Making the Second Pair Sale

By Liz Martinex, ABOC, NCLC
Almost every optical waiting room in America receives at least one complimentary copy of the kids’ magazine Highlights for Children. This publication was started in 1946, and since 1948, the “Goofus and Gallant” cartoon has been a steady offering. So, pretty much everyone in the optical business has either grown up with Goofus and his sidekick Gallant or has seen the feature in reception area copies. The whole point of “Goofus and GallanTt” is to teach kids the proper way to act by demonstrating how each boy would respond to the same situation: Goofus chooses an irresponsible path, while Gallant is the kid you always wanted to punch out because your mother kept pointing out what great manners he had.

In an alternate universe completely of my own invention, Goofus and Gallant have grown up and taken their places in society – as eye care professionals. Unfortunately, Goofus continues to be clueless, while Gallant drives a Porsche and has a perfectly well-behaved family…even his dog is well-behaved. How does he do it, we wonder? While everybody else is feeling the pinch of a shaky economy, Gallant is making multiple-pair sales and reaping the rewards. To solve this perplexing mystery, I went undercover at each eye care practice and observed the business practices of both Goofus and Gallant. I made amazing discoveries, which I share with you here. TALK TO THE PATIENTS DAY ONE

At Goofus Optical, Dr. Goofus is committed to staying busy. He double- and triple-books appointments, and if the patients have to wait, that’s just tough. He figures that a certain number of them will walk out of the waiting room before they get their eyes examined anyway, so he may as well maximize his bookings. Plus, since optical is a volume-based business, he takes all sorts of appointments, regardless of how cheaply he has to give away eye exams. Naturally, this system doesn’t leave Dr. Goofus much time to chat with patients in the exam room. He slaps their prescriptions into their hands and shoves them out into the dispensary. I try to help each patient find the right frames and lenses for their prescriptions, but I find that I have to explain everything about the lens types available to them. The office manager doesn’t give me a chance to tell the patients much, though, because she is committed to the office philosophy of “fit ’em up and get ’em out.”

On my first day at Gallant Optical Associates, I peek at the exam book and find that Dr. Gallant schedules only one patient per half hour. Also, he’s choosy about whom he can see. He accepts only self-pay patients or those with insurance plans that pay a decent amount for eye exams so that he can afford to give more time to each patient and provide everyone with quality eye care.

Dr. Gallant also starts the conversation about lenses with the patients inside the exam room. He has the patients fill out a lifestyle survey form in the waiting room so he can better understand their needs, Then, when he personally walks Tthe patients out and introduces them to me, he hands me several prescriptions for each patient and tells me what each one is for to remind the patients of what they need. Each presbyopic patient might receive a minimum of three or four scripts: one each for “regular” glasses, sunglasses, computer glasses, and perhaps sports goggles. Dr. Gallant also specifies the type of multifocal he wants each patient to have. I find that all I have to do is confirm that “The doctor prescribed the XYZ progressive lens for you,” and the patients are reassured that everyone has their best vision interests at heart.

On my second day at Goofus Optical, I notice that the sunwear display is a bit dated and dusty. There’s nothing I can do about the old frames, but I can at least freshen up the appearance of the display. Dr. Goofus sticks his head out of the exam room and waves me away. “It’s a cloudy day,” he tells me. “Nobody’s going to be thinking about buying sunglasses today.” Before I can answer him, a woman comes into the optical, and I ask how I can help her. She smiles and explains that she’s a rep from our lab, and she’s visiting to find out whether we need anything. She also offers us training in making second-pair sales. I think this is a great idea, but Dr. Goofus chases her away. “We don’t have time for that,” he growls, even though she tells us that the training is available both online and after hours.

During the day, I’m kept busy taking care of patients in the dispensary, but I notice that Dr. Goofus is right. Very few of them go over to the sunwear display on their own or ask to buy second pairs.

On day two at Gallant Optical Associates, the same lab rep pays a visit. Dr. Gallant invites her to take a look around and speak with the employees while he finishes up with a patient. When he’s done with the exam, he sits down with her and asks the rest of the associates to participate in the meeting. He’s immediately thrilled with the prospect of the lab providing free training to us in selling second pairs, and he seems genuinely delighted that we can get ABO credit for it, too. The lab rep says she can also bring training in to the optical on a weekend or evening and Dr. Gallant immediately offers to spring for pizza for the staff during the presentation. “Anything to have employees who are better prepared to serve our patients,” he says. “And the extra revenue from multiple-pair sales will be reflected in the staff’s end-of-the-year bonuses.” He winks, and the employees cheer. We have to get back to work, so the lab rep leaves us with brochures and POP materials that we can use to demonstrate PALs, anti-reflective coatings, polarized lenses, high-index materials and other premium products to the patients. She explains that when the patients can see what they’re going to get or how lenses are made, they feel more ownership toward their purchases and tend to spend more. This sounds good to me, and the rest of the staff is interested, too. I see them poring over the pamphlets during their lunch breaks.


I’m keeping up with the hectic pace at Goofus Optical as best I can. It’s hard to help so many patients at once when there really isn’t enough staff. I overheard Dr. Goofus say that he might lay off one of the dispensers because he’s making too much money. I don’t think I can juggle more patients in a day, but I’ll do my best. I’m finally able to get a minute to explain to a patient that a separate pair of reading glasses would be helpful to her when the office manager barrels over to send me to lunch. I tell her I’ll go as soon as I finish helping the patient because I don’t want to be rude and leave in the middle of the sale, but she insists that I go right away. When I return from lunch, I learn that the patient left without buying any glasses. I don’t blame her for being offended and taking her business elsewhere.

Later in the day, I overhear the office manager, and she’s boiling mad. Apparently, she wanted the commission from the second-pair sale for herself, which is why she wanted me to go before I finished the sale. Commission? Nobody even told me we earned commission. The office manager complained that it was hard enough finding patients willing to get more than one pair, and she didn’t want to give up a chance for extra money to someone else.

The third day at Gallant Optical Associates brings a surprise: Dr. Gallant has unveiled a new bonus and commission plan for the staff. Everyone will earn a weekly bonus that is based on the percentage over goal that the office brings in. Everyone gets a share in the bonus because we all contribute to the success of the office, Dr. Gallant says. And by giving everyone an equal share in the bonus, none of the dispensers will try to “steal” a lucrative patient away from someone else. Everyone will do their best to bring in sales and reduce spoilage. And the cash commissions that the lab offers for selling certain types of lenses will also be distributed equally among the employees. But re-dos will be deducted from the bonus plan. This way, everyone is encouraged to sell the right kinds of lenses to the right patients – not just the lenses that carry a commission for a certain time period but which aren’t right for every patient. PROVIDING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DISPENSERS TO SELL MULTIPLE PAIRS DAY 4

I’ve decided that I’ve seen enough of the Goofus and the Gallant approaches to the eye care business to get a sense of what they’re all about. On the one hand, Dr. Goofus overworks his staff, keeps patients waiting and doesn’t want employees to have the tools they need in order to make multiple-pair sales.

On the other hand, Dr. Gallant wants his optical staff to function as a team, with the main goal being to provide excellent eye care to every patient. Dr. Gallant also counts himself as a member of the team and makes the dispensers’ jobs easier by telling patients what kind of lenses they need in the exam room, before they even get out to the dispensing area. He believes that he and his employees can make a good living, even in a rough economy, by having a good training program and offering visual aids such as brochures and POPs to explain to patients what their choices are. He spreads the wealth among all the employees so that everyone really does feel like they belong to a team and do their best to treat patients well and make money at the same time.

After carefully considering my options, I fax my resignation in to Dr. Goofus and start working full time for Dr. Gallant. I figure if I stay at Gallant Optical Associates, pretty soon I’ll be driving a Porsche, too.


Labtalk June 2020