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[Ed. Note: I've not been in the habit of pulling too much content verbatim out of the forums for publication on the blog, but this one, by Chuck, struck me last evening as important -- and potentially interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing the responses. This may become a regular feature.]

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I'm going to pose a potentially troublesome question...just for the sake of discussion. I'm curious how others have handled this.

QUESTION:

Is it wrong to use the local stores as a fitting room? Especially if you have no intention of buying from them?

ONE SIDE:
The local stores provide a valuable service, pay rent, must make sales to stay around, etc. If I use them and do not compensate them for their time, then I am taking advantage of their hospitality and good will. If no one buys glasses from them, they will go out of business and will no longer be available to those who need them, locally. They will not be around, so that I can try on glasses similar to those online, and see what looks good! It's the same basic argument for supporting local business over national conglomerates.

OTHER SIDE:
My prescription (very weak, but bifocal) would cost around $400 at WalMart Optical, or at my local optician's boutique. $300 and $350 per pair, for single vision options, at the same
places. I can get 2 pairs of single vision glasses at Zenni, in frames nearly identical to those I'm looking at, for $8 a pair...a total of $16. $400 vs $16. That's 1/25 the price... FOUR PERCENT!!! I'd be lying if I said this wasn't tempting. 96% less?! That's impossible to ignore. I wholeheartedly try to support local businesses...but come on!

MY SOLUTION:
I went into the optician's boutique, told them I was looking at different places, and that I was there to try on frames. She asked me what styles interested me, whether I had worn glasses
before, and where else I was considering. Her reaction was priceless. The stores were OK, but the online option brought a look of horror to her face.

So, I told her the complete truth -- I teach a computer class to a lot of little old women on fixed incomes, and we're going to order me a pair of glasses, online, as one of our lessons. One time I bought a pair of shoes. I focus on the "you can buy ANYTHING online" aspect of ecommerce, in this portion of the class. So, basically, I volunteered to be the guinea pig. If the glasses are good...fantastic! If not, I'll order them the regular way.

On the spot she offered to adjust them for free, and even to fit me for progressive bifocals if I'd just come in and let her see what is available, online. A very generous offer, I'd say. Did the same thing at a WalMart Optical center, and a similar offer was made... While you may get the "evil online" speech, they seem to be quite accommodating...especially if you don't string them along, thinking that they're going to get a sale out of you.

Chuck's told you how he handled the situation...now we'd like to hear how you handled it.



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7 comments:

At January 4, 2008 at 4:04 PM Anonymous said...

I can't say it's "wrong" to browse a local store without buying, but I am personally a bit uncomfortable going into a store that only sells one thing (glasses, in this case) with the specific intention of buying elsewhere. I don't care so much about the big box chains like Wal-mart that sell tons of different products because I would guess glasses aren't their big seller, and presumably I'd be in there buying other stuff from them anyway.

On the flip side, before purchasing a motorcycle I went around to local dealers "just looking" but completely willing to buy from one, trying out helmets at the same time. I then ended up not only purchasing a used bike, but buying a helmet online. The kicker being that, when I found a motorcycle repair/accessory shop that I liked, it turned out they had helmet prices nearly as good as the online price I got, so I wished I could have bought locally in that case and probably ended up buying more from them in the long run as a result.

The moral is that whatever you do or don't buy from a local shop, the sale is theirs to make or break. If I walk in their door as just another guy motivated by price, that is their opportunity to take my business away from an online shop, and they can always tell me to leave if their local business isn't interested in meeting the needs of their local community.

 
At January 5, 2008 at 9:22 AM Kayaker_NC said...

All stores know their sales percentage, based on traffic in the store.
They have an opportunity to make a sale, I have the opportunity to check their inventory.
I've purchased glasses from WalMart Optical twice, and I update my prescription with them.
My latest purchase was from Zenni, but my next purchase could easily be from WalMart. Price is not the only factor in an eyeglass purchase.

Kayaker

 
At January 9, 2008 at 1:39 PM Jennah said...

"On the spot she offered to adjust them for free, and even to fit me for progressive bifocals if I'd just come in and let her see what is available, online."

Wait...So she agreed to adjust the glasses you bought online if you would allow her to come to your class with the little old ladies and browse online glasses retailers??

For my part, I get my prescription from my eye doc. There is one rack at my doc that is "free" (except the lenses) at my doc, and every 2 years or whatever I get a pair of those. In the past, I've been going to Walmart for other glasses, and will continue to do so every now and then, and buy extras onine. I used WalMart to measure my PD and check to make sure my online glasses matched the prescrip of my other ones. So I don't feel bad.

 
At January 9, 2008 at 11:34 PM Anonymous said...

If you go to a store, use up their time and have zero intention of buying, that is wrong. Stop making justifications.

Since Zenni is so cheap, buy 10 pairs in a variety of styles and sizes. You're bound to find one you like, will still be ahead money and have lots of spares. If too many spares, donate them.

Once you find a style you like, get some more of them.

Conversely, it is wrong for the eye doctor to do their job and try to hold your prescription hostage unless you buy glasses from them. You paid for the eye exam and should get the resulting diagnosis without any fuss.

 
At January 13, 2008 at 3:02 PM Melissa said...

So, window shopping is "wrong"? Price comparison is "wrong"? You live in a strange world, anonymous.

I've shopped bricks and mortar for many, many items I ended up buying online- books, CDs, banks, cars, vacuum cleaners, mortgages, insurance I will continue to do so. I have also shopped online for many items I ended up buying bricks and mortar. My money is spent where I deem best, not where another does.

 
At January 16, 2008 at 10:29 AM Anonymous said...

Actually, I kinda' agree with Anonymous. The OP talked about having *no intention* of buying from the store. It's not the store's sale to lose...they already lost it!

Window shopping implies that the store at least has a chance, however slim, of getting your business. If you have truly NO intention of buying, ever, from that store...then it definitely could be argued that it's a problem.

Good post!

 
At February 10, 2008 at 12:52 AM dontera said...

I get am exam at walmart, because, I opt to not have the blue light glaucoma test, and will not have a dilation done. ( I do not need a speech about why those tests are good, I will do them, just not everytime I go, which has been 3 times in 1.5 years, pregnancy and birth can change your prescription) . So - for 40-50 dollars a perscription is handed to me. I look at frames. If I see something I love - I will go for it. So - its not wrong to look. No intention of buying, then don't string them along, and don't ask for assistance, and be honest if they are persistent in pitching you. How would you want to be treated?

Personally, I used my 'old' glasses for a reference point when buying online. Measure your old ones, want taller ot shorter frames? Know your face shape and what basic frame shape looks good on you, easier shopping, and good results for you!

 

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