As Jerry and I drove across the serene Sonoran desert, I noticed smoke signals near the mountains on the horizon. Puffs of dirt whooshed upward toward the clouds. We know the rising dust as dust devils but they always remind me of smoke signals. I said to Jerry, “Just think. Before email or telephones, Native American tribes used smoke signals for (long-distant) communication. I wonder if they ever had miscommunication? Maybe three puffs of smoke meant ‘we’re doing well’ and four puffs of smoke meant ‘it’s war.’ What if they meant to send three puffs and accidentally sent a fourth puff?”
“Bronwyn, I don’t think it worked that way.”
Maybe not. But miscommunication has been around for a long time. I’m sure of it.
This week I clearly had a miscommunication with my optometrist, Dr. Eyeball. After giving me an eye exam, he said he could order contact lenses for me and if they didn’t work out, he’d give me two exchanges for adjustment. I then said, “But if they don’t work out, I can return them, right?” He said, “Yes.”
I meant if they don’t work out-period-can I return them for a full refund? He thought I meant, “If the first fitting doesn’t work out, can I return them for another adjustment?” He made no mention I would be stuck with the contacts forever because satisfaction isn’t guaranteed and there are no refunds at Dr. Eyeball’s Jeepers Peepers Goggly Eye Center.
Not realizing it, he and I had agreed to something quite different. When the contacts arrived, I picked them up at the Jeepers Peepers Goggly Eye Center. They were way more expensive than the pair of contacts I had paid for at the same office three years ago. But hey! If they don’t give me magnificent, super vision that makes me want to run outside to see if I can read street signs a mile away, I’ll return them and get my money back.
At home I put them on. My vision seemed no better than what I have with the contacts I already own. No super vision. Plus, the lenses felt sticky and scratchy.
I called Dr. Eyeball’s office and the receptionist said he would call me back at the end of the day. When he returned my call, I asked for a full refund for the lenses. I explained that I didn’t see an improvement in my sight. He apologized for the “confusion” and “misunderstanding”~ then told me (in the same tone of voice you would tell someone their cat won’t live through the night) that a full refund isn’t possible. “They are custom made,” he said, adding he could offer a partial refund if I chose to return the contact lenses to him within 90 days.
To make sure I understood, I asked, “If I return the contacts, I will get some of my money back?”
“Yes,” he said.
I asked (just to be clear), “I’ll have only some of my money refunded and no contact lenses?
He paused before answering “Yes,” as if he was thinking didn’t you get this the first time?
Are all custom orders final? If I order a cake in the shape of a zebra and the baker misunderstands and makes a cake in the shape of a tiger~am I obligated to pay for it?… “No, I won’t pay for this,” I would tell the baker. “I’m having a zebra party, we are all wearing black stripes. I already have the zebra-printed treat bags. A tiger cake just won’t cut it. Speaking of cutting it, I’ll just help myself to a slice of this wrongly-made tiger cake …mmmm, delicious…(chomp, chomp) since you must throw this out anyway.”
Isn’t this how it works?
I asked Jerry for his advice. “I think your doctor should have advised you clearly upfront there would be no refunds for your contact lenses,” he said. “Tell him you are turning this over to the Better Business Bureau.”
I rattled off an email to Dr. Eyeball, telling him I would accept a $180 discount to bring the cost of the lenses down to $210, the price I paid for the lenses at my last visit. I didn’t mention the Better Business Bureau because that would seem like a threat. I could threat later.
Dr. Eyeball sent me a return email with an attached PDF outlining the terms of expenses and why a full refund could never happen. He wanted me to know the office had mistakenly undercharged me at my last visit.
He gave me an option of an $82 discount off the full charge of $390 (for the lenses only. The entire bill came to $495 and the exam excluded dilation) or a partial refund of $320 for the return of the contacts to him. I like Dr. Eyeball and I realize we had an honest misunderstanding. I also realize he’s confined by the policies of the Goggly Eye Center where he works. I know he went to bat for me to get the discount…But there’s no win here.
A month prior to my visit to Dr. Eyeball, I had a full eye exam with Dr. Walleye at the Corny Cornea Center in a nearby town. After an hour and a half of staring at tiny lights, blurry charts, the doctor’s ear, and choosing A as clearer than B, the doctor told me he didn’t realize I wanted gas permeable contacts. He said, “I don’t sell gas permeable. I only have soft contacts. Soft contacts don’t have the kind of clarity you would want. I’m sorry for wasting your time.” He waived the bill and I left his office disenchanted. So, you see…I had high hopes for Dr. Eyeball who fitted patients with gas permeable lenses.
Life throws so many unexpected things our way, like misunderstandings, time-wasting appointments, hurts, pain, fun, joy, detours, surprises, 15 minutes of fame, sudden injuries from falling off stone steps onto a slate stone patio, disappointments, and a new Denny’s coming to town. Who can be prepared for it all?
Not me. Sometimes we have to accept the unexpected losses and move on.
Sometimes we also must accept the new Denny’s when we would much prefer an IHOP.
UPDATE; I wrote this blog yesterday. I was in no mood to battle. Today I have changed my mind after calling Costco and learning their charges are exactly half for gas permeable lenses. Their eye exams cost $65. I was charged $105 for a partial exam and told to come back for the full exam. I paid $495 (lenses and partial exam) Costco would charge me under $200. I’ll keep you posted.