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Optoblog Update to Wal-Mart and 1-800-CONTACTS

on January 29th, 2008 | Filed under Optoblog

I just was contacted by Review of Optometry. Apparently, they didn’t want any comment from me, but they were hoping that I knew the name of an optometrist in Utah that is vocal about 1-800 type stuff (apparently not me, just any other Utah O.D.). So, Utah ODs if you want to comment on the whole 1800/Wal-Mart story, let me know so that l can pass on your information to Review of Optometry.

But I thought that if by some miracle R.Opt. makes a link to my site, I’d better update more about what I’ve discussed with others about the whole partnership with 1-800 and Wal-Mart since my original post. Of course, this has been a hot topic at Wal-MartOD.com and at other sites like the highly secretive society of ODwire (which I don’t read anymore because, hey, it’s a secret).

So in my last post, you read the e-mail that I immediately sent back to Wal-Mart HQ the moment I heard about the news. The next day I went to work, and to my utter amazement, my vision center manager thought the partnership was pretty cool. Why? Apparently, Wal-Mart currently buys their contacts directly from each company, so this partnership is supposed to make the process faster for the patient. It is also supposed to help lower costs since 1-800 and Wal-Mart can combine their buying power to ask for a deeper discount from the individual contact lens manufacturers.

Then the district manager called and expressed the same opinions, but also added that Wal-Mart would save money by transferring the expensive maintaining of walmart.com’s online contact lens sales to 1-800’s website. She also said that 1800 has a huge brand recognition. If you walk-up to someone on the street and ask them where one could go to buy contacts, something like 40% will say 1-800-Contacts.

So this tells me that Wal-Mart is using 1-800 as their sort of high recognition buying group. In my practice, I order most lenses through a buying group like Lensco, but then some lenses I just purchase through the manufacturer, and hard lenses I get through Valley Contax ( I know Lensco does hard lenses also, but Valley has the I-Kone and my alumni’s C.A.D. design.)

So is it a sin for Wal-Mart to get itself a buying group? Of course not, unless that buying group happens to belong to the Spawn of Satan. Okay, all kidding aside, I wrote the following follow-up e-mail to Dr. Patel:

…I would gladly be willing to recant anything I’ve said about 1800 CONTACTS if they would join the Vision Council of America, prominently display the “Check Yearly. See Clearly.” logo (checkyearly.com), erase from their site any directions for consumers to subvert doctor recommended expiration dates, and withdraw their lobbying efforts for government mandates on 2-year expiration dates.

You should include that as part of your bargain with them.

So, just because 1800 sells contacts online doesn’t make them my enemy. It’s their coaching of consumers to badger doctors about prescription expiration dates and worse, their lobbying for laws to mandate to doctors a minimum 2-year expiration date (which succeeded into become a Utah state law).

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5 Responses to “Optoblog Update to Wal-Mart and 1-800-CONTACTS”

  1. David:
    I know every optometrist hates 1 800 CONTACTS but the answer lies in using our skills and expertise to develop a better business model. After all, the only thing they really own is a vanity phone number and a shipping and fullfillment center.

    We can’t blame consumers for looking for web-pricing and home delivery of their contact lenses. As optometrists we should be offering them that. If we don’t, then we are ceding the playing field completely to 1 800 CONTACTS and the other online retailers.

    Not only that if we don’t compete with 1 800 CONTACTS consumers will be left with animosity towards their optometrists, because of the perception that they must be being ripped off in the optometrists office.

    Optometrists can level the playing field with 1 8OO Optometrist.
    Visit http://www.1800optometrist.org to see the benefit to optometrists of this new organisation and visit http://www.1-800optometrist.com for the consumer experience.

    At 1 800 Optometrist we tell consumers that we are happy to service their needs. If they need bare bones service and budget pricing they can get their contact lens from us online but when they need service thay can reach one of our participating optometrists – simply by calling 1 800 Optometrist.

    In my personal life as a consumer I expect to be able to pick the level of service and price I want to pay. It’s no different for consumers selecting optometric services. They understand it’s like apples and oranges when comparing online to “retail” – but they want to be able to make the choice and not have to switch to a different online vendor because we are offering only one class of service. I 800 Optometrist will enable participating optometrists to compete against 1 800 CONTACTS by providing that online service under the 1 800 Optometrist brand while participatng optometrists benefit from the brand recognition, internet exposure and the ease with which patients who need and want the retail experience can reach them through our telephone switch. Optometrists can also benefit by investing in the forthcoming 1 800 Optometrist IPO!!!

  2. Okay, first of all, 1800 Optometrist doesn’t have a brand. If you go ask people on the street where they go to find the best optometrist or refills on contacts, the last thing that would turn up on the survey would be 1800Optometrist- and only because somehow the pollster managed to survey the founder of 1800 Optometrist.

    Good luck with your IPO. If anyone has money to spare, feel free to contribute to optoblog.com.

  3. […] Another commenter decided to sell us on 1800optometrist, which got me to thinking that hey, I’m providing those links to Wal-Mart.com for free. Why not annoy R-I mean “John Smith” even more and potentially make some cash at the same time by linking to 1800 Contacts!?! […]

  4. The Doctor is in says:

    Anyone considering doing business with Mr. Sandhu or 1800 optometrist should give this a read:


    Buyer beware!

  5. Thanks for the tip. I think some people believe that doctors have bulls eyes or stupid written on our foreheads.