I bought a kick-ass espresso machine from a friend a couple of months ago and apart from being in a highly-caffeinated buzz during that time, I've learned that the online eyeglasses business is not the only industry with quality control and order management issues.
Obviously, I knew this already -- heck, I even had a pretty heavily hit blog entry along the same lines a couple years back -- but once again, it's important to realize that every time you order something there is a risk that it's not going to work out or show up in a timely manner.
It really doesn't matter if you're standing in a store at a register with item in hand, sitting at your computer late at night ordering espresso machine accessories (and then finding out that they're back-ordered and then ordering them from someone else and then finding out that even after you canceled the first order, they charged you and shipped them anyway), or sitting in a chair across from a part-time "LensCrafter". There is a risk that what you are expecting to receive in return for your cash, will not work out.
How many things have you returned in the past year to Target, Best Buy or Wal*Mart? Seems like every time I walk into one of these stores there is a line at customer service and a guy with an armload of parts to something that didn't work out or a kid with three copies of the video game he wanted for his birthday.
The hassle is exacerbated in online transactions with the added headache of shipping, RMAs, and trying to get in touch with someone who can authorize a return.
This risk is real -- and with online glasses, the risk increases with a prescription's strength and complexity. It's also the primary reason I made my initial eyeglasses orders from more than one retailer. When I needed glasses, it just made sense.
I'm reasonably sure that the next pair of glasses I order will be just fine (like 14 of my 15 online pairs -- a much better ratio than my "brick and mortar" experiences), but when I talk to friends who are ready to place their first orders, I stress the importance of trying a couple of different places, if they can, to avoid the "risk of inconvenience".
[Ed. Note: The Rancilio Siliva is a FINE piece of hand-crafted wonderfulness that is well on its way to paying for itself. My wife and I like espresso -- a lot -- and it's addition to my kitchen counter is keeping me away from the coffee shop -- and the $5 drinks.]