Monday, August 15, 2005

Tales of the Marketplace, Vol. 1

I'm on vacation for two weeks, but for a consumer writer, time away from the office often doubles as field work. I've already had one experience that has me pondering whether an unfamiliar practice is fair or foul. I'm not ready to condemn it – for now, I'm just interested in hearing what other people think. If you have information or a reaction, hit the comment button and let me know.

The story takes place at Lenscrafters, where I was shopping for a new pair of eyeglasses that I needed in a hurry, before I hit the road. As I tried on frames, I saw a sign offering $100 off a new pair of prescription glasses. I even asked the manager about it; she assured me it applied to all prescription eyeglasses orders.

That was welcome news. Though I'm fortunate to have eye-care coverage under my health-insurance plan, I knew it paid a limited amount. I expected the balance for my bifocal, scratch-resistant lenses and new frame would still come to more than $200. When she totaled the tab, she confirmed I was right.

But a funny thing happened when it came time to pay. No $100 discount.

Why not? Because my insurance paid part of the cost, and the rule was one subsidy per order. "You don't get both," she told me.

I didn't raise a fuss – I wanted the glasses, and figured a protest might mean a delay. Besides, I could easily imagine a rationale, perhaps advanced by some thoughtful employee at a corporate retreat: "You know, these prices are pretty stiff, especially for folks who don't get a subsidy from their insurance company. Maybe we should target a discount for the people who have to pay he full price." I'd have no quarrel with a pharmacy taking that approach for prescription drugs, because I know cash-paying customers are stuck paying artificially high prices for them. In effect, they subsidize deep discounts negotiated by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

But as far as I know, this Lenscrafters' policy is something else. My insurer hasn't negotiated a special price – unless there are some sorts of undisclosed rebates involved. The insurer simply pays part of the tab, and I pay the rest. The bottom line seems to be that Lenscrafters takes in $100 more for a pair of glasses from somebody with insurance than from somebody without.

Justified or not? Tell me what you think – or if I'm looking at this through a faulty lens.


Anonymous David Cromer said...

Re: Lenscrafters
If the sign did not have "small print" or a reference to "policy", then I belive they must honor the discount.
If there is a selfserving message about helping the needy, then they are justified.
Why not just pay the bill, with the discount and then file for reimbursement from the ins co ??

Monday, August 15, 2005  
Blogger BradyDale said...

I agree with Mr. Cromer. They are using the program to lure in customers like you who might have been marginal about buying glasses but are then convinced when they see the discount. Unless there's a disclaimer, it's pure bait & switch, which is definitely wrong.

Monday, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Christian said...

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Friday, October 07, 2005  
Blogger stony said...

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Saturday, October 08, 2005  
Blogger Ray said...

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Sunday, October 09, 2005  
Blogger meisterfrau said...

I worked at Lenscrafters for 7 years. It is true that if you submit for reimbursement, you would have gotten the discount. Most of the time when they wouldn't honor the coupon, it was because Lenscrafters was indeed eating part of the cost. Unless things have changed dramatically, however, Lenscrafters managers have very wide latitude in what kinds of discounts they are able to offer customers, and the manager should have (and when I worked there, would have) done something with an additional discount to keep you happy. Those stores are subject to "CSATs" or customer satisfaction surveys that determine their entire commission and bonus structure. We all lived in dread of bad CSAT scores.

Monday, October 24, 2005  
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After going to Lenscrafters for years I've decided I won't go back. In addition to the bait & switch you describe. They insist on putting anti-scratch and anti-reflective coatings on your lenses (for a fee of course) whether you want them or not. Even the doctor located in their store agreed that the coating was a waste. The coating begins to wear within a year leaving marks that look like small scratches - oops, now you have to buy new glasses. Of course, they can't just order the lenses, if there is a scratch on just one lens, you can't just order a new lens. Everything is geared to making you buy new glasses rather than repairing the ones you have. I am taking my business elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005  
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Sunday, January 22, 2006  

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