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In an ongoing effort to identify the barriers to purchase, I'd love to get your responses to the following question:

What factors have contributed to not buying your eyeglasses online?

I contemplated a poll for this, but quickly realized that I probably don't fully understand enough of the reasons well enough to list them.

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At November 20, 2007 at 1:54 AM Anonymous said...

I'm lazy and cheap. Truth be told, I haven't had my eyes checked in a few years because my vision hasn't gotten any worse. I'm essentially putting things off until I break my current pair. I realize that's not a good idea, since that will mean I'd need an emergency replacement, so I do hope to get off my butt before that happens.

The other thing I'm reluctant to do is walk into a shop with walls and walls (and walls!) of frames and suffer the hard sell. What would be a very nice addition to your site is a listing or reviews of optometrists that are more motivated by the medial prescription aspect and less motivated by the retail sales aspect.

At November 20, 2007 at 1:08 PM GG said...

I have bought online. Three pairs already. I am really satisfied with my experiences, even though they weren’t flawless. However, I have not succeeded in convincing ANYBODY ELSE to do so. That means friends, relatives and even my secretary who recently paid an optician for a pair of ordinary glasses about 5 times what I pay on line. And she makes a lot less money than me. And mind you, we had discussed the subject, she had actually received my glasses (I have them sent at my office), and I had volunteered to help her if she decided to buy on line.
Nevertheless, at least the people I know are curious, but not willing to take the plunge. I have been given a variety of reasons:
1.- I cannot imagine how they look on me if I don’t try the frames.-
2.- How shall I know if they are comfortable?-
3.- How will I know if they are made accurately to my prescription.-
4.- You should support the local guy.-
In my view, points 1 and 4 have no answer.-
Point 2. I have bought glasses in shops (actually, they have been sold to me), which, after some time, I have found were not really comfortable. But I have paid such amounts for them that I could not say “OK. I’ll buy new ones and keep these as spares”. Also, people are rather lazy to go and measure their old glasses different sizes and buy according to that, which is what I do, following Ira`s advice.-
Point 3: How do you know that if you buy in the mall? Again, it can happen the same, you have the same problems, probably worst response from the “local guy”, several trips to the mall instead of mails sent and, again, you have paid much more if all goes wrong.-

At November 20, 2007 at 2:24 PM Anonymous said...

I was mainly waiting for a new eye exam & prescription ... which I got a few weeks ago. Ran to the computer, ordered up a pair from Optical4Less, and received them last night. The prescription was a minor fix to my current one, so I figured this was a cheap and easy way to test it.

Results? Excellent. The frames are probably a bit small for my face, but still look good. The prescription is dead on. I will have my optician refill the lenses on my old frames, since I LOVE them ... but I ain't springing for $200 frames ever again.

I've been waiting, well, pretty much a YEAR to do this, as I ran into this site 3 months after dropping $700 on two pairs of new glasses last summer (2006).

At November 20, 2007 at 7:29 PM Anonymous said...

I think your answer to 2 and 3 is also an answer to 4: There is no reason to expect your support of the local guy is going to translate to better support from the local guy. I don't think Ira's site would exist if the local shops were offering a fair price for their services.

The answer to 1 is sort of fuzzy, though. You can get a preview shot of frames on your face with many online sites, but I agree that virtual shopping is unsatisfying for some items. Glasses are kind of like clothes that way; you'd really like to try wearing them before you commit to buying them.

I wonder if now might not be the perfect time start a gift-giving drive for all the "haven't". I mean, your secretary already got a recent prescription, so what's the harm in asking her for it so you can make sure she has a spare pair at the office? :-) I think that once the initial reluctance is overcome, most people would end up buying at least as many glasses as they buy shoes!

At November 22, 2007 at 12:45 AM Happy Steve said...

in trying to convince a friend to try it, he says ultimately he'd really like to actually try on the frames before buying.

At November 22, 2007 at 7:06 PM Gloria said...

I actually did buy a pair online ... they were ever so slightly large, but still fit, and of course, pretty damn good for the price.

The only reason I'm reluctant to keep buying more is that I really like to try on glasses. I have a difficult face shape and with my sense of aesthetic judgment, it's hard for me to know for sure what kind of frames look good on me without actually trying them on.

At November 23, 2007 at 8:37 AM GG said...

Answer to Anonymous: I don´t know why this did not occur to me. Maybe is just that I am not a generous chap. Fortunately I shall have no occasion to find out, since she quit the job in late September because she moved to another town.

At November 23, 2007 at 2:48 PM Anonymous said...

I know I'll probably get some flack here, but I am one of those evil opticians you guys are talking about. My question I would ask is, if you have any problems with these glasses who do you go to? If they're not fitting right, what do you do? I know from experiance, you come to see me. Maybe no me personally, but you go see an optician. And chances are, you don't get charged for the fix.

To the anonymous poster who said we should be offering a 'fair' price for glasses, I'll ask, what's fair? Just barely above cost? Because that's what you're getting from online sites. They have no overhead. They don't have to pay staff, they don't have to pay for a building, etc etc. I cost money. I go to school for my trade, so offices have to pay me. I'm sure you don't like that, but that's the way the world works. I'm sure some, if not most of you will have great success with single-vision lenses, and to a lesser extent, lined bifocals. But when you get into progressive lenses, specialty lenses, and any problems that occur with those, you're going to come see me. Then you're happy I'm there. So please, don't rag on us too hard. :)

At November 24, 2007 at 6:18 AM Anonymous said...

Nobody is calling you evil, it's just that your business model is changing and you can either fight it and lose, or figure out a way that the Internet allows you to do your job better.

"And chances are, you don't get charged for the fix."

You damn well better not charge me for fixing glasses I bought from you and paid through the nose for. If anything, you should be offering me a partial refund for not doing the job right in the first place. If you're not charging some random stranger to fix glasses they got elsewhere, then your business model is fundamentally flawed.

"They don't have to pay staff, they don't have to pay for a building, etc etc."

Online glasses aren't simply wished into existence. Nobody is saying your services don't have value, but it is a mistake to hide your value in the product price. As I said, I'm happy to pay more for a local product, but unless you actually provide a fair service to your local community, you should not be at all surprised when more and more of them find they can get what they need online for a fraction of the cost.

At November 26, 2007 at 1:18 PM GG said...

I think the “evil” optician has a point here in which I have often thought:
I can buy online because I have plenty of old glasses which I can measure in order to know which the right size is for me. But what if had never worn glasses and brick and mortar shops did not exist? How will I get my very first pair without actually trying some models in order to see which fits me best?
I don’t see as important that the optician fits the glasses to your face since that is something I have been doing better than any optician for more than 30 years. You do not need much skill to do it and I find I can do it better because I “feel” the glasses in my face.
But anyway I find that it would be impossible that the only option to buy glasses would be on line.
“Real” shops are needed. The problem is that the prices they charge are really too much. Glasses have been constantly rising for the past decades and I believe they are now out of control.
As in many other markets, the ridiculous prices charged by the “top” brands, pull up the prices of the mid price (and even low price) articles.-
A solution needs to exist, which is not the disappearance of the local opticians which for me, is highly undesirable, but will eventually happen if things continue as they are.-

At November 29, 2007 at 12:13 PM Peter Schott said...

Hadn't even thought of it before, but probably the main reason I don't buy glasses online to date has been that I wear contacts daily. Since we have the newer disposables that can be worn night and day for 2-4 weeks, I haven't really bothered with getting new glasses. Next time I or my wife update a prescription, we'll definitely keep this in mind. Insurance will cover the contacts, but not both glasses and contacts. This would be a great way to get her glasses up to date. My prescription hasn't changed to much, but hers has gotten quite a bit worse making the glasses not unusable, but definitely outdated.

I would like the ability to try on frames to be sure they fit, but with the amount I wear glasses, it's probably not a huge deal. I'm not into designer frames, so there's no major worry about those either.

At November 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM Anonymous said...

Just surfed on in from 43folders.

I looked at the selection at most of the high rated sites and I am not impressed with the selection of magentic clip ons offered at the online retailers. Most of the sites have like 3 or less frames with clips ons, and they are generally more expensive.

At November 29, 2007 at 12:52 PM Anonymous said...

And the offices when entering for a repair, or arm adjustment etc always greet you with a sigh and eye rolling... even if you just got them two weeks ago... grumble grumble!

At November 29, 2007 at 4:58 PM Anonymous said...

I tend to procrastinate until I actually break my glasses, then I'm so desperate for a replacement pair that I wind up buying them from the optometrist for $400.

At November 29, 2007 at 5:12 PM Anonymous said...

And one more thing ... in looking at the sites you have linked they don't carry the style I want. I've been getting Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses with the lenses popped out and the prescription lenses put in for years. I'm not that loyal to Ray-Ban per se but I am loyal to this classic (signature) style.

Also, to add my $.02 to the debate above - the opticion pointing out the service that he provides is ultimately right but I think that many customers have a hard time justifying paying $200++ "in case" our glasses don't fit and we need to visit for an adjustment (and frankly I've watched the adjustments closely enough for years that I now do them myself).

Instead, here's an idea to make some money - why not team up with the online sellers to provide local services/fittings to their buyers? Set up an agreement to carry their frames and do adjustments for a cut of sales in your geography. That way, web buyers would be driven to your office to try them on (and maybe use your services) and you can make a buck in the process. Everyone wins.

At November 29, 2007 at 5:37 PM P. Sternberg said...

My biggest hesitation is due to my rather extreme correction (9.0 / 9.25 sph, -2.25/-1.75 cyl). The effects of any errors are quadratic, so anything short of flawless is not acceptable. For those not used to interpreting these numbers, my vision starts to blur at about six inches.

There's also the subtle art of rolling the corner edges so my lenses are less than half an inch thick at the outside.

Does anyone with similarly horrendous eyesight have experience with any online sellers? If so, please respond in the thread!

At November 29, 2007 at 6:18 PM Anonymous said...

When I made the comment on paying for adjustments, I was NOT talking about glasses you've purchased from me. I was talking about the pairs bought online. When you bend your frames so they don't fit anymore, or they're either so tight they leave red marks, or so loose they fall down your nose. Where do you go to get these things fixed? You go to an optician. (again, not aiming that at any one person in perticular). Chances are though, even though you didn't purchace them there, you won't be charged for them. That's all I was saying on that point.

The problem is, there is no way the net can make me do my job better. It might allow me to do it quicker, but definatly not better. My job isn't simply to fill a prescription. It's to find out what your needs are when it comes to glasses, and help you find solutions. I'm there to help you find a proper fitting pair of glasses. Most people aren't sure what that means even if they can see the glasses and try them on, let alone when they can't.

I can completely understand everyone's problems with pushy sales people. I can't stand them either, and believe me when I say there are definatly problems with my profession when it comes to the "Get them in, get them out" mentality. But not everyone is like that, and I'm finding the newer generation of Opticians (I'm including myself in that, I'm 22) are better than a lot of the older ones when it comes to not being pushy.

Long story short, I'm happy you're happy with your glasses. In the end you're seeing better than without them, and that's never a bad thing. All I ask is, if you do have a problem with them, and go see an optician to fix them, let them know straight from the start that you got them online, pay them for their service, and try to rethink buying them online. In the end glasses ARE a medical device, and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't buy my drugs, a hearing aid, or a prostetic arm online.

At November 29, 2007 at 10:36 PM Anonymous said...

I should get new glasses this year, but what's holding me back now is the exam. I've only had one pair of specs ever and i bought those where I had the exam.

Now, I have no insurance to cover vision and I don't know how much I should pay for an exam.

At November 30, 2007 at 9:12 AM Anonymous said...

I have been looking at the possibility of getting some glasses for my wife who has a VERY strong prescription (-13, -13.5), but so far i have been unable to find an online retailer that offers such strong prescriptions.

At November 30, 2007 at 1:48 PM Anonymous said...

Exam price: Just go into any of the big box retailers like Costco or Wal-Mart and your exam should cost you no more than $50. Then have them write down your pupillary distance (PD) and simply purchase your spectacles online.

At December 4, 2007 at 11:38 AM Anonymous said...

I don't like to purchase glasses online because I prefer the personal touch of my local business run by a cranky old Russian guy.

If all I had were chains, I would buy online.

At December 5, 2007 at 8:15 AM Maria Stahl said...

Because I need bifocals and I am nervous about them coming out wrong. That's the only reason. :o) Well, that and the fact that every time I pick out a pair of frames I like, the website tells me I can't have them in no-line bifocals, so I back out. Maybe I'll get brave and try some traditional bifocals.

At December 17, 2007 at 10:26 AM Anonymous said...

I am investigating/considering on line purchase of glasses, but so far am put off by some of the negative comments I've seen here. I am worried about buying something I've not tried on for appearance and comfort. I am also concerned about a proper PD measurement. Finally, I think it is not fair to a storefront to go in and try on all their samples prior to ordering on line. So, I may just go back to my optician of 20 years. In the past, he has replaced anything that has broken (clip ons, eyeglass frames, frame screws, etc.) and will adjust the frames as they become mis-aligned. I wonder if there are some things that are better not "outsourced."

At December 29, 2007 at 12:48 PM Miss Melissa said...

I post regularly at the debate board I recently started a thread there about buying eyeglasses online and at least 6 people, if not more, have ordered online happily since then. I answered lots of questions, and gave everyone the link to Glassy Eyes. I also gave you the credit for turning me on to online eye wear, Ira! We're fortunate at that board to have a very helpful and open minded optometrist who gave us tips about possible pitfalls without nay saying the online buying experience entirely.

IRL, I don't think anyone I've talked to about online eye wear has tried it yet. I asked a couple of people about it and ironically enough, they were boggled by the many choices and just shut down.

At December 29, 2007 at 2:34 PM Anonymous said...

the only thing that has kept me from trying it is getting organized enough to measure my PD myself (find a ruler? i know that's sad) and slog through all the choices.

ALSO, my optician gives me a huge amount of trouble when i ask for my prescription. i've done it twice (i stupidly lost it the first time) and both times the staff pretty much refused to give it to me, then told me it would do me no good because my last exam was eight years ago. (they can't even read their own charts, as my last exam was about 18 months ago.) FRUSTRATING.

i'm going to do it this month, however! it's a new year's resolution!

At January 12, 2008 at 1:47 PM Anonymous said...

I did buy a pair from 39 glasses (actually 10 with coupon) for my son who just needs a backup for when he is not wearing his contacts. I just went to the local optometrist for my first pair of bifocals- $440 dollars! But I have a strong prescription and I feel that progressive lenses need to be measured exactly. I never tried bificals before and having follow up is important.


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