Power Up with the Low Down on Low Vision Aids
My Mother’s onset of Presbyopia coincided with my entry into
opticianry. I was “on call” to her for reading numbers out of the phone book or any font less than 10 pt. in the newspaper. After a genetically fortunate, spectacle-free lifetime, she was adamant about not wearing eyeglasses. Finding this to be a deprecation of my occupation and in the spirit of my upbringing towards self-reliance, I brought her a 3"x 5" handheld 2X magnifier purchased from my work using my employee discount.
The fatigue she experienced attempting to maintain a uniform focal distance from the unstable, unwieldy morning Free Press substrate reached an annoyance level equal to mine in nearly the same length of time. When she finally gave in, I’d married and moved out of state, thus missing the joy of performing that fitting. However, later on, I did have to provide problem-solving corrections for the optician who fit her with Kryptok’s while failing to supply monocular seg heights. You can run, when you can’t abide, but it’s temporary. She kept that magnifier close by for a very long time.
Several years later, in the 70’s and 80’s, the suburban “Mom and Pop” dispensary where I worked was the only listing under “Magnifiers” in the Denver, Colorado Yellow Pages. Known as the “Mile Hi City”, “One Mile Closer to the Sun” (or “Fun” as I used to say, considering the number of phone inquiries we received), the altitude coupled with “Over 300 Sunny Days per Year” creates an environment rich with a lot more UV exposure than the average sea-level state capital. The aging retirement population with their UV-accelerated cataract growth was a magnet for ophthalmologists (more MD’s per capita than any other US city) performing the new lens implant surgery. The post-op recovery time before a new Rx could be given was a gaping window of opportunity for providing magnifiers of all types and powers to patients desperate to continue reading in the interim.
During this same era, ophthalmologists referred their patients to independent opticians for prescription eyewear. Medical doctors were not in the eyewear manufacturing business; it was considered professionally inappropriate (conflict of interest) and ODs were legally required to have entrances separate from adjacent retail dispensaries. Since my employer was an independent, not directly affiliated with optometrists because most had their own dispensaries, we worked mostly with MD vision prescriptions. However, today, with the emphasis on patient convenience and an increasing sense of valuing cooperation amongst the three “O’s”, the Opportunity and One-stop convenience shopping concepts present fourth and fifth “O” concepts in the eye care equation.
Regardless of which “O” you are, if you haven’t stocked low vision aids previously, now would be a really good time to evaluate how you may be able to integrate them into your practice specialties mix to assist the growing percentage of aging patients requiring a variety of low vision solutions. It’s also an easy way to add an additional revenue stream.
After providing hundreds of demonstrations and searching for models to fit certain patient-specific needs, my employer and I found that a core selection of five types comprised the largest percentage of sales; not a huge inventory investment, nor storage space taker. All of them were much more affordably priced than a pair of eyeglasses which was befitting their temporary and/or ongoing occasional use. You will want to survey your clientele lifestyles preferences (which you need to do even for just eyewear) taking into account considerations like age, gender, income, hobbies, and purchase accordingly, wholesale. How about creating your own special assortment: a “Magnificent 7” Kit?, a convention/expo display or office showcase centerpiece - a Magnificents idea for a manufacturer’s rep, as well.
The single most important aspect of mounting this offering in your business is the personal one-on-one consultant service you provide; try before you buy is not possible on the internet. Although currently there are plenty of recent lens power-selection improvements, generally speaking the higher the power, the smaller the lens diameter. Get prepared for the question nine-out-of-ten ask when they’ve located the strength lens that works for them: “Haven’t you got anything bigger?” They are applying shoe buying psychology to this purchase: “Do you have this style in a size larger?”
Without getting into light wave theory, lens power is inversely proportional to diameter. For this article, I visited more than 25 magnifier catalog websites where you can buy hundreds of different styles online, but none are able to offer an illustration or photo of what the user is going to see, because those unique experiences will be different between every user and each device. What you don’t want to have happen is to spend a half hour showing a customer low vision solutions and then have them walk out to go buy it online.
Offer them incentives to buy from you on the spot: a discount, multi-item discount, BOGO, or charge for your time, like taking a cafeteria PD; deduct the fee from the purchase price, for example. You should also focus on finding two or more different types for different tasks, just as you do for eyewear. As “one size fits all” doesn’t work for everyone, “one style does it all” is also untrue for eyewear and magnifiers. Even two or more of one model stationed conveniently in different locations is an advantage to your customer: one at home/one at work; one by the armchair/one in the car or purse.
Develop your own campaign to get the word out. Market your new service on your website, and send direct mail announcements to complimentary affiliates with a credit card-sized, promo magnifier included. Solicit involvement with your staff to participate in the exposure informing every customer, supported with table top displays, and encourage word of mouth.
The decision to offer or expand low vision aids in your business is an excellent career enhancement opportunity to either initially develop one of your staff as the focal point, have the focal employee provide the training, or train all your staff at once. Getting everyone up to speed on the pathologies of conditions that create the demand for these aids is rudimentary to opticianry. Start with a session on the causes and symptoms of Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), and Diabetic Retinopathy.
Another staff opportunity is community outreach. If you’ve ever considered retirement/nursing home visits to perform free adjustments, providing a selection of magnifiers fits right in.
Not to overlook the hobbyists, stamps and coin collecting are the two top hobbies, neck-and-neck with doll houses. A friend whom I’d fit with eyewear, I also supplied with a magnifier for his elementary school age daughter to use in her school biology research. Another friend found two vintage paperweight magnifiers at a thrift store which I promptly presented to my grandchildren, an adjunct to the coin collecting hobby I’d started with them. At 50 cents each, they made a great gift idea, but you could package something similar in your own showcase: a flip-out lens attached to its own pocket carrying case displayed with coin and stamp albums.
Magnifiers are magic conversation starters: “Now you see it. Now you don’t.” My “icebreaker/elevator pitch” began with one of the two pendant magnifier necklaces I used to wear on the job and off (one round in gold; one rectangular in white gold – each purchased from magnifier catalogs). People would first ask me if it was in fact a magnifier. Second question was always “Do you use it?” (before my hair turned gray). My reply, “Sure do. Change the point of view to learn something new!” Equal opportunity theatricks are available to the men on your team: Unless they want to attach a jeweler’s loop on their frame temple, sport a monocle on a retractable cord in their jacket lapel buttonhole. Magnificent.