In general, labs can be strange. Traditionally, they’re sort of like supermarkets. They stock the shelves with brand name products, and you can go in and pick what you want. If you start asking for a recommendation, however, can you really know there’s no ‘influence’ behind their suggestion? The real question is – how independent is an independent?
I mean, if you go into a store to buy soda, and 90% of the stuff on their shelves are Coke products – what does that tell you about their relationship with that vendor as compared to the other ones? It probably means they sell a lot more Coke, and that the products they recommend are going to be Coke, too. Just because they might carry the other stuff, does that mean they are actually independent? Or just pretending to be? If instead of soda, you insert any Big Optical company instead, that’s what you need to look out for in a lab.
When a lab carries a lens brand from Big Optical, they’re often required to sign a contract that says that are not allowed to draw “unfavorable comparisons” against the Big Optical brand name lenses. So really, they are agreeing that even if the Big Optical lens is junk, they aren’t going to tell you what’s better. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like it’s in your best interest.
When you look at a lab that doesn’t carry the Big Optical brands, then you have much less of a problem with these potential ‘conflicts of interest’. Big Optical may also push your ‘independent lab’ to meet certain quotas (or ‘goals’) for sales of their product. How can you tell if your lab is recommending what’s best for you, or what helps them to best meet their sales numbers? If Big Optical decides that an independent lab is no longer allowed to sell their product – how much is that going to hurt your lab? If the answer is ‘a lot’, then is that lab really independent if it can’t afford to upset Big Optical? That’s why you need to look for independents that aren’t bound by this restriction – ones that don’t carry the Big Optical brands – like FEA Industries.
This can also go for things like vision insurance. Some labs do a very large percentage of work for these insurances. So, what happens if the insurance company decides that only certain labs (like ones they own, for instance) are allowed to process their work. Is your lab going to have serious problems? When it comes down to it, you need to know these things if you’re going to partner with a lab. The last thing you want is to think you’ve got a good thing going with them, then they suddenly go out of business because they aren’t an approved lab for Big Insurance any more.
If you’re going to build your business on an independent – make sure they’re actually independent. Try FEA Industries. No Big Optical. No Big Insurance. Just good lenses.