Should You Buy Prescription Eyeglasses Online?
Online opticians 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 opticians 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, offers an app that lets you virtually try on frames (available on iPhone X and above). 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, WarbyParker 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 starting at just $6.95; anti-reflective coating costs a bit more. If you have a webcam, you can do a virtual try on to see how the frames will look on you. I mentioned Zenni a few years back, and so many people raved about their service and prices. If you feel your glasses were not made correctly, you can return them within 30-days, and Zenni will remake them for you at no charge.
GlassesUSA is another popular company in the online eyewear business. As of this writing, they are offering 60% off frames or a "buy one get one free" option. Their website says they provide a 365 day manufacturer’s warranty, and if you are not completely satisfied with your glasses, you may return them (for any reason) within the first 14 days.
A Closer Look...
Back in 2011, the American Optometric Association conducted an experiment with online eyewear purchasing. Twenty-nine percent of the eyeglasses received had incorrect prescriptions, and twenty-three percent of all the glasses received failed industry-standard impact resistance testing, a major safety hazard. Until recently, 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.
Granted, that survey is eight years old, and does not seem to reflect the current state of the art. I have friends who have ordered glasses online for years, and have nothing but positive comments about the process. In fact, I don't know anyone who has had a problem with glasses ordered online. But I would recommend that you order from a company with a good reputation and a strong return policy.
Consumer Reports recommends buying just the 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. (Pupillary distance is important when crafting a lens. If your eye doctor did not provide this measurement to you, Zenni offers to help you measure it yourself.) For bifocals, trifocals, and progressive lenses, other measurements of vertical points at which the prescription should change are critical.
I might try this 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 26 Jul 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Should You Buy Prescription Eyeglasses Online? (Posted: 26 Jul 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved