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In honor of my Optical Anniversary, I would like to share with you the People You Meet In Optical. I’ve been an optician for fourteen years! It was an accidental career choice but one that has been really great to me. I never stop learning. I never stop being amazed, entertained, or angered by the people I encounter on a daily basis. Since most people will visit the eye doctor at some point in their life (we certainly hope!) they will inevitably fall into one of these categories. Where do you fit in?
The Whatever People
These are my favorite patients EVER and are few and far between. They are laid back, easy going, and happy – no matter what.
“Insurance will only pay 20% of the charges for your eyewear.”
“Ok, here’s my debit card!”
“I’m so sorry, there was a defect in your lenses and they needed to be remade. It will take an extra week.”
“Ok, no rush!”
“It seems as if you are no longer a candidate for contact lenses, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no problem it was worth a try!”
They are a joy and save my sanity some days.
TIP: Strive to be one of these people.
The Know It Alls
Most of the time the Know It Alls are pleasant, they just happen to know more than the front desk person, optician, doctor and insurance biller. Even if their information is wrong, and you have proof in hand, they will assure you that their information is correct.
“Mr. Doe, you have a $20 copay for your exam today and your total eyewear benefit is $200.00. You can use that toward a pair of eye glasses or a supply of contact lenses.”
“No, I no longer have a copay. My insurance company told me so. They also told me that I can get a free pair of glasses every year, no matter how much it costs.”
“Would you like to look over the benefit form sent to us by your insurance company?”
(Looking it over.) “Well, this is clearly a mistake. I’ll have to call them.”
In the exam room:
“I do not need bifocals anymore doctor, I’ve been meditating and exercising my eyes daily. I can see perfectly.”
“Well, your prescription is just a little stronger than last year Mr. Doe. I would still recommend getting bifocals.”
“No, that can’t be. I see perfectly fine!”
With the Optician:
“I know I don’t actually need these glasses but the doctor is making me get them.”
“Oh, Mr. Doe we can’t make you do anything, you are always welcome to wait on purchasing glasses.”
“No, I’ll get them. I want this pair.” (Holding up a child’s frame that he is barely able to squeeze onto his face.)
“Mr. Doe, let me find a frame that fits you a little better. That one is a bit too narrow.”
“I’ve been wearing glasses my entire life! I know what works best for me!”
Sigh…you make a mental note that you’ll see him back in two weeks for a remake, when he will blame you for picking out glasses that are too small for him and still refuse to pay his balance.
The Undecided
These patients have a very hard time deciding…anything. They are not completely sure what day or time is best for their appointment, but they do know that any day or time you offer to them will absolutely NOT work. They hate the eye exam because choosing between one and two is nearly impossible and they are very afraid of giving a “wrong” answer. (There are no wrong answers guys! You’re doing great!) They are both interested and skeptical concerning any available product for eyeglasses, and may want to try contacts though they’ve tried in the past and hated them. Choosing a frame is torturous for these folks. They call friends, send pictures, try on every frame in the store, ask your opinion, the opinion of the doctor, and all patients in the waiting room. They make a final decision and then call you on the way home to change their order. After picking up their glasses or contacts they are usually unhappy with them and regret whatever choices they made, and question the prescription because they were having difficulty in the exam room that day. Prepare to see these people for a few months after their initial visit. They are usually friendly and apologetic.
The Kids
My second favorite group of people, kids make the job fun! The little ones may be a little timid during the exam, but generally do well. The older ones think the gadgets are cool. The littles are either devastated or thrilled about wearing glasses, but no matter what, they love trying on frames. The older kids are usually very decisive and know exactly what they want and do not want, the only tricky part is convincing Mom or Dad to go along with their selection. They are happy to be able to see when they pick up the glasses, and make very little fuss concerning adjustments. You will usually see the kids back every couple of weeks for repairs, replacements or adjustments and the stories surrounding the condition of the glasses are always pretty interesting. If you’re friendly you’ll get random hugs and high fives from this crowd.
The Grouches
Sigh. The best you can do is tolerate them and try to be polite. These people will blame you for everything that has gone wrong in their lives, most having nothing to do with their eyes. They hate their neighbors, their family, the person they talked to on the phone earlier, the doctor, all the staff including you, and of course the president. Misery loves company and they want to suck every bit of positive life force out of your soul. Keeping conversation light and to the point is best, all while trying to get them out the door before their next blow up. It takes years of practice to handle the Grouches efficiently, and sometimes they will still manage to get under your skin. These are the people that you complain about when you go home. Your spouse will also detest these people.
The Scammers
Scammers are everywhere in life, and optical is no different. These crafty patients try to get additional discounts, ask you to commit insurance fraud, claim that damaged glasses were like that when they bought them, and twist wording around to make them seem to be a victim. Calling them out in a friendly and firm manner seems to work best. If they sense weakness, they will attack.
“I bought these glasses here a week ago and today I opened the case and they were broken in half.”
“Hmm… well, this frame is not the frame that you last purchased here.”
“What?!?! Yes it is! I just got it a week ago. Are you calling me a liar?”
“Ma’am, the last pair of  glasses you purchased was six months ago and the frame style was a T-123. This frame is a Foster Grant. This is a ready-made reading pair from Wal-Mart.”
“You better give me a new pair of glasses! Let me talk to your manager.”
“I am the manager. I can help you choose a new pair of glasses and you will receive a discount. I will not, however, give you a free pair of glasses to replace a pair that you did not purchase from my store. You may be able to return these to Wal-Mart and get the same pair for free, that is what I would recommend.”
(Long pause) “Ok, thanks.”
And she’s out the door. Nice try Scammer.
The Bad Boys/Girls
This group is largely made up of contact lens wearers. They wear a two week disposable pair of contact lenses for six months. They refuse to buy a pair of glasses just to have as a back-up. They do not own cleaning solution or a case, and proudly tell you that they just lick the lens if it gets a little dry. They sleep, swim, and tan while wearing their contacts and cannot seem to understand why they end up in the office with infections, ulcerations and pain. Some times they admit their habits, most of the time they lie. Sometimes they even brag. Much time is spent trying to educate these hooligans and get them to adopt responsible techniques…most of that time is wasted. (I was once one of these patients. At 17 I ended up with a huge corneal abrasion from over wearing my lenses. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through. From that point on I began taking care of my lenses, and have never had another problem.)
The Weird
A very broad category. This group has people that just don’t fit in anywhere else. The lady who tells elaborate stories about her glasses having magical powers, the man who only wears boxer shorts and a tank top every time he comes in, the lady who insists that she sees better with her glasses upside down, the guy who wants a monocle, the woman requesting impossible adjustments (bend this temple down but roll it in right here, but push it out right here…) the people who stop in just to talk about life and aren’t even patients. A complete mixed bag, they make the day interesting.
I’m grateful for all of my patients over the years, even the most difficult. They have taught me, entertained me and touched me. Of course, without them I would also not receive a paycheck!