Article Date: 8/1/2011

It Must Be a Full Moon
Patient's Perspective

It Must Be a Full Moon

A side-by-side experience with two retail stores shows how to—and not to—sell eyeglasses.

By Erin Murphy, Contributing Editor

I love my optometrist because he's friendly, he answers questions, and he does a great job addressing all of my vision and dry eye problems. He doesn't have an optical area, but since his office is in the mall, it's easy to leave the exam with my prescription and go window-shopping in the retail vision stores.

After my last visit, two mall stores took me from the ridiculous to the sublime. If your practice has an optical area, there's no silver-bullet solution to boosting sales, but maybe these stories can help guide your decision-making when it comes to hiring your team.

When Service Bites

In the first chain store, all of the frames were under glass, so the whole shopping experience had to be carried out with help from the person behind the counter—which is why the next 20 minutes were dogged with problems.

I quickly noticed that the salesman had very offensive breath – not “liverwurst and onion” breath, but “I need a dentist” bad breath. The smell was staggering, so I kept sidestepping him and breathing as little as possible.

This salesman was also sweating buckets in the 65° store. Every time I selected a pair of frames as a “maybe,” he'd set them aside by hanging them on the collar of his shirt, with one arm of the glasses inside the shirt. No way was I touching those things again.

When he asked about my occupation, I told him that I'm a writer. He told me he's a writer, too—mostly zombie stories. “That's cool,” I said. Zombies are popular right now, and it sounded like it could be a fun hobby.

The salesman proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes telling me all about the new novel he's working on, in which PMS turns women into werewolves. He even recited some of the pivotal PMS werewolf scenes with great dramatic flair. I wish I were kidding.

This surreal experience ended when I slipped out as the salesman/writer went to answer the phone. But I think there's an important lesson here. In a store where all shopping goes through the salesperson, that person makes or breaks the sale. I'm assuming he didn't sweat, stink or pitch misogynistic fantasy fiction during his job interview. But later, left unsupervised with customers, man turned to beast and scared away sales.

After My Escape

Relieved to be free, I made my way to another chain store with a high-end look but a familiar, middle-priced name. The frames were on the walls and tables, not under glass, so I was free to browse and try them on as much as I liked. One of the salesmen introduced himself, gave me a tray to collect my “maybes,” and left me alone to shop.

I spent 30 very enjoyable minutes choosing my frames. When I was ready, a friendly, presentable, “normal” salesman arranged my order. With Chanel frames and the anti-reflective coating my optometrist recommended, the bill was more than $600, but I was happy to pay for eyeglasses I like, especially after such a pleasurable shopping experience.

Making or Breaking the Sale

Clearly, hiring decisions were better at the second eyeglass store, but they were also a bit less important. Customers don't have to spend every second interacting with the sales team if they're in a store where they can browse and try on frames at their leisure. Women like me love to shop, so we prefer stores that allow us to browse—without comparing us to hormonal werewolves. nOD

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective. Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2011