Tales so bizarre we couldn’t make them up ... Not that we’d want to.
We dared ECPs to share their most astonishing, their weirdest — and their downright yuckiest — customer encounters. Boy did they come through! In the following pages you’ll read stories that will make you chuckle, cringe, and squirm in discomfort. Mostly, you’ll just count your lucky stars it didn’t happen to you.
1. Out of Africa... and Straight to The Optical
Duke Dye, OD | Riverside Eye Center | Columbus, OH
Once we had a patient scramble in to buy another pair of Maui Jims.
The transaction was so fast we had to ask why, since it had been less than a month since he’d purchased his last pair.
Turns out that the guy lost the original pair because he had to jump into a river to save himself from a swarm of killer bees while traveling in Africa! Yikes!
2. But Why Did He Have So Much Free Time?
Jeff Grosekemper | Casa de Oro Eyecare | Spring Valley, CA
I used to work for a doctor who always spied on us. He used the glass in picture frames hanging in the hallway to watch us from around the corner. He thought he was sly but we could see his reflection as well. Also we could see the tips of his shoes sticking out of the doorway when we walked to the other side of the dispensary. He listened in on our phone calls not knowing a little red light would come on when somebody else picked up a phone. Always be one step ahead.
3. Cradle to Grave Service
Christine Howard | Attleboro Vision Care | Attleboro, MA
I had to make glasses for a deceased patient. Their glasses broke, and although they could have been repaired enough to function well during the viewing, the patient’s daughter insisted on making a whole new pair, Rx and all.
4. That Isn’t A Real Thing
Angel Miller | Cynthiana Vision Center | Cynthiana, KY
We had someone who wasn’t a patient come in and ask if we had those colored contacts made of paper that dissolve in the eye. We told them there was no such thing. He then asked whether, since we didn’t have them (because they don’t exist), we would let him have them shipped to our address if he ordered them elsewhere. Weirdo.
5. What they don’t teach you at school
Frances Ann Layton | Eye Associates of South GA | Valdosta, GA
I don’t recall my teachers telling me about the disgusting side of opticianry. My favorite story to tell newbies is about a man who brought his semi-rimless glasses in with one of the lenses out. He puts them in my hands and then tells me “they fell off my head into the manure mound and the lens popped out. Could you fix that and clean them up for me?”
6. Tastes Like Chicken
Kim Riggs, OD | Kimberly Riggs OD | Ligonier, PA
I had a patient who admitted that he was too lazy to get up off the couch one evening to throw away his daily disposable contacts, so he ate them after he took them out.
7. Maybe She Just Likes Standing in the Rain
Nytarsha Thomas, OD, Visionelle Eyecare Zionsville, In
We hired an optician who was really nice and said her best quality was attention to detail. One day, after she had been there about a month, she was the first to arrive at work. She opened the door and instead of putting in her unique alarm code, she entered the address of the business. (Why would we ever make the most visible number on the building the code to the alarm system?) When that triggered the alarm, she thought if she left the building and closed the door, it would stop. When I arrived, the alarm was blaring, a police officer was knocking on the front door, and she had been standing outside the back door in the rain for 10 minutes despite her car being inches away. Just a one-off incident, you may be thinking. But the next day, she was standing in the rain again, saying her key (the one she used the day before) didn’t work. I immediately used it to open the door. The following weekend, she forgot to lock the front door when she closed and a patient walked in over the weekend setting off the alarm and alerting the police again. Needless to say, she didn’t last very long.
8. We’ve Always Wondered What’s under Those Lab Coats
Mark Perry, OD | Vision Health Institute | Orlando, FL
Years ago, I had to stop by the office for something on my day off. When I walked in, one of the technicians standing at the front desk spoke up and said, “It’s nice to see you with your clothes on.” (She’d meant to say with my casual clothes on. We all had a good laugh.)
9. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say ...
Kevin Proctor Springer | KP, Brooklyn Center, MN
Customer comes in and says: “Where’s that other guy? He was so nice and could really help me pick out new looks for myself. Darn, I don’t see him ... I really don’t want you to help me. Where is he?” I finally said, “Margaret it’s me! I just got a haircut and gained some weight.” She smiled and said, “Well, you looked better before.”
10. There Are No Stupid Questions ... Wait
Martha Downing | Advanced Ophthalmology Associates | Clawson, MI
I once had a patient call to say she had a stupid question. Our office response was always that there are no stupid questions ... her response was, “Well, I think I put superglue in my eye. Is that a bad thing? It kind of hurts.” I told her to come in, the doctor would see her right away. She showed up an hour later, after getting her manicure fixed (the glue got on her fingers as well). Apparently, she kept both a bottle of eye drops and a bottle of superglue in her car for emergency use. While stopped at an intersection in LA, she picked up the wrong bottle and dropped it in her eyes. What saved her was her contacts, as most of the glue landed on them. She did end up suffering a corneal ulcer from the episode and couldn’t wear contacts anymore. She removed the superglue from her car.
11. That’s Awkward
Cynthia Sayers, OD | EyeShop Optical Center Lewis Center, OH
One of my employees was pretesting a teenage girl. We always come out and discuss the retinal photo screening option with the parents. The employee came out and asked the man who was with the girl if he wanted her to get the retinal photo. He said, “Sure.” I was witnessing this and couldn’t stop laughing. My employee had just asked the teenager’s boyfriend if she should get the retinal photo! In the employee’s defense, he did look very mature for his age, but not old enough to be the girl’s father!
12. That’s Not How It Works
Sarah Jerome, OD | Look+See Eye Care | Minneapolis, MN
I had a patient who, like many of our patients at the conclusion of the exam, asked about how her prescription had changed. She followed that by asking if her right eye needed a different prescription from her left eye. I explained that it is very common for the two eyes to be unequal, and that, yes, she had a slight difference in the strength of her prescription. I was a bit taken aback by the patient’s follow-up question: “Could this be why my left breast is slightly smaller than my right breast?”
13. Grossest. Thing. Ever.
Annie Corvo Poston | Gig Harbor, WA
A woman with open wounds/sores all over her forearms came in and left my counters covered in blood and ooze. She tried on a bunch of glasses and left. I sanitized 378 frames. I’m pretty sure she grabbed a piece of her own skin off the counter and put it in her mouth.
14. Be Careful What You Say
Kristy Smith, Eyeglass Wearhouse Reynoldsburg, OH
Patient came in to get an adjustment on his new pair and inquired as to why his glasses kept smearing on the top of the lens. He was told it was from the lenses touching his eyebrows (bushy). He asked if there was a way to make it stop? Jokingly, my optician said, “Shave them off!” A week later, he came back in for another adjustment — minus the eyebrows!
15. Fashion Over Function
Jocelyn Mylott | D’Ambrosio Eye Care | Lancaster, MA
We had a patient ask us to frost his other lens. One was already frosted for medical reasons as he isn’t using that eye and he wanted them to look even cosmetically ... but if we’d frosted the other one he wouldn’t have been able to see with his good eye!
16. Maybe he wanted to sell you a policy?
Heather Kaikuana | Eye Care Hawaii | Hilo, HI
On a Saturday back in January we had a green visitor ... a lizard ... in our office. He was crawling everywhere and the staff was all screaming, so one of our patients who had just finished her appointment whacked the lizard out with her slipper. It was just so funny the way the staff reacted and how calm our patient was. She is our Lizard Hero for sure!
17. And on the Seventh Day ...
Paula Hornbeck | Eye Candy & Eye Candy Kids | Delafield, WI
We had a couple come in six Saturdays in a row and stay for two-plus hours looking at frames. We started referring to them as the “Saturday people.” All of my opticians, as well as myself, took their turn at helping them find what they were looking for. I finally got them to pull the trigger on the sixth Saturday. They bought frames only — one for her, two for him. The seventh Saturday they came back to return hers and one of his. Good Lord! We don’t do refunds, so then the credit sat there just waiting for it to start all over again. Sheesh!
18. Talk About Visual Learning
CHRIS CLARK | MULLIS EYE INSTITUTE | PANAMA CITY, FL
One day a mom came in and said her son was the most destructive person she knew. I showed them the Flexon frames and how they seem pretty indestructible. When we turned around there were eight to 10 frames lying broken on the frame counters. I don’t do that anymore.
19. Time Can Be Tricky like That
Fred Sirotkin, OD | Eagle Eye Care | Columbia, MD
Chief complaint recently from a patient was that her two-week contact lenses only lasted two weeks ...
20. Think about the Children
Pablo E Mercado | The Eye Gallery | Woodstock, GA
A woman asked our doctor if having crossed eyes was genetic, because her son was dating a girl who had crossed eyes in the past, and she “did not want any cross-eyed grandchildren.”
21. Find What Motivates
Paul Londraville | In Focus Eyewear | Greensboro, NC
Once upon a time my old boss decided we would do a community eyewear drive to gather used glasses to send overseas. The response was tremendous and it took a lot of work to clean, sort and neutralize them all. A co-worker, famously penurious, considered the task beneath him and was not contributing to the project. Our lab guy said, “I’ll fix it.” He took a fiver out of his wallet and hid it in a case in the huge pile of old glasses to be gone through. When he knew the other optician was watching, he took that pair out of the pile and pretended to discover the fiver in the old case, snapping it briskly and saying he was getting a cheeseburger for lunch. The other optician’s eyes were bugging out as he watched the lab guy put the bill in his wallet with a flourish. You have never seen a quicker change of attitude in your life. Instead of shirking the onerous task, this guy became a paragon of industry and selfless dedication to charity. He plowed through the rest of the pile nearly single-handedly in the vain hope of another stray fiver.
22. And This Is Why We Have Yelp
Kevin Count | Prentice Lab | Glenview, IL
I once worked for an ophthalmologist in the early days of my career. He was known to be a bit of a hot head and the staff always treated him with kid gloves. A patient came in one day, complaining about his glasses for the umpteenth time. The doctor happened to be at the front desk as the patient railed at the receptionist. The doctor then calmly walked over, addressed the patient and asked to see the glasses. When the patient handed them over, the doctor carefully turned them over and over in his hands, then chuckled and said, “I see the problem.” Then he promptly threw them on the floor and stomped on them. We were all silent in disbelief as the doctor calmly walked to the manager’s desk and grumbled, “Write ’em a check and get them out of here,” as he went to his next patient.
23. Sounds Like She Needs a Referral
Ted McElroy, OD | Vision Source Tifton | Tifton, GA
When I was an optometry student at SCO (way before HIPAA issues, of course) we would all try to get a little bit ahead on the history of the patient by starting it on the way from reception to the exam room. So I would always ask, “So, what brings you in to see us today?” The response I got from one patient was, “I hear voices in my head.” All I could respond with was, “Is that with your glasses on or off?” My exam partner immediately stops, turns in the other direction and holds his laughter as long as possible. As I turned the corner I could still see him losing it in the hallway.
24. It’s a Trifecta!
Candy Crone | Wayne Optical, York, PA
It might be the woman who insisted Transitions gave her diarrhea — and made me call Transitions to discuss it with her. Or the woman who insisted the Rx fell out of her semi-rimless frame and she could no longer see out of her glasses, so she wanted a frame that went all the way around so it didn’t happen again. Then again it may be the woman whose glasses I scrubbed tons of hairspray and dirt off of while fixing them and she insisted I changed her frame. She swore she had never worn the frame I brought back to her.
25. ‘Oh, Magoo...!’
Jerry Ellis | BJ’s Optical | Framingham, MA
An elderly lady came in to buy glasses. She purchased a pair then left. She called me half an hour later and said I’d switched her old glasses with someone else’s. She came right down with her driver. I looked at her glasses and sure enough they were not hers. I explained to them that I had no idea what happened because I never left the table with them. The driver then said, “Wait” — and switches her glasses with the patient’s. “That’s better.” I was miffed she drove the patient home and back wearing the elderly lady’s glasses!
26. The Stuff of Nightmares
Cindy Henderson | Eyear Optical | Hixson, TN
Once when I first started working, I had a sweet old man come into our small dispensary and ask me to repair his glasses. The optician had stepped out to get coffee so I was by myself. He took off his glasses and his plastic artificial eye came with the frame. There was a large space where everything had been removed ... with only gauze in the socket. The plastic “eye” which included the “skin” that covered the socket was coming loose from the frame and needed to be reattached. I got it done ... I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything else like it.
27. What’s That Sound?
Susan Frick | Premier Eye Care of Eastern Idaho | Idaho Falls, ID
Once, I was trying to provide an explanation of benefits to a post-cataract eyeglass patient. He was very upset about what Medicare didn’t pay and I suddenly started hearing a clicking sound. It got even louder as he was explaining his disgust over the reimbursement, when suddenly his top teeth flew out and rolled across the floor. He didn’t miss a beat though ... he retrieved his false teeth from the floor, put them back in his mouth and continued on with his rant about reimbursement.
28. Splitting the Cost
Steve Whitaker | Whitaker Eye Works | Wayne, PA
Patient: “My contacts are larger than my pupils. I’m the same in both eyes; can I tear them in half and have twice as many for the same price?”
29. She Worked Hard For Her Money
Tanya Rogers | Mountain Eye Clinic | Dahlonega, GA
I once worked at a clinic where a patient came in with an abrasion that just would not heal. By the fourth visit the doctor asked what had caused it (the young man would not say before). He finally admitted what had happened — he got a little too close to a high heel at a gentleman’s club!
Sherry Berry | Pascarella Eye Care and Contact Lenses | Newtown, PA
As I was dispensing eyewear, I accidentally knocked my client’s wig off. I was mortified but she just couldn't stop laughing about it.