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I got another comment from a practicing optician. It started in much the same way requests pour from the lips of my three children:

I know you will more than likely NOT post my comment.

It's always obvious to me when I get a comment from someone who hasn't spent any time looking at the content of the site. NOTE: This site is littered with comments from people on all sides of this issue. Comments like these are gold. Of course, I'm going to post it.

It continues:
I've read your edit. I'm sure you've been bombarded by hords of us in the industry. What you need to understand is that we're fighting for our jobs. I'm a licensed Optician. I have been working in the industry for almost 20 years.

Then hopefully you were smart enough to plan ahead and sock away some of that money you were making on my $400 glasses. People, by the thousands, are learning about this site -- and the reasonably priced options over there to the left -- each day.

On to his first gripe:
Nothing makes me more upset than having to use MY inventory of frames, MY knowledge, MY time to help people buy their glasses online.

I tend to get worked up when I discover I've been getting screwed for years and not even knowing it.
Hundreds -- thousands of people have been walking into your store for the past 20 years shelling out ridiculous sums for the privilege of being able to see. We're not coming in to buy shiny knick-knacks for the mantle, we can't see and you've had us over the barrel for it. You'll excuse me if I don't worry too much about someone taking back a dollar or two of your time.

And the gouging continues:
The practice I work at, we do not release pupilary measurements at no charge. We have a fee associated with that information. It is not included in your routine eye exam.

Yeah, you should definitely charge extra for that. That's an extra inch or two the optometrist might have to bend down to read that little number on the refractor. Do you think this is a still a secret? The cat is out of the bag.

Let's toss in some fear:
My big quandry is this....where do you go when you need your glasses adjusted? What happens when you need a nosepad? Or a screw has fallen out? How are you sure that your glasses have been made properly? Do you then seek out your optician and expect him/her to help you out? Really, what do you do?

I don't have a problem with paying for any of these services if I feel I need them -- and some truly do. I'm not, however, going to pay an extra $350 for what equates to a half-assed extended service plan. It doesn't take a "rocket surgeon" to pop a new screw in or replace a nose pad. Heck, even other adjustments aren't impossible (there are all sorts of videos online -- from opticians -- explaining how this can be done at home with no special tools).

And the summary:
I want patients to LOVE their glasses. It doesn't matter to me how much you spend or don't spend. It could be $100, or $1,000. I don't make commission. I'm proud of what I do. I don't want to see my job go through the window because it's been outsourced to the big manufacturing shmoes. I'd love to read a response from you. I'm not trying to bash what you're doing, I'm only stating my case. I think everyone should hear both sides of the story.

I appreciate that you take pride in your work -- it's a horrible thing not to be able to do so. I also hope that you understand that the economics of the situation have changed. I expected the price of eyeglasses to come down when Lasik began to pick up steam -- oddly the inverse has been true -- at least as far as the traditional eyeglasses stores are concerned. I also expected to see fewer eyeglasses stores -- that has been the case. One of the only things propping up this business model is consumer ignorance (and complacency) and an aging population.  

Some would look at this as an opportunity.

It's a new world out there, we're all dealing with jobs leaving the country. This isn't something isolated to the optical industry. I'm a software developer, maybe you've heard how that's been going for the past few years. 

I don't have any ill-will towards you or anyone in your field. It's business -- but it's changing. I'm thrilled to now be able to afford eyeglasses, and many thousands of others are too.

We all need to adapt or we're going to "die".



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13 comments:

At October 24, 2008 at 7:09 AM Kris said...

Those in the eyeglass industry are slowly making enemies of their customers. Any optician or ophthalmologist that tries to charge me for that info is going to have one LOUD belligerent customer on their hands. I work in the manufacturing industry and have to purchase safety glasses. I get a significant discount if I order these thru my employer. Just TRY and keep that info from me. Just try.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 8:50 AM Phoebe said...

My big quandry is this....where do you go when you need your glasses adjusted? What happens when you need a nosepad? Or a screw has fallen out? How are you sure that your glasses have been made properly? Do you then seek out your optician and expect him/her to help you out? Really, what do you do?

Oh god, this makes me angry. My mother just received a pair of glasses from zenni that were--whoops! Missing a nose pad. She called them up and they sent her a complete eye glass kit--two extra nose pads, tiny screws, tiny screwdriver--for free. Big whoop.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 11:28 AM Anonymous said...

Okay, well how about the fact that oh, right after the YEAR warranty period expired. On the glasses I paid 500+ dollars on(high Rx)
The temple decided to come apart where the screw holder connects to it.I ran around for a good year and a half with unfoldable glasses on that temple side because I had a heat shrink tube put on it so I could still use them. Lovely frames, not cheap frames mind.. I loved them silly...AND ....they just...FELL off my face one day..right before my shift at work. I had to save up for a year to buy glasses, I knew I would need to. I expect them to last at least 5 years for that cost.
The pair I got? I am happy with them, for 100 bucks instead of 5hundred something. I'm only 23, I try to take care of my glasses, and i will admit, the lenses were worth it for the old pair, because of this fancy coating that repelled dirt... loved them...untill they fail me. and fail me in a way that I can't fix.
I have worn glasses -all- my life. from crawling stage. I learned to fix my glasses with what was on hand, twist tie wires to replace lost screws etc, I got pretty good at adjusting them. And! in the case of these when I needed a screw because I neglected to tighten them and it got lost, I would have gladly paid for the cost of labor to fix them, but it was free, so I left the place with a 10 box of glorified rubbing alchol pads.(cleaning solution) But hey, I offered to pay.
And now, it looks like I can afford to have a back up pair or two of glasses, plus a pair of sunglasses. So yes I'm happy, and I'm sorry you seem to have lost business, but really, working in fast food, with no health insurance, and no way to afford a 500 pair of glasses so you can SEE something more than 5 inches from your face? 500 is alot of money then. thats more -than- half of monthly income. I realize that people have to make a living, but I have also learned that people sometimes need to step out of their shoes and into someone elses, say the elderly patient living on piddle a month, and after the 100-150 appt, they get told they have to fork out another 200-500 bucks for glasses. When I make more than I do and can afford to spend that on glasses? guess what, I think I will buy pairs of glasses for people who can't afford them, because I -have- been there. So before looking down your nose and sneering at someone because its obvious that they went elsewhere, step back and try to see it from their perspective. A little humility goes a long long ways.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 11:47 AM Chuck said...

I can see his side of the equation. He spent quite a bit of money on his education, opened a practice, maintains tens of thousands of dollars in inventory, established a good name for himself, and is now being "screwed" out of customers because of a web site. It has to hurt him, hurt his bottom line, and feel like an imposition when people come in and expect his services (for which he is handsomely rewarded) for free.

By the way, some of us realize that you have expenses, overhead, salaries, inventory costs, property rendition taxes, etc... I *always* offer to pay for services at an optometrist's office.

Now, here's the other side. My first prescription was bifocal...only 37 years old. I went to several places, and the price would be around $400 for a pair of glasses. I went online and bought *2* pairs (I couldn't bring myself to wear bifocals at my age) for $24, including shipping. Work out the numbers...that's a remarkable savings. My *ophthalmologist* adjusted them for me, and has come to understand the possibilities of online eyeglasses. 3 of his nurses now wear glasses bought online, and he's even recommended them to his own mother!

You see, my doctor doesn't sell glasses. There is no conflict of interests, at his practice. Since his business model does not rely on selling me the glasses, he is most interested in whether I can see properly. I can.

Had I been able to find something local for around $100, I'd have happily paid for it. Heck, I *am* a local business...buying locally keeps me in business. But *that* much of a difference is impossible to ignore.

You see, I bought my glasses primarily as an experiment. A way to see what is available. The results? My glasses are perfect...only 4 pairs he has tested this year that can make that claim. 3 of those pairs are mine!

Hmmm. The online place is leading in accuracy, quality, AND price?

It really is a no brainer for the consumer. And, herein lies your problem.

From my point of view, you have 2 choices.

1) There will always be people who want to shop locally, at any price. To many of them, a high price is a *positive* thing, so raise your prices too!

Basically, you could move more upscale, stop pretending to care about those who want less expensive glasses, and focus exclusively on the uber-rich. They exist in all communities, and with even higher prices you could sell only 1 pair a week and still make a heck of a living. Imagine the level of customer service you could provide, if you had to worry about only 5 or 6 customers!

2) Rediscover that "desire to help" that you had in medical school, and refocus your priorities and your prices.

Like I said earlier, I own a small business...I definitely understand the desire to maximize your profit. But, frankly, you're pricing yourself out of the market. People are looking for cheaper alternatives because we (your customers) are convinced that you are officially overpriced.

It must be a terrible predicament for you. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 1:15 PM Kris said...

Chuck -

Ophthalmologists aren't dependent on eyeglass sales to sustain their practice, whereas an optician is. Ophthalmologists make their money from having a higher education and performing surgeries, etc. It is usually highly unlikely that an ophthalmologists in a single practice or in practice with other ophthalmologists will even sell eyewear products. They simple do not need the hassle or the revenue.
Opticians, in my opinion, knew this going in. I'm sure it NO SECRET that opticians rely on their auxiliary products for their money, not their salary. If they wanted to make the big bucks, instead of raping their customers with the high cost of glasses, why don't they go the extra distance and get the ophthalmologists degree? More money and no need to rip off your patients.

Opticians infuriate me. I refuse to see them anymore as I've had it with their high pressure sales tactics to add this and that to lenses or this specialty frame. Ophthalmologists are all I visit now: yes they are a bit more expensive than an optician, but you really get that for which you pay.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 4:06 PM Anonymous said...

Ugh, opticians make me so angry sometimes. When a vast majority of your customers are moving away from your business to other alternatives, YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG! It doesn't matter what reasons you have or what downsides you argue against. If the negatives were really all that important to the customer, you'd be getting your customers back. You are not andthat means you are not meeting your customers needs! PERIOD! You're not dealing with some abstract market theory here. A good business person would find the model that is luring customers away and incorporate and/or improve upon that model. If you don't do that, you will not have any customers left. Very simple.

 
At October 24, 2008 at 4:11 PM Anonymous said...

to Chuck:

I understand small business people getting the squeeze and I always try to support small businesses in my local area, even paying a bit more in the process. But opticians, in my experience, have been gouging customers for years and are notoriously difficult to work with to get somethine you want. Several times I've expereince "upselling" at the opticians and one even let out an exasperated sigh when I asked the price difference between two types of lenses, saying, "Oh jeez, I don't know?" Another rolling his eyes when I asked for the cheapest pair of frams available for my spare pair of glasses.

So yes, I support small business, but I don't support any business that treats their customers like hostages.

 
At October 25, 2008 at 8:51 PM Za said...

This is reminiscent of my chiropractor situation, i now go to one that costs $25, and his east Phoenix office is open 7-9 M-Th (he's got two other offices). This is compared to $40 to $60 (and even more) for chiropractors i've used in the past. Why? Well, he's in a small plaza in an old (read scruffy) part of town, and its not fancy. Mismatched chairs in the waiting room, linoleum floor, cheap folding doors on the rooms, and so on. Thing is, he's just as good as any of the other doctors, i'm just not paying for a fancy office.

Yes, i can see paying for the services i use, and i can understand his complaints about people wasting his time trying on frames they're not going to buy, time is money in a business. Still, that high price is paying for a nice office and store in a 'hip' location (ie high traffic). I'd be quite willing to pay a higher than internet price, as long as its reasonable, and the location isn't too far out of my way (or in such a rough part of town that i have to worry about coming out to a complete car).

 
At October 26, 2008 at 12:22 AM QueenKatofTypos said...

Look, Mr. Anonymous Optician. I have no health insurance in this crappy no-universal-healthcare country. My job requires that I'm at a computer at LEAST 8 hours a day. I was getting awful headaches and went to get glasses. I can't afford $400. My mom paid $600 for her Transitions bifocals less than a year before we found this site. That's more than half a mortgage payment for her. Her last 2 pairs of $600 glasses were so cheaply made that they broke across the bridge of her nose while she was cleaning them, and I assure you, she doesn't use a lot of force - she's in her 60s. I just got her a backup pair online for $80 and she loves them. Maybe because you're a doctor you can afford $400-$600 glasses, even if you don't have health insurance. I can't, nor can a lot of people. BTW, did you know that monopolies (which Luxottica is moving towards) are illegal?

 
At October 26, 2008 at 11:05 AM Shreela said...

I want to buy glasses online for quite a few reasons:

1. Cost!
After finding out about online glasses and their prices, it's obvious the glasses industry has been sticking it to us for a very long time. So not only does it save customers a large amount of money, we're not going to feel too guilty about your not being able to continue sticking it to us.

I'll probably need bifocals this time, or if my near vision isn't quite bad enough to need a dual prescription, I'll still want "reverse bifocals" so I can read without taking my glasses off (I only need "reading" glasses for extremely small print so far). So whether I "need", or just want bifocals, the prices at "traditional" glasses stores are so much higher than online stores. Plus, I'd like some "computer" glasses, because I have to sit forward to read the print on our desktop. I've already enlarge the print as far as it can go without becoming bold print, and if I wear my current glasses, I have to sit far away from the screen. Online glasses is the only way I'd be able to afford bifocals, computer glasses, and sunglasses for my near-sightedness.

2. Small Selection
I am not a small woman, therefore my head is not small, or even average. Most glasses at "traditional" stores are tight on my temples, and sometimes I can't even put woman's glasses on because they're too small.

Plus my eyes are wide-set, even for the size of my head. So I need larger than usual glasses in women's styles, then most of those looks stupid because my eyes are wide apart.

I have to try on every stupid pair of glasses in the traditional stores, then am lucky if I find a few that aren't too tight so I can pick which ones look less stupid for the wide eyes.

And you know what? I'm not "that" big for a woman -- just a little bigger than average. I've noticed that there's a lot more young women my height or taller than when I was younger, so I'm sure many of them would know what I'm talking about when I complain about glasses being too small.

"Traditional" stores offer me a very small selection, then charge a very high price, and I find out how much glasses cost from internet stores? Of course I'm going to try the internet stores.

BUT, if there was a optometrist somewhat close to me that would test me, then offer me the same options and the same prices at the internet stores, I'd beat a path to his/her office, because I'd much rather spend locally than elsewhere.

Is there a site where people post about these kinds of offices? Or maybe there's not that many available yet, because optometrists are too busy complaining about not being able to stick it to us like they've done for so long.

 
At October 26, 2008 at 12:48 PM Anonymous said...

Go to work in one of these places. If anyone is getting rich, it sure as heck isn't the opticians and the lab techs; it's the store owners, the doctors, and the corporations that franchise these places.

And, as to the work, speaking as a lab tech, we spend 70% of our day remaking glasses for customers who don't like what they picked out originally, doctor changes to Rxs, and warranty glasses. If you want to know what you're paying for when you pay $500, that's it. Profits and the socialization that goes with remakes for people who are truly a pain in the ass.

Yeah, capitalism is botched, but 70% of the people we serve will never go online, or if they do, they'll come back, because they require so much hand-holding that the low-margin online guys will never serve them adequately to keep'em or have some sort of freak show Rx that costs as much online as it does in our store.

 
At October 30, 2008 at 1:56 PM Anonymous said...

Yeah, capitalism is botched

Hmm, seems like you don't know exactly what capitalism is because the situation you describe is exactly what capitalism is all about. Basically you're saying that in the stores, normal people that need glasses are paying for the outlying customers that requires a lot of attention, the old 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of your costs come from 20 percent of your customers. So, you keep the 20 percent and the other 80 percent will shop online. Let the hard to deal with 20 percent pay their share.

But you can't complain when the 80 percent find satisfaction somewhere else.

That's capitalism at its finest.

 
At November 4, 2008 at 3:25 PM Anonymous said...

Should have gone to med, dent, or pharm school instead, optician!

 

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