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It started with a post proclaiming my satisfaction with my new glasses -- eyeglasses I got at an excellent price, online. It's caused quite a stir, and opened up a whole lot of information that (if the email and comments I've received are true) has saved hundreds of people, hundreds of thousands of dollars (and made me a whole slew of new friends).

I never meant for this to consume me the way it has. I was shocked when I realized the extent of the markup on frames and lenses. I realize that this isn't the only industry with astonishing markups, but this is one that hit me close to home:

"As a retired Minneapolis optician I can tell you first hand that we bought our lenses in bulk and most single vision lenses cost less than $2.00 a pair, Bifocals and progressives cost us as much as $6.00 a pair. Frames ..Name brand, up to $10.00, same quality generics cost us much less. Online is the way I buy all of my eyewear, New glasses in under two weeks!"

Is the markup on certain other human necessities (I'm not talking about designer styles here) as high? Perhaps, but after getting email from retired optical professionals and insight into the thoughts and practices of some people currently in the industry:
"A pair of SV (single vision) stock poly Alize cost me $34, and carry a 2 year warranty. We sell 'em all day long for $199/pair, for a profit of $165/pair. Our capture rate for AR (anti-reflective coating) is about 90%. Also stock poly non coated, cost $6/pair and sell for $109...

Now show me the math where you can beat the $165 profit on a pair of SV (single vision) lenses. If you can, I'll still love you in the morning."

I couldn't let it go -- and I'm really glad I didn't. Head to the mall. Ask for some prices, you'll see that this is the rule rather than the exception.

It's making an impact. As the volume of forum posts, reviews, and "thank you notes" (I love reading these over my oatmeal each morning) increases, the volume of angry anonymous posts and email from optometrists increases as well. We're starting to show up on corporate bottom lines.

Luxottica is the 900-pound gorilla in the optical industry, controlling huge chunks of the market from design, production, sales and even the insurance side -- and they're being allowed to swallow more and more companies working towards their monopoly.

So, after being screwed for years by this industry (and seeing it ramp up aggressively on the greed) I decided it was time to help find alternatives rather than contribute to it any longer.

Realistically though, the response I got initially (and continue to get) from all of you has been my fuel. I really appreciate it and will continue to try to gather the information we need to make the best decisions.

Thanks!

Ira

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34 comments:

At October 22, 2007 at 10:55 AM Bruce said...

And we all appreciate you for it, Ira. I'm a convert... probably won't ever buy prescription glasses off-line again.

 
At October 22, 2007 at 7:03 PM David said...

In addition to your excellent blog, have you thought about leveraging your publicity to persuade your state attorney general to open an antitrust investigation into luxotica? you could talk to your local state rep or state senator to contact the AG on your behalf. If this catches on, other states might join, and then the FTC would have to act as well.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:26 AM Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new site. Very nice looking. I like the glasses you're wearing in the pic, where can I get them?

Cheers!
JS.

 
At October 30, 2007 at 12:01 AM Anonymous said...

Wow, here I have been agonising for weeks over getting a remake on new glasses where one lens had 3 scratches from the get-go and 3 more that came mysteriously 2 wks later. I was made to feel that I "would get scratches in the future anyway" so why bother with a remake since both would have to be redone (b/c of a light tint I had put in). The optician also made me show him my old glasses as if to insinuate that I had scratched the new ones myself. NOT!!! And now I hear they only cost a few bucks? Guilt is gone!!!!

 
At November 29, 2007 at 10:54 AM Anonymous said...

Hi, one of my buddies at word was formerly a manager of Lenscrafters... when he told me it cost them $10 to make a pair of glasses, I was shocked! Even the drug dealers around here don't make that kind of profit! Anyway, I'm going to send your URL to my wife (she loves expensive glasses) and see if I can convert her to thriftiness! Regards, Jeff Zekas, Susanville, California

 
At December 17, 2007 at 2:20 PM Anonymous said...

After spending more than $600 on 2 pairs of glasses last year, your blog has left me feeling totally ripped off! I'll be buying my glasses online from now on!!

 
At January 6, 2008 at 5:56 PM Solid Squid said...

I just wanted to add one more "thank you" to the pile. Not only did you point me towards somewhere I can get a pair of glasses within what I can afford (student=poor), but I also now know from your links how to work out what size of glasses I take.

So no more over priced, under sized glasses for me, thank you. I'll be going online to find my next pair

 
At February 5, 2008 at 4:20 PM Anonymous said...

I bought my first pair of glasses online 1 year ago because I needed a second pair of glasses and had no health insurance to pay for them! I chose Zenni Optical. I was so pleased that I wrote them a thank you email! I purchased a new pair though an eye Dr...because I had insurance to pay for it. However insurance didn't pay for any extras! So I took my prescription with all of the info and purchased another pair with Zenni....$58.00 for new progressive lenses with eyeshades included! I can't wait to get them!!The same glasses in the eye doctors office would have been $400.00. I tell everyone I can about Zenni...and Glassy eyes too!

 
At April 5, 2008 at 9:09 PM Beaugrand said...

Optometrist eyeglasses: $400 (vision insurance covered most of it, my out of pocket was "only $120, but still...) and I had to send them back, because they weren't right!!!

SAME prescription from EyeBuyDirect $46.90 (includes shipping) and worked perfect, clear and sharp, right out of the box!!

Prescription reading/computer glasses from Zenni $8, I got two!!

Semi-rimless bifocals from Zenni, $25!!!

Bottom line is, got about 8 pair online for less than the optometrist glasses... and they all worked fine right out of the box!!!

Did I "save money?" No, but I certainly spent it much more wisely, and got a lot more for my hard-earned dollars.

If this is what happens when global competition meets the eyecare/eyewear industry, imagine how it could affect the entire pharmaceutical/health care industry...

 
At May 27, 2008 at 9:54 AM Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your site after a long & tiresome search for the perfect frames in many local retail locations. That search helped me realize the size and shape of what I wanted but I could not bring myself to pay the amount the retail locations were charging.
I ttok the plunge and ordered from Goggles4u.com and got a great pair of glasses that I really like for less than $40 and 2 weeks time.
Thank you, thank you.

 
At September 4, 2008 at 7:28 PM Mike Katz OD said...

the reason profits got so inflated is because of a series of sort of "deals" cut between the 3 Os Optcianry,optometry,opthamology because they all faced the same devil, the optical chain.

Its a sort of price fixing as it is considered very unprofessional to discount etc and yet they were getting killed. Today's price level is pure gravy for the chains, and keeps the average small guy able to eeke out a living.

The internet for the only profit center left in the business will kill the status quo and force Change on a field that has taken such a short term stance will be fatal and we will some major upheavals along the way. Even competition from on line contacts is dismissal of its importance and the response is obnoxiousness towards the patient, not answering etc.

Its said but thats the way the business is run today, except for newer more radical thinkers like myself, who feel the disdain seen on me by my fellow classmates is because I am simply running towards the door as the theatre burns because I do want to survive , to continue to earn a living for the only service I know how to provide, and have worked in for more than 35 years.

 
At October 2, 2008 at 6:04 PM Anonymous said...

never again will I be marched in to an optomitrist office to sell me over priced frames and lenses. I am completely satisified, and am telling all my friends.

 
At October 3, 2008 at 11:40 AM Phil Kennedy said...

Ya, LensCrafters is little more than a scam waiting to happen. Just a short note to thank on line Replace-A-Lens super excellent job. I really had never used an online optical company but theirs turned out to be the absolute best from the help I received on the phone to the follow up when I sent my glasses in. The service could not have been any faster. As I have astigmatism and had no glasses or contacts and at the time was virtually blind they expedited my order. Explaining the same problem to LensCrafters they said a week minimum as I stared in at their full line optical shop behind glass. I estimate my savings online at approximately $200 and not sacrificing anything. In fact everything was top of the line and the best available with no run around hidden charges.

Phil Kennedy
Balch Springs , Texas

 
At November 9, 2008 at 11:35 AM MechE undergrad said...

Thank you for sharing your information with the world. Having worn the same set of eyeglasses for the past four years and finally in need of new ones, I am glad I stumbled upon your site before forking over $200/$300 to eyeglass stores in the mall.

 
At November 10, 2008 at 4:18 PM Anonymous said...

This may be hard to beleive, but I found out about on-line buying about 2 1/2 years ago. Since that time I have purchased about 125 pairs of glasses for many young ladies. I have many friends in optics, and have found several that will do eye exams for under $35.00 for glasses. They go an exam, bring a copy to me, I wait untill I have 4 - 8 orders and place 1 order thus only having 1 shipping charge. Glasses come in and I am a hero to these girls. It allows me to tell the ladies how much they should wear their new glasses. I have found that sports bars is a great place to get friendly with a few ladies because most don't have vision insurance and I am doing them a BIG favor.
Then they tell others to see me.
So God bless the on-line retailers (Zenni is great)

 
At February 6, 2009 at 10:22 AM Anonymous said...

I am in need of a little help, I had an exam and received my rx. It reads as -2.00-050x086 for od and -2.25-0.25x008 for os. When i went to order glasses they asked for more than three factors, which of the figures above correspond to the requested items? Thanks

 
At February 6, 2009 at 11:21 AM Pete said...

anonymous,

I'm no optician, but pretty sure you're looking at:

OD
Sphere: -2.00
Cylinder: -0.50
Axis: 086

OS
Sphere: -2.25
Cylinder: -0.25
Axis: 008

Copy your pescription into the comments though or fax it. Some have a fax I assume.

 
At February 17, 2009 at 3:35 PM Anonymous said...

I just bought a new pair of $54 glasses on eyebuydirect.com and love them. After having considered my medical savings account and my "need" for a spare pair, I've got another pair on order. I just got back from my safety department to order my glasses from them (we can every two years) and they were amazed at the value I got for the money on my glasses. So... now, within a few weeks, I will have three pairs of new glasses for less than half the price of what I paid for a pair three years ago.

Thanks for all you do and keep up the cheap!

 
At February 22, 2009 at 6:17 PM Lindsay K. said...

Sorry if this has been addressed before, but I simply MUST know! Have you found any sort of alternative for contacts? Obviously there are places like 1800Contacts, but the ones I need are still upwards of $100 a box. They are the monthly night & days. I love them and don't really want to go back to glasses, but I am curious if prices for contacts are valid or if they have HUGE markups like glasses.

 
At March 1, 2009 at 7:59 AM Lynnea B said...

Just came across this blog and looked at Zenni. I got new glasses in Oct at LensC. Cost $425. This was with a 1/2 price lens special. I have a strong bifocal, but was pleased to get a funky purple frame with a small lens, just a bit choked up at the price. I am definitely going to browse the selections and give this a try. I am a hairstylist and would love to have numerous pairs to wear as my mood/fashion/haircolor changes!

 
At May 20, 2009 at 1:01 PM Eki said...

I am completely converted! I got 10 pairs from Zenni in the last few months and they are excellent! Unfortunately, I did not know about online glasses until after I paid $400 (after insurance adjustments) for a pair of glasses! I could have had 20 pairs for that amount from Zenni! And to tell you the truth, I like the Zenni pairs much much more and wear then more frequently than my expensive pair. It makes me nauseated to think how much profit local retailers make - if I didn't have to get an eye exam, I would steer clear from all of them. Next time I need an exam, I will call around and make sure to go to an optometrist who does not have a retail practice as well!

 
At May 27, 2009 at 6:10 AM Anonymous said...

I've gone 8+ years without new glasses, because I honestly can't afford to pay $200+ on them. Feed the kids first and all that jazz. Now I can finally get a pair that won't break the bank. Many business industries are changing rapidly these days, the eye wear industry among them, and I think success will depend on whether they can change too. Get with the program, we are tired of paying $200 for your "expertise."

 
At July 19, 2009 at 4:02 PM Anonymous said...

I am wanting to buy my first glasses on line. I am going for an exam and will get my prescription. I have 2 questions. Do I need frame measurements? Is there anything in particular I need to watch for see I need progressive lens?

 
At October 6, 2009 at 9:19 PM Bezalel said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you're doing here!!! I've been wearing glasses for 28 years (think of how much I've spent!!) and this info is a godsend. Keep it up!!

 
At October 17, 2009 at 1:32 AM lostpancake said...

I think the one thing missing here in the analysis is that we're only looking at the profit margin on the glasses themselves.

What about what it costs to have full-time staff? To lease a storefront, pay insurance, do advertising? Personalized service? Process insurance? Hold inventory? Then, they may still be making a healthy profit, but not $165 per pair. If you don't need service or a personal touch, that's what the internet is for.

 
At November 2, 2009 at 11:33 PM Anonymous said...

Well said, lostpancake.

And how many pairs of glasses purchased online are meekly brought in to the local optometrist's office 2 weeks later, for slight adjustments that make a world of difference in both comfort and visual acuity?

 
At January 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM Anonymous said...

I ordered glasses from Optical4Less and had a great experience. I was hesitant to order on line, since I wear progressive frameless glasses. But Wow, they arrived about 10 days later and were perfect. Their website is good, you can even upload your own photo to "try on" glasses. It really explains well how to measure and all to be able to order with confidence. BUT, I also ordered from Goggles4U and had a terrible experience. They did not have the good selection like Optical4 Less, but anyway I did place order, it took about 2 months to arrive and they didn't seem right, so I went to my doctors and he said that the left lens was upside down! I contacted Googles4U by email and they said I could place a new order and have a credit. It was a hassle, but I did place a new order and that was in October, well here it is Jan. 27 and I still have not received them! I have contacted them several times and they said "should arrive soon", well finally a few days ago, I told them I want a refund, and they answered today saying they will process it, so waiting to see how long that takes! I would not hesitate to order from Optical4Less again, but NEVER from Goggles4U.

 
At February 17, 2010 at 8:48 AM Mel said...

Help! I ordered glasses 6 months ago from goggles4u.com. I had ordered photogray and they didn't come with the coating. I sent them a confirmation photo and they refunded my money, since I decided I didn't want it. In the last month, they have started graying at random times and not across the whole lens. They won't replace the lenses. Is there anything I can do?

 
At March 9, 2010 at 9:47 PM Anonymous said...

Hey all you online glasses lovers!Answer me this:

Do you think the state and federal governments should regulate ophthalmic lenses for accuracy, impact resistance, and quality?

Do you think that state governments should regulate eye doctors and opticians?

Do you think federal and state authorities should accredit colleges of medicine and optometry?

Do you think you should have legal recourse if you have a product liability issue?

Do you think drugs should have prescriptions? Contact lenses? Glasses?

Why do pharmacists need to go to school for so long and pass board exams and be licensed by the state?

Hey, you freedom-loving libertarians! You rock on with your purchase of eyeglasses from unregulated sources! You enjoy your savings!

We don't need no stinking doctors or eye care professionals! Rip-off artists! Professional care is for sissies!

Your airline captain? He doesn't pay extra for his glasses, and I'm glad he didn't get ripped!

Your kids' school bus driver? (Come on, you know what they make?)

Your friendly 18-wheel over the road trucker coming at you at 2:00 am? Why pay more? Why have fancy-pants professional care?!

Long live the internet! Long live the black market! Long live China!

Down with regulations. Down with certification. Down with professionals. Down with the optical industry. Down with your state legislature and state boards of opticianry and optometry. Down with the FTC!

Freedom to do what we damn well please!

 
At April 20, 2010 at 5:32 AM Dana said...

I have been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember and could not afford the $400.00+ price tag. I had gone 2 1/2 years, my husband 6! I had saved an article from the St. Pete Times from over 3 years ago and decided to give it a try. I ordered form Zenni, a piar for each of us, and they arrived yesterday, both my huband and I are thrilled! I have already ordered another pair! Thank You!

 
At June 21, 2010 at 7:25 AM Anonymous said...

Ira, I ordered some progressive glasses from 39Dollar Glasses after reading their return policy under FAQ: What if I don't like my glasses - can I exchange them? Frequently, we can re-cut the lenses into a new style of your choosing for FREE! (less shipping) . If your lenses cannot be reused in the new style, we will gladly exchange your glasses for any new pair of your choosing or issue you a full refund, less a small 30% new lens restocking fee.

I rec'd my glasses and hate the frames. They look a lot larger on my face than I expected. So I emailed them that I didn't like the frames and could I exchange them? I got an email back that it would be a 30% re-cutting fee plus shipping.

They didn't give me an opportunity to pick out new frames to see if they could be re-cut. I feel stuck now as by the time I pay the extra 30%, shipping, etc, I could've bought some cute glasses at Penney's that I could've tried on.

Why are they not honoring their exchange policy? Is there anything I can do about this? They made it sound so fool-proof, but I'm the fool, it seems.

 
At July 3, 2010 at 5:03 PM Anonymous said...

Latest in DIY optometry with $2 gadget and an iPhone:
http://web.media.mit.edu/~pamplona/NETRA/

 
At November 19, 2010 at 6:18 PM Julie said...

I purchased form Eyebuydirect on Oct 13th. Received order on October 25th. Merchandise arrived damaged. Neither the shipping carton nor the eye glass case were sturdy and they were crushed during shipping. The galsses were severly bent. Contacted Eyebuy direct about replacement of refund. They requested digital images of damaged merchandise, which I supplied. They agreed to replace. I shipped the return merchandise complete with the return form on Oct 29th. As of today Nov. 19th I have still not recieved my replacement.Contacted company again this morning to verify that they had received the return of merchandise and when I could expect my replacement. They replied saying they have not received the return and to please send a scan or jpeg of my postal receipt. This I will do shortly. However,unless the package was lost in the mail it should have arrived in less than a month.

 
At November 20, 2010 at 9:37 AM RedStickHam said...

To the Anonymous poster on March 9 who posted about unregulated medical care, I have a response.

Would you believe thanks to online glasses, I'm paying LESS for MORE regulated health care? Let me explain.

I have bought glasses online from stores in New York, New Jersey, Washington, and California, and my wife had new lenses installed into an existing frame by a company in Florida. After checking local prices, we found we paid considerably less than if we had gone to a brick and more optical shop.

Let me explain how I ended up paying less for more regulation. In the U.S., all 50 states require the optometrists who do the exams and write prescriptions to be licensed, but only 22 states require the opticians, i.e. the people who make the glasses, to be licensed and the 5 states I mentioned are amongst those 22. The state my wife and I live in, Louisiana, does not require licensing for opticians, so anyone can make glasses here. You can say I paid less for a licensed person to make my glasses than I would for an unlicensed person to do so.

I also got good quality, nicer looking glasses for less money. There are situations where your arguments just don't hold water.

Just a thought.

 

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