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I spent a bunch of time sitting in a hotel and in a hospital lounge over the past month in Fargo, North Dakota -- a four hour drive Northwest from my home in the Twin Cities. Fargo in the early spring is a crap-shoot. It can be almost 60 in the afternoon and drop 8-inches of snow on you overnight. It also has a boatload of optical stores lining 13th Avenue between University and West Acres Mall. One of these stores caught my attention.

One Saturday morning, a few weeks ago, on the way to my complimentary breakfast, I grabbed a complimentary copy of the early edition of the Sunday Fargo-Forum off of the hotel front desk. A glossy advertisement fell at my feet as I put it under my arm. Normally, I'd pick something like this up and toss it with the rest of the ads into the nearest garbage can, but having a trained eye to the eyeglasses industry, this ad made me forget my complimentary coffee on the bookshelf next to the complimentary sightseeing pamphlets.

The ad for Dr. Barnes' Eyemart Express, using cleavage-bearing eyeglasses models exclaimed, "1 Pair of Glasses $38.74†" and another offer of "2 Pairs of Glasses $67.92†."

The small print stated:
† Some restrictions apply. Includes frames up to $19.95 and single vision plastic lenses.

I needed to see what all of this was about. We don't have any of Dr. Barnes' eyeglass joints in Minneapolis (or my beloved St. Paul). A quick drive up the road and I was there. The experience was almost exactly like my experience in nearly every other eyeglasses store I'd been in -- except it was busy. There were eight to ten discreet groups of people milling about trying to get help from the two employees working the floor. I overheard a woman telling her husband to go and get in line -- that they'd already been waiting for nearly a half-hour.

I also saw the standard fare of second-tier brand names and pseudo-brand name generics -- I laughed out loud when I came upon the "LOL" case.

I scurried about looking for the frames that fit the bill of the aforementioned deals knowing there was no way I was going to get any help within the limited window of time I had for this trip. I finally found them -- in the back-side of a display case in the middle of the sales-floor. These frames seemed solid enough and not unlike many of the frames you'd see at the online retailers listed to the left. The major difference was that there appeared to be only about 20 frames to choose from at this $19.95 price point.

I looked around for a lens price list and found a partial marketing list in a drawer that had been left open. They offer something called the "Protection Plus Package" which includes Scratch Resistant Coating for $20, UV protection for $20, and Tint for $15. It also includes a one-year warranty on scratches. They bundle these and "give" it to you for $29 -- but that isn't the lens cost. The lenses start at about $20.

If you want anti-reflective coating, you're going to spend an additional $45 or $60 per pair (they offer two levels of AR). I had better luck getting my questions answered on the phone than in the store.

To break it down, you'll be spending approximately $115 to $130 for a pair of glasses VERY similar in make-up to the $20 - $40 glasses you're buying at the places to the left.

Is $100 a lot to spend on a pair of eyeglasses? No, compared to LensCrafters, but yes compared to your online options.

I think there is a place for a store like this -- but maybe not this store. I think it's possible that at some point in the near future, you'll see someone borrow some of the ideas of the online stores and take them to a strip mall near you. $50 for a pair of utilitarian glasses with AR, UV and anti-scratch that you can pick up tomorrow -- $30 (or less) if you're willing to wait a couple of weeks for them to arrive in a big box from China.

All in all, Dr. Barnes' Eyemart Express plays a bit too much with the bait and switch to be worth your time. You can do better, for much less dough -- online.

Too good to be true? Too expensive to be sure.

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At April 14, 2008 at 9:34 AM Jason Whiting said...

When you said 'garbage can' above, did you mean 'recycling bin'?


At April 14, 2008 at 10:56 AM Ira said...

I laughed when I read this comment, because I originally had "recycling bin" in the post, but changed it for two reasons; first, it didn't roll off the tongue as well, and secondly there truly was no recycling bin anywhere to be seen in the hotel.

I actually wondered when I wrote it if people would call me on it.

Staring out the window at the recycling bin at the end of the driveway right now.

At April 18, 2008 at 12:10 PM Anonymous said...

Off topic:

Hi Ira,

Something wrong with the forum posting?

I saw my posts listed multiple times, and I am not alone.

Just wonder

At April 18, 2008 at 2:15 PM Unknown said...


Assuming you can get to the groups...
here is an explanation/rant to read.

At April 22, 2008 at 10:29 PM Anonymous said...

stop bahsing lenscrafters you fag.

At April 23, 2008 at 12:38 PM Ira said...



At September 18, 2016 at 9:20 AM Unknown said...

I just got two pair of single vision glasses for $21.50. Had great customer service and my glasses were ready same day.. I love eyemart.


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