Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

How to take the bus in Florence and not get a fine

In case you think this article about “how to take the bus in Florence and not get a fine” is going to involve ways of getting out of paying for a ticket, you’re wrong. Lately there have been a lot of spot ticket controls on ATAF busses as they are cracking down on people who ride without paying; meanwhile every day I see tourists confused at how to buy and validate tickets.

To take the bus in Florence, you must buy a ticket in advance and validate it when you get on the bus. This is not as obvious or easy to do as it seems, so here are some instructions.

bus ticket machine on ATAF Firenze

bus ticket machine on ATAF Firenze

How to take the bus in Florence

First, buy a bus ticket.

WHERE? At any Tabacchi store (that has T on a black or blue background as per this photo), at news-stands that display the ATAF symbol, or at bars that display the ATAF symbol on the door. You’ll need to know how to ask for bus tickets: “biglietto autobus”.

Tabacchi sell bus tickets, cigarettes, stamps, and lottery.

Tabacchi sell bus tickets, cigarettes, stamps, and lottery.

WHICH TICKET? There are single trip and multi-trip options to save money. A single trip costs 1.20 euros and you can use the system for 90 minutes. There’s nothing stopping you from taking a bus, getting off, and getting on another bus (even in the return direction) using this single ticket. If you know you will be taking more than one trip, you save money with a 4-trip ticket (ask for “biglietto quattro corse”).

There is an electronic card for 10, 20, or 30 trips called “Carta Agile” that is very convenient. You can use this card even if you are more than one person. For example, a family of four needs to make 4 trips. By the Carta Agile and validate it once for each person, on each trip. See below on how to do that.

For tourists there are also multiple-day tickets. There are no childrens’ tickets, but kids under a meter high ride free when accompanied by an adult.

VALIDATE ON THE BUS: at the front and the back of the bus there is a ticket machine at which you must validate, or stamp, your ticket. There are three zones to the machine. The top is the electronic part for the carta Agile. Touch your card here and it beeps, and the display will show you the number of remaining trips. To validate for more than one person, touch it repeatedly at an interval of a few seconds (wait for the beep, then do it again). The middle zone of the machine is a mystery to us all. The bottom of the machine has the paper ticket stamper. Shove ticket in and wait for it to be properly grabbed and stamped. Check that you can see the stamp or writing on the ticket; if the machine doesn’t print properly and you get checked, you can get in trouble. If the machine at the back doesn’t work, try the one at the front. Only if the driver is aware that BOTH machines don’t work can you justify not having a valid ticket.

bus ticket validation machine in florence ATAF

bus ticket validation machine in florence ATAF

Plan your public transportation route in Florence

On the ATAF (Florence Bus) website there is a route planner, but it uses a rather old map service and doesn’t work too well. I suggest using Google Maps, which has integrated public transportation information at the street level. Zoom in to the area where you wish to arrive and look for the bus symbol. Click it and you get a list of busses that stop there. Click “directions”, insert your start point, select method “by public transportation” and you should get the best route.

Bus ticket controls in Florence

Ataf ticket campaign by Leader

Ataf ticket campaign by Leader

Since summer 2009, ATAF announced that there would be plenty of ticket controllers on board their busses as part of a crackdown on riders who don’t pay. Previously, checks were few and far between, and they were done by uniformed staff that you could see coming from a mile away. The campaign “No ticket, non parti” (no ticket, you don’t go – the verb is partire) is a play on martini ads with George Clooney that were big here in Italy (no martini, no party). ATAF’s print ads and press releases announce that the “nonni” – grandparents or retired ATAF staff will be lending a hand by checking tickets in exchange for minimal benefits (a bus pass and access to the company canteen!).

Either they were lying, or the campaign has evolved. Lately I have had my ticket checked every single day at various times including morning rush hour. And it’s not by grandparents wearing purple shirts. It’s by the most unlikely-looking, rasta sporting, friendly young people in normal clothing. They pull out an ATAF ID tag and say “hello, tickets please”, and they say goodbye and thank everyone on the way out. They’re sweet, they look like university students (and probably are) and you’d never suspect them.

The moral of the story? Buy a bus ticket. It’s the right thing to do.

Update: many people ask me what to do if they get a fine. The best thing to do is to go to the ATAF office at the train station and just pay the fine. That said, the bus fines have yet to be entered into an integrated computer system. There was a recent pilot project that gave handheld database devices to 8 ticket control agents but I have not seen them since. If you have an outstanding bus fine, I doubt that you will be denied entry to the country. But, if you got a fine, even if it really wasn’t your fault, be on the safe side and pay up.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

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  • LeeBZ

    Here in Bolzano/Boz the machines look different, but the work the same way (and have a similarly mysterious spot on the machine that no one can explain). However, on a few newer busses they actually have ticket machines as well – but not all the busses do, so it's best to get the ticket in advance, just like everywhere else in Italy!

  • CA

    Thanks for your kind notes. Question of Carta Agile on transfering… When I transfer from a bus to another I should validate my bus card again or can ride a bus without a touch again? Of course in an hour. ^^

  • Tuscany Arts

    Hi CA. If you're within the 90 minute limit of the ticket, do NOT re-validate with your carta agile. You can transfer to as many busses as you like within that time period.
    thanks for asking!

  • Brookstar_

    I received an on-the-spot fine in 2002 in Florence for not having a ticket whilst riding the bus. I did not pay this fine. I also did not receive any further notice to my home address in Australia regarding the fine. I am now wishing to return to Italy for a holiday but am worried that somehow the authorities will catch up with me, even though it was some 8 years ago, and I didnt actually receive any letter of notice following the on-the-spot fine. Does anybody have any advice as to what i should do about this. I'd like to find out how to pay this fine, but don't even know where to start…..

  • arttrav

    That is very honest of you! I would say don't worry, just come back to Italy. I doubt that ataf (bus co) has a computer at all, let alone one connected to immigration's! If you wish, you could try bringing the fine to the ataf office at Santa Maria novella to pay it, which will surely provoke riotous laughter on part of employees. If you do that pls let me come with you as i will want to blog about it! Write to Alexandra info at arttrav dot com.

  • Brookstar_

    Thanks 4 your reply! I know I sound ludicrous, worring over something that happened so long ago! I Just don't want to turn up at the airport and risk get arrested (on my honeymoon)! I would never hear the end of it!!

    I don't have a copy of the actual fine itself. The on-the-spot fine has since been destroyed. Since then, we did not receive any formal notice or anything further in the mail at home.

    From what I understand, they are supposed to send you a formal notice of the fine within 12 months time via registered post.This I definitely did not receive. All we were given was the ticket from the inspectors book.

    Do you think I can i safely assume ATAF will have no record of me on their system since the ticket does not even appear to have been written up formally?

    Thanking you in advance for your reply – I really appreciate it!!

  • arttrav

    Dear Brookstar

    Really, I am quite sure that ataf won't have you in their computer. Or if

    they do, they'd have to catch you first. This country lacks integrated

    computer systems (like, health integrated with immigration or driving

    licenses). Furthermore, ATAF as a company has changed hands just this year

    so it's even more unlikely that they are going to find a way to go after old


    Congrats on your honeymoon in Tuscany! Let me know if I can help you with

    any ideas for your plan. Arttrav has a facebook fan page ( – check out the right sidebar on this page) so if

    you're on fb join us there where we can continue to converse!

    Considering your current public transportation woes, i'm going to write a

    post for you about how not to get a speeding ticket next… seriously! it's

    a problem…

    Best regards


    ps too bad you don't have the fine though; i was already salivating over the

    blog post i'd get to write out of this… ;-)

  • Brookstar_

    Dear Alexandra,

    Thanks again for all of your advice on this – I think I am just going to go to Italy now and just not worry about it!!

    As far as planning the honeymoon goes, it would be great to converse further with you about this. I have a rough plan but your local knowledge would be invaluable!! Do you have an email adress I can get you on as I dont really want to put too much information on this blog or facebook.

    Best Regards


  • arttrav

    Hi B

    sure, you can email me directly at info @ arttrav .com

    I do encourage you to get help from facebook groups or forums online though

    – you don't have to put your exact dates or personal information. Often the

    crowd knows best, while my advice tends to be quite personal and

    opinion-based. In any advice you ask, to me or others, be sure to state your

    interests (ie I like hiking or I like museums) and the season in which

    you're traveling for the most tailored advice.



  • margalit fishler

    1)I need help I am in an electric wheelchair i need a van with a lift or a ramp to take me from the florence airport to hotel golden tower in the city where can i find one
    2}or if not is there is a bus from the airport that can take me from the airport to the city
    3}i can NOT FOLD my electric wheelchair
    best regards
    margalit fishler

  • arttrav

    Hi Margalit
    While some of Florence’s busses are equipped with lifts, I would not count
    on every bus having one, especially the airport bus. Also, busses tend to be
    very crowded so it might be hard to navigate them.

    I just looked up your hotel which looks VERY nice and it’s perfectly located
    so that you should never need to take a bus, and will be able to get around
    the center well in your electric wheelchair. Great choice! Being a 5 star
    hotel, I would contact them and ask them to arrange for a compatible van to
    pick you up at the airport. Also of course make sure you confirm directly
    with them that your room will be accessible.

    If you need some extra help during your stay, or if you are interested in
    traveling outside of Florence at all, there’s a specialized travel agency
    that might be able to help you:

    Hope that helps!
    Best regards

  • Mariquita2011

    Today I boarded the bus. I did not validate my bus ticket because I was
    not sure if an inspector will show up. When suddenly an inspector
    boarded the bus, I went to validate my ticket right away and he saw me
    saying that I validated my ticket too late saying that I had the
    intention of not validating it so he gave me a ticket and wanted a
    document (no document=police station). So I showed a photocopy of my
    passport and he wrote my name, birthdate and passport numbers. But I
    gave a bogus address here in Florence. I’ve been in Florence as a
    student for almost 4 years. What Irony! The thing is, I am leaving the
    country in a week, and I was wondering if I could get away with it? My
    concern is that if I don’t pay the fine, they might put my name in the
    European Union Database or something, so that the next time I ever enter
    the EU, I might be asked at the airport to pay a fine or get whisked
    away by the police!!! I am also afraid that they might find my address
    in my home country, and mail a threatening letter… Oh what should I

  • arttrav

    If you’ve been a student here for 4 years, you know the rules. IMO, you should do the honest thing and pay the fine. We all pay to ride the bus, and the company needs our fees to keep running. It should not be out of fear of being banned from the EU that you pay the fine, though this may happen, but out of honesty and civic duty. If you were in your home country, would you try to cheat your way out of paying anything?

  • Jvhdalahi

    Hi, we are students from england and we recieved a fine this summer when boarding a crowded bus in florence without a ticket. We thought we could pay for the ticket on the bus but could not get through the crowd to the driver. We were given a 50euros fine on the bus but contested the fine. 110 days later(even though we were told it would be 60days) we have recieved a follow up fine of 95euros each which we cannot afford to pay. The letter we recieved is in italian which we cannot read or make any sense to make an appeal for our unfair treatment. Is there any advice you can give us? If we do not pay the fine what is likely to be the follow up?

    johnny and kitty

  • arttrav

    Hi Johnny and Kitty
    I am really not sure what to suggest. I’m sorry this happened to you during your stay in Florence. It is everyone’s responsibility to be informed about how the bus system works (that’s why i have the post – to help) and you are RIGHT that you can buy the ticket on the bus for a premium (2 euros). I think contesting or negotiating down the fine would be the solution, but I am not sure how to do it. So, I posted your question on the ataf fan page and am waiting for an answer. Here is the link to where i posted it ( If they write back i’ll translate their answer for you here.

  • Johnny and Kitty

    Thankyou for you help Alexandra! I have seen you post on the ataf facebook fan page and seen their reply, i have tried to translate their reply online but cant really make much sense of what they said! If you could let me know that would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks again

  • arttrav

    Here is the answer from ATAF
    Allora, il discorso è questo: Quando c’è un ricorso, nel caso venga respinto, la sanzione può essere aumentata fino a un massimo di 240 euro e ciò rientra nella normativa vigente (L.R. n° 42/1998 e successive modifiche).
    L’affollamento della vettura non giustifica la mancata obliterazione del titolo in quanto le violazioni vengono contestate anche in considerazione di questo elemento contingente: se il controllo a bordo è stato possibile nella fattispecie, era evidentemente possibile anche obliterare il biglietto, sebbene questa operazione debba implicare un po’ di buona volontà, in caso di particolare affollamento del mezzo.

    Translated as: Okay, here’s the issue. When there is a contestation of the fine, if it’s rejected, the fine can be raised further until a maximum of 240 euros (this is according to the law… cited above).
    The vehicle being crowded does not justify a lack of stamping one’s ticket. We take into account when there is a contestation of the fine the fact that if it was humanly possible for the ticket controllers to work their way around the bus to do the control, obviously it was possible (ie not so crowded) also to stamp the ticket, even if this could be difficult if the bus is crowded.

    So there you have it. A non-answer, but an answer that essentially means you should pay up or keep receiving fines that will just get higher with time.
    On the other hand, i cannot tell you what will happen if you don’t pay. As
    far as I know, There is no way for them to connect this fine to your
    passport and block your entry to the country… :)

  • Insidious

    Excellent info, still 100% accurate!

  • Kathleen

    This is very useful — thank you so much for taking the time to write it up!

  • arttrav

    Glad to help!

  • kerrianna

    which id seen this before i went to Rome!

    bought our tickets got on a extremely packed bus, not realizing we had to stamp the ticket and ended up getting dragged of the bus by Rome’s traffic police, left in the middle of know where, and ordered to pay 100 euro’s! :-(

  • arttrav

    Oh I am so sorry to hear that. Yes, the “stamp your ticket on the bus” thing is common to ALL italian cities :(

  • Lauren Yu-Lou Wang

    I have been to Florence many times but never knew how to take the bus. Thank you so much for the information! I have made a simple translation in Mandarin, hope you don’t mind. :)

  • arttrav

    Hi Lauren
    that’s super cool! Let us know the link here or maybe you could tweet it @arttrav and I will happily retweet it! What kind of blog are you running? Is there other possible collaboration between us?

  • Peter Aczel

    Useful article. Even if for me and my wife it is late…We spent some days in Florence this summer. We bought our tickets in the tobacco shop. We got on the bus – then got two fines, 50-50 Euros for each of us. Yes, we did not stamp the tickets. But the really bad thing was not to pay the 100 Euros. We had enough money not to be disturbed by that 100 Euros. The bad thing was that the officer was a sooo disgusting woman – I mean her behavior was so disgusting, as she was shouting, making a parade, speaking only italian except two or three english words. She was a nice young woman, a police officer with a really rude behavior. I am 64 year old, my wife is 58, she was about 28. Her behavior was so so disgusting, We never, never will go back to Florence. Never ever.

  • arttrav

    Dear Peter
    I am so sorry this happened to you. I have seen this happen a lot of times, the officers (or ATAF workers more often) are usually not all that rude. It was your honest mistake, it sounds like, and you didn’t deserve this treatment. I am sorry that this will make you never come back to our city. If I thought the bus company cared, I would send them your email, but unfortunately, ATAF is the most hateful and horrible company who creates disservice to citizens and tourists on a daily basis, so there is no point. I hope that one day you will come back – and stay in the center, and not take the bus!
    Best regards

  • Peter Aczel

    Yes, sure, it was our mistake. Btw. we lived in the center of the city but we wanted to see the view from the top of the hill that’s why we took the bus. Anyway Florence is one of the most beutiful city of the world even if that officer was not one of the most polite ones of the world. We had spent a week in Venice (which is the center of my heart) then went to Florence for only a few days. Next time we go to Venice we surely will not travel to Florence, we will spend all of our holiday in Venice – which is not one but the only one most beautiful city of the world.
    But my son and his wife and their little baby will go to Florence in a month because every human being most see this wonderful city at least once in his/her life.

  • Peter Aczel

    My son, his wife and their one year year old little baby have just come back from Florence. The bag of the wife of my son was stolen the last day. My son opened every trash bins nearby – there were plenty of empty bags in them! The stolen bags. They had to run to the police to get some official paper to be able to come back to Hungary…Never ever will we go there. Never. Not me, not my two sons and our relatives. And I will suggest to my colleages not to go there either. The police works hard in Florence to punish the strangers on the buses. But the burglers of Florence can work easily – the police officers are on the buses. I love the wonderful Italian culture of the past – but not the present of Florence, this beautiful historical city. Venice – yes, its a good place to spend some fabulous days there, lovely city, but Florence is too dangerous. Sorry.

  • arttrav

    Dear Peter,
    This is terrible :( You guys always have the worst luck in Florence – this is not the experience of the typical visitor. I am sorry that these combined incidents will make you tell everyone you know never to come here. Alexandra

  • Peter Aczel

    Yes, we had the worst luck in Florence – nevertheless I am convinced every people has to see this beautiful historical city once in his life. We did it – and if we go to Italy again the city we will spend our holiday will be Venice – again. (We were there three times and it was always sooo good!) Its as wonderful (or even more with its lagoons) than Florence, and absolute trouble-free and secure.

  • Peter Aczel

    Happy (almost) end: my daughter-in-law has just given me a phone call. She told me the postman brought her a package tuday. Her wallet was in the package! With all of her important papers (identity card, driver licence, etc. There was no money in it but it does not matter. The worst thing in thatbrubbery was losing the personal papers – and now she got it! I think the burgler took the wallet out of the bag, took the money out of the wallet then throw the into a trash bin. And later a good italian man/woman found it there took it out, and seeing the address on the papers, he/she sent it to Hungary, to my daughter-in-law. I have to say there are really wonderful people in Florence, not only ugly police officers on the buses and burgoers on the streets. And of course ai am sure there are much more eonderful people there than ugly ones. Thanks for that unidentified, great man/women, who spent his/her time with this isuue and sent the wallet back, many, many thanks! He/she gave back my adoration and love towards Italian culture, poeople, Florence, everything. :)

  • arttrav

    Phew! I am so glad to hear that someone has redeemed your opinion of Florentines! Of course, the largest percentage of people are great, it’s that one bad person who ruins it for everyone.

  • Frank

    My wife and I bought tickets for the bus but we thought all you had to do is tap them against the reader rather than insert them into the machine. The instructions were not clear, the bus was very full and we did what we also did in Venice with their ferry tickets. 2 inspectors came on board and marched us off the bus, gave us 2 tickets of 50 Euros and expected payment on the spot, when we said we did not have money to pay at the time they ordered us to use the ATM across the road, our cards were not activated for o/s use so we said we could not pay on the spot. After much discussion for half an hour about giving us the tickets to pay later, they refused so we walked away and they followed us for 4 blocks until we went into the tourists office and through the whole thing they screamed abuse at us, we felt so ashamed an intimidated. the whole routine seemed well rehearsed and executed to target tourists. We will never ever go to Florence again as everyone in this city is out to get the tourists one way or another from toll booths that don’t work to the poorly signed ZTL zones with cameras above the signs giving no notice to drivers, to pickpockets, to persistent street hawkers. I shared my story with all my friends colleagues and family who said they would never go there either.

  • arttrav

    Dear Frank
    This is becoming a story I hear too often – if you read the comments above on this post you’ll see a similar story of tourist humiliation. I’m sorry because the city is lovely and most of its people are too. Unfortunately the ATAF staff are particularly horrible. I am not sure if it is their fault, but I suffer at their hands daily as well, as a resident who pays an annual bus ticket!
    best regards

  • arttrav

    Hi Michelle
    I’m not sure. What was the fanpage in question?

  • arttrav

    Hi michelle- the answer from ATAF is posted and translated here below

  • Bekkah Masci

    HAD THE EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE. My boyfriend and I were on our way to the station. When we hopped on the bus I asked the driver for 2 tickets and gave him 5 euros, he just waved and said ‘Free ride, get on’ So we got on at the top of Pizzale Michelangelo (no Tabbachi stores to buy a ticket up there!) .
    2 Stops from the station we saw inspectors come on so I said ‘Hi, the driver told us to come on for free..’ This absolute scumbag of a inspector went off his nut saying its our responsibility… I told him I had my money and was willing to pay, the driver was another pig too, lazy looking at his phone and not bothered to get the tickets from his pocket. Isn’t it the drivers responsibility to see who is coming on to his bus? My boyfriend and I were in absolute shock, he wanted our passports and was threatening us said he was calling the cops. We were on such a tight budget for a month long trip and they just TOOK money from us. We will never return to Florence, so disgusted. We have travelled all over Europe and live in London and when the driver says it’s free, then it’s free. I’ll be writing a complaint.

  • arttrav

    This is one of the worst ATAF controller stories I have read. Thanks for sharing, though once again I am sorry on behalf of the city of Florence that you had this experience. Please do follow up here if you get a response to your complaint.

  • Marie

    I will never, ever go to Florence again, dealing with ATAF ruined my experience. First of all, the controllers could not speak any English, evidenced by the fact that they wrote my zip code down where my document number was supposed to be and vice versa, also wrote my street name for my last name. They were very nasty and yelling at my friend and I who attend CAPA for our semester studying abroad. Neither of us happened to have our bus passes on us because they were back at our apartment that we were one stop away from but they would not listen when we said that we would gladly fetch them for them to see. Yes it’s our fault for forgetting them but it would be nice if they either let it go or walked less than 1000 ft to where our apartment was so we could show them. They said if we did not pay them on the spot the fine would go up to 90 euros which I’m pretty sure is inaccurate. So we paid them, even though we figured we could maybe get away with not paying them since they filled out the wrong information on the tickets. They took advantage of the fact that we did not know Italian and made a big scene on the bus and made my friend cry. Awful psychopaths just out to exploit people.

  • arttrav

    Dear Marie,
    That is awful – especially as if you do have a bus pass, you have a right to a reduced fine and must exhibit the pass within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the more I hear, the more these cases seem to be frequent, aimed at people who don’t speak Italian, or at disabled people or those unable to fend for themselves. Thank you for sharing your story. Maybe one day, ATAF will read my blog.

  • Patricia

    It is so frustrating, I really believe the ATAF people target tourist. We got on the bus (First time), we had our tickets but thought you stamped it when you are about to leave. Two inspectors ask my son for his ticket, we showed it to them and they told us that it was not valid because it wasn’t stamped, we try to tell them what we thought, the woman was very rude and demanded our passports, we didn’t have them, so just showed them our ID’s gave us a ticket and wanted $50 euros each. We didn’t have any money so we just got the ticket and left. The lady was rude and and I’m 100% they target tourist for easy money. Florence is such a nice City but they just really take advantage of tourist. She also told us that if we didn’t pay we will have to pay $22K in fines. Now, we don’t have the tickets, we lost them in our trip. Not sure if it matters, but it sure ruin part of our vacation, leaving a bad impression of the City and their people.

  • Priscilla

    Well after reading all these comments at least I know I’m not alone. I spent 6 out of 10 days in Italy on my last trip to Europe and had a wonderful time. Except when riding the bus in Florence. My mother and her husband had come from the U.S. to meet me there and we were fulfilling my mothers lifelong dream to see Tuscany. As they are a little older we decided to ride the bus to the Piazelle Michelangelo and save the walk. The trip there was fine and it wasn’t until we tried to ride back down the the Ataf agents boarded the bus. We had each stamped our tickets each time we boarded the bus (not having read the ticket and not thinking it would be as complicated as it became). We had become separated by the crowd and I was sitting alone when the agent looked at my ticket and handed it back, saying nothing. I saw the agent talking to my mother and walked over to see what was the matter. Long story short, because of two reasons they got a 50€ ticket each: 1. The tickets had been stamped twice
    2. Their names were not written on the tickets.
    The tickets had obviously been stamped (although incorrectly) and I have never before experienced an issue with WRITING MY NAME ON A 24 HOUR TICKET. I had to manage the situation as my mother is easily upset and I ended up paying the fines basically on the spot just to have the situation end.
    I cannot believe that these agents obviously targeted an older couple for this, when my ticket was just as wrong.
    AND that we obviously had stamped the tickets as we should have (clearly on the same day, actually within an hour of each stamp) and they were 24 HOUR TICKETS!
    The whole situation was a disaster and left a bad taste for the rest of the trip. I visited Venice, Milan and Rome and had no problems, not to mention Paris and London. Florence is definitely on my list of cities to avoid, if the main bus system is set up to target tourists (especially older couples?!?) there is no reason to visit, especially when other cities in Italy have so much to offer. I should mention that have nothing against Florentines in general and actually enjoyed every other interaction there!

  • arttrav

    This is crazy and just wrong! Thank you for adding to my collection of horror stories. I am sorry this happened to you here.