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Brazilian Chronicles . 25 November 2022 . brazilbeachtravel

We had never traveled with JBL company, partly because its operation in the travel market between Brazil, Argentina and Chile is relatively recent. JBL bought the international routes of the old Pluma company about 5 years ago. To be honest, we had bad references about this company, we had even read stories quite a lot worrisome on Trip Advisor (you can see the thread here). However, and taking into consideration that the testimonials were from the time when the company had just acquired the Pluma routes, we imagined that these disorders were a consequence of the company's inexperience in international travel and that, by now, they should have improved.

So we decided to test them in the field with a long and demanding trip: São Paulo to Buenos Aires, a trip that is usually done by bus in 36 to 38 hours.

The following is the chronicle of a trip that far exceeded our worst expectations.


The Chronicle of the Trip

We arrived at the Tieté Bus Station in São Paulo with plenty of time. We had to change our ticket purchased online for the one that would allow us to board. We soon discovered that JBL only has one chair inside a ticket office shared with another company in the terminal, when we approached the guy who attends us tells us that he was from another company and to come back in 15 minutes because the JBL employee had gone to the bathroom. Ok, just one employee at the shared ticket office in the most important bus station in Brazil, that's a pretty clear sign of what to expect in terms of the general infrastructure of this company, but it-s ok, we didn't care too much about that detail and we came back after 15 minutes as they told us, the JBL employee was there and very kindly gave us the ticket to travel after we gave him the ID, he also informed us that check-in was at 8:30 p.m. in platform 59. All very cordial, very satisfied so far with these people from JBL, however, the first problems would come sooner than later.

Baggage Check-in Nightmare

We arrive at the check-in, which is at the entrance to the platform, there is already a line of people at the gate who receive the luggage to dispatch it to the hold, the same ticket office employee is receiving it, there is another employee who receives hand luggage and one more that we do not know what function it fulfills. Soon, caught our attention how the hold baggage employee tells each passenger who is part of a group, to sum the weight of their luggage together and emphasizes that he is doing it to help them... Many people on long trips by bus takes excess baggage, because the allowances are usually much more permissive than on planes and in many cases the companies do not have scales on the platforms to control the excess. This is not the case on São Paulo bus station: Tieté has scales on each platform, which gives companies the possibility of charging excess baggage allowance and thus opens up a whole range of extra profits: for the company or for the employees on duty, we really don't know.

The Brazilian regulation on baggage in land transport is clear, article 70 of Decree 2521/98 establishes that each passenger can carry up to 30 kilograms of baggage in the hold and when exceeding that allowance the company can charge up to 0.5% of the price of the ticket for each kilogram exceeded. However, most passengers do not know the legislation (we did not know it at the time of making the trip either) so in practice, if scales are available, you are at the mercy of what the company (or employees) want to get paid.

The law of the jungle

As previously said, when the JBL employee announces that he is gathering the baggage of each member of the group to be able to sum up the allowances and help them, there is a clear intention to soften what is coming next, which will surely be terrifying. The passenger, who feels guilty for exceeding the luggage, is already prepared for the worst, and even so, never even remotely imagines the level of abuse: when they finish weighing the luggage for each group, the resulting extra price is violent and exorbitant; as expected, the discussions multiply: an Argentine man who travels alone to Buenos Aires tells us that he was told that he had 13 kilos of excess, and that the price per kilo was 20 Reais! So he should pay an extra 260 Reales. It is worth clarifying that the total price of the ticket to transport a complete human being is 520 R$, in short: a total absurdity. Then the man tells us that he ended up negotiating and paid 10 Reales for each kilo exceeded, that is, 130 Reales in total.

The maximum value per kilo exceeded according to Decree 2521/98, data that is even available in the terms and conditions that they themselves link from their website, is 0.5% of the value of the ticket, that is to say: in this case they should have charged a maximum of 2.6 Reais for each kilo exceeded (0.5% of 520, which was the ticket price). Initially they tried to charge him almost 8 times that value and then they negociate until they charged him almost 4 times the maximum regulated value. Only the fact that this price can be negociated speaks by itself of the bad faith with which (the employees or the company, we don't know) operate in this field. Because we do not rule out that these abuses are something specific to JBL in São Paulo or its employees, we are eager to hear the company's defense in this regard and the comments of our readers about their experiences in this and other bus stations.

Discussions continue. As is logical, the bus departure time is delayed, which was originally 9:00 p.m., and we have not even reached the conflicts with hand luggage control yet, which would open a new chapter to this infamy.

Artists are not welcome here

A girl in her 20s who is traveling with her mother arrives with a guitar, simple case, clearly a cheap instrument; When she handed over her suitcases to the employee that receives the hold luggage, he tells them that the guitar cannot go as free luggage in the allowance and that they must pay separately if they want to take it. The girl begins to get anxious and the mother complains, the guy redirects them to the hand luggage employee. The JBL employee, a woman dressed in red with the company logo, tells them with a stone face that they must pay 500 Brazillians Reais if they want to take the instrument, they both get desperate, the girl begins to cry of impotence, They argue and the employee tells them that she is going to talk to her superior to see what she can do, she communicates with this mysterious superior through his cell phone via WhatsApp and after a while tells them that they authorize her to lower the price to 300 R$. They tell her that it is absurd and that they had never paid to carry a simple guitar, incredibly the employee in red, inflexible, offers them as a solution that they leave the guitar there in the station and pick it up when they get back to São Paulo. She finally tells them that if she wants to take it, the price can be lowered to 250 R$.

Everything is delay, haggling and discussion, from the back of the line a man also with a guitar hanging from his shoulders looks concerned at the scene of the girl and her mother arguing with the employee: next problem soon, and already more than 20 minutes delay...

Upon reaching the door, the man with the guitar passes by, taking advantage of the employee's distraction in multiple discussions and intends to enter the bus with his instrument, the employee sees him out of the corner of her eye and calls out, the driver does not let him enter and a new discussion begins, the woman tells him that to bring the guitar with him he must pay 500 Reais, the guy is furius and flatly refuses to pay, alleging that he has just arrived from Bahia on another bus and that he traveled with exactly the same luggage Without anyone charging him extra, the JBL employee incredibly reply that this is because it was a trip within Brazil and that this service is international... The man gets more upset and tells her to show him the legislation, the employee ignored him and returns to another open battle with another Argentine passenger who intends to carry a portable speaker as hand luggage.

Either both guitars or none

The mother of the girl with the guitar, seeing that the Argentine guitarist does not plan to pay in any way, indignantly confronts the employee from behind and warns her that if she lets him pass, she has to permit her daughter's guitar too. The girl's forbidden instrument rests leaning against the glass of the platform in a limbo. At this point the girl, who continues to cry, has already resignedly called a friend to come get her guitar and keep it with him until she gets back.

The guy with the guitar remains in the place while the employee types on his cell phone, after a while tells him that she got the price to drop to R$250 (same last price they offered to the girl), the guitarist insists that he is not going to pay, that never in a thousand trips he did pay to take his guitar with him on a bus, and that at the time the ticket was purchased there was nothing to warn that such an exorbitant charge could happen for carrying an instrument that does not even weigh 2 kilograms, someone who is witnessing the discussion notes, to increase the musician's indignation, that they charged 150 reais on plane and it was clear at the time the ticket was purchased.

The rest of the passengers get impatient, the bus departure time is already almost 1 hour delayed. The employee threatens the man saying if he doesn't pay, she will release the bus. The situation is increasingly tense, at one point the guy tries to create empathy with the inflexible woman: he shows her his wallet and tells her that he has no more money, that he has been traveling since yesterday, that he comes from Bahia and is tired, that he ran out of cash, in short, he tries unsuccessfully to get the woman to put in his shoes or that experience some guilt-like feeling and let it go with his guitar; When he does not receive an answer, he furiously threatens her to prosecute the company and all the employees, starting with her. The nervous employee, dealing with the increasing delay, begins to pressure him, giving orders to the drivers to begin the process of releasing the bus and leaving.

The rest of the passengers looked stunned at the scene. The man with the guitar is consumed with impotence and faced with the concrete possibility of being left stranded in São Paulo he finally breaks down, shows him a credit card and tells him that he can only pay with that. The employee doubts, she consults with the other employee, curiously all the extra luggage is charged in cash and there is no card machine available in the place, all is very suspicious... We hear the employee ask her partner: "How did we charge this? Like if it another trip ticket? The other responds with something that we decode as "yes, may be, I don't know, or do what you can but release the Bus already..."

The card machine doesn't work, and that's good news

Everyone wants to free the bus as soon as possible because the situation is untenable, so the employee in red takes the guitar guy and a woman who is in a similar situation and needs to pay a large excess baggage also with a card to the ticket office, they disappear for 10 or 15 minutes, we remain in suspense, upon returning we see that incredibly the employee in red grabs the girl's guitar and gives it to her mother so she can take it, the guitarist enters the bus with his guitar hanging and gesture of relief; When we asked him what happened, he told us that the card machine that the company has at the ticket office did not work with him or with the woman who had to pay the excess, and faced with this situation, the employee in red called her mysterious superior who ordered release the guitars, release the charge of the other woman and urgently release the bus, which at this point is already more than 1 hour delayed.

Everyone gets on the bus, the employee in red, not happy with the defeat, gets on the bus and forces both the man with the guitar and the girl to carry their instrument between their legs, because, she says in a loud voice, the bus is now half capaciry, but it's going to get full! Finally, the bus is released and we start the trip.

The road at last

Not even 2 minutes the bus leaves and both the guitarist and the girl place their instruments in the upper luggage racks in which they fit perfectly without disturbing anyone. The bus is not bad, 2 floors with a sleeping car area below and common seats on the upper floor, there is water in sealed plastic cups in compartments at the bottom and next to the stairs, the water is warm, but hey we are tolerant and we are not going to complain about it. The usb chargers in many of the seats do not work, but hey, it is quite normal... The TVs don't seem to work, but well, the bus is at half capacity so within everything that happen we are calm, and we repeat, we do not like to complain about details.

Shortly after leaving São Paulo and already in the middle of the road it starts to rain heavily, a Brazilian who was sleeping in one of the back seats suddenly changes seats and stands in front of us, the guy tries to get some sleep and in front of our inquisitive gaze, comments that he woke up wet, we look at him in perplexity, "yes I get wet", he repeats to us, it seems that water is entering the bus from somewhere. We get desperate because we carry our backpack on the floor with important things in it, however when we check we see that it is perfectly dry, we come to the conclusion that there is a leak but it is only on the right side of the bus, possibly the rain is filtering through a window on that side, after a while we discovered that most of those who are sitting on that side claim that their seats, their belongings or themselves are wet, the left side of the bus has no problem, which leads to further investigation of the matter, It turns out that there is no rain leaking through the windows, but rather that the liquid from the air conditioning falls on the rope that holds the curtains and drips on part of the seats on that side. A few passengers are with clothes, backpacks and seats wet.

We arrive at the Curitiba terminal and some more passengers get on, it's early morning and it has stopped raining, we begin to do the math and we assume that in a maximum of 12 hours we will be in Foz do Iguaçú to cross the border, we imagine that more people will enter there but we do not understand how it is possible that the bus is going to fill up as the infamous employee in red said in São Paulo. We fall asleep happily in our naivety and selfishly thinking that since we weren't charged for excess baggage or got wet, the trip won't have been so bad after all: strong Karma is coming...

The long and winding road

When we woke up, with the clarity of the dawn, we began to see suspiciously familiar hills, the kind of hills that proliferate along the coast in southern Brazil and give the landscape its characteristic appeal. There are no hills like this in route to Foz do Iguaçú, we know it well, and a cold runs down our backs, after a while we begin to see skyscrapers in the distance and there we fall into reality: we are arriving at Camboriú! Apparently the bus will go around and pick up people on all the beaches of southern Brazil, through Porto Alegre, through intermediate towns, through countless and unknown terminals in the deep interior of this country until, finally, it will (someday) enter Argentina through the international bridge Uruguaiana / Paso de los Libres. And then certainly, fulfilling the prophecy of a full bus that the JBL employee shouted when we left São Paulo.

We are optimists by nature and we tell ourselves that it is a good opportunity to photograph and publish this beach route in the state of Santa Catarina that is beautiful, not so much now that it is completely cloudy and dark, but anyway...

There are no major incidents in this part of the trip, the drivers drive well and know the route well, they are nice, and everything is ok, if it weren't for the fact that the bus stops at every damn place it has a bus station we would be happy with the trip. Stop at Camboriú of course, stop at the Florianópolis terminal, get more people, stop in Garopaba, stop in Imbituba of course, also stop in Tubarão, stops near Laguna, stops in Sombrio for 1 hour of lunch, and so on until we begin to see that it is going to reach Porto Alegre well at the end of the afternoon, and as for the time of arrival at the border with Argentina, the calculations begin to be constantly recalculated, but everyone agrees that it will be well into the early hours of Friday morning, we leave São Paulo Wednesday night, it's good to remember.

We arrive in Porto Alegre and there a lot of people get on, the bus fills up to the brim and adding up the hours of delay, the trip begins to be annoying. We leave the terminal and shortly after we leave, on the outskirts of the city, the company enters a support workshop with the company logo, we know many support points of other bus companies, this one is particularly primitive, there are several buses parked with different degrees of seniority, there is a woman for cleaning and an employee who we imagine does a bit of everything, the woman gets on and cleans the bus superficially, after about 20 minutes we continue our journey. It's starting to get dark.

The Darkest Night

Hours pass. Now the bus travels unanimously at night through an inhospitable area of ​​the state of Rio Grande do Sul when suddenly the driver heads abruptly to the shoulder, no strange noise or imbalance was heard that suggests that there has been a puncture in one of the tires, however, the bus parks on the shoulder and after several minutes continues standing there, the passengers begin to crowd in the windows and one by one they begin to descend; Rumors soon appear that something broke and that we will not be able to continue our journey. We are in the absolute middle of nowhere, practically total darkness, it is also a road with a long history of insecurity, it is something to worry about seriously.

We also got off the bus and it turns out that a hose burst and they are trying to fix it temporarily, at least to get to a fuel station, passengers are asked if someone has a knife or a razor, a woman comes down after a while with something similar to a Swiss army knife, however the drivers helped by people from the passage are already cutting an old inner tube in order to temporarily patch the hose and thus we could get out of this nowhere.

They get it after about 30 minutes, rumors range from that hose can be changed at the nearby fuel station (unrealistic considering the time and the inhospitable place) to the fearsome hypothesis that they will have to to wait for a new bus to be able to continue the trip, we are about 220 km from Porto Alegre, where the company has the only known point of support, the outlook is very bleak.

With the problem temporarily fixed, we arrived at a fuel station, many people got off, we got off too and asked one of the drivers what the situation was, he replied that they had already called the support point and that they were being sent a new bus and that it will arrive in about 3 or 4 hours, in front of our terrified gaze he adds, trying to relieve us, that he thinks it will be sooner but just in case he says more. We thanks him.

Resignation, there is a kind of place in the fuel station where drinks and some snacks are sold, we are optimistic (we have to repeat this again to make it clear) we know that at least we won't go hungry and thirsty to die.

The long wait for the rescue bus

A good part of the peaple begins to socialize because they have no choice, several even drink beer that is not very expensive here, the Argentine guitarist and the girl who cried over her confiscated guitar in São Paulo seem to have become friends and they are sitting at the side of the station playing music. She plays classical music, he plays some songs by Caetano Veloso but no one pays much attention to them. A good group is concentrated in the vicinity of the kiosk, and other people try to sleep as best they can inside the broken bus. Some people who are close to us comment that they travel frequently with this company and that always breaks something on these buses, that the delays are normal.

Hours and hours go by. Finally the rescue bus arrives and while everyone applauds euphoric and relieved, two hypotheses of possible futures emerge, some say that we will all have to transfer (and transfer the hold luggage) to the new bus to continue our journey, others incredibly support the delusional theory of that they will remove the damaged part from the new bus and replace it so that we can continue traveling on the same bus. We don't know whether to laugh or worry about this ridiculous idea, we start to gather our things and stop to get off when suddenly someone says to stop, that we're going to stay on the same bus and that they're already fixing the problem. Perplexed and worried about the future of humanity, we sit down again, after a while a driver gets on and orders everyone to get off; logically common sense triumphs, we are going to continue traveling on the new bus. We all got out and helped pass the luggage. Once the transfer of everything to the "new" bus is complete, we start off.

It is still dark and the driver begins to speed up too much, dangerously, we assume that with the intention of making up for lost time, we know that unless this new bus can exceed the speed of light and time begins to move in reverse there is no way to recover the accumulated delay hours; there is also a new problem, a problem derived from the prolonged stoppage and that is added to the chain of events: before we were going to cross the border at dawn, with which the delay would be minimal, now we will cross in the middle of the morning, at rush hour close to noon , we have to prepare for an excruciating wait at customs.

Someone got mad at JBL before

We sleep and with the first light the landscape already looks more like that of the pampas, one of the drivers begins to ask everyone for documents, passports and other bureaucracies. It is to speed up the customs process, he tells us. With the clarity we can see our new habitat better, we are struck by the fact that the TV monitors are all scratched in the new bus, as if deliberately scratched, as if vandalized, and we joke that must be made by furius passengers who previously passed through the same martyrdom that we are going through on this trip, or perhaps for something even worse, says a girl who is sitting close. We laughed a bit and then we were serious and thoughtful.

The girl is a journalist and travels to Buenos Aires to cover a Gamer event for a Porto Alegre magazine, she has to return on Monday with a ticket from this same company, now that we are all like family we tell her that we are worried about her; she laughs, then she becomes serious and thinks for a while, she looks at the vandalized monitors and says that she better change the ticket and return with another company or by plane. We are happy for her.

We arrive at the Uruguaiana terminal before 9 in the morning, a lot of people get off and the bus becomes more comfortable. A few kilometers from here, in a straight line, the wide plains of the Argentine fields stretch out. It will not be easy to get there, as expected and imagined, customs at rush hour are a constellation of trucks, cars and buses piled up, and there is more delay and accumulated hours to the already existing delay, between the 2 customs another 3 hours are lost and just we managed to enter the long-awaited Argentine roads at noon.

Argentina at last

The day is sunny and the fields are green leaving Paso de los Libres city, we cross what remains of Corrientes state and enter Entre Ríos state to cross it from north to south. Sunset on the road. We stopped for the last time in Gualeguaychú to eat something, then the Zárate - Brazo Largo bridge, then Panamericana and then the night of the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires that unfolds in front of us. Finally 10 hours in a row without incident to highlight in the blessed JBL.

We arrived at the Retiro terminal around 10 pm on Friday, almost 9 hours behind the time promised when we bought our ticket, almost 49 hours in total since we left São Paulo.

We are tired, but full of stories to tell.


Conclusions

This chronicle is only a one-off experience, perhaps unfortunate, and we do not doubt that there are people who have been lucky and traveled without problems with this company, especially in high season, when surely they be much more careful with the maintenance of their buses and customer service.

However, there are things that deserve to be highlighted about this company: we get the feeling that JBL has a business model similar to what low-cost airlines are in the air transport business: prices much lower than the competition, reduce costs as much as possible and try to fill the bus always at full capacity, stops at each terminal in each town even if it is only for 1 passenger to get in and routes including multiple attractive destinations, in the case of the São Paulo - Buenos Aires route, this implies go via Camboriú, Florianópolis, Porto Alegre and Uruguaiana instead of the shortest route such as going via Foz do Iguaçu, the route is not showed when buying the ticket online, because as we will see later, the purchase It is done via external websites that only post arrival times.

What worries us the most is the feeling of lack of maintenance in the buses, we repeat, perhaps that is corrected in high season, but well, what we saw in practice and what we heard from frequent passengers draws negative attention.

We were also very concerned about the abuses regarding baggage control, it may be that it only happens in São Paulo, in that sense it would be very useful for everyone to tell us about their experience in this or other terminals, commenting on it here,

It would also be interesting for the company to get in touch to make their statement, especially in relation to their excess baggage / hand luggage policy and explain the reason for the overpricing in this area.

Important Recommendations

The recommendation to our readers is that they be very cautious and analyze very carefully the cost / benefit / risk ratio they want to assume when travel by this company, JBL's ticket prices are generally cheaper than those of the competition, if nothing happens and the bus arrives relatively on time you will have saved money and will leave the experience happy, on the contrary, if you are out of luck and have a trip like the one we had, cheap will have been very expensive.

Pay close attention to the arrival times and compare them with those of the competition, because that will give you an idea of ​​the number of stops that there will be and the route that the bus will take, in this case even if they had arrived on time, it would have been a 40-hour trip from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, and this route can be done in 36 or 37 hours via Foz de Iguaçú with a company that stops less.

Also pay close attention to the luggage you are going to carry, if you plan to travel with more than 30 kilograms per person in the group, make sure of the price you will be charged in case of excess before buying the ticket, it is better to buy in person in this case.

The same if you plan to take with you anything out of the ordinary as hand luggage, such as musical instruments, surfboards, irregular-sized objects, and anything that doesn't fit in a normal backpack.

Website / Buy tickets online

Their website only exists in Portuguese, which itself is already strange if we take into consideration that the company bears the name "JBL international" and operates with 2 Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina and Chile.

The company does not have its own online points of sale on its web page, therefore it depends on external websites to sell its tickets online, from Brazil it uses clickbus, and from Argentina plataforma 10.

Comments, disclaimers, other problems you have had with this or another bus company and everything related to this chronicle, you can tell us here

Information . 14 October 2021 . brazilbeachtravel

UPDATE 3/4/2022

With the new decree of 4/1/2022, the restrictions are reduced to the presentation of proof of vaccination (at least two doses) in printed or electronic form for everyone over 5 years old, the second vaccine dose must have been taken at least 14 days before enter Brazilian territory, also its no longer mandatory to fill Traveler's Health Declaration

Our Updated article with Entry Requirements

Click to see latest decree (1/4/2022) migratory covid restrictions in Brazil (Portuguese)


They have been very difficult times, and international tourism has been most affected by the covid-19 pandemic, borders were closed, flights routes disappeared indefinitely and we got used to short trips within our own countries as the only relief to our traveling spirit.

With mass vaccination, however, the world slowly returns to normal and Brazil is no exception, for those of us who love to travel to this wonderful country, lay down again on the white sand of its beaches begins to stop being a distant dream and is emerging as a possible reality.

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Guide to get to 3 of the most important beaches of the São Paulo coast: Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Guarujá.

Praia do Bonete - Ilhabela

Guarujá, Ilhabela, and Ubatuba. Information and beaches of 3 of the most important destinations on the coast of the State of São Paulo

playa desierta en Ilhabela - Litoral de São Paulo

Trindade, 29 kilometers from Paraty (Rio de Janeiro), between mountains, Atlantic forest and sea.

Trindade

Reflection on the beginning of the history of Brazil and its conquest

Indigenas de la tribu Pataxós - sur de Bahia

Ideal option for those thinking of a trip to southern Brazil this summer and want to avoid the most common destinations

Playa Prainha en Guarda do Embaú

Porto Seguro, beaches, dancing and much Axé, fun 24 hours in the capital of the coast of discovery.

Playa de Coroa Vermelha

Gateway to the beautiful coastal landscapes of the Ceará coastline, beaches with colorful cliffs, lagoons and immense dunes on the seafront, are the typical landscape of this region

Playa Iracema

The most popular urban beach in southern Brazil, a mini Rio de Janeiro in the state of Santa Catarina.

vista de la playa central desde el telesférico

Located in the state of Rio de Janeiro, 160 kilometers from the capital of Rio de Janeiro, Angra dos Reis is the gateway to the impressive landscapes of the Brazilian tropical islands, among which is Ilha Grande .

playa en Angra dos Reis

The Búzios peninsula combines impressive natural charms and a sophisticated infrastructure 190 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro

Playa João Fernandes en Búzios

Recife, historical and multicultural capital of the state of Pernambuco, is the main urban center of the Brazilian northeast.

Río en Recife

Brazilian Real Exchange Rate

Dolar (USDBRL $): 5.205 - 12/07/2022 - 20:23

Euro (EURBRL €): 5.472 - 12/07/2022 - 20:23

Pound (GBPBRL £): 6.356 - 12/07/2022 - 20:23

Historical weather for this month (December)

 
Max
Min
Rain
Florianópolis
28ºC
21ºC
140 mm
Río de Janeiro
31ºC
22ºC
170 mm
Salvador de Bahía
30ºC
24ºC
69 mm
Recife
32ºC
26ºC
20 mm
Fortaleza
31ºC
26ºC
21 mm

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