Readers Weigh In On the Debate

Vision Monday conducted our own informal survey of 189 ECPs across the country to determine how they were handling online eyewear sales and the PD request dilemma from consumers looking to purchase their eyewear elsewhere. Half of our respondents were optometrists and 33 percent were opticians representing mainly single location practices (nearly 70 percent). Though many of those who answered our questions do sell contact lenses online (38 percent), only 7.4 percent of the respondents said they sell eyewear online. However, a whopping 46 percent said they were considering doing so, while the same amount said they never would. Here is what else they had to say regarding online sales:

Some respondents give the PD to patients who ask without comment:

“We will provide all measurements that patients ask us to give them.”—Steven Kantor, OD, Central Phoenix Eye Care, Ariz.

“We measure their PD or seg height and write it down for them, it belongs to them.”—Vicki Bowers, Milam Optical, Tenn.

“We write it for them on an Rx pad.”—Dawn Rakich, OD, Texas

While others have made it part of the eyeglass fitting and ordering process, so for patients without a pair of eyeglasses in hand or being purchased, the measurement is provided for a fee:

“We explain to them that those measurements are services provided when purchasing glasses from our trained staff. If they insist on getting the measurements, we charge them a fee for our time.”—Brad Bodkin, The Vision Center at Seaside Farms, S.C.

“We educate them that it is done for a fee. It is part of the fitting which is built into the price of the glasses.”—Dennis Iadarola, OD, Center for Vision Care, Conn.

“We only do it if patient has already gotten product from our office, otherwise we charge for the measurement.”—Jeanette Lee, OD, 20/20 Optometry of Silicon Valley, Calif.

Those who report charging a fee say it ranges anywhere from $10 to $30, while still others have devised an additional service package patients can buy to ensure their online purchase is fit and adjusted properly:

“We charge for the service and time/expertise to take and provide that measurement. We also offer an additional service to provide PDs, and check and adjust the glasses when received by the patient for eyewear purchased elsewhere and not through us or our website.”—George Eischens, OD, Fountain City Eyecare, Ala.

“We inform them of the potential hazards of buying glasses through an unknown entity. If they still require the information, we charge a fee for the service instructing them to return with the new eyewear so we may verify the Rx and fit.”—Michael Malachowski, Zilliox Optical, N.Y.

“We sell a service package that gives PD, base curve and seg height, as well as verification after delivery to give us an opportunity to scrutinize or criticize the product.”—Ted Murdoch, The EyeSite, Alberta, Canada

Since very few states require the PD measurement be included with the prescription, some practices reported that they inform patients it is against company policy to provide the information or just refuse to provide it outright:

“We explain that New York considers this a professional measurement and that the Department of Education, which governs optometric and licensed optical dispensers, has determined that the PD need not be released.”—Michael Raff, OD, Brockport Optometry, N.Y.

“I do not [provide] it. I am responsible for that measurement under my license, and if I did then I would be responsible for glasses that I did not make or properly fit.”—Debby Bauer-Robertson, Jeanne I Ruff, OD, LLC, Va.

“We politely tell them it is the responsibility of the person taking the order; that person is responsible for accurate measurements depending on frame/lenses ordered. As far as adjustments on eyeglasses not purchased through our office, a patient is told we are not responsible for breakage or scratching on something not ordered through us.”—Jeri Overly, Mid-Michigan Eye Care, Mich.

Still others have used the request as way of improving the customer service experience and providing patient education:

“Of course we kindly provide it to them and ask why we were unable to fulfill their spectacle requirements.”—Kendall Mullins, OD, Calera Vision Center, Ala.

“We provide it to them if they are a current patient. However, we do educate them about the plusses and minuses of ordering eyewear over the Internet. I feel the sale of eyewear online diminishes the value of the service provided and turns the product into a commodity.”—Gary Naftaly, Manzo Eye Care, Mich.

“We educate patients on the benefits of buying locally, supporting local business and the convenience of having a local resource if the Rx is incorrect. We also talk about things like temple length that may seem insignificant when buying online.”—Phil DeYoung, Eye Styles, Ore.

Regardless of what ECPs do, most are aware of the potential impact online sales could have on their bottom line:

“I know that it may only be a few that use online sources for glasses but it is still revenue that I have lost. I think that with time, it will become an even larger loss as the price difference between glasses from online retailers and those from private practices grows.”—Amy Keller, OD, Mich.

“Only a small percentage of my current patients would consider [purchasing online], but I do believe it will become much more of an issue.”—Jeff Yunker, Lifetime Vision Center, N.D.

“I don’t think it has impacted [my business] very much yet, but it has potential. Honestly, there are so many people out there with bad eyewear that did get professional assistance that I can see how this came to be.”—Margaret McNelis, OD, McNelis Family Eyecare, Ill.