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"And You Thought I Wasn’t Listening"

Sometimes something I have written about will motivate you to send me comments or reactions. Once in awhile it is anger, other times agreement. For better or worse something that was written actually motivates you to make a phone call, mail a letter, or fire off an email. Whether positive or negative – agree or disagree – I am always grateful and impressed when a reader takes the time to engage in a dialogue and interact about the positions we share as ECPs. It tells me that you care.

Based on that, I must assume that we all “care” more about the issue(s) I wrote about in the previous two months than anything else in our industry. They lamented in general the goods and services we too easily give away for “free,” and more specifically encouraged all ECPs to proactively formulate a strategic policy with regard to how they approach getting involved with consumers who choose to purchase their eyeglasses over the Internet.

In a few short weeks I received over 100 comments – and I therefore thought it worthwhile to share some of them with you. I even received notes from optometrists and ophthalmologists. To summarize, 98.2% of respondents “agreed” with my position – some of you vehemently agreed; 1.8% disagreed on some level. (All of the words in the remaining paragraphs are the actual words of the ECPs who wrote to me. In the interest of practicality, I have not bothered with quotation marks, or identifying the writer’s last name or location. I also decided to correct a few misspelled words and grammatical errors – sorry it’s the OCD kicking in.)

Gary said: Excellent article! If you say, "no charge" enough times, you start to think that what you do has no worth. You then become more resentful of the people that you provide the service to. Therefore, there really is a price - the price of a happy staff and an efficient business. Anything that is provided for free ends up being abused and again the price will be the more abbreviated service that you will have to give to the good patients, for the sake of those just stopping by for their freebies!   

Mark wrote, in part: At our Optical Shop, when a patient takes up our professional time only to end the transaction with a request to "write it down," it drives me crazy. What we do is to tell the patient that we don't give out that information but we have a “Hold/Information” file and would be happy to write it down and keep it for when they return. Most people are embarrassed that they even asked and politely leave. Others are offended and rudely ask why. I have many stock answers. If they are really rude, I usually tell them that this is not a library and, after taking up my professional time, I'm not going to make it easy for you to purchase these exact frames for $5.00 less somewhere else. If they're nice, I have the most success for getting them to return to buy when I give them enough information to shop the line, like tell them it's a Prada women's plastic frame, and impress upon them that our prices are very fair and competitive and I will try and match anyone's price for the same item.

Debbie shared: As an optician we have all had those no charge circumstances come up everyday. We do charge for some of the repairs that you mentioned in your article but for the minor repairs we actually have a donation jar to the children’s hospital and we match the donations at the end of the year. At least it makes me feel better that the money is going to a good cause. Customer's actually love the idea & don’t mind putting a few bucks in. You get what you pay for or purchase over the Internet. Most people do appreciate the service that you provide for them.

Barry was certainly entitled to his opinion: I strongly disagree with your position. It was very broadly-brushed. It wouldn't work for me (no Doc, No Insurance, no "carrot" other than my "convenience" to the neighborhood.) Methinks a rethink would better express your true intentions.

Tommy emailed: In my office, I now attach a memo to every glasses and contacts lens prescription, with a list of services and value-added services provided by my office when you purchase materials through us, and list of services not included when you choose not to. I think that a mixture of pre-warning, awareness, shame, and a feeling of possible future abandonment can keep orders in house. For now, I have a menu of service prices for glasses purchased elsewhere, but I plan to stop servicing outside glasses all together in the future. I look forward to the next installments in your series and getting more ideas on this important topic.

Dr. Dan said: I loved your editorial in the May 2010 EyeCare Professional. Thank you for eloquently stating what many of us have been thinking. ODs are the slowest learners sometimes....

Colleen was fired up: Oh don’t get me started! I have to deal with walk-ins, carrying in printouts from online eyewear suppliers, looking to try them on before they order online! Thank God for my loyal clients who remain and refer. That’s the name of the game now! In fact I’ve stopped any advertising except for yellow pages. Only when we Opticians collectively treat our profession as it IS….EXPERTS IN ALL THINGS OPTICAL, will we receive what we DEMAND, respect and proper compensation. Money paid for service is an exchange of energy, nothing more. When we are always giving away our talent, we diminish its worth. I read your monthly articles and always enjoy. This one had me jumping out of my dispensing seat yelling…..”HECK YEAH! FINALLY, somebody says it like it is in these times of change!

Dr. BP said: …In my opinion, ECPs will keep on dishing out "No Charge" until they learn to respect their optical skills and know how and learn to put value on what they do to earn a living. In my office, I charge $10.00 for taking a pupillary distance to patients who request eyeglasses prescription that they will bring someplace to buy their eyewear. Additionally, I tell them measuring a PD is really the responsibility of the person who is filling the prescription. It is a risky endeavor, but, as a player of the optical industry, I have to risk losing patient in order that optical business does not go to the dogs.  

Stephen articulated his disagreement: I have been an optician for over 50 years and have owned my own dispensing business for more than half that time… I was struck by the passion that the writer had for eye care professionals and the welfare of our industry. I, too, share this passion. I believe that the Internet is a tool that cheapens eye care much like frozen TV dinners cheapen home cooked meals. There must be some reason why we started doing this [giving away free things] in the first place, right? There’s got to be a logical explanation for our unified counter-cultural act of giving something away for free. Well folks, there is. It benefits us; simple yet true. It is worth it for us to provide these things to our clients (and non-clients). Not only are these services implicitly included in the mark-up prices of our products, but they are also a form of advertising. Especially for smaller businesses, these services can be crucial to maintaining a solid client base. We could collect the $10, $15, or even $25 for services rendered, but we would just turn around and spend that money on other forms of advertisement. Now, I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of reframing the way we as ECPs operate. It may behoove us to implement an alternative method of advertising – perhaps one that utilizes the very source of our grief (the Internet). The writer of “Food for Thought” states that he plans to explore how ECPs can “tactfully and skillfully deny your services.” I beg to change our paradigm. Let us shift our motives slightly and explore how we can tactfully and skillfully create clients from non-clients, without jeopardizing the integrity of our profession. Thank you, Anthony Record, for bringing this very important issue to the forefront of our minds and creating the space for us to discuss it. I hope it generates positive and fruitful changes.

Finally, Kate chimed in: Kudos, kudos, kudos! I have been practicing many of the things you’ve suggested in my practice for the last several years. AND (you’d be proud of me) I have been charging a reprocessing fee for doctor’s remakes. When eyewear started to hit the $800-$1,000 mark, I began using a sales agreement and warranty form that the patient/client signs when they order their eyewear. We go over our warranty, remake policies, etc. Among the various things that we mention, is the charge to remake a pair of lenses when the doctor’s office issues a remake RX. I have had no resistance from this charge from my clients. The only blowback that I’ve gotten is from one referring M.D. that has chosen to let his “tech” do the refractions for the past several years. He mildly suggested that he was reluctant to send his patients to me because of this charge. Apparently, one of my clients charged this doc the $35.00 he paid me because the client knew who was responsible for the error. After 38 years in this business (24 of which have been as a business owner) I’m glad to see one of my fellow brethren with the nerve to say that we need to start charging for our labors.

Anthony Record

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Posted: 9/1/2010 9:06:32 PM

Another great article! Keep them coming!

Editted: 9/1/2010 9:06:45 PM by Fezz

Posted: 9/1/2010 11:34:11 PM

Another great subject to tackle would be opinions on scratch coat warranties. Along the same line, in my opinion. Plastic lenses have been out for almost 40 years. We(opticians)are still replacing them, not due only to manufacturing defects and things covered under the warranty with normal wear and tare, which is of course legitimate, but for patient abuse and accidents which must be stopped. That should be under the heading of an insurance policy, not the warranty unless it is specifically covered. Our practice will give discounts to replace lenses due to accidents and scratches but will not replace lenses for free which have obviously not been cared for. To do otherwise is simply enabling the public to never have to take care of their eyewear. Gary Noll
Posted: 1/18/2014 8:27:43 AM

We just started to charge $20.00 for a pd. we also ask that a form be signed which explains that taking a pd is part of confirming the fit and compatibility of the Rx, frame, and face. The $20 will be credited to their next purchase.
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