Seeking something different? A model of schema typicality, consumer affect, purchase intentions and perceived shopping value

Seeking something different? A model of schema typicality, consumer affect, purchase intentions and perceived shopping value

Journal of Business Research 54 (2001) 89 – 96 Seeking something different? A model of schema typicality, consumer affect, purchase intentions and pe...

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Journal of Business Research 54 (2001) 89 – 96

Seeking something different? A model of schema typicality, consumer affect, purchase intentions and perceived shopping value Barry J. Babin*, Laurie Babin Department of Marketing, College of Business, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5091, USA Received 1 May 1999; accepted 1 May 1999

Abstract A study is presented that examines the effect of specific retail elements on deviations from the expected schema, or prototypicality, of a retail store. The results suggest that subtle differences in the store name, the location, and the appearance of its salespeople can evoke contrast in the form of variable typicality scores. A structural model is presented that shows the outcomes of this variance in a retail context involving women’s apparel stores. Low typicality is associated with increased excitement and discomfort, and these emotions affect patronage intentions and perceived shopping value. This finding is counterbalanced by a direct, positive link between typicality and patronage intentions. D 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: Schema; Consumer affect; Shopping value

Recently, research has demonstrated the key role played by emotional experiences in explaining store choice and consumer– environment interactions and reactions (Bitner, 1992; Baker and Cameron, 1996). Design elements including a store’s employees, prices, lighting, scents, product assortment, background music, and crowdedness influence the affect experienced in a service environment (Eroglu and Machleit, 1990; Hui and Bateson, 1991; Hui et al., 1997; Baker et al., 1994; Darden and Babin, 1994; Dube´ and Morgan, 1996; Spangenberg et al., 1996; Yoo et al., 1998). Likewise, it is clear that mood or affective tone can influence shopping intentions, spending, quality perceptions, satisfaction, and value (Swinyard, 1993; Babin and Darden, 1996; Babin et al., 1994; Hui et al., 1997). However, less research acknowledges the fact that consumers enter the patronage process with expectations regarding what makes up a specific type of service venue, and that accumulated knowledge about these environments is represented and processed holistically in the form of cognitive categorization mechanisms (Alba and Hutchinson,

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-601-266-4629; fax: +1-266-4630. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (B.J. Babin), [email protected] (L. Babin).

1987). Indeed, the amalgamation of salient characteristics forms a ‘prototype’ for a given environment. Consumers then compare new stimuli to the prototype and the resulting assimilation/contrast mechanisms produce affective, behavioral, and evaluative consequences (Fiske, 1982; Stayman et al., 1992). Ward et al. (1992) provide an important start in examining patronage behavior from this more holistic perspective. They show that characteristics of a fast-food restaurant’s design can contrast with a consumer’s prototype, and that the contrast affects consumer attitudes toward a restaurant. More specifically, in the context of fast-food, they suggest that consumers have more favorable attitudes for fast-food restaurants high in typicality (matching the ‘fast-food restaurant’ prototype). The present study extends this research. Qualitative research was conducted to operationalize relatively subtle variations in a retail store’s characteristics that produce cognitive deviations from category prototypicality. A quantitative study follows in which a store’s typicality, defined as the degree to which an environment matches its prototype, is proposed to affect the specific emotions associated with the store. Additionally, both typicality and perceived emotion are linked to important consequences including patronage intentions and perceived shopping value.

0148-2963/01/$ – see front matter D 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 4 8 - 2 9 6 3 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 0 9 5 - 8


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1. Conceptual background 1.1. Retail categorization 1.1.1. Overview Consumer behavior research has investigated categorical processes in a number of contexts (Ratneshwar et al., 1996). For example, category representativeness (typicality) has been related to usage contexts (Ratneshwar and Shocker, 1991).1 Foods sharing common ‘snack food’ characteristics are selected by consumers for specific usage contexts. Additionally, category structures are hierarchical and divided into subcategories (snack food, cookies, salty snacks, etc.). Other research suggests that more (less) typical ads are processed less (more), and variance in typicality interacts with affect to alter processing further (Goodstein, 1993). More recent research shows that consumers compare new appliance designs to category prototypes, and that the most typical designs evoke the best reactions (Veryzer and Hutchinson, 1998). The typicalness of retail salespeople has also been investigated. One study suggests that an atypical (typical) salesperson produces a more (less) favorable response because the negative schema-based affect associated with a ‘‘salesman’’ is not evoked (Sujan et al., 1987). Another experiment demonstrates that by altering salesperson characteristics, different salesperson categories are activated among respondents, each associated with different emotions (Babin et al., 1995). For instance, a ‘pushy car salesman’ produced increased skepticism and helplessness relative to an atypical salesperson, and the increased emotions lowered product recall. Fig. 1 presents an expanded view of the retail categorization process presented by Ward et al. (1992, p. 197). Basically, consumers’ perceptual and categorical processes evoke varying cognitive, affective, and behavioral consequences. When presented with a retail concept, the consumer assembles the cues and compares them with existing knowledge. If the cues ‘match’ an existing category from memory, assimilation occurs as indicated by high category typicality. Therefore, if a consumer is presented with a store name, location, a salesperson, size, lighting, etc., he/she will assimilate those into an existing store category if they generally match characteristics most associated with that category through experience. Typicality then evokes a cognitive and affective reaction. Less typical designs elicit increased processing and greater specific recall. However, while most research has described schema-based affect only in terms of general affective tone (like –dislike), this approach does not represent fully the extent to which affect (or more specifically emotion) associated with a category enhances its meaning (Fiske, 1982).

1 We will adopt Raneshwar and Shocker’s (1991) convention of equating the terms typicality and prototypicality.

For example, helplessness, arousal, and skepticism are evoked by an active car salesperson stereotype (Babin et al., 1995). Further effects are then experienced as affect relates directly to patronage intentions (Bitner, 1992; Baker and Cameron, 1996). Both patronage intentions and affect directly influence how rewarding an interaction with the retailer is as represented by shopping value (Babin et al., 1994). Finally, feedback is experienced as the value evaluation is stored in memory, and potentially, adjustments are made to existing categorical structures to accommodate a previously novel instantiation (Stayman et al., 1992). 1.1.2. Effects of retail design Varying retail characteristics can evoke different cognitive categories. For example, malls containing a ‘‘discount store’’ seem to be treated considerably differently than malls with only more traditional ‘‘department store’’ anchors (Finn and Louviere, 1996). Further, prestige vs. discount categories are associated with specific changes in ambient and design factors (Baker et al., 1994). Clearly, drastic differences should evoke totally different categories. If, for example, a store name is described as ‘‘Food City,’’ it is surely to evoke contrast with the women’s fashion category. However, even subtle changes can evoke contrast within the same basic category structure (Ratneshwar and Shocker, 1991). In the main study presented here, the location, name, and appearance of store employees are varied across plausible levels. Examining effects of atypicality, it is necessary that variation in typicality exists. Thus, by varying these characteristics over levels the population most associates with a women’s fashion store, and levels less associated, but still plausible, systematic variation should be observed in perceived typicality. These effects can occur either as main effects or as interactions as environmental characteristics combine and are processed together. For example, a certain employee appearance may ‘fit’ a discount but not a prestige store. 1.2. The effects of typicality 1.2.1. Effect on consumer emotion Here, we explore the affect of typicality on consumer emotions. For some links, specific conceptual evidence is not clear enough to warrant formal hypotheses. Therefore, we defer from offering formal hypotheses and provide preliminary conceptual evidence. Whereas some previous research demonstrates that a category match can be associated with relatively high liking (Ward et al., 1992; Veryzer and Hutchinson, 1998), more specific affects can sometimes counter these effects (Babin et al., 1995). This process can occur through either schema switching or through the increased attribute evaluations that take place with category ‘nonmatches’ (Coupey et al.,

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Fig. 1. Expanded model of retail categorization and effects.

1998). If presented with a store location in a larger metropolitan area, feelings may be affected by a switch to a more precise category, or by an emotion associated with that particular city. Further, research on outshopping describes a situation where for certain types of products, excitement is associated with a less familiar, or atypical, experience (Darden and Perrault, 1976). Likewise, the atypical holds potentially unknown benefits that may enhance intrigue or romance at the costs of increasing risk. Since fashion can be defined as things that represent the socially acceptable (Sproles, 1979), a clothing store low in typicality may precipitate a clash between one’s self-image and the ‘socially acceptable’ milieu (Goodwin, 1992). This clash can lead to greater feelings of humiliation than would be experienced in a matching

store. Therefore, we expect that more typical clothing stores will cause decreased excitement, decreased shame, and decreased romance relative to atypical clothing stores (see Fig. 2). 1.2.2. Effect on patronage intentions Previous research demonstrates a positive correlation between fast-food restaurant typicality and market share within a community (Ward et al., 1992). In addition to preferring something more typical, all things equal, a matching store is more familiar. Increased familiarity can facilitate a shopping task making a desired purchase more likely. So, particularly from a utilitarian perspective, there should be a direct relationship from typicality to shopping intentions and an indirect relationship be-

Fig. 2. Typically effects on affect, intentions, and shopping value.


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tween typicality and utilitarian shopping value through patronage intentions. 1.2.3. Emotions to intentions and value Hedonic shopping value reflects an evaluation that interacting with an environment is rewarding for the sake of the experience itself (Babin et al., 1994). Emotional experience plays a primary role in creating this gratification. Excitement, a combination of pleasure and arousal (Russell and Pratt, 1980), can increase approach tendencies, unplanned purchases, and hedonic shopping value (Dawson et al., 1990; Babin and Darden, 1995). Further, romance, with its elements of spontaneity and fulfillment, is a primarily positive affect that is closely related to one’s self-image (Richins, 1997). Therefore, expectations related to romance are likely to increase expectations of personal gratification, leading to increased hedonic shopping value. Shame or humiliation, is negative in tone and is associated with decreased approach tendencies (Smith and Ellsworth, 1985). It should distract from both a desire to stay and from any personal gratification expected from interacting with the environment. Therefore, to the extent a consumer associates shame with a store type, patronage intentions and hedonic value should decrease. Patronage intentions fulfill two important goals. One, increased intentions allow for greater shopping task fulfillment through the acquisition of goods, services and information, and through this fulfillment, utilitarian shopping value is increased. Likewise, increased intentions are associated with hedonic value through an increased desire to stay and continue gratification (Holbrook and Gardner, 1998). Also, an evaluation that a task is being fulfilled can provide personal gratification in and of itself leading to increased hedonic shopping value.

2. Research methods 2.1. Overview A fundamental element of this study involves potential variation in store typicality. The main study involved consumer reactions to a fictitious, unfamiliar, women’s apparel retailer. Following an approach adopted previously in operationalizing feature-level variation among retail environments (Baker et al., 1992, 1994; Grewal and Baker, 1994; Sen, 1998), written descriptions of hypothetical retailers were created. Considerable preliminary research was conducted to help in operationalizing experimental variables in an effort to create variance in the fictitious store concept’s prototypicality. Three variables were selected: store location, store name, and salesperson appearance. Whereas more than three features comprise a full store schema, previous research has shown that a relatively small number of feature differences can evoke schematic variation (Sujan et al., 1987;

Babin et al., 1995; Sen, 1998), each is managerially actionable, and they qualify as ‘‘most associated characteristics’’ being salient to a retail store’s meaning (Anderson and Klatzky, 1987). Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed to select levels of each that would avoid extremes. Potential store names were selected and then tested for fit. Names were screened initially to eliminate those that were disliked or would not seem to fit a women’s clothing store of any type. A final list of six names was pretested using a sample of 18 graduate students. From these results, the name ‘‘Cindy’s’’ was selected as typical of a women’s apparel store associated with the local community, and the name ‘‘Los Verdes’’ was selected as the contrasting name. Research was also conducted to find both a ‘‘matching’’ and ‘‘contrasting’’ salesperson. Several female university staff members screened photographs of female models. We wished to locate photographs depicting women who either ‘‘matched’’ expectations (the cultural default) regarding salesperson appearance in a local women’s apparel store, or while controlling for attractiveness, better depicted a salesperson from a ‘big city’ store. Twelve graduate students rated eight photographs quantitatively. 2.2. Sample The sample for the main study consisted of female clothing shoppers from a mid-sized university community. Graduate research students were provided with instructions for recruiting participants and administering the study. All participants completed the main study in a small group setting. Although this still qualifies as a convenience sample, our hope was to maximize its representativeness to customers of women’s fashion stores. A total of 140 interviews were obtained, of which 133 were usable. The youngest participant was 15-years-old and the oldest was 50 (average = 29). Initially, study analyses were conducted using age as a covariate, but it is precluded from analyses presented below because it did not predict the dependent variables or affect the size of other relationships. 2.3. Subject task Subjects were asked to provide their reaction to a retail store concept. Three treatments were varied (store location, store name, employee appearance), between subjects, over two levels. The store name was presented (either ‘‘Cindy’s’’ or ‘‘Los Verdes’’ — many of the ‘big city’ stores mentioned had foreign sounding names), followed by its proposed location (a similar city or a distant city), and provided with a photograph depicting a store salesperson (either matching the local default expectations closely or not). Relevant measures were assessed using a survey instrument Excitement, shame (i.e., humiliation), and romance measures were adopted from Richins’s (1997) inventory of

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Table 1 Descriptive statistics and correlations for study constructs

Hedonic value (HV) Utilitarian value (UV) Patronage intentions (PI) Romance (ROM) Shame (SH) Excite (EXC) Typicality (TYP) Coefficient a



11.7 7.56 170 6.17 5.37 11.8 18.6

3.36 2.09 86 5.35 5.62 8.26 4.34

HV 1.00 0.53 0.60 0.59 0.21 0.60 0.14 0.83

consumption emotions.2 These three were selected based on pretest results and because they are relevant to the store context. Additionally, they correspond rather closely to dimensions of larger affect batteries (cf. Burke and Edell, 1989). Three items assessing patronage intentions were also included. The items assessed the expected likelihood (given an opportunity) that a subject would: (1) go into the store, (2) buy something at the store, and (3) bring a friend to the store. Perceived hedonic and utilitarian shopping values were assessed using six Likert items (Babin et al., 1994). Five items assessed how ‘‘typical’’ the store was perceived relative to women’s fashion stores subjects were familiar with. These items were assessed with a six-point Likert scale with higher scores indicating greater typicality. The measure was adapted from Babin et al. (1995). Descriptive statistics, correlations, and coefficient a for each multi-item construct are included in Table 1.

3. Results 3.1. Variation in prototypicality We first tested whether or not the experimental variables themselves (main effects), and in conjunction with each other (interactions), caused variation in the items assessing typicality. A MANOVA analysis was conducted using the experimental variables and their interactions as predictors of the five items indicating typicalness. Table 2 shows these results. Each manipulated feature had some significant impact on the variance in the typicalness measures. Location (F = 4.08, p = 0.002) and salesperson (F = 3.31, p = 0.008) showed significant main effects, while the store name showed a significant interaction with both

2 A few modifications were taken to better match the study context. For example, the item ‘‘uncomfortable’’ was substituted for ‘‘humiliated’’ in the shame scale since it seemed to be a better descriptor of how consumers might feel in an atypical retail store. Additionally, a few items were added to the batteries. Aroused was included based on its pervasive use in past studies. Satisfaction and attitude and recall related items were also included but were not used in this study.



1.00 0.56 0.30 0.27 0.44 0.04 0.73

1.00 0.53 0.45 0.60 0.04 0.90


1.00 0.19 0.57 0.27 0.87


1.00 0.33 0.07 0.87


1.00 0.22 0.84


1.00 0.72

location (F = 2.50, p = 0.03) and the salesperson (F = 2.86; p = 0.018).3 Therefore, the variations in store features alter the degree to which it is perceived as typical of retailers in the women’s apparel category. 3.2. The effects of typicality Relationships between typicality and consumers’ ensuing feelings and reactions were explored using a structural equations model. Following Churchill and Surprenant (1982), the typicalness measure was treated as an exogenous construct. Prior to testing the theoretical relationships, a confirmatory factor model was tested to assess measurement validity and further purify construct measures. 3.2.1. CFA results After dropping two items due to high residuals, covariances among 21 measured variables were constrained accordingly. The resulting measurement model produced a c2 of 266.7 with 168 df ( p < 0.01). The comparative (CFI) and incremental fit indices (IFI) are 0.94 each, and the root mean square residual (RMSR) is 0.06. The parsimony normed fit index is 0.68 (PNFI) and all loading estimates are highly significant ( p < 0.001). Further, model fit cannot be improved by collapsing any two constructs into one. Thus, the measurement model is adequate for further use (Anderson and Gerbing, 1988; Gerbing and Anderson, 1992). 3.2.2. Structural model results The appropriate constraints were added to the model to examine relationships depicted in Fig. 2. The estimated model produced a c2 of 271.1 with 174 df. The model CFI, IFI, and RMSR are 0.94, 0.94, and 0.07, respectively, and the PNFI is 0.70. All indicate an adequate fit for a model using multiple measured variables per construct. In particular, the PNFI compares favorably to that of the measurement model and the difference in fit between the structural and measurement model is insignificant. 3 A univariate analysis using the summed typicalness measure provided essentially the same result with each factor having an effect on typicalness either as a main effect or as part of an interaction.


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Table 2 MANOVA results examining the store feature – typicality relationship Treatment





Location Salesperson Name Location * salesperson Location * name Name * salesperson Location * salesperson * name

0.857 0.881 0.955 0.987 0.908 0.895 0.953

4.08 3.31 1.15 0.33 2.50 2.86 1.21

0.002 0.008 0.342 0.894 0.030 0.018 0.313

0.14 0.12 0.05 0.01 0.10 0.11 0.05

Note: All F tests based on 5 and 122 df.

Table 3 displays the resulting standardized maximum likelihood estimates. Significant negative paths are observed between typicality and both excitement ( 0.21, p < 0.001) and romance ( 0.37, p < 0.001), whereas the path between typicality and shame is insignificant ( 0.03, p > 0.1). Thus, as the clothing store matched the familiar prototype less, it was expected to be more exciting and create increased romance. Typicality also displays a direct effect on patronage intentions. The path corresponding to this relationship is positive and significant (0.13, p < 0.05). Therefore, not considering any indirect effects, consumers express higher patronage intentions for a ‘matching’ or typical store. Excitement affects both patronage intentions (0.64, p < 0.001) and hedonic shopping value (0.31, p < 0.001) positively. Also, higher levels of shame are associated with decreased patronage intentions ( 0.27, p < 0.001). The romance– hedonic value relationship is positive (0.13) but only marginally significant ( p < 0.10). No significant shame– hedonic value relationship is observed. A significant, positive path is observed from patronage intentions to utilitarian value (0.77, p < 0.001), whereas, the patronage intention –hedonic value link is supported only in direction (0.12, p > 0.10). Finally, the utilitarian value – hedonic value path is also significant (0.55, p < 0.001). The path model also suggests that typicality has indirect impacts on patronage and shopping value. Interestingly, while the direct effect of typicality on patronage intentions is positive, that effect is matched by an indirect negative effect of typicality through excitement ( 0.13). Thus, the feelings assessed here serve to suppress typicality’s positive impact intentions, while facilitating effects on personal shopping value.

matches the ‘cultural default’ expectations or category for a type of store. Once that typical category becomes less salient, the store concept evokes different types and levels of affect, and these changes in affect influence patronage intentions and the perceived value of a shopping experience. Specifically, higher levels of excitement and romance were evoked from an atypical clothing store. Although a typical store produces a positive direct impact on purchase intentions, producing increased utilitarian shopping value through the positive purchase intentions — utilitarian shopping value path, the higher levels of affect associated with an atypical store counter this effect because they facilitate a negative indirect relationship between typicality and purchase intentions. Further, the higher levels of affect effect shopping value directly. Excitement and romance relate positively to hedonic value, suggesting that consumers expect that excitement experienced in an atypical store makes for a more personally gratifying experience. In this case, the human perceptual process works in two opposing ways — one driven primarily through cognitive mechanisms, the other primarily through affective mechanisms. 4.1. Implications Retailers can benefit from a deeper understanding of consumers’ categorical structures. Here, design characteristics that evoke contrast with the ‘typical’ women’s fashion store produced higher levels of positive affect, resulting in increased patronage intentions and shopping value, and in all likelihood, a more loyal customer (Babin

Table 3 Standardized structural path estimates Path from:


Typicality Typicality Typicality Typicality

Excite Shame Romance Patronage intentions Patronage intentions Hedonic value Patronage intentions Hedonic value Hedonic value Hedonic value Utilitarian value Hedonic value

Excite Excite Shame Shame

4. Discussion Romance

The research presented here supports the idea that changes in consumers’ categorical representation of retail stores can affect reactions that bear on a firm’s success or failure. Specifically, changes in the store name, employee appearance, and store location, alone and in combination with each other, affect how well the store

Patronage intentions Patronage intentions Utilitarian value

Predicted direction




0.21 0.03 0.37 0.13

0.001 n.s. 0.001 0.05























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and Attaway, 1997). The study also suggests that such affects can be accomplished with a relatively small number of actual changes. A store name reminiscent of a different area, an employee that appears different, perhaps more glamorous, and the retailer’s home location may evoke such a contrast. However, these results do not suggest a normative prescription that all service environments should be designed in an atypical manner. A significant, direct positive relationship between typicality and purchase intention cannot be overlooked. Research conducted in a fast-food setting suggested that a typical environment produced greater patronage intentions leading to the suggestion that typical is better (Ward et al., 1992). The clear discrepancy in the orientation of these contrasting environments leads to a more specific possibility. Fast-food patrons are interested primarily in the end of addressing hunger quickly and efficiently. Therefore, the orientation is, firstly, utilitarian. However, fashion shopping is often much more of a leisurely activity throwing more meaning into the affective quality of the retailer (Darden and Babin, 1994). Therefore, if a service environment is utilitarian/functional in nature, a more typical design is preferable. However, if the orientation is more emotional in nature, an atypical design may be preferable. 4.2. Limitations and future research There are several limitations of this study that suggest further research. Further research may consider a broader range of store contexts and samples. This work may provide additional practical results by examining the potentially conflicting cognitive and affective results discussed above. Specifically, moderating effects across environments that are very utilitarian/lean (atm) and the very hedonic/elaborate (vacation destination) should be explored. Additionally, other approaches of activating assimilation/contrast mechanisms that overcome the drawbacks in using a hypothetical store description should be developed. For example, future research might adopt a more conventional survey-type approach with interviews conducted in actual store environments. Perhaps a more exhaustive battery of items also could be used than what was employed here. More research is needed on specific effects of typicality and schematic processing in a retail environment in general. Specifically, retailers can benefit from knowing which design elements contribute most to schematic categorization process (i.e., typicality). For example, does the store name have a greater impact than does a change in the color scheme, background music, or smell? Such research might also consider how consumers go about dealing with deviations from store or service environment prototypes or exemplars. What are the effects of consumer attempts to accommodate deviations in their schematic processing (Stayman et al., 1992)? Also, what are the


maturation rates of atypicality? What are the effects on employees? As retailers are challenged increasingly with finding enough reasonably competent service workers and keeping them, are employees more attracted to something typical or atypical? 4.3. Conclusions We pursued several ends with this research. First, we wished to build on previous research demonstrating consumer outcomes of a retail environment’s typicality. The research presented here suggests that simple, tangible, and controllable retail elements such as the store name and its employees’ appearance can cause variation in how well a store matches consumers’ store prototype. Second, the research demonstrates that specific affect categories are affected by deviations from typicality. Third, typicality and these specific affective categories affect the important outcomes of patronage intentions and perceived shopping value. In contrast with much previous work, these changes suggest that a categorical contrast can produce a positive result. However, perhaps most important among these objectives was to further stimulate researchers to consider more holistic approaches that take into effect the impact of multiple elements working alone and in conjunction with each since consumers process multiple cues in categorical processes that become the basis for all further emotional and behavioral reactions.

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