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Dear retailers -- big and small,

Let me start with a bit about fish...

There is a place I used to go to in my neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota that had the best walleye. Their claim to fame was (and still is) that Mikhail Gorbachev ate walleye there the first trip he made to the United States back at the end of the Cold War. The walleye was very good and the service was very bad -- consistently so. So consistent, that we continued to go as much out of curiosity as convenience. Each time we went for drinks or lunch, it was as bad or worse than the previous time. There was something to be said for their approach to service. It was almost charmingly unprofessional -- and then I grew up. I haven't been back since.

Onward to the eyeglasses...

Before I get too far, let me state that out of the dozen or so pairs of eyeglasses I've received, only one pair had anything wrong with the prescription. That may be due to me checking each number of my prescription three or four times before I hit submit, knowledge I've gained in the past nine months in this arena, or luck (which hasn't been great lately in other aspects of my life). Regardless of the reasons, I've been really happy -- or I wouldn't be touting you guys like I have been. Perhaps you've noticed?

Buying eyeglasses is not meant to be a charming endeavor (save for a few quaint boutiques if money is no object). Buying them online at an affordable price, even less so -- but why? Think of the good will you as a retailer have a chance to cultivate. Think of the return visitors and that there could be more like me standing on the mountain tops screaming to everyone who is within earshot about you.

The majority of the people internet-literate enough to wade through this process are likely to have enough cash, sense, and (if they're reading this blog) good taste to return to buy more. They'll tell their friends how great you, even if the first pair they buy are broken or wrong in some other way -- if the issue is dealt with professionally and efficiently.

It isn't THAT difficult, and should be of paramount concern to you, to make sure that the stuff you are shipping out is correct. If it's not, don't argue with the customer... Never do that! Send a corrected pair out, and tag it for production in such a way that the jackass who blew the last set isn't connected to the replacement pair in any way -- and MAKE SURE someone who is accountable looks them over and checks the prescription and build before they go out (People are writing to me about replacement pairs showing up with identical build errors!).

Seriously, a replacement $20 pair of eyeglasses (even $25 with shipping) is a very wise investment -- especially with a site like this out here. One thing is certain, people are even more likely to complain loudly than they are to compliment and when it's done in the forums here about your site, it WILL hurt you -- and try to big picture this with me... the entire industry. I realize you are all in competition with each other, and that things will shake out over the next few years, but you're hurting more than yourself when you behave badly.

Those websites...

Viewing the design and trying to read the text on some of these websites (I'm talking to you Zenni, O4L, and Global EyeGlasses) has been shown to cause eyes to bleed and perhaps even bring about mild strokes -- at least this has been my experience.

I beseech you to consider hiring someone who can handle basic conversational English to monitor this and other forums online to identify and address issues quickly (and allow them to give the website a "once over"). Each spelling or usage error on the site will turn off a certain number of people. If they question your ability in any way, they'll move on to the site that doesn't contain obvious errors.

I hope that at least some of you read this and begin to (or continue to) respond to your customers with consistent, professional improvement.


Ira Mitchell

The folks over at Global Eyeglasses gave their site a makeover and asked me to give them another look. They insisted that the service issues noted in the forums a few months ago were a thing of the past. At first glance, the site does look good. They really need a professional native English-speaking copy-writer to clean up the language, but functionally it works pretty well.

Poking through the site, I avoided the more expensive designer frames, but these are definitely an option for those of you looking for a bargain on a label. Oddly enough, I found a brand-name pair of TAG Heuer frames that seemed to fit the bill at a $20 frame price. There are numerous photos (although they appear to not size all of them properly - kind of squished), and full size info, but not a whole lot of other information on these or any of the other frames I looked at. I would have liked to have seen a decent description. They looked hingeless, but I couldn't really tell. I used the LivePerson link on the page and got the information I needed. This was good, but I'd rather not have to go that route in the future.

The second pair I wanted was a pair of sunglasses. I spotted a pair that looked close to what I needed and ordered them.

Within a minute, I had a confirmation email that they had received my order. The next day I got two more emails -- one that my order was being processed and another that it was being shipped. The shipping email included a link back to the site with the useless USPS tracking number. Overall I was impressed with the communication. This was three email more than I'd gotten from Zenni when I placed my first order.

A week later two boxes taped together with half a roll of packing tape (it took nearly five minutes to cut through all of it) arrived in my mail box. The first pair I opened ended up being the sunglasses. I ordered the "sleek metal case" with them and was surprised to find these arrive in exactly the opposite -- a bulbous, if not sturdy cardboard case. Oh well, not a big deal, I guess. The glasses themselves were a bit screwy too -- partly my fault and partly not. I neglected to heed my own advice on bigger lenses and didn't go the high-index route. They're thicker than I like. Additionally, this is the first pair of the dozen or so I've order online that wasn't tack sharp prescription-wise. I checked the prescription in the email confirmation and it was entered correctly. They also had two small scratches - one on each side of the lens (neither affect the view through the lenses).

I opened the second box hoping for a better result. I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality. The TAG Heuer frame was better looking than I thought it would be. I popped them on and the prescription was perfect. I went in and looked in the mirror and immediately noticed a mistake on my part. I neglected to order the anti-glare coating -- a must for someone with beautiful eyes like mine. That said, I've worn these pretty much full-time for the past two days and have gotten a number of compliments from women as varied as my wife, my mother, and my boss.

I batted .500 time. I'm as impressed with the TAGs (especially at more than 90% savings off the store prices) as much as I don't like the sunglasses.

Like many of the people who've contributed to the forums, I really think we need to start seeing more professionalism (which begets consistency) in this market. I think Global Eyeglasses is really trying, but there is room for improvement. I'll order again, but be a bit more deliberate in my choices.