I’ve been short sighted since I was about 10, when the first pair of glasses were unceremoniously plonked onto my nose (NHS frames for anyone in the UK who is old enough to those hideous but now mysteriously trendy creations!)
From that point on, little did I realise, there was to begin lifelong visits to opticians for sight tests, glasses fittings and eventually contact lenses (which opened up a whole new world of pain – quite literally!)
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy, old woman (and I am becoming dangerously close to that now!!) I have to say that my overall experience of optical facilities has been mixed (to be generous) or rather more accurately, somewhat disturbing.
One of the first surprises was when I went for a contact lens fitting – over 20 years ago. At first, all seemed good and the optician seemed professional and competent. However, I quickly learned that I was only being lulled into a false sense of security! On the second visit, the optician checked my eyes, using her super-duper eye measuring device machine (note the lack of my technical expertise!) and a worried frown developed on her face. When I asked her what the problem was, she declared that the measurements she’d taken of my eyes previously had quite dramatically changed and she was very concerned about why.
Thus followed several sleepless nights on my part, then a sight test appointment. Unfortunately, I seemed to have been allocated the apprentice for this, because he immediately told me he wouldn’t be able to examine my eyes if I didn’t have my contact lenses in! I dared to enquire how he might get on if I didn’t in fact wear contact lenses – that seemed to stump him. Needless to say, I hastily left.
The following day, I received a ‘phone call from a worried shop manager, who explained the reason for the change in my eye measurements was because the optician had dropped her super-duper new eye measuring machine – it had come apart all over the floor and she’d decided to put it back together without getting it checked and recalibrated!! Resulting in it giving out wildly inaccurate measurements! He asked me to return – but I politely refused!
Over the years, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed a warm and fuzzy feeling when visiting opticians. More recently, I was told by an optician that they weren’t sure if the prescription they were writing out for me was in fact correct – because although their machine was telling them it had changed quite a bit, I could in fact still read all the chart through my existing glasses – i.e. my existing prescription!
Yet another, while trying to take those pesky eye measurements, declared that there were two settings on the machine and they didn’t know which one to use – so they would do both just in case! (I wondered if they realised they were actually saying that out loud!!)
I’m apt to think these experiences could be just sheer bad luck on my part; however, I have heard the sad or alarming tales of others have also endured equally odd optical experiences.
For example, my partner excitedly went to collect a new pair of glasses, only to watch the young assistant merrily bend the frames about this way and that before his very eyes (pun intended!) whack them onto his nose and usher him out of the door, before he had time to say, “but I can’t see through these!”
A friend proudly donned her new glasses only to find everything was very blurred – on closer investigation it was found that the opticians had got her distance and reading prescriptions the wrong way around! Another optical patron had glasses where the lenses kept falling out of the frames – a bit of an inconvenience when you’re walking down the street and suddenly one of your lenses pops out onto the sidewalk!
There was one poor soul I knew of, who on complaining of a sore eye, got dye plunged into his eye, causing him to cry out in pain, only for the rather fearsome optician to tell him quite decisively that “it doesn’t hurt!” “I’ll be the judge of that!” he replied, running for the hills!
Whilst you can read about these anecdotes, with a wry smile on your face, seeing the funny side, you have to admit that it does point towards the possibility of poor standards of service at optical establishments. Perhaps deregulation of the optical market has created fierce competition, resulting in cutting corners to be able to provide products and services at cheaper prices – meaning less money for staff training? Or the advent of less than professional and proficient providers being able to come onto the marketplace?
Sadly, I’m onto the search for yet another new optician – I can only hope that the next ones I visit won’t provide me any more material for a blog!