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Thread: Hanging up my retail spurs.

  1. #1
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    Hanging up my retail spurs.

    I have been a frequent reader and infrequent poster to this forum for a few years now, I honestly have not had much to offer when questions arise. I have learned a few facts from this group and for that I am appreciative. I guess my purpose for this post is for the new people getting into this business. If you want to be an optician and work for L.C. or other chains be prepared to work every weekend, a couple of nights a week and have your hours cut when the business cycle slows down. If you start working for the chains, realize you will not learn more than what it takes to sell the product and possibly how to bend a temple behind an ear.

    Don't get into this business if you expect to make decent money working in a retail setting, you will always be one or two paychecks away from having a zero in your bank account. Opticians are not valued by large corporations and we are considered drones required to hold the company line in terms of pushing whatever they make the most money from. The art of our profession has been diluted with sales people who think being a good optician is selling the most expensive product. While the goal is make a profit, screwing over a 95 year old housebound lady by selling her progressive A.R. and transitions does not sit well with me. ( previously CR-39 FT-28 and happy with it, yes I have seen this happen) Be prepared to give up some morals when you work for a chain.

    Do get into this business if it is not the primary source of income for your family or if your long term plans are to strike out on your own. Educate yourself about every aspect of this business. Learn anatomy of the eye and what is a good fitting contact and appropriate for the customers. Figure out what other options there are for customers outside of what you can sell them. There will be instances where there is absolutely nothing you can do but it is great if you can refer them to someone who can. Network with your competition (large and small) you never know when you might need some help. If you swallow the corporate mantra if they can't make it, it cannot be done then you do your customer a disservice and remain ignorant of our profession.

    After 19 years as a retail associate with some lab thrown in, the time to throw in the retail towel has come. I have been fortunate in that early in my career that I learned from some of the best in the area. Doesn't hurt to have an associates degree in Optical Science and an insatiable desire to learn more about what it takes beyond selling glasses. I'm not leaving the lens business, just leaving retail. You will probably see more of me once I get settled into my new position working for a digital lab. I might even come knocking on your door one day hoping to convert you over to use my products and services. If anyone out there is unsatisfied with their digital lab and their service then PM me. I might have a solution for you. ( shameless plug for a job I start in a week)

  2. #2
    Master OptiBoarder mdeimler's Avatar
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    Yea..retail can suck. Good luck with the non-retail position.

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    Good luck with the new position!

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    Awh, you're just sayin that to show how much smarter you are than the rest of us.

    Chip

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    Master OptiBoarder optical24/7's Avatar
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    woodchip, sorry you've had such a bad time where you've worked. I don't mean this harshly, but why did you stay with them 19 years? And as far as pay rate, even though every optician feels they are under paid, the fact is that in most states, opticians average what a teacher makes (Some make a lot more!), when we don't even require more than a pulse to get a job in most states.

    I left wholesale labs to go to retail over 25 years ago because retail offered substantially more money. I'm glad they're paying better! Good luck on the new position!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mwoodchip View Post
    If you start working for the chains, realize you will not learn more than what it takes to sell the product and possibly how to bend a temple behind an ear.
    Absolutely true. Good luck to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by optical24/7 View Post
    woodchip, sorry you've had such a bad time where you've worked. I don't mean this harshly, but why did you stay with them 19 years?
    I wasn't with the same company for that entire time, a majority of it sure but left and came back when I went back to school to get my B.A.---I needed the crappy hours to work around a school schedule. I worked with some absolutely wonderful people and they will always be a part of my family, they just happen to agree with me about what is bad about the retail side of things. It's true you don't need much more than a pulse to work most places and that is the frustrating part. There is more to this job than just being able to sell something. Trained monkeys can do that, most don't know the rudimentary basic of optics and when there is a vision issue they scratch their heads and pray for a solution. I'm dual licensed and just loved training a new person every six to eight months only to have them get transferred to another location in need. In terms of pay I guess it is what you would consider decent wages. My personal compensation was always above average and more than fair for what the market is paying. I'm just warning any newbies and young ones out there entering the field not to expect to make 60-80k in retail. 30-45k is about the most you can expect. To compare our pay to a teachers is not really fair, they at least get summers off and the benefits are much better.

  8. #8
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    Been working with a Pearle franchisee for the past +13 years and can proudly say I DO make good money and I AM the sole source of income for my wife and two children and own a house and two cars. IT CAN be done, YOU are the only limit to YOUR success! Very few of us are in cricumstances NOT of our making.
    Clinton Tower

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    Ophthalmic Optician OptiBoard Gold Supporter
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    Quote Originally Posted by scriptfiller View Post
    Been working with a Pearle franchisee for the past +13 years and can proudly say I DO make good money and I AM the sole source of income for my wife and two children and own a house and two cars. IT CAN be done, YOU are the only limit to YOUR success! Very few of us are in cricumstances NOT of our making.
    I was going to say the same thing. I have an employee that is the sole breadwinner, has 3 kids, a wife that stays home with them, and they live on a 25 acre farm they just recently purchased. They are living the American Dream. He is 33 years old, and has held two jobs in his life; one with a wholesale lab , and the last 11 years with me.

    Crappy jobs exist because someone is willing to work them for the wages offered.
    Ophthalmic Optician, Society to Advance Opticianry

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johns View Post
    I was going to say the same thing. I have an employee that is the sole breadwinner, has 3 kids, a wife that stays home with them, and they live on a 25 acre farm they just recently purchased. They are living the American Dream. He is 33 years old, and has held two jobs in his life; one with a wholesale lab , and the last 11 years with me.

    Crappy jobs exist because someone is willing to work them for the wages offered.
    I wish there was a LIKE tab on this board. You are right on the MONEY with that tidbit Johns. Opticians often sell themselves short, both for the pay, and for the education.

  11. #11
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Gold Supporter Judy Canty's Avatar
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    The general idea here is a good one, but even johns has stated firmly that he is not hiring full-time employees any more. So, sometimes, "wantin' ain't gettin'" to quote one of my favorite movies.

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    The "good" jobs are out there for the lucky and hardworking few. Some of the chains do pay fairly well if you add in commission and benefits. The problem is you may have to start out at the bottom and work your way up. As the original poster stated...they won't teach you much. However the smart ones with a desire to learn will do it on their own.

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    Ophthalmic Optician OptiBoard Gold Supporter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Judy Canty View Post
    The general idea here is a good one, but even johns has stated firmly that he is not hiring full-time employees any more. So, sometimes, "wantin' ain't gettin'" to quote one of my favorite movies.
    Yes, that is very true, I am not hiring full timer right now. However, I was trying to show that there are many others, in similar positions (and for similar length of time) that have fared differently. I wouldn't have posted on this thread were it not for this sentence, directed at potential future opticians:

    Do get into this business if it is not the primary source of income for your family or if your long term plans are to strike out on your own.
    I would hate to think that someone considering entering this field would think that this is the norm. They might overlook the fact that this person is working at a chain store. I, and others here have offered a different perspective.

    I spent a few days in Vegas hanging out with some of the best opticians in the industry. NONE of them are self employed, NONE of them complained about their jobs, and All of them work for people that see the value in highly trained, motivated opticians. Another common denominator that I saw was that the all said that their bosses respected them, and let them do pretty much as they please. (The fact that they were all in Vegas is a testimony to that)

    Look at the UnExpo that we attended: Whispering Mark, OBX, Fezz, Harry Chilling, Bob ABOfc, Heather, Wes, You, I, and a few others...of that group, only Heather and I were self-employed. The others, whom I consider to be among the best in the business, were all employed by private ODs, and MDs. Of course, ODs and MDs are constantly burned here for being "under"employers, but that is really not the case.

    There are good and great jobs out there for opticians, but people can't expect to land them if they are not good and/or great themselves.
    Ophthalmic Optician, Society to Advance Opticianry

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    Master OptiBoarder optical24/7's Avatar
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    I'll add one thing to Johns excellent post. Sometimes, you may need to consider relocating for better employment. I've read opticians complain here that " They don't pay opticians anything around here". I moved from Dallas many years ago because they don't pay near as much as they do in the Houston area. Many career fields require relocation for advancement, opticianry is no different.

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    FOr the first 10 years of my 38 myear optical career, I scratched and pecked and moved my family many many miles away to get a DM job with a retail chain, which I thought, at the time, was going to be my primo job, that I had reached the pinnacle of opticianry. It wasn't but a year and a half later I moved my family 10 hours away to work for a private OD, my dreams had fallen with the realization that not only was it and endless job, won't go into that but trust me, more importantly, however, was the policies and proceedures and the way this company treated their employees and forced me to do the same, but even worse, the lack of quality of work and the length of time to get it back forced me to relocate my family hundreds of miles away at a hugely reduced salary so I could live with myself. Even though in the last 28 years I never matched my salary as a DM at the retail chain, I started over again and didn't look back,and was allowed by the OD whom I have worked with for 23 years now to do what I felt was right for the patient. And for that, I will always be eternally grateful. I am fortunate that my wife is a teacher and 8 years younger than me, and have been able to use her insurance all these years. I found that money is needed to survive and pay the bills, but working in a job you love instead of the opposite makes all the difference.

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    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter Barry Santini's Avatar
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    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter Barry Santini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johns View Post
    I spent a few days in Vegas hanging out with some of the best opticians in the industry. NONE of them are self employed, NONE of them complained about their jobs, and All of them work for people that see the value in highly trained, motivated opticians. Another common denominator that I saw was that the all said that their bosses respected them, and let them do pretty much as they please.
    The ONLY way the scenario described above will work is when there is enough money/profit to properly compensate these skilled and highly-motivated opticians. And that means both the boss and the employee have to place a high priority on supportingtheir asking prices with the type of tangible added-value their clients can sense and are willing to pay for.

    And insurance just won't do it.

    B

  19. #19
    Master OptiBoarder tx11's Avatar
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    IMHO only four things make an optician 50k plus valuable. 1) He/she owns the shop. 2) He/she also manages the whole practice in addition to opticianry (tech,file/verify insurance etc.) and none of the other employees make near that amount. 3) He/she works in a state where a license is required and not easily achieved. 4) He/she is a retail sales dynamo.

  20. #20
    Master OptiBoarder tx11's Avatar
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    Only one of the above is required but having all is ideal and SELDOM found.

  21. #21
    Master OptiBoarder kat's Avatar
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    Have fun with your new adventure. I too left retail for about 6 years and worked with a GREAT family owned lab in Phx. I loved it, but I missed retail. I now have my own shop and do Digital 90% of my work.
    I came, I saw, I left

  22. #22
    Master OptiBoarder CCGREEN's Avatar
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    At this for 30 years and I have to say that mwoodchip is spot on about everything. I will say it again, EVERYTHING!

    scriptfiller, and johns speaking of his employee, I notice to not state the value of their house land or the age of their automobiles. Any of us could own a single wide trailer house thats 20 years old and a couple of cars that are 10 or 15 years old and have medicade.

    and if scriptfiller and johns employee are really doing good then trust me that is the exception not the rule. My wife and I are both licensed here in Florida and we do only OK right now after the kids have left home. Ok only in the aspect we are still paying the bills racked up from supporting 4 kids. Once that is done in another year and a half. For two licensed Opticians in the same household we will be doing very well. Just about to run out of time though if we want to retire anytime while we still have some health to us. But not enough time to save much for retirement.

  23. #23
    Ophthalmic Optician OptiBoard Gold Supporter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Santini View Post
    The ONLY way the scenario described above will work is when there is enough money/profit to properly compensate these skilled and highly-motivated opticians. And that means both the boss and the employee have to place a high priority on supportingtheir asking prices with the type of tangible added-value their clients can sense and are willing to pay for.

    And insurance just won't do it.

    B
    Good point.

    I hadn't really thought of it, but yes, two of the three work at offices that don't accept any insurance. They are all working at multi-office practices, but the one that takes insurance has more than 10 offices.


    johns speaking of his employee, I notice to not state the value of their house land or the age of their automobiles. Any of us could own a single wide trailer house thats 20 years old and a couple of cars that are 10 or 15 years old and have medicade.
    Uh...yeah, you got me. I didn't mention the value of their house or land. Even if I knew what it was, it wouldn't be relevant to the conversation. I've been there, it's a nice place...I don't usually ask people what the value of their property is.

    And yes, as a matter of fact, he does drive a used minivan, as well as a used pick up truck (his pride and joy). He probably got that idea from his boss, as I probably have the oldest vehicle in the parking lot...a 1999 Ford Windstar Van w/289,000 miles on it. (MY pride and joy). I don't know the value of my home either, but it's probably not worth a whole lot more than the single wide you mentioned. (I will never be accused of living beyond my means.)

    In the end, the job you have, the amount of kids you have, the cars you drive, and the home you live in are nothing more than life choices. Choose wisely.

    IMHO only four things make an optician 50k plus valuable. 1) He/she owns the shop. 2) He/she also manages the whole practice in addition to opticianry (tech,file/verify insurance etc.) and none of the other employees make near that amount. 3) He/she works in a state where a license is required and not easily achieved. 4) He/she is a retail sales dynamo.
    Not to disparage those who file, verify insurance, etc., but I would never pay an optician a good wage, and then relegate them to do what any competent front desk person could do. My opticians do not deal with paperwork of any kind. Their job is to educate the patients, fit, take measurements, troubleshoot, dispense, and sometimes work the lab. I would never waste all that talent sitting at a computer, or on the phone verifying insurances. They don't make appointments or make out receipts and they seldom answer the phone either.

    Of course, if you own your own business, you most likely do almost EVERYTHING, including taking out the trash, walking people to their cars, vacuuming the floor, filing insurances, and anything else that needs to be done...and you're happy to do it.
    Ophthalmic Optician, Society to Advance Opticianry

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    Master OptiBoarder CCGREEN's Avatar
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    ALL of your points are good also Johns. If I have a high wage employee then by all means its good business to keep them in positions where they can earn me the biggest bang for my buck.

    And yes we all must live within our means just as a business must operate within its means. I do not beleive in a high dollar wage or a low dollar wage......I beleive in a FAIR wage. What makes that wage "fair" is when you can negoiate with a employer/employee and come to a agreed amount for services rendered. If we cant come to a agreement then its time to move on down the road.

    Saw a statment one time that went along the line of, "Americas recession will not come to an end untill we learn to live within our means." That being said the thought process of "entitlements" must be replaced with the old fashion way of making a living, you must earn it. Right now about 68% of americans are looking for a hand out for what ever reason, some lidget some not lidget. Until we turn the thought process around we will never see that number decrease.
    If you are not earning enough of it in your chosen profession to live in the manner that you would like then its time to move along and find something else.

    Ok I will get off my stump.....I could go on all night.

  25. #25
    Master OptiBoarder NCspecs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johns View Post
    Not to disparage those who file, verify insurance, etc., but I would never pay an optician a good wage, and then relegate them to do what any competent front desk person could do. My opticians do not deal with paperwork of any kind. Their job is to educate the patients, fit, take measurements, troubleshoot, dispense, and sometimes work the lab. I would never waste all that talent sitting at a computer, or on the phone verifying insurances. They don't make appointments or make out receipts and they seldom answer the phone either.

    Of course, if you own your own business (or you work for a small business), you most likely do almost EVERYTHING, including taking out the trash, walking people to their cars, vacuuming the floor, filing insurances, and anything else that needs to be done...and you're happy to do it.
    Thanks for this John, I agree and so does the OD that employs me. He doesn't even like us processing payment as Opticians. We fit, dispense, advise, and then walk the patient to the front desk when we've finished meeting their needs. He doesn't want us tied up with all the other stuff that can be handled by the techs. As for taking care of the office, my motto is "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean". Its a team effort when you work for a small practice.

    I love my job and my bosses, for this (and also for the fantastic hours) I'm okay with not making as much as a Costco optician. I have my sanity to consider and if that means I need to live a frugal lifestyle to enjoy my 8 hours or more a day at work then so be it.

    "Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened beings; only enlightened activity." -Shunryu Suzuki

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