Buying Prescription Eyeglasses Online
Online optometrists claim they can save you “up to 70%” on prescription eyeglasses. Some even advertise free lenses. The savings sound tempting, but is it wise to buy online something that is so complex, subjective, and critical as eyeglasses? Read on...
Oh Say, Can You See?
A survey conducted by Consumer reports found that only half of respondents had vision care insurance, and the average claim benefit was only $140. Respondents with little or no insurance paid an average of $244 for glasses. Prescription eyeglasses can easily cost $500 or more for moderately complex bifocal lenses, the virtually essential anti-glare coating, and a decent-looking frame.
Clearly, there’s an insurance coverage gap. Online optometrists try to fill it with the savings that arise from any mail-order operation. They don’t need storefronts in expensive locations. They don’t need as many staffers. They don’t even need ophthalmologists, the medical doctors who perform eye exams and write prescriptions. They just take your prescription and fill it in the frame you choose.
Choosing a frame online is not that easy. It may look great in a photo, but how will it look on your face? Warby Parker, an optical store that got started online in 2010, invites you to upload your selfie and see how it looks with a pair of the company’s frames superimposed on it. That’s a crude approximation, at best, and you still don’t know how the frames will feel.
If that solution doesn’t appeal to you, WP will mail up to five frames to you, free of charge, so you can try them on and hopefully buy one. It helps that the majority of its frames cost just $95 or less.
Zenni Optical got its online start in 2003, when it was known as 19DollarEyeGlasses.com. Today, Zenni offers single-focus glasses for just $6.95; anti-reflective coating costs just $4.95 more. But quality control seems to be an ongoing problem at Zenni, with some customers receiving perfect orders in ten days and others failing multiple times to get the correct prescription. Zenni has an overall Yelp rating of 3.5/5.0. Reviews range from glowing to glowering.
A Closer Look...
The American Optometric Association conducted an experiment with online eyewear purchasing in 2011. As you might expect, the results were not good. Out of 200 pairs of glasses ordered, only 154 ever arrived! Twenty-nine percent of the eyeglasses received had incorrect prescriptions; not only minor errors, but glaring mistakes like shipping single-vision glasses instead of bifocals.
Twenty-three percent of all the glasses received failed industry-standard impact resistance testing, a major safety hazard. Worse, 29 percent of children’s glasses failed impact resistance tests! Until yesterday, I might not have thought this a very important factor. I was doing yard work, and stepped on the "business end" of a garden rake. The handle flew up and hit me directly on the lens of my glasses. Fortunately, it didn't shatter.
Consumer Reports recommends buying frames online to save money and getting the lenses locally. Walmart Vision Centers will fill customer-provided frames for $10 plus the cost of prescription lenses. Costco Optical will do the same for $18. Check with your vision care provider first before going this route.
If you’re going to buy prescription glasses online, at a minimum you’ll need a copy of your eye doctor’s prescription and the doctor’s measurement of the distance between your eyes’ pupils. For bifocals, trifocals, and progressive lenses, other measurements of vertical points at which the prescription should change are critical.
I might try that approach to get a spare set of eyewear, if I already had a pair of glasses that were made locally, and fitted specifically for me. Then at least I could compare apples to apples. How about you? Does the idea of getting your next pair of glasses online sound good? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Sep 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Buying Prescription Eyeglasses Online (Posted: 25 Sep 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved