New Review: Progressive Lenses in the Information Age

November 15, 2015   progressives

I just posted a new review for the progressive lenses I got last week. They're taking some getting used to but so far so good.

Outside the review, I'm going to pause for a moment to admire whatever software LensCrafters uses to interrogate insurance plans and extract maximum money from them.

In the past I'd just pick what I was interested in, the eyeglass people would call my insurance plan, and I'd learn how much I had to pay for the things I was interested in. It felt like everyone was guessing toward an outcome that wasn't really good or bad. The people at the eyeglass store always acted like they were consulting an oracle. The heavily qualified answers I'd get about my out-of-pocket costs would send me home wondering if I'd end up getting a bill for hundreds more in a week or two, once the insurance company had adequate time to think about what it had done.

When I took my prescription to LensCrafters, I sat with an associate, told him I was interested in progressives, and gave him my policy info fully expecting to sit while he called someone at the insurance company to lock in a price.

Instead, he fired up an app on his PoS terminal and began to enter combinations of lenses and features while the app displayed how much of each combination my plan would cover. This was new to me and I wasn't sure the exercise would prove particularly valuable. My initial impression was less that anything useful was happening and more that LensCrafters had figured out a way to write an app that would lend authority to half-hearted upsell attempts that would still end with a phonecall and a quote from an irritable insurance call center worker. My glasses purchasing experience was ripe for disruption.

The UI on the app was slow and terrible. Everything about it screams "written in haste by people who had to make it run everywhere on an aging fleet of PoS systems." The sheer number of clicks it took made my wrists cramp just watching. Because I initially thought it was an elaborate upsell tool (and it is, just not in the way I thought), it was even a little offensive, the way computers in movies that print out a character at a time, make little "printing to the screen" noises, and reveal information so slowly that in the real world you'd gnaw on your keyboard in frustration are offensive.

With a little persistence and a lot of checking assorted combinations the associate was able to figure out a way to get me into premium lenses for about $10 more out of pocket than I would have paid for the lowest tier of another brand/feature combination. I have no idea how many variables were involved in that process. I know that LensCrafters knows what it charges retail for all the brands, models, and features involved. I have no idea what the insurance company thinks about them, what sorts of relationships or partnerships it has, or anything else.

I also know that I ended up paying about $210 for a $1,200 set of frames, lenses, and features; and that if they had not used their software, I would have paid about $220 for a $750 set of frames, features, and lenses. The associate himself even acted a little surprised and puzzled by the whole thing.

LensCrafters and I are both pretty happy about that. Presumably my insurance company is okay with it, since it provided the data needed to build an interactive application that helps LensCrafters figure out how to extract the maximum benefit from it.

Things is © 2015 Mike Hall.