Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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1054 words

The past month brought me more visits to opticians than I wanted. Beginning with new lenses that I needed for my glasses, being continued with me not liking the lenses they gave me. And finding its dramatic end with some infection in one of my eyes which prevents me from wearing contact lenses – which in turn meant I needed to get prescription sunglasses if I wanted to enjoy the upcoming summer, which I do.

Act 1: Quality Optician

I always used to get my glasses with an optician close to my parents’ place in Bremen and decided to switch to a local optician now. Mainly because I rarely am in Bremen these days and because the guy who served me the last time was a bit of a prick and let us unnecessarily wait. That may be five years ago – but those things stick.

So I went to an optician in Göttingen – Dräger und Heerhorst (so old-school, they don’t even have a web-page) – which seem to have been around for decades and have the reputation of being a ‘good’ optician. Let’s say I was less than impressed with them. Not only did I think the guy serving me was sleazy and behaving like a crook – he quoted me well over €300 for the new lenses and then ‘surprisingly’ discovered that he could get me the same lenses for around two thirds of that. Not exactly confidence-inspiring. And such people are the reason why I have to equate businesspeople with crooks by default…

At least they could get me my lenses and put them into the glasses. But after I got them I realised that the lenses – made by Nika Optics – were just bad. That’s what I thought, anyway, the optician of course denied it. Still, there was significant chromatic abberation in the lenses when looking as little as 20° sideways and that was driving me nuts. In addition the geometry was much worse than it was with the lenses I had before.

At least they listened to my concerns and agreed to exchange the lenses for a different type. The change there being that I initially got the more modern and thinner lenses with a refractive index of 1,6 and those were replaced by less sophisticated and thicker lenses with a more classical refractive index of 1,5. And those lenses definitely show less problems.

So is the higher refractive index to blame? A big question. First of all, for practical purposes, if the higher refractive index can be such a problem, shouldn’t they warn me about the fact before selling me the lenses and let me have a look? But to be honest, after speaking to my more competent physicist friends, it looks like all this highly depends on the plastic they use for making the lens and how constant its refractive index is across the visible spectrum – because, yeah, there isn’t just the refractive index of a lens, they depend on the wavelength (which is quite obvious once you are reminded that X-rays cannot be focused by a lens, say).

In short, I didn’t feel particularly well treated after this. And neither did I get the impression that the people I spoke to were particularly competent.

Act 2: Cheapo Optician

As I was fed up with the ‘good’ optician and needed prescription sunglasses both quickly and cheaply – after all I may only need them for a few months if things go well – I decided to go to a cheapo chain optician for the sunglasses. Of course ‘cheapo’ is a relative term as of course even with those places you end up paying if you want stuff that doesn’t fall apart right away.

And while visiting there was the horror for (a) it included me having to choose a new frame which I am very bad at and (b) my mum came by on the day and added her comments on my choices. Then, after a ten minute wait or so we were served by one of the many staff in the store. And at least things worked smoothly from there.

In fact, their training is quite good. While they may or may not have a good knowledge of optics, the script they run you through is detailed enough to make that insignificant. And it takes them around a fifteen minutes to run through it ‘informing’ you of all the wonderful nice upselling options they can offer, to take all the relevant measurements, walk through the necessary decisions and take your contact details before it’s thanks, we’ll send you a message in a few days when your glasses are ready.

Of course the whole (up)selling process is quite crooky in itself. Particularly when they drown you in loads of details on different options which you most likely cannot judge properly on the fly. Whenever the salesperson is talking much more than the customer without being asked to do so, I consider that to be quite aggressive. But, surprise!, they’re a chain. I expect salespeople there more than anything else. And they got the job done reasonably quickly.

It remains to be seen how good the glasses are. On first sight I couldn’t see any distracting effects – but with sunglasses chromatic problems may be less significant and as the lenses are rectangular rather than round – as they are in my normal glasses – the most difficult region for the geometry doesn’t even exist. Now let’s hope that none of the lenses falls out while wearing them (a problem we had with other glasses from that place a decade ago…)

In short, while the whole chain concept is a bit evil in itself, they at least have clearly stated prices and I do not have to worry about whether the person serving me is a crook or not.

Disclaimer: In act 1 I was served by an overweight middle-aged guy while in act 2 I was served by younger normal-size girls. This may have biased my judgement.

Also – I kept thinking that opticians earn their money in the intersection of the medical, technical and fashion industries. So it should be no wonder that they expect insane profits for no good reasons and that they’ll try to exploit your fear, ignorance and insecurities.

May 27, 2007, 0:41

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