What do the following things all have in common?
Replacing a missing temple screw
Replacing a missing eye-wire screw
A hinge repair
Conducting a vision screening
An eyeglass case
Tinting a pair of old lenses
Darkening a pair of tinted lenses
Lightening a pair of tinted lenses
Restringing a semi-rimless frame
Adjusting a pair or two of eyeglasses
Dispensing a trial contact lens or two
Opening a for-sale box of CLs to provide a lens or two
Tightening a screw
Stripping a defective AR coating
Cleaning a pair of eyeglasses
Providing a replacement temple from your parts drawer
Replacing nose pads that have turned green
Replacing worn temple tips
Making a lens or two, due to a doctor’s change of Rx
Making a lens or two, due to a doctor’s change of Rx for the second time
Making a lens or two, due to a doctor’s change of Rx for the third time
Take a good look at the above list of twenty-one things. Ask yourself the following question: What do those twenty-one, optically related products and services have in common? Give up? What they all have in common is that over the course of my thirty-year optical career, I or one of my colleagues has provided these products or services to a client (and even a non-client) free of charge. What is a “non-client” you might ask. Consider the following scenario. Perhaps it will sound familiar.
It is a busy Saturday morning as you work your way through the customers in your dispensary. You approach the next person and say, “Good morning. How may I help you?”
The man replies, “I sure hope you can. I was walking through the mall and my left arm fell off! Can you fix it?” You smile as you consider exactly what he just said as you assess the situation.
“Looks like you just need a screw…give me a second.” You go to your backroom, and a second turns into several minutes as you search for the proper size screw. You are having a little trouble finding one that fits – seems like the threads are stripped. You grab a nut and bolt, reattach the arm, snip the bolt, and file its sharp end. You notice his other “arm” is loose, so you tighten it. You spray the lenses with eyeglass cleaner and wipe them dry. You return to the retail area of the dispensary, and discover the man has sat down at one of your dispensing tables, and you notice Mrs. Williams (who ordered a $650 pair the other day) has arrived to pick up her glasses. She is forced to stand and wait since all your dispensing chairs are occupied. You hand the gentleman his newly repaired glasses and say, “Here you go.”
As he thanks you and places them on his head, he says they’re a little loose and asks if you would be so kind as to tighten them. Of course, you say, as you crank up your $350 frame warmer. You heat his zyl frame and your fingers work their optical magic. You once again spray them with some cleaner, grab a few more Kim-Wipes and make sure his glasses are sparkling clean. You place them on his head, do a cursory check behind the ears and ask if they feel comfortable. The whole thing from meet and greet to complete has taken about six-and-a-half minutes. Apparently feeling somewhat obliged, the man says, “Thank you so much. That feels perfect now. You really got me out of a pickle. How much do I owe you?”
“Oh not a thing,” you enthusiastically respond, “Glad to be of service. Maybe the next time you need some eyeglasses or contact lenses you’ll think of us here at Acme Optical.”
“Sure will keep it in mind…thanks again.” The man, who lives in Bangor, Maine and is vacationing in sunny Florida, gets up to leave. You will never see him again. Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s déjà vu?
If I had to guess, similar scenes play out across this country literally close to a million times every single day. It serves no purpose to rehash how and why our profession has evolved (or perhaps more accurately, devolved) into one that gives away so many goods and services, and so much time for absolutely no reward. I for one am a bit sick of it, and would challenge you to name of any other profession – retail, medical, professional, blue-collar, white-collar – that conducts itself in a similar fashion, or tell me why we should.
Imagine you pulled into a Chevron station across town and you told the proprietor that you thought you were low on oil. By the way, you would have discovered that yourself, I doubt he would have checked. Can you imagine him saying, here…have a quart or two…it’s on the house…and before you go, let me check you tire pressure and clean your windshield too! Money? Of course not, he did it all for free. As you pulled out, he said, “Thanks a lot. Next time you need some gas be sure to make it Chevron.” Yeah, right. How ‘bout one more?
You’re on a cross-country driving vacation, and you pull into Dr. Frank Del Sandro’s chiropractic clinic in Erie, Pennsylvania. After all, it was the first one you came across as your back started hurting. When you enter his office and are asked if you have an appointment, you say no, but you’re back is really hurting, and your chiropractor is 1,500 miles away. Can you help me out? Sure! Come on back here, let me see what the problem is. Push…pull…crack…crack…crack. Thanks, doc. What do I owe you? Nothing, you say! Gee thanks a lot. What a country!
Look, I know I’m just ranting here a bit, but while there are so many things I love about being an Eye Care Professional, I HATE the fact that we give so much stuff away for free. I HATE it! I know that most other ECPs hate it too. How do I know? I know because they bemoan it to me as I teach CE hours all across our country. I also know, however, that I cannot be the only ECP in my county, for example, that charges for adjustments, minor repairs, etc. It would take an almost 100%, industry wide, unified move to accomplish that; and that’s never going to happen.
There is however, a point to this rant. I do believe we are at a crossroad in our profession, and if we do not recognize it right now, five or ten years from now, that list of twenty-one things will double to forty-two. If we do not decide right now, uniformly and with resolve how to stop it, the list will double by simply inserting the words “that were purchased on the Internet” somewhere in each sentence.
At a session at Vision Expo, I heard an industry spokesperson claim that in 2009, of all the prescription eyeglasses purchased in the United States, 14% were purchased on the Internet; 14%! I about fell over in my chair.
In my humble opinion, we should ALL absolutely refuse to get involved with servicing, repairing, adjusting, or even touching a pair of eyeglasses that were purchased without the total involvement of an eye care professional from the start of the process…period…never…not even for compensation. If we were all united in this approach, within a few years the word would spread, and patients would begin to realize that whatever little money they thought they were saving by ordering a personalized, medical device over the internet, was money thrown away. We would then see Internet sales dwindle to nothing.
But I fear this is just one optician’s fantasy. Why? Because as I type this editorial, 37,000 feet in the air somewhere between Tampa and Philadelphia, some ECP five miles below me is servicing a pair of eyeglasses that were purchased on the Internet…replacing a screw…restringing a frame…making an adjustment…and the last two words that will leave that dispenser’s mouth will be…sadly…”no charge.”
by Anthony Record, ABO/NCLE, RDO