So Many Optometrists But They Can’t See What’s Happening

, , , , | Healthy | February 17, 2019

(My family and I have been going to the same optometrist, a family friend who grew up with my father, for as long as I can remember. He finally retires after around 50 years and sells his business to a local chain optometry company. I get one final exam in with my regular optometrist, about five months before he retires, and I run out of contact lenses around two months after he retires. I call up his old office, now owned and operated by the chain and of whom I am now a patient, to order more.)

Me: “Hi. This is [My Name]; I was a patient of [Optometrist]. I’d like to order more contacts.”

Receptionist: “Of course. But before we can order more contacts for you, we’ll need you to come in for an exam.”

Me: “Uh… I’m sorry, why?”

Receptionist: “Your prescription is out of date.”

Me: “I just had my last exam seven or eight months ago. Why do I need another one?”

Receptionist: “Because you are a new patient; the optometrist has to see you before he can order your contacts.”

Me: “Okay… How much is an exam?”

Receptionist: “It will be [amount].”

(My old optometrist charged a little more than half the price that was quoted to me. My vision insurance only covers one exam every twelve months, regardless of who gives the exam, and at the price they quoted me I cannot afford a second exam in less than a year. I explain as much to the receptionist.)

Me: “There’s really no way for the optometrist to order me enough contacts to get me through the last four months before my insurance covers another exam?”

Receptionist: “Let me speak with the optometrist; we might be able to work something out. I’ll have to put you on hold.”

Me: “That’s fine.”

(I am on hold for about 20 minutes, and finally, the line cuts to ringing. A completely different person answers.)

Receptionist #2: “Thank you for calling [Chain Optometrist].”

Me: “Oh… I was on hold, waiting for a different receptionist to ask the optometrist a question.”

Receptionist #2: “Oh! What was the question, do you know? I might be able to answer it.”

Me: “Whether the optometrist could order me more contacts before I have another exam. I just had one about eight months ago.”

Receptionist #2: “That shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t know why the other receptionist needed to ask the optometrist that. May I have your name, please?”

Me: “Sure, I’m [My Name].”

Receptionist #2: *typing audibly* “Okay… Hm, that’s weird.”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Receptionist #2: “I don’t have you in my system.”

Me: “That is weird; I thought all my information transferred over fine.”

Receptionist #2: “Transferred? Which doctor did you see?”

Me: “[Optometrist].”

Receptionist #2: “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that doctor.”

Me: “But you guys just bought his company?”

Receptionist #2: “Oh… Oh! Oh, you mean in [Town]?”

Me: “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Receptionist #2: “You called the [City] location; we can’t order you contacts, but the [Town] location where you’re registered as a patient can.”

([City] is a large city about 60 miles away; [Town] is a small town that is about a five-minute drive from my apartment.)

Me: “That’s what I did; I called [Town], then I was put on hold when I asked to order contacts..”

Receptionist #2: “Ah, I understand. Our home office is in [City], so all hold calls eventually transfer back to us after a certain amount of time.”

Me: “That’s… strange. Could you please transfer me back?”

Receptionist #2: “Of course. Hold on just a minute, please.”

(I am placed on hold again, again for around twenty minutes. Finally, a third receptionist picks up.)

Receptionist #3: “Thank you for calling [Chain Optometrist].”

Me: “Hi. this is [My Name]. I was a patient of [Optometrist]. I called earlier to order more contacts.”

Receptionist #3: “Of course. Let me look up your prescription. Oh… You haven’t seen the optometrist yet.”

Me: *sighs* “No, but I just saw my old optometrist about eight months ago.”

Receptionist #3: “Well, we can’t order you more contacts until you see the optometrist.”

Me: “Yes, I was told this by the first person I spoke to. She put me on hold to ask the optometrist.”

Receptionist #3: *snorts* “Don’t know why she would do that. She should know we won’t give you any without an exam by our doctor.”

(I have worked customer service for almost ten years, and as such, I don’t want to cause a scene but I am frustrated and this particular receptionist, being so curt with me after the other two were trying to be helpful, irritates me. At this point, including the hold time, I have been on the phone for almost an hour now for what should have been a three-minute call.)

Me: *forcing my voice to be as even as I can* “I’m sorry, let me stop you there. I apologize if I come off as frustrated, but it’s because I am. I have been transferred three times and been on the phone for nearly an hour, and you are the third person I have spoken to. I literally need maybe one full box of contact lenses to get me through four months, as my insurance won’t cover another exam so soon and I can’t afford your exam rate without insurance. Is there really no way for me to get just one box of contacts without seeing your optometrist?”

(There is silence on the line, and I think at first that she hung up. Then, she speaks, very icily and sharply.)

Receptionist #3: “That is how we do things here. You know, there are four other optometrists within ten miles of us.”

Me: “I see. I’ll take my prescription information now, thank you. I’ll order my contacts from [Mail Order Contacts Service].”

(The receptionist proceeded to read off my prescription to me rapidly and, again, rather sharply. I managed to write it down, and as soon as she finished speaking she hung up on me. I got some recommendations from family and friends, and four months later I very happily saw a different optometrist, whose employees were sympathetic but not surprised when I told them about my experience with the chain. They told me they already had sixteen former patients of [Optometrist] switch over to them after the chain took over! Not a good look for the chain.)

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