A patient swears the frames dispensed aren’t the ones he brought in. How can the practice help him?
Fern Mountain Vision Center of Muskogee, OK, was the new kid on the block. Barely a year old, the practice worked hard to turn each patient into a referral source. Since clients were still relatively few, the focus on customer service was intense.
One morning, optician Angela greeted a walk-in named David. He worked in business and had a dominant, impatient personality more suited to big-city life. David brought in his script from a recent refraction in L.A. and opened a clamshell case to reveal a vintage gold Cazal frame.
“I’ve owned these for years and I want new lenses put in,” David explained. “I need them by next Friday, since I’ll be in London the following three weeks. You can do that, right?”
Angela nodded confidently. “That’s nine days — plenty of time. We need to send your frame to the lab. You have other pairs you can wear in the meantime?” she asked.
ABOUT REAL DEALReal Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual eyecare businesses and people.
ABOUT THE AUTHORNATALIE TAYLOR is an experienced optometry practice manager for Advanced Care Vision Network and a consultant with Taylor Vision. Learn more at tayloreye.com.
“Sure,” David said. “I know the drill. The lenses have been replaced four times now, they’re my favorites.”
Angela asked David to sign a product liability waiver for using his own frames, inspected them and saw they were still in good condition and took payment in full. David accepted Angela’s many lens recommendations, and the bill came to nearly $1,000.
At the end of the day, Angela’s co-optician Heather congratulated her on the sale and offered to drive all their jobs straight to the lab that evening, to expedite the wait time.
A few days later, the lab delivered the finished job. Angela was off, so Heather called David in for a dispensing appointment. He arrived a few hours later, and Heather presented the frame on a velvet tray, proud of how thin the finished lenses were.
“Those aren’t mine,” David said.
Heather’s smile froze as her eyes darted down to the tray. They were gold Cazals, as typed in the job order.
“Did you accidentally grab someone else’s glasses?” David asked.
“Um, no ...,” Heather trailed off. This had never happened to her before, and her face flushed. She could tell David wouldn’t be afraid to express his dissatisfaction if she didn’t handle the situation correctly.
“My frames don’t have this arch,” David traced the curve of the lens with his finger, “and the piece behind my ear is black. I’ve had them for 10 years; I can tell these are not mine.”
“I’m so sorry, perhaps there was a mix-up at the lab. I want to meet your Friday deadline, so I am going to work on this and give you a call in an hour or two. OK?” Heather said.
“I really hope so,” David said sternly. “They’re my favorite pair.”
As soon as David left, Heather called the lab, and then consulted with Angela by phone. “We don’t even carry Cazal — I can’t even ask if they have an old pair to send us!” Heather said.
“I don’t think I wrote down the model information,” Angela confessed.
“The lab said they checked all jobs this week with Cazal frames. They can’t see where anything could have been swapped,” Heather said. “I don’t know what to tell him!” She was close to tears.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
1. Does the practice have a financial liability to David for losing his frame? How is the value determined on vintage eyewear?
2. Could David be scamming the office? How could the opticians know?
3. Is there any solution that turns David into a practice promoter, or is the office doomed to a negative review?
Expanded Real Deal Responses
1. Our waiver says if anything happens to the frame during the manufacturing process, we are not liable. We explain this verbally as well.
2. It’s hard to say if it is a scam. That’s why on our order forms we include the manufacturer, model, color, size and any other info on the frame and we have the patient initial that this is correct.
3. We would try to work with the lab and perhaps give him credit to use in the store. We would definitely do as much research on the frames to see if there is any truth to his statement (i.e. that there is a Cazal frame that is similar and also has an arch with black temples). This way when we call him back we can say definitively that there has never been a Cazal frame made with those features but we are willing to do A, B and C to ensure that you are happy with your service.
My employees have heard me state many times: Attention to detail! The gentleman’s frame info should have been recorded. And when we send a job to a lab the info is also recorded there. But is there something else that could have been done to avoid this dilemma? Yes, given that it was the patient’s own frame that he cherished, a photo could have been taken with him wearing it prior to sending the job out. This would be visual evidence that could be used by all parties to solve this dilemma (optician, patient, lab).
I’m not sure the practice has a financial liability if the patient signed a waiver, but I know that my practice would somehow attempt to compensate the patient for his loss if we felt this was not, in fact, David’s frame. The best way to determine the value of the frame would be to compare similar models online. Cazals are very distinctive frames. I can usually spot one from a mile away, so I’m sure Angela would remember if this was David’s frame or not. If I were Angela, I would probably call him out. The office may be doomed to a negative review, but a lot of this depends on the client.
POPLAR BLUFF, MO
In this case, we would have taken several pictures of David with his Cazal frame on. We know the value of a Cazal frame. A similar thing happened in our office, but we had the pictures to prove that it was the frame sent in with the job. I do believe that David is scamming the office.
That’s why I encourage taking selfies. In fact, I use my “office” cellphone to show the proper way to take selfies without the distorted perspective so common in lay photos. Then I have their choice. This clears up the confusion/doubt, but if they really don’t like the delivered choice, I restyle away.
I think it is necessary to give David the benefit of the doubt if there is anything less than 100 percent certainty that the frame is his. Let him know you are sincerely sorry and that despite everyone's best efforts, the frame cannot be located (if this is, in fact, true.) Without frame name/detailed info, it is impossible to seek a replacement. Offer him a new frame and new lenses. This will likely be a "breakeven" for the practice. If David is not happy with this option, ask him what he thinks is fair. It's easy if you think about what you would want done for you if roles were reversed.
There are three possibilities here: 1) the lab lost the frame, 2) David might be scamming the office and 3) David might have a cognitive impairment. Regardless of the situation, ask him to bring in photos of himself wearing his favorite frame. Angela can explain that it is to help identify his frame. If the pictures reveal the same frame then the proof is not arguable. If it’s not a match, then the office should replace the frame and lenses. We had a patient who was trying to get a new frame from us, but when we asked him to bring pictures, he politely declined and was never seen again. Another time, when a patient did return with pictures and he saw the frame matched the pictures, he accused us of doctoring the old picture. Fortunately, his accompanying daughter calmly quelled his anger and later discreetly explained that her father suffered from Alzheimer's. Lesson: Never take a frame without a model number or smart phone picture.
DOWNERS GROVE, IL
We had a situation where a patient's grandfather brought in a pair of glasses he’d been wearing for a bit and complained were not what his grandson had ordered. We believe it was an old pair of glasses, that possibly his new glasses had been lost or broken, and he had pulled out this pair to use instead of letting someone know. We maintained that we had given the correct pair of glasses to his grandson, however, we did remake the glasses and give them to the grandfather, photo documenting the transaction so as not to have another incident. We felt that making the patient happy outweighed to cost of the lenses. Going forward - adding to your waiver, the type of frame, size, etc., also take a photo and print it to include in the tray until the job comes in and is picked up and/or have the patient sign the photo to verify the frame they are picking up.
If the initial dispenser believes it is the same frame, then it IS the same frame. The fact that it’s Cazal helps in this case. "These are your glasses, sir." Call his bluff. If the guy turns it into a major dispute, then he might be telling the truth in which case, "Sir, what would you like us to do?" Don't worry about a negative review. Where there are negative people, there are negative reviews.
Citrus Heights, CA
Nice well thought out SCAM. He probably got the Cazals from a prior doctor. Next time, get a cell phone photo and write down the measurements. In this case, ask patient how he wants this problem resolved. Ask him if he wants ANY frame you carry and make him another Rx, let him keep both pairs. That's a tough one, but it's a learning experience.
Waiver, Waiver, Waiver! Our practice requires a patient to sign a Patient’s Own Frame Waiver if we are reusing an existing frame. It details our best effort will be made to accommodate the use of the POF but unforeseen situations can happen where we will not be held liable. Could David be scamming the office? Sure, but you don't want to suggest that. This type of situation happens, I have personally failed to write things down properly or have the waiver signed and I have sweated the outcome. Making every effort and showing the patient that every effort has been made should keep the office in good standing with this patient. Explanation of the labs effort and documenting all that follows should help prevent further issues. One unhappy patient leads to an avalanche of negative feedback and patients will go somewhere else. David’s influence on the practices positive impression is key. Word of mouth can make or break your practice.
The practice needs to find a solution to this. I have had patients make the same claim, sometimes the frames just look different to them when they see them on dispense. They should ask David if he remembers where he purchased them or where the lenses were previously replaced, then maybe they could help identify if it is indeed the same frame. He could be a con. That is why it is important to get all the information you can from the frame when placing the order. Maybe ask David if he has a picture of himself in the frame and they could tell from that if he is right or wrong. Then ask him what he would expect you to do in this situation. It should be reasonable to do, if not, be ready with a counter offer and negotiate a deal you can both live with.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of INVISION.