Hall of Shame

Hall of Shame

Welcome to possibly the only page in the world dedicated to terrible electronics repairs.

I come across a lot of equipment that has been repaired, sometimes well, but oftentimes terribly. Many owners are horrified to learn about the bad repairs lurking inside their equipment and most have no idea what they look like. These cases now have a home in my Hall of Shame.

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As an exercise, try to spot everything wrong with this picture.

‘Dirty’ Harry

We are all good at something and it’s worth pursuing those things, whatever they might be. Pursuing something you are not good at, however, makes very little sense. Indeed, as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan observed in Magnum Force:

“A man’s gotta know his limitations…”

And really, you do. Oddly enough, the most incompetent folks seem to know the least about it. Take this page, for example. Everything you see here was done by people who seem to lack any awareness of their proficiency in electronics, or otherwise!

bad quad 405 repair
This is how NOT to repair the power supply of a Quad 405 or 405-2.

If you don’t have a knack for fixing things, an eye for detail, excellent motor skills and a logical mind, then electronics probably isn’t for you. Some might say that if these pieces work, who cares what the repairs look like? Well, nothing on this page worked properly. Care and attention to detail really are critical and if it can’t be done carefully, neatly and precisely, then it shouldn’t be done.

You may be wondering if anyone featured in the Hall of Shame has ‘reached out’? Trevor Lees, who arranged the butchery of the beautiful Krell KSA-150 in case number 6, threatened me with legal action if I didn’t take down my video about the case. Watch the video and you’ll understand why I declined.

Disclaimer

Images and evidence on this page are unaltered and come from my observations and those of my colleagues. I’ve tried to avoid using real names. If you need one and can’t figure it out, get in touch.


Hall of Shame Case Files

Click on any case to be taken to the details.

7 – MAS Solitaire power amplifier
6 – Krell KSA-150 power amplifier
5 – Marantz CD85 CD Player
4 – Krell KRC Preamplifier
3 – Harman/Kardon PM-655 Integrated Amp
2 – Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier
1 – Kenwood KA-5700 Integrated Amplifier


Case 7 – MAS (Metaxas) Solitaire Power Amplifier

Sadly, we have another case apparently butchered by Klaus, when he worked for Vince Ross in Claremont, back in the heyday of hi-fi retail. I’m reliably informed that Klaus was known as ‘Klaus the Butcher’. He worked on a lot of gear, maybe he was rushing…

This amplifier came to me for repair, but my first look told me everything I needed to know about my chances of success on this otherwise stunning amplifier, designed and built by the legendary Kostas Metaxas.

The MAS Solitaire is an extraordinary amplifier. With a claimed slew rate of 1000V/uS and outrageous styling for the time, this is a super-fast, wide-bandwidth amplifier, with power, stunning looks and premium parts. People rave on about ME, but ME gear has a real back-yard build quality compared to this beauty.

BUT, when you repair a MAS Solitaire using crappy tools, crappier parts and zero care, what you see here is the inevitable result. The mainboard is too badly damaged and too many crappy parts have been installed to make my working on this one viable. Someone might like to try, not me.

It’s a real shame, a sad end to this otherwise lovely unit.

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Lovely looking amplifier, huge filter capacitors. The problem is that one of them was loose, help in by finger-tight fasteners!
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It’s a beautifully laid out amplifier. The messy component dress you see here is because Klaus pulled virtually everything out and then didn’t or couldn’t solder it all back in again properly. Many small parts have been replaced.
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Ahhhhh. What IS this? note the damaged trace on the emitter of the 2SC2238, the weird angles of the devices, bent legs, tabs nearly touching, etc. Nothing in this picture is good.
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These bodge wires are not from the factory. Whenever you see wires like this, you know someone damaged something. Factory bodge wires look different.
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These devices have all been replaced, very badly. Note how the mica thermal pads overlap – a disaster for heatsinking. Note also that there is no thermal paste or grease. Cue my previous observation. As for the misalignment of the legs, I can only assume its because he’s used devices different from the originals or he’s misaligned the mainboard and heatsinks? I really don’t know.
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When you replace transistors in a super-high-speed amplifier, why bother using closely matched parts of the same type, as the manufacturer requires..? And hey, why not just bend all the legs, misalign the circuit board and heatsinks and overlap all the thermal pads for good measure..!
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Let’s also damage a few pads and then not solder or trim some transistor legs…
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I can only shake my head. The owner was gutted to hear about this.

Luckily, the owner has another MAS Solitaire, and it is now with me for service. Let’s see what a good one should look like, stay tuned.


Case 6 – Krell KSA-150 Power Amplifier

This classic case fully warrants its place in the Hall of Shame. I bought this amplifier many years ago from a dodgy hi-fi dealer in Australia called Trevor Lees. Trevor is unhappy about being featured in the Hall of Shame but you reap what you sow as they say.

Over the years, I’ve been contacted by numerous people in relation to this case, telling me their own stories of woe about Trevor Lees. Incredibly, the technician who did this awful work contacted me directly to apologise. I felt bad for him because he explained that Trevor always tries to repair things on the cheap, definitely in evidence here.


Case 5 – Marantz CD85 CD Player

Check out this modification abomination that rendered a wonderful old Marantz CD player unserviceable, cementing its place in the Hall of Shame.

The obvious question here is why? It’s hard to know, but I’d suggest the perpetrator read about improving the clock on a forum and failed to understand that the way you do something is actually more important than what you do. Equipment can often be improved, but not like this.

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This is how the insides of a CD85 should look. Things are neat, tidy and serviceable.

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The insides of the modified Marantz CD85. Note the home-brewed, hardwired PCB at the bottom left, transparent additional panel and bird’s nest wiring. This is a complete disaster.
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Here’s a closer look at this home-brewed board. Note the extreme home-made appearance, but wait until you see how it’s attached…
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Even closer. I know what you are asking – “Mike, what does this do..?” In truth, I don’t know. It could be some sort of additional power supply, or maybe a new crystal oscillator.
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Here’s a clue – an ovenised crystal oscillator on the underside. This board is probably a clock module.
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Check out the build quality though and how it is attached to the transparent cover. Is that chewing gum holding a wall plug as we call them in Australia? Is that more chewing gum under those capacitors…?
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Chewing gum, or Blu Tac. Someone actually did this and thought it was a good job. I’m told the work was done by “an expert in CD player modification”…
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Some sort of hot glue or epoxy perhaps, covering these resistors.
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And for safety, the voltage selector has been left hanging inside the chassis, where the pointer no longer refers to any particular position. What voltage is this set for..?

Case 4 – Krell KRC Preamplifier

This one hurts the most and is the single worst case here and the one most deserving of its place here in the Hall of Shame. My good friend Jason @ The Turntable Doctor shared this case with me and we’ve talked about the need to get the story out. Read on, because you won’t believe this one.

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This is the complete package – a Krell KRC-HR in this case, including separate power supply and remote control. From the outside, both KRC and KRC-HR look the same.

There’s a ‘repairer’ on the east coast of Australia we’ll call William ‘Frampton’. No offence to the great Peter Frampton, but change one letter and you have this guy’s last name. Anyway, ‘Frampton’ supposedly improves hi-fi equipment, so a Perth local sent his cherished KRC-HR over to him. Here’s what happened.

First Signs of Trouble

When the customer eventually got his preamp back, neither the preamp nor the Krell remote control worked properly. He found a cheap Chinese remote control included in the package and when pressed, Frampton informed the owner that he had ‘upgraded’ the volume control and included an ‘improved’ $6 Chinese remote control to replace the clunky old machined and anodised aluminium Krell remote… Classy.

Oh boy, try to stop me writing the rest of this…

The Krell KRC is a superb preamp. If you want to see more, check out my KRC-HR restoration. Costing over $10,000 AUD in the mid-1990s, there aren’t many improvements you can make to a preamp like this and any real repairer would know enough not to try anything silly.

The KRC and KRC-HR use logic-controlled stepped resistive attenuators for volume control. This the best way to control volume. The attenuator uses an array of 0.1% precision laser-trimmed resistors, an optical encoder, CPU and switches. The signal is routed through expensive nitrogen-filled relays.

Let me be clear – you cannot upgrade this volume control – AT ALL. Krell did the engineering, it’s for us to try to learn something from it. It’s outrageous and foolish to think that you could improve the volume control implementation in this preamp.

Wanna see some REALLY bad repairs? Let’s go.

A Normal Krell KRC

This is what a Krell KRC preamp looks like. Check out this article where I completely restored one of these beauties.

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Note the uppermost board, with the rows of chips, precision resistors and relays. Note also the volume encoder, top left. Spinning the encoder generates a series of pulses. These pulses are read by the CPU, which instructs the IC switches to select the correct resistor string to produce the commanded volume level. This is precise volume control, it cannot technically be improved. Typical of Krell, there is very little wiring and there is NO FLUX RESIDUE!
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Standard, unmodified Krell KRC. Dusty, yes, but see how all the capacitors fit correctly and how neatly they are installed.

The Frampton Krell KRC…

Let’s take a look at the ‘improved’ KRC, after some bad repairs by Mr Frampton. We’ll start with the preamp and then look at the power supply.

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Yes, this is the very same model. The entire precision attenuator board is missing. In its place is a Silicon Chip remote control volume kit – that’s the smaller green board and cheap ALPS volume pot. Note also the maze of ribbon cable, the bodged in resistors and replacement caps that are too tall and poorly soldered in.
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This is not a joke, someone actually did this. Note the vaporized traces, appalling soldering, heinous flux residue and dumpster-dirty circuit board. This is an absolute disgrace, seriously, this is the worst work I have ever seen.

Frampton probably destroyed the precision Krell volume control board by accident. Nobody of sound mind would assume they could ‘upgrade’ it, let alone try to.

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With the top board vaporized, this guy had to bodge all the top row of board mounted connectors to the bottom board.
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This is, without doubt, the worst work I’ve ever seen. Sweet Jesus, this is bad.
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Note the leftmost component lead of this capacitor doesn’t go through the board as it should and is barely soldered to the top of the board. These are multi-layer, through-hole plated boards. Components need to have their leads inserted into holes on a board like this to guarantee correct connection.
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Let’s take another look at this Silicon Chip remote volume control upgrade. Again, no sane person would consider this an upgrade.
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This replaces a CPU, switches and network of super-precision 0.1% metal film resistors. Why use precision parts when you can use the Studio Series Control Module with Chinese low-precision capacitors and resistors..?
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Transistor and ribbon cable bodgery. Note the bodged blue relay. This replaces one previously on the top board.
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Almost everything here is ruined. This preamp was someone’s pride and joy. What you see here is the total destruction of a beautiful and irreplaceable piece of equipment.

When asked how he could possibly have produced work of this standard, Mr Frampton cheerfully replied that he “taught this stuff”. Yes, he said that. I’d ask for a different teacher, kids.

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These caps are too tall, the values are wrong and they are soldered in so badly, it looks like a child did it. This guy teaches soldering..?  Heaven help us.
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More evidence of something blowing up and nasty repairs.

The Power Supply

Let’s take a look at bad repairs in the KRC power supply.

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Not much to see from a distance other than a beautifully laid out symmetrical power supply.
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Look more closely – what is this? Well, what it isn’t is a voltage regulator, which should be there, mounted to this heatsink. Why mounted to a heatsink? Because it dissipates thermal energy, which has to be removed.
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Ah, here it is, with some random diodes and a Lelon cap. No need to use the heatsink, of course, Krell wasted their time with that. This component will die and I’ve never seen work this bad – ever.
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Nothing lines up and look again at that voltage regulator. Easily the worst workmanship I’ve ever seen.
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Once more, because I can’t believe it…

Mr Frampton likely blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp. Here’s more evidence.

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There isn’t meant to be an insulating sheet under this board-mounted transformer.
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Nor should there be residue like this.

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The mains wiring isn’t meant to be tacked onto this point here under the transformer. He’s done this because he vaporized more traces in this power supply.
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Bodgy wiring
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Another bodge
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And finally this. What is this? Again note the woeful soldering and what appears to be a shorted pair of legs on this device.

Follow-Up

After the unit was assessed here in Perth, the owner contacted Mr Frampton. Frampton was unapologetic, explaining that he ‘improved’ the volume control (yes, he said that). Helpfully, he explained that the attenuator board ‘broke’. He also explained that parts were no longer available from Krell (they were, we checked).

I guess that by saying the volume board ‘broke’, he meant like when you spill petrol on your hot lawnmower and it ignites, ‘breaking’ it. Perhaps it’s like when you drive your car into a wall because you are looking at your phone and ‘break’ the car…

Anyway, Frampton offered to fix the preamp (it cannot be fixed). Against the strongest advice, the owner sent it back. He’s not seen it since. The moral of the story, don’t EVER take hi-fi equipment to this repairer.


Case 3 – Harman/Kardon PM-655 Integrated Amplifier

This case of bad repairs came to me in February 2018. My customer bought this new from Vince Ross Audio, back in the day.  It worked well for years until it developed a fault.

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Nice amp the PM-655. From the outside, all looks normal.

Vince used a repairer called Klaus, you may know of him. He worked on a lot of gear, sometimes successfully, other times not. This case falls into the not category. I should point out that Vince is a lovely guy and used this repairer in good faith. This repairer likely did good work at some point, I don’t know how it came to this.

Anyway, this repairer destroyed several boards in his attempt to repair a volume control. He used the lowest quality Jaycar volume pot and ribbon cable and destroyed traces associated with the front panel controls, many of which no longer work. I found horrible flux residue everywhere due the lowest-quality solder and failure to clean up. Needless to say, the volume control never worked properly after this.

It does now, I had a look and did my best to rectify this appalling mess and make the amp reliable for my customer. I serviced the unit and fixed the volume problem. Needless to say, the owner was horrified to see these images. He confirmed for me that it had only ever been to Klaus.

Bad Repairs…

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A closer look after removing the lid reveals this mess. Flux residue everywhere and this is just the beginning.
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This is the bodged volume control repair. Note the cut quality factory wiring loom, and the shitty, bodged in ribbon cable, just tacked onto the underside of the board. One question – WHY??
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This is an abomination. My soldering at 16 years of age was ten times better. Who would leave a job like this??
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Look closely at the joints
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This is appalling, note the unsoldered joints and mass of flux residue. This job should never have gone back to a customer like this.
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Note the cut trace ‘bodges’ here and general mess. This I think was in an effort to fix the mess he’d made of the front panel controls.
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More shoddy work
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This is how the boards should look. You’ll note I’ve cleaned away as much of the mess and re-worked many of the joints.

Case 2 – Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier

This addition to the Hall of Shame is another case from my friend Jason (Speaker Doctor and Turntable Doctor).

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This amplifier came to Jason for repair. The owner bought it for $900, from a guy who ‘upgraded’ it. You be the judge on whether these are upgrades…

Bad Repairs

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Interesting… What does this do?
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Panasonic FC caps in the foreground, but what the hell is that behind them?? It looks like an attempt at a soft-start circuit, you can be sure it didn’t leave the factory looking like this.
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We couldn’t fathom the logic of installing a 40 Amp poly switch in series with the outputs. It will sound really bad and it trips at 40 Amps. What sort of speakers did this guy think needed protection, only once the output current reached 40 Amps? 40 Amps!!! So 30 Amps to the speakers was OK, just not 40 Amps..?!
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It’s surprising this amp ever even turned on. What a mess.
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For reference, this is what SHOULD be there in the image above. This is a power distribution board, with factory Perreaux caps, small diodes, bleeder resistors and wiring. I guess the idiot who removed this knew better than Perreaux’s own highly regarded engineer Peter Perreaux! If only Peter had asked this guy how to improve the 3150… NOTE – the factory Hitachi MOSFETs in this standard image on a non-destroyed 3150.
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Now look again at this mess. Note the missing factory power distribution board, the bird’s nest of crappy wiring and the non-factory MOSFETs. This last point is critical. The amp has low-quality, non-standard and unmatched replacement output devices. It cannot operate correctly like this. The only solution is to purchase around $500 of rare replacement MOSFETs. Sadly, when you add that cost to the missing factory power board, this once great amplifier is now a write-off.
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Nothing about this wiring is OK.
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As for this, we couldn’t figure out what the heck it was for. Check out the abandoned diode on the chassis bottom, in its own little puddle of solder. QC was non-existent on this job.
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Ummm, what IS this??
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A recipe for poor sound quality

Case 1 – Kenwood KA-5700 Integrated Amplifier

This lovely little amplifier came to me via a very nice customer. She’d taken this otherwise good amp to a local repairer. You can see from the images below that the repairer has ‘upgraded’ this circuit board to include a special short-circuit that prevented the amp from working properly.

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My customer took the amplifier back to Mr Radio Waves. He had the audacity to say that the unit is too old and damaged to be repaired! But he did the damage!!

Thankfully, this lovely customer brought the unit into me and I’ve repaired it. The KA-5700 is now working perfectly, though a little worse for wear after its near-death experience at the hands of Mr Radio Waves.

Bad Repairs…
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Everywhere this guy removed capacitors, he damaged the board. He didn’t even clean away the flux, nor did he properly repair the parts of the board he damaged.
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Here, you can see the same area after I re-worked it. Given the damage, its a solid, reliable repair.
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What on earth is going on here..?
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Lifted traces…
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General bad repairs bodgery caused by poor soldering and desoldering tools and technique, leading to bad repairs.
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This image is most alarming. It shows repair work this guy did to rectify the damage he caused but this caused a short, where this wire jumper sits right next to these two other pads. Note that the destroyed pad is floating on the board, shorting a line next to it.

7 thoughts on “Hall of Shame”

  1. I have worked in both pro and high-end consumer audio manufacturing. Those ‘repairs’ make me want to weep!!! Where is the care and love for these lovely bits of kit? Disgraceful!

    1. Hi Nicki, thanks for your comment and I couldn’t agree more. The work I highlighted here is truly disgraceful. It would almost be acceptable if it was the result of backyard tinkering, but these are the results of so-called specialist repairers. It’s mind-boggling!

  2. I didn’t think my amateur work was that great but after seeing these horror stories I don’t feel so bad !
    I think I might cry if some of my work looked like these examples.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Mike. I guarantee that your work is 100% better than anything in the Hall of Shame! It’s truly staggering to me that work like this is seen as acceptable by the perpetrators.

Feel free to leave a comment!

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