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According to a comment on my "Connected Optometrist" post, Mellowknees (who is married to an optician), tells us they do the following:

Opticians are specially trained (and required to be certified in many states, but not all) to measure distance between eyes, adjust fit of glasses, etc., so that when your glasses are ordered from the lab (or the optician actually makes the glasses for you) the prescription lines up properly between the lens and the eye.

If you have any of the normal anomoles that most human faces have (i.e. one ear sits lower than the other, pupillary distance is shorter or longer than average), glasses you get online that are created by a lab that has never seen you, that does not have your specific facial measurements, are very likely not going to be as satisfying for you as glasses that you've actually been fitted for would be.

I had my wife measure my PD (pupilary distance) with a ruler -- the method described on most of the sites. She nailed it and has never spent a day in the optical field, married to an optician, or even wearing glasses (granted, she does have a few months of specialized training in the fundamentals of the metric system in the late 70's at Lincoln Elementary in Alexandria, MN). I had this number validated a couple of weeks ago on a two-year old prescription that was in my top drawer.

As for anomalies, I'm 37-year old guy. My ears and eyes have likely stopped moving all over my head. I'd gladly pay the very fair amount of ten U.S. dollars for someone to adjust my glasses for me (I think $60 an hour is a VERY fair rate). My PD (pupilary distance) isn't changing from pair to pair so that's locked in. The fact that I have one ear lower than the other is something I can adjust my frames to -- and if I wasn't comfortable doing it, I know someone at a store will take a few bucks to do it.

I'm not a "rocket surgeon", and I don't have the most complicated prescription in the world, but even I could read and enter numbers correctly into a web form, get my credit card out and order a great fitting and functioning pair of eyeglasses online.

And I didn't get hosed.

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At December 14, 2006 at 2:52 PM Steve said...

I've never had an optician measure my ear height.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:56 PM Anonymous said...

I think they forgot that opticians are also informed salespersons. They talk with you about your lifestyle and recommend options that could benefit your lifestyle (AR coating, 2nd pair of polarized, which type of progressive lens design).
These internet sites fool you into thinking that there is just a single progressive lens. Premium quality progressive lens designs give much better performance than cheapo ones, and I can't wait for you to turn 43 and experience the difference between inferior lenses and premium ones.
AR coatings are important so that people can see your eyes instead of being bothered by reflections. The $5 AR coat from internet retailers will only attract dirt and finger prints, making your lenses stay in a perpetual state of dirtyness. So if you go with the internet AR or without, you're at a disadvantage with interpersonal communications.

At January 25, 2007 at 11:59 PM Optical-Bug-Bear said...

I have to say, that I love this blog. I bought the pair of drill mount eye glasses that I am wearing from Zenni. So I need no convincing about the merits of buying eye glasses online for a reasonable price (not a ridiculous one).

Also, I happen to work in the optical field at an unnamed retailer. I am not an optician, nor am I an eye doctor. However I can safely say that (in NY state anyway) opticians go through a rigorous apprenticing program where they shadow a licensed optician for at least 6 months. After that, and much study, about how to measure pupillary distance, correct lenses for wanted prism, how to accurately check an eye glasses prescription, reading a prescription and accurately judging weather it can or can not be paired with the desired frame (this mostly happens with bifocals and progressives), how to fit and fix eyeglasses for a customer and other common tasks, the trainee must then pass the state exam (Written and Practical) to be licensed as an optician (in NY state). {I have never seen an optician measure ear height}

The job of an optician seems pretty simple on the surface, however it takes someone who knows what they're doing to dispense eye wear to a customer who expects that their glasses should fit like a glove (and most of them do expect that, and why shouldn't they, they're paying for it).

Anyway this comment has been a rambling mess since the start so I'll end soon.

My point is that just because you or I don't need an optician to fit our glasses, doesn't mean that most people don't want or need them to. Most people do want an optician to do the head scratching at the prescription, and the pupil distance measuring, and the adjusting of the frames, and the prescription checking, and the parting smiling accompanied by the reassurance that "those frames look great". This doesn't make the optician a glorified yes man, it requires a licensed professional who knows their shit.

At July 9, 2007 at 7:53 AM Anonymous said...

well, what do you measure your eyes with? The eyeglass sites say more than what our conventional mm rulers say. I do not have insurance for glasses that would cost me $250 - $400 for, so I would like to try on lines. Thank you

At July 9, 2007 at 8:28 AM Ira said...

Almost all of the sites talk specifically to this point. Take a look at 39 Dollar Glasses or Goggles4U specifically. The last two pairs I got at LensCrafters, they "measured" my PD by putting a dot on each of the fake lenses for the pair I was buying.


At September 3, 2007 at 7:33 AM Anonymous said...

I am all for saving money, and I believe purchasing glasses online can be a great way to go for many people, but not everyone.

But why do you have to insult opticians and the profession in general. Simply because YOU do not know all that opticians do, does not mean opticians do not do anything. You consistanty use the term " rocket surgeon" inferring that any idiot off the street can do opticianry. It is insulting. Are you able to determine the correct base curve for your Rx? Do you know what frames are suitable for od= +3.50 -.50 165 3DBO os= -2.50 -.25 180 4DBU rx. Or what enhancements might help balance the lenses? Can you properly bench align a frame? Do you know how to use a lensometer to verify Rx and check for distortion. How about the refractive index of polycarb verses high index? Minimum fitting height for PAL's? ANSI standards for Rx tolerances?

I doubt it. Granted most people do not have a Rx that is that complicated. And if you had this type of Rx, you would know you shouldn't order online. My point is, that just as with any profession or job, there is more to doing it correctly than meets the eye.

While placing dots on your demo lenses may not seem high tech to you, it is important to avoid parallax while marking the lenses, and this type of measuring helps the optican or fitting associate to visualize the person's PD relative to the frame PD and OC-- working in conjunction with the RX and lens choice, to ensure the frame is a good choice in terms of fit and finished lens thickness. It would take the optician all day to fit and dispense glasses to each person if they actually talked you through the processes they use in providing your glasses.

There is more than one method of taking a PD, and Opticians do more than take PDs. We don't mearure ear height-- we do however note the differnce in ears and make the appropraite frame adjustment without compromising the integrity of the frame.

Now with that said, I will acknowledge that there are plenty of people in the retailers selling glasses that do not abide by the appropraite fitting and dispensing techniques. But as with any industry, you have employees that are excellent at their job, and employees that couldn't give a damn about the quality of their work!!

At November 1, 2008 at 10:22 PM Anonymous said...

My eye doctor has a specific piece of equipment measure my PD, and when I asked about it he measured it and gave me the numbers.

At November 7, 2008 at 11:55 AM Kim said...

I am considering checking out one of the on line retailers to see just how good they are. I've been an optician for 20 plus years, and I will say this much. MOST people (as in 80% of the people) do not have significant issues with vertex distance (distance between the lens surface and their eyes) or optical centering issues... However there are the few that DO need an optician's services.
Because of these things, I know my services will be in demand for quite some time. I will say that I DO work for one of the non expensive retailers (NOT Lenscrafters) and work with insurances, can do repairs of all kinds, fit and adjust eyeglasses. I'm part salesperson, part objective fashion consultant, part mathmatician (what frame works best for the prescription AND PD AND the patient's visual requirements) among other things.
I don't have issues with people going elsewhere for their glasses. Just understand, in some instances, you get what you pay for. What about a warranty on those inexpensive glasses?
I do agree with the difference between progressive lenses, I've been WEARING them for the past nine years. There are significant differences between progressive designs, in fact I have a pair of free lenses I got from a relative that are sitting in a drawer, unused for a lot of the time, because I HATE the progressive lens in question.
I have an e mail query to Zenni optical in fact, asking what progressive lenses they use. So we'll see if they answer that question.
In a LOT of instances (kids, people on a tight budget, or just wanting a different look for less), I completely understand why this is taking off like the hottest thing in the planet.


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