Monday, April 14, 2014

This is Outrageous! One More Reason Why Healthcare Costs So Much

Waste, fraud and inefficiency are three places to look to reduce healthcare costs.

Have you noticed that you are no longer bombarded with TV ads from The Scooter Store and Liberty Medical (Wilford Brimley as its spokesperson).  The reason is they are both out of business.  The government changed the reimbursement rules and in the case of The Scooter Store, no one, including the Founder Doug Harrison, went to prison, even after being raided by the FBI. 

Notice the copy - "Little to NO COST to you"
These companies ran continual TV ads saying if your on Medicare and need this, we'll get it to you for Free.  They'd send it to peoples homes and bill the government.  It was having your own printing press. 

To illustrate my point, below is an ad for a brand new scooter from The Scooter Store that is being sold for $2000 on Craigslist -- never used.  The regular price was $4000 according to the posting on Craigslist.

Mobility scooter - Craigslist
TSS 300 Power Wheel Chair From The Scooter Store (Electric Scooter). This scooter is brand new. Never was used. The TSS300 Power Wheelchair ...

The way this was supposed to work was a doctor wrote a prescription after a through exam of the patient. The Scooter Store delivered the scooter and billed the government who immediately paid the full price. The Scooter Store was found to be strong arming doctors to approve scooters or The Scooter Store would send patients to doctors who were 'easy'.  Further, many scooters were provided at the end of an individuals life, barely used (this one brand new).   

So, our government gave people scooters without ever requiring them to be returned, refurbished and reused.  Millions of scooter and billions of dollars later, we find Medicare virtually bankrupt.  This is just another reason for the fix we are in.

Further Reading

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Do The 2/$99 Eyeglass Specials Wind Up Costing $400 For a Single Pair?

Quality glasses at a fraction of the cost.
Here is a new way to buy eyeglasses.

Sixty seven percent of us wear glasses.  We all see the ads where you can get two pair of designer glasses for $99 in under an hour.

Usually, when it’s all said and done, the cost is $300 to $400 a pair and they aren't ready for a few days to a week.

So why do glasses have to cost so much in the first place?
I’m told there are just a few companies that design and manufacture the majority of all the ‘big brand’ glasses.  They are simply sold under designer names.  For example, the few big licensing companies like Luxottica and Safilo design, manufacture and market glasses for dozens of brands, including Ray-Ban, Chanel, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Gucci.

Often the companies sell the glasses, too — Luxottica owns chains like Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters. They’re mostly all made in China out of bits of plastic and some metal.  It’s not very high tech.  So again… why do the darn things need to cost so much?  The short answer is... they don’t need to.

Glasses have been a ripe market for the intervention of a new model which can offer selection, reasonably fast turn around and huge savings.

Nervous about buying them online?  Sure… that’s why sales of prescription glasses online are still in their infancy.  What’s holding consumers back?  

  • They like to try on the frames
  • The prescription is hard to decipher.  You have to deal with numbers, decimal points and plus/minus signs.  In reality its a matter of typing in 6 numbers.
  • What if I type in the wrong numbers from my prescription?
  • What if they don’t fit right?
  • What if they’re too heavy?

What if you could get frames for say… $8 to $10.  Would that entice you to try out a new way of shopping for glasses?  That’s what Zenni optical is doing.  Their most expensive designer frames are only $40 – and these are the titanium half-frames.  These babies imported from Italy with a big name would run $250+.

Selection?  FramesDirect claims to have 110,000 models to choose from.  Many more than any optometrist or big box store.

I’m out there – I love new business models, but I’ll admit, I was skeptical when I ordered not one, but two pair of prescription glasses from Zenni optical.  But wait, there’s more, I also ordered not 1, not 2, but 4 pair of clip ons for my glasses.  

I researched Zenni reviews and complaint boards... but there weren’t many issues.  Most people were satisfied.  The price?  $187 for two pair, plus 4 pair of polarized magnetic clip ons that perfectly fit my regular glasses (no one can tell they are clip ons), 2 hard shell cases and two cleaning cloths.  The price included delivery and (no) state sales tax. 

That's $90 a pair (excluding the four pair of polarized sun shades) which is about 25% of what I paid on average for my last two pairs from a local optometrist.  I love them, they fit great and I can see perfectly.  I even took them to my opthamologist (she’s an MD with 27 years experience) to have the prescription checked.  She said they were made perfectly.  I have progressive bi-focals and they work great on the computer.

What are the advantages?

  • Larger selection
  • Lower cost (much, much lower in some cases)
  • Not having to go to an optometrists office. This can be helpful if you're a caregiver or an elderly individual and getting out it challenging.

Most optical shops have a eye popping markup of 50 percent to 100 percent – they’re small volume, limited selection, wait a long time type of shops.  They are mostly headed for extinction in my opinion.

It’s the lenses that are the big money maker – with markups up to 7 times.  That’s right… 7 times.  Most single vision lenses cost about $1 to make.

So why are the prices so darned high?  The business is fragmented with over 40,000 shops.   It is a very inefficient supply chain… that is changing.  Consolidation is occurring with Luxottica (Italy) buying LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut just to name a few.

5 Easy Steps to Buying Eyeglasses Online

  • Get a prescription
  • Take your picture and upload it.  Ask a grandchild if you’re older and don’t know how.
  • Select a frame and try it on your picture.  Get feeback from family or friends.
  • Measure the distance between your pupils (easy, easy, easy with a simple ruler.)  Check it several times.
  • Type in your prescription (easy, easy, easy).  Check it twice.  Its only six numbers.

Did you know that most single-vision lenses come precoated with ‘anti-scratch’, but the stores still try and sell you on it.  Same with UV coatings – polycarbonate and high-index lenses already offer full UV protection.  This is like the $500 ‘Scotch guard’ your new car dealer tries to sell you.

Check ratings and complaints.  It’s easy…  Google ‘complaints (name of company)’ or ‘ratings (name of company)’.  Check out customer service.  When you call, do they call you back?

According to an article, Mark A. Bullimore, professor of optometry and vision science at the Ohio State University optometry school said “Anyone buying bifocals or progressives would be doomed for disappointment. There are too many variables that you have to get right.”  As I said, I have progressives, and both my Zenni progressives are perfect. 

Self service.  We learned how to pump our own gas, check-in at the airport and check-out at the grocery store.  This is easier in my opinion.

Warby Parker designs its glasses and charges $95 a pair.  They offer to mail you 5 frames so you can check them out at home, get inputs from family and friends and then return them in a self addresses, postage paid envelope.  They don’t offer bi-focals.

Zenni, Warby Parker and others want to do to eye glasses what Zappos and Blue Nile have done to shoes and jewelry.

Here is a partial list of online eyeglass retailers: (used to be called - now Zenni; they started selling for $8 a pair.

Tom Wilson is Co-Founder of The CareGiver Partnership.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Coldwater Creek - Another Dumb Customer Service Policy

Coldwater Creek provides the latest example of just plain dumb business practices that only serve to make consumers angry.   Another bait and switch example. 

Now they are out of business!

In our book, Negotiate Anything!, we devote an entire chapter to "Just Plain Dumb Business Practices" and this one by Coldwater Creek qualifies for this chapter in our next edition. 

My wife was online today and put a $79.99 item in her Coldwater Creek cart and a notice came up on the screen telling her that she qualified for FREE shipping.  She added another item to the cart going over $80.00 (to qualify for the coupon that provided $20 off if you spent $80).  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chase Me Away From Your Bank

To attack (I meant to say attract) new customers, Chase is now charging $5.00 to get $20 out of one of their machines if you aren't a current customer. Now there is a brilliant trial promotion. Their CEO of banking says he feels good about it.
Chase's Pay $5 to get $20 scheme

In our book, Negotiate Anything!  Secrets to Make Companies Treat You Fairly, one of the tenets is when you have no other options with a business, "Do not reward bad behavior".   You need to switch to a competitor.  Chase is implementing one bad behavior after another.  These work against the consumers best interest.  

Here are some alternatives:
  • Find another ATM with a lower fee. Do not reward bad behavior by Chase.
  • Buy something from a grocery store (gum) and get cash back.
  • Use free ATM's.
  • Change banks... run from Chase.  Essentially they are giving consumers the finger (sorry to be so blunt).
  • Heck, the money store or check and go's cost less than Chase.  Chase is the new bottom feeder.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 Simple Ways to Make Customers Feel Good

Recently I was at a Target and upon checkout, I thanked the cash register person and their response was "Yup. No problem".  I thought, gee whiz, do they not train these people?

Here are 10 simple things you can say to customers to make them feel good about doing business with you. Notice that the first one is 1 one word, the second is 2 and so on.  I did not create this and do not know who did, but we keep it posted at work for everyone to see and live by.

Thank You
How did we do?
How may I serve you?
What is most convenient for you?
What else can I do for you?
I'm not sure, but I will find out.
Thank you for your business.  Please call us again.
I apologize for our mistake.  Let me make it right.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chase Is Elminating Rewards Points & Blaming it On The Government

Chase Eliminating Rewards From Their "Ultimate Rewards" Card

For a number of years, I've consulted with the 2nd largest global bank on card and other loan products -- many targeted at the sub prime market.  After several years of work, I was disgusted and haven't done any work with them since.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

12 Success Criteria to Establish Customer Service as a Core Business Driver

There are 12 Success Criteria needed to establish customer service as a core business driver. This article presents Success Criteria #1… the establishment of customer service as a core business driver.

All businesses seek to invest time and money in developing a sustainable advantage versus their competition. Two obvious choices are in product innovation and price. Both require investment in different areas. We’d all love to have our products or service locked up with long-term patents. However, after 30 years of working in consumer products with two world-class companies, this is difficult to nearly impossible to accomplish. There are simply too many smart competitors that can figure out how to design around your intellectual property. Have said that, occasionally companies do develop strong protection.