List of Walmart brands
Wikipedia list article
Walmart, Inc., like many large retail and grocerychain stores, offers private brands (also called house brands or store brands), which are lower-priced alternatives to name brand products. Many products offered under Walmart brands are private label products, but in other cases, the production volume is enough for Walmart to operate an entire factory.
In March 2018, to better compete with Amazon and Target, Walmart introduced three new clothing lines and revamped an existing clothing line.
- George – men's casual and dress clothing, shoes, and accessories (previously also women's and children's)
- Terra & Sky – plus size women's clothing
- Time and Tru – women's clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Wonder Nation – children's clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Athletic Works – men's, women's, and children's activewear
- Brahma – men's and women's work boots
- EV1 – women's casual clothing, accessories, and shoes endorsed by American television personality Ellen DeGeneres
- No Boundaries, often abbreviated as NOBO – women's and men's clothing and accessories
- Secret Treasures – women's sleepwear and intimate wear
- And1 – men's athletic footwear and clothing
- Avia – men's and women's athletic footwear
Not to be confused with Sam's Club.
Main article: Sam's Choice
Sam's Choice, originally introduced as Sam's American Choice in 1991, is a retail brand in food and selected hard goods. Named after Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, Sam's Choice forms the premium tier of Walmart's two-tiered core corporate grocery branding strategy that also includes the larger Great Value brand of discount-priced staple items.
Compared to Great Value products and to other national brands, Sam's Choice is positioned as a premium retail brand and is offered at a price competitive with standard national brands. It typically offers either competitive items in a given product category, or items in categories where the market leader is an "icon" (for example, Coca-Cola in the soft drink category).
Most Sam's Choice beverage products (excluding Grapette and Orangette) are manufactured for Walmart by Cott Beverages. Other products in the line, including cookies, snack items, frozen meals, and similar grocery items, are made by a variety of agricultural and food manufacturers.
Competitive pricing of the Sam's Choice brand and store-branded and generic goods is possible because of the lower expense required to market a retail chain's house brand, compared to advertising and promotional expenses typically incurred by the national brands.
Most Sam's Choice-branded products have been replaced by either the relaunched Great Value brand, or the new Marketside brand. The brand was reintroduced in 2013 with a new logo and a focus on premium food products with organic ingredients.
Adventure Force – toys suitable for outdoor use. Products include waterarms (water blaster guns).
Great Value was launched in 1993 (but products were made as early as 1992) and forms the second tier, or national brand equivalent ("NBE"), of Walmart's grocery branding strategy.
Products offered through the Great Value brand are often claimed by everyone to be as good as national brand offerings, but are typically sold at a lower price because of lower marketing and advertising expense. As a house or store brand, the Great Value line does not consist of goods produced by Walmart, but is a labeling system for items manufactured and packaged by a number of agricultural and food corporations, such as ConAgra, and Sara Lee which, in addition to releasing products under its own brands and exclusively for Walmart, also manufactures and brands foods for a variety of other chain stores. Often, this labeling system, to the dismay of consumers, does not list location of manufacture of the product. Walmart contends that all Great Value products are produced in the United States. Otherwise, the country of origin would be listed.
As Walmart's most extensively developed retail brand, covering hundreds of household consumable items, the Great Value line includes sliced bread, frozen vegetables, frozen dinners, canned foods, light bulbs, trash bags, buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pies, and many other traditional grocery store products. The wide range of items marketed under the Great Value banner makes it Walmart's top-selling retail brand.
The Great Value brand can also be seen in Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil and some Trust Mart stores in Hunza Pakistan, through a partnership with Walmart but China is not included anywhere. Bharti EasyDay retail grocery stores sell Great Value brand products in India as well. Great Value brand products as well as Walmart merchandise are also present in Seiyu grocery stores (owned by Walmart) in Tokyo, Japan as of October 2014, despite at least one report of a transition away from the brand.
In 2009, the Great Value labels were redesigned to be predominantly white. The new redesign also includes over 80 new items, including thin-crust pizza, fat-free caramel swirl ice cream, strawberry yogurt, organic cage-free eggs, double-stuffed sandwich cookies, and teriyaki beef jerky. Walmart changed the formulas for 750 items, including: breakfast cereal, cookies, yogurt, laundry detergent, and paper towels. Great Value went through another redesign in 2013 for most of its food items, replacing predominantly white designs with more colorful packaging.
Equate is a brand used by Walmart for consumable pharmacy and health and beauty items, such as shaving cream, skin lotion, over-the-countermedications, and pregnancy tests. Before its takeover by Walmart, the formerly independent Equate brand sold consumer products at both Target and Walmart at lower prices than those of name brands. Equate is an example of the strength of Walmart's private label store brand. In a 2006 study, The Hartman Group marketing research firm issued a report which found that "Five of the top 10 "likely to purchase" private label brands are managed by Walmart including: Great Value, Equate, Sam's Choice, Walmart, and Member's Mark (Sam's Club), per the study." The report further noted that "...we are struck by the magnitude of mind-share Walmart appears to hold in shoppers' minds when it comes to awareness of private label brands and retailers."
In mid-2010, the brand underwent a logo redesign, as well as packaging changes similar to the Great Value brand.
Mainstays is a brand marketed by Walmart for its lower-priced lines of bedding, kitchen utensils, ready-to-assemble furniture, and home decor.
Ol' Roy is Walmart's store brand of dog food, created in 1983 and named after Sam Walton's bird dog. It has become the number-one selling brand of dog food in the United States. It is comparable to Nestlé's Purina.
In 1998, samples of Ol' Roy (together with various other brands) were subject to qualitative analyses for pentobarbital residue by the U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationCenter for Veterinary Medicine due to suspicion that the anesthetizing drug may have found its way into pet foods through euthanized animals. Pentobarbital was found in 5 out of the 8 Ol' Roy samples in the initial survey. The highest level of pentobarbital detected among all dog foods tested was an Ol' Roy forumulation (Puppy Formula, Chicken and Rice) at 32ppb. The CVM concluded this level of pentobarbital would be unlikely to cause adverse effects even to the smallest dogs.
Special Kitty is Walmart's store brand of cat food and other cat care products, such as litter and treats.
Parent's Choice is Walmart's store brand; including diapers, formula, and accessories. Like other Walmart store brands, its design and packaging was relaunched in 2010. Parent's Choice is manufactured by Wyeth (a pharmaceutical company). On October 15, 2009, Pfizer signed the final acquisition papers making Wyeth a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer, thus completing the US$68 billion dollar deal.
Play Day is a wide-ranging brand of budget-priced children's toys. Play Day launched in between mid-2014 and early-2015, as a replacement brand for Kid Connection.[clarification needed].
Pen+Gear is Walmart's store brand for school and office supplies. From notebooks, pens, markers, paper, binders, pencils and even paper shredders. Pen+Gear replaced a former brand name Casemate in late 2016. Casemate was the same purpose of school and office supplies, but they found a different name for the brand in late 2016.
- Better Homes and Gardens is a product line with designs inspired from the popular magazine of the same name.
- Hometrends products include small furniture, tableware and various home decor accessories, such as rugs and faux plants. (Discontinued in USA market)
- Mainstays Kids
- Your Zone is a home product line that tailors toward teenagers and college students.
- Allswell, a luxury bedding and mattress brand owned by Walmart, but only sold direct to consumer
- AutoDrive – car care products, auto detailing products, and interior accessories
- Backyard Grill – grills, charcoal, and grilling accessories (Discontinued)
- Best Occasions – party decorations and accessories, such as candles and hats
- Bike Shop - bicycle tires, tubes, and accessories
- Clear American – carbonated and flavored water. Was previously known as Sam's Choice Clear American
- Co Squared, a cosmetics brand owned by Walmart, but only sold direct to consumer
- ColorPlace – paint and painting tools. ColorPlace paint is made by PPG
- Douglas – budget priced tires. Models include Xtra-Trac and Touring. Some models are made in a Goodyear plant.
- Earth Spirit - shoes
- EverStart is the brand for automotive and lawn mower batteries. The brand is also used for battery-related accessories, such as jumper cables. EverStart batteries are manufactured by Johnson Controls, Inc., (who also manufactures batteries for other store brands) primarily at plants in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- Expert Grill – grills, charcoal, and grilling accessories (Replaced Backyard Grill)
- Fire Side Gourmet – pre-cooked burgers and steaks (was previously under the Sam's Choice label)
- Gold's Gym – athletic and exercise equipment such as weights. Named after and licensed from the chain of fitness centers.
- Hart - power tools and outdoor power equipment
- Holiday Time – Christmas items such as Christmas trees, decorations, and wrapping paper
- Home Bake Value – bread
- Hyper Tough – hand tools, power tools, hardware and storage
- Kid Connection is used primarily for children's toys, but was also used for children's clothing and shoes.
- Marketside – fresh foods usually found in Walmart's deli, produce, and bakery departments, such as salads, soups, breads, and sandwiches
- Mash-Up Coffee (Walmart-exclusive) – luxury coffee beans
- Motile - laptops, miscellaneous tech, and tech accessories
- Oak Leaf – low-cost wines produced and bottled for Walmart selling at approximately $3 a bottle.
- Onn – home electronics, computer accessories, and phone/tablet accessories
- Our Finest/Notre Excellence is a brand for upscale chips, cookies, frozen dinners, etc. which are sold exclusively in Canada. This brand is comparable to World Table and is manufactured in Canada exclusively for Walmart Canada.
- Overpowered – pre-built gaming desktops and laptops
- Ozark Trail – outdoor equipment and footwear. (The Walmart Home Office is located in the Ozark mountain region in northwest Arkansas.)
- Price First/Prix Budget – entry-level everyday products, similar to Great Value, but generally at the lowest price point
- Protege – luggage and travel accessories
- ReliOn – diabetes care products, including blood glucose and blood pressure monitors
- Spark Imagine - simple children's toys made with high-quality materials; comparable to Melissa and Doug
- SuperTech is Walmart's brand of motor oil. The brand is also used on other consumable automotive products, such as oil filters, windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid.
- Tasty - kitchen tools (Walmart exclusive under license from BuzzFeed)
- The Office – office supplies and stationery
- Uniquely J, a brand under Walmart's Jet.com website
- Walmart Family Mobile is Walmart's exclusive prepaid mobile phone (cell phone) service provided through the T-Mobile cellular network.
- World Table – upscale salsa, pizza, chips, cookies, etc., which are manufactured exclusively for Walmart and fancier than the Great Value entry
- Way To Celebrate – holidays such as Halloween, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day are manufactured exclusively at Walmart
- "Price First" was a bottom-tier, low-priced generic brand that Walmart introduced in late 2013. It included very basic grocery items, trash bags, and paper goods. It was launched as an experimental brand targeted towards the most budget-conscious shoppers. It was the lowest priced brand at Walmart and availability varied by stores. Some of the grocery items included milk (which is often brand-name milk with a Price First label, as is Great Value milk), bread, granulated sugar, canned fruit/vegetables, boxed brownie mix, toaster pastries, elbow pasta, egg noodles, spaghetti, and skillet meals. Non-grocery items included paper towels, toilet tissue, trash bags, and food storage bags. The brand was discontinued in 2016.
- "Canopy" was a home product line for rooms and other domestic goods. The brand was replaced by the Better Homes and Gardens line in 2012.
- "Casemate" was Walmart's school and office supplies brand in 2015. In late 2016, it was replaced by Pen+Gear.
- "Faded Glory" was an apparel brand for women, men, and children. It was replaced by Time & Tru (for women), George (for men), and Wonder Nation (for children) in 2018.
- Durabrand was a brand used for home electronics, such as televisions and DVD players. The brand was also used on various small kitchen appliances.
- iLo Technologies was another brand of home electronics, consisting of more upscale items such as televisions, small electronics and digital music players.
- "Metro 7" was an upscale brand of women's apparel that was originally released in the fall of 2006 and eventually was discontinued.
- "Promark" was a brand for tools in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was replaced by Popular Mechanics branding.
- "Puritan" was a brand for men's basic clothing, including shirts, pants, undergarments, socks, ties, and some accessories. In late 2010, the brand was discontinued and replaced by Faded Glory (with undergarments, socks and casual clothing) and George (with ties, shirts, pants and formal clothing).
- "Blackweb" – were "premium" electronics products; discontinued after a rebranding of the Onn line in 2020.
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C5 Trail Light Short
Whether you're kitting up for a big alpine ride with plenty of vertical gain, or just going out for a rip on your local trails, the C5 Trail Light Short is ready to rack up the miles in all-day comfort. Designed as a lightweight overshort for cross country and trail riding, these shorts have a tall, stretchy waistband that ensures your movement is unhindered while pedaling. On more intense rides, or warmer days in general, mesh inserts on the front and back of the shorts provide ventilation to keep you cool.
For those alpine excursions with no shortage of creek crossings and mud puddles, Gore incorporates spray protection on the inner thigh to prevent water and mud from soaking through the shorts. Finishing details include two zippered pockets for stowing your phone and other essentials, as well as silicone grippers on the waistband to help keep the shorts in place across rough terrain and countless transitions in and out of the saddle.
- A lightweight short for cross country and trail riding
- Stretchy waistband allows unhindered movement while pedaling
- Mesh inserts ventilate to keep you cool on warmer days
- Spray protection prevents water and mud from soaking through
- Two zippered pockets for stowing your phone and essentials
- Silicone grippers on waistband provide a secure fit on rough trails
Best January sales in 2021: How to find the best deals this month
2020 has come and gone (for the most part) and January is more than half over, weeks left for New Year’s resolutions in the first month. While we saw substantial discounts throughout October, November and December during key annual sales like Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there are plenty of notable savings to consider this month, from "white sales" (which date back to the 1800s) to lingering Christmas deals. Retailers like Target, Kohl’s and eBay are slashing prices on everything from fitness equipment and bedding to winter clothing, holiday decorations and more. To better understand what January has in store and how Shopping readers might find the best deals right now, we consulted retail expert Julie Ramhold, a senior staff writer at DealNews.com.
What stores are having big sales right now
- Abercrombie & Fitchis offering up to 60 percent off on select items and kids
- AeroGarden is offering 40 percent off all gardens for a limited time, as well as 20 percent off sitewide, including seed pod kits and accessories with code FRESH20
- Aeropostale is giving you up to 80 percent offclearance items
- Belk is giving you daily deals like up to 40 percent off select items sitewide with code LETSGETTOIT through Jan. 17
- Best Buy is offering deals of the day and savings on computers, appliances, headphones and more
- Costco is offering savings on select online only items through Jan. 21
- eBayis offering up to 30 percent offheaters and snow blowers and savings on brand outlet items by Rolex, Bose, Dell and more, as well as an extra 20 percent off purchases from Champion and Hanes over $15 with code JUMP4HANES through Jan. 17
- FRAME is giving you 25 percent off select items sitewide through Jan. 19
- Hestan Culinary is giving you savings on select skillets
- Keds is giving you up to 50 percent off select boots and sneakers
- Kohl’s is offering an extra 15 percent off sitewide with code SAVINGS15 and $10 in Kohl's Cash for every purchase of $50 or more through Jan. 18, as well as up to 60 percent offclearance items
- The Home Depotis offering savings on appliances through Jan. 27, as well as up to 40 percent off select tools and bath items and up to 30 percent off select storage solutions and bedding
- Horizon Fitness is offering up to $800 off select treadmills
- HUROM is giving you up to 30 percent off all slow juicers and blenders through Feb. 1
- Layla Sleep is giving you up to $200 off select mattresses, as well as two free pillows, microfiber sheets and a mattress protector with with every mattress purchase
- Lenovo is giving you up to 65 percent off select ThinkPad laptops and select desktops
- Lowe's is offering up to 40 percent off select bath essentials and select floor care
- Macy’s is offering up to 60 percent offsneakers and clearance, as well as an extra 20 percent off select items sitewide with code CLEAR through Jan. 18
- Nordstrom is giving you an extra 25 percent offclearance, up to 70 percent off select designer items, up to 40 percent offhome goods and savings on winter coats
- Nordstrom Rack is offering an extra 25 percent offbedding, bath and home storage through Jan. 17, as well as up to 70 percent offcold weather gear and men's clothing through Jan. 20
- Raymour & Flanigan is giving you up to 20 percent off sitewide through Jan. 27
- Reebokis offering an extra 50 percent offmarkdowns with code GETDOWN
- Soma is offering up to 70 percent off intimates and clothing
- Targetis giving you up to 25 percent offfurniture and home decor, up to 20 percent offexercise equipment and up to 70 percent offclothes and shoes on clearance
- Ulta is offering 50 percent offdaily deals and savings on select jumbo shampoo and conditioner through Jan. 23
- Verishop is offering up to 80 percent offwarehouse items, an extra 15 percent off sale with code STARTNOW through Jan. 25 and 15 percent off select home items with code MODHOME when you spend $100 or more through Jan. 31
- Walmart is giving you up to 40 percent offtoys, as well as end-of-year clearance sales on home goods, fashion, Christmas decor and more
- Wayfair is offering up to 60 percent offclearance through Jan. 19
- Williams-Sonoma is offering up to 75 percent offwinter clearance, including cookware, cutlery, garden items and more
- Woot! is giving you a variety of savings, including deals on home, garden and electronics through Jan. 25
Best deals to shop right now
1. Echelon Connect Sport Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike
The Echelon Connect Sport Indoor Cycling Bike was an exercise bike bestseller in 2020 overall. It’s relatively affordable and includes 32 levels of resistance, slip-resistant handlebars and a cushioned seat. You’ll also receive a 90 day free membership, including access to 100 on-demand cycling classes.
2. Horizon Fitness T101 Folding Treadmill
This Horizon Fitness foldable treadmill is equipped with a 55-inch deck and a motor that can speed up to 10 mph. It also includes shock-absorbing cushioning for your joints, as well as bluetooth connectivity and cooling fans. Once finished with your workout, you can easily store the treadmill upright.
3. Degrees of Comfort Cooling Weighted Blanket
Whether you’re cozying up enjoying the winter from indoors, or are looking for a weighted blanket otherwise, Shopping readers prefer this Degrees of Comfort option. It features two duvet covers for hot or cold preferences, is made of 100-percent cotton and is filled with glass beads in small pockets for even weight distribution. It also comes in 13 sizes and weight variations — from five pounds to 30 pounds — and can be found in three colors, including Grey, Navy and Tan.
4. Bonobos Stretch Washed Chinos
These Bonobos chinos are machine-washable and made of 98-percent cotton and two-percent stretch cotton twill for comfort. They feature two front pockets, as well as two back pockets lined with contrasting fabric and buttons for added detail. They also come in more than two dozen colors, including Storm Cloud, Olive Brown and Light Grey. Plus, you can find them in five different fits, among them Athletic and Tailored.
5. UGG Classic Femme Toggle Wedge Boot
This cozy UGG boot features a leather upper and UGGplush wool-blend lining. It also features a Treadlite by UGG outsole for additional cushioning and comfort, as well as a toggle for design. Plus, you can find it in three colors, including Black, Charcoal and Chestnut.
6. Sam Edelman Faux Fur Trim Down Parka
If you’re looking for a winter coat, consider this parka by Sam Edelman. It’s lined with a blend of down-and-feather fill and is made of 100-percent polyester. It also features a removable faux fur detail at the hood, front zip pockets and an inner knit cuff at the sleeve to keep you warm. Plus, you can find it in four colorways, including Black, Loden, Mustard and Shadow.
Best things to buy in January and what can wait
According to Ramhold, January will be full of sales on fitness equipment, winter clothing, holiday decorations and bedding.
With the New Year bringing new fitness goals, many shoppers may have their eyes set on some new gear, from exercise bikes and foldable treadmills, to kettlebells, dumbbells and perhaps the new NordicTrack Vault. And as the holiday season comes to a close and stores prepare for the spring, we’re seeing winter clothes and holiday decorations at deep discounts, as well as some lingering Christmas sales and end-of-season savings. However, Ramhold suggests buying decorations sooner than later as selections and discounts will diminish quickly.
Finally, January means the annual set of “white sales,” which focus on soft home goods, including bed linens and bath items. For this reason, Ramhold suggests taking advantage of bedding discounts, which we can expect to see at up to 70 percent off.
Ramhold advised waiting until at least June to purchase gym memberships due to Covid-19 restrictions. Ramhold also said to hold off on video games and consoles, in particular the recently released PlayStation and Xbox consoles. And while most smartphones and laptops were on sale around Black Friday, Ramhold said spring and early summer should still bring modest savings, as should back-to-school sales. Aside from this, Ramhold cautioned readers to beware of items on final sale. “Before you buy, be sure it's something you want or can use, or at least have someone in mind who can use it if it doesn't work out for you.” Ramhold also suggested shoppers check out cash back extensions or rewards cards such as Rakuten to save more.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
Shari Uyehara is the editorial operations associate of Select for NBC News.
The first time Mark shot up “Philly dope” was in the summer of 2017, with his girlfriend, Sarah. They had been on their way from Massachusetts to South Carolina, hoping to get clean there and find someplace cheap to live. The plan was to detox slowly on the way. In New Jersey, they needed to buy more drugs, just enough to make it to Myrtle Beach. Mark got out his phone and Googled “really bad drug areas.” A neighborhood in Philadelphia came up: Kensington.
Mark had never heard of it, but it was easy to find, not too far off I-95. The streetlights were broken or dim, and the alleyways were dark. Most of the blocks were lined with two-story rowhouses, abandoned factories and vacant lots. Kensington Avenue, the neighborhood’s main drag, was a congested mess of Chinese takeouts, pawn shops, check-cashing joints and Irish pubs. Missing-person posters hung from storefront windows. The dealers were all out in the open, calling out brand names, even handing out free samples. Many people smoked crack or meth or injected heroin. They stuck needles in their arms, necks and the skin between toes. They were limp and nodding off. Some people lay on the ground looking dead.
Mark got addicted to oxycodone after he was injured by an I.E.D. while on deployment in Iraq. A friend taught him to shoot up heroin because it was a lot cheaper than taking painkillers. And the heroin in Kensington was very cheap. As little as $5 a bag. Mark was used to the high he got from drugs in Massachusetts, but this was different. “We thought it was real dope,” he said. But the heroin had been cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that the couple had never taken before. The withdrawal was the worst Mark and Sarah had ever gone through.
“I’ve never been so sick in my life,” Mark said. “It was like the alien in the movie was going to pop out of my chest, things I’ve never experienced going through detox before.” They tried dosing themselves with Suboxone, a synthetic opioid that eases the pain of withdrawal. They had used it before to get sober. Now it wasn’t helping. The addiction was too powerful and the withdrawal too excruciating. “I knew then that I wasn’t going to leave,” he said. “That we couldn’t leave.”
In the summer of 2017, when I first toured the area with Patrick Trainor, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he called Kensington the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. It’s known for having both the cheapest and purest heroin in the region and is a major supplier for dealers in Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. For years, the heroin being sold in Kensington was pure enough to snort, but that summer, it was mixed with unpredictable amounts of fentanyl. In Philadelphia, deaths related to fentanyl had increased by 95 percent in the past year.
Philadelphia County has the highest overdose rate of any of the 10 most populous counties in America. The city’s Department of Health estimates that 75,000 residents are addicted to heroin and other opioids, and each day, many of them commute to Kensington to buy drugs. The neighborhood is part of the largest cluster of overdose deaths in the city. In 2017, 236 people fatally overdosed there.
“We have not only people from other parts of the state,” Trainor said, “we have people from other parts of the country who come here.” Every year, “drug tourists” from all over the United States visit Kensington for the heroin. Eunice Sanchez, a local pastor, put it more succinctly: the area, she said, was the “Walmart of heroin.”
Once a blue-collar factory neighborhood, Kensington was especially devastated when deindustrialization swept through the area in the 1950s. (Philadelphia neighborhoods don’t have officially designated boundaries, and the northeast section of the city, including West Kensington, East Kensington, Fairhill, Port Richmond and Olde Richmond, is often referred to as “Kensington.”) As the white population fled for the suburbs, Hispanic and African-American people moved in, and with few investments from the city, the drug market filled the economic vacuum. Houses transformed into drug dens, factories into spaces to shoot up, rail yards into homeless encampments. Most residents, many of them immigrant families who had come to Kensington for a better life, did not have the means to move.
In the early 2000s, Dominican gangs started bringing in Colombian heroin that was not only purer but much cheaper than heroin imported from Asia, which historically predominated. Kensington’s decentralized market kept competition high and prices low. Most corners were run by small, unaffiliated groups of dealers, making the area difficult to police; if a dealer was arrested, there was always someone there to replace him. The Philadelphia prison system has become the largest provider of drug treatment in the city. The police have realized that they can’t arrest the problem away, and they spend many of their calls reviving drug addicts with Narcan, an overdose-reversal spray. The D.E.A. focused on the high-level drug traffickers, not the guys working the streets, but the arrests did little to curb the growing demand.
“They call this the Badlands,” Elvis Campos, 47, said about Kensington. “Good people are held hostage in their homes.” Campos, who moved to the neighborhood 22 years ago, lives on a small, crumbling block next to a demolished crack house. “I didn’t know about the drugs when I came,” he said. “I found the house, and it was cheap.” No one on his block used or sold drugs, he said, and his neighbors worked hard to keep it clean. But dealers were always around their homes trying to sell. “I tell them to leave,” Campos said. “I served in Iraq, and I think that’s why I’m good at telling drug dealers to get off the block.”
Like Campos, many residents had come to Kensington simply because they couldn’t afford housing anywhere else, and though many expressed empathy for the users, they also wanted them to leave. People cleared needles off their lawns, their front steps and the sidewalks where their children played. Some wouldn’t go anywhere unless they were in a car, but a lot of families were too poor to afford a car. They organized cleanups, lobbied City Council members and state representatives and asked for help from church groups, but the problem seemed insurmountable. The drug market, institutional racism, joblessness and the ravages of the war on drugs in the ’80s left the community struggling. “You see everything here,” one female resident told me. “Overdoses, shootings, killings. We are exposed to trauma every day just living here. It’s constant.”
Dealers fought for territory and intimidated police informants. The area has one of the highest rates of shootings and murders in the city. Less than two-thirds of the residents have a high school diploma, and only a fraction have a bachelor’s degree. Nearly half the residents live below the poverty line. And yet parts of the neighborhood were solidly working-class, and the edges of the neighborhood were gentrifying. “The narrative of the opioid crisis is focused on big-pharma greed,” Zoë Van Orsdol, a public-health specialist, told me, “but in Kensington the reality is far more complicated.”
Early one morning, I found Crystal, 34, a mother of three, going into withdrawal near the intersection of East Somerset Street and Kensington Avenue, the area’s largest drug corner. Car stereos boomed, and the elevated train screeched to a stop. The train doors opened, and buyers spilled onto the walkway, heading down two flights of stairs before dispersing into the streets.
Crystal’s ankle was fractured, and her hair was damp with rainwater. She grew up just a few blocks away, and many of her relatives were addicted to heroin. Crystal started shooting up after her husband lost his job. They had split up, but she still wore her wedding ring. Narcan kept bringing her back. “It’s like playing Russian roulette with your life,” she told me. Crystal sobbed and folded her body over her knees while people walked by her.
A lot of people first came to Kensington because a car accident or surgery had left them addicted to painkillers. Later, when they could no longer afford them, they switched to heroin. Those deep in addiction were using 10 or more times a day. People cycled in and out of Kensington’s recovery houses, treatment centers and shelters. After years of this, women often ended up as prostitutes. They offered oral sex for $25 so they could buy a few bags. They had been raped, tied up and held up. They had nowhere to go to shower. They feared telling the cops about the abuse because they had already been busted on drug or prostitution charges. They slept curled with their purses between their knees and their chests.
When I met Jax, a prostitute with curly blond hair, she apologized about her appearance. She had smoked crack and scratched up her face. It was speckled with wounds. Jax started using opioids in college and ended up in Kensington shooting heroin. She had checked herself into a lot of rehab centers, but she couldn’t stay sober. Her boyfriend tried to help, but he got fed up. In 2009, she became pregnant and used heroin the whole nine months. Recently she spent 24 days in jail, then went right back to the streets and overdosed nine times in two weeks. “Sometimes I just don’t ever want to survive,” she said. “Just let me die.”
“What about your son?” I asked.
“He’s better off without me.”
At the bottom of the station steps, I met John, a 55-year-old man who lived with his parents. John was a “guide”: He guided customers from the train to the drugs. He could help you find heroin, cocaine, PCP, marijuana, Xanax, Percocet virtually any time of day or night. He could help you shop around, compare prices and quality. His own drug of choice was heroin, which he sniffed. John carried a grocery bag filled with clean needles. He got them from Prevention Point, a nonprofit on Kensington Avenue that exchanged dirty needles for clean ones. Needle exchanges helped stop the spread of H.I.V. and hepatitis C. But John was smart and made a small business out of it. He sold clean needles for $2. “You don’t come from our world,” he told me, “and we don’t come from your world.”
A few steps away, I met Shiz, a redhead dressed all in blue. Like most everyone else, Shiz was in Kensington to buy heroin. He was with his friend Kevin, a short man with a wild beard. Opioids often make people itch, and Kevin wouldn’t stop scratching his arms. There was so much dead skin it looked as if his arm were foaming.
“I only do about 20 bucks a day,” Shiz told me. He worked as a cook, making Philly cheesesteaks, and commuted into Kensington to buy drugs. Sometimes he ended up in jail and got clean. He always wanted to stay clean, but it was too hard. He tried locking himself in his house and not talking to anyone, but the boredom drove him crazy. It drove him right back to the drugs.
“Do you wish you could stop?” I asked.
He and Kevin laughed.
“Everybody wishes they could stop,” he said. “You’re always in this web. You’re in the web for the rest of your life.”
When Philadelphia’s progressive mayor, Jim Kenney, took office in 2016, he soon made it a priority to tackle the city’s opioid crisis. His administration wanted to focus on getting heroin users into treatment rather than arresting them. In late 2016, Kenney created a task force of addiction experts, doctors, social workers and agents from the D.E.A. to come up with a plan to curb overdose deaths in the city. In May 2017, they offered 18 recommendations, including a media campaign about the risks of opioids, wider distribution of Narcan and support for medically assisted treatment, which uses opioid-replacement drugs like Suboxone to help users manage withdrawal.
The first order of business was to clear the railroad gulch. For decades, a mile-and-a-half-long stretch of tracks in a ravine had been a magnet for heroin users, with 300 or so people using the tracks to shoot up every day. Near a bridge over the gulch, an encampment of dozens of homeless addicts had grown up. There were mattresses piled beneath the bridge, along with tables where users cut, snorted and cooked drugs together. A Hispanic addict known as the Doctor worked behind a folding table in a shack called “the hospital.” He charged a couple of dollars to shoot up those who couldn’t do it themselves. People sometimes pushed the bodies of users who had overdosed and died into the bushes instead of calling the police. Residents complained about the smell.
The plan was ambitious: El Campamento, as the encampment was known, would be bulldozed, the trees removed and the tracks sealed with fences. The cost was more than $1 million. Conrail, the company that owned the tracks, agreed to dispose of used needles, clear the vegetation from around the tracks and remove trash, including televisions, recliners, mattresses and hundreds of tires. The city would contribute funds for waste removal, some fences and security. It would also remove all the homeless heroin users from the site and offer them medical care and drug-treatment services.
Months before the official cleanup in August 2017, the Office of Homeless Services and the Department of Behavioral Health began sending daily outreach teams to the encampment. They wanted to get as many users into treatment and supportive housing as were willing to go. Kensington Hospital expanded its treatment facilities. Housing and treatment slots opened up for those removed from the encampment. Transportation was provided for those who were willing to accept treatment, and the Office of Homeless Services paid for ID cards for those who didn’t have them. Social workers and community groups set up trailers on a corner, right outside El Campamento, ready with volunteers who would help connect the homeless heroin addicts to treatment.
“It’s not an easy issue,” Kenney had told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s going to take many years and a ton of money, so that may have been why it hasn’t been addressed in the past — but that’s not an excuse.”
That August, just before the demolition was scheduled to begin, I walked along the edges of the tracks and could hear people moving around in the vegetation below. Streams of users walked to and from the tracks to buy and use drugs. Two cops patrolled the area, as drug-dealing kids on trick bikes looped around to run their own surveillance. A man with thick hair and camo pants came up the street and started waving his arms. “Never see this in Texas, man,” he said. “This place is crazy.”
“Are you homeless?” I asked.
“Nah, I’m down here for the summer,” he said.
He had traveled from Texas to sniff the heroin. After two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, he started taking painkillers recreationally. He said he learned about Kensington from the National Geographic docu-series “Drugs Inc.,” in its 2013 episode “Philly Dope.” At first he threw up because the heroin was so strong. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. I won’t end up like these people. I do other things with my life. I race dirt bikes. I do jujitsu. I take a shower every day.”
A few days later, Conrail’s team started clearing El Campamento. On a bridge overlooking the encampment, crowds of spectators gathered to watch the destruction. Machines ripped trees from the ground and pulverized them on the spot. Cars honked in celebration. An avalanche of garbage stretched from the top of the slope to the bottom of the ravine.
Two E.M.S. workers chatted about the addicts who overdosed. “If you were on the street having a heart attack and you were dying, and I left you and you died, that’s on me,” one said. “I come and wake you up from an overdose, and you walk away, and I get you again three hours later? That is insanity. I’m like: Make them go to rehab.” He nodded toward a machine that scooped up trash. “Sometimes you need to take a different approach.”
The city offered treatment, but most of the displaced heroin addicts didn’t accept it. They moved into crumbling churches, abandoned buildings, vacant lots. They pitched tents on the grass at McPherson Square, where library staff regularly rushed outside with bottles of Narcan to save the overdosed. The police told the users to be on their way. Some of them moved to the abandoned and boarded-up Ascension of Our Lord Church, on a windswept corner of Westmoreland Street about a mile northeast of the tracks. They gathered in pews, beneath light raining through stained-glass windows. They left needles in the holy-water basin.
In October, outside the Rev. Billy Cortes’s trailer church, a bin overflowed with trash, and the ground was covered with syringes. Homeless men pushed grocery carts, and addicts shuffled up and down the sidewalk. None of the neighbors were out playing dominoes as they usually did. “People are afraid to go outside,” Cortes said. He blamed the city for working too quickly to clear El Campamento. There were more drunk people, more needles in front of his house and on the street. Every day, for weeks, he saw someone overdose. Every corner of his block was littered with trash.
“Look at all these people,” he said. “Look at my neighborhood. See all this trash. Trash everywhere. It’s all dirty now! You think this is fair? This is the reality of this neighborhood. The job the city made is not good. These people don’t have a plan. The cleanup is good for the future, but at the moment it’s not a good thing.”
Winter arrived, and the addicts took shelter in four railroad underpasses beneath elevated sections of Conrail’s railroad tracks, at Kensington Avenue, Emerald Street, Frankford Avenue and Tulip Street. These new encampments were all within a half-mile corridor, just a short walk from where El Campamento had been. In general, the cleanup had pushed the market and the users east toward Olde Richmond and Port Richmond, where the population tended to be less Hispanic and more white. Areas that hadn’t seen a lot of activity in the past were now busy with drug use.
Desiree Gilman, a 34-year-old nurse with shoulder-length blond hair, lived in a rowhouse with her children about a block away from the Tulip Street underpass. Gilman was raised in the neighborhood and did everything she could to stay away from heroin. She focused on her career and raising a family. “But still,” she told me, “about 80 percent of my friends are either in jail or dead.”
Since the cleanup, her car’s battery had been stolen three times, and she had found a man sleeping in the back seat. She pointed at the tracks across the street. “I see people up there sleeping. I see clothes in the trees. You just see people crunching through the leaves. It’s creepy.” In the mornings, she got her 5-year-old son ready for school and waited with him until the school bus came. “I feel bad for them,” she said about the users. “I really do, but I can’t have them shooting up on my steps. I don’t want my kids to see it.”
At the Frankford underpass, the users were all smashed together beneath piles of blankets and clothes. The ceiling dripped. Used syringes lay in puddles and buckets. Trash was everywhere — office chairs, a pleather love seat, plastic crates, trash bags stuffed with clothes. No one slept soundly. Traffic rushed by at all hours of the night. Users were injecting one another in the neck, sometimes because their arm veins had collapsed, but also because the neck was quicker and yielded a more potent high.
A 40-year-old man who went by the nickname Country looked at me with blue eyes and droopy brows. He used to be at the Kensington underpass but moved to Frankford after people found out he had H.I.V. They didn’t want him around. Country slept on two flattened boxes. In the middle of the tunnel, where it was dark, I watched Country try to inject a man in the neck. Country was high and missed the vein. He kept going unconscious with the needle still in his hand.
A man named George sat on a soggy mattress, next to a rug with a tiger on it. He was a new arrival from South Philly. His eyes looked as if someone had scooped them out and filled them with mud. The night before, he said, two cars collided outside the underpass and a man was ejected through the windshield.
“Why come up here?” I asked.
“It’s easier to be homeless here,” George said. “You get help up here. You get food. Everything I have I was given from somebody. The drugs are here — they are closer and cheaper.” George wiped his nose with his sleeve. “People think we are having fun down here. Are you insane? I live under a bridge.”
I didn’t go to Kensington at night on Code Blue days in December, when the temperatures were dangerously cold. But the addicts were still there. They set up burn barrels to keep fires going, and the city opened emergency warming rooms. Even when the temperatures dropped to single digits, many of the addicts refused go to a shelter. For some users, opioid withdrawal was worse than the possibility of freezing to death.
This January, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a statewide disaster declaration, the first of its kind for a public-health emergency in Pennsylvania. There had been more than 1,200 overdose deaths in Philadelphia in 2017 — a 34 percent rise from 2016. Wolf pushed the state to roll back regulations that might be stopping users from getting help, like ID and sobriety requirements for shelters and treatment facilities. Instead of sending overdosed people back out onto the street, the city hired recovery specialists in the E.R. to talk to them about treatment. It handed out tens of thousands of doses of Narcan. It sent a van into the neighborhood to offer recovery services. It gave residents blue light bulbs for their porches, because the light seemed to make it harder for heroin users to find a vein.
Shanta Schachter, a community development consultant who was hired by Conrail during the cleanup as a liaison between the company and neighborhood organizations, watched the new encampments grow throughout the winter. Months before the Conrail cleanup began, she attended community meetings and chatted with neighbors. She had encouraged residents to take control of Kensington by planting trees in vacant lots, building fences, painting abandoned buildings, installing streetlights. During the cleanup, she was hopeful, but after she drove through the tunnels, she was worried about the addicts living there. “It’s just such an incredible amount of suffering,” she told me. “It’s not like people are getting better. There aren’t resources to help the people who are addicted now. I don’t think anybody really knows how to get the addicts off the streets. It can’t just be new beds, or recovery services, or anything else. It has to be everything.”
The city was willing to try almost anything. In January, the Department of Public Health announced that the city would “encourage organizations to develop” supervised-injection sites, where people can bring their own drugs without fear of arrest and inject under the care of a medical team. There are roughly 120 of these injection sites around the world — although none in the United States — and research has shown that they reduce overdose deaths, connect addicts to long-term care and help keep neighborhoods clean of needles. There has never been a fatal overdose at an official safe-injection site. The Justice Department made it clear that it would view any such place to be in violation of federal drug laws, but Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor, threw his support behind a nonprofit group trying to establish one.
At one community meeting this March, city officials explained the idea to residents. The clinic would be located where the most overdose deaths occurred, and that very likely meant Kensington. Many of the overdose victims were white men, though, and some of the minority residents didn’t think it was fair. They worried that establishing a supervised-injection site in the neighborhood would condemn it to a permanent future of drug use. Brooke Feldman, a social worker, had planned to bring a homeless user named Johnny to the meeting, but when she went to the Tulip Street underpass that morning, he had already died of an overdose. “He said he would use the site and wanted to be a part of the conversation,” Feldman told me. “He didn’t even live to be able to do that.”
Dan Martino, a community organizer who put together a march for overdose awareness, had been lobbying for a supervised-injection site for years. “We already have unsafe injection sites on every street corner in the city, and it’s not working out,” he told me. “It has to be easier to get help than heroin.”
In February, on a concrete stoop on East Tusculum Street near the Kensington Avenue tunnel, two sisters, Nancy and Dawn, watched the addicts. Dawn wore a green T-shirt that read, “Dawn’s drinking club,” and her blond hair was high in a ponytail. “Almost everybody I grew up with is either an addict or dead,” she said. “I’m like the only one.”
From the stoop, the Kensington underpass looked dark, like the opening to a rat hole. “The screaming at all hours of the night is way out of control,” Dawn said. “It basically sounds like they are killing each other.”
Nancy’s nephew was an eighth-grade student at Visitation Blessed Virgin Mary, a Catholic school just on the other side of the tracks. Every day he walked back and forth through the tunnel, along with hundreds of other schoolchildren, while the addicts continued to shoot up beneath the dim lights. Some children avoided the tunnel by walking north to the B Street bridge and then swinging back around to Kensington Avenue.
The sisters’ family had lived on Tusculum Street for five generations, and the kids had always been able to play on the street. The underpass used to be empty, and they took care of the vacant lot to make sure it didn’t turn into a dumping site. Now they woke up to find feces and urine on their stoops. They swept needles off their steps, and they took their plants inside because the pots filled with syringes. They wouldn’t let the children play in the snow because of the buried needles.
Dawn lived one door closer to the tunnel than Nancy. “In all the years we have been here, it was never like this,” she said. “They lived on the railroad, like way up that way, where there are no houses. But you know, we don’t count, so whatever.”
“They eat, like, six times a day,” Nancy said. “They eat more than I do. They get coffee and doughnuts in the morning. They brought them tents and blankets. Their drug dealer is two blocks away.”
“They have no reason to go when everyone is giving them absolutely everything,” Dawn said. “The only thing we wish they had is a bathroom.”
“There is one girl down there with blond hair,” Nancy said. “I literally see her go to the bathroom at least four times a day right there. She walks 10 steps out from the tunnel, with her back facing us, pulls her pants down and goes. I can’t deal with it anymore. We were thinking about opening that fire hydrant and letting that water go. Just flood them out.” She looked east. “Tulip is already starting to fill up. If the addicts migrate to Port Richmond, the neighbors are going to riot.”
With pressure from the neighborhood, the city agreed to remove the homeless addicts from the Tulip Street and Kensington Avenue tunnels. A deadline was set for the end of May. In a news release about the removals, the city’s managing director said the camps “pose a health and safety threat to those who stay there as well as to the neighbors.” As for the other two encampments, the city didn’t have the resources. The residents would have to wait.
Liz Hersh, the director of the Office of Homeless Services in the city, described the underpass encampments as one of the most complex and challenging aspects of Philadelphia’s opioid crisis. The city wanted to respond to the needs of the residents, she told me, “in a way that was also humane for those suffering from addiction,” even when those needs were not always one and the same. The goal was to get as many people as possible into treatment or a shelter by the end of May, but a new approach was needed.
The city realized it needed to help get people into treatment more quickly. Outreach workers began evaluating people for treatment in the tunnels and on the streets, ushering them into vans for privacy. They were able to dose some users immediately with Suboxone and transport them to care. In just two weeks, more users agreed to go into treatment than had in the previous six months. “At the Conrail cleanup,” Hersh told me, “we all thought everyone should go into treatment, and it turned out that offering them homeless services, and specifically low-barrier housing, gave us better results.”
But as the city worked to clear the encampments, the drug dealers seemed to become more aggressive. On a small block off Kensington Avenue, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through a resident’s window. Dealers were looking for turf, but residents were demanding that they stay off their blocks. “That’s the level of danger and violence we face,” Eduardo Esquivel, a resident, told me. His wife was threatened by a panhandler, and his neighbor was surrounded in his car with a young child when users swarmed his block for free samples. “My worry,” Esquivel said, “is we are being asked to face this epidemic as a neighborhood, but the threat of violence is very high and very real, and it’s only getting worse.”
On the day of the removals, protesters — a mix of outreach workers and activists — marched through the streets. They plastered the underpasses in signs that read “Eviction = Death.” They wrote, “Who is human?” on the sidewalk in green chalk. Homeless Services workers carried clipboards and continued to try to get people into treatment or shelters. Police officers stood guard about every 10 feet. Volunteers handed out sanitary wipes and bottles of Gatorade. Sanitation workers threw heaps of trash into the mouth of a garbage truck.
At Tulip Street, two men dragged a tent into the trees on top of the viaduct. The younger man started popping his boils in a side mirror of a school bus while the other man called his mother. “Hey Mom, it’s Nathan,” he said. “Just letting you know I’m alive. I love you. Bye.”
Nathan put down the phone. “I’m going to rehab,” he told me. “If there is anytime to go, then now is the time.”
“Will this be your first time?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “This is the ninth time.”
Another homeless man came out of the trees behind us. He looked down at himself. “Please don’t take my photo,” he said. “My family would be devastated.”
Nancy, Dawn and a neighbor pulled out butterfly chairs to watch the removals unfold at the Kensington Avenue tunnel. “I have two children in addiction, and this is ridiculous,” the neighbor said. “That’s a life choice.”
In a lot in front of their homes, the police dragged a shirtless man off a mattress. A young woman with a pink backpack kept going unconscious with a cigarette in her mouth. On the other side of the tunnel, people waited in line at One Pound Cheese Steaks while users shot up in the adjacent lot. Next to the counter, a man lay unconscious. “We are trying to keep it together for the community,” an employee told me, “and it’s not working out.”
Mark and Sarah, the couple who stopped in Kensington to buy drugs and never left, were being removed from the Tulip underpass. Mark wore an American-flag tank top and his sandy-colored hair curled beneath a baseball hat. “Sapper school,” he said, referring to the Army training course for combat engineers, “was probably the hardest thing I did in life. I don’t know how I did something like that but I can’t get my [expletive] together out here.” He and Sarah filled a shopping cart with damp clothes and a moldy sleeping pad tied with a bungee cord. They were going to push the shopping cart to a shelter. “It’s kind of a hike from here,” he said, “but that’s where we go to cop drugs anyway.”
Country was out wandering the avenue. He was almost unrecognizable, with thin limbs and sunken cheeks and a shaved head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
“Where’s your stuff?” I asked.
“This is my stuff.” He had a pocketful of syringes. He turned his back to me and began to cry. He cried for a minute, until the train rushed overhead and drowned him out.
By noon, the Kensington Avenue underpass was empty. Dark clouds made the early afternoon feel like twilight. Dawn waited on her stoop with her arms crossed. She pointed to the empty lot behind a factory just east of her block. “They are building a new camp right over there,” she said. “They told me they are going to come right back.”
There were already about 30 people in the lot, injecting, defecating and sleeping. One of them, Krista, 30, told me she started using heroin after she was raped in college. She was crouched over a lavender purse cleaning a crack pipe and wore a T-shirt that said “Perfect is Boring.” “If I’m a little further away, I have this nervous feeling that I need to come back to Kensington,” she said. “It’s like a big dysfunctional family. I guess this is the one place I belong.”
A portion of the factory, on the corner of East Somerset and Ruth Streets, was being converted into a $17.8 million office building with low-income housing. Residents were already living there. It was supposed to be a sign of hope. But Country had told me it was one of his new favorite places to shoot up. Someone had spray-painted “Gentrification Is Genocide” on the wall.
More than 100 people from the tunnels accepted shelter or treatment. Others were incarcerated or moved away or died. Some of them joined the encampments at Emerald Street and Frankford Avenue or pitched tents in abandoned lots. Others just disappeared.
In a single weekend over the summer, 173 people overdosed from the same bad batch of heroin. It was called Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, and witnesses said people were responding in ways they hadn’t seen when waking up from an overdose. They were agitated and scratched the air in pain.
The city plans to clear the other two encampments in the coming months. This time, activists are worried that the users will go deeper into hiding, that more of them will die alone. “We are still not done,” Devin Reaves, who participated in the mayor’s opioid task force, told me. “Until we see a decrease in overdose deaths year after year, I don’t know if you can say we have done enough,” he said. “How can we say we made an impact if people are still dying?”
Sometimes addicts died in Kensington and no one claimed the bodies. Investigators searched for loved ones, but if none could be found, the remains were buried without a funeral. Some residents mourned in their own way. They wrote the names of the dead on walls or sewed patches with portraits onto a quilt. Small memorials began appearing on land near the railroad tracks and in gardens along Kensington Avenue, close to the place the addicts had called home.
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