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Upon return from my weekend up North, I see this disaster. I have no idea what has caused it and my loosely planned evening of playing Mario Kart is now to be filled with unraveling the mystery of the disappearing site format.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Vintage_Sunglasses.jpgIt's always a good idea to wear sunglasses in the bright sun regardless of season. There are safety concerns and maybe more important, beauty concerns to be considered. For most of us in the thrifty bespectacled masses, owning prescription sunglasses hasn't been an option and we've got the crow's feet to prove it. We muddled through with any number of strange and difficult clip-on arrangements or did as I did, went 20 years without prescription sunglasses. Contact lenses with sunglasses was always an option, but I've never been much of a contact lens wearer apart from sports.

One of the most important improvements in my life over the past year and a half is the addition of sunglasses and the ability to get affordable Transitions lenses. It's so much more pleasant to be outdoors and not have to be squinting all the time. You really don't know what you're missing until you get a pair.

Any of the retailers can set you up for as little as a few dollars extra ($0 extra at Goggles4U) for tinting. It really is a no-brainer.

Thanks for sharing your opinions in the first Optical4Less poll. It helped Albert out immensely.

For the record, the winning frames (and the lucky three who won them) were:

Dave K. won the 'hr048'.

[click for details]

Jennie W. won the 'co013'.
[click for details]

Jill M. won the 'p108'.
[click for details]

Actually we're all winners, because the top three frames you chose are now listed in the overstock area of the Optical4Less site and are available at some VERY nice prices.

I'm hoping to get some photos of these people in their new glasses when they arrive.

Thanks again!

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.]

Albert at Optical4Less has gotten enough feedback about the poll. Running it for three more weeks isn't going to change the choices, unless styles changed dramatically, so...

It's closing tonight.

At 10PM CDT.

I'll post the winning frames contact the winners over the next day or two.

Thanks for your input.

EyeBuyDirect is having a 2-for-1 sale starting on Monday, BUT we GlassyEyes viewers are getting an early shot at some great prices on great glasses. EyeBuyDirect has made a number of great changes to their site -- which is being relaunched during this event. The general public gets their shot starting on Monday.

One of the things I'm most impressed with (and there are a lot of things to talk about in an upcoming post on the new site), is the new 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. I had a number of conversations with the founder and a few others a couple of months ago, and this HUGE improvement was a product of those conversations.

I really feel like EBD is trying very hard to step up in this crowded field. Give them a try. What better time than during this sale? Some exclusions apply, but they're primarily the sport and brand-name frames. Check out the site for details.

Albert at Optical4Less first approached me about creating a poll to determine which of a group of frames were popular enough to be discounted to their "Overstock" prices. I've had quite a bit going on, and finally carved out yesterday afternoon to toss something together.

The available polling tools simply didn't have the features I needed for this. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it will gather the data. There will be three winners of free glasses -- one for each of the most popular three choices.

Poll Over

It will run for about a month three days.

Still going to bed.


More tomorrow.

Added a post (which I've since taken down). For some reason all of the image references for the site no longer work.

If it weren't 1:30AM, I'd sit here and manually change all of the references. As it is, I'm going to hit the sack, and hope it fixes itself. I'm relatively sure I'll be redoing this in the morning.

Good night.

We've looked at the options from 39DollarGlasses and Optical4Less. For the record, Goggles4U never got back to me using their standard "leave a message" interface. I've narrowed down the options to a couple of frames from each based as much on temple length as anything else.

There are lots of "moving pieces" here. Lenses, frames, lens material, coatings, prism correction and even shipping. Weighing all of these is a difficult task, but we'll see what we come up with here. "Best" option in RED.

Lots of options here.

  • $98 for standard progressive lenses
  • $187-198 for progressive photochromic lenses
  • $3 per degree, per lens of prism correction
  • $0 for AR coating
  • $0 for UV coating
  • $0 for anti-scratch coating
  • $50 for polycarb progressive lenses
  • $110 to $149 for CR-39 progressive Transitions® photochromic
  • $149 to $188 for polycarb progressive Transitions® photochromic
  • $19.99 for prism correction
  • $24.95 for AR coating
  • $0 for UV coating
  • $0 for anti-scratch coating
Edge: Slight edge to 39DollarGlasses.

39DollarGlasses with a High Index pair of CR-39 Photochromic Progressives with all coatings coming in at about $195. They use genuine Transitions® lenses which in a tie-breaker gives a slight edge.

Optical4Less runs at about $193 for standard Photochromic Progressives. Add $11 to get to a more premium product (or if you need them to darken to brown).
It's more difficult to judge this one as there isn't really an "apples to apples" comparison. What was apparent from the websites is that 39DollarGlasses has frames designed for bigger heads, where Optical4Less says they do, but the longest (non-Aviator) temple length I could find was the very slightly-above-average 140mm. Additionally, the limited color options for the frames from both retailers was a bummer.

  • $29 for an Aviator (145mm temples)
  • $34 for the MA080 in three color options (140mm temple)
  • $49 for a titanium T047 in GOLD (140mm temple)
Edge: Slight edge to 39DollarGlasses, based on color and temple length, but this is a bit of a hollow win as neither services this audience very well.

What's left? Well, a number of things that may tip the scales in either direction. What is it going to cost to ship? How quickly do we need them? What is my past history with either of these places?

I've had great luck with both of these places. The only concern I've personally had was the shipping method of my latest Shuron lensing. Not only did I not get a hard case but they shipped them back in a Priority Mail Envelope in the soft case I sent them in. Regardless, they came through unscathed, and the prescription is perfect. I've dealt personally with both of them as well on behalf of others who have had problems and both have rectified things nicely each and every time.

Shipping cost is
$8.00 for 5-9 day delivery from Hong Kong for Optical4Less. With this undoubtedly being a $100+ order, standard shipping is free from 39DollarGlasses.

I really think 39DollarGlasses pulls ahead here. Not only are they in the States, but if you need them quickly, they have a $17 shipping option for 2-3 day DHL.

This may be somewhat anti-climactic, but $200+ is still a lot of money. My suggestion in this case, is that the photochromic option is, well, optional. With the complexity of the prescription, and my little experience with ordering progressives, I'd suggest that Dean try this out with a pair of standard progressives. But, like I would do in my business, I don't want to decide how much someone else is willing to spend (or what features they can live without).

Bendable Titanium 8
Bendable Titanium 8
The Moscow

Here are my top four options from most to least expensive:
1) The Bendable Titanium 8 with the Hi-Index CR-39 progressive Transitions®, with the prism correction, and AR coating: $282.94 - 10% (GlassyEyes discount) = $254.65.

The Moscow with the Hi-Index CR-39 progressive Transitions®, with the prism correction, and AR coating: $232.94 - 10% (GlassyEyes discount) = $209.65.

The Bendable Titanium 8 with the Standard polycarb progressive (NON-photochromic), with the prism correction, and AR coating: $183.94 - 10% (GlassyEyes discount) = $165.55.

The Moscow with the Standard polycarb progressive (NON-photochromic), with the prism correction, and AR coating: $133.94 - 10% (GlassyEyes discount) = $120.55.

We'll see what he chooses and make the order. More to come...

Occasionally, a post in the forum rings home with something I've been thinking about recently. Today, I opened them up for the daily walk-through and Chuck's recent post struck me as something that needed to be discussed.

Well, it looks like it's time to reconsider the relative rankings of
the various e-tailers. I've had experience with only one, but of the
6 transactions I've had, they've all been perfect. That's Zenni.

The quality of their lenses has also been beyond reproach in every ophthalmologist actually checked the most recent pair of
glasses 3 times to confirm the results, as they were absolutely
perfect. I think this speaks volumes...lucking out on a single pair,
or even two, is possible...but 6 in a row?

Question: Of those who have used more than one e-tailer, how would
you rank them? Here's the list (in order of relative ranking) from
the main glassyeyes page. Judging only from my own experiences, I
would think Zenni should be a bit higher than it is.


Considering all the complaints about certain sites, lately...I figured
it would be worth revisiting this subject.

Here is my response (which tends to ramble -- please accept my apologies):

Appreciate the feedback Chuck. I removed the stars a month or so ago as Google Groups ate between three and nine months of tallied feedback results that I have no inclination to recreate. Additionally, those rankings had site navigation, lens options, support and other issues rolled into them. This open forum is a great place for people to discuss, and if they choose, rank the sites according to their experiences. I've been working on rewriting the reviews and moving them from the Google Groups pages, but it's taken a back seat to some "paying work" over the past month.

If you notice, the current list is in alphabetical order. 39$, EBD, G4U and O4L have all initiated contact with me and are almost always interested in "making things right" when things have gone wrong. The others haven't been interested in any sort of dialog. Zenni? They're the 900-lb gorilla in this market and in this instance specifically, they're a lesson in why you don't name your plumbing business "ZZZZAble Plumbing" and why the majority of company names in the phonebooks of yesteryear, seemed to start with A, AA, or AAA.

I'd bet the following numbers would thrill "ZZZZAble Plumbing" if they translated to calls like it's surely thrilled Zenni and their clicks. Since the end of last July, the links on the site have been tracked through a database I whipped up. I simply count clicks (all of you privacy advocates can get down off the ledge).

There have been over 200,000 clicks in the past nine months. Zenni is indeed the lowest, but only by a couple of thousand clicks -- but that could be related to the fact that I've had less to say about them. I haven't ordered a pair from them since the initial pair, and they don't relens (which has become more important to me as my prescription changes and I don't see anything that necessarily needs to join my collection). They have accounted for 14% of all clicks on the website on the strength of the "Big5" link alone. It ain't like people don't know who they are. They're a solid choice like the others.

All of the retailers seem to have cycles of good and bad (not entirely unrelated to staff turnover and issues such as that) and realistically -- at this point, none of them is standing out from the crowd (apart from a couple of higher-profile cases). I long for days of consistent excellence and accuracy, but thinking back to my days buying glasses in the mall stores, there are always going to be people with problems. How these problems are dealt with (by the retailers and, yes, the customers as well) is always going to be the key.

This "project" has been going on for over a year and half now and over time things have shaken out a bit. This isn't as convenient as the mall, but is it worth the price? For me it is. But understand that if there is a problem, it's going to take time, and shipping, and more time, to fix. If you go into the process understanding that, you're going to be better prepared if it happens and even happier when it doesn't. Very few people have been completely hung out to dry by any of the retailers over a problem -- and none (as far as I know) that I've been able to connect with the right people.

When I started this in November, 2006, I placed two orders. One from Zenni and one from Goggles4U. I hedged my bets. I was still spending about one-fourth of what it would have cost me at LensCrafters, so it was a safe bet. I figured one of the pairs would at least be wearable. They both were much more than wearable, which was great. If you really need glasses to replace your one broken pair. Do the same. Order from more than one place. You're increasing your odds dramatically -- and likely to have more than one pair to wear when it's all said and done.

I've had something like fifteen pairs made from all of the retailers listed on the site and only had one "throwaway" (which happened to be from a non-Big5 vendor). The rest each spend significant time on my face.

So, please continue to rate your experiences. Please continue to rank the vendors if you've had chance to try them. All of this data, as "messy" as it is, has helped thousands upon thousands of people make their decisions.


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