Monday, January 26, 2015

1-800-CONTACTS and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Unilateral Pricing Policy

So over the weekend I read this article about a legislative fight in Oregon: Basically 1-800-CONTACTS is presenting a bill into the Oregon State Legislature trying to make it illegal in that state for manufacturers to set a unilateral pricing policy. I predicted this in JUNE: Here's the jist of it if you're a consumer and you want to understand how this affects you. In the 90's when disposable soft contacts became all the rage, OD's were making a killing selling contacts. Along came 1-800-CONTACTS who negotiated deals directly with the contact lens manufacturers (mainly Johnson & Johnson for their Acuvue products, but all of the big manufactuers eventually followed suit). They were able to get special pricing from J&J because they bought in bulk. Hundreds of thousands of boxes all at once for a very low price, to be warehoused and sold directly to consumers, bypassing the OD's. First by phone (hence the now-antiquated "1-800" moniker because who these days is really all that worried about long distance charges?) and then later on the web. Contact lens prices plummeted. Patients benefitted. Now 1-800-CONTACTS (and others) made a killing. OD's lost a major source of revenue. So much revenue, in fact, that to make up for it the docs came up with "contact lens fitting fees" because they literally couldn't afford to spend the time and effort on the exam and follow up visits only to have the patient "walk" with their Rx and buy contacts from 1-800-CONTACTS for literally less than the OD could buy them from J&J. The market stayed this way basically for most of the 90's and all of the 2000's with 1-800-CONTACTS making plenty of money. This did not please OD's for many reasons: one is the obvious cut in revenue. But there were others: 1-800-CONTACTS marketed directly to the consumer. They did (and do) shady things to sell contacts. For instance: when you order a box of contacts, they are required to contact your OD to "verify" the Rx. Contacts are medical devices and need to fit correctly, etc and laws are in place to make sure that you are ordering and 1-800-CONTACTS is selling you the contacts your doctor Rx'd...not just whatever you want or whatever is the cheapest or whatever 1-800-CONTACTS makes the most money on or has in stock. In most states if the doctor does not respond to the verification request within 48 hrs, 1-800-CONTACTS has the right to "fill" the Rx w/o the verification. They call this "passive verification". In other words, if the OD doesn't respond they are assuming the OD is okay with it. Well take a guess when 1-800-CONTACTS would fax the verification request? How about Friday at 5:15pm? Then by Sunday at 5:15pm they are ready to ship! Monday at 9am when the fax machine is checked and it turns out the patient hasn't had an eye exam in 3.5 years...TOO LATE! The order has been shipped! Genius. These and other practices made the OD's and the 1-800 companies virtual enemies. The OD's were no saints, either. They invented the idea of "private label" contacts...negotiating a SEPARATE deal directly with a contact lens manufacturer to have contacts "branded" under a different name so that they are not available to be bought from 1-800-CONTACTS at all. It was a game and both sides were playing. I even did it (had a private label brand) in the early 2000's, until I slowly realized what most OD's finally realized: there is no money in contact lens sales anymore. We don't even really try to make money on it at all. We just upped all of our exam fees (including contact lens fitting fee) to make up for the lost revenue. Fast forward to summer of 2014 when the economy was not great and contact lens sales sagged (because let's be honest here: when things are bad people will wear their old glasses instead of spending money on new contacts). The contact lens manufacturers were hurting a little and J&J and Alcon both had new products they were trying to get docs to Rx. Each of those companies instituted a "unilateral pricing policy": the three words that I knew would hurt 1-800-CONTACTS. Unilateral pricing means nobody gets a sweetheart deal. It used to be that the more boxes you bought at one time directly from the manufacturer, the less each box cost. Buy 1 box: get Price A. Buy 50 boxes: get Price A-15%. Buy 100 boxes get Price A-20% and so on. Well the way that the 1-800-CONTACTS model works is based on bulk purchasing. They buy 10,000 boxes at a time and getting HUGE, HUGE discounts for doing it. Then they warehouse the lenses and sell them piecemeal direct to the consumer for less than anyone else can offer. The old pricing policy is literally what drives 1-800-CONTACTS! I knew the instant I saw the words "unilateral pricing policy" that the folks who were going down were the 1-800's. And now of course it turns out that it's true. 1-800-CONTACTS has put up a bill in Oregon. They want to make "unilateral pricing policies" illegal in that state. WONDER WHY THEY WOULD WANT TO DO THIS? Because they lost their advantage. Now they cannot buy a box of contacts any cheaper than anyone else can...AND SO THEY CAN'T SELL THEM ANY CHEAPER, EITHER. If the price of the box is literally the same cost from your OD as it is from a mail-order place...why would anyone order online? If the cost is the same, why would a patient want to wait 5 days and sign for a UPS package, etc from 1-800-CONTACTS when they could have their OD hand them a box on the spot? The answer of course is that they wouldn't. So I can only presume 1-800-CONTACTS is being financillay impacted by this. I don't have any data except that it's a pretty obvious and logical scenario, and I predicted it in June, and now 1-800-CONTACTS is lobbying in Oregon. Hmm. They're doing it under the guise that they are championing the cause of the poor contact lens patient who just wants to save some money. The problem, of course, is that they are trying to control the pricing of a product they sell...BUT DON'T MANUFACTURE. Sure prices are going up. It's true. But as I alluded to earlier, prices are going up b/c demand is down, and the lower demand has made the manufacturers need to increase cost in order to offset the lower demand. So here is 1-800-CONTACTS trying to make it ILLEGAL for the manufacturers to set their OWN PRICING for the products THEY MAKE. Uh...does anyone else see a problem here? I mean I know Oregon is a blue state but this is not socialism. Under a free market system you cannot force a manufacturer to sell their own product at a price that *YOU* deteremine. But of course they know Oregon is a kind of liberal market that may be swayed by a "think of the children!" campaign and they are trying to set a precedent for the coming fights in other states, or at least that's my conspiracy theory. Regardless, 1-800-CONTACTS is hurting and they're making moves to try and make unilateral pricing policies illegal. They don't care if it ostracizes the prescribing OD's (they did that a long time ago) or even the manufacturers! They're desperate. They MUST have their special sweetheart pricing deal in order for their model to work. Without the special pricing their whole system falls apart because they have no advantage and therefore no niche. And it must be falling apart for them to be fighing so hard spending big bucks on lobbying to try and hilariously force a manufacturer to be UNABLE TO SET THEIR OWN PRICING! They can pretend it's "for the patients", but it's not. They're not making any money and they're desperate. So...the 1-800-CONTACTS bubble REALLY is bursting.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

EP Available on NoiseTrade

The Michael Prince EP is now available for free download and streaming from NoiseTrade as well! FREE STUFF!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Artwork is Done for Self-Titled EP

Coming soon! A few more weeks, probably. Still mixing and mastering

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Eyelid Dermatitis

This is quite common and I feel like there is not a lot of info on the net about it. I see a few cases of these every month. My middle son has this problem. Itchy, red, scaly/flaky, swollen eyelids, mostly from allergies. The internet blames a lot of it on "contact" being in contact with some chemical. But a lot of these are just from having simple seasonal allergies or skin allergy or even excema. In my experience it's not usually from some "chemical" that you got in "contact" with. The following is my personal method for treating this when I see it: 1) Benadryl Cream: cheap, OTC, readily available, VERY, VERY safe. Did I say "very?" VERY safe, even in children. My 1st choice. 2) 1% hydrocortisone cream or preferably ointment: also cheap, also OTC, also readily available. Not quite as safe. If used LONG term increases the risk of cataract formation and glaucoma. This of course does not mean that it WILL cause those, but it COULD. These need more supervision if a longer term treatment is maintained. For these reasons it's my 2nd choice. 3) Elidel cream: EXPENSIVE, Rx-only, but safe. This is my last resort b/c of the expense. It works, tho! If you suffer from this ailment there are things you can do! Try not to scratch it (this is my son's big problem...he won't leave it alone), try to use gentile soap like baby soaps and hypoallergenic soaps on your face, and avoid "hot" compresses...if you're going to use a compress make it cool.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lost Ski Resorts

One of the non-optometry related hobbies I have is that I am fascinated by abandoned buildings, especially old, closed ski resorts. I don't know why. I grew up going on ski vacations every year, and about 5 years ago my kids were old enough and we started again! We schedule a late-season spring break trip to Sipapu, NM every year because it's close enough to drive from Texas, small enough to be very family friendly and it's not super cold. I like skiing in a sweater, not a full blown parka. I would literally rather ski in slush than be freezing cold, however Sipapu always has great snow. Anyway I always thought if I made a zillion dollars one day my dream would be to re-open a "lost" or closed/abandoned ski area like New Mexico's "Ski Rio" (which I skied a few times as a kid when it was open!) or Colorado's "Stagecoach Ski Area". Stagecoach is especially intriguing to me as it's a massive mountain that has always had great snowfall coverage, but since the development company went bankrupt in the 70's nothing has been done with the property. If I had the money I'd love to buy it and develop it. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Quantum Vision System

Here is “Dr” William Kemp, who claims to be an optometrist in Virginia, but does not exist as far as my research can tell (no Twitter account, no LinkedIn profile, no Facebook page, no practice website, no Virginia Optometric license, etc). He has a 30min video on Facebook (click-through ad) that cannot be rewound, only paused, and is not viewable on YouTube. He claims that for $37 you can get his book which, by his own admission, is yet another iteration of the now 100 year old Bates Method. In it, he says he can “cure” “ANY” vision problem and “ALL” prescriptions in just 7 days. The video presentation is rife with typos (“lense”, and “amerture” for example), impossible claims (reading the serial number of an airliner from the ground), and absolutely hilarious reinactments. But that’s not all! He also claims his method (Bates’, really, but reclaimed by him without giving credit) can help you remember things better, have improved brain function, reduce stress and even “detect all lies”! WOW, WHO WOULDN’T WANT ALL OF THAT!? Above are a few screenshots I took while I waded through his downright hilarious video in which he blames “greedy” optometrists for purposefully and knowingly prescribing “harmful” glasses that you don’t need in order to get you “addicted” and therefore sell you glasses of ever-increasing prescription at great profit, while at the same time suppressing this cheap and readily available “cure” for “ALL” eye problems. Glasses, he says (directly quoting William H. Bates circa 1920 but not giving Dr. Bates credit), not only CAUSE refractive error but ALSO exacerbate it! Wow what a racket for those “greedy” scumbag OD’s!!!!. He, of course, is the lone “optometrist” (ahem) who has broken the silence to sell out his optometrist peers and offer you this impossibly-easy “secret” to perfect vision, all for the low, low price of $37. The only thing missing from the hilarity of the presentation is a claim that the book was written by Kim Jong Un. One of my favorite parts is when he “shows off” his knowledge of optometry and physiology of the eye by claiming that the wearing of contact lenses “damages the optic nerve” HA! What a maroon.