Help your lab help you (and make your customers happy, too)

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2015 edition of INVISION.


Scott Balestreri on the importance of working well with your optical lab I run an independent optical lab. Every day is part triathlon, part three-ring circus. Customers, lens and frame suppliers, and our own human and mechanical resources usually hum like a well-oiled machine. But sometimes, things become a bit dysfunctional.

Frankly, you may not care what happens behind the scenes. You just want great glasses. But getting your jobs done well takes hours — sometimes days — of painstaking, time-consuming, detail work. Every time we have to fix something that is ordered unclearly or sent to us without being well thought out, it wastes our time.

When we have more time to focus on making glasses, we do a better job — which means we don’t waste your time, and your customers get their glasses faster. Together, we can reverse the mutual wasting of time I call the “Time Suck Spiral.” Here are five ways you can help us eliminate this lost time and frustration:

1. Check your orders, then check them again. Sorry to say, but most of you goof at some point. It could be a fat-finger typo, an omission, or a lens/material combo that isn’t available. Bottom line: If you leave something lacking, we have to fix it. It’s more work for us, including a call to you to straighten it out. You save no time for yourself — and you cut into the time we wish we could spend making your glasses.

2. Don’t ask the impossible. Learn to say no to your customer’s frame choice instead of dumping the impossible in our lap. Some marriage proposals need to end with a no. Think about what curves that Rx will require. Then pick a frame that makes sense for that lens. What? That means you may have to say no to a customer’s favorite frame? That’s your job. All dispensers have customers who want frames that should never marry their Rx. Learn to say no.

3. Know how to take “no” for an answer, too. Every lab has its own gifts and skills. A good lab knows when to say no, just like a good optician. If your lab says no, it doesn’t suck; it just knows its limits. Please don’t beg us to do what shouldn’t be done until we say yes. If we say yes after a bunch of groveling, you’ve forced us into a never-ending experiment, trying to force a round lens into a square frame to make something that resembles glasses. Accept your lab’s “no” for an answer — and don’t punish us for it.

4. Don’t expect mind reading. Know your lenses and materials, and know their limits. (And if you don’t know, ask us before ordering.) If you order a 1.60 “thin as possible” and it doesn’t come out as thin as you expected, don’t call and ask why we didn’t call you and suggest 1.67. That didn’t happen because we thought you knew 1.67 was thinner. Our bad? Not in a million years.

5. Check the box. Our clients can check online to see if a job has shipped. Even better, you might look in the box that has already arrived at your office before calling us to ask.

We love making glasses. Follow these tips, and we’ll all hear less of that giant sucking sound — and more of your customers thanking you for timely delivery of their bad-ass new glasses.


Scott Balestreri owns Bad Ass Optical Lab in Oakland, CA. An optician for 25 years and a veteran of all aspects of the eyewear business, from frame and lens design to manufacturing to sales, he recently started the “Ask the Lab Guy” group on Facebook.

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