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A Patient Is Making Unwanted Advances on an Employee. What Role Does the Practice Have to Play?

And tell us how you’d handle this case of ‘don’t make passes at girls in glasses’.

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HEY, BLAKE, THERE’S a patient here to pick up their glasses.” Monica continues, “They said they had their exam last week and had worked with you to pick out eyewear and would like you to dispense them — the name is Cameron Perry.”

“Ok, no problem. I remember working with that patient because I couldn’t tell if they were just being excessively nice or if they had other thoughts,” Blake says with a wink.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now (opticiannow.com). Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

Monica comments, “Haha! You know patients love you.”

Blake responds, “Yeah but this felt off … would you mind hovering in optical during this dispense.”

“Of course not — let’s assess it together,” Monica snickers.

Blake gave the patient great service and made sure to not say anything that could mislead the patient, and then reconvenes with Monica. “Well now we know. That was an official wine-and-dine invitation. I’m speechless — this is the first time this has ever happened and it’s weird. And… I’m wearing a wedding ring,” Blake says while lifting up her ring finger.

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“They probably didn’t even see the ring because they were under your spell,” Monica laughs. “You declined politely and worded it in a way that didn’t leave the question open for interpretation.”

“Hopefully, next time they return it’s all water under the bridge,” Blake replies.

A week passes after the awkward dispensing and Monica approaches Blake’s desk with a ‘look’ on her face. “What’s up?” Blake asks.

“Um… Cameron Perry just came in asking to see you. I asked if I could help with his glasses, or whatever it was for, and he said they didn’t need any glasses help and just stopped in to chat with you.” Monica continues, “I told them that you were acting as a technician today and wouldn’t be available to help in optical.”

Blake replies, “That is weird… I have another patient to work up, but please tell me if something similar happens with that patient again.”

Another few weeks pass and Monica approaches Blake yet again. “Did you see that Cameron Perry is on the schedule at the end of the day? He just had his exam, and it wasn’t scheduled as urgent…”

“I’m glad I’m not teching today,” Blake shrugs. “I’m going to update the tech on the recent comments from that patient and ask them to let me know how the visit goes.”

Kim, the tech, updates Blake a short while later. “Sooo, basically Cameron thought he could get some alone time with you since you’re also a tech. There was no valid chief complaint for the visit — he thought his eye felt ‘off.’”

“Ok, now I’m getting concerned.” Blake adds, “He’s asked me out on a date, and after I said no, he’s tried to make contact several more times.”
Monica replies, “At least it’s at the end of the day — go home and decompress.”

Kim goes to lock the door for the day and notices there is still a car in a patient spot, and then she sees who is in the car waiting for the staff to leave…

The Big Questions

  • Does your office have a policy on how staff should handle extra ‘nice’ or ‘not nice’ patients?
  • How would you handle a situation like this in a way that it doesn’t escalate?
  • What role does a business have in ensuring an employee’s safety and comfort when dealing with its patrons?

 

Ben T.
Miami, FL

For the sake of the relationship, I would bring in the best sellers of the new line and see how they do. If they don’t sell, then we don’t bring on the line. Communication with the rep is key, as we have to set boundaries between good business (and serving our patients) and maintaining our professional relationships. The rep also has to take responsibility for his or her choices in whom they choose to work for and how that can affect their professional relationships. At the end of the day, it’s the patient that makes the decision on what sells and what doesn’t.

If the new company isn’t easy to work with, I won’t do business with them.

Brands make people feel a certain way. If we no longer carry a certain line or brand that a buyer is seeking, we look for alternative styles that will deliver the same look and feel that the buyer is desiring.

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Robert L.
Jefferson City, MO

In my experience, when a company loses a license for a frame line and it goes to another company the whole line is revamped. Maybe for the better but usually not. If it’s a company we’re already established with we’ll consider picking it back up. Otherwise, there are plenty of lines out there to replace the ones lost.

Rick R.
Girard, PA

You would have to look at the new line to decide. She might be the greatest rep in the history of reps but that doesn’t sell frames.

Setting up with a new company would also depend on whether they are changing the design. This happened to us with a line that went from one vendor to another. We were already buying frames from that particular vendor so that was an easy transition. But they developed new styles for the line that didn’t sell nearly as well. And this line was a top seller for us. I’d buy frames from Satan if they had the old styles.

I’d lie and say the new vendor switched to the dark side. And I’m not kidding.

Michael H.
Mentor, OH

I am an independent, multi-line, optical sales rep and I experienced a similar situation a few years ago. It’s a difficult time for all involved. I was able to keep the majority of my accounts, as I had picked up an additional, powerful line six months before I lost my #1 line. Many customers said that our relationship was most important, as I had earned their trust and their business through years of committed, top quality service. I am very grateful for the way it turned out, as it could have been a disaster that I had no control over.

Jennifer L.
Dansville, NY

I have a few reps that I love and unfortunately their product isn’t my top seller so I don’t see them. I also have reps I can’t stand but their product is great so I do most of my ordering online from their website, avoiding them. As a business owner, I have the last say and I have to carry what sells or go under. I’ve opened several accounts with new companies and proceeded to let them go after they prove to have bad customer service or poor quality. I used to LOVE the Polo products when Safilo carried them… yep — I’m that old. But when it went to someone else I explained to my customers that I no longer carried them because the brand had been picked up by another company who wasn’t meeting my expectations. They understood. No patient is so dead-set on a brand name that you can’t explain the reason they should look elsewhere.

Jessica H.
Lawrence, KY

This is an unfortunate situation but I would at the very least take a look at our favorite rep’s line to see if I think we could sell what she has. However if I don’t think it’s going to do well at this location I would part ways. After all it’s just business — nothing personal. In setting up a new account I first would see what all the options are if they end up changing the line itself. Could we sell through what we have? What would a warranty look like? How easily can we get out of business with them? As far as buyers of the line, I would assure them we will get something new in that they hopefully will love just as much. If I can’t help, I will see if I can direct them where to buy the line they loved and let them know they are free to come back to see me with the frame and get lenses put in.

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Amy F.
East Brunswick, NJ

Having worked in optical for almost 20 years I’ve honestly had this go both ways. I have some fantastic reps that I’ve stuck with through thick and thin who fortunately have gotten other sellable lines. There have also been fantastic reps that I had to let go of in the business world because their new lines just wouldn’t work at the practice.

Flip side, I’ve kept dealing with some truly lousy reps because their line was such a huge seller. You can’t win all the time. I always try to stay in touch with those fabulous reps though, if only in a social way!

Texas S.
Citrus Heights, CA

First and foremost, even if we love the rep, the patients and practice are our main concern.
When a frame line moves it does not mean the styles will be similar or the same quality, so both lines would have to be looked at to make that determination. In regard to the patients, you will have to explain why you made the decision you did when it comes to what frame line you decide to carry and present any new brand with enthusiasm to support the decision you made for the practice. We all have to deal with change unfortunately.

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