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 Message Boards » » NC DOR going after Amazon.com order records Page [1] 2, Next  
Shrike
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http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/04/taxes-privacy-at-center-of-amazon-tiff-with-north-carolina.ars

Quote :
"How would you feel if your favorite retailer turned over a list of all the books, movies, personal care items, or "adult" entertainment items you have purchased in the last seven years to your state government, with your name and address attached? That's exactly what North Carolina's Department of Revenue (DOR) wants from Amazon.com, and it wants that info for every North Carolina resident that has ordered from the Internet retailer since 2003. Amazon has pushed back, however, saying that doing so would violate its users' privacy and First Amendment rights.

..

North Carolina has demanded the names and addresses of each state citizen along with every order detail, and has threatened Amazon with summary contempt for not already turning it over. "Amazon, without violating its customers’ privacy, fully cooperated by furnishing data requested by the DOR to conduct its tax analysis," reads the complaint. "The DOR’s actions threaten to chill the exercise of customers’ expressive choices and to cause Amazon customers not to purchase certain books, music, movies or other expressive material from Amazon that they might otherwise purchase if they did not fear disclosure of those choices to the government.""


Welp, how many of you have been good little internet shoppers and report everything you buy online on your taxes at the end of the year. The time to pay up may be coming for us who don't

4/21/2010 10:01:52 AM

Optimum
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Well, citizens should be paying the taxes since that's the law in NC. That said, it's a pretty unpleasant precedent for NCDOR to actively go after a company for this stuff.

4/21/2010 10:28:07 AM

EarthDogg
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This will discourage more people from buying off Amazon... How will that help the economy get going?

4/21/2010 10:34:08 AM

goalielax
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that's such a phony statement. you think people would just stop buying things? so they're discouraged from amazon. you seriously don't see people going elsewhere to buy the same goods?

4/21/2010 10:47:49 AM

EarthDogg
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^
I didn't say people will stop buying things. But a gov't doing anything right now that discourages shopping seems pretty counter-productive for the economy. Don't you think?

4/21/2010 10:55:57 AM

marko
Tom Joad
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i'll just stop buying things from north carolina instead and ONLY order off of amazon

EVEN FOOD

HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES

4/21/2010 10:58:07 AM

EarthDogg
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If the internet is such a great tax-free zone..why isn't everyone buying everything off it?
Instead of looking for more ways to tax people, why doesn't NC spend the effort on reducing spending?

4/21/2010 11:09:57 AM

marko
Tom Joad
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i know a guy who does buy everything off the internet except for food

he does it so much, amazon's started anticipating when he needs things like razors and shampoo and ships it to his house automatically... it sounds nutty, but it's true

4/21/2010 11:14:38 AM

tmmercer
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This is more of a privacy issue than tax issue to me. North Carolina has no right knowing what I purchase.

Quote :
"What about items that are bought by residents of NC but shipped by Amazon to other states? What state should you pay the taxes to then? Does North Carolina need to know that I bought my 83 year old father-in-law who lives in TN a book or movie (and the title) for his birthday? Or that I purchased some Thomas the Train toys for my grandson and had them shipped to Colorado where he lives? Do I have to pay NC for the “use” of living in their state to make the purchase even though the items NEVER came close to the state? "

4/21/2010 11:18:21 AM

spöokyjon

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I think the worst thing about this is simply that they're singling out a single business because of their high profile. If the state is going to choose to start enforcing sales taxes on online purchases, they need to do it for all online retailers, not just the big one they know about.

4/21/2010 11:54:34 AM

Golovko
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This is what happens when you elect women into government. *sigh*

4/21/2010 12:08:16 PM

Nighthawk
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Fuck me, I hope they don't look at Newegg. I shop some at Amazon, but I've dropped serious bank with Newegg over the last 7 years.

4/21/2010 12:50:47 PM

IRSeriousCat
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i make an effort to shop at Amazon and places like that because there is no sales tax. It is a huge plus. What if I am a north carolina resident but I was in a foreign location when the purchase was made, do I still owe the tax to NC?

I think it will be hard for the state to enforce this and the main purpose is to scare people into reporting purchases here on out.

4/21/2010 1:06:56 PM

eyedrb
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This is a dumb move by NC, I dont see them winning. If they do, it will be a very quick slipperly slope. However, there will be privacy rights issues that will, hopefully, keep NC from winning this.

4/21/2010 1:15:54 PM

Supplanter
supple anteater
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Will this eventually lead to Petmeds online stuff being taxed? I'm not sure if it currently is or not, but back when I worked a vet clinic I remember the people who worked for the companies that made the flea, tick, and heartworm products would straight up tell people to avoid them, saying half the time they're selling you colored water instead of medicine, and that Petmeds had been shut down by the FDA a few times for it. So if this leads ultimately leads in a direction to a more balanced playing field, that might be a good thing.

I do not support the aspect of it being potentially retroactive because that's not a good way to practice law enforcement and for privacy concerns it should be upfront not retroactive. Other than the retroactive aspect, it doesn't seem to be any more indefensible than any other tax, and its not like it'll disproportionately hurt the poor or the elderly or any vulnerable group. And the kind of items that would be taxed, like DVDs and electronics, are things we are probably the kinds of items we are more comfortable as a society taxing. And we have threads where people are worrying about teacher layoffs, and threads where people are worrying about taxes. During a weak economy and with a constitutional requirement for a balanced NC budget, the fact that we're looking for new tax revenue sources isn't very surprising.

All in all I do not support this measure, but I understand why those seeking to balance the budget are looking into such avenues.

4/21/2010 1:34:51 PM

Opstand
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I'm with you Nighthawk, if they get Newegg's records I'm screwed...

If NC wins it's going to be an administrative nightmare for them to find a way to process 7 years worth of sales tax. I have used Amazon to purchase items in my name on a company credit card for work purposes. I've also used it to purchase gifts shipped to someone out of state, the product never even passed through NC. I'm sure there are dozens of other unusual situations that will add to the administration of trying to enforce this if they win. I wouldn't be surprised, if NC does win, that in the end the net gain from this lawsuit is way below what they are projecting it to be.

I can understand why NC wants to do this, but with the poor fiscal management of this state the capitol needs to clean up the current spending and before looking for ways to bring in more money to piss away.

4/21/2010 2:01:56 PM

theDuke866
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Glad I changed my residence to FL about 5-6 years ago.

4/21/2010 2:02:27 PM

eyedrb
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My main problem is that they arent asking Amazon for the records of a person they suspect, they are asking for all their records... they are fishing. If they win this, there is nothing to keep them from asking your bank, Visa, etc for all thier records so they can determine your taxes? Seriously, this shouldnt be allowed to happen.

^If NC wins this, you dont think other states will follow? Esp when most are struggling?

[Edited on April 21, 2010 at 3:37 PM. Reason : .]

4/21/2010 3:36:38 PM

TreeTwista10
Laugh, Think, Cry
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fuck the DOR

i guess thats more of a chit chat comment, but still

[Edited on April 21, 2010 at 3:37 PM. Reason : .]

4/21/2010 3:37:30 PM

mrfrog

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this is why the USA doesn't actually have a lower effective tax rate than Europe

4/21/2010 7:13:55 PM

sarijoul
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so this law was passed in the past year, yet they want records for the past seven years for some reason?

(this is just one outrage of many with this action)

4/21/2010 7:47:40 PM

Fry
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the idea of sales tax has always amazed me. even when i was little i called it out for stupidity.

i make money (that the gov't taxes)... i save money to get a little interest (that the gov't taxes).. i spend some of my already-taxed money (which the gov't taxes, again).. and when i die and try to leave a few bucks to my kids? that's right, that gets taxed too.

it's disgusting. and i'm barely scratching the surface of this Amazon fiasco

4/21/2010 9:10:37 PM

mrfrog

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if they tax purchases in addition to income then why don't they tax time not spent working?

It's time to end the subsidization of leisure time!

And personal favors. All exchange of value is taxed for the buyer and seller. Taxed twice if you do something for yourself

4/21/2010 10:39:43 PM

sarijoul
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^^curse them and their their publicly-subsidized state universities and roads and police.

4/22/2010 12:11:23 AM

Fry
The Stubby
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did i say all taxes are bad? no. i care about the money that i work for and i don't care to get nickel and dimed even on the things that i try to buy for myself AFTER being taxed the first few times.

4/22/2010 12:33:18 AM

sarijoul
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you also get tax credits on income taxes. if people weren't so opposed to returning income taxes to a level which would support our gov't services, then we wouldn't have to get taxed so many different times.

4/22/2010 8:43:49 AM

eyedrb
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or if everyone would pay an equal percentage. Wait, you wouldnt support that.

4/22/2010 9:40:04 AM

rainman
Veteran
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Shouldn't the states Amazon is based in be going after the records. If I buy stuff from a store in Virginia I'd pay Virginian state taxes not NC ones.

4/22/2010 11:28:55 AM

eyedrb
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Im pretty sure you have to have a store in that state to get the tax. (Not 100% though)

4/22/2010 11:48:11 AM

jbtilley
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The theory is that if you didn't buy it off Amazon you would have bought it at a local store, so the online purchase deprived the state of NC a few pennies.

Quote :
"the idea of sales tax has always amazed me. even when i was little i called it out for stupidity."


Not to mention that the sales tax has gone up a few percent over the past several years. You'd think that a tax based off a percentage would automatically scale with inflation but I guess they can find ways to flush tax dollars quicker than they can collect them.

And yeah, I think the biggest strike that will likely ensure this never comes to fruition is the fact that they are singling out one company. This is likely just intended to be a threat to get Amazon to charge NC sales tax at the time of purchase.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't Amazon be on hook to pay any back taxes due? They are the one's responsible, correct? They sold the item without charging tax, aren't they the ones on the hook for the sales tax? E.g. I go into a local brick and mortar guitar shop, I'm looking at a $500 guitar. A sales guy offers the guitar tax free to win the sale. The tax would have been $40. Wouldn't the guitar shop be on the hook for that $40? So their money from the sale was only $460 because they still owe that $40 in taxes. So how does this get retroactively passed back to the consumer in the case of online sales?

Maybe I'm wrong but I've always understood sales tax to be levied against a business but the cost is almost always passed on to the consumer.

[Edited on April 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM. Reason : -]

4/22/2010 11:53:41 AM

IRSeriousCat
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From here on out I am only shopping Amazon on tax free weekend.

4/22/2010 12:17:46 PM

eyedrb
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jbtilley, when you pay your taxes you are supposed to "claim" any internet purchases that you didnt pay sales tax on. If Amazon was operating in NC then yes, they would collect those taxes at the time of purchase.

4/22/2010 1:29:48 PM

DaBird
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Quote :
"or if everyone would pay an equal percentage. Wait, you wouldnt support that.

"

4/22/2010 1:32:32 PM

Supplanter
supple anteater
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http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/cms/2010/04/20/five-things-to-remember-during-the-budget-debate/

Quote :
" Here are a few things to remember as the budget debate begins to help navigate your way through all the distortions.

1) North Carolina's current budget woes have not been caused by out of control state spending. The N.C. Budget & Tax Center finds that state government spending per person is now lower that it has been in 13 years. And that is after last session's tax increase passed to keep budget cuts to merely devastating levels.

2) North Carolina is not a high tax state. A conservative columnist recently concluded that overall state and local taxes are about average. The right-wing Tax Foundation says the state ranks 28th in state and local taxes per capita. Even the Foundation's deeply flawed "Tax Freedom Day" analysis found North Carolina slightly better than the national average, ahead of neighboring states like Georgia and Virginia.

3) North Carolina business taxes are among the lowest in the country. Anti-government forces like to cherry pick individual tax rates to claim that state taxes on business are too high and responsible for driving jobs out of the state. It is simply not true.

4) North Carolinians are not buried in public debt. The folks on the Right want you to believe that state lawmakers have over borrowed to pay for infrastructure projects at universities and community colleges, but that is simply not true either. The conservative Tax Foundation says North Carolina ranks 40th in the country in per capita state debt.

5) Last year's budget cuts inflicted damage on public education and human services that will take a decade to repair. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education recently voted to lay off 600 teachers and that number may rise to 1,000. Education Week ranks North Carolina 11th of the 12 Southeastern states in spending for public education."


http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2010/04/nc-voters-think-they-have-higher-taxes.html

Quote :
"NC voters think they have higher taxes

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Every week it seems there's a new study or statistic that some interest group or other can use to claim that North Carolina does or does not have an unusually high tax burden. When it comes to the perceptions of voters though it's no contest- North Carolinians think they pay higher taxes than people in other states.

59% of voters in the state feel that way compared to 26% who think North Carolina's taxes are about the same as other places and 10% who feel that the state has lower taxes. It's a sentiment that there's bipartisan consensus on- 70% of Republicans, 56% of independents, and 52% of Democrats think that residents of the state pay more than average.

So do these numbers spell big trouble for Democrats as they try to keep control of the General Assembly this fall? I doubt it. Only 3% of voters in the state say taxes are the most important issue to them. "


We have a constitutional requirement to balance to budget, and we have LGC which has made our state a model for many other states around the country. Governments are never run perfectly, but NC isn't actually one of the bad ones.

We are in a weak economy. We have to cut services or increase tax revenue (increase taxes, increase tax collection rate, or find new revenue sources to spread the pain)

We have a thread with arguing against the firing of people who work for the school system.

We've had dozens of threads it feels like against paying more taxes

We've had a thread recently about how evil it is for government to publish the names of people who aren't paying their taxes (a common mechanism for municipalities to increase the collect rate rather than raising taxes over all).

And now we've had a thread saying don't try to find new revenue sources, even if that revenue source is mostly luxury items that wont affect hurt vulnerable populations like the poor & the elderly who don't do lots of online purchases of DVDs.

As a unit, TWW has opposed decreased spending, increased taxes, increased tax collection rates, and new tax revenue sources. Individually we all have our own positions, but we have elected officials that have to serve units that are much larger and less educated on average than TWW.

I still oppose this measure mostly because of the potential retroactive aspect, but on the whole NC is run pretty well, and a lot of the difficulties are because the public as a whole demands impossibilities, and we need more constructive and fine tuned criticisms of how government works than "fuck the DOR" whenever they try to confront reality.

4/22/2010 6:10:34 PM

eyedrb
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NC taxes your fucking DOG. Think about it.


Oh and the budget deficit isnt a spending problem heh. Thats interesting, bc I always thought that in order to have a deficit you would actually SPEND more than you made.

And the "high tax states" are in the worst shape... Funny ole thing isnt it.

4/22/2010 6:48:52 PM

Optimum
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^ Clearly your fucking DOG is the problem.

[Edited on April 22, 2010 at 6:53 PM. Reason : can't forget the adverb]

4/22/2010 6:53:20 PM

eyedrb
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I dont have a dog... it is my way of sticking it to the man.


http://www.wral.com/news/local/politics/story/3941433/

" If spending growth stays the same and state workers get a 2 percent raise next July, she has forecast a shortfall of up to $3.3 billion, which amounts to about 15 percent of the budget."

A raise, isnt that nice. So they are taking in less money, yet handing out raises. Wasnt O upset about raises/bonuses... must have been non union private sector then. The lesson is its ok for the govt employees to take home more money each year, they just have to come up with a new way to take it from you.

4/22/2010 6:59:36 PM

Optimum
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^ Well, as a government employee, I'll argue for the need for most government employees to get pay raises. If you look at what most rank-and-file civil service and state employees make compared to their private sector counterparts, there's a lot of disparity. For example, I work in IT at a university (not in NC now, but I was there less than a year ago), and I'm making probably only 2/3 of what I could be earning in the private sector doing similar work.

4/22/2010 7:08:46 PM

eyedrb
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That used to be the case. You get paid less during your working years but have a better retirement. But recently, esp in the bankrupt states, that trend isnt holding. Now many public jobs are paying more than private.

But back to the budget, NO there should be no raise when you are running a deficit. There should be a paycut if needed.

4/22/2010 7:32:24 PM

Optimum
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^ no offense, but that's a pretty terrible thing to say to a public sector employee. There are too many that work too hard to justify cutting their pay. That may not be true everywhere, particularly in upper management of state agencies, but the rank-and-file don't deserve to be shat upon any more.

And the retirement benefits, particularly in NC, aren't what they were, either. They used to match your mandatory retirement system contributions. No more.

[Edited on April 22, 2010 at 8:34 PM. Reason : .]

4/22/2010 8:33:20 PM

MattJM321
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Quote :
"I'm making probably only 2/3 of what I could be earning in the private sector doing similar work"


THEN GO WORK IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR

4/22/2010 8:47:40 PM

Optimum
All American
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^

4/22/2010 9:01:31 PM

eyedrb
All American
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Optimum, no offense but your last statement sounds just like a union employee. I dont care if there isnt any money, make someone else suffer so I dont, type attitude.

So yes, they do need to cut thier spending and if that means cutting pay then do it as a last resort. Private companies cut salaries or do layoffs when they lack cashflow. So getting a cut or NOT getting a raise isnt the worse thing that can happen. Ask the over 10% unemployed.

I hope you take this as an attack, you seem pretty rational.


http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Illinois-teachers-demand-tax-hikes-----91842854.html

[Edited on April 22, 2010 at 9:18 PM. Reason : .]

4/22/2010 9:10:38 PM

BobbyDigital
HomieDOESplayDat
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Legal precedent has already established that states do not have an unlimited right to collect taxes on internet commerce.

Quote :
"As the courts have interpreted the Commerce Clause in Article I of the Constitution, which grants Congress authority to regulate interstate commerce, a merchant must have some substantial “nexus” with a state in order for the state to require it to collect a sales or use tax. Physical operations, employees, property or an independent sales force in the state are generally sufficient to create the nexus needed for the state to tax sales by the merchant to its residents"


(http://www.baerbizlaw.com/category/blog/e-commerce-law-update-internet-sales-tax/)

The above puts the responsibility on the shoulders of the buyers.

What NC is trying to do is find the tax evaders. I think the courts have generally held that you cannot go on a fishing expedition, you must first have some idea of who you are after. You cannot just blindly ask for a list of names in the hope that in looking through that list, you will find some criminals. NC cannot prove that all of the names on the list will be lawbreakers. And that is why this is a violation of privacy in my opinion.

If they want to say “Okay, we know that Supplanter has purchased from you and had those items delivered to NC without paying tax. We need a list of all of his transactions between this date and that date”

Amazon would most likely grant access to those records.

Instead the state has said “We know that at least a few NC residents have purchased from you. Although we do not know, we suspect that at least some of those were supposed to pay sales tax and did not. How about just giving us a list of everyone from our state, and we will sort through the list to find the lawbreakers”

Time and time again, this sort of “pitch till you win” method of record searching has not been allowed

4/23/2010 12:44:35 AM

A Tanzarian
drip drip boom
9777 Posts
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The other part of the privacy issue is that NC wants to know what you bought. Not how much you spent, but what you spent money on.

4/23/2010 7:04:15 AM

mrfrog

15145 Posts
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correct me if I'm wrong, but NC taxes actually estimate the amount you spend online based on your income and charge you tax for that.

So really, you should keep buying from Amazon. You know... because you're already paying taxes for it.

4/23/2010 10:04:16 AM

HUR
All American
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Perhaps NC could save a few 100's million by disbanding the ALE.

We already have local police, highway patrol, SBI, and the feds (for big issues). ALE does little more than harass otherwise law-abiding citizens and college students 98% of the time; with 2% actually being "legit" work such as busting a moonshine operation or some other black market alcohol smuggling operation.

4/23/2010 11:08:27 AM

Shaggy
All American
17820 Posts
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busting moonshine production is bullshit too.

4/23/2010 11:09:24 AM

MattJM321
All American
3997 Posts
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^it's illegal because it's not taxed

4/23/2010 11:21:28 AM

spöokyjon

18617 Posts
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Definitely doesn't have anything to do with quality control issues.

4/23/2010 11:25:49 AM

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