Terrible Customer Service At Stein Optical Express: Karma Comes Through

Last March, at Stein Optical Express (a brand of Eye Care Centers of America, Inc.), I had the worst customer service experience of my life. The poor service extended from the staff at the store to the corporate customer service rep who "handled" my complaint.

With the exception of the optometrist, the staff at the store displayed incompetence, lack of problem solving skills, and condescension. The corporate customer service representative took the route of empty platitudes followed by simply ignoring my subsequent communications.

The truly beautiful karmic thing is that today I received an e-mail asking me to fill out a survey about Stein Optical Express!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! They even gave me a free form text field to write about why I would never patronize a Stein Optical Express store!!

I love karma!!

Here's what I wrote for their survey:

I had simply the WORST customer experience of my life last March at Stein Optical Express. When I e-mailed a complaint to ECCA, the customer service rep sent a trite response and then did not respond to my replies.

Below is a copy and paste of the e-mail conversation.

    From: Daniel Seung Pugliese
    Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 1:39 PM
    To: Customer Service Support e-mail
    Subject: A Miserable Customer Service Experience


    Last Thursday evening, my glasses broke. The left arm broke in the middle so that the broken end was digging into my left temple and giving me a phenomenal headache when I tried to wear them. I decided to visit the Stein Optical Express located at 3500 S 27th St, Milwaukee, WI, because it is close to my home and that is where I purchased the pair that broke so I knew that my prescription would be on file. I notified my work that I would be taking the morning off to get my glasses replaced.

    Friday morning, I visited the store and immediately found the right frame for me. Keep in mind that I had a lovely headache at this point from wearing the broken glasses as my only other option was my prescription sunglasses which aren’t the best choice indoors. My wife, who had come with me, and I decided that we would take advantage of the deal on two pairs of glasses to replace my prescription sunglasses as well. The plan was simple:

    - I really like the frames that I currently have for my prescription sunglasses so those would become my new normal glasses
    - The frame that I found in the store was the exact same frame as my current prescription sunglasses only silver instead of brown and would become my new prescription sunglasses

    Simple plan; straightforward and easy. My prescription on file, however, was 2-1/2 years old. I was informed that I needed to have an eye exam. I did not want, need, or want to spend the money on an eye exam. Period. The young woman informed me that the computer wouldn’t let her ring it up with a prescription that old. I relented and agreed to the exam, but I am NOT happy about a policy that is clearly designed to force people to spend additional money.

    Additionally, I have a VERY long history of eye issues including six eye surgeries and I do NOT like anyone other than my ophthalmologist messing around with my eyes. Your system needs to be able to allow individuals with unique situations to be treated differently than a run of the mill customer. Thankfully, the optometrist was very kind and competent and listened to my history and respected my wishes that he do nothing past a basic vision test.

    The results of the basic vision test made me even MORE upset about being forced to submit to an eye exam in that my prescription, in terms of spherical correction, didn’t change at all. There was a small (and I mean minute) change to my astigmatism, but the optometrist acknowledged that it wasn’t something that would likely be noticeable.

    Now at this point it may seem that I’m merely upset about a policy that doesn’t take into account any sort of special needs or unique circumstances and being forced to take eye exam that validated the fact that I didn’t need one in the first place. That irritated me, but it is actually not the primary reason why I’m writing. That policy is more or less out of the control of the individual employees at that store and while I’m irritated, I know that they couldn’t really do anything.

    My primary reason for writing is what happened when I returned later to pick up my two pairs of glasses, which I am getting to.

    Following the eye exam, my wife and I sat down and explained exactly what I needed. Six eye surgeries means that I am completely blind in my right eye and it is rather unpleasant for others to look at so the right lens of my glasses is a black lens. An eye-patch underneath glasses is uncomfortable and looks ludicrous so I’ve opted for the RIGHT lens to be BLACK. I’ve used all caps there for a reason that we will get to.

    We explained and went over several times the following:

    - The RIGHT lens of the normal glasses needs to be BLACK
    - By BLACK we mean that the eye is NOT visible at all behind it
    - We know that this particular store is capable of doing this because I purchased my last pair of glasses there
    - My old sunglasses frames were to become my new normal glasses with the RIGHT lens being BLACK
    - The new frames I picked out were to become the new prescription sunglasses

    This is a very straightforward plan that was reiterated several times for clarity.

    We returned at 6:30 in the evening to pick up the glasses and that splitting headache that I had from the broken arm of the glasses digging into my left temple was now a phenomenal example of driving pain. I gave the name and they brought the prescription sunglasses out and made sure they fit and they were fine. The young lady then, very casually said, “there was a problem with the other glasses, they accidentally reversed the lenses so the left one is dark and even if they hadn’t the glasses wouldn’t be ready anyhow because the blank that they used is too small and a larger one needs to be ordered so it’ll be 7-10 business days.”

    There was no apology. There was no “hey, we made a mistake here’s how we’re going to fix it for you.” It was just a statement that it would take “7-10 business days.”

    Given my irritation from that morning, I was actually VERY restrained and told them that this was absolutely unacceptable and they were going to fix the situation. Another young lady looked over with a very saccharin smile and said, “sir, it’s not going to happen any faster”. The condescension dripping off of her words was disgusting; a customer should NEVER be spoken to in that tone. I’m assuming that she was a manager or supervisor, but she never introduced herself as such so it came off as her butting into the situation in a despicably condescending way.

    I took off the broken glasses and once again showed them the broken arm that was digging into the side of my head and said, “this has been digging into my temple giving me a horrid F*ing headache all day long and you’re telling me I have to put up with it for 7-10 business days?! Or do you want me to wear sunglasses all day long including to my business meetings with clients and while I’m driving at night?!” And yes, I did swear at them which was inappropriate on my part and I apologize for that. My wife, upon proofreading this, said that while I might have thought it in my head, I did not utter any profanity. I’ll let the apology stand, however, in case she’s wrong and it did slip out.

    Someone, I think it was my wife but it might have been an employee, suggested that they take the lenses out of the broken glasses and put them in a new frame that I could wear until my glasses were finished properly. You would hope that it was an employee who suggested it, but I’m fairly certain that it was my wife. It was certainly my wife who found the correct model frame to put the lenses into.

    To add a little bit more insult to this whole situation, the lens (the wrong lens) that was tinted, was not BLACK. It was just about as dark as some lighter sunglasses. The actual sunglasses that they made for me had a darker tint. The lens needs to be BLACK. Period. It cannot look like a pair of sunglasses that lost a lens. The bad eye cannot be visible behind the lens. It has to look like what it effectively is: an eye-patch. And that store made my previous glasses so I know that they have the capability to do it.

    The incompetence of not being able to follow simple criteria (like making the lens BLACK) does not speak well for your staff. The incompetence of utilizing the wrong-sized blank and not knowing that the correct size needed to be special ordered does not speak well for your staff. The incompetence of reversing which lens is to be tinted does not speak well for your staff.

    This entire situation, from your policies and systems not allowing for exceptions in unique cases, to the rudeness, lack of problem solving skills, and incompetence of your staff has been a horrid experience as a customer for me. If the glasses that I receive at the end of the “7-10” business days are not correct and problem free, I will be beyond livid and will do my best to make sure that no one that I know will ever set foot in one of your stores. As it is, I certainly never will once this ordeal is over.


    Daniel Seung Pugliese

I received this response:

    From: Block, Lucy [mailto:LBlock@ecca.com]
    Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 4:29 PM
    To: Daniel Seung Pugliese
    Subject: RE: A Miserable Customer Service Experience/410/Daniel Pugliese
    Importance: High

    Mr. Pugliese,

    I truly do apologize. I spoke with the General Manager Nicole. She asked me convey her sincere apologizes as well. Nicole stated she is working on the matter personally and asked if you would only deal with her when contacting or visiting the store. She would like the opportunity to resolve this matter. She is also working with her Territory Director Dan regarding the issue with the staff and that matter will be addressed as well.

    Thank you,

    Customer Service

I sent this reply to that e-mail:

    From: Daniel Seung Pugliese
    Sent: Tue 2010-03-23 4:51 PM
    To: Block, Lucy
    Subject: RE: A Miserable Customer Service Experience/410/Daniel Pugliese

    Ms. Block,

    I appreciate the reply, but you’ll have to pardon me because right now, it sounds very empty. I don’t know what “working on the matter personally” means. Does it mean that the glasses will be expedited so I can put this experience behind me quicker than “7-10” business days? Does it mean that she’s guaranteeing that the glasses will be built correctly? Does it mean…?

    I appreciate the words, but they are empty platitudes without action and I don’t know what action can be taken at this point to assuage my anger over this situation.

    Maybe I’m being difficult. I apologize if I am. At this moment, I don’t care about her words if they don’t translate into tangible action. At this moment, I want the glasses made correctly so that I NEVER have to deal with your company again.

    -Daniel Seung Pugliese

I did not receive ANY reply from Ms. Lucy Block.

I did, however, receive a voicemail from "John" telling me of yet another problem with the glasses.

Upon receiving that message, I sent Ms. Block the following e-mail:

    From: Daniel Seung Pugliese
    Sent: Mon 2010-03-29 10:17 AM
    To: Block, Lucy
    Subject: RE: A Miserable Customer Service Experience/410/Daniel Pugliese

    Ms. Block,

    As a follow-up, I wanted to let you know that I received a voicemail today from John (not Nicole as I expected) informing me that that the glasses are completed but there is a blemish on the left lens. A new lens has been ordered and will be ready by Wednesday or Thursday.

    While I appreciate that I was given notification and I appreciate that, while there is a problem with the lens, a solution is being offered, I’m now that much more puzzled and disgruntled by my first interaction with the staff at the store. The fact is that to order and receive a new lens to correct an issue can actually be done in a matter of a few days rather than the “7-10 business days” that I was quoted and informed that it was “not going to happen any faster” when I said that 7-10 was unacceptable.

    I’m not happy about the added delay and that there is yet another issue, but I do appreciate that it’s being expedited this time. In his voicemail, John offered that I could pick up the glasses with the blemish today and then return when the replacement lens was available. I appreciate that offer as well because he’s making an effort to provide a temporary solution. At this point, however, I’m simply going to wait for the lens to come in and pick the glasses up when they are finalized and issue free. Additionally, this will give the store additional time to make sure that the “eye-patch lens” is black as it should be and to address anything else.

    If you could let Nicole (or John, whichever one is overseeing this), I’d greatly appreciate that as well. I’m communicating through you to prevent any further temper explosions on my part. I apologize if this is inconvenient for you, so please let me know if I need to contact Nicole or John directly.


    Daniel Seung Pugliese

Again, I received no reply from Ms. Block.

I did meet John when I came to pick up the glasses and he was a kind man who obviously was very scared what I was going to do or say. He did offer apologies, but realized that he said the wrong thing when he said, "I hope you'll consider us again in the future".

I will NEVER set foot in another ECCA store as a consumer ever again.

As an afterthought, I never did have any contact or communication with the General Manager, Nicole, who wanted "the opportunity to resolve this matter".