Recently, I have seen an unusual number of group coupon offerings for different products, restaurants, and even eye surgery! Simultaneously alarmed and curious about these new offerings, I decided to do some personal research. So, yesterday (no power in my office after the hurricane), armed with a yellow pad, a pen and no appetite, I headed off to a local Sushi restaurant to see if the owner would educate me about this new world. For obvious reasons, I will not reveal the name or location of this establishment.
Once seated at a table with this nice man, I had an American beer (that I opened myself), again, remembering the recent nuclear disaster in Japan. My first question was, “Why do you do this? Why do you do group discounting on something like sushi?” His answer was swift and in two parts. He said, “First, we do it when we need to move fish… like after the storm this week, I had fish that was getting old, and I needed to sell it.” Taking a sip of my beer, making sure it moved down my throat and not up, I kept asking. “The second reason is to fill all of the tables and make the restaurant busy.” This made more sense to me, so, I asked, “Well, do you make any money on coupon discounted sushi?” and his immediate response was, “Oh no, never, we lose money every time! We hope that by getting people in once, they will come back again and pay full price.” My final question, and sip of my beer, was, “Ok, so what do you see? Do these people come back and pay full price?” He said, “No, almost never, they just wait for the next coupon. We lose money on them every time.”
I thanked this nice man and went to a bustling coffee shop (full price) and quickly got my thoughts on paper. How does what he told me translate over to the LASIK world and to the local practices offering coupon discounted LASIK? My conclusions ended up quite similar to his. No one offers half price LASIK when business is great. They do it when business is not so great. Oddly, that makes sense to me. The second question I am still pondering, but nothing I can come up with is at all appealing. The question is, how do these LASIK businesses make any money off of heavily discounted LASIK? The answer is that they don’t; they can’t. I have been in this business for 25 years. Believe me, I have “run the numbers” on every conceivable LASIK business model. I understand, to a penny, what the overhead is to run a state of the art, well maintained LASIK Center that delivers great outcomes, and know first hand that there is no way to buy these lasers, maintain these lasers (the monthly cost of which is several times more than the mortgage on my house), have a properly trained staff and perform all necessary patient testing, treatment and follow up for these ridiculously low prices. I know this for a fact.
So, what gives? The answer came swiftly and with the same rumble in my throat I had at the sushi place. There are only two ways these places can do this. One is to use old technology, long past its prime (this analogy is similar to the three day old sushi reasoning) and to, with this technology, deliver a product from a bygone era… let’s say 2004… when LASIK results were good enough, but compared to 2012 they are not even close. Like analog and HD television. Furthermore, in order to keep costs down, one would have to sacrifice the maintenance on these lasers in order to keep overhead as low as possible. I am not making this up… I see these patients for second opinions, and they are not happy.
The second way to do this is to “rent” a laser to perform LASIK. What this means is that the surgeon contracts with a company to truck the laser in monthly, set it up in an ante room, and proceed to perform LASIK on a laser they don’t know and one which has certainly not had time to stabilize to the environment (temperature and humidity of the room), which is an FDA requirement. For example, my lasers are in an environmentally controlled room 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and they are checked daily. I hope that guy checks the temperature in his sushi refrigerator. Again, the soundness of trucked lasers has always been in question, and the skill level of a “once a month, ante room LASIK surgeon” might want to be questioned as well.
Lastly, even with the “adjustments” to proper technique described enough to save cost, how do these coupon discount LASIK surgeons make any money on this procedure? The answer is, they don’t. It is impossible. Again, I have run every number and they are losing money on every case. So, why do they do it? Well, one is to “fill the chairs,” like our sushi restaurant. But does anyone believe that if your friend survives discounted LASIK at one of these places, they are going to refer their friends to the same place to have it done at a higher cost? The thought of that is ridiculous. Another reason might make a tad more business sense. If this practice gets you in the door for half price LASIK, then you might come back later for some other products or services (glasses, aesthetic services like Botox, etc), but does anyone believe you are going to want to pay full price for these services when you already know this practice is using this discounted business model? So, like my sushi friend, they, too, make no money on these procedures and lose money in the end. Their next obvious choice is to further cut their services, laser maintenance, etc. Oh, here comes that feeling again!
I wouldn’t have written this if I could not attest that at Kameen Eye Associates, we have the most absolutely state of the art equipment in the world. In fact, we have the same laser platform the Navy uses on their Navy Seals and pilots. My lasers are methodically maintained and upgraded, as well as stored in a constant environment. Our results show the benefit of this meticulous approach.
So, if you want to give this coupon discount stuff a try, let me give you the name of a sushi place near my house… and good luck! Your eyes deserve more than coupon discounted LASIK… you must be able to “see” that!