting pay of a policeman in India with what we do in California as Notary Publics. There is no relationship between the duties or responsibilities. As the author pointed out, the $50 that the policeman makes in India does not include the bribes that he or she will take during the month. Bribes are a part of life in many countries. So, maybe an apples to apples comparison would make better sense. And the idea of comparing our wages to that of a nuclear physicist? I hardly think a nuclear physicist makes $45 per hour.
    Also, it is unfair to compare the requirements to become a notary public in California to those of states which basically only require an application and a small fee to become a notary public. To earn (not receive) my commission in California, I had to take a mandatory Notary Public class and pass a mandatory exam. Then I had to pass a very extensive background check through the FBI and California Department of Justice. I also had to buy a surety bond. Next I had to file my commission with the county where I reside. Each of those steps cost me money out of pocket. Then I had to buy basic supplies. In some states, the process is not so lengthy or so expensive.
    Then, to become a Certified Notary Signing Agent, there are more classes to take. There are more background checks to undergo. (Honestly, how many background checks are needed?) There are more supplies to buy, including a laser printer, reliable transportation, business style clothing, errors and omissions insurance, additional liability insurance (business use of a vehicle, etc.), paper, toner, electricity, and other expenses that I am forgetting. (And do not forget the most expensive commodity: time.)
    Two hours to do an error-free signing? I do not believe that. If the notary does his or her job instead of simply “point and sign,” The time will be more than one hour for a 130 page signing. Then there is the fax back (which requires some sorting of documents) the actual time of faxing, and preparing the documents for shipping, then dropping off the package. I think three hours minimum is more realistic.
    The thought that it is OK or even desirable (to the point of expressing gratitude) to earn minimum wage (or less) as a professional is thought provoking, for sure. How many signings a day, at minimum wage, will one need to work in order to equal one eight hour shift as a “people greeter” at Walmart? If the author is correct in assuming 2 hours to complete a signing, then a minimum of 4 signings per day are needed. That seems to add up to 20 signings minimum per week. In San Francisco, California, they are trying to get a law for a minimum of $12 per hour. In San Jose, California, the minimum already is $10.00 per hour. So, those signings at $9 per hour will not meet the minimum wage requirements in San Jose. I have “cheap” housing in San Jose, California. I only pay $1,200 per month for a one bedroom apartment. That is far below the going rate in my city right now. How many signings do I need to do at below minimum wage to just pay my rent? (1200 divided by 9 = 133.3. At 20 signings per week, I can “earn” my rent money in just under 7 weeks. What? There are only 4.2 weeks in a month? Too bad! That is the reality of working for minimum wage.)
    But, now the real question arises. Why are we talking about minimum wage for a professional? Do people who work at minimum wage have the same responsibilities that notaries public have during a loan signing? While I respect people from every walk of life, I would never dream of having a door greeter at Walmart do a loan signing! As a signing agent I am held to a higher standard. So why should I be asked to be satisfied, grateful even, to barely earn minimum wage? If I make a mistake on a signing, I can be sued for that mistake. If the mistake is very serious, it could ruin my financial future! I deserve to earn more than minimum wage or less. I am sure that many notaries will agree with me. Do the people who work in the Title companies, lending institutions, or the Signing Agencies work for minimum wage or less? I do not think so!
    In my humble opinion, many people who accept these low-ball signings have other income streams to help them through the rough spots. The fact that there are some who are happy to work for less than minimum wage and accept those low ball signings just emboldens some signing agencies to offer $30, $40, and $50 signings. There will be desperate people who will take those signings and run themselves out of business. I have seen postings from individuals claiming they are “laughing” all the way to the bank on these signings. Some of them claim to be doing ten to fifteen signings per day! (There are not enough hours in a day for that type of claim!) Where are they now? They extoll the virtues of lowball signings, but then when they see they are not making a reasonable living, they drop off and find other work. Then we do not hear from those people again.
    These same lowball agencies are sending out messages to California notaries regarding the new notary requirements starting in January of 2015. They say they will be “fining” notaries who fail to provide the new forms to replace the outdated forms in the loan documents! More work for less pay! Got to love it!

    Comment by Mike — December 6, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

  12. I’ll skip the India comment except to say I don’t know how you can compare India to America. That’s a whole different culture. As far as minimum wage…. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to flip burgers. I agree with the above comments. And here are a few thoughts of my own.
    Even when business is slow, a notary still has to carry E&O insurance, a notary license, bond, yearly background check, yearly training, and car insurance. Occassionally you need to upgrade your equipment, purchase tires, vehicle repairs, etc. And let’s not forget the additional time we spend to make numerous calls in order to collect our measly minimum wage fee.
    Don’t forget the good ole IRS. At $9.00/hour, a full-time worker would make approximately $18,720 (2080 hrs x $9/hour) Substract approximately $2,800 for federal taxes and you are down to about $15,912. Pay your state and local taxes. Subtract expenses and many notaries are hardly making minimum wage.
    I can hear it now. The price of fuel is coming down and these companies, especially the cheap ones, are going to want us to lower our fees. Some of the larger title / signing companies lowered their fees about 2 years ago because business was slow with the mortgage meltdown. Do you think they will increase their fees now that fuel is down? I think it’s safe to say that’s a big fat NO. These companies got us to accept their lower fee and we are stuck!
    The companies I discussed fees with a year ago said they were not lowering their costs. The notary was to take the hit.
    So we are back to – accept their low-ball fee or only work for the companies willing to pay a fair fee.

    Comment by Linda Kauffman — December 27, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  13. If I wanted to make $9 an hr I would get a regular job with a steay pay no yeatly loss, health ins, no extreme milage on my car, no running out 10pm at night and the list goes on and on. I work for my self to nake a better pay then I can at some office job. Otherwise why do we even bother trying to run our own independent businesses.

    Comment by kim — January 15, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

  14. OMG- Whoever wrote this blog is completely delusional!! Seriously- are they going to compare Notary work in CA to a job in India!!?? A 3rd world country- that’s not going to help his argument!! Not to mention he grossly underestimated expenses in every area mentioned! We need to drive there and back for starters! So a 25 minute drive is actually a 50 minute drive- plus the trip to FedEx afterwards. If there are fax backs you must go home before you go to FedEx, (I won’t even accept a job with Faxbacks for that reason!)! Paper & toner is much more expensive- & many Title /Escrow Companies are now sending everything in legal size, which costs twice as much as letter sized paper… because the newbie notaries that don’t know how to print properly! Which wastes even more of my expensive legal sized paper! The list of errors goes on and on, I don’t even have time to cover them all! Suffice to say -not even close listing expenses! This blogger has no idea what he’s talking about! Unbelievable nonsense!!

    Comment by Connie Chadwick — February 18, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

  15. 150 pages in 30 minutes signing and 10 minutes doing fax backs!!!??? show me how!!!

    Comment by Dmitriy — July 20, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

  16. I ignored this when it first came out as I did not want to give any validity to such a poorly thought out and written blog. Whoever wrote this is NOT operating a business! They may be performing the work but obviously do not know how to determine their cost of goods and services. Of course blogs are meant to get responses, correct? Perhaps it was written to entice more notaries to sign up?

    The original blog is so far off base. If you drive a total of an hour, to and from the signing, you would travel at least 20 miles each way, perhaps more if all highway. That would be 40 miles roundtrip. At the current IRS rate per mile, ($0.565), that would be an expense of $22.60 just for gas, insurance and wear and tear. How did you arrive at $4.00?

    This puts the net, before other expenses are $52.40. I don’t have any real issues with the cost of paper or toner. Paper is about $0.01 per page. So $5.00 for toner and paper is not unreasonable. But this leaves a net before the time spent at $47.60. At this point and according to the article, you have expended 2 hours of time. Sorry, I have not found a way to present 175 pages (350/2=175) in 30 minutes as the article indicates! For me this would net $19.04 per hour (I used 2.5 hours). Great, that is about $38,000 per year in income, but wait there is more below!

    There were a lot of good comments on Fax Backs. Ten minutes! You have to split the file, count the pages, image or fax the documents, make sure the same number are in the image set, fax if using an online service, re-assemble the documents and TRAVEL to the nearest drop site (round trip is 10 miles for me). Since faxes often bomb out, you may have to do it two or three times. Plan on an hour! If you are not charging for this service, you need to take stock of your business!

    What this blog does not consider is:
    -Taxes
    -Lost opportunity time for cancelled files;
    -It does not consider time for marketing;
    -Depreciation of office equipment (You will need to maintain and replace it);
    -Ordering and picking up supplies (Some delivered and some picked up);
    -Receipting in checks (Cash flow);
    -Follow up on unpaid accounts (Has to be done).

    Think about how much time you spend locating new prospects, sending information, filling out applications (for that one order). How much time is spent chasing customers who have not paid you?

    Don’t suggest that anyone is making $66,000 a year in this business without truly doing the math. There are people who will make this much, but not with $75.00 signings after expenses.

    Personally, YTD my expenses run at 16% of Revenue for mileage and 21% for other expenses. That is 37% before I deduct time for doing all the things that need to be done. To prove the point, take the $47.60 revenue after mileage and paper and divide it by the original $75 fee. It comes out to 63% which is my net revenue before time, taxes etc.

    Comment by John Axt — July 22, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

  17. I find Jeremy to not be very understanding of real life notaries. This article didn’t surprise me one bit sorry to say.

    Comment by Lauralei — June 13, 2017 @ 3:01 am

  18. You forgot to add the cost of licenses, memberships, advertising, bond and insurance, stamps, journals, business cards, pens, and filing fees. It is more than the time, paper, and ink. You also have to look professional, which costs some money too. $75 doesn’t even cover the cost of the Notarizations in the package! $75 would only be acceptable for printing less than 300 pages, only 4 Notarizations total, and the signing location is less than 10 miles away.

    Comment by Monica Johnston — June 13, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

  19. And let’s not forget the cost of that all important cell phone, so we’re always in contact, the cost of office space, computers, printers,software, and the replacement of all that every few years. Then there’s certifications, bond, and the all important E&O insurance.

    Our time just doesn’t include this call, but all the calls asking us to take low-ball offers, the marketing calls, sending initial information packages to companies and then updating that information for them every year. We also have to provide for our own sick time and vacation time from the fees we get. And don’t forget bookkeeping time, because how do you know if you’re making money if you aren’t doing bookkeeping. Anyone who is self-employed and isn’t keeping up with an idea of how much they are actually earning is a fool. Sure, $65 seems like a lot of money if you aren’t looking at your actual expenses. But the professionals will know exactly how much that signing costs, and that’s why we don’t take $65 signings.

    Comment by Jodith — August 3, 2017 @ 2:54 am

  20. You folks don’t even come close to understanding the expenses involved with being a notary. Most importantly, 123 notary never recognizes the cost and value of time spent generating business. The time you spent to put this post together had a cost that was done for marketing purposes.

    Comment by John Axt — August 3, 2017 @ 11:03 am

  21. FRUSTRATING TO SAY THE LEAST.
    TO NOT MENTION AUTO EXPENSES IN CLUDIOMG ALL THE REST OF EXPENSES PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED.
    WHWN YOU LIVE IN A RURAL AREA TRAVELLING TO AND FROM USED UP MORE OF YOUR TIME. TIME IS MONEY!

    Comment by Barbara Brewer — August 3, 2017 @ 3:33 pm

  22. $75 loan signings? What I have a problem with is it plainly states on the settlement statement that the fee for my notary service is $200. Signing services call me all day and say they found me on 123. So I pay 123 to put me on a list that a middleman uses to take over half my fee.

    Comment by Joe Ewing — March 29, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

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