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John Marvin

One Major Industry Myth It Costs You Dearly to Believe

Offering a steep discount does not sell multiple pairs of eyewear. Salespeople do.




THIS MONTH, I want to address one of the biggest myths perpetuated by private practice optometry — that patients or customers will not pay full price for their eyewear.

Let’s start with the agreement that the majority of patients (approximately 60 percent) use some form of third party payment in the purchase of their eyecare and eyewear. This amounts to starting off with a significant discount on their eyewear purchase. What if our auto insurance saved us 30 percent on the purchase of new car? Would we go ahead and purchase the low-end, or even mid-range models, or would we test drive a luxury model? I mean after all, we’re saving 30 percent right off the top!  Of course we would, it just makes sense, to go ahead and purchase what we want and only pay 70 percent of what it would normally cost.

Why do we think our patients are any different when it comes to buying prescription eyewear? We think they’re different because we think they are different. We reinforce this mindset among our staff by the way we inventory frame lines designating “insurance frames.” Our staff knows that so called “insurance frames” are inexpensive, usually not current designs and segmented into a “discount bin” area of the optical.

We reinforce that patients won’t pay full price by endorsing discounts on second or third pairs as the only way of selling them. I have worked around many practices which, by default, offer 50 percent off a second and third pair of prescription eyewear and they still don’t sell more than 10 percent of their patients multiple pairs. Offering a steep discount does not sell multiple pairs of eyewear. Sales people sell multiple pairs of eyewear.

I have often recommended that instead of discounting the second or third pair, tell your sales people they will receive $50 for every second or third pair they sell at full price and see how many $50 bills you hand out each day. I actually had a doctor tell me they wouldn’t even try this idea because they were afraid that their staff would get used to making too much money. Needless to say, this office doesn’t sell many multiple pairs, even though they promote them at 50 percent off.

If we don’t believe in the value of a second, third or even fourth pair of eyewear, why do we think patients will if we just discount them enough? Think about it, this makes no sense whatsoever.


We are fortunate to be in the business of helping people experience the best vision possible and look their best in new, stylish and fashionable eyewear. The optical is the part that patients get excited about. They look forward to picking out new glasses and come to our offices eager to spend money and purchase something fun and new but before they even walk in, we believe that they only want cheap and discounted product. In the words of Cher’s character in Moonstruck, “snap out of it!”  Don’t buy the big lie, get excited with them and have some fun helping them buy what they’ve come for.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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