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  A new day for Opticianry   
pticiansForChange.com


The #1 Web site dedicated to the renewal
of excellence in handcrafting eyewear for the
impoved vision and comfort of the Consumer...


And the #1 forum for like-minded Opticians.



Shift Happens

It's time for a shift in thinking.
It's time for Eyewear Professionals
to be agents of change going forward;
to return to the days of providing full service;
to improve their hands-on craftsmanship skills; and
for those who know, to teach those who do not know.

Opticians For Change

POINTS TO PONDER

For the last few decades our collective
mindset has manifested as, 'Divided we stand...
united we fall.' We must shift to, 'United we stand...
divided we fall,’ as our paradigm. See 1Plus1Equals11.com.

Of over 67,000 Opticians designing, manufacturing
and dispensing eyewear, less than half have formal
certification or licensure. -- U.S. Department of Labor

There is no right or wrong way to handcraft eyewear.
There is only the Patient's way. Fit to the anomaly.

It's time to end the lecture-only-training of Opticians.
It's time for Opticians to get hands-on-the-Patient training
in order to
humanize the dispensing of prescription eyewear,
thereby reducing outsourcing of the Rx to Web-based providers.

It's time for Craftsmanship. It's time for Eye Care Professionals to be
agents of change going forward. It's time for Eyewear Professionals to
improve their form-fitting eyewear skills. -- TimeForCraftsmanship.com

The closer providers are to the Patient, i.e., laying hands directly on
the Patient, the more professionally they tend to act in the interest
of the Patient. The further providers are located from point of
service
, the less likely they are to act in the Patient's interest.

Today's Retail Optical paradigm needs upgrading to that of
serving Healthcare Patients, as opposed to serving Retail Customers.
Only then can Opticians be seen as Healthcare Professionals, instead
of mere merchants. When we relate to consumers as Customers it has
an adverse impact on our relationship. When consumers get prescription
eyewear, they should invariably be served as Patients, never as Customers.
Patients receive Healthcare. Customers receive Merchandise. Just making
this simple, basic change in our mindset will have a very positive impact on
the way we deliver our Healthcare services. See ServingVersusSelling.com.

What are the chances of eyewear consumers getting a
customized fitting of their prescription eyewear? If you
answer this question correctly, you know why they buy online.

Many of today's Retail Optical Execs and Managers have
no experience in Opticianry or Ophthalmic Dispensing. In one
organization, only 1 of 43 Regional Managers is an Optician. Can
you imagine what adverse impact this practice alone must have? In
contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist.

If you will recall, Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well
the eyewear fits the Patient. So, the real issue for Opticians and
Consumers to consider is not whether prescription eyewear can be
purchased in stores or online. The real issue is the current deficiency
in the delivery of eyewear due to the absence of the craftsmanship
and skills required to dispense form-fitting eyewear to the Consumer.
The answer is: hands-on training, hands-on training, hands-on training.
It's time for those Opticians who know, to teach those who do not know.

Handcrafted frame fitting skills, i.e., touch and feel, hands-on-dispensing,
cannot be outsourced to text books or virtual sources. It is an art form and
craft, which requires direct and multi-dimensional contact with the Patient.

Many dispensers practice four-pointing eyewear on a flat surface as
a substitute for handcrafting eyewear directly on the Patient. This is a
pointless, time consuming exercise after the frame is initially squared,
usually at the lab. Once four-pointed, the eyewear must be fashioned by
skilled hands, using hands and tools, to fit the contours that are unique to
each Patient's face-skull, to wit four-pointing becomes an exercise in 'fluff.'

The PC and Internet technology have empowered mankind.
Having emerged from the age of 'I believe' into the age of 'I know',
mankind has advanced into an age of transparency and full disclosure.
Mankind's institutions are undergoing serious transformations. Big is no
longer better, and local with more humanized services has become the rule.

Opticians must assume responsibility for the current market.
Our separation from "point of service" over the last few decades is
what has contributed directly to our loss of market share, today. (We
can't be anymore separated from point of service than the Internet.) The
Consumer didn't demand or cause this separation. Opticians abdicated
this direct connection, vis-a-vis insufficient practical, hands-on training.
Opticians traded away direct personal contact as providers of healthcare
service
to Patients for marketing merchandise to customers. Our focus is now
more on Selling than it is on Serving. Opticians must regain this lost balance.
The future of Opticianry is quite literally and figuratively in the hands of Opticians.
It's incumbent on those skilled Opticians who know, to teach those who do not know.

Capitalism as practiced in this the Age of Aquarius is hopelessly flawed.
Today's capitalists have it all backwards. The new paradigm: Serve the
consumer and profit will follow, i.e., service trumps the dollar. Those
who fail to put serving consumers first will become irrelevant.

"Eyewear consumers need and deserve the following:
a) Optician-assisted, in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted, design and selection;
c) Handcrafted, form-fitting eyewear;
d) Free lifetime adjustments and
minor repair services, none of
which are available online."
Dispensing Guidelines

Opticianry is ultimately defined by how
well the
eyewear makes contact with the
Patient, not by the number of customers served.

Many optical outlets are 'ready-to-wear' stores where
eyewear merchants sell 'one-size-fits-all' merchandise,
and where numbers of sales and customers is paramount.
This environment has prostituted the practice of Opticianry.

MORE POINT TO PONDER

. Why do we so often consider Consumers mere customers
when they come to us with a doctor's prescription for their eyewear?
. Why not consider Consumers Patients when they require vision care?
. Wouldn't this change the way we relate in terms of the time and kind of
service we render them? (Maybe this is why we relate to them merely as
customers. We want to be simply merchants. Too much responsibility, otherwise.)
. Aren't optical dispensaries supposed to be genuine healthcare facilities where we
provide Three Dimensional Dispensing, i.e., the Discovery, Design, and Delivery
of prescription eyewear, and where the Patient's vision health needs are served?

What is Three Dimensional Dispensing? It's time honored craftsmanship that includes:
. Discovery of the real needs of the Patient by way of an in-depth Lifestyle Interview,
. An unbiased Design of frame and lenses that fulfill the Patient's vision needs, and
. Delivery of handcrafted eyewear, which creates a multi-dimensional balance in
relation to the visual axis, the face and skull, and results in a skull conforming,
frame-fitting that precisely matches the topography of the Patient's features.

"When Opticians relate to Consumers as customers, it often has an adverse
impact on the relationship. When Consumers purchase prescription eyewear
they should invariably be served as Patients, never as customers. Patients
receive healthcare. Customers receive merchandise." -- 3DDispensing.com

PREFACE

Our Purpose: To serve.
Our Goal: To humanize the dispensing of prescription eyewear.

"It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know." -- Hari Singh Bird

The narrative, which follows, presents a 'Bird's eye' view of a) the business model in use today by many Retail Optical Dispensaries; b) the conflicted relationship between experienced Opticians and many Retail Managers and Executives; c) the retailing practices, which have led to a steep and steady decline in the practical up-close-and-personal design, and on-the-face-delivery of custom-fitted, prescription eyewear; d) the steady upward incline of online prescription eyewear sales; and e) practical answers to the aforementioned, including remedial and transformational, handcrafted, hands on the Patient, frame fitting Dispensing Guidelines.

The genesis of the following Open Letter occurred with an optical retailer's outreach to its staff for ideas about creating "America's ‘Premier’ source for Vision Care." What follows is based in part on a written response* by a staff member, along with some additional observations. The opinions and the conclusions that follow are based first, on our direct observation and experience, and second, on the first hand testimonials (see example below) of Patients with whom we have had the opportunity of serving. And they are presented optimistically with the belief that owners and managers, whether they are independent Eyewear Professionals or optical retailers, will resonate and be inspired and motivated to make appropriate changes to their business model in order to advance the status of Opticianry as a profession while enhancing other objectives.

First, a brief personal history about Hari Singh Bird, Optician, the author of this narrative. Mr. Bird's career as an Optician began following active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps and his subsequent employment with an American Optical Company Branch Laboratory in 1958. He spent more than 2 years in all phases of Laboratory operations as a Lab Technician, which included hand surfacing, power generation, hand stone and automatic edging, bench work, finishing, final inspection and hands on the Patient, handcrafted, custom fitting of eyewear.** (At that time AO and B&L, Bausch and Lomb, laboratories dispensed eyewear to the public at the request of eye care practitioners, i.e., MD's and OD's. See OpticianryToday.com for additional background.) Mr. Bird then became the Manager of an AO Branch Laboratory, and later a Sales Rep for American Optical lenses, frames, and ophthalmic instruments. He subsequently returned to Ophthalmic Dispensing with a joint MD-OD practice. He holds active Dispensing Optician licenses in Florida and Arizona. He is also ABO, American Board of Opticianry, and NCLE, National Contact Lens Examiners certified. He is a current member of POF, Professional Opticians of Florida, and he has several years experience as the owner of an independent, privately operated Ophthalmic Dispensary, and more recently as a Licensed Optician for a retail optical chain. He is currently a Dispenser Training Consultant and conducts Optical Workshops, which are accredited for CE hours by the Florida State Board of Opticians, Provider #50-13776, ABO, and by POF. Click or Call 800-528-0413 Ext 354 to arrange for a Training Session. Also see notes below. NOTE: Any Optician interested in teaching their craft can contact me at LinkedIn.com.

AN OPEN LETTER

Many Optical Retailers are well positioned in the marketplace, but few are ready to be America's 'Premier' Vision Care Practitioners. Many of them employ a business model that works well for marketing general merchandise. But an Optical Dispensary is different. Like a Pharmacy or Health Clinic, an Optical Dispensary is a Healthcare Facility where prescription eyewear is designed, fitted and serviced. It is not a strictly mercantile sales facility. The comparison can be likened to the difference between a retail outlet where mostly frames and lenses are sold to Customers versus a Health and Wellness Eye Care Service where precision made, prescription specific, prosthetic optical devices are designed, handcrafted and custom fitted directly on Patients. The concept lost in today's retail market is that the Optician's mission is to maintain an appropriate balance between Serving and Selling. See The Coming Humanization of The American Economy and To Serve Is To Succeed. Also see Our Code of Ethics.

An aspiring 'Premier' Vision Care Practitioner must focus on a) ongoing practical training of Staff, b) highest standards of care for Patients, c) inclusion of well qualified Opticians in upper management positions, d) sensitivity to Patients' eye care needs, and e) realistic sales goals, which allow for excellence in the dispensing of eyewear.

There is an acute need for Optical Dispensaries, including those associated with U.S. government agencies, to acquire:

Adequate workspace and staffing,

Expanded and ongoing training of staff that includes Handcrafted form-fitting eyewear directly on the Patient training, which includes:

Dispensing Guidelines;

Full Discovery Lifestyle Interview;

Handcrafted, Customized, Form-Fitting Frame Adjustment Techniques;

Familiarity with both the Lensmeter and a wider range of Dispensing Hand Tools;

Working knowledge of Optical Laboratory Operations such as Layout, Surfacing, Finishing and Final Inspection practices;

Working knowledge of the Ophthalmic Refraction, and

Adequate training in Contact Lens Care and Patient Compliance.

"Many of today's Retail Optical Execs and Managers have
no experience in Opticianry or Ophthalmic Dispensing. In one
organization, only 1 of 43 Regional Managers is an Optician. You
can imagine what adverse impact this practice alone must have. In
contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist."

Some Executives and Managers within the retail optical industry, some with MBA's as their only prior experience, tend to make decisions that adversely impact an acceptable standard of vision care. Some are focused exclusively on their career advancement as Managers, while promoting sales goals that require interminable amounts of paperwork and reports from subordinates. This in turn interferes with the ongoing technical training of staff and the practice of Opticianry, and the delivery of quality healthcare. See 1Plus1Equals11.com.

"The conflicted relationship between Professional Opticians and
Retail Management can be likened to the current relationship
between Medical Practitioners and Insurance Industry HMO's."

Retail Managers who are absent Opticianry skills need sufficient training, possibly even in-house certification, in subjects such as the Lifestyle Interview, Optics and Lens Design, Custom Form-Fitting and Handcrafted Delivery of prescription eyewear, including contact lenses, and Trial Lens and Frame usage BEFORE they assume policy-making and-or supervisory roles. Currently, most get on-the-job training only, and their actions and decisions reflect their inexperience to the detriment of acceptable service. Again, providing professional vision care, i.e., interviewing, designing, measuring, and the handcrafted form-fitting of prescription eyewear directly ON PATIENTS requires a lot of technical expertise, time, and people skills. Again:

"The handcrafted form-fitting of eyewear involves far more than just adjusting
a nose piece or bending a temple. It has to include reshaping, bending
stretching, twisting, aligning and sculpting of the frame components
in order to personalize the eyewear. Anything less will most likely
compromise the Patient's visual comfort and long term wearability.
The difference between adjusting and handcrafting is what's different
between today's dispenser-merchant and yesterday's skilled Optician."

CONTACT LENS DISPENSING AND CONSUMER
COMPLIANCE REQUIRES ATTENTION TO DETAIL


"The most perfect prescription can be compromised if the
eyewear does not provide comfort and full-time wearability."

Example: Newly purchased eyewear, including contact lenses, is routinely and casually handed over to Patients with little if any handcrafted fitting of the frame directly ON THE PATIENT, or without sufficient instructions regarding contact lens wear and Patient compliance.

POINTS TO PONDER

THE NUMBER-ONE PATIENT COMPLAINT 

"Nobody adjusted my glasses. They just handed them to me."

When Opticians relate to Consumers as customers, it too often has
an adverse impact on their relationship. When Consumers acquire
prescription eyewear, they should invariably be served as Patients,
never as customers. Patients receive Healthcare. Customers receive
merchandise. Just making this simple change in our perspective
will have a positive impact on the way we deliver our services.

Every Patient deserves a fully personalized design and handcrafted fitting of their eyewear. The fact that the frame lies on a flat surface squarely should never preclude handcrafting the frame directly on the Patient. This becomes obvious when after fitting a Patient with facial anomalies, the frame no longer fits squarely on a flat surface. Facial-cranial structure, the positioning of each eye and ear, the mastoid area behind each ear (see photo), all of these differ with each person. See Common Complaints and Causes. See GlassesOnlineWarning.com. See also The Final Fitting.

Example: Experienced Opticians are required to reduce or even by-pass the time necessary to conduct life-style interviews, design appropriate lenses, and handcraft prescription eyewear directly on Patients by inexperienced Managers. See How To Manage An Optical Dispensary.

Dentists, Manicurists and Hairstylists make direct, tactile contact with the
consumer. Likewise, Opticians must make direct contact with the Patient.
Hands on the Patient Opticians, can determine by sense of touch how a
frame feels even in lieu of asking the Patient. Only an eyeglass merchant
routinely hands over prescription glasses with no hands-on assessment,
nor the appropriate touch and feel required to hand craft the eyewear.

Again, handcrafting a vision appliance on a Patient involves a different level of technical knowledge and people skills. Dispensing prescription eyewear includes many elements of craftsmanship, artistry, and Patient-Dispenser interaction along with significant technical skill and finesse in their application. All of these are key to the success of any Vision Healthcare Facility.

A well-known optical chain's list of expectations for
the purpose of recruiting dispensing staff members.

1) Greet Customers in a friendly manner and
ensure high quality Customer service.
 
2) Maintain a continuous effort to obtain            
company objectives.                                              
3) Create and maintain a retail environment   
    that is fun, educational, and professional.
4) Ensure all visual merchandising is
                   
implemented and maintained.                       
5) Ensure all Customer service complaints      
are handled effectively and efficiently.
    
 
6) Show and recommend frames and explain
             product features and benefits to Customers. 
                    
  7) Take optical measurements for Customer eyewear.
                 8) Meet and-or exceed pre-established sales goals.

From another well-known optical employer.

1) Drive profitable store Sales by fostering a retail selling culture
by practicing and role-playing effective retail sales skills.
    
2) Develop professional business relationship with other Staff.   
3) Fill ophthalmic eyeglass prescriptions and fit and adapt          
lenses and frames, utilizing optical prescription.

A recent employer's ad.

GREAT PAY AND GREAT BENEFITS! GREAT CAREER OPPORTUNITIES!
SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES, SALES!
OPTICAL, OPTICAL, OPTICAL, OPTICAL, OPTICAL, OPTICAL, OPTICAL!
Optician, optical dispenser, optometry tech, receptionist, administrative,
clerical, office, salesperson, sales consultant, fashion consultant.
Salary commensurate with experience. 2 year experience required.

Notice that these Merchants rank Retail Sales over skills whereby 'Customers' are the focus. In contrast, a Vision Healthcare Facility emphasizes Skill over marketing whereby 'Patients' are the focus, which produces higher levels of Patient satisfaction, fewer remakes and-or refunds, and subsequent profitability due to increased and sustainable Patient referrals.

Recent online profile by a latter day Licensed Optician.

"Licensed Optician focused on converting patients
with malfunctioning (structural integrity) and outdated
eyeglasses (quality of vision) into a sales opportunity.
Specialties: SALES, SALES reports, SALES goals, quality
control, insurance filing, insurance analysis, training, word
processing, building professional relationships with clients."

Again, the focus here is on a Selling opportunity not a Serving opportunity. Of course, merchandising is an important and necessary service, but all too often the Healthcare delivery component of the Optician-Patient equation becomes secondary to the act of selling, i.e., in too many cases excessive and unrealistic sales goals override the mission of providing professional Healthcare, whereby the personalized, handcrafted fitting of eyewear is given only minor consideration, if any. The reality of this issue is clearly demonstrated by a steady albeit unfortunate number of unhappy Patients and the subsequent loss of revenue by way of return visits, remakes, refunds and fewer Patient referrals. See more testimonials. See Common Complaints and Causes. See Free Handcrafted Frame Fitting Course.

POINTS TO PONDER

The manager of a nationwide retail optical dispensary
advised a staff member who attempted to hand craft a
frame as seen here that they would be fired if they tried to
fit "another 'customer' with such an 'ugly' looking adjustment."

For many consumers, the handcrafted form-fitting of eyewear
by a skilled, hands-on Optician is an unfamiliar experience.

What do we mean when we say, dispensers are 'out-of-touch,' regarding the
degradation of consumer services within the prescription eyewear industry?
We mean that the farther we keep ourselves away from person-to-person, hands
on the patient contact, the less we are likely to deliver true service. A case in point
is a university study at Duke, which finds that golfers are much less likely to say it's
okay to physically move a ball four inches with their hands (hands-on) than they are
likely to say it's okay to nudge it with their club (out of touch). Without appearing to
make too outrageous an extrapolation, our read is that the closer Opticians get to a
Patient, i.e., laying their hands directly on the Patient, the more responsibly they
will act in the interest of serving the Patient's needs, i.e., the more removed they
are from point of service, the less likely they are to perform well. In other words,
successful dispensing of eyewear is directly related to the proximity of service.

You are fitting a person for comfort, not a table for square
or for pretty. Every person has different anomalies, and the area
behind their ears is not flat or straight.
-- OpticiansForChange.com

'Four pointing' eyewear on a table is never a substitute for
handcrafting the frame directly on a person. For too many
ECPs the table has become the point of service, not the patient.

The handcrafted form-fitting of eyewear involves more than just adjusting a nose
piece or bending a temple. It has to include the reshaping, bending, stretching,
twisting and artful sculpting of the frame components in order to personalize the
eyewear. Anything less will most likely compromise the Patient's visual comfort
and full-time wearability. The difference between adjusting and form-fitting is
what's different between today's eyewear merchants and yesterday's Opticians.

More and more eyewear is being purchased from
online merchants because Consumers can't find
professional services in brick-and-mortar dispensaries.
So, there is no compelling reason NOT to purchase online.

But then where do online Consumers get their eyewear serviced?

What if my new glasses need repair?

What if my new glasses don't fit comfortably?

What about Rx accuracy, FREE lifetime service on frame adjustments, and where do
Consumers go to get their lenses replaced, frame realignments or routine repairs?

When's the last time you saw or heard a retail optical
store promote the handcrafting of eyewear? Could this
be because they don't know how to custom-fit eyewear?
Could it be that the staff only knows how to sell glasses?

More and more eyewear is being purchased online.
The number one complaint of brick-and-mortar patrons ...
"Nobody adjusted my glasses. They just handed them to me."
So, for these consumers there's little difference between the service
they receive in many of today's dispensaries and buying glasses online.


QUOTES

"Success always follows good service.
Any action, which genuinely favors the
Patient, always improves the bottom line.
We need to focus on caring for our Patients."
See The Humanization of Our Economy.

"An Optician's first purpose is to serve as
a skilled Health and Wellness Provider.
"

"The most perfect ophthalmic Rx can
be compromised if the eyewear does not
provide comfort and long term wearability."

"There is no right or wrong way to handcraft eyewear.
There is only the Patient's way. Opticians must take as
much time as needed to handcraft the Patient's eyewear."

"What is it that Dentists, Manicurists, Hairstylists and Opticians
all have in common? They all have to make personal, direct,
tactile, contact with consumers while dispensing services.
When Opticians do not touch the consumer at the time
they dispense their eyewear, they're acting more as
unskilled eyeglass merchants than as Opticians.
"

"Patients deserve a pleasant experience.
Patient
s deserve as much time as they need.
Patients deserve handcrafted prescription eyewear."

"Opticians are vision experts who serve Patients with
comprehensive vision solutions as opposed to eyeglass
merchants who sell glasses and contact lenses to customers."

"When Opticians relate to Consumers as customers, it often has
an adverse impact on their relationship. When Consumers acquire
prescription eyewear, they should invariably be served as Patients,
never as customers. Patients receive healthcare. Customers receive
merchandise. Just making this simple, basic, change in our mindset
will have a very positive impact on the way we deliver our services."

"Opticians are Eyewear Professionals. Opticianry
is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes
contact with the Patient, not by the number of Customers served.
Therefore, a conscious, precise, and personalized process of frame
selection, lens design, and handcrafted form-fitting is required. In
too many cases an obsession with sales goals overrides the Optician's
mission of providing professional healthcare, whereby the personalized,
handcrafting of eyewear is given only the most minor consideration, if any."

"The expert handcrafting of eyewear involves more than just adjusting a nose
piece or bending a temple. It has to include the reshaping, bending, stretching,
twisting and artful sculpting of the frame components in order to personalize the
eyewear. Anything less will most likely compromise the Patient's visual comfort
and long term wearability. The difference between adjusting and form-fitting is
what's different between today's eyewear merchants and yesterday's Opticians."

"Dentists, Manicurists and Hairstylists make direct, tactile, contact with
the consumer. Likewise, Opticians must make direct contact with the Patient.
Hands on the Patient Opticians, can determine by sense of touch how a frame
feels even in lieu of ever asking the Patient. Only unskilled eyeglass merchants
routinely hand over prescription eyewear with little or no hands-on assessment,
nor the appropriate touch and feel required to handcraft and form-fit the eyewear."

"Today, consumers can go online to get the same dehumanized service they
receive from eyewear merchants for less cost and with more convenience.
We must humanize the consumer's experience in order to get them back.
Skilled and experienced Opticians 'take charge' of the dispensing procedures
whereby they can anticipate adverse visual and fitting issues with direct hands-
on-the-patient eyewear design and handcrafting skills before the Patient has to
endure them, thereby avoiding the necessity and inconvenience of return visits
and-or possible re-do's, or worse, refunds, and the adverse notoriety that comes
thereafter. When the eyecare industry as a whole returns to this practice as the
dominant paradigm in today's market, consumers will return to brick-and-mortar
dispensaries for their eyewear purchases. Unfortunately, as things stand, many
consumers have little reason not to make their eyewear purchases online."

"As a consumer, if I know I can't get my eyewear form-fitted at a brick
and mortar dispensary, and I know if I buy online it's the same
issue, I will probably choose getting it unfitted in my mailbox."

"Artfully handcrafted, multi-dimensional adjustments, including direct, hands-on,
touch and feel procedures such as reshaping the temple ends to make direct and
fully touching-without-pressing contact with the mastoid complex behind the ears,
while simultaneously avoiding direct contact with the pressure-sensitive ears, is
the single most important consideration for full-time comfort and wearability."

"It is time for direct, touch and feel, handcrafted eyewear training to happen.
It's done by one-on-one craftsmanship training. It cannot be learned virtually."

"Consumers deserve consistently competent service from skilled professionals."

        

TESTIMONIALS

OurSense

ALL TOO COMMON TESTIMONIALS

A consumer recently reported their experience whereby they were handed their new eyeglasses at a large retail optical store by a Dispenser (not an Optician) with some 20 years of experience, whereupon no adjustments to the frame were made and the Patient was forced to seek the appropriate service elsewhere. The Patient subsequently reported that she felt fortunate to find an Independent Optician like us, having the skills to relieve her discomfort, after spending a considerable amount of time searching. (Question: Is there a difference anymore between buying prescription eyewear in a brick-and-mortar store and buying online? See GlassesOnlineWarning.com.)

Here's a note from a frustrated consumer looking for a skilled Optician. She contacted us by phone for a referral. We sent her several names of Opticians that were recommended by Opticians whom we contacted.

Dear Mr. Bird,

Thank you so much for the effort you have made on my behalf. I am encouraged to hear of the possibility for assistance in my local area and while the Optician in Fairfield to whom you referred is not out of the question, the central Connecticut location is truly more convenient for purposes of driving and fittings so I will investigate and let you know how things go. Right now I'm actually recovering (I hope) from some infection, which seemed to begin in my eyes, and so I'll hold off until completely cleared.

I really appreciate what you have done as truly it is difficult to know who to start with and I think that it would be difficult for me to have gotten a recommendation directly as a Patient. I'll contact my Ophthalmologist to get my current prescription and eye history and let her know I've avoided getting reading and computer glasses, even though I really need them because truly the current glasses (progressives) have never been comfortable. My prescription for walking around and driving has been acceptable but they never have been fit to accommodate reading. I understand what you explained about trifocals and bifocals and I understand that these might be better compared to progressive lenses.

I guess I'm looking for improvement at least in the fit of my glasses and I won't be expecting one pair of glasses to do everything. So, finding a professional who can work with me toward more comfort as my eyes change with age really will be a great improvement.

Here's a recent e-mail from a long time Patient, now living out-of-state.

Having you fit my glasses on my face, ears, nose and under my turban with care and attention to detail, making minute but essential adjustments, was the best experience I have ever had of having glasses fitted to my face during my lifetime of wearing glasses. The first time you did my glasses, and your wife suggested to me that I also have my lenses tinted to gently soften the lines around my eyes, was a memorable experience. I have shared the story of that day, in your Optical Shop very often, whenever I get ‘new’ glasses. Most Opticians are surprised to hear the story and also amazed that having that care and attention to detail as a part of having glasses fit properly made such a difference in my life. Having my glasses not hurt, and having them fit properly was an incredible blessing. Having my glasses fit gracefully and painlessly under my turban was nothing short of a Godsend. I can honestly say that no other Optician ever did such an impeccable job as you did. I once tried to get new lenses in the glasses that you had adjusted for me. I came back to pick up the glasses and someone said to me that the Optician had straightened out the bent side pieces! I was so upset! I made the Optician come out and I explained what you had done for me, why you had done it and what a terrible disservice he had done by ‘straightening’ my side pieces and that he had to re-bend the side pieces back to where they had been. Needless to say, those glasses never fit the same again! After that I never changed lenses without speaking directly to the person making the lenses and making sure they knew not to change or adjust the side pieces. If you lived where I could get my glasses adjusted properly that is where I would go...

A consumer who found our Web site.

Sir, I salute you! I quite agree about the loss of experience in fitting eye wear to client. I currently don't know a qualified Optician, one who carefully fits the frame to the head. I'm currently working on adjusting my new pair of glasses. It's an on-going project. I'd pay just for the professional fitting. In time, I may review both your sales and your fitting courses.

A recent e-mail from a Massachusetts friend upon visiting our Web site.

I was 9 (*cough,cough!* an eon ago!) - I can't remember actually being "fitted" with my glasses in years and years. Thank you for this reminder that it SHOULD be done this way. Perhaps if dispensaries had continued these practices I wouldn't have felt so aggrieved at the continually and gasp-inducing rising prices of eyewear. To such an extent, in fact, that the last pairs of glasses I've gotten, I purchased online. (Hope you were sitting down for that! I wouldn't want to be the cause of a heart attack :-) ) No, I didn't get fitted, obviously, but I got exactly the same product - AND service - I would have gotten at any local shop, for so much less money that I was able to buy three pairs of glasses for about a third of the price I'd have paid in person. Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

My 'two sense.' So, this consumer's experience suggests the reason for the proliferation of online prescription eyewear sales is not so much about lower prices as it is about adequate personalized, handcrafted, hands on the Patient services. There are only three things the optical industry can offer the prescription eyewear consumer, SERVICE, QUALITY and PRICE. But most latter-years dispensaries currently ever offer ONLY TWO of these, simultaneously.

Why can’t we offer SERVICE, i.e.,
1) HANDS-ON THREE DIMENSIONAL DISPENSING;
2) QUALITY PRODUCTS;
3) FAIR PRICING. All three simultaneously, like we used to do?

This leaves online providers only with their cheaper prices and no custom fitting skills for that segment of the market, and leaves the remaining market (we’re talking mostly about full-time prescription-wearing consumers, not those looking for plano sunwear or readers) to Eyewear Professionals. A big challenge now, is that the industry has devolved to the point of being extremely short on Multi-Dimensional Dispensing Technicians. See Shift Happens.

BTW: A colleague recently asked...

What does it say about the "soul" of our profession when the first "selling point" that comes out of a frame rep's mouth is, "Your cost is $9.95, but it's listed in Frame Facts for $79.95...so you can bill insurance higher? -- See ServingVersusSelling.com.

From a fellow Optician:

Coming from the old-fashioned world of Opticianry, it really saddens me that today is all about the sales. Gone are the days of one on one, fitting and guiding the patients through the process. I have even come across people who never even knew they were wearing progressives!! This is totally outrageous. They tell me they were told they will now be able to see up close with their new glasses but never explained what they were getting. This has happened more than once. I can see why the visitor to your site felt no difference buying online rather than at a brick and mortar location. It angers me that the word "fitting" is not even recognizable to him. As Opticians, we need to man up and go back to basics before the Internet takes over what we are trained to do. Thanks for the eye opening. I will take it as a encouragement to keep doing my old fashion fitting and dispensing and hope it does make a difference.

Currently 8 percent of all US retail sales are made on the Internet,
a market share that is increasing rapidly. The rising penetration of
smartphones and tablet computers will only accelerate the trend.
Across every consumer product category, the Internet is bringing
a greater pricing transparency. The recent upsurge in activity by
low–cost, Internet–based eyewear retailers raises the specter of
significant revenue loss for independents. In a recent study 16
percent of patients surveyed indicate they use the Internet
during some phase of their eyewear purchase process.

See The reason some folks buy their glasses online.

My 'two sense.'

Any ophthalmic dispenser who is not practicing basic dispensing guidelines as described here is a mere eyeglass merchant, not an Optician. And this is the major reason why many of today's PRESCRIPTION eyewear consumers purchase their eyewear online.

If you are not practicing Opticianry with the application of 3D Dispensing, Discovery-Design-Delivery, skills, i.e., 1) DISCOVERY of the consumers real eyewear needs in an unbiased Comprehensive Lifestyle Interview, 2) user friendly DESIGN of the eyewear, and 3) Touch and Feel, Hands on the Consumer DELIVERY of the eyewear, let’s be honest, you are a big part of today’s proliferation of online sales. And only you can restore market share to the industry, more skillful professional services for consumers, and the lost art of handcrafted form-fitting skills to this profession.

To this point, we recommend charging Web-based consumers realistic across-the-board-fees for follow-up servicing of ill-fitting eyewear. (This is addressed in some detail here.) Of course, we must see to it that we have the handcrafting skills that warrant charging these fees. Opticians have historically offered free lifetime service, but with the advent of online eyeglass merchants, free lifetime services can only be realistically offered to full-fee consumers. Again, we must have the hands on the patient handcrafting skills in order to warrant the fees. Unfortunately, for most latter-day Opticians, even many senior Opticians, this could pose a real challenge. See Facial Asymmetry.

Where there is NO DIFFERENCE between the service offerings of a brick-and-mortar merchant and an online vendor, other than price, many consumers understandably choose the online source. They are 7/24 accessible, cheaper, and offer the same absence of direct human contact as many of today’s dispensaries. What’s not to like? And keep in mind that 7-11 stores are successful even though their prices are higher. Why? Because consumers mostly get the Service and Quality they want.

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald's franchisees
are taking several actions to improve service, including adding staff
at peak hours and trying a new system to take orders. Surveys show that
customers consider customer service as important as price, The Journal noted.

My 'two sense.' There are only three things the optical industry can offer the prescription eyewear consumer, SERVICE, QUALITY and PRICE. But most latter-years dispensaries currently ever offer ONLY TWO of these, simultaneously. Why can’t we offer SERVICE, i.e., 1) HANDS-ON THREE DIMENSION DISPENSING, 2) QUALITY PRODUCTS, and 3) FAIR PRICING, all three simultaneously, like we used to do? This leaves the online providers with only their cheaper prices with no custom fitting skills for that segment of the market, and leave the remaining market (we’re talking mostly about full-time-wear prescription-wearing consumers, not those looking for plano sunwear or readers) to Eyewear Professionals. A big challenge now, is that the industry has devolved to the point of being extremely short on Multi-Dimensional Dispensing Technicians.

The majority of prescription eyewear consumers relates to and seeks customized Discovery, Design, Delivery, and Quality Products IF and WHEN these are available. What created the online merchant-sellers is that Multi-Dimensional Dispensing skills are more the exception than the rule. We have personally served consumers in recent years that were literally shocked to experience a tactile, hands-on, touch and feel, handcrafted frame fitting, having never seen nor experienced such service. Sad! -- See GlassesOnlineWarning.com.

From another Optician:

Hari, thank you for helping those that haven't yet figured out this lost art. Once a week I will get somebody in my shop, complaining of their eyewear just not feeling right. I cringe when I see optics up around their eyebrows, pads off kilter, and temples that look like their made to fit a watermelon. Thanks for leading this crusade. Best of luck.

My 'two sense.'

Thank you for your feedback! Here are some additional thoughts i can share.

If State Boards would give this issue some attention, I think some significant change could occur. I think we must start at the top as well as the bottom in order to turn things around.

State Boards and other industry leaders need to prohibit eyeglass merchant chains from hiring and then PROHIBITING skilled Opticians from dispensing eyewear. At one point I found myself employed in just such circumstances. The national chain hired my license only in order to operate lawfully, and then assigned/restricted me to their lab where I had to endure witnessing young and unskilled sales people dispensing eyewear, some of whom simply handed over new eyewear to consumers and then asked them to bend over in order to see if the eyewear fit well. I also witnessed the frequent 4-pointing of eyewear, a pointless procedure at the dispensing table, which indicated the extremely unskilled status of their unlicensed sales staff. Of course, having only one licensed Optician on the premises at any one time allowed management to employ cheaper entry level albeit incompetent labor. Needless to say, I terminated my employment in fairly short order after vocally expressing my concern and dissatisfaction at the delivery of eyewear with such incompetence. These are the kinds of practices that have caused the steep and steady decline and the dehumanization of Opticianry, and it's the major reason why consumers are abandoning ophthalmic dispensaries in favor of Web providers. When consumers can get their unfitted eyewear more conveniently and more cheaply from their mailbox, why should they patronize a brick and mortar store for the same incompetent service, where nobody ever lays a hand on them in order to fit their eyewear? -- See OpticianryToday.com.

Another Optician:

I agree with every word of this! Fitting glasses has become a "Lost Art" in our profession. It seems that most New Opticians believe the correct way to adjust glasses is to bend the temples at a sharp right angle at an approximate location of the back of the ear and tell the patient to "have a nice (though somewhat painful) life." No attention is being paid to pantoscopic or retroscopic tilt, proper nose pad adjustment or widening temples on the smaller frames that people (for fashion reasons) insist on buying. Keep on pushing for more fitting classes in CEC fulfillment. -- See ReachOutAndTouchSomebody.com.

From an Optician re Certification:

My state is in need of change, as well. One can obtain a job in a dispensary and not even have Certification. I am so disgusted. I still attend all the CE classes every year, but I refuse to renew due to the fact that the certificate is not worth the paper it's printed on. This is not a licensed state, certification only. I happen to be employed by a practice that collectively knows everything there is to know about optics. We take pride in this and we value our patients. We take the time to educate them, which promotes word of mouth referrals. But we are a dying breed. One day we will all retire and have to close down because trying to hire a true optician is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.

My 'two sense.'

Over the past 58 years that I have been an Optician I've seen many forces at work in the prescription ophthalmic market. A big contributor to where we are now is the professional territorial factor. There are those in this industry who have shortsightedly worked to diminish the role of the Optician. Now to the regret of the today's entire prescription eyewear market these same entities are whining about the fact that consumers are leaving them for the Internet. (Who can blame the consumer?)

You can't have it both ways. Opticians can't remain unlicensed and uncertified, thereby insufficiently trained in the science and craft, and cast as simple eyeglass merchants on one hand, but be expected to perform at the level of skilled healthcare providers on the other. Since the majority of eyewear is dispensed by those assuming at the very least the role of the 'optician' the optical industry must collectively stop casting Opticians as anything less than respectively skilled partners along with the other Os.

Only then can the dispensing of prescription eyewear regain the humanized professionalism and market footing it had when I began my career.

BTW: I spent several years in a medical/ophthalmic office working alongside two Ophthalmologists and an Optometrist, some of the most fulfilling years of my career. Fulfilling because I saw patients served with the very best of eye healthcare services. Each of the Os practiced their respective expertise, and the patients received the most excellent of care.

And again, I do not see Opticianry advancing to where many industry leaders want to go until we return to serving people instead of serving numbers.

"Opticians are Eyewear Professionals. Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient, not by the number of Customers served. Service is an intrinsic value, not a value to be added. Opticians need to be service-to-Patient driven, not sales-to-Customer driven. When service comes first, sales inevitably follow." OpticiansForChange.com

Two Opticians re the Certification of Opticians:

Not all states have licensing requirements. But at least with a Certified Optician, the patient is reasonably assured that the person who is helping them with a very personal, very technical and medically ordered item has some idea of how it is supposed to work. Becoming Certified is not all that hard but it does assure minimal education requirements have been met.

If a haircut goes bad, it can grow out. If a massage goes bad...but not too badly as to cause injury, its a bad experience. If a pair of spectacles do not work correctly and you are driving, not only are you at risk so is the rest of the people on the road with you. Opticians must be certified, preferably licensed, to protect all of us from those who wear inaccurately produced or adjusted glasses.

And

I like that comment. I think that ABO Certification should be a minimum mandatory requirement in every state. Consumers move around nowadays and when they move from a state that has no requirements to a licensed state, it's quite a shock for them. Florida is a tourism state, so we get a lot of vacationers coming in with eyecare needs. They get upset when we cannot fulfill certain requests here. Back home, they get away with a lot more, because there is no minimum certification. Not to say the people there are incompetent; they simply do not know, because they were not required to complete education at national standards. Also as you stated, the renewal hours are not that hard to obtain. There are so many professional magazines with CE hours in them, simply by reading the article and filling out a simple questionnaire. Most professional Internet sites have CE hours online.

My 'two sense.'

I agree with the previous comments re Certification. However, certification, though important, is not the primary issue for today's Opticians. The primary issue is the absence of 'time in place' or 'residency training' in the handcrafting of eyewear directly on the Patient for the purpose of the visual comfort and full-time wearability of their eyewear. And this deficiency, more than any other factor has led to the proliferation of prescription ophthalmic sales on the Internet.

There's been too much emphasis for decades on lectures and seminars, i.e., virtual training, and no where near adequate time spent, even for many senior Opticians, in the practical art form and science of handcrafting and fitting eyewear directly on the Patient, along with the associated training in the proper use of hand tools.

Examples: Temples must be handcrafted to follow the contours of the skull in order to avoid direct contact with the ears, while resting evenly against the skull with minimum pressure, whereby the temples act to hold the eyewear comfortably in place with all gaps and space removed while simultaneously making full and caressing-without-pressing, form-fitting contact with the skull, NOT THE EARS.

And then there is the issue of taking into account physical anomalies, i.e., the disparate cranial and facial features that all Patients present to some greater or lesser degree, that are ignored by many virtually trained, even experienced Opticians.

This, what I call 'Hands on the Patient Handcrafted Eyewear' training, is absent in the experience of so many Opticianry applicants in Florida that the Florida Board of Opticianry has now adopted a rule requiring all applicants to attend a 2 hour minimum, handcrafted, hands on the Patient Frame Fitting workshop before licensure can occur.

So, with or without Certification, "Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient, not by the number of Customers served." For the truly skilled Optician, the standard of care must always include customized design and handcrafted fitting of eyewear.

If you're interested in more on this subject, I urge you to visit OpticalCourse.com, DispensingGuidelines.com and OpticalWorkshops.com for photos and additional points of interest.

From another Optician concerning big optical corporations:

We, as Opticians, need to reduce reliance on buying products from Big Optical giants such as Luxottica. Personally I stopped dealing with them years ago out of frustration with the high costs of the branded eye wear and extremely poor service (in my case anyway...waiting up to 6 months for a full order to come in). We also need to think about why it is that the public values our skills so little? -- See Sticker Shock Specs on '60 Minutes'.

My 'two sense.'

The absence of customized, personalized, handcrafted, hands on the Patient, eyewear fitting, which is practiced by too few of today's Opticians is the reason you're seeing the emergence of corporate behemoths like Luxottica.

What happened over the last 55 years is that our markup used to cover our frames-lenses-lab costs, PLUS our professional service fees, including in-depth lifestyle interview; Optician-assisted frame-lens design and selection; HANDCRAFTED, hands on the Patient delivery of eyewear; and free lifetime adjustment and minor repair services.

And while organized Opticianry, what there was of it at the time including the Guild, were fast asleep along with the other two Os, corporate interests seized on the marketing of fashion-only, unrelated-to-vision-healthcare, merchandi$ing aspects of the industry. Bigger and bigger corporate interests began promoting the selling of merchandise-only, i.e., minus most or all of the all-important vision care services. They pocketed the margins that we used to receive for our professional services, i.e., in-depth lifestyle interview; Optician-assisted frame-lens design and selection; HANDCRAFTED, hands on the Patient delivery of eyewear; and free lifetime adjustment and minor repair services. (What a ripe $ plum!)

The downward spiral continued because larger and larger corporations, with bottom-line only considerations, would hire entry level only sales clerks to dispense their merchandise, while lowering their costs. With these actions coporations began replacing experienced Opticians, i.e., skilled Eyewear Healthcare Professionals, whereby they pocketed the margins that Opticians historically made as their income. Now, we have the phased and rapid movement of the industry into the Internet. (For me, this is deja vu all over, again! Nice effective corporate strategy, huh?)

My point is that we have met the enemy and the enemy is us! The 3 O's have COLLECTIVELY created this market by becoming apathetic and by not taking care of business, i.e., the Patient always comes first. We lost our groove. We got too focused on things other than our primary mission, which is to serve the public, not to make lots of money. Not that making a good living is wrong, but that our mission of service must come first, and our income comes second. THIS IS OUR GROOVE. We got it backwards, and lost our groove.

Now we face a long, painful road, but very simple truth, to get our groove back. It all starts with making the Patient king; in-depth lifestyle interview; Optician-assisted frame-lens design and selection; HANDCRAFTED, hands on the Patient delivery of eyewear; and free lifetime adjustment and minor repair services. Stay tuned. See DispensingGuidelines.com. See OpticianryToday.com.

From an Opticianry student:

I am perplexed by the animosity between opticians in licensed vs. unlicensed states. Regardless of how each of us became an optician, we are all using that same designation. Regardless of what our states require of us, we are all using that designation. So if we are all going to continue using that designation, don't you think we ought to be able to agree on what an optician is, and what we do? Along that line, we also need to be able to guarantee to our patients that we ALL have at least a certain amount of knowledge regarding optics, lens types, etc., and that we are trying to keep up with the ever-changing technology by continuing education in our field. The lack of continuity across state lines, and the mentality that if it gets me nothing financially, I shouldn't sit for unrequired boards, is crippling our profession. I am a 41 year old recent graduate of a Virginia Community College's Opticianry program. I have interned for the last year at a large retail chain and also at an independent optical shop that has been in business for 33 years. Virginia is a licensed state, and I have taken my written ABO and NCLE, and will be sitting for my state's practical for my license in 20 days. Not because it will help me get a better job with better pay, but because I want to be a great optician. I do not have a job lined up. But that isn't keeping me from taking these exams, nor is it keeping me from attending any symposium, leadership conference, or seizing any opportunity that comes along to make me a better optician. Because my patients that I WILL serve deserve that. I am excited every day to learn more, help more, and do more. I want to learn. I want to be part of a group of professionals who take an immense amount of pride in their ability to provide patients with the best vision possible. I want to elevate the field of opticianry, promote our value to the public, and be a part of a respected industry. I think these goals are pretty common to most of us. We need to come together and work toward a common goal. There is power in numbers. Together, we can change the path of our profession. We should strive for excellence. Quit tearing each other down, quit making excuses, quit being lazy and complacent. Work together to provide great service and make our slice of the pie just as important as the other 2 "Os"- in the eyes of the public. We are all necessary in the eye care environment, and it is our duty to educate, provide outstanding service, and raise the bar!

My 'two sense.'

Here, here! Thank you for your optimism and enthusiastic expressions! I want to hear from you again, after you've been working in this profession for a couple of years.

"Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient, not by the number of customers served."

Use this as your guide and follow the guidelines as described at Dispensing Guidelines.

And do not let anybody or any employer/corporation steer you away for any reason.

From another Optician:

I really think that it is important for Ophthalmologists and Optometrists to support our field in anyway they can, because if we should disappear, the Optometrists are next. It is important that Optometrists make sure that the company they work for or if they are independent, hire LDO's to work in their optical shop or lab section of their office. I am from Washington State which requires Opticians be licensed.

My 'two sense.'

Speaking of Ophthalmologists and Optometrists, would it not be helpful to get them to enter a corrected VA (Visual Acuity) value on all their Rx's? Can you imagine trying to design eyewear without this important data? Can you imagine the time and effort this action would save for all parties?

An Optician's follow up response to our comment:

Indeed it would. If you had that information, as well as any other relating to acuity, it would save a lot of aggravation for both parties. That used to be a pretty standard thing 30 years ago.

And then there's this from a senior Optician:

There is a simple answer as to why Opticians are not licensed in every State. Money! In unlicensed States the Optometrists and Ophthalmologists have a very strong lobby. They dump a lot of money into preventing the licensing of Opticians. They do this because they see their business and profits at risk. They are then now able to hire people at $8.50 to $10.00 per hour, and require no training or education costs in order to maintain a license. While in licensed States, these doctors would have to pay $18.00 to $28.00 per hour plus annual fees for CEC's and license fees. As you can see, doctors can keep approximately $500.00 or more in their pockets, every week of the year for every non-licensed dispenser they have. As Opticians, we need more national representation to advance quality eyecare after the patient gets out of the chair, and this requires money we don't have. Maybe some day the Congress will see a need for the protection of the American consumer, and require all Eye Care Professionals to be licensed.

From a recent UK visitor at our Web site:

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant from the UK working with UK opticians and optical businesses. I stumbled across your site whilst researching a 'professional selling' course I am writing for _____________ Opticians. I just wanted to say what a pleasure it has been to read your views and opinions on the challenges faced by professional opticians in light of the burgeoning Internet and 'butcher shop' optical market. We suffer the same problems in the UK as you report: devaluation of the profession, commercialisation for its own sake, a focus on cost rather than value etc., I wish you the very best in disseminating your professional viewpoint, and hope that you are enjoying ever-increasing support from US professional opticians who truly understand the nature of opticianry. Kind regards, I. S.

From an East Coast Optician.

The good news is that this issue was addressed at the webinar, was it last week? To what I remember, the plan is to promote (for lack of better word) Opticians... I got really excited about the possibility, now we just need to see it come to pass and I hope sooner rather than later.

  Thank you, for your feedback!

We agree. However, we face an apparent daunting task. I mean, these issues have been 'discussed' at many levels of the industry for years with no real action taken.

My two cents: There are a number of conflicted forces at work, which keep us from making progress. The two biggest are:

1) We have not yet effectively dealt with the reality that the majority of current dispensers are woefully undertrained and extremely challenged when it comes to handcrafting prescription eyewear. For instance, I know senior Opticians who come to my workshops who are unable to adequately customize eyewear directly on a patient. (There's also a lot of what I call 'professional ego' involved in that many 'Opticians' are unable to admit, either through ignorance or antipathy, that they really do not know (some only think they know) how to fit handcrafted eyewear on a Patient. See DispensingGuidelines.com.

Learning does not stop
with what you know.

It is incumbent on those who know,
to teach those who do not know.

2) And even if we had plenty of experienced, skilled Opticians at the ready, corporate retail interests and their unskilled, inexperienced managers will not allow adequate time and space for appropriate handcrafted skills to be applied at the dispensing table. (As you well know, it takes sufficient time to handcraft eyewear directly on the Patient. Of course, this can be done fairly quickly, but only by skilled and experienced Opticians.) They are too interested in numbers of sales, and serving their stockholders interests ($), at the expense of the consumer, their real base. But serving their Consumer-base is when their stockholders are best served. Too many optical retailers don't get it, in that we are a genuine healthcare industry, and Opticians are Healthcare Professionals dispensing prosthetic devices, not ready-to-wear eyeglass merchants. (I could tell you some really interesting albeit disturbing stories based on my experiences since 1958.)

The task is not impossible and I remain an optimist, but I have not seen anything to indicate we've stopped the rhetoric to the point where we're really getting our 'edge and groove' back. Time is short!

This is the principle, which must be the industry's universal, personal and corporate theme. "Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient, not by the number of customers served.” Once adopted, the industry will once again excel in the art form and craft of humanized Opticianry. -- See The Danger Independent Opticians Face.

And here's a follow up from a senior Optician.

One thing I have run into is today's optical world only works at the top of the bell curve only being interested in or capable of serving 60% of the eyeglass wearing public. With the rest, it is hit or miss at best. I would say that the new optical people need to understand what an Ultex is and why someone might be wearing one today, how to build a Numount, a Balgrip, or fit an aphakic lenticular. In our one size fits all world, one size really fits about half. You fit a person with an ophthalmic prosthetic so that they can function in their day to day life. That requires a human touch, not a used car salesperson.

And this question from another Optician:

Why does it seem this field is always hiring? Are there not enough opticians here locally? Personally, I think the field is always hiring because of turnover and lack of significant professional development opportunities. Any profession that is entered by way of on-the-job training for low pay does not offer a great future to many individuals. I think the pay is often too low for the amount of knowledge required to take care of the patient. I also think burn out plays a factor.

My 'two sense.'

You are correct re the training issue. Wages are proportionate to the quality and quantity of the services rendered. The low wages paid to today's Opticians is due to the steep and steady decline of sufficient application and-or training in the art form and science of hands on the patient skills, ergo the inability of most dispensers to deliver adequate services. One-size-fits-all and dehumanized service reigns supreme in almost all retail optical venues except for a few independent, senior Opticians who are fast disappearing. So much so that consumers now no longer expect or even remember that hands on the patient service used to be the norm, whereas their Hairdressers, Manicurists, Dentists, Massage Therapists, etc., still provide hands-on, touch and feel service, to wit the optical market has now shifted to the Internet where consumers suffer from the same dehumanized service, i.e., the absence of hands on the patient personalized design and customized fitting of their eyewear, but for less cost. Unfortunately, the consumer has to then search out old-time, hands on the patient, touch and feel Opticians for a comfort fitting and-or the replacement and expense of properly designed and custom fitted eyewear. Most to no avail.

As we have indicated in previous discussions, the entire industry from State Boards, to optical retailers, to ophthalmic refractionists, i.e., to schools, to frame and lens manufacturers, to optical labs, to dispensing furniture manufacturers, to even the consumers themselves, have all played a part in today's lack of Service. Mostly because we have all failed to demand and require excellence in the manufacturing, fabricating, design and delivery of handcrafted prescription eyewear. Just as in our country's politics, only when we collectively decide the status quo is unacceptable and begin demanding excellence in services will much improvement occur. The causes of the decline in services, and some remedies are addressed more completely at OpticianryToday.com and OpticalWorkshops.com. See The Danger Independent Opticians Face. See also Service, One-On-One.

Note: Most, if not all States, require Hairstylists, Manicurists, Massage Therapists, etc., to be licensed and regulated.

From an optical retail chain operator:

Having operated over 2200 optical stores in 28 nations, I can state unequivocally that precious few clinicians (Opticians) make good optical store managers. Like it or not, optical retailing is primarily a retail business. There is almost no such thing as a clinician that makes a really effective retailer. Optical retailing is not a hospital. There are no meaningful parallels.

My 'two sense.' This statement simply proves our long held point that a profit-driven corporate mindset is at the heart of the steady and steep decline of prescription eyewear delivery skills over the last five decades, i.e., it's just not possible for most corporations, especially those operating 2200 international retail optical outlets, to aptly oversee the Health and Wellness aspects of Opticianry that are necessary for the conscientious dispensing of precision handcrafted prescription eyewear. They have to give their attention to too many economic considerations and other distractions, which obscure their attention to the Health and Wellness elements that define Opticianry. To coin a phrase, selling adversely impacts serving.

Again: "Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient, not by the number of customers served."

Optical dispensaries, like pharmacies, like it or not, are primarily Health and Wellness facilities. And Opticians, like Pharmacists, like it or not, are primarily Healthcare Providers. In fact, here in Florida, Opticianry falls under the control of the State Department of Health just as does Ophthalmology and Optometry.

Many of today's Retail Optical Execs and Managers have no experience in Opticianry, Ophthalmic Dispensing or even Healthcare. In one national optical outlet, only 1 of 43 Regional Managers is an Optician. You can imagine the adverse impact this practice alone has on the delivery of prescription eyewear. In which region do you think your chances exist of receiving the attention of a skilled Optician? In contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist.

There's a long standing conflicted relationship between Professional Opticians and Retail Management, which can be likened to the current relationship between Medical Practitioners and Insurance Industry HMO's. Over the last few decades the dominance of the retail optical paradigm as opposed to the healthcare paradigm has prostituted the practice of Opticianry to the point that independent skilled Opticians have become increasingly difficult to find. And this has contributed greatly to the migration of prescription eyewear consumers to the Internet where the same absence of skilled Eyewear Professionals exists. See More.

OUR VIEWS ON HEALTHCARE IN AMERICA

Check out this news link, first. Then, check our views.

BREAKING NEWS: Medical Care: Nurses, Optometrists Should Not Act As Doctors

VIEWS: For me, the point of this article is silly and conjures up the professional egotism of physicians along with the long standing debate regarding the unacceptably high cost of healthcare in the US, which a) is a fee-based system mostly controlled by physicians and big pharma, and b) limits our current healthcare system to the failed and too costly medicine-practiced-by-doctors-only-fiat paradigm.

How is this working for us? Well, if we saw 200 deaths everyday by way of jetliner crashes for instance, we would unanimously demand changes immediately, but these numbers do not in anyway equal the number of deaths each year due to medical errors under our present MD-controlled healthcare system. Yet, 400,000 annual deaths as of September 2013 (up from 100,000 in 1998) at the hands of this physician-supervised, healthcare-for-profit system gets scant attention by either the public or the media. Why?

I think consumers will benefit greatly when we have more transparency, not less, in our healthcare system. This will foster many more checks and balances. Malpractice and malfeasance will not escape our attention and go unpunished as is so often the current case.

Our healthcare system is under the control of a relatively small and too powerful interest group. Expanding the delivery-of-service base in ophthalmic refracting for instance, will benefit consumers in many ways. After 55 years in my profession, I could tell you some interesting stories.

How about this? Why is it that when a doctor-refractionist or his staff make an error in producing an eyeglass or contact lens Rx, which is not uncommon, the Optician has to deal with the subsequent consumer negativity, plus cover the cost of the remake? Do you know of any other service where a similar inequity exists? Given the net profit of their practices in comparison with that of most Opticians I know, at the very least the remake COST should be covered by the responsible party. (Change is coming. Want to be a part of it? Contact us here.)

BTW: Whenever we make an error, we are the only accountable party. --

LUXOTTICA BUYS U.S. ONLINE RETAILER GLASSES.COM

Check out this headline, then follow the comments we've received.

BREAKING NEWS: Luxottica setting eye on the online market

This is certainly an interesting move by Luxottica. The uneasy relationship with independent online retailers may well change given their entry into this marketplace. Whilst the purchase of eyewear will ultimately remain a bricks and mortar proposition in the main, Luxottica have insight into the growth of this market/channel as their brands including Ray Ban Oakley and others are online stars. Its also interesting that they have chosen Glasses.com in part due to their development of a very impressive virtual try on smart phone application. There is much controversy over the genesis of this tool as Ditto.com claims Glasses.com have purchased patents in a 'patent troll' fashion and have essentially copied their technology. Watch this space...

Phooey! I think we do not give the public enough credit for common sense. My experience is that online purchasing is really not affecting practices so much, in fact many people who have tried it are now coming in having had bad experiences. Sure, some people will go there, but to think that it will take over the entire retail aspect or a large portion of it is insane. People want a personal hands-on experience when it comes to eyewear. Its up to Opticians to educate and reinforce the greater advantages, shopping experience, and back up there is to be had by visiting your local Optometrist or Optician.

So we all knew they were going to do something big in online sales, and they did. There is a way forward to compete with this, just don't have the answers right now, today. I think the first question is: Can an independent practice survive over the next twenty years without going online? Once you know the answer to that question, then you will find the answer to the bigger question of how.

I certainly wouldn't buy dentures online and I cringe when I hear of "old enough to know better" people ordering glasses online. It seems odd to me that on the one hand we have Luxottica/Lenscrafters saying that their glasses are returnable after their staff takes any required measurements, and now offering glasses where the customer takes their own measurements. I certainly would not like to work for a company that wants to eliminate the importance of the service that Opticians provide.

Online purchases are going to grow. Just like contact lenses...people will still come in and get an exam, and a pair, but that "second cheap spare pair" will more and more be bought online.

My 'two sense.' This Luxottica news is not surprising. It continues the decades-old and ever-increasing prostitution of Opticianry. As an Optician of 56 years, and one of only a few remaining 'old school' hands-on the patient Opticians who teaches the art, this is my advice to any Optician, and especially those who are considering Opticianry as a career.
Eyeglass Consumers need and deserve the following:
a) Optician-assisted, in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted, design and selection;
c) HANDCRAFTED, FORM-FITTING EYEWEAR;
d) Free lifetime adjustments and minor repair services...NONE OF WHICH ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE. See 3DDispensing.com and DispensingGuidelines.com.
Until our industry acts collectively to get back to putting Hands-on-the-Consumer Service first there's no certification or licensure that can save us. PRACTICAL HANDS-ON TRAINING IS OUR ONLY JOB SECURITY.
Questions:
1) Do you consider prescription eyewear to be medical devices, which require precisely crafted fit and finish for your full-time comfort and wearability?
2) Do you consider dentures to be medical devices, which require precisely crafted fit and finish for your full-time comfort and wearability?
3) Would you consider purchasing such devices online?
4) If so, how or where will you acquire replacement, repair and-or adjustment services? See TimeForCraftsmanship.com. See Glasses Online Warning. See 3DDispensing.com. See DispensingGuidelines.com. See Serving Versus Selling. Stay tuned.

The question is whether they will finally rule the eyewear industry through their continuous purchasing of companies, frame designers and manufacturers etc. If we really do understand the importance and value of independent eyewear professionals whose approach and selection are far different than the big box folks, and certainly the on-line crazies,and if we try and support these people in all that they do, including opticians of longstanding (you for 56 years - wow!) and offer something different and exciting, will we not be certain of a place in this industry for a long time in to the future? Small towns in Canada rued the day Walmart and expanded grocery stores took over the community and put small businesses to flight. Yet now see the reverse happening as small stores or small franchises like Cobbs bread stores come back in and find a niche and a living in these towns, because people want something special and different, and I really think they want a warm body to relate to when it comes to making their purchases.

...you are correct on so many levels. There was no move to stop this in Canada either. I had discussions on blogs with prominent international chain owners in the past, who said that this was in fact an oligopoly and so escapes government ridicule. Whatever the semantics, the fact is, they have a huge piece of the pie. However, their modus operandi could be their worst enemy. Making cheap frames in Weng Zhou, lacking on so many fronts in retail (read blogs) and being hard to deal with from the perspective of the few stores that continue to "have to have their brands" on a wholesale purchase level.

I think it's just another reason any right-minded Optician would never order from Luxottica, much less work for them.

I also agree. I will continue to do the very best I can for every single patient, including selling the best possible products at prices that are reasonable for the consumer. I've been at this for 37 years, because I like the personal contact and ability to make people happy. And I'll avoid any cpmpany that gets in bed with Luxottica, especially a European lens company.

I do believe that Luxottica will continue to gain market share. The FTC is responsible for policing monopolies, and has done a horrible job the last 20 years. My understanding is that monopoly exists when a company has more than 51% of a market. I recently read that Luxottica has over 70% in the U.S. Our government has betrayed us on this and other monopoly businesses. It's a sad day, but it's the reality.

70% sounds incredibly high. I do think that one reason they will avoid any sanctions irrespective of share of wholesale market is that they will not be crossing over to optical lens or contact lens manufacture.

The natural evolutionary development of the optical retail market continues. Luxottica moving into on-line is just natural -- should not surprise anyone. Traditionalists in the optical retail market are not going to change any of this. The smart players will find a way to move with the evolutionary development, not moan and groan about it.

Indeed, though what exactly is traditional any more. Some would say that 1-hour service is traditional and that click and collect is the future. Perhaps Luxottica will integrate glasses.com with Lenscrafters and produce some synergy in that way.

My 'two sense' to the two uninformed and obviously unskilled authors above: Either you do not wear prescription eyewear, and-or know nothing about the art form and craft of dispensing eyewear, and-or are untrained Luxottica merchants-distributors. Again, Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the Patient... Many optical outlets, including online merchants, employ unskilled dispensers. This environment has prostituted the practice of Opticianry.
Questions:
1) Do you consider prescription eyewear to be medical devices, which require precisely crafted fit and finish for your full-time comfort and wearability?
2) Do you consider dentures to be medical devices, which require precisely crafted fit and finish for your full-time comfort and wearability?
3) Would you consider purchasing such devices online?
4) If so, how or where will you acquire replacement, repair and-or adjustment services?

See TimeForCraftsmanship.com. See Glasses Online Warning. See What Is 3D Dispensing? See DispensingGuidelines.com. See Serving Versus Selling. See Online Glasses Not What Doctor Ordered. See Notice To Consumers Regarding Guidelines. See To Serve Is To Succeed. Stay tuned.


SPECIAL NOTE


"The eye care industry needs to strike a better
balance between sales goals and healthcare delivery."

NOTICE

American Board of Opticianry accredited and Florida State Board approved workshops for Opticians in Hands on the Patient Frame Fitting are currently being offered under the sponsorship of POF, the Professional Opticians of Florida. See OpticalWorkshops.com. See DispensingGuidelines.com. See TimeForCraftsmanship.com. See Florida Requirements.

Click or Call 800-528-0413 Ext. 354 to arrange for a Training Session. Click here if you want your name added to our mailing list.

LET'S FOCUS

Today's retail optical outlet model favors the marketing of one-size-fits-all merchandise unlike an Optical Dispensary, which is like a Pharmacy or Healthcare Facility. An Optical Dispensary is where prescription eyewear is designed, handcrafted and serviced with skill and excellence. Opticians For Change aims to restore that excellence. Opticians For Change is devoted to the principle that consumers are best served only when they receive competent, 3-D Dispensing services, i.e., in-depth Discovery, objective, bias-free Design, and Delivery of handcrafted prescription eyewear from a skilled dispenser.

In other words, a) a full-discovery lifestyle interview prior to discussing frame and lens options, b) a comprehensive design of lenses and frame without bias as to style and-or cost, and c) a handcrafted, hands-on, in place, on the face delivery of their eyewear including multi-dimensional handcrafted frame and lens adjustments. Anything less is unacceptable.

NOTE: As senior Ophthalmic Healthcare Providers, we are interested in sharing our experience. If you are a Practitioner who needs additional training or consultation, or you need assistance in order to regain market share and improve the profitability of your practice, please visit OpticianryToday.com and DispensingGuidelines.com, then click, or call Opticians For Change at 800-528-0413 Ext. 354 to discuss and-or arrange a Workshop session for your staff. Also see TimeForCraftsmanship.com.

BTW: An abbreviated version of the above Open Letter appears in the November 2009 edition of Eye Care Professional Magazine.

POINTS TO PONDER

Success always follows good service.
Any action, which genuinely favors the
Patient, always improves the bottom line.
We need to focus on caring for Patients.

Successful dispensing requires the careful and
thoughtful process of Discovery, Design, and Delivery
of eyewear without bias concerning sales quotas, profit
margin or other subjective and unrelated considerations.

Opticians are Eyewear Professionals. Opticianry
is ultimately defined by how well the eyewear makes
contact with the Patient, not by the number of Customers served.
For the truly skilled Optician, the standard of care must include a
customized design and handcrafting of eyewear on each Patient.

Today's Retail Optical paradigm needs to be upgraded to that of serving
Healthcare Patients, as opposed to only serving Retail Customers. Only then
can
Opticians be seen as Healthcare Professionals, instead of mere merchants.

Serve people well, and more will follow.


Well trained, hands-on Healthcare Providers
make for satisfied and happy Patients.

CLOSING WORDS

Many Optical Retailers need to make significant changes if they hope to acquire anything like America's ‘Premier’ Vision Care title. Their business models and the services they provide fall short due to deficiencies in practical training and depth of dispensing experience. Much more investment in the training of people and in resources is needed.

Example: In-house training manuals lack the practical experience that direct hands on the Patient tasks afford. For an eye care facility to rely on manuals for training a Dispenser is like trying to teach an aspiring Surgeon how to become skilled in surgical techniques in the absence of a Patient. In addition, many dispensaries lack adequate dispensing tools, and visual aids, as well as sufficient training in their use. For instance, nose pad replacement is a frequently requested service. Many unskilled Dispensers use a snipe nose pliers to replace nose pad screws. Using this pliers requires excessive time for such a simple procedure. A practical solution is a specially designed self-closing tweezers that reduces the task to a minimum of time. The use of this tool alone can save an amazing amount of time for both Dispenser and Patient.

NOW, HERE'S AN IDEA!

 
Make your own Optical Hand Tools!

We urge Retail Executives to support certification and licensing of Dispensers, the funding of training schools, and higher wages in order to retain a well-trained staff. NOTE: Senior Dispensing Opticians are available to assist in the practical training of Dispensers and to explore pathways to more profitability. Click here for a free consultation.

Several well-known Retailers have a history of financially supporting all kinds of community activities and philanthropic gifts. Their investment in the ongoing training and advancement of their Opticians is a gift that will keep on giving.

"Due to their market share, the largest Optical Retailers are
in a unique position to lead the industry in the direction
of re-humanizing the delivery of prescription eyewear."

OPTICAL INDUSTRY LEGACY

Much of the optical industry, as reflected in the media, is busy with commentary on things like frames, lenses, and sales promotions; how to pump up sales; how to sell extra pairs, etc. Very little, if any, of the mainstream media has much to do with issues like service; how we put People first; how we put Serving before Selling.

In other words the industry's emphasis is too much on THINGS, NOT PEOPLE. Because Opticianry is a very People-centered art form and craft, Opticians and Managers have to be more devoted to giving People conscientious and caring service. See The Humanization of The American Economy and Business.

"Hands on the patient dispensing is a soon-to-be-lost art. If the trend to
the narrower and strictly retail approach to ophthalmic services continues,
a) The marketing of ready-to-wear, over-the-counter and Web-source eyewear
will continue to flourish; b) Hands on the patient dispensing skills and services
will disappear; c) Patients will continue to suffer from substandard quality of
service; and d) Prescription eyewear will continue to be delivered by an ever
increasing number of unskilled dispensers. The fact is that the majority of today's
eyewear dispensing professionals require major upgrading in their hands-on skills
without which they will become increasingly irrelevant in the eyecare industry."

"At some point, direct, tactile, Hands on the Patient training has to happen.
This is done only by one-on-one craftsmanship training. It cannot be learned virtually."

For a free consultation on ways to improve the conscientious delivery of prescription eyewear while maintaining profitability, click or call OpticiansForChange.com at 800-528-0413 Ext. 354. See TimeForCraftsmanship.com. Also see DispensingGuidelines.com.

Hari Singh Bird, Optician

'60 Minutes' looks at 'Sticker Shock Specs' by Luxottica

NOTES

"Our mission is to re-humanize the dispensing of
prescription eyewear." --
OpticiansForChange.com

"There is nothing wrong with people making money and
corporations being involved... provided there is an avenue in
which those marketing forces are not the deciding factor in
what we are doing." --
Keith Olbermann, Commentator

"When owners and managers discover that their people are their
ultimate assets and not their perpetual liabilities, everybody's
economy will prosper and grow." --
The Thank You Economy.

OPEN LETTER
Staff Response

*A) The reply to the previously mentioned manager's request has been modified in order to make the points in the above Open Letter more current. So far, more than three years later, and following the departure of its author, the receipt of the original letter has never been formally acknowledged, and no remedial action has occurred. At least none has been observed.

**B) Special note re Hands-on Custom Handcrafting: It seems the terms 'Hands-on' and 'Handcrafted' have different meanings among members of the optical community. Click here for our definition. For an example of what we call Hands on the Patient, old-fashioned design and handcrafted custom fitting of prescription eyewear, click here. And for those who are otherwise looking to improve the delivery of prescription eyewear in America, please contact us here.

C) To be fair, the experiences of one Optician in a single optical outlet cannot be seen as reflecting that retailer's policy in its entirety. But if this open letter can be viewed minus any bias, perhaps Optical Retailers and aspiring Opticians can use it as a primer as to how well they measure up as a source of Genuine Healthcare in America.

D) Too many Optical Retailers have a 'bottom-line-is-all-that-matters' mind set along with an attitude in which they exist only to serve company goals, not the needs of the consumer. They're not alone. Corporate America, in general, must soon deal with some heavy karma due to the public's current anger, and demands for the return to more qualitative and thoughtful service with less emphasis on profits. The hope is that Optical Retailers can upgrade their thinking and focus on becoming genuine Healthcare Providers. See The Coming Humanization of The American Economy.

E) Large-scale change always seems daunting. We want simple routines that we can easily and automatically follow. If Opticians and Managers adopt the steps presented herein, success will follow. To serve is to succeed. 

      

Check out the Eye Library here.

Get free online training videos here.

See articles from fellow ECPs here.

Is this the reason consumers buy glasses online?

See Florida's new counterfeit-proof Rx pad law here.

Get custom made frames for hard-to-fit patients here.

HANDS ON THE PATIENT
COURSES AVAILABLE HERE




Whatever happened to old-fashioned
Hands on the Patient Opticianry?

Contact Lens Care and Compliance

NCLE No Fee CEs For Opticians

The Rap on Wrap-arounds

Sunwear Is Not An Option

Time For Craftsmanship

   

Books, lectures and tests can take an Optician's skills only so far.

It is time for touch-and-feel, Hands on the Patient training.
Only one on one craftsmanship training provides this.
Craftsmanship cannot be learned virtually.

"Handcrafted frame fitting, i.e., touch and feel, hands-on dispensing,
cannot be outsourced to lectures or virtual sources. It is an art form,
which requires direct and multi-dimensional contact with the patient."

HANDS ON THE PATIENT WORKSHOP TRAINING AVAILABLE HERE
"Opticianry is defined by how well the eyewear fits the patient."

American Board of Opticianry accredited and Florida State Board approved CE hours
for Intermediate and Advanced Level Opticians in Handcrafted Frame Fitting are
currently offered under the sponsorship of POF, the Professional Opticians of
Florida. Click or Call
800-528-0413 Ext. 354 to arrange for Training Session.

"The job of a teacher is to poke, provoke, confront and elevate." -- Yogi Bhajan

"It is incumbent on those who know, to teach those who do not know." -- Hari Singh

ARE YOU A GENUINE OPTICIAN OR
JUST AN EYEGLASS MERCHANT?
CLICK GUIDELINES TO FIND OUT!

    

      

       

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