Are You Biased? (Part 2)


In my time as a consultant, I have had the opportunity to visit many dispensaries, observing how these opticals are managed and run.  One of the biggest issues I find in the dispensary is what I have termed “optician bias”.  This encompasses two different realms of concern: The act of buying frames, and the pre-judgment of potential customers.  In this second installment, I will address pre-judgment of customers.

Before I go any further, and prior to any outrage from readers, let me explain something:  We ALL have some type of bias. To elaborate:  We prefer a certain grocery store, for whatever reason, over another. We prefer a certain brand of just about everything, again, for various reasons.  The definition of ‘bias’ is simply a preference: an unfair preference for or dislike of something.  If you sit for a minute and think about this, you will have to agree we all suffer from being biased-even if it’s simply disliking one sports team over another.

So, how does this have anything to do with optical? We spend many hours as dispensers attempting to help our customers see better, and have them ultimately be happy with the results. Many of us know our customers, know their families, their jobs, their histories. And this can breed a different type of bias.

Have you ever NOT offered someone a particular treatment because you didn’t feel they needed it? Or steered that 8 year old away from the higher end or couture product, because this was their first pair of glasses and they didn’t ‘need to spend that much money’? How about that customer looking for ‘something cheap just to wear at night when I take my contacts out’? Did you talk to them about anti-glare treatments, or a more durable frame?

For various reasons, most of which I would have to agree with you on, you have chosen to not discuss certain add ons or more expensive items with some customers. I’ve done the same thing hundreds of times in my 25 years dispensing. But are we doing a disservice to the client when we do this?


We are all guilty of this. We decide, sometimes before we even begin discussing frames and lenses, where we are going to go with a customer. Again, from the examples above, we feel we are being honest and fair. But are we?  What happens when, at some point, that customer you have left in lined bifocals for 10 years simply because they ‘worked for her’ talks to a friend who raves about her new ‘high definition’ progressives? That customer is going to wonder, and a small kernel of concern will grow in her mind, about why you, the person she trusts with her eye care, hasn’t discussed these lenses with her.

Another pre-judgment issue? And this is a true story. A man walked into my optical many years ago. He was in his late 60’s, dressed in not very clean overalls, seemed to be missing half his teeth, his hands were permanently stained with dirt. After presenting me with his prescription, I begin to lead him to the least expensive frames in the store. He called me back, and asked me about the Neostyle frames I had featured in a locked display. I inwardly rolled my eyes, thinking it was a waste of time to show these frames to him but smiled outwardly and began explaining the quality of the product. I also did something I never usually do. I mentioned the cost during my sales talk. My thought was that as soon as this obviously poor man heard the price he would back off and follow me to the budget lines. Instead, he asked to try some on.

Thirty minutes later, this man who I thought looked one step from being homeless on the streets, reached into the front pocket of his overalls and pulled out a stack of hundreds and without blinking an eye counted out $2400 in $100’s for his 3 new pair of eyeglasses. And there was still plenty of money left on that stack he stuffed back into his overalls!

The lesson here? Doesn’t EVERY customer deserve to at least be educated about what they could have? Let your customer make the choice. You would never want to experience for yourself that Pretty Woman moment when she walks into the clothing boutique and is told that she couldn’t afford to shop there. Don’t do that to your customers. They will appreciate you caring enough to tell them about all their options….and you never know when your ‘man in overalls’ will walk in the door.

Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at
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