Update on the eye test/spectacles drama with Boots Opticians. But good service from Glasses Direct

This is an update on this entry. Very pleased with the spectacles from Glasses Direct. I ordered a semi-rimless pair for distance (£25) and a pair for reading (£15). I placed my order by telephone on Wednesday 28 March and they arrived just over seven days later on the Thursday.

I’m going to order a second pair for distance and maybe some to use as sunglasses in summer. The prices mean you’re not stuck with only having one or at most two pairs of glasses — which has always been my situation in the past.

The problems have been with Boots Opticans, Market Street Manchester branch, whom I paid to do my NHS eye test. They have been awkward at times and really quite unprofessional in some ways. Customer service at head office has not been much help either. I was underwhelmed by their attitude today, my final call to them.

There has been lots of ‘people ‘phoning other people’, lots of waiting because people were on their days off, away on courses… No one has taken overall charge of the problem and making sure it is resolved. No one seems very interested. In general a ‘we’ve had your money, now how long before you get tired and bugger off?’ attitude, which I’ve experienced from opticians before. Ultimately, I’m still in the same position as four weeks ago.

When I went into Boots for the eye test on 24 March, I was absolutely desperate to get my vision corrected so I could get back to work on the PC, after the problems with the posterior vitreous detachment.

Boots were awkward over the pupillary distance measurement and tried to charge me £10 for it. They failed to give me an intermediate measurement for computer use on the prescription after I’d specifically said that use was most urgent.

The distance spectacles I have got are just about OK for the laptop. Reading ones only good for closer up. After a month of talking with Boots I am no nearer getting the intermediate figure. I just waited another eight days for them to call me back about it as promised, without result.

They were clearly very keen to sell me varifocal lenses at a cost of several hundred Pounds. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money. In particular I want to see what happens with my eyesight over the coming months once the posterior vitreous detachment has settled down.

Boots said that the reading glasses would work for the computer distance, which I told them during the eye-test was about 20 inches. After I’d ordered reading glasses, and they didn’t work for the computer, Boots suggested that Glasses Direct might have made them wrongly. As someone who runs his own business, I thought their eagerness to blame a rival company was unprofessional. Anyway, it seemed unlikely, seeing as the glasses were fine for about 12-14 inches away (eg. for reading).

It turns out that they are spot on for the reading prescription given by Boots. However, initially, the Market Street store refused to test the spectacles because they weren’t from them, even though Boots customer service had told me to go into the store to have them checked! I asked what I was supposed to do and they told me ‘go back to Glasses Direct’. So this gives you some idea of the runaround I have had from Boots.

They seem to have people who are not opticians doing the initial tests — such as blowing compressed air into the eye. I asked the person doing this if it was OK to blow air into my eye so soon after having a posterior vitreous attachment. She didn’t know the answer and had to seek out an optician to ask (the answer seemed to be ‘yes’).

Boots make a big deal about checking the health of your eyes. In fact they failed to refer me back to my doctor after the eye-test (24 March) as the optician had said they would do (issues relating to the PVD). It seems they didn’t contact my doctor until three weeks later and after I talked with the sales manager (on 13 April) and he spotted the mistake. The doc finally heard from them on 17 April.

Some of the staff have been fine, others have been a bit off-hand. I don’t want to go back to the branch again, it’s embarrassing and time-consuming. For nearly a month I’ve tried to resolve this and I’ve kept Boots’ name out of it as far as my blog is concerned. But overall there’s a feeling that they’re just fobbing me off until I go away. Which I have done now. Originally I had every intention of getting contact lenses from Boots. But now I’ll get them somewhere else and maybe I’ll have to go and get another eye test.

I didn’t ask Boots to cover the cost of all my ‘phone calls or the extra visits to their shop. All I asked was for them to supply what I paid them for — an eye test with emphasis on computer use.

My experience over the years has been that the amount you pay an optician seems to have no relation to the quality of service you receive and, these days, a big name means nothing. The BBC reports that: ‘Boots, one of the UK’s oldest retailers, is set to be owned by the American founder of the modern private-equity industry, KKR’. In other words this is no longer the company that many of us grew up with.

Must say I find it ridiculous that opticians do eye-tests in prime-location high street premises. If they can’t compete then they should move to a cheaper part of town instead of blaming the competition and making life awkward for the poor customer.

Anyway, here is a shot of me in my spectacles from Glasses Direct. The semi-rimless frames are called ‘Austin’. I went for a slightly wider type of frame because it gives me more vision at the sides when I am taking photos or shooting video. Total cost for frames and lenses: £25

No I haven’t been paid anything to recommend Glasses Direct and have no connection with them other than as a customer.


* Here’s someone who faced a bill of around £670 for glasses from Boots, including a second pair ‘free’.

* Another annoyed Boot’s customer. They destroyed her new lenses trying to get them into her frames. Damaged and melted the frames and refused to compensate her except with more lenses which, they said, were a ‘goodwill gesture’. Oh and it all took six weeks. Actually that sounds like my experience with Vision Express a few years ago.

UPDATE (30 Nov 2007)

Eight months later and the spectacles from Glasses Direct are still going strong. In June I ordered another pair. There are no scratches, no screws have fallen out and no bits have dropped off. Still perfect and I’m very happy. In the summer I got new contact lenses from Specsavers Manchester Arndale branch and was impressed by the care and attention I got there, with a terrific price too.

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