Why Are Glasses Online Sales Proliferating?
Question: What are the chances of today's prescription eyewear consumers getting a handcrafted, customized fitting of their prescription eyewear? If you answer this question correctly, you know why consumers are buying their prescription eyewear online.
As an example, here's a letter from a consumer after visiting OpticianryToday.com, one of our Web sites.
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 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.
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 the absence of adequate, personalized, frame-in-place, hands-on-the-face, handcrafted services.
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 3-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. See 3DDispensing.com.
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?"
Coming from the old-fashioned world of Opticianry, it really saddens me that today is all about sales. Gone are the days of one-on-one frame-fitting, and guiding patients through the process. I have even come across people who never knew they were wearing progressives!! This is totally outrageous. They tell me they were only told they will be able to see up close with their new glasses, but it was never explained in any detail what they were getting. This has happened more than once.
I can see why the visitor to your site, OpticianryToday.com, felt no difference buying online rather than at a 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 alone are trained to do.
Thanks for the eye opening. I will take it as an encouragement to keep doing my old-fashioned fitting and dispensing, and hope it does make a difference.
NEWS FLASH! Old fashioned, tactile, in place, on-the-face, hands on the patient dispensing of handcrafted, customized eyewear has declined to the extent that the Florida Board of Opticianry recently enacted a rule requiring all future applicants to undergo a minimum of 2 CE hours of experiential frame fitting directly on a living subject.
Why would you let an unlicensed plumber do your plumbing or an unlicensed electrician wire your home? I wouldn't. Same reason I wouldn't order glasses online. I can't fit my head into my computer for adjustments? Is my bridge the same size as that of another person? Ethnic groups have different needs. I know I do. We are all customized from the day we were born, so why shouldn't our eyewear be? If you do not interview, feel, touch, measure, fit the glasses before you take the measurements, as well as after, how do you know how to interpret the Rx and what the patient's needs are? How many times have you talked to your patients and asked them, "What do you want your glasses to do?" Can a computer talk back, discuss their problems, and come up with solutions? Sorry, I am from the old school of hands-on people! Get real! I love my job and no computer is going to replace me until I am ready to say goodbye! See Facial Asymmetry.
Everyone is worried about the economy and I understand all of that. But should we cut costs on something as important as our vision? Our eyes help us see, and who would not want the best vision possible? We only have one set of eyes and everyone needs to take care of them. Our daily existence depend on them. I think online shopping for glasses is ridiculous. After people get them online they want to take them and have them repaired and adjusted at a business where others are waiting to get their hands-on experience. I could write a book about all the experiences I have had working in all aspects of the Optical Industry. I am absolutely amazed. People have gotten to the point they shop for glasses like they are shopping for a shirt off the rack somewhere. They definitely are not helping the economy or themselves by purchasing online. I love the work I do and I enjoy it tremendously and I enjoy helping people see. As Opticians we need to help the consumer understand how important it is to get the correct and proper eyewear for their prescriptions. The industry has changed over the years and I am concerned about our profession. I can't understand why some states are not licensed to fit glasses, but require a license to do hair or nails. That's another story in itself.
All I can say is, "I am so happy I am self employed and i can practice good ol' fashion Opticianry the way I was taught back in the 80's!"
Keeping that in mind, here's a conversation I had with a person at a networking meeting:
John: Hi, my name is John and I'm with _________________________.
Me: Hi, John, I'm _____________.
John: Who are you with?
Me: ____________ Optical, our business.
John: It's too bad I didn't meet you a month ago. I ordered my glasses online and got them about two weeks ago. They were cheap.
Me: And how's that working for you?
John: Biggest mistake I've ever made. These glasses are horrible. I can't see clearly and I don't know what the problem is. When I called them they said I need to "get used to them".
John: Can I have one of your cards, I need to order me a REAL pair of eyeglasses!
I have a similar conversation at least twice a month. There's a reason we are Opticians: You wouldn't let a truck loader fill your medical prescription, neither should you let someone you'll never meet do the same with your prescription eyewear.
Buying online does not necessarily mean that a consumer will get their eyewear any less expensively, and when you add in the extras, shipping, etc., they often pay more. And the consumer does not get the professional fitting, eyeglass measurements, optics in the lenses that are called for, and more. And they are led to believe they are paying less. I think that all optical shops should now begin having an online business; to answer questions and sell accessories and continue with their walk-in optical. Some consumers are just not educated; when it comes to seeing a Licensed Optician. It is clearly a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, we are only given one pair of eyes and as Licensed Opticians we need to make the public aware.
The bottom line is this. Opticians must use, sustain and improve good, old-fashioned, Discovery, Design and Delivery skills. Multi-dimensional dispensing, is the real key to restoring our market share. The reason the public remains uneducated about the 3-D's, especially the touch-and-feel aspects, is that we have gradually abandoned their application for the past 50 plus years to the point that many consumers now express shock that an Optician would touch their head and ears in order to handcraft their eyewear.
Many eyeglass consumers, even many long-time wearers, have become convinced that they have to endure wearing their prescription eyewear WITHOUT experiencing any handcrafting of their eyewear. What a revolting development! This occurs because WE have not been 'educating' the consumer with old-fashioned DISCOVERY, DESIGN and DELIVERY skills, i.e., multi-dimensional craftsmanship of their prescription eyewear for decades. See 3DDispensing.com.
I know... I know, I hear it all the time, "But WE HAVE BEEN providing handcrafted, humanized services!" Yes, some old-school Opticians still exist, but our number is now too small to where our handcrafting art has all but disappeared. The industry, especially corporate leaders, need to get young, latter-day Opticians back to old-fashioned 'touch-and-feel' dispensing. Without it, we cannot offer the consumer any good reasons to patronize brick and mortar dispensaries instead of Web-based, online eyeglass merchants. Right now, too many consumers get the same thing in their mail box that they get in too many brick and mortar dispensaries.
of the 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.
contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist."
And, we must stop whining, expressing self-pity, and ignoring the reality of our 50 year plus history (it's not about price) of providing declining, or even non-existent handcrafted, prescription eyewear fitting services. In a word, we have to resurrect CRAFTSMANSHIP... We must give the consumer a valued reason to return to our brick and mortar dispensaries.
over 67,000 Opticians designing, manufacturing
and dispensing eyewear, less
than half have formal
certification or licensure." U.S. Department of Labor
Today's consumer does not now know what they're missing in terms of hands on the patient craftsmanship because we have not been providing it. Or, we DO NOT KNOW HOW to provide it. In my view, the latter has become the unfortunate norm. See GlassesOnlineWarning.com.
Recently, a woman came into my dispensary asking if we adjust glasses for free, which of course, we are happy to do. She then produced a brand new pair of glasses she had just received from an online merchant for me to fit for her. Immensely frustrating for me, someone who prides herself on "specializing" in custom fitting eyewear. My fifteen years of experience and expertise, culminating in spending fifteen minutes fitting someone else glasses. Apparently the Web site had recommended just "popping in" to any optical shop for a fitting. I wonder if we ought not to be charging a fee for such a service, or just hope that in that little bit of time we can make such a great impression on the person that they become a future customer? Seems a little tenuous to me. See more below.
I feel your pain. When you are adjusting her eye wear, did you mention "Gosh you bought them online?" "I am happy to adjust these; but since we did not make them, I can't be responsible for the optics being off or the condition / treatment or lack of on these lenses or the frame. If the frame breaks while I am adjusting them, it is not my responsibility to replace them." Thinking out loud... maybe there is a waiver form we should have these customers sign before we adjust their glasses. And I would like to add... I worked at one clinic where we charged $2 for adjustments. Just be nice and friendly and full of knowledge. They will come back.
The reality is that most Opticians have historically included (before Internet merchants) free-of-charge lifetime adjustments. Some even include free-of-charge minor repairs, nose pad replacements, temple covers, etc., for their patrons.
In the case of online purchasers that I'm aware of, consumers pay Web-based merchants less, i.e., minus the usual Optician's fitting fees, and any other qualitative service fees. (Some online purchasers pay much higher prices online minus frame-fitting services, etc. Buyer beware!)
Here's what I would do when online purchasers of prescription eyewear present themselves for services: Adopt a 'tough love' business attitude. You are here to serve. But you're a highly skilled Optician, here not just to serve people well, but to make an honest, living wage, as well.
Question: Would you expect an auto mechanic, plumber, dentist, hairdresser, etc,. to donate their services simply because you chose to acquire services from some Web-based merchant who is incapable of providing you with any direct lifestyle design, touch and feel hands-on frame-fitting delivery and/or follow-up services?
Let's be real. The online prescription eyewear consumer, who gets a 'bargain' should not expect, nor be given more consideration as to your time and expertise than your full-fee patrons. And they are certainly not deserving of comparable, free lifetime services. However, in all fairness, if you should choose to accept Web-based consumers at no charge, they deserve the best service you have to offer.
I recommend charging online consumers a fee commensurate with whatever you determine your time is worth. And I recommend posting a high-visibility disclaimer, briefly announcing a nonrefundable minimum fee of $25.00, along with possibly a verbal explanation of your policy to each online purchaser while disavowing responsibility for any unsatisfactory design of eyewear, any consequential lens chipping or frame breakage that occurs, or the discovery of any problematic Rx issues. Any repairs requiring additional time or expense would be subject to extra fees. Furthermore, I recommend charging a reasonable fee for measuring or checking a PD.
These actions will help Opticians regain their market share. The slow and steady decline in handcrafted service to the public has happened over several decades. It will take awhile to restore, but we must make a start. And be advised, each of us is responsible for making it happen. More
Here's a memo we received recently, which indicates we are not alone on this issue.
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 'bucket shop' optical market. We suffer the same problems in the UK as you report: devaluation of the profession, commercialization 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. (See The real reason some folks buy their glasses online.)