Private Labeling of Contact Lenses
So here's something everyone in the optometry field knows but few patients do: some vision places have "private label" contact lenses. It's kind of portrayed as an "exclusive house brand" available only from your eye doctor. Only it's not. They're the exact same...THE EXACT SAME (or super, uber similar) contact lenses that are available everywhere else, repackaged and renamed. Why do this? Why do you think? Money. The optometrists who do this don't want you to be able to buy contacts online or really anywhere else but from them. They portray it as a "safety" issue (because they won't sell you 16 boxes at once, etc) but of course it's really a money issue. As you can probably tell from my tone in this post, I am not a fan. Patients HATE being told where they have to buy their contacts, and rightly so. Does the doctor who prescribes your blood pressure meds sell you those meds? No. Does he/she tell you where to buy them? No. Do they repackage/rename the contacts to FORCE you to buy from them? No. So why do we do it? I don't know. It's stupid. Let me tell you something about contact lenses in 2014: there's not much money in it. When you buy a box of contacts from us, we generally make between $4-$10. The markup is so low thanks mostly to WalMart and 1800-CONTACTS that it's barely worth our time. It's really *NOT* worth our time at all once you factor in our overhead. So why even sell contacts at all? Mostly convenience. Seriously. Back in the 80's optometrists were making big bucks on contact lens sales, but not now. They're a commodity. It's just convenient to sell them so we still do. So why be so controlling and force patients to buy private label lenses? I honestly don't know why docs still do this. Patients hate it, there's no money in it, and the chairtime of explaining the idea to skeptical patients cannot be worth it. We don't do it at our office. When I write a contact lens Rx I tell the patient straight up: "you have the right to buy these anywhere lenses are sold". Sometimes I "lose" the sale because of this. So what? It has to be better than risking having the patient think you're "up to something" by prescribing them some brand they've never heard if. Which, technically the patient is right: you ARE up to something. The big culprit in this scheme is the contact lens manufacturer Coopervision. They repackage and rename their best sellers and make them available as "house brands" at WalMart ("Ultraflex" which is the old Biomedics line and "Equate" which will likely be an entire line of lenses from Biofinity down to Coopervision dailies) and "premier" brands like "Clearsoft" (again, old Biomedics) and AquaClear (Avaira and Biofinity) sold only at Vision Source practices. If it sounds shady, it is IMO. This is one of the reasons I don't fit a lot of Coopervision products anymore...that and I honestly think they do not have a superior product in any of the contact lens modalities (dailies, monthlies, biweeklies, torics, multifocals, etc) right now. Someone has them beat in every category at this moment IMO. I just think the whole thing is shady and too much work/explanation to horde the $4/box contact lens profit for. If you need the money that badly, go up on your fees instead of trying to stick the patient with your "house brand" because you get the sale and will make an extra $28/year or whatever. I had a discussion about this with a friend of mine who is not a patient. His doc (Vision Source) fit him in their private label lens even after he requested a different brand name. When he asked why, the doc apparently couldn't give a great answer. He eventually got the lens he asked for (so it probably wasn't a safety/health or fitting problem), but only after an uncomfortable and awkward exchange with the doc. Here's my thought on this: all of that for the possibility of making an extra $30 a year? Man I don't get it. Just give them what they want (within reason) and don't try to saddle them with your repackaged Cooper private label lens just because it gives you control over where they buy it and how much they buy it for. Optometry and Coopervision: stop the private label game. But I doubt they will stop. It's about the money...for Coopervision.