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You Know What They Say About Making Assumptions

Don’t make an ass out of yourself and your “expertise.”




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I HAVE BEEN IN the optical industry since 1984, and one thing I have noticed in those 37 years is how many assumptions we make about customers. One of the worst is that because we are the experts, the customer needs to do what we think is best.

Yes, we are the experts, but when we assume we know what is best we stop listening to the customer long before they are finished telling us what they need. And not listening is one of the best ways to keep someone from coming back.

There is an assumption almost all of us make with every presbyope that walks in; they need a progressive lens. “Do you like to read? Get a progressive.” “Spend much time on a computer? Get a progressive.” “Having problems seeing your dashboard? Get a progressive.” Now, please do not get me wrong, progressive lenses will work for about 90 percent of the population, but it is unfair to the 10 percent that do not like, or cannot wear, progressives to ignore their needs. Our job is to take care of all our customers, not just those that conform to our expectations.

I realize it is optical heresy to say that not everyone will be comfortable in a progressive lens, but it is true. People with medical conditions such as vertigo may be uncomfortable with the different focal lengths of a progressive lens and feel better with two pair of glasses: a single vision distance and single vision computer or near. The obvious drawback is the need for two pairs of glasses, but the lack of distortion in the distance and wider field in the near outweigh these issues for many. There is also a possible cost saving for the customer, as progressive lenses can be more expensive, and most labs will offer a discount if two pair of glasses are ordered.

Another group of people who may not be able to wear a progressive are those with very disparate prescriptions. If a patient is a +2.50 in the right eye and a -3.00 in the left eye it is possible their eyes do not have the ability to converge due to the amount of prism created in the near. These patients would probably be better served by a slab-off with a lined bifocal. It is possible to do a slab-off in a progressive, but that defeats the (cosmetic) purpose of a progressive, and there will still be issues with the intermediate.

There are also those who simply prefer the functionality of a lined bifocal or trifocal, or whose work isn’t conducive to wearing a progressive. An electrician who spends a lot of time looking at things above them would be better served by some type of occupational lens like a Double D, where there is a bifocal on the top and bottom of the lens. They may have a progressive as a primary pair, but for economic reasons opt for the occupational glasses for continual use. Others may simply prefer a lined bifocal or trifocal because they offer a more sharply defined reading and/or intermediate area, or because they find the periphery clearer.


Our customers depend on us to get the information needed for them to make the best decisions … not for us to make assumptions. When we take the time to listen to our customers, we earn their respect — not only for us as individuals but for the industry as a whole.

Steve Burek One day Steve Burek walked into a small independent optical laboratory and was hired to polish lenses. He spent the next 14 years learning every aspect of lab work, from surfacing to edging. In 1998 he made the transition from wholesale to retail. He now lives in the Milwaukee area working for a very busy three-OD practice. Email Steve at


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