The high profile online eyewear entity Warby Parker has decided to test the brick-and-mortar scenario of dispensing with a flagship shop in Soho, NYC. So 20/20 decided to do some testing of our own with an unidentified secret shopping excursion. This blog entry was positioned as an ongoing editorial column encompassing two consecutive monthly issues of 20/20. The quest was indeed… wobbly at best.—James J. Spina, 20/20 Editor in Chief
Eye Love Shopping (Part One?)
Hello and… Good Buy. I’m product addicted, and even though I’m aware there’s a spot reserved for me and other oversatiated consumers in Dante’s inferno, nothing’s ever going to stop my pursuit of material goods. So with the opening of an actual Warby Parker optical shop in Soho within sight of 20/20, it was a destined venture.
If you’re going to start complaining about WP and their e-commerce, and online PDs and cheap product, and their marketing and PR… STOP right there. Eyewear is currently at a super high-profile level and more-than-some of it has to do with WP, and THAT’s a good thing for everyone in optical right now. Consider it a blessing your retailing doesn’t involve PCs or cupcakes (with both those markets tanking and mobile devices and doughnuts surging).
Strongly committed to the dispensing process that partners an eye exam to the acquisition of well-fitted glasses, I’d hesitated doing online “secret shopping” for frames but the opportunity of an actual store pushed my button.
Subsequent parts of this story will be further animated about the actual store (with its library setting, great music and consumer-friendly product displays) but the main issue here and now is the opportunity of an eye exam by an OD. When I initiated my interest in a purchase, the WP sales associate (NOT an optician) asked for my Rx. I declined. She then offered to actually call my doctor for it. I noted THAT was equally creepy and asked for an exam. Initially told the wait could be very long, I was put face-to-face with a receptionist who gave me a specifically timed appointment two days away with a qualified OD at a cost of $50.
I gave my name and e-mail address asking if I should pick out eyewear in advance of the exam.
Nope. That whole “pick ’n’ choose” process could follow the exam but I was invited to stay and browse, trying on any of the hundreds of frames (from a surprisingly limited number of styles) on the wall displays. The displays also held books, some for sale and some a bit too preciously color-coded, reinforcing the lounging theme. Prices were clearly marked at $95 for a completed single-vision frame with lenses.
So now I’m asking you to lounge with this 20/20 for the next month. I’ve had my exam. I’ve picked out my frame. Delivery is expected in two weeks. Full reports next month. Be assured, we’ll chat more about your new brick-and-mortal competition… next month.
Hopefully we are ALL in this with open minds, much to learn and cooperative teamwork as everyone takes time figuring out how to keep eyewear as a respected “need” and “want” product and experience.
Last month’s column was devoted to the beginning of my experience purchasing eyewear from the new Warby Parker store in Soho just a few blocks from the 20/20 edit office. I also had an eye exam at the store, turning down their offer to fulfill a provided Rx from my own OD. The thorough and careful exam was $50 as detailed by a Dr. Esther Kim at the terrific exam room in the store. At that time I was also presented with my personal Rx for use anywhere I’d like in or beyond the WP store.
So far so good. I picked out frames with the help of an attentive sales associate, and my PD was taken by an eyecare professional who informed me my eyewear would be ready for pickup at the Warby Parker distribution center in the Puck Building a few blocks from the store in eight to 10 days, and that I would be notified by e-mail when the eyewear was ready for an in-person fitting. I called twice after the allotted time and was informed that because this was a progressive diagnosis, it was taking slightly longer. I already knew that the cost would be $225 as compared to the widely signaged price of $95 in the store. The lower price was explained as being for single-vision glasses.
It is now over a month since this experience started, and I just made the call to cancel noting that it was taking far too long. Very pleasantly I was told the order would be cancelled, and there would be a refund on the charge.
Somewhere down the road and in some other part of 20/20, the Warby Parker story will certainly continue but space on this experience in my editor’s column is at an end. From my experience it would seem that WP’s attempt at brick-and-mortar has become brick and mortally wounded. It’s looking like they might be custom-made for online ordering by younger single-vision hipsters but when it comes to (potential candidate for) hip-replacement baby boomers, the story radically changes. The customer service treatment when I did actually cancel was superb, although I’ll feel even better when the refund is noted on my credit card account.
I sure hope they haven’t written me off as over-the-hill and not worth stepping up to the challenge. I looked forward to asking some key questions about my new lenses. I was equally curious about the actual frame fitting and adjustments that might take place. But with a turnaround of over a month, nothing at this point can compensate for the breakdown of THIS particular experience.I want the world and I want it now. AND… I want to see that world perfectly in frames that fit my face with a custom-made look and feel. And since I’m devoted to the art of communicating and engagement, I await comments and feedback from the readers of 20/20 AND Warby Parker.