I bought more pairs of glasses in 2015 than I did in all the years from 2005-2014 combined! Here’s why:

Molli Rae Hansel

I teach at the School of Art at Long Beach State University. On Tuesdays and Thursdays after class I go down to the Newport Aquatic Center to paddle a surf ski in the harbor and ocean. When I’m done paddling there’s too much traffic to go home, so I hang out at the Newport Beach Public Library till 8pm. Sometimes I go across the street to Fashion Island to eat. One Tuesday in February ’15 I had Wahoo’s Fish Tacos and then wandered Fashion Island for a few minutes before heading to the library.

I came across an eyewear shop I didn’t know, SEE Eyewear. Inside were all kinds of cool frames at affordable prices. These frames were way cooler than anything I’d ever seen at my optometrist. At my optometrist there are 1,000 different frames. And they’re all in that same overdone lozenge shape.

SEE seemed to have all kinds of different and cool frames. And then I saw the SEE Mondo collection. As everyone in my family who isn’t me already knew, Mondo Guerra is a fashion design genius.

My moth-eyes were drawn to the flame of the SEE Mondo Nucky frame. Amazing. Out there. Could I actually wear them?

Molli was the perfect “sales” person for these edgy frames.

Glenn Zucman wearing a pair of SEE Mondo Gilligan frames in the "oreo" color scheme
SEE Mondo Gilligan

Miserable Workers & True Believers

The Beverly Center, nestled between Beverly Hills & West Hollywood, is a gigantic, 8-story, high-end shopping mall. Disneyland is a theme park. One thing these rather different properties have in common is that they both are staffed by thousands of employees who say things like,

Hi, how are you?

all day long. The difference is that when the miserable workers at The Beverly Center say Hi, how are you? the subtext is,

Drop dead.

When the Disneyland true believers say it, they really mean it. The subtext is,

OMG I can’t believe I get paid to be here! I hope you have the awesomest day ever!

Even though the words are the same, I can tell you that it’s oppressive to walk in and out of so many Beverly Center shops and have to hear perfunctory greetings over and over. When a Disneyland employee says those words their authenticity is uplifting. I feel inspired even before I’ve left the parking lot. And yes, even the peeps working in the Disneyland parking lot are true believers.

Molli and the other SEE people I’d meet later are True Believers. I’m not saying they’re giddy at the chance to work retail, but they are real people who are warm, honest, and treat customers with respect.

Glenn Zucman wearing SEE Mondo Randy frames at the Newport Aquatic Center in Newport Beach, California
SEE Mondo Randy, at Newport Aquatic Center

SEE Mondo Nucky

So I tried Mondo’s Nucky frames on and talked to Molli for a while. They were so different! I liked them, but left without them.

A week later I ate some more fish tacos and wandered over to SEE again. I tried the SEE Mondo Nucky’s again. And wasn’t sure again.

Molli wasn’t really “selling” or pushing anything. She was just a friendly and informed person who tried to be helpful. When I said I kind of loved the Nucky’s but kind of wasn’t sure if I could actually wear them, she asked if I’d like to see pictures. Molli poked around with her iPhone and pulled up a bunch of images of Mondo Guerra himself wearing Nuckys. Somehow seeing him wearing them made it all make more sense. I bought the frames. And in the rest of 2015 I wound up buying more SEE Mondo glasses than all the glasses I’d bought between 2005-2014 combined. I don’t know if I’d have bought that first pair without Molli’s graciousness and helpfulness. I don’t know if I’d have bought anything. Molli’s easy professionalism turned me into a true believer too.

And then I didn’t have fish tacos for two weeks! Two weeks later my glasses were ready. So I had yet more fish tacos and headed over to SEE. When I arrived I was disappointed to learn that Molli didn’t work there anymore. I’d wanted to share my cool new glasses with the person who’d made it possible for me to buy them.

Glenn Zucman wearing SEE Mondo Gordi glasses in green
SEE Mondo Gordi

TJ Walsh

Fortunately TJ Walsh was there and he too was a great SEE employee. TJ helped me with my exciting new glasses, but when I tried them on something was weird. Everything looked so weird. After some confusion I stepped out the door with the new glasses and the world was so distorted I know if I’d taken 10 steps I would have fallen and broken something.

TJ was great at trying to sort out what the problem was. He came up with one possibility and said he’d gladly order new lenses right away. But that if I didn’t mind coming back in a day or two, it’d really be best to talk to their optician Chris Howells.

TJ also kept the fish taco part of the story alive. Sometimes I’d run into him at the other fish taco place: Rubios. He’d smile and say hello and give me an update on my glasses and talk about the day. Even when he wasn’t working, he was still making SEE look great.

Glenn Zucman wearing a pair of SEE Mondo Mondini eyeglass frames
SEE Mondo Mondini

Chris Howells, ABO

When I came back two days later, Chris was as warm, gracious, and helpful as TJ and Molli had been. Chris spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the issue was. And once he’d figured it out, he spent a lot more time quadruple-checking to make sure he was right.

It turned out that there was nothing wrong with the lenses SEE had ground. Rather the problem was that my sloppy optometrist Dr. Jefferey Kleinman had written the wrong prescription. The “cylinder” for my astigmatism was supposed to be 113°, but Dr. Kleinman had carelessly written 13° degrees on my prescription. In addition to the bad prescription, Dr. Kleinman had also made a pair of glasses with the correct 113° cylinder for me. Chris determined that the glasses Dr. Kleinman made were 113° and not the 13° cylinder he wrote in my prescription. After he verified this 3 times, Chris decided to verify it again.

As I’d later come to learn, Chris knows everybody in optics. So he phoned his friend over at Optical Shops of Aspen and asked if she’d measure the two pairs of glasses too. Just to make sure he wasn’t making any kind of mistake. Chris sent me down to OSA where his friend put aside the client and big order she was working on to check my glasses right away. And she got the exact same numbers that Chris had gotten. Chris sent me back to Dr. Kleinman for a new prescription.

Amazingly, Dr. Kleinman wouldn’t even see me! He just sent his receptionist out with a new prescription and the lie that “your optician was probably confused because the distance and computer prescription were on the same form.” What the “new” prescription actually had was the correct cylinder that his original sloppy work had written wrong.

It is remarkable how much Chris the optician cared about my eyes. And how little Dr. Kleinman the “doctor” cared.

Bad eye prescription written by Dr. Jeffrey Kleinman & associates
Original, bad prescription, with 013° of cylinder

replacement prescription written by Dr. Jeffrey Kleinman & associates
Replacement prescription written without bothering to double check my eyes, but just correctly writing 113° of cylinder. Chris had thought that given the mistake, Dr. Kleinman would at least double check that the actual prescription was correct. But he didn’t bother.

Jenny Violante

A while after Molli left, Jeny Violante started working at SEE. Like Molli, TJ & Chris before her, Jenny was the ideal non-sales person. Jenny was warm and sociable – she’d come from the Nike store, and we seemed to talk as much about shoes as about glasses – she let the glasses sell themselves, and she stuck to information and moral support. She was genuinely happy to see you, told you when some frames maybe weren’t the best choice, and told you when she thought they were great.

Jenny didn’t stay that long at SEE, but maybe because of her schedule, and certainly because of her easy, helpful manner, I wound up buying the majority of my frames from Jenny.

Jessica Wick

After Jenny, Jessica Wick worked evenings. One night after SEE had announced the end of its collaboration with Mondo, Jessica was kind enough to scour the SEE database and find 3 single-copies of Mondo frames I’d never seen before. I asked her if she could order them so I could see them. She said she wasn’t supposed to do that, but that she’d be happy to do it anyway.

A week later when I came in to see these last Mondo gems Chris told me that Jessica’d gotten yelled at for ordering the frames. I’m not sure why being helpful is an offense, but Jessica knew she’d get yelled at and chose to be helpful anyway.

Molli Rae Hansel, TJ Walsh, Chris Howells, Jenny Violante & Jessica Wick. 5 of the best “sales” people who never tried to sell me anything.

IDK why SEE is so lucky to find so many great true believers for their staff, nor do I know why they leave so fast. Molli, TJ & Jenny are already gone. Jessica’s given notice. Thank goodness Chris is still there so far. He’s such a fantastic resource. Chris is as professional and knowledgeable as he is warm and friendly. No one I’ve ever bought glasses from in my entire life has been as great as Molli, TJ, Chris, Jenny & Jessica.

Glenn Zucman wearing a pair of SEE Mondo Squidward eyeglass frames
SEE Mondo Squidward

One Complaint

OK, it’s true, I do have something to complain about. All the BUY 5 PAIRS, GET 1 FREE!! advertising. As I’ve come to learn, this is just a lie. As I’ve come to learn, SEE seems dedicated to the proposition that no “free” pair of glasses will ever be free.

I’m not asking to buy the 5 cheapest frames in the store and then get the most expensive frame in the store free. But when you buy 5 SEE Mondo’s with trifocals, transitions & coating, shouldn’t the 6th “free” pair with the same specs actually be free? Actually it isn’t even the same specs. For my free-doesn’t-mean-free-in-the-SEE-Marketing-Department pair I didn’t need the transitions adaptive lenses, so it’s a less than equal pair. Yet somehow SEE’s “free” math came out that they would cost me US$182.

I waited 3 or 4 months and asked again and this time “free” only cost me US$66. It’s not a lot for a great pair of glasses, but it’s deceptive marketing and it suggests a fundamental disrespect for customers. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with SEE Eyewear’s trying-too-hard-to-be-cool marketing. I don’t really trust their disingenuously cute marketing like lets be besties and give you a discount!! What I do trust is real people like Molli, TJ, Chris, Jenny & Jessica.

Glenn Zucman wearing a pair of SEE Mondo Nucky eyeglass frames
SEE Mondo Nucky

Sad

With such great eyeglasses, and such great people to represent them, it makes me sad that SEE Eyewear feels the need to use deceptive marketing practices.

But not as sad as it makes me that when my first, crazy-amazing pair of SEE Mondo’s came back from the lab, I didn’t have the chance to share them with Molli Rae, the unsalesperson who’d been so helpful in visualizing that I could actually wear them.


Comments

This post was previously on my now defunct Ghost blog. Here are some disqus comments salvaged from it:

Molli Hansel

Glenn, I am so glad I stumbled upon this. It’s me, Molli Rae. Unfortunately, I had to leave see eyewear because I believed I was working for a great company that had their employees backs but they were deceptive and shady. I had no choice but to leave. I see your pictures of your mondo Nucky’s and I’m so glad you love them and they really do look great on you!! Thank you for being a great and fun person and especially for this blog! I’m so happy I found it. I truly hope all is well and maybe I’ll see you again!! Take care.

Glenn Zucman

Hi Molli!

Wow, so nice to hear from you! I hope all is going well! And thank you so much for your help back in… uh… March 2015 I think! 🙂 It was so great chatting with you and lucky SEE, thanks to your help I bought all the glasses above in 2015 and more in 2016. I’ve snapped up quite a few pairs from the Mondo collection. Most recently I’ve bought a few pairs from an Australian company, Valley Eyewear. Also amazing.

Anyway, it’s really nice to hear from you Molli! — Thank you Internet! 😀

Wishing you an awesome 2017 filled with joy & wonder,

Glenn

Molli Hansel

Wow! You seriously have some great style!!!! I love love love valley eyewear!!! I went to another optical boutique for a while after see, then did some traveling but now I’m engaged and a stay at home mom to my four month old baby. So a lot has happened in the past year. I’m doing great though!! I hope all is well for you and that you have a wonderful 2017!! P.s. Check out Andy wolf eyewear too! You’ll love them.

Glenn Zucman Mod

Oh wow Molli! 4-month old!? Congratulations! Boy or girl? Planned or spontaneous? Time of your life, or overwhelming? Or both?

How’s the stay-at-home thing working for you?

I hadn’t heard of Andy Wolf – very cool. Honestly Molli, if you hadn’t helped me figure out that I could actually wear the SEE Mondo Nucky’s, I might not be wearing Valley Eyewear today! 🙂

As soon as I discovered SEE, my eye went straight to the Nucky’s, so I might have bought them anyway. But they also seemed far beyond anything I’d thought of, or really seen, F2F anyway, in glasses before. So I might not have. I probably would have bought something from SEE, but maybe not become a Mondo true believer. IDK how I even stumbled across this Jessica Haze video, but in it she talks about SEE, Valley, and other frames. When I saw her Valley Eyewear I hopped online and was amazed.

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