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There are a number of great benefits to living within a five mile radius of the Mall of America; people watching, getting rid of the winter blues for even an hour on a Tuesday evening in February, and seeing how corporate retail is doing its best to eliminate or consume the competition. That last one and the fact that it is an iconic example for the needs of this post are the most important to me right now.

Case in point, this is a mall with over 500 stores. There are 18 jewelry stores, 33 stores that sell shoes, and 51 carts (spreading like a cancer) to fight past in the walkways.

There are also 7 stores that deal with eyeglasses. Of these seven, four deal specifically with prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. THREE OF THESE FOUR are owned by the Italian Luxottica Group S.p.A. -- I've never seen a customer in the fourth one.

Luxottica is the closest thing to a monopoly, I can come up with. Are you pissed off at LensCrafters? Just go to Pearle Vision right? Nope. Same company. Surely, Target or Sears will get you clear of the bad taste LenCrafters has left you with. No again.

Luxottica, founded by the extremely wealthy ($11.5B, Top 50 Richest Globally) Leonardo Del Vecchio has its hands in the eyeglasses market from nearly every angle; retail, wholesale, licensed and house brands (perhaps you read about them purchasing Oakley a few weeks back for over $2.5 BILLION)...

They even have a scam going in the optical insurance arena. If you have EyeMed Insurance, it's not in your best interest to use any of the Luxottica retailers/brands. More on that in a future article.

I knew they were omnipresent in this industry, but it never dawned on me that they were in so deep. How the Federal Trade Commission has allowed this to happen over and over again with Luxottica should have you shaking your head in the same way I'm shaking mine. I'm not a business writer, so if you're interested, this article will give you a better idea of the specifics of the deal.

There are only a few ways to avoid the Luxottica steamroller:

  • shop the little guy and avoid these brands (Arnette, Killer Loop, Luxottica, Persol, Ray-Ban, Revo, Sferoflex, Vogue, Adrienne Vittadini, Anne Klein, Brooks Brothers, Bvlgari, Byblos, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, D&G, Donna Karan, DKNY, Genny, Miu Miu, Moschino, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sergio Tacchini, Versace, Versus)

  • shop at Costco, Sams Club or Walmart (shudder) and avoid the same list of brands

  • shop online, at one of the stores listed at the top of each of the pages on this site

I think the third option is the most cost-effective. I think you'll agree.

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I just spent the weekend in Pipestone, Minnesota. We camped in a pair of tepees with some friends (and about every RV'r West of the Mississippi). Once you've gone to the Pipestone National Monument, and walked through town, there really isn't a whole lot left to do but go to the pool -- especially when it's 98 degrees and there aren't a whole lot of trees (tepees as well designed as they are, weren't apparently fitted with air conditioning).

My point as related to the eyeglasses thing is this:

I didn't worry about breaking my glasses once. I wore one of my pairs of sunglasses in the pool all day, and didn't worry about losing them at all. Now, I wouldn't be thrilled if I lost a couple of twenty dollar bills -- the cost of the glasses I was wearing, but I also, wouldn't be in despair. The same can not be said of losing or breaking a $400 pair of glasses.

I swam with them and played with the kids and they're good as new.

It's nice to have one less thing to worry about.

Also, if you're going to get stuck in an RV park, pick a weekend with a daytime NASCAR race, you'll have the pool to yourself -- you'll thank me.