And when we started looking into the situation, we realised that it's a bloody mess. It's one of the biggest ripoffs facing families around Cairns. And we couldn't get a response from either Warren Entsch nor Jan McLucas about the government's interest in this consumer ripoff.
The signs on the windows scream "2 Pairs No Gap" and
"Frame and Lenses $99". We've never heard of ANYONE coming out of one of these shops without being hundreds of dollars lighter. Even when using the "extras" cover on any of the health insurance plans.
A visit recently to OPSM highlighted the issue. After the Medicare-paid eye exam (and the requisite "strong-arming" for additional, non-covered services), we then sat with an optical consultant who gleefully announced that we were "lucky, they have a 30% off sale on lenses". Selecting a $149 frame, the consultant sat banging away at the computer, finally announcing that after the "extras" cover from Medibank, I would only owe them a gap of:
I glared at the guy, who was barely 25 years old, and told him "that doesn't pass the laugh test". I asked "what about the 2 pairs for $149" and was told "those are single vision only". So I said "well let's change this to single vision, and give me the 2 pairs for $149". No such luck. "Your correction is too strong".
Does anyone get 2 pairs for $149? We would guess almost no one.
Before heading down to the next shop in the mall, we began an investigation into this racket. Why is it that consumer goods across the board have plummeted in price in the last ten years, and eyeglasses are just going up, up, up?
Type in the word "LUXOTTICA" into Google, and stand back for a torrent of angry consumers.
There's one word for it. Monopoly. And Australia is gripped in this eyecare monopoly more firmly than any western country, because other countries have active consumer protection and a free market that offers competitive help.
So if OPSM were overcharging us, why didn't we leave OPSM and walk down to Laubmann and Pank or Budget Eyewear? Because they're all owned by the same company. The Milan, Italy based Luxottica.
This report by the USA-based 60 Minutes starts to unravel the fraud that is Luxottica:
And if you think a visit to a competitor (like SpecSavers) will be any better, think again. Like the two-company grocery monopoly, SpecSavers has little incentive to "compete". And even worse, because Luxottica owns many of the frame manufacturers and lens-blank companies in Mainland China, SpecSavers and Optical Superstore are forced to purchase from Luxottica as well.
Then there's the sunglass ripoff - an offshoot of this Italian
monopoly Luxottica. Sunglass Hut? Apex? Bright Eyes? OPSM? The four "different" brands at Cairns Central. All owned or controlled by Luxottica.
Ray-Ban is by far the top selling sunglass brand in the world. This esteemed company began operations in the USA in 1937 as a subsidiary of Bausch and Lomb. At the time they sold Ray-Ban to Luxottica in 1999, the average price of a pair of Ray-Bans was $42.
Luxottica took the brand off the market for a year, re-engineered (cheapened) the materials and manufacture, and today the average price is $262! In fact the flood of "counterfeit" Ray-Bans in the market feature many that are manufactured on the original machines that were discarded by Luxottica!
Ray-Bans, once a quality, rugged, and reliable product is just crap now. Better to buy $19 sunglasses from the rack at Discount Pharmacy.
Luxottica did the same to the second most popular sunglass brand, Oakley. Notice that all of the Luxottica-owned shops prominently display both Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses? How many know that these are not US brands anymore, but just consumer junk?
Last year, Luxottica reported a profit of $8Billion on total sales of $12Billion. Their gross profit margin is the highest of any company in the world - almost twice the gross profit margin of Apple!
SO WHAT'S A CONSUMER TO DO?
We managed to order the IDENTICAL TITANIUM FRAMES (only missing the bullshit "designer" logo on the sides), the exact progressive lenses, thinnest materials, with all the "coatings" for scratch resistance, anti-reflection, etc. Spring temples. Quality. The works.
DELIVERED via Express Post
Got them in 13 days (faster than OPSM).
The Luxottica group says in their financial statements that they "concentrate their marketing efforts in regions of the world with smaller markets and minimal government oversight". In other words, Australians are suckers, so they put maximum effort here and are less successful in markets like the US where REAL competition exists.
They also note that their business could be impacted by the "application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and similar laws;". But no fear here - politicians are too busy trying to figure out how to let homosexuals get married and raising revenue by putting speed traps everywhere.
While there are several eyewear companies now announcing service to Australians, we can heartily recommend our experience with Zenni Optical. Go down to the local eyeglass thieves, get your script (they are required to hand it over), and order your next pair of spec's on the net.
Your wallet will thank you.