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The Case of the Regrettable Rep

Grin and bear it? Go over him? Or replace him and his line all together?

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THE STAFF OF Sesnel Family Vision were in the middle of their weekly meeting in the break room, before normal business hours, when they heard pounding on the front door. Knowing that they were not open yet, one of the front desk workers, Miranda, sneakily peeked around the corner to see who was there. She turned to optician Rayna; “I’m pretty sure that is one of our frame reps pounding on the door.”

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.

Rayna looked and sure enough, it was. “That is one of our frame reps. He actually no-showed to our last appointment and this is his rescheduled appointment. Perhaps he’s early to make up for last time.” She was quite confused as to why he was 45 minutes early and why he was pounding on the door like his life depended on it. “I’ll give it a minute and see if he notices our hours on the door, and that we are not yet open.”

The overly forceful knocking continued, so Rayna walked to the door, cracked it open and politely whispered, “Hi Martin. We are not yet open, and we’re having a staff meeting. I will see you in about 45 minutes at our scheduled time.”

Martin replied, “I had a long drive and would like to be seen so my time is not wasted.”

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“Our appointment is at a time that works with the clinic schedule. As soon as our meeting is over and the doors are unlocked I can see you,” Rayna concluded as she closed the door.

As the staff meeting wrapped up Rayna said to Miranda, “I guess it’s time to go get the frame rep.”

Miranda replied, “He seems so entitled; I don’t know why you even want to meet with him.”

“The brands he manages are several of our top-selling frame lines.” Rayna continued, “Unfortunately it is very important that I meet with him so we can replenish our supply of top-sellers.”

As Rayna was viewing and selecting frames to order she noticed that Martin was of no help; he stood behind her with his arms crossed. He offered no input on what was new, had been previously sold, or any selling points about any of his frames. “Let me know when you’re done selecting frames,” Martin said. “Since we started late I’ll write up your order after my next appointment so I’m not late getting to them.”

Rayna knew that Martin’s frame lines sold well and that they were very low on stock. She was attentive and thorough when looking through the frames to make sure she ordered what would sell well. Although she knew this was an important buy, it felt like Martin was shooting laser beams into the back of her head, which completely killed the vibe of the visit.

The moment Martin left, Rayna went straight to her manager to vent. “The rep I just met with is always unpleasant but that was the most torturous visit with any rep in all my years of being an optician. He is completely useless. It absolutely kills me that he makes so much commission from our account.”

The Big Questions

  • Are high sales of their frame lines enough to justify continuing to deal with an unprofessional, unhelpful or unpleasant rep?
  • Would you continue to put up with him due to the success of the lines, or begin scaling back on buys from that rep to see if you could supplement sales with other brands? Or would you fire the rep outright, since he is of no help, and figure out a replacement brand later?
  • Have you ever successfully worked around or gone above a bad rep to continue carrying a successful brand?
Jennifer L.
Dansville, NY

I’ve kept lines that aren’t my favorite because I love the rep, and I’ve also stopped doing business with a company because the rep is obnoxious or inattentive. A rep is a “representative” of that line or company. If they do not service your account with respect (i.e., showing up and respecting YOUR time, and valuing you as their customer), drop them. There are literally thousands of other lines that will be as popular with your staff and patients.

Jeff R.
North Sioux City, SD

I would go — and have gone — directly to the company and complain about said rep. Chances are they are rude and unhelpful to other locations also. I would ask for an internal rep until they replace this one. You’re doing their work anyway — why be uncomfortable and give them the commission they don’t deserve?

Stewart F.
San Francisco, CA

1. Go to the rep’s boss and tell him/her that you are unsatisfied with the rep and tell them why. If you are having this problem, don’t assume you’re the only one. You are not.

2. I would try to find a way to order product, side-stepping the rep altogether. Try using an inside rep and order via the internet.

3. Yes. See above.

Beth P.
Slidell, LA

I have contacted many regional managers to work out these situations and have told them I don’t want certain reps in the store. The choice is to work with me personally via online purchases and returns, or don’t work with me at all. We are a Vision Source franchisee and I have had to ask them to intervene with a vendor that was considered “elite.” This vendor has three of the worst reps: a liar, a “pop in”— who once said to me that her commission for the day would be 25 cents — and lastly one I never met over a two-year period. Yes, I am stuck with product, but I now have great partnerships with my reps, because that is how it should be! So we are now divorced, I did not wish them well, and informed them that I would tell my story to every forum, blog and platform out there.

Carol W.
Wildomar, CA

We’ve had situations in the past where it was difficult to deal with a rep. Call his/her supervisor and let the supervisor know of the problems that you are having. If the supervisor is interested in keeping your business, they will get the rep under control. This has helped previously. There are plenty of great reps and great frame lines, so if this didn’t work to get things straightened out, I would find a frame line that is a better fit for the practice.

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Ruth H.
Milltown, NJ

No question: Call your rep’s boss and demand a better rep. Period.

Michael D.
Eldersburg, MD

Everyone has a bad day, especially in these last two years. If this was a one-off bad experience I would speak directly to the rep. If this is a recurrent problem, speak to the rep’s boss, who also has a boss. They work for us, we don’t work for them. No line is irreplaceable.

Judy C.
Virginia Beach, VA

Sales will never be high enough to deal with an unhelpful and rude rep. Sell down the inventory while auditioning new lines.
Years ago I brought in a new and very lovely line. First visit with the rep was great. Second visit, he told an off-color joke that was personally offensive. I ushered him out and sent the inventory back with a letter explaining why.

Chris D.
Coral Springs, FL

There are many ways around this scenario but first thing to remember is you have the position of power. If you really want to keep the frame line but not the rep, call the rep’s boss or company. If they want to keep you, they will find another way to service your account. But also remember: there are so many options. Every single brand and line is truly replaceable. All of them. Don’t get snookered into thinking otherwise. Research. Take meetings with reps who popped in and you never met before. Many gems out there. Don’t accept disrespect, and always give respect. Do respect their time so long as they respect yours. It should be mutually beneficial. And exciting. As you are with your patients, they should be the expert of their lines.

David L.
Floral Park, NY

I would talk to the regional sales manager and ask for a different rep. This happened to me and the company gave me a different rep and he was the best.

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Carissa Dunphy, ABOC, has been working in private practice optometry since 2008. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Optician Now (opticiannow.com) and recently launched opticalgifts.com. Follow Carissa on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @opticiannow.

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