BEAVERCREEK, OH—In a sign that tensions may at last be thawing between the bitter eyewear rivals, LensCrafters and Pearle Vision reportedly agreed to a prisoner exchange Thursday following months of negotiations.
Officials confirmed that five LensCrafters retail clerks incarcerated at Pearle Vision’s Beavercreek branch will be freed in order to secure the release of seven Pearle Vision workers—including several high-value optometrists and a shift manager who went missing in 2009—as part of a rare act of diplomacy amid the acrimonious conflict that has long raged between the prescription eyeglass chains.
“After extensive talks, we have ensured the release of our team members and are eager to repatriate them to the nearest LensCrafters location,” said negotiator Howard Elliott from LensCrafters corporate headquarters, referring to workers who have been forcibly detained in the stock room of Pearle Vision’s Columbus, OH, Tuttle Crossing Shopping Center location for over 18 months. “Assuming that our counterparts fulfill their end of the agreement, we will be proceeding with the eyewear consultant exchange immediately.”
“Though many more of our floor associates remain captive in our competitor’s vision care centers across the country, we hope that this transfer signals a willingness to lessen the climate of mistrust and open hostility that has plagued LensCrafters-Pearle Vision relations for decades,” Elliott continued.
According to company representatives who spoke on condition of anonymity, the prisoner swap will occur at a neutral site in the parking lot of the Payless ShoeSource at The Mall at Fairfield Commons in suburban Dayton. The exchange will reportedly be overseen by third-party mediator and soft pretzel vendor Auntie Anne’s, which has helped broker previous accords between the optical chains, including a famous 1998 treaty that required the warring companies to suspend any buy-one-get-one deals on select pairs of no-line bifocals, as well as last year’s non-proliferation agreement that compelled both parties to reduce their massive stockpiles of sunlight-activated Transitions lenses.
According to sources, the prisoner transfer was delayed due to a number of sticking points, including Pearle Vision’s refusal to come to the table until its rival agreed to remove all Ralph Lauren and DKNY frames from its clearance display racks as a prerequisite to any good faith discussions.
Negotiations were reportedly also nearly scuttled due to LensCrafters’ refusal to turn over Cincinnati Pearle Vision on-site optician David Kowalski, who was captured by rival forces earlier this year after allegedly attempting to reconnoiter a nearby LensCrafters mini-mall storefront during his lunch break.
“While we are focused on welcoming home our brave eye care specialists, we must also remember that our rival’s history of abuse toward its prisoners leaves open the possibility that our staff members may have been tortured while in captivity,” said Pearle Vision general manager Pete Bridgman, referring to persistent allegations that detainees held in LensCrafters locations have been shackled in eye examination chairs for hours at a time and fitted with high tint density Ray-Ban sunglasses that leave them shrouded in virtual darkness. “Should we learn of such cruel treatment, it will leave us no option other than swift and devastating retaliation by offering free scratch-resistant lens coating, which will viciously undercut our competition and draw in considerable foot traffic.”
As confirmed by experts on the conflict’s history, the prisoner exchange represents a rare moment of détente in a long-running dispute between the two eyeglass retailers that has, at numerous points in years past, veered dangerously close to the full-scale mutual launch of “lowest price guarantee” promotions.
However, with both sides reportedly continuing to amass increasing quantities of affordable polycarbonate, trivex, and photochromic lenses, experts warned that the de-escalation of tensions achieved by the prisoner swap may only be temporary.
“Releasing a few detainees is a noteworthy accomplishment, but it’s only a small step in a struggle that has already left a swath of destruction across shopping centers and outdoor malls throughout the United States,” said independent observer and Lids executive Lloyd Hayward. “Regardless of whether this transfer goes through, both sides have been threatening to institute sweeping back-to-school savings on all TAG Heuer rimless and semi-rimless glasses that, if enacted, will result in prices being slashed on a level unlike anything we’ve seen since this war’s outbreak.”
“And if that happens, all hell will break loose,” he added.