By Preston Fassel

I don’t know if this is a habit that other semi-retired opticians develop, but since I left the dispensary to focus on other aspects of the optical field, I’ve found myself dropping in on other opticals. I’ll pop in, politely tell whoever greets me that I’m just browsing and take a look at their frame selection, POP and lens literature. If it’s crowded, sometimes I’ll casually eavesdrop on what the opticians are telling folks: their suggestions for frames, their selling techniques for lenses, their level of expertise in answering patient questions, etc. I’m interested to see how other opticians approach the job, especially as regards their knowledge about the science of optics… and more importantly, their honesty. It’s not just a way of keeping my thumb on the pulse of the optical world, but it also provides a number of object lessons in how to sell (and how NOT to sell) glasses. In fact, it would be a good training exercise for any apprentice optician, or a refresher course for an experienced optician, to drop in unannounced and unidentified on a dispensary and simply observe.

A recent trip to a mall location provided me with today’s topic. While I was scoping out the dispensary’s sunglasses, I overheard an optician selling to a father and his daughter, who appeared to be about 8 years old. The optician asked the father whether he wanted his daughter’s glasses to have photochromic lenses. The father was hesitant. His younger son, he said, had asked for them, “because he thinks he’s better than everyone else.” I was surprised to hear the optician respond: “Yeah, kids don’t really need them. It’s really just to show off when they’re younger, but when they get older and need serious glasses, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. And they make you look old.” The father and the optician agreed that photochromic lenses’ inability to turn clear immediately upon entering indoors made them an overpriced novelty, and the father purchased the glasses—without a second pair of sunglasses, mind you.

It seemed like a primer in how NOT to sell and educate. We know that children’s eyes are especially susceptible to sun damage; 80 percent of UV damage can occur before an individual is 25 years old. We also know that children are spending more time than ever (sometimes more time than adults) on digital devices, and that some photochromic lenses can be instrumental in lessening digital eyestrain. Did the optician know this? I’ve seen opticians balk in the face of any kind of challenge, immediately accepting the patient’s resistance as a sign that they won’t make a purchase. The father in this situation seemed set against photochromics, but he also thought that’s because they’re lenses for showing you’re “better than everyone else.” Would he have changed his mind if he was educated about the function and benefits of the lenses? Ultimately, isn’t the well-being of the patient the most important factor of all—above cosmetics, patient ignorance and parental resistance? The alternative is that the optician wholly believed what he was saying, which raises other concerns. Assuming he was just balking though, I’d take his experience as a lesson. To quote my Dad when teaching me not to be timid, “The worst they can do is say ‘no.’”

Check out the CE course “Scripts for Selling” at for great ideas on uncovering patient needs, presenting patient-specific product options and more.