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This Optician Ended Up Giving All Her Time to a Customer That Bought Glasses Online

What rules can a business lay down for customers who try on all the frames fully intending to buy online without ultimately hurting their sales?

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DR. ROWAN APPROACHED Irma, his optician. “I am finished with this patient and she needs glasses. She mentioned she wanted to purchase glasses online but also said she wants to look.”

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.

“Sounds good, I’ll make sense of it,” Irma responded as she headed towards the customer. “Hi, I’m Irma, an optician. I’m here to help you find glasses, make sense of your insurance and answer any optical-related questions you may have.”

“Cool. I have photos on my phone of some styles I like and want to try,” the customer said as she showed Irma the photos.

“We have many of those styles; let me gather them for you,” Irma said as she walked around and shopped for the customer. She set a handful of frames on the table. “Here are nearly identical models to the ones you have photos of.”

The customer began trying them on and showed Irma additional photos of other styles. Irma continued to bring frames to the customer and answer many questions. She thought the customer was all over the map in terms of the styles she was looking at, but figured she just wanted to try on a variety of options. The customer took many selfies wearing her favorite frames.

After over an hour of trying on almost every frame in the store, the customer said to Irma, “I think I’ve got a good idea of what I am liking. I want to think about it. Could I please get my PD?”

As Irma used the pupilometer and gave the customer her PD, she tried to save the sale and shared, “Now that you’ve had your eye exam you can stop in for glasses anytime, no appointment needed. All of our frames come with a two-year warranty and depending on the lens options you order, will have a one- or two-year warranty.”

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Irma was annoyed to have spent a good deal of time with that customer just to have her leave to likely get glasses online. But it had happened before—and would probably happen again.

A few weeks passed and that same customer returned. When she walked in Irma was hopeful that she had come back after thinking about the different styles to order a pair of glasses. She approached the customer. “Hi, nice to see you again! How can I help today?”

“I have this pair of glasses that don’t fit quite right.” The customer continued, “I didn’t get them here but was hoping you could make them fit better.”

“Sure,” Irma said. She had the customer try them on, then looked and felt them over to see how they needed to be adjusted. “Let me take them in the back and make some adjustments. I’ll be right back.”

As Irma took the glasses to her workbench, she was determining how to adjust them without damaging them since they were not from her store. She noticed that the brand inside the temple was an online brand and her disappointment compounded.

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The Big Questions

  • Where do you (or your state laws) fall on the “providing a PD as part of an optometrist’s prescription” debate?
  • What could be done to help opticians not waste time with known non-customers without deterring sales?
  • How/when do you determine if you should charge a customer for a PD or adjusting glasses purchased elsewhere?
Laura E.
Niskayuna, NY

Our state law does not require giving PDs as part of the exam/Rx record.

I am always helpful, kind and courteous. However, I will excuse myself to do other work if I have work to do.

I do not give PDs. Our office uses digital measurements requiring a frame for position of wear measurements. I explain to patients how that differs from “old style” measuring and let them know that online companies will give their method of measuring so as to order online. I remove myself completely from the online purchase. If a patient would like an adjustment, as with any pair I don’t fabricate through my labs, I tell the patient that I do not know the type of materials or coatings used and that any adjustment is at their risk. I welcome all of our patients to shop around and remind them there is a place for retail establishments and they should choose what is best for them. I let them know our discount packages and warranties.

Amie R.
Spring Hill, TN

In Tennessee, PDs are not part of the Rx and we are not required to give it to the patient. We simply tell them that whomever they’re buying from will advise them as to how to take the measurement themselves. It amazes me how many people will cause a fuss and leave ugly reviews because we won’t help them purchase from someone else. As for adjusting glasses made somewhere else — anywhere else — for free, that is a fairly hard no. By fairly hard I mean, you just moved to town and you’re scheduling with us, then probably. If the frame is an online brand, nope. Our staff is well trained and well paid, and that don’t come cheap. So, that adjustment is a smooth $25.00. If they won’t pay then you know your professional services have no value, and they will continue to make bad purchasing decisions.

Jennifer L.
Dansville, NY

This has been so frustrating for us. We treat each patient with respect but it’s hard to when they don’t respect us. We’ve explained to several customers that we will not adjust online purchased eyewear out of respect for ourselves and for the following reasons: We are a small locally owned independent retailer who will not be able to maintain a storefront if we don’t sell glasses. We express how much we contribute to our community, from sponsoring little league teams to donating to the local hospital. We support many local charities as well as offer a scholarship at school. We will no longer be able to do these things if people buy their eyewear online. Seriously, so many people need this pointed out to them. Common sense is not something people are born with.

David G.
Newport Beach, CA

There’s no such thing as wasting time on known non-customers. They’re only not a customer because they haven’t bought anything from you yet. It’s an excellent opportunity to: a) hone your craft; b) build a rapport; and c) look busy and knowledgeable to anyone else in the store at that time. A willingness and readiness to help really looks good on a person and makes them much more approachable. I have had one person who has come in for years, and while they have never bought glasses from me, their son has recently started using my services. I have never turned somebody away for an adjustment or PD measurement. I let them know in advance that I’m not liable for any damages and 99.9% of the time everything goes just fine. This business is all about OPTICS. Look good, so you can help people look good and see well.

Justin T.
Pittsfield, MA

Massachusetts does require an optometrist to provide a PD during the exam IF the patient requests one. We work primarily with ophthalmologists, so we do use that verbiage to our advantage. Personally, I feel the best way to combat online sales is not to compete in their market. Our company provides exquisite, personally curated frames, with high technology lenses. We don’t offer the same products that are sold by the most popular online stores. Additionally, we offer an in-store experience with a licensed/certified optician that will take precise digital measurements and can sculpt the frames you select to fit perfectly. We don’t compete in their market, and they don’t compete in ours.

Sheldon K.
Lauderhill, FL

Florida law requires that a PD be given as part of the prescription even though this has traditionally been part of the fitting and dispensing of eyewear. Our office has a strict policy to not service any frame not purchased in our office. Charging even a small fee to adjust eyeglasses not purchased at our office devalues our service and will likely put off the patient. This helps to educate patients that ongoing care and service of their eyeglasses is part of the purchase price and keeps us from enabling online sellers.

Callie W.
Bethel, VT

At our office a PD is not part of the prescription. We will give it to them if they ask for it on the day of the exam, but if they come back at another time or call asking for the PD we will charge them for that measurement, unless they are purchasing glasses from us that day. As far as adjusting frames bought online, we will do it, but we always provide the disclaimer that “We will do what we can, but as these frames are from an online retailer and of a lower quality, it is possible they may break in the process.” It is not an ideal fix, and we’d love to know how others approach this scenario.

Barry S.
Seaford, NY

If you are asked for a PD, give it — if it’s part of their medical record. If you are dispensing top-tier lenses, then their online purchase should have obvious differences. Your best customers are those who try elsewhere and come back — so do not be afraid when they do. That said, the consumer is fully engaged in multi-channel shopping. It is today’s reality. In this scenario, you should reply: “Of course I will help you. I will be happy to waive our $20 service fee to adjust glasses not purchased here, as this is the first time you have asked.”

Rick F.
Katy, TX

She is already using her for a showroom. The easier you make it for her the more she will purchase off the internet. Charge for the PD — that’s the only money you are going to make. If you don’t charge for adjustments, you’re a fool. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. People have very little loyalty anymore. If you don’t think your time is worth something they will think the same: Your time is worth nothing.

Jennifer H.
Sandpoint, ID

We charge for fitting a new pair of glasses purchased elsewhere. It’s always pretty obvious when a frame is brand new (and the customers tend to be honest about it anyways). Almost no one balks at it, because they want to rescue their “awesome deal” from disaster… and if anyone does ask, we tell them that repairs, adjustments and the like are free on frames purchased from our clinic. It’s a good way to help people understand why and how their cheapo glasses came to be “such a good price.”

AJ S.
Houston, TX

It’s information that belongs in your office and you have no responsibility to supply that information to someone. The liability of your insurance won’t let you release information to an individual that will allow them to hold you responsible for the potential of a medical mistake in their glasses being formulated. You, like any restaurant, have the right to refuse service to anyone. I own my practices so the doctors are not responsible for my decisions and they allow my association with them because of my knowledge, the products I dispense and my medical ethics.

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Chris D.
Coral Springs, FL

In my state, PD is NOT part of the Rx and I won’t take it or give it. Advise the patient if they want to purchase anywhere else, the place they order from should provide a qualified (licensed in my state) person to properly take all measurements; that includes more than just the PD. That opens further discussion. Warby Parker values the cost of adjustments and reimburses their customers $50. Every single place that gets someone in to adjust glasses from somewhere else absolutely should charge NO LESS than that. Good will is overrated and mostly non-existent. How often do they ask “how much” and we don’t take the payment? That’s shooting ourselves in the foot. No other professional services give all the work away for free. And subsidizing online companies whose model DEPENDS on your free labor is bad business for you. As far as time with the patient — give them service they cannot get online AND SHARE THAT VALUE with them. Be on alert they aren’t getting your attention for someone else to steal too.

Larry B.
Summerfield, FL

First Words: “Of course I will be happy to adjust them, BUT we cannot be responsible for breakage. There is no charge today.” “We do not carry that brand — in fact I never heard of it. If ever you need another adjustment I will be happy to help you but there will be a charge. The brands that we carry we will adjust for the lifetime of the frame.”

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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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