One Company Sold The Same Contact Lenses For $3 Each And Also For $70 Each
Contact lenses are amazing bits of cyber tech that we somehow managed to invent decades ago. They come in a variety of different types. You get some lenses that you have to take out every day, while other lenses can (with some risk) stay in your eye for a month. You can also buy non-prescription lenses purely to change your eye color, and these might not even be legal, so watch out.
In the '90s, the eyewear manufacturer Bausch & Lomb offered a line of disposable lenses that cost $3 per pair. You used them for one day, then threw them out. They also sold a line of contact lenses under the premium brand name "Optima F.W." You had to take these lenses out each night, but instructions said you could clean the pair and reuse it for an entire year.
Optima F.W. cost $70 per pair, while the disposable lenses, sold under the name "Occasions," cost just $3. The more expensive pair sounds easily worth the extra price, if it really is good for more than 300 times as many wears as the cheap pair. Except, the two types of lenses were identical. Different names and different prices, but they were otherwise the exact same product.
Bausch & Lomb sold lens accessories as well. It sold big bottles of cleaning solution so you could submerge your lenses, and it sold eye drops, so you can keep your eyeballs clean and lubricated while trapped under the constricting plastic. Each eye drop cost you a lot more than a drop of cleaning solution, unsurprisingly—about 20 times more. But here too, the two products were identical, except for the marketing and packaging. Both solutions were just distilled water with the same solutes mixed in, using the same formula.
The company offered some excuses for the pricing shenanigans. The cheaper stuff was cheaper because they were throwing in a volume discount, they claimed. The math on that didn't add up, and it didn't explain why they branded the identical products differently. A bunch of their customers joined a class-action lawsuit in 1996, and Bausch & Lomb had to pay them $68 million. Then 17 different states investigated the company for deceptive practices, finally forcing them to kill their creative marketing plan.
Bausch & Lomb's still going strong today. Mostly, they market to professionals, who can't wear glasses in the office because glasses are too sexy.
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Top image: Eitan Tal