FAQ (For Retailers)
A number of retailers have contacted me over the years. On the other hand, I've noticed that some have read the site (often making changes based on my criticism), but in many cases haven't responded, possibly because I come off as rather aggressive/vicious at times. But here we go anyway!
1. I'd like to advertise site-wide on EGRR.
I'll list this first because it's the most common.
I don't do site-wide advertisements, as I try to keep the site as unbiased as possible. Putting your banner site-wide might make some readers believe I am endorsing you. Beyond that, if I allowed it for you, I'd have to allow it for everyone else. And some of the retailers have massive buying power so unless you're one of those 3-4, chances are you'd be permanently outbid rather quickly (in other words, if you somehow convinced me, it would almost certainly come back to bite you!).
I do have Adsense running on most pages, and you're free (as is everyone) to target a site-wide campaign that way.
2. You have inaccurate info about our site, we've made updates, we don't believe you were fair, etc.
Outdated info happens pretty often, particularly with retailers who make frequent changes. If you update your site, especially if it was in response to criticism I listed, please let me know. Pricing changes, BBB rating changes, etc do happen over time as well and I update these infrequently since they're very time consuming to check for each retailer, so if you notice something wrong, toss me a quick email, ideally with the correct information attached when possible (i.e. "you listed basic lenses as $19 but they’re now $15 – all frame prices went up by $3 – other prices are unchanged").
If your site offers certain features I didn't mention that you believe are unique/compelling, especially if it's something you think is really positive that other retailers do not offer, it's very possible that I simply missed it. That said, it has to be something that I think would be valuable to customers – something like "if someone refers 10 friends they get a free pair" will not impress me. Something like "our virtual try-on now calculates someone’s PD automatically through some crazy algorithm" probably will.
In terms of being unfair, I'm the first to admit that sometimes I'll go a little over the top with criticism (on numerous occasions I've gone back and edited some of the rants I've gone into when something about a site set me off). Contact me and I'll take another look. This goes double if you notice that another retailer had the same flaw and that I didn't mention it (or if I gave another retailer credit for something and didn't mention it for your site).
Do keep in mind that I try to approach most sites from the perspective of a regular consumer. In particular, anything that might cause somebody to make a mistake when attempting to order or cause a large amount of frustration is probably going to be picked on severely. Certain things drive me up the wall too – bait-and-switch style items, or anything consumer-unfriendly in particular. When it comes to positives, standard features are often hit-and-miss with me – mentioning how to take a PD, virtual try-ons, and other things that most retailers now have don't always get mentioned, unless there's something compelling about the way you've implemented a particular feature.
Finally, my observations are largely based on my opinion, so take them with a grain of salt. If I said your theme is tacky but you love it (and your customers love it too), don't go changing it just to appease me. I'll usually find at least something negative about each site regardless, so don't fixate too heavily on anything I've said unless it's something you feel I'm correct about.
3. What determines the order that retailers are listed in?
The order is determined based on a variety of factors. First, I generally try to list the most reputable, established retailers towards the upper half, and others towards the lower half. The notion here is that I want to send the guy who clicks on the first retailer he sees to one of the lowest-risk retailers possible. On the other hand, the viewers who read all the pages can probably make an informed decision.
As for the order within the first half or so, generally retailers with a high BBB rating, low complaint rate (particularly through this site), and higher volume (as well as I can gauge it, anyway) are listed first. These tend to be the most popular retailers and are usually "safe" bets for the type of visitor who jumps on the first retailer they see that looks like it might fit their needs. Affiliate programs are weighted in here as well.
There are some exceptions. I try to maintain a relative mix of retailers in the upper bunch – something for people looking for the lowest price, something for newcomers, something for those looking for cheaper designer frames, etc., so some retailers end up being a little inflated/deflated in the list to meet the desired mix. And sometimes I'll put a retailer higher/lower than normal to see what affect it has on site traffic, etc.
4. I'd like you to review our glasses. Can I send you a free sample / coupon code / etc?
Unfortunately, I can't go this route. There's no way to guarantee that the glasses I'd get wouldn't receive special treatment. I need to place the orders myself, somewhat anonymously. If you're getting a little frustrated that it's been years and I haven't ordered from you yet, you can send me reminder emails every once in a while and I might get to yours sooner rather than later.
5. I have a coupon code or special for your readers. Will you list it?
If you can provide a perpetual coupon code (no expiry), or one with a very long expiry, send it along. Beyond that, sometimes I'll list codes that last at least a month, but even those are getting more infrequent because they're a hassle to maintain. It's rare that I'll list specials anymore unless they're an incredibly good deal for consumers.
If you go the coupon route, generic site-wide coupons are fine (20% off all frames, $10 off purchases over $50, etc). Don't send coupons/specials that are insanely specific ("20% off a selection of our plastic frames"), as they only apply to a limited audience.
6. How do I get a banner for my site listed on my info/review page instead of an Adsense ad?
It used to be that I'd run affiliate banners on each retailer's page, but I've dropped the affiliate ads for the time being and don't know if/when they'll be returning. You can try targeting an adsense ad at specific pages.
7. I just started a new online glasses store. Will you list my site?
If you send it along, I'll take a quick look at it and list it on the "Other Retailers" page in the short-medium term. If you want feedback, just ask and I'll provide that too. Generally, it won't get it's own page for a year or so, simply because new sites tend to be more risky. Becoming BBB accredited, joining affiliate programs, etc will often get you listed a little more quickly (both those examples have a vetting process that not every new site will pass), but don't do either simply for the sake of getting a dedicated page more quickly on EGRR.
8. I'm planning to start my own glasses shop. Any tips?
First of all, keep in mind that it's an incredibly competitive market, and that the market is still very saturated. There was a massive boom from 2006 until around 2008-2010, and the current climate is very hard to survive in. If you already have a successful local glasses business to fall back on and are simply expanding to the online area, you might be able to survive. If you're starting from scratch, you probably won't survive the year without a lot of capital.
Here's part of an email I sent to a writer when discussing the industry a couple years ago, which still largely holds true today:
You'd have to be crazy (or incredibly passionate) to start up a new online retail today without a fully-featured easy-to-use site, rock-bottom prices, fast customer service, BBB-accreditation, and an affiliate program through one of the major programs to get others advertising for you. And that's a lot of money to put out before you've even sold a single pair. And even then, you might fail.
Assuming you're still planning to go ahead, you're going to have to determine your target market – it's been my observation that the retailers that try to target multiple areas (every price point for example) tend to fail quickly, and even the well established retailers tend to stick to a certain part of the market. Ideally, you should find something that makes you unique – something that you can bring to the table that nobody else does. After all, if there's nothing unique about you, why would anyone buy from you instead of from a more established retailer?
Your website can be one of the more challenging and expensive aspects. Bolting a shopping cart onto WordPress isn't going to cut it. You usually need to hire both a developer and a designer. To be clear, a developer handles the "programming" end of things. They make sure your buttons, option boxes, fancy mouseover effects, try-on feature, etc work. They also ensure that your shopping cart connects correctly to the rest of your site, that your security certificate works, that your site is quick and responsive, etc. A "designer" is essentially an artist. They design the look of everything on your site, and work with the developer to make sure it's implemented perfectly, and that the whole site is visually cohesive and attractive. It is rare to find someone who excels at both, but both are crucial.
Keeping customers happy is going to be critical. Angry customers are quick to post negative reviews. Happy customers are largely silent unless you've gone so above-and-beyond that you've made their day. And you'll probably have to budget for the "irrational" customer who might not be appeased until you've refunded their money, paid for return shipping, and sent them a free credit, all because they made a mistake when entering their prescription.
All that said, if you're intent on setting up shop, I wish you the best of luck and you're best not to let my comments discourage you. Definitely let me know about your new site so that you at least get the listing on the "Other Retailers" page (which will hopefully get you some traffic) and so that I have you in mind for your own page in the future.
9. I contacted you but you didn't get back to me!
You guys have always been a balancing act for me. On one hand, I try to keep retailers at arms-length to an extent. It's nothing personal, but I try to stay unbiased and approach things from a consumer point of view and that's a little tougher if we get too chummy.
On the other hand, feedback from you guys is often helpful. You're the quickest to notice mistakes I've made regarding your site, and it's always helpful when there's been an issue I’ve mentioned and you've contacted me mentioning that you're working on resolving it.
If you don't receive a reply, usually it's just that I've been busy (some days I see over 100 emails, and anything I can't respond to immediately tends to get buried). Sending a reminder every few days can help.
There are times when I’m just doing the arms-length thing. If you mentioned an error and notice it's been corrected within a few days but didn't hear back, that's probably the situation. Unless you really need a follow-up, it's probably best to just leave things be until you need to contact me again with something.
I tend to keep marketing agencies in particular at a distance. Many of them are used to publishers who are willing to do any extra promotion (site-wide banners, front-page mentions, etc) for incentives, or will aggressively "push" your site, neither of which I can do for obvious reasons. There have been enough frustrating conversations here (for both sides) that I'll often only reply to emails that don't mention promotion and instead are asking about expired codes/banners, issues with a write-up, casual questions, etc.
10. The BBB rating isn't fair. They're a bunch of crooks!
I know that there have been some alleged shenanigans there in the past and that it seems to be extremely challenging to maintain a high rating for those who haven't paid the fees to be accredited. But it's also much harder to astroturf than the online alternatives, and it does give customers an outlet to help get matters resolved. In short, it's the best option I have for consumers right now.
Your best bet is to make sure the BBB always has your current contact info, and to ensure that you reply to any complaints swiftly. If logistically possible, I'd strongly recommend that you send follow-up customer satisfaction emails to customers after purchases so that if they have an issue, they'll be more likely to bring it to your attention and hopefully you can resolve it without the need for escalation. Done well, you can get customers to mention even minor issues that they would have normally ignored, and you can often address those for future customers.
In the end though, if you feel that your BBB rating is unfair, feel free to contact me with the details (minus any personally identifiable customer info) – if I find indications that the BBB is behaving maliciously, I'm willing to look at other possible alternatives.
There's something else I wanted to know!
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.