The Great Online Eyewear Debate: Chapter 5

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Penn Avenue Style Caitlin

Another debate on one of the Forums was about online eyewear and pricing. As a retailer, did you

Penn Avenue Style Caitlin
Penn Avenue Style Caitlin

know that you could compete against online pricing at $99 with a few package programs? I was speaking to Penn Avenue Eyewear and they have 1.) A wonderful frame and lens package program.  2.) They like other give- back eyewear companies, have a give back program as well. 2.) Their package program can easily retail for $99 (or less) 3.) You can put a Chemistrie Custom Clip on. For those who want a little more luxury 4.) They have horn eyewear.

I am sure other vendors have similar programs, check them out first.

Here is the debate:

  • Today a young kid walks into a dispensary I am visiting. Seems he is having distortion in his new glasses, he acquired form none other than WP. WP phone support, advised him to come into an optical shop and have his “OC’s” checked. What would you have done?
  • It sounds like a walk in that can be converted to becoming a patient? Sounds like he walked in politely?
  • Is it CR 39 or poly? Is it a 1st quality lens or junk? Is it OCs? Does it match the written Rx?
  • Analyze the few basics and ask the young kid what would he prefer? Blurry Rx or precise optics? Ask the kid to return with the Rx unless he can identify which Dr. to call and obtain the Rx.
  • would NOT criticize WP. I would suggest again that the office can sell a premium product for a reasonable price.
  • actually what I did was to point out that 1. He needed to bring his Rx to be checked, and that 2 the problem wasn’t his OC. His OC was within 5mm. This way I didn’t actually tell him what his OC was. Instead I painted a picture of him being boomeranged between his Doctor (Kaiser in this case, a highly possible baddy at his particular location) and Warby, neither of which had the tools to determine what exactly the problem was. I told him it was highly likely not his OC as his power was lower (almost too low for 1.67) and close enough. I pointed out a professional could save him a lot of time assessing the problem, and that a higher quality lens could be found to lower the distortion. I trust he will be bringing in the Rx soon…
  • Incidentally I highly doubt WP uses 2nd quality lenses. There is no reason to, and 2nd quality has enough problems that can’t be found by their QC, that they wouldn’t want to go there to build their brand. The frame was better quality than 70% of the greater market, that is until it corrodes in 6 months, which would make it on par with the market.
  • This is a perfect time to educate someone. As online sales become a larger share of the market we need to explain to everyone who says they are going online or who have purchased online and are have problems, why they are saving money online. They are cutting out the second most important part of eyewear selection, proper fitting and measurements taken by a trained Optician. I would let them know if they return the glasses that you are there to help.
  • We have a policy in place. We once adjusted 1 pair and they snapped at the bridge. (We had release of responsibility signed.) we now ask everyone where they purchased their glasses. If other optical, we get signed release and adjust as courtesy. If any online company, we kindly refuse and explain that we will not.
  • I think if we service these glasses we are feeding the machine. I won’t. I won’t check them for accuracy either.
  • won’t work with WB or online frames, I tell them that every time I do they break, so I don’t touch them anymore.
  • I’m ok with tightening screws or cleaning lenses as a courtesy and opportunity to turn them into a patient/customer, but troubleshooting glasses bought online not my responsibility, and a drain on staff time. Buyer beware
  • Hmmm…1.67 index? Only thing worse is poly for an OC 5mm off. As far as the RX, that’s easy: trial frame copied from glasses Rx and see what you find. I do this every day. Fee for service? Definitely! But you can choose to discount or waive the fee as you determine at the time. But assign a fee!
  • My Sister Is an optician. She saw a $10 pair of glasses from online. Good quality spring hinged frame with normal quality A R lenses. Hydrophobic coat was $10 more. My wholesale for equivalent would be about $100 plus staff time and brick and mortar overhead. Something is wrong here. They buy huge quantity and are relying on us to provide the service aspects. Should I buy from them wholesale and get my VCP $25 like dispense fee. Where does this wind up., am I in the buggy whip business?
  • i find that when they come in with very poor online glasses that it is a great opportunity to convert thrm to a loyal customer. We troubleshoot and make sure they know how important a professional is! Since he’s young I’d offer slight discount if he makes a video testimonial telling his story that you can put on your facebook page!
  • All WP lenses are poly with an AR coating. It’s on their website. I’ve read it thoroughly. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
  • Just to let you know that even Walmart is going to start charging for crews, nose pads, etc, whereas use to be courtesy. Going to bring out the release of responsibility to—at least in our office.
  • The problem is only to get worse for independent ODs. First it was online CLs and now glasses.
  • I had my car repaired this week and spent $545. Almost no one would spend that out of pocket for glasses and they want their free eye exam. Trying to educate patients on covered items (yes, someone does pay something for them ) vs “free ” is a never ending task.
  • Set up a fee schedule for these things. We won’t adjust any pair of glasses without informing patient that the glasses might break. My goal with any patient walking in my door is ” earn a new patient”
  • Next time your at vision expo shop around at a few of the Asian Lens Manufacturers…. You will quickly see how WP does it….. Uncut lenses for under a dollar, bifocal and progressive less than two dollars. Frames in bulk for under five dollars.
  • We stick to our favorite labs and our relabeled china made “designer name” frames and pay outrageous prices from the Essilor, Ziess, marchon and Luxotticas of the industry. I met a man at expo west from a Chinese frame company that said ” we make many of the designer frames for marchon but can sell you the “exactly” the same thing without the designer name for about $10.00…..
  • Kind of an eye opener…. That in office edger is looking better all the time! Heck at that price I could dump VSP
  • It’s our suppliers we should be taking acceptation with….. We are being grossly overcharged for products and attempting to make a reasonable margins on products that have been marked up 4-5 times before they got to us. All the while they invest in online and retail distribution channels and make the margin from manufacturing to retail….. We have no room for complaint if our shelves contain their products. We are our own worst enemies. There was a time when the frame companies actually made all the frames they provided to us. Now most of them simply contract the work out and are only distributors.
  • It would be great if we could all coop purchase directly and boot these guys out…..
  • Regarding our case, I like the opportunity to convert a patient. You do have to realize that WP is counting on our good hearted naivete as part of their business model. So, do you want to convert the patient who may never buy your glasses? I’ll take ’em.
  • I understand what you saying. However, the online sellers are COUNTING on you and your staff for THEIR success. Sorry folks, we have to agree to disagree on this one. As soon as they ask you to adjust them you have the opportunity to educate them without touching their glasses.
  • You are correct about what you are paying for. However I know a lab that can make it unprofitable to edge in house. I also know an exclusive buying group that designs and manufactures their own frames. They have quickly learned that slapping a brand name on a 99cent shenzhen special isn’t the only way to make money in this business. In fact, if you manufacture a high quality piece for say 20$ wholesale (way better than the name brand that cost 99 cents on the ground, and you pay 99$+ for) you can brand yourself as a quality and service house… And you are absolutely right, then you really can dump VSP. The only reason it takes “balls” is self ignorance. If you have seen it happen with the right team in place, it’s like an alternate universe.
Claire Goldsmith MidPage

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