Friday, 12 January 2007

Busy busy busy

Too busy to get annoyed?

Not quite.

I have no problem saying ‘no’ to things. Anything. I don’t want it; I say ‘no’ to it. It works, usually. Usually, but not always...

Say you go to Specsavers for an eye exam. Well, your last glasses came from there and they keep saying on the telly, ‘You should have gone to Specsavers!’, so why should you go anywhere else, really? You get a wonderful, diligent, thorough ophthalmologist (recommended by your partner, actually) and you come out of the room happy and ready to order new lenses. What happens next, do you think?

A very authoritative sales assistant, whom I took to be the manageress of the place, led me to a wall covered with designer spectacle frames costing an arm and a leg. I was stunned for a moment: it had not even occurred to me that I might be expected to buy new frames. Why should I? The ones I have are great. I bought them in Paris, a few years ago: they are modern, very light, inconspicuous, and they suit me (as much as any glasses can). It’s new lenses I wanted. So, for the first time that evening, I asked how much it would cost for me to use my own. The smile on the woman’s face just faded away. You can understand her dismay: this person who, a minute ago, looked like she might buy two lots of frames and lenses (I was given a prescription for reading glasses too and meant to order them later), now seemed unwilling to. She said they would have to charge me for the privilege and mumbled something about a 25 per cent discount on new frames, but I wasn’t interested. I asked again... and again... and again... and again...

Finally noticing my reticence (LOL!), she led me to another wall – the ‘cheap’ one, full of non-designer frames, just costing an arm. She handed me a couple of those (more or less the same as mine), which I tried on briefly while repeating my question, ‘How much would it cost for me to use my own frames, please?’ We stood there in silence for a few long minutes. I was getting more and more stressed by the situation. I didn’t quite know how to get out of it since she refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. Finally, a man who had been standing a few paces from us and who had been witnessing the scene produced a quote – for new frames plus lenses. The amount made me laugh out loud. That’s when she finally got the message.

I came out shaking with anger and frustration. But it wasn’t the end of my ordeal.

Later that evening, I realized I should have asked for ultra-light lenses, like the ones I already had and was used to. So eager had that woman been to sell me new frames she hadn’t told me about all the lens options. I called Specsavers the next day, thinking they couldn’t possibly have made the lenses yet, but I was told it was too late: they had been ordered and nothing could be done. That was the last straw: I lost my cool and shouted down the phone at the woman and also, later, at the manager (who turned out to be the guy with the quote). He explained that in view of my prescription and since the lense would be quite thin he wouldn’t have recommended ultra-light lenses anyway.

It reassured for a little while, but the whole thing was still bothering me: for the next few years, every time I put on my glasses, I would be reminded of the way I’d felt standing there, not being able to get through to that overbearing sales assistant. I couldn’t take it so I returned to the shop the next morning – with my partner for support – and demanded to be given (for an extra £30, of course) the lenses I wanted. I was dressed up and wearing my ‘frightening’ lipstick, but I didn’t expect them to cave in and agree so readily. The manager chucked the wrong lenses (they hadn’t lied about their having been ordered already) in the bin and requested new ultra-light ones.

In the meantime, the woman had become all meek and mild. Could it be she’d got a bollocking for making a customer so mad? I hope so. She never denied not taking me through the different options, but she said she hadn’t mentioned ultra-light lenses because they were more expensive and, since I’d said I didn’t want to buy new frames, she’d thought, you know, I wouldn’t want to spend more money on lenses either. (Yeah, right!) I explained that for me glasses weren’t a fashion accessory that had to be changed each season and about waste and about wanting to spend money only on things that mattered and lenses being what mattered, etc. etc. She and the manager seemed to understand – at last.

The other day, when I went to collect my – nice and light – glasses (‘Yes, they fit very well, thank you. No, they don’t pinch, thanks. I’ve been wearing these frames for the past six years.’), the woman was all over me. She asked me several times if everything was all right. I wish she hadn’t. Ugh! I came out of the shop shaking again. From having to interact with someone I found unbearable; someone who’d given me so much aggro and stress; someone I’d never wanted to talk to again in my life.

With a bit of luck, I won’t have to.



  1. how ridiculous that you should be expected to buy new frames every time when you are perfectly happy with your existing ones

    maybe the solution is this: mr chick took out insurance (for a very reasonable £20 for three years, i think) for his new glasses - suggested by the salesperson when she spotted that he had two young kids

    sure as heck, the chicklets have managed to break his glasses twice, and both times the glasses have been repaired for free (the first time, he chose new frames but the second, he asked for the same frames, but i seem to recall they tested his eyes again to make sure the lens prescription was still right for him)

    so far, that's working out at £10 per pair (with fancy schmancy lenses he had originally)

    wasn't specsavers, though - vision express, i think...

  2. Ach, how funny! I just went in shopping for new glasses today!

    We went to a new place, because of poor customer service at our old opthamologist, almost like what you mention. My problem was not with the sales staff, but with the eye doctor himself. On my last visit there, I had to argue with him to get a copy of my prescription. I wasn't overly enamored the selection they had in at their shop, and I wanted to be able to buy new glasses elsewhere possibly. I found some that were okay, but I wanted to shop around. This is not an unreasonable demand, but he hemmed and hawed like I was asking to for instructions on DIY surgery or something. Criminy. Like I'm going to break my eyeballs because I buy glasses elsewhere. But he stood there and fought with me, refusing to even acknowledge what I'd said. He just kept gliding over my request and suggesting I try this brand or that instead. GAH! Shutup! It wasn't 'til I "innocently" asked about my LEGAL right to my own prescription where other folks could over hear us that he finally dashed it out on his pad for me. "We can't guarantee the quality if you buy glasses elsewhere, you know," is what he snidely when he handed it over. He was a very thorough doctor, one of the best opthamologists I've had, but his strong-arm sales tactic was so disgusting that I refused to return there for my checkup this year. What a twit. And I bought TWO new pairs, too, because I wanted an equally nice looking backup. (I am forever misplacing my glasses.)

  3. "and they suit me (as much as any glasses can)"

    I hear you on this. Glasses are just not natural, if you ask me.

    I get so anxious in the doctor/dentis/optician environment. Maybe because I think that they think they're experts in something, or I think that they think that I don't think. I don't know.

    You know how much pressure sales staff are under, right? To push the flavour of the month, or squeeze the expected profit from every passing customer. I blame aggressive (greeedy) management from head office and poor social skills, myself.

    *Rambles off into somewhere else altogether* I remember when I worked for a large national store, and was expected to push their crummy store card. We had so much grief if we didn't manage to buy souls/hook suckers (with insurance: that was the key thing), names of those who'd failed to manipulate someone into signing up, on the board, tellings off, lots of aggression. I was expected to ease the customers' into a life of debt. But I find that a bit irresponsible and offensive. And this one time I realised after persuading a woman that possibly she'd been a bit drunk and therefore not such a good judge of what she really wanted. That chills me. Sorry a-bit-drunk woman.

    So it might have been a bit like that for your bad lady.

    I hope I would have taken my prescription and walked though. Well done for going back and facing her again. I couldn't have done that, I think.

  4. Our J, NEVER too busy to be annoyed! I like this, because it means the rest of us are about to be mightily entertained. And this eyeglasses fiasco is SO entertaining. I'm glad you got what you wanted in the end. A similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago. New to eyeglasses, I went to an optician and was gently (ha!) guided into ordering three different pairs at a cost of.....$1600!!! I was so stunned at what I'd done that I didn't even complain at the time. I couldn't figure out how I, normally an assertive and savvy person, had been manipulated into such a grotesquerie. Later, I called to cancel the order and they said I couldn't, that the order had already been placed. This, just thirty minutes after I'd been in, on a late Saturday afternoon. Usually quiet and softspoken, my husband hopped into his car, sped to the shop, went into forceful (and loud!) lawyer mode, and scared the daylights out of salesperson and manager. The order was cancelled.
    What IS it about eyeglasses purveyors??

  5. You make pain so readable. Fun. But not funny to live through.

    I thought the customer was always supposed to be right.

  6. Ugh! Talk about irritating! I'll slap pushy salespeople - even when I was telemarketing (*shudder*) I couldn't bring myself to be pushy. I didn't do very well, but I didn't hate myself at the end of the day. Just the job.

    And thanks for reminding me - I *desperately* need new lenses and frames!

  7. Looks like a lot of us share your pain. It blows my mind how expensive frames are. Lenses, I understand, because they have to be custom made, but frames? Please. I have a great pair of frames that I'm wearing into the ground; they're 7 years old and I want to keep them until they fall apart. I have had to struggle mightily with my optometrist to keep my current frames. The fact is, they look good on my face, and I'm vain. And cheap. If I can accept that, why can't they??

  8. I am an Optician who used to work for Specsavers.

    Increasingly, through my years of employment with them, I saw their tactics become increasingly aggressive in order to generate more income.

    Staff are paid bonuses for, amongst other things, making a sale, trading up on glasses to a more expensive range, selling extras likes tints, anti reflection coatings etc.

    Even Opticians are encouraged to prescribe - they have their 'prescribing rates' monitored to make sure they do not fall below an average i.e 75% prescribing rate. If your do, you can get less salary and the third degree as to why you are not prescribing enough glasses.

    All this to pay for prime high street locations and a large head office.

    This behaviour is not just restricted to Specsavers - it applies to most (all?) of the large high street chains.

    The final straw came for me when |I saw a member of staff screwing an elderly lady over - previously she had paid about £70 for her glasses and this time the bill - with all the 'extras' was £250. This old dear did not want to make a scene - although she kept pointing out that it was very expensive this time - nevertheless the staff involved was insistent that this was the price, that all the extras required were needed and how did she want to pay :-(

    Shortly after this episode I left Specsavers and retired - I had seen enough.

  9. Reading your rant, J, and all these comments, I'm shaking my head. More and more people need glasses these days, what with the aging population and eye strain from computer work - yet a trip to the optician practically requires a second mortgage! Why can't there be a reasonable cap on the profit these people make?

    I switched optometrists last year, after seeing the same man for several years, because his office staff had become so aggressive in marketing, and downright sneaky with the insurance stuff. We opted for vision insurance in our plan, because my husband and I and both of our children wear glasses, so the extra premium easily pays for itself. The final straw with the old doc was when his office manager asked me to sign the invoice that would go to the insurance BEFORE it had been completely filled out. When I questioned her, she said, breezily, "Oh, we'll calculate all that later when we get the final quote from the lab on your lenses." I told her I would sign the form, but would want to see what the total was. She looked at me blankly and asked, "Well, what's the big deal? Your insurance is going to pay it, don't worry." Turns out, they charged for UV resistant coating, which I had specifically refused (I wear contacts during the day, my glasses are for at-home, at night only). I was so angry, I wrote to my insurance company about this bit of fraud and determined to find a new practice before my next check-up.

    BTW, J - I've tagged you on my blog for a little meme - I hope you will take time away from your entirely justified outrage to answer a few personal questions :>)


  10. I know, UC, it’s like somebody dictated what you should wear on your feet or something.

    It’s a bit late for me to get insurance: I’ve had ocular cancer; I doubt anyone would insure my eyes against anything. I’ve never broken any glasses I’ve had (I did lose one pair, years ago, and one pair was stolen – who steals glasses? – at the Barbican, of all places).

    K, I hate trying on glasses (99 per cent of frames do not suit me) and this last pair I chose at leisure in a store in Paris, where I was left alone. I wasn’t stressed and managed to select a nice, cheap pair. I just bought the frames and got the lenses later, when I got back to London. I don't remember anyone making a fuss about it at the time.

    I’m glad they finally let you have your prescription. They have a nerve, haven’t they? It’s our bodies, our eyes!

    Indeed, J, some people suit glasses and others don’t.

    It's a semi-medical environment, isn't it, and that’s part of the problem. We are in patient mode, i.e. at a disadvantage and feeling weak. And you’re right about staff behind pressured to sell sell sell (as my last commenter reveals). You did that poor woman a favour in the end, I’m sure.

    I didn't feel I could walk out of the shop (I did want to) because the nice woman who’d examined me was still in the back room and I didn’t want to embarrass her: it was her I'd come to see (in fact, I’d been trying to track her down for months – she’s shared between the Shepherds Bush branch and the Hammersmith one and that evening I’d gone in to ask whether someone could tell me where she would be in the next few days – and she happened to be there and idle, so she examined me; I hadn't expected any of it). Otherwise, I would have demanded to be given my prescription and would have not just walked out but stormed out.

    Oh, L, $1600! It’s horribly stressful, isn’t it? I hate these people. I really do.

    TLP, I thought so too. Not any more, unfortunately.

    T, I suppose if you’re on commission you don’t have much choice, but I couldn’t do it.

    WW, I don’t understand why frames are so expensive either. They’re only bits of metal and/or plastic. Mine are six years old. So what? I’ve got clothes that go back 20 years; no one is telling me to get rid of them - if they’re not ridiculous and in good condition and they still fit.

    Thank you for the insight into the profession and its demands, Anonymous. That’s what we suspected but it sounds worse than what I thought. In order to do her job properly the woman in question should have tried very hard to sell me the extra-super-ultra light lenses (they have many different levels of thinness) but she concentrated on the frames so she should have been slapped for that by her boss. Maybe she was. Who knows?

  11. I wasn't ignoring you, D: just found your comment sitting in my Inbox. We were writing at the same time. LOL!

    Re. insurance: it's a great thing, but not for me (see above).

    That's outrageous! I wonder how much money they managed to extort from the insurance company. And in the end it's the punter who has to pay for it - in higher premiums. Disgusting.

    You tagged me! You should have heard my 'Aaaargh! just now. Thank you for thinking of me, grrr, I'll go and see, grrr, later, grrr, what personal questions I'm supposed to answer, grrr. *fixed grin*

  12. LOL - I know, it's probably one of the things you'll want to say "no" to...but I hope you won't. :>) d.

  13. Oh, I hate buying glasses. I've been wearing them since I was six and I have very bad eyesight so lenses are always outrageously expensive plus I get the supershrunk piggy eyeball thing, even with thin lenses. Having to fork out about £400 a go for things that make me look appalling and remind me of my flaws hurts, every time. I wish I could wear contacts but I can't.

    Anyhow, your experience sounds horrific. I went to Specsavers last time for their second pair free deal and it wasn't till I'd chosen frames that I was told that the second pair deal didn't apply to me (because of my prescription). I nearly cried.

  14. I proved you wrong, didn't I? :-D

    Oh, I feel for you, GSE. Four hundred pounds?! That's horrendous.

    I'm not very short-sighted and, for years, it was only in one eye. I had 20/20 vision in the other one and refused to wear glasses, until it too became short-sighted. Of course that's the eye that got cancer. It had to be this way, hadn't it?. I could just have plain glass for that one but the correct lens does make a bit of difference and I need all the sight I can get.

    I have a feeling all opticians are the same. :-(

  15. I'm girding my loins for another visit soon. My need for bifocals is I fear becoming impossible to ignore.

  16. There is no way I'm ever going to wear bifocals. Vari-thingy, maybe, but bifocals, no!


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