An interview with herbalist Lori Wroten
In this week's episode, you'll hear an interview with herbalist Lori Wroten. This is the first time I've had a guest on In the Clinic!
A cautionary tale
I invited Lori to share about a frightening experience associated with the use of an herbal product being sold by a 3rd party vendor on Amazon.
Although we don't have all of the details about what was in the product, this case study provides a cautionary tale about the quality and veracity of products that clients purchase online.
As you'll hear in the episode, it's not always clear on Amazon whether someone is buying a product directly from a merchant or whether it's coming from a 3rd-party seller (someone who is essentially buying the product directly from the manufacturer and then re-selling it.)
Although Amazon is taking steps to cut down on questionable 3rd-party sellers, it is still a bit of a wild card.
How to identify products sold by 3rd parties on Amazon
Note that there are many variations in terms of how products show up on Amazon. It can be difficult to figure out which are from a 3rd party.
If a product is being fulfilled by Amazon, that simply means that the seller sent the product to Amazon to store in their warehouse, and that Amazon will send it to you. As far as I know, Amazon doesn't inspect for quality/authenticity in this scenario.
If you're not sure, the best thing to do is to call the manufacturer to see where they recommend that you buy their authentic products.
Example of product being sold by Oregon's Wild Harvest via Amazon:
Because I already know & trust the quality of OWH, and because this product appears to be coming directly from OWH via Amazon, this seems legit to me. (I'd still rather buy it in a local store, though!)
Example of a MediHerb product being sold by a 3rd party
Here you can see this MediHerb andrographis product is being sold & shipping from "Brooklyn Dealz" (nothing against this company - I know nothing about them!). I'd be much more cautious about purchasing because a) I know that MediHerb is a practitioner-only line, and b) I don't know how BD got this product, how long they've had it, how they stored it, etc.
What can we do?
As practitioners, we need to educate clients about where to buy products safely. Although sometimes prices are cheaper on Amazon, if they're way under what you're seeing elsewhere online it makes sense to use caution & double-check the seller's info.
If anything seems off, contact the company to check that this is a legitimate product.
Also, if you are having clients purchase something online, I highly recommend that you link directly to the specific product you're recommending and/or use a dispensary like Fullscript or Wellevate (linked below) to make sure people are getting the correct & authentic product.
Specifically tell your client that they're welcome to get the product anywhere they like, and also explain why buying from 3rd party sellers is not a good idea.
Please see the resources below (+ some of our ideas in the podcast episode) for ideas about where clients can obtain high-quality supplements.
Bonus marketing tips
At the end of this episode, Lori tells us how she's build a thriving herbal practice. Be sure to listen to the end to find out how her practice has grown and some of the - quite unusual - strategies she used to spread the word about her work.
I hope you find this episode helpful.
If you have any tips that you share with your clients, please share them below or message me!
About Lori Wroten
Lori Wroten is an integrative, holistic functional medicine practitioner and clinical herbalist with formal training in clinical assessment, Western therapeutic herbalism, and functional medicine principles. Her clinical practice, "Lifesong Holistic LLC", is located in Fayetteville, PA, but she's delighted to be serving clients throughout the U.S. and abroad thanks to “telehealth” technology.
Lori's area of specialty is autoimmune disorders, along with a very strong focus in the areas of anxiety, insomnia, food sensitivities, IBS, allergies, sinus issues, acid reflux/GERD, skin issues, hormone imbalances, chronic fatigue, and chronic stress.
Her formal training includes a Master's degree in Therapeutic Herbalism from Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), a Post-Masters Certification in Clinical Herbalism from MUIH, and a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology from Penn State University. Lori is extremely passionate about natural, integrative, holistic healthcare, and she thrives on finding ways to be a healing presence in the lives of everyone she meets and serves.
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Transcript of Why Having Your Clients Buy Herbs on Amazon May Not be a Good Idea Episode
Episode 23 | Why Having Your Clients Buy Herbs on Amazon May Not be a Good Idea - powered by Happy Scribe
Well, hey, everybody, welcome to In the Clinic with Camille. Today, I have a special episode for you. It's a little bit longer than my normal ones, and I think it's for a good cause because we are going to be hearing from herbalist Lori Wroten about an adverse event that happened to her and how she.
Navigated that some things that we need to be aware of as practitioners and also how she used that to launch her own career as a successful herbalist. So there are some marketing and promotion tips embedded in this episode as well. I hope you enjoy getting to hear from Lori. And for more info about how to contact Lori. You can check the show notes.
Everyone, welcome to In the Clinic with Camille. I have a special guest here with me today. In fact, the very first guest I've ever had on my podcast. I'd like to introduce you all to Lori Wroten. Lori, would you mind telling us just a little bit about yourself before we get started? Certainly Camille, thanks. I'm an integrative, holistic, functional medicine practitioner and a clinical herbalist, and I specialize in helping people with autoimmune disorders achieve their quality of life, their optimal quality of life.
I received my training the brunt of it at Maryland University of Integrative Health,MUIH in Laurel, Maryland. And I also have taken other courses online. In addition to that, when I learned about other aspects of herbalism as well as functional medicine itself. Got it. Well, thank you. And where in the world are you? I am in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and I practice out of my home. I've been in practice for about seven years now, and I have an office in my home, although now with covid, obviously, that's mostly what I'm doing now is mostly on Zoom.
Well, I invited you here today to talk about something that happened to you quite a while ago, because I think it's a really important story for practitioners to hear about the quality of the herbs and supplements that we're recommending. So would you mind just talking us through what happened and walking us through the course of events?
Sure, it happened back in 2012, and it was it was prior to any type of formal education that I have received, in fact I was just I was in marketing, I worked in marketing. And then I left that job and became a homemaker after my husband had a severe heart attack. He didn't want to stop working, so I did just to simplify our life, and I became a homemaker, I started a garden and started to play around with herbs and really the bug bit me, so to speak.
And as I was playing around with herbs, I started taking supplements, trying different supplements. I bought all kinds of books. And one of the herbs that I decided to try because I was having perimenopausal symptoms at that time. So I tried maca root, I decided to try some maca root, so I went on Amazon and I purchased a bottle of maca root tablets. And it was there was nothing else in them that the ingredients were maca root, I believe that was all, although obviously something else was in them that wasn't on the label, but it was maca root, no other herbs.
In other words, it wasn't a combination of herbs. It was just maca root. I started to take that in June of 2012. And I was taking it twice a day following the instructions on the label, one tablet twice a day. After about two weeks, I started to feel ill. Now, mind you, I made no connection whatsoever to this supplement. I was doing other things and playing with herbs out of my garden and everything. At the same time, so there was no connecting of any dots at this time, I just started to feel ill.
And when I say ill, what I mean by that is nauseated, just unwell and loss of appetite, which is very unlike me. Even my husband noticed I wasn't eating as much. I didn't really feel sick, sick, just like a little off, you know, stomach wise. A month later, we were on vacation with my family at the beach and I got to the point where I literally could not eat. And my mother said something and I was also carrying around a bag of candied ginger everywhere I went.
It was kind of that animal instinct, just you do what you have to do to get through. And we were sitting out on the porch the one night at the beach and my brother said, Lori, what are you doing? You're carrying around this bag of ginger, what's up? And then it hit me like, what's wrong with me? So we got home from the beach and I proceeded to become more ill to where I started vomiting now. Goodness.
And not only did I not have an appetite, but whenever I would eat, I would vomit. So I went to the doctor. At that point, something is really wrong and I went to the doctor. And he said that I had a stomach bug. Sent me home and just said, just write it out. It should pass soon. Well, it got worse and I called the doctor again because now I was I couldn't keep chicken broth down.
I mean, it was I was down to clear liquids and I couldn't keep anything down. And I felt like I was wasting away. I felt like I was dying. So I called the doctor again and made another appointment. Well, the day before my appointment that night, my husband ended up calling 911 because he found me on the bathroom floor, curled up in a ball, dry heaving. And unable to get up , so the ambulance came and took me to the emergency room where they ran a whole battery of tests and they diagnosed me with acute pancreatitis, is what they said was going on.
But I had no pain whatsoever, none. And people kept coming into the room, the treatment area saying, you know what your pain level, what your pain level. And I kept saying zero. And their eyes would get real big. This isn't this is strange. You have acute pancreatitis. You should be in so much pain. I have no pain. So they were puzzled. But yet that was the sticking diagnosis. And the reason was because when they did the labs, when I got there, my liver enzymes were severely elevated and my, the lipase was through the roof.
So that was the basis of their diagnosis and the vomiting, of course. So they admitted me to the hospital on nothing by mouth, which I was thankful for. They did CAT scans. They did I think they did various X-rays of my abdominal cavity. They did. What else did they do? Abdominal ultrasound. And they started to focus on my gallbladder for whatever reason. And they called in a GI guy and he he he said, yes, I think this is the gallbladder.
And then they ran a test called a CCK HIDA test, which was a nuclear medicine test that shows how the gallbladder is squeezing. OK, so they did that test and they said, oh yeah, your gallbladder is not squeezing. It was called the ejection fraction was the term they used that was very low. So it has to come out now. When they did the ultrasound, there were no stones, nothing showed up on the ultrasound. But this other test said it wasn't squeezing properly.
So I had the surgery. They took my gallbladder out and the surgeon came in the following morning to check on me. And my husband was there and he sat down next to my bed and he said, well, the surgery went very, very well, he said. But he said, I almost hate to say this, but your gallbladder actually looked healthy.
And we were like, what? And he said, well, it was inflamed, but it was healthy tissue, it wasn't diseased, is what I'm telling you. He said, I'm not sure what was going on with that. So I went home and started to get back into life, so I'm thinking this is all over, I'm going to feel better. I started eating again and now, mind you, I had stopped taking that supplement from the time my husband called 911.
I hadn't taken the supplement at all for the whole week that I was in the hospital. So when I got home, I started to eat again, started out slow, got back to solid foods and was feeling pretty good. And I thought, oh, I need to take that supplement. I need to get that my supplement out again and start taking it again. The first tablet that I took, Camille, 10 minutes later, I was in the bathroom throwing up.
And started dry heaving all over again. Wow. And that's when I knew that's when it hit me. I knew what was wrong with me. And, you know, it's the only thing I threw up was that tablet, not to be gross, but when I looked in the toilet and I saw this yellow powdery substance floating in there that I looked at, I knew that's what was making me sick. So I ended up having to go back to the E.R., though, because of the uncontrollable height.
It was almost like my body just said, absolutely not. We are not doing this again. When I took that tablet again, it said, no, I really struggled. And so we went back to the hospital, saw a different doctor. And she said, well, evidently it wasn't your gallbladder, huh? So they gave me some medication, some maca root to calm things down and sent me back home and said, don't take that supplement. So I don't know.
And a lot of people asked me, did you keep the bottle? Did you have it tested? And I didn't. I was really naive at the time and just thankful to know what was wrong and what had happened and how to make it stop. And I check the whole bottle in the garbage can and threw it away. I wish I would have kept it, but anyway, that's what happened. And so I don't know what was in the supplement, but I do know that it was tainted in some way.
And the research I've done since then regarding buying supplements on Amazon, which is where I got that supplement, there are third party sellers on there that there's no oversight on how they store the supplements. There are reports of mislabeling. They buy these supplements in bulk and then they relabel them in some cases or they will add things to them to extend shelf life. They store them. I talked to someone from here in capitulations one time in the customer service department, and she gave me the rundown on some of the things they've dealt with with Amazon, third-party sellers, with pure encapsulation products where people were storing them in their garages in the middle of Texas was 150 degrees in the garage.
And that's where they're storing their supplements. So there's no oversight. And that's that's the big thing I learned about buying supplements from somewhere like Amazon where. Nothing is regulated in any Joe Schmoe out on the street can buy those supplements and then resell them to us, to our clients, and we just don't know what has happened to those capsules or pills or powders or whatever it is they're selling in between the time they receive them from Amazon and the time that the consumer receives them.
There's that span of time there where there's no control, there's no oversight. Yeah, it's it's certainly a lot to take in, and I do think this is something that a lot of practitioners. Overlook or perhaps just don't know a lot about and I know that we often want our clients to have choice and we want them to be able to buy things that are affordable for them. And so we know a lot of people say, oh, well, you know, if you can find it cheaper somewhere else, then that's reasonable.
But we have to also consider, like you're saying, that the quality is not equivalent necessarily, that we really do need to ensure that our clients are getting their herbs, their supplements, things like that from places where they've been properly stored, where there can be some guarantee that what's in the labels, actually what's in there and that kind of thing right now.
Were you taking anything else or really was it just this one maca supplement at the time this all happened? That was literally the only supplement or medication I was taking at the time. That was it.
Wow. And the things that the doctor asked me the second time around, she said, well, what are you taking anything else? And I said, no, this is I don't even take aspirin. I don't take anything. This is all I was taking. That was it. So I was drinking some herbal teas, I was growing some herbs in my garden and making my own little tea blends and things like that, but we're talking camomile and lemon ball and things like that right directly from the earth.
Nobody's monkeying with it except me. So this was the only supplement I was taking on it.
And had you bought that from a third party, do you know, or was that too long ago to tell? It was a third party in this part I did not know until I spoke with a couple of pure and capitulations. And I can't remember the other supplier, though. The other brand that I spoke to about about this, I can't remember who it was, but there were two different brands that I spoke to, Pure encapsulation, and I cannot remember the other one. And they both told me the same thing. They do not sell their products on Amazon. So if you find a product on Amazon, whatever the brand is, it's not put there by that manufacturer.
It is not put on Amazon by the manufacturer ever. That's what I've been told by the manufacturers. So people out there make a business of buying quantities and then reselling them. So that's, that's the game and the manufacturers have no control over it either, and both of those people from the manufacturer told me that they are really trying hard to get a better handle and a grasp on who it is that these people that are buying and reselling on Amazon, like they said to me, it's hard for them to track you who is who these people are that are buying.
And then because practitioners will buy large quantities too and legitimately and then resell. So they both told me it's really hard to know who's buying and selling on Amazon and who's and then who's monkeying with them on top of that, not storing them properly. It's just a massive, massive problem. Yeah. That they just don't have an answer to at this time.
Absolutely. And it's it's really tricky for clients to go, who are very skilled, savvy people is still very challenging to tell in the Amazon if something is a third party seller or not, it's not always obvious and you sometimes have to click around a little bit to even figure it out. I've had clients who are practitioners themselves not be clear on that and have to come back and be like, is this a third party seller or is this not?
Because it really isn't always obvious.
And sometimes the name of the third party seller is very similar to the name of the brand, or it sounds like it maybe could be associated with it and it makes it look more legitimate when in fact it may or may not be, right.
Yeah, and maybe there are some manufacturers that do sell on Amazon directly. There may be, but the two that I spoke to both were very adamant about the fact that they don't and that they're and one of them was Pure encapsulation. They said absolutely not. If you find our products on Amazon, they're not put there by us. Yeah, that was pretty eye-opening for me just to know that, because I had no idea. I just assumed it was, the manufacturer was selling their products on Amazon, as I'm sure a lot of people make that same assumption.
And I do think it's tricky as a practitioner because you certainly don't want to be we're not in the business of selling supplements necessarily. We're in the business of helping people and a buy products that sometimes is matching people up with supplements. But I am an advocate for people finding a few brands that you really know and trust, doing a lot of research, calling them up, talking to them. I've even been for example, I've been to Guya Herb Farm to actually visit the site just to see where they're growing things, how they're growing things and that kind of thing.
Because the more you get to know that, the more you can trust you can help your clients find valid sources and know this kind of information, like do they sell on Amazon legitimately? Do they not? Where can you best get them all these types of things? So we certainly don't want to be seen as supplement shills or anything like that.
But if we are recommending them, I think we have to have a really strong knowledge of safety practices like this, because the other thing that can happen, too, is we recommend a supplement, a specific supplement to someone.
And then if it makes them sick, whose fault is it in reality? Is it the manufacturer? Is it ours? Is it you know, there's that murkiness there that whose fault is this? Yeah. And I think sometimes the manufacturers get a bad rap because. And I know they think that, too, in talking to them, that they get the bad rap just because someone purchased their products and then altered them in some way or didn't store them correctly and they either didn't have the efficacy that they were supposed to or they outright harm someone.
Mm hmm. And so they get the bad rap for that.
Yeah, absolutely. So, Lori, one of the things I'm really interested in is that you had this terrible experience that you realized after the fact was directly related to a supplement that you're taking.
And yet here you are all these years later, a practitioner yourself. How did you make that decision and decide?
Actually, this is what I want to do. It was very easy, actually, it happened when I was the second time that I was in the E.R. and I was sitting there on the gurney in the emergency room in tears because I realized my own stupidity is how I looked at it, my lack of understanding and knowledge and education in the area of herbalism and just supplements and things like that. And I looked over at my husband and I said, and the other thing was I was not only I was not only taking things and making things myself, I was sharing things with others at that time, family members and friends.
And they were starting to come to me for advice because I was studying on my own and all of these things. And I was starting to give advice. And I sat there that night in the emergency room in tears. And I said to my husband, Paul, I said, I can't do this. And he said, what do you mean you can't do it? I said, I can't do this the way I'm doing it, but I just look what happened to me.
What if this happens to someone else? I need to know if I feel like this is my passion. I really did feel it was my passion at that point. But if I'm going to do it, I need to do it correctly. I need to get an education and do it the right way so that I feel more confident in myself and the advice that I'm giving and the things that I'm even doing for my own health. I need to know what's going on and what's safe and what's not.
And so that night, sitting there in the emergency room in tears, I decided to. Go to MUIH, I had been to a few of their open house sessions down there already in Laurel, Maryland, and so I was familiar with the school, I know about the programs and I was had I had thought about it a lot, but didn't get real serious about it until that happened to me. And then I realized, I really want to do this.
I want to do this. This is my passion, but I need to know what I'm doing. And so that's what made me go to school and then start my practice. And here you are.
Yeah, here you are. There was a bit of a catalyst. It was not a bit it was a big catalyst for me. So some good came out of it, even though it was hard to go through and. Yeah, I don't have a gallbladder now, but it's a constant reminder I have to take my file whatever, whenever I eat that, which is pretty much every meal. So it's a constant reminder. But but it's now for me, it's it's one where it does make me smile on the inside because I like.
You know, it's OK, because look where I am and I have a very successful practice now and I'm absolutely enamored with what I do. I love it. I mean, I don't love that you went through that. Of course I love it when there are successful herbalists out there practicing and doing their thing.
Before we wrap up. I just want to tie into something that you just said, which is that you have a very successful practice. And I know we have a bunch of people listening who are in the earlier stages of setting up their practices and trying to get everything going. Do you have any advice for newer herbalists or people who are trying to build their practices about how to find more clients?
I do. Get out, get out if you can. I know it's hard with Covid right now, but one of the things that really helped me a lot was to get out in my local area and and talk. I did little workshops, medicine making workshops. I spoke at a local college here three or four times, just gave lectures on things that I was comfortable talking about. The other thing I did was I sent out a letter to and this helped tremendously to0, I sent a form letter type of thing out to all of the local acupuncture is massage therapists, yoga, spoors, things like that, introducing myself as the new girl on the block in alternative medicine in our area, just to introduce myself and say, I'd like to learn more about your business so I can refer clients to you if you'd like to do the same. Call me up. And I did have some responses to that and got some referrals from that, where they referred some of their clients to me. And so that helped me a lot.
Also. I also did do six months of local billboards, billboard advertising, that was it was expensive, but I just I was able to just do a six month contract to keep it. We tapped into our personal finances for it just to get me off the ground. And that was pretty powerful too. And that had a lot of legs to it because it wasn't just the people who had a handful of clients, let's say, that saw the billboard, called me up, made an appointment, but then there were people that I would, that would call me up like a year later and they heard about me from someone who had seen my billboard a year ago, so it had a lot of tentacles and legs. There's that six months of billboards and a lot of tentacles. Other than that, you know, the reality is, Camille, if if you if you help a few clients, truly, truly help them and really focus and go deep with them and. Their quality of life improves as a result of you working with them.
Word of mouth is that's what is really making my business grow at this point. And initially it was the getting out in public talking, billboards, things like that. But I do nothing. For the last year and a half, I've done one speaking engagement, and that was just a week or two ago, online with a line support group. So other than that, I've done absolutely no advertising, no marketing whatsoever for the last year and a half. And my business is growing almost faster than I can keep up with at this point myself.
And it's word of mouth. Yeah, that's all it is, and do you do anything to encourage your clients to spread the word or are they just doing that kind of on their own? I did nothing, literally, I do not think I do my job. Yeah, I do what I do and it just goes it goes from there and it's yeah, a lot of direct. And I get people like I'll have local clients that I'm working with.
And then I get a call from Arizona, a relative of theirs that lives in Arizona calls me and wants to do wants to see me on Zoom. So that's starting to happen all over the country.
OK, I got a client in the UK by that those means it was a friend of a client when my client has a friend in the UK and she emailed me from the UK and said, since I was working with you and I would like to work with you. I love this, that's been my experience as well, is that if you can really take several years and do the hard sort of feet on the ground work of getting out there in the community and putting yourself out there, it seems to me from my observations that it takes some time to pay off.
You know, sometimes a year or two is really needed before the whole thing starts to be a self driving engine, so to speak.
I don't think that's the thing, actually, but you know what I'm saying. But that once you get that get that momentum going, that it really does fuel itself. And I love that you're an example of that because so many people feel in the beginning, I think you feel like you're just going to be have to be working this hard forever to just get clients in the door. And in fact, it's just harder in the beginning. And then in the end, once you've got that under your belt, the harder part is managing it and finding the time.
And, you know, you've got different set of problems, not necessarily easier, but just a different set of problems. Exactly.
Yeah, it's and the other piece, that little piece of advice I would give is just put aside your fears. That was one thing, and that was one thing early on that I was so terrified, I was so terrified of sitting in front of a client. And what if I make a mistake? What if I recommend the wrong thing? And especially with what I had gone through? Heaven forbid I recommend something.
So there was a real it was a real fear there on my part and something inside of me said, Lori, you have the training, just do this and now it's your passion. Just follow your passion and just do this and put aside those fears and just dive into it and everything will be OK and. If you make a mistake, it's not going to be monumental. I mean, it's just we're talking about plants here. So, yeah, there are some boundaries.
I made it a point, and especially in the beginning, only to work with certain herbs and not with some of the more trickier herbs that have a potential to have side effects or negative effects. I just didn't use them. So you can draw your own boundary based on your own comfort level and go with that and just dive in and just do it and stay in your own little safety zone. And do what you do and put aside the fear, and that was.
You know, that was big for me and. Once I did, once I did that. And I had a few sessions under my belt that went well and nobody died. You know, you start to get a confidence too and I think there's there's something there, too, that people see when you have a confidence in what you're doing, they feel confident. And you, whereas if they see you shaking and quivering in terror, not so much.
So just hide it in the beginning, hide that fear. So you put the fear aside. Yeah, yeah, I love how you balance that. I think there is a certain amount of fear, like you said, that causes you to draw those boundaries. And then once you've got those solid, you set the rest aside and you just step into that situation and start doing it right.
Just work within work within your comfort zone where you're comfortable. Yeah. Because you can make big things happen with small numbers of herbs, as we now know. Oh, I love that. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Well, so let me just summarize some of the key points here for folks who are listening. Number one, hopefully your biggest takeaway from this session is to please don't recommend that your clients get their herbs or supplements through third-party sellers on Amazon to do the work as a practitioner to recommend things that, you know, you can count on, that they are what they say they are and that you can count on the quality.
So that means different things to different people. But just be aware that if somebody is sort of price dropping, you may need to educate your clients about where they can and can't get good quality supplements.
Number two, to absolutely consider possible contamination issues when people do have an adverse reaction that we can't just assume that all our products are safe and that if somebody is having a major adverse reaction, we have to consider that maybe a supplement that they're taking has been contaminated or has some other problem that that that should be in our mind. We shouldn't automatically jump to. Oh, it must be something else.
And then number three, switching gears entirely, hopefully, you'll take away some inspiration from Lori, interesting marketing tactics, especially early on in your practice that I've never heard of anybody doing a billboard before.
So I love that.
But just getting creative and thinking outside of the box a little bit for herbalists is fun and then realize that it's going to take a lot of work at the beginning and then you get some momentum. You go from there.
Now, Lori, where can people learn more about you get in touch with you if they want to come to some amazing clinical work with you, how would they do that?
I do have a website. The name of my practice is Lifesong Holistic and lifesongholistic.com is my website. And from there you can go to the contact page and email me. Amazing, wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us here today, Laurie, and I hope this story helps other practitioners be more informed about the herbs and supplements that they're recommending. Thanks for inviting me. It was great to see you. Welcome. All right.