“ Address: 41 Eld Lane / Colchester / Essex / CO1 1LS / Tel: 01206 560735 / Type: Opticians „
In August I was taking down a small wall in our garden when a piece flew off and hit my glasses, leaving a massive chip in the lens. Whilst I was glad that I was wearing my glasses and the piece didn't chip my eye instead, I was pretty cross as I didn't have a spare pair. After a month of trying to see around the chip my husband suggested I might want to get a new pair of glasses, but I was reluctant as my last two pairs were £250 due to my terrible eyesight and other issues. I dabbled with doing it online but I was nervous about doing that for a number of reasons. So when I was out in Colchester and saw Direkt Optik had a 3 for 1 offer on glasses, plus a free eye test I walked inside.
Its a small shop on a pedestrianised lane in the centre of Colchester. The interior is small, cramped and quite tired. Two racks of glasses flank the door, there is a small reception area and two small tables with seats; behind these are a four seat waiting area and the tiny opticians room. The whole space could do with updating, it is certainly not as welcoming or modern as the other opticians in Colchester.
There are some designer frames in a small box on the reception desk, but the majority of the glasses are on two shelving units interspersed with mirrors down the sides of the shop. The lighting isn't great and the mirrors are the sort that you avoid looking at in shops, they really highlight every flaw! On the walls are framed certificates for the staff members, a couple of posters in badly fitting frames and a home made sign offering umbrella loans in the rain. Direkt Optik also do hearing tests and you can pick up batteries for your hearing aids from the reception desk.
The waiting area is sparse and smells a little odd. It is also very cramped with no space for a pushchair, which made me very glad that I had left my toddler with my husband. There was also very little provided in the way of entertainment, just a couple of battered magazines and books. As there was no-one else in the shop I was able to walk in, get an appointment straight away and after giving a few details went in to the optician.
Direkt Optik do single vision lenses, bi-focals, vari-focals, photochromic lenses and the thinner lenses which were what I was after.
The optician's room is like the rest of the store, quite basic with a basic eye chart machine. However the optician himself is worth visiting. I had some problems with headaches and double vision and he was able to succinctly explain exactly why, which put my mind at rest completely. He was very calm, professional and reassuring and happy to listen to my concerns with respect and interest. At no point did I feel rushed or patronised and I was extremely pleased with the service here.
I was so pleased that I brought my daughter along for her first examination. At 5 this wasn't strictly necessary yet, but as my husband and myself both require glasses and my short-sightedness was picked up at 6 years old I wanted to have her checked out. The optician was extremely good with her and was very tolerant of her chatter. He addressed his questions to her rather than to me and was happy to explain to her in terms that she understood, plus an additional explanation for me at the end.
As I said I went into the shop because of their advertised 3 for 1 offer, in the hope of getting a main pair, spare pair and possibly a pair of sunglasses (the third pair has to be a more basic pair). Usually my glasses cost around £250 for 2 at somewhere like D&A so I was expecting something in the same price range. I need special lenses which are a bit pricier and I have other issues which means I prefer to go to a high street shop rather than dealing with an internet company.
When it was time for me to try on frames to choose glasses we hit a snag as I cannot see my face in a mirror without my glasses (extremely short-sighted) so was unable to see what sort of frames suited me. At other brands of opticians they have cameras etc so that you can see what the frames looked like on but when I mentioned my problem to the member of staff serving me, she panicked a little and seemed very uncomfortable helping me choose. We did eventually manage to settle on a frame and another for the sunglasses, but after 30 minutes I had had enough and ordered two identical pairs of the first frame.
The frames I chose were £99, around average for a mid-range frame in the shop. When I requested thinner lenses I was originally quoted £350 extra for the special lenses. On enquiring I got a second quote for £250 which although not brilliant was £100 cheaper. Having received the glasses I can see no difference in the lens size between these and my older glasses, so it seems to be common practice to quote a higher price and rely on the customer not to challenge it. They fit fine in the glasses, look fine and I am happy with them. I wish however I had been able to see them before I bought them. The staff member was really not happy to look up the cheaper price and the whole transaction was made really quite uncomfortable because of this. It took a lot of courage to ask for alternatives in the first place as I like to keep my life as pleasant as possible, but there was no way I could have forked out the extra £100 in this case.
The whole price was £350 and for this I got the three pairs of glasses I wanted. However I was unable to pay the whole price upfront and paid half (£173) there and then. The staff member said I could pay the rest after I had tried on the glasses and they recommended trying them for three days before they ordered the other three pairs. When I went back to pick them up I assumed by what the first lady had said that I wouldn't be required to pay there and then, so I was surprised to be patronised ('I dont think we would have said that, dear') and virtually called a liar by the manager when this turned out not to be the case. I am quite a shy person so I found this quite upsetting, especially as my daughter, the other two members of staff and the optician were watching.
When I went to pick the glasses up a week and then three weeks later on both occasions I was left standing in the middle of the shop waiting to be acknowledged by a member of staff. The first time the sole working staff member was following around another customer who was choosing glasses with the help of her mother. Even though she was not needed at that point she stuck close to them and it took five minutes before she even said 'I'll be with you in a minute'. It took a further ten for her to wave goodbye to the customer (who did not buy anything) and deal with me. The second time in an empty shop the manager snatched up a pair of glasses on the desk as I approached the desk and said in a snappy voice 'this is very important, I will be with you in a minute', and spent five minutes measuring a frame.
Overall my impression is that the staff only care about service before you have paid, after paying the service is atrocious and very offhand. On all my later visits I was quite scruffily dressed as we are renovating our house, but when my husband entered the shop in his smart work suit they virtually fawned all over him. Colchester has no shortage of opticians and although the optician is absolutely super and I am happy with my glasses, there is no way I will be giving this shop any more of my business. Not only are the staff rude and offhand but the range is basic, the shop is tiny and you don't get any of the technology that you get somewhere like D&A. For the price of the glasses I was expecting better service and I won't be returning.
In addition I noticed when researching this review that the advert (here if anyone is interested)-
that they also offer £25 cashback on every £100 you spend on the 3-1 offer. This was not advertised in the Colchester store, neither was it mentioned to me at any point during the process. This was just the icing on the cake and I have contacted head office to clarify the terms of the offer as under these additional terms I should have received £75.
UPDATE: got a call from customer services about two hours after I emailed. Apparently the cashback offer is new (fair enough) and the ladies will receive retraining (although the customer services lady was quite brusque too which made me laugh). Apparently I will receive future discounts now I am a customer, but it will take more than that to get me back in the store!
UPDATE #2: Despite being promised that the ladies would not know who made the complaint I just had phone call from the manager of the Colchester Direkt Optik who had been forwarded my original email. She was pleasant enough and seemed eager to rectify any faults; but she called during the 'Witching Hour' after tea and before bed and I couldnt really hear a lot of what was said due to my pair of monsters screaming. I'm really unimpressed that the sales director didn't keep her promise and I had to rehash the whole thing all over again.
The 3-1 offer runs until the 30th November 2010
One star for the optician and one star for the glasses