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I have a client who heard about Twitter from her kid. She hasn't stopped talking about it for the last three days.

I've used Twitter for awhile now, but decided today that maybe GlassyEyes, as an entity, needed an account.

We'll see. Sometimes 140 characters is enough?

If you're interested, you can "follow" GlassyEyes too.

Not interested in downloading a client? Follow along under the "Big5" -- to the left over there.

Tweet tweet!

It's now been well over five days and I've still not heard back from Goggles4U regarding their ability to do a prism. They had their shot, now it's time to move on to the second and final option, of the Big5, 39DollarGlasses.

To reiterate, Dean is looking for Photochromic Progressives. His distance prescription is pretty weak, but he likes to have his glasses on and available for reading. He needs a large frame.

The first thing you'll notice in comparing 39DollarGlasses to Optical4Less, is that the frame prices seem high in comparison -- if you happen to click the "Progressive Lenses" link under "> SHOP EYEGLASSES". The high prices shown here scared me a bit, until I realized that they included the price of the basic polycarb progressive lenses. This is an odd way to list these frames.

I was still able to glean the costs of the progressive lenses from the price list, subtracting the typical single-vision cost of the same frames.

Lens costs and options:

  • Clear Polycarbonate Sola® 1.59 progressive lenses - $50 (included in "Progressive" price)
  • CR-39 Transitions® Sola® 1.50 progressive lenses - $109.95
  • Polycarbonate Transitions® Sola® 1.59 progressive lenses - $148.90
  • CR-39 Transitions® Varilux® 1.50 progressive lenses - $148.95
  • Polycarbonate Transitions® Varilux ® 1.59 progressive lenses - $187.90
We strike the first (again), due to the fact that he wants Photochromic (I only include it at all to compare the non-Photochromic lens price).

That leaves four options, and with the very necessary AR coating going for an extra $25, I'd argue that the Sola might be the way to go. The fact that he's not going to be playing rugby in these, or riding a motorcycle, coupled with his very weak prescription, makes the CR-39 the logical choice.

39DollarGlasses charges $19.99 flat-rate for prism correction. That ends up about $14 more than Optical4Less for that service. Unlike, Optical4Less, 39DollarGlasses, charges for anti-reflective coating ($24.95), but includes UV and anti-scratch in the price.

So for a full-featured set of these with AR and prism correction, we're looking at $154.89 on top of the non-Progressive frame price (or $104.89 more than the "Progressive" frame price). Confused yet?

39DollarGlasses has more frames that closely match the size of Dean's existing frames. Not a lot more, but more none the less (and yes, they've got the Aviator as well). That said, I'm only going to look at two frames as they both possess the 145mm temple that Dean needs.

First up, is the Moscow. It is an awful lot like Dean's current frame. Size-wise, it's very close, and it's available in Gunmetal, which makes it a bit more desirable. If Dean isn't looking for a change, this is a good option, especially with the hard-to-find 145mm temples.

Again, he's tough on glasses and prone to falling asleep in them, so titanium is appealing for durability as well as weight (especially with these large lenses). The creatively-named "Bendable Titanium 8" has the features and the stats to work for Dean (again with the 145mm temple size).

No gunmetal here, however. The Antique Bronze and Antique Gold aren't too bad looking though. A solid contender.

There is a $50 difference between the standard alloy and the titanium frames, and then there is the color difference. 39DollarGlasses' offerings boil down to this:
FeatureMoscowTitanium 8
Prism Correction$19.99$19.99

Next up? We compare the two places and look at next steps. Dean? We're getting closer.

It's been over forty-eight hours and I've not heard back from Goggles4U on my query, so we'll approach this as a two-candidate race between Optical4Less and 39DollarGlasses for the time being. (Note to self: Another communication breakdown.)

We'll start with Optical4Less' offerings.

As mentioned in part one of this series, Dean is looking for Photochromic Progressives, and the frames are going to need to be on the large side.

Lens costs and options:

  • High index 1.56 Multi-focal Progressive Lens (non-Photochromic) - $98
  • High Index 1.56 photochromic progressive lenses - $187 (Grey Only)
  • PRECISION ® customized 1.56 photochromic progressive lenses - $198
  • PRECISION ® customized 1.67 photochromic progressive lenses - $398
We strike the first, due to the fact that he wants Photochromic (I only include it at all to compare the non-Photochromic lens price). The last one is struck for two reasons, he doesn't need Hi-Index with his prescription and the nearly $400 price tag is cost-prohibitive.

That leaves two options and I think for the extra $11 you probably buy the hype ("The ultimate-quality progressive lenses!"), to the point that they're probably better than the $187 option.

Optical4Less charges $3 per degree of prism correction, per lens. So that tacks on $6 to the order. They include anti-reflective, UV and anti-scratch coatings in the price.

These decked-out lenses will come to $193.

I dug into the site with the existing sizes of Dean's frames in front of me -- and I ran into trouble. Really, there was only one frame that came close to matching up with the numbers...

The much-maligned Aviator. I won't debate the merits of this frame in this piece, but suffice it to say, I think this is a tough frame to pull-off, especially in it's non-sunglasses form.

There were a couple of pair that are close, but are they "close enough?".

Next up, I saw this titanium pair which will likely hold up to the stresses of being slept in.

Only one problem. They're only available in gold. I'm not a big fan of gold, and I don't think Dean is either. I think he'd rather stick to the more subdued, gunmetal or even silver, but I can't really speak for him. I like these, but the sizes, in particular the temple length, scares me a bit. It's not like spending $15 or even $40 on glasses, this is a bigger investment (and risk).

Another bigger frame in an aluminum and alloy is the MA080. The lenses are 55mm by 39mm, so we're in the same ballpark at least. The width is 145mm, but the temple length of 140mm might be a bit short for ol' Dean. Regardless, this is still an option.

It's available in Bronze, Gunmetal and Black and the $34.00 frame price makes this ensemble price out at $238 (+ shipping).

Next up -- probably Sunday -- we'll look at what 39DollarGlasses has to offer. I'll be out of town for the weekend, so email responses might suffer for a couple of days. I'll try to get online at least once a day, but I have no broadband (or even cell reception) when I'm in the hinterland. Have a great weekend.

[ED. NOTE.: This is part one in a 5-part series culminating in the receipt of the glasses.]

"If you don't help him order his glasses soon, I'm going to leave you."
My wife is patient. She needs to be with me. Round-about Christmas, we visited her uncle who lives in the little town in the middle of Minnesota. This uncle (let's call him Dean, as that is his name) had a pair of broken glasses. He's one of our favorite people. Living on a fixed-income, the idea that he could get a pair of glasses for less than the $400+ he's been paying seemed quite attractive -- especially with the success I've had with my purchases and the successful purchases in the forums.

I've been particularly busy professionally and personally, and frankly with his glasses "fixed" (with a section of thick clear tubing to help fuse the break in the temple), it slipped on my priority list. I mean, if he's not an anchor on the evening news each night, who's going to notice? Oh, and I kept forgetting.

So today, I sat down to write in an unusually quiet house and there staring me in the face was "the prescription."

Project Dean Prescription

I'd also jotted down the details on his existing frame to aid in the search -- again, over 3 months ago. His "broken" pair are a Van Heusen "Benjamin" frame in Gunmetal Grey.
  • Frame width is 150mm
  • Lens height is about 41mm
  • Lens width is about 58mm
  • Bridge width 19mm
  • Temple length 145mm
His distance PD came in at 66mm.

Dean is very interested in Transitions, or photochromic lenses. He's a voracious reader who's prone to falling asleep with his glasses on, so sturdiness and utility are weighed more heavily than trendiness, which refreshingly carries little weight in small town Minnesota.

The Qwest Begins
Right off the bat, or rather after twelve minutes on hold, Zenni was no longer in the running. A polite "no, we don't" to my query regarding a slight prism and we were down to four options.

A few moments later at a much better laid-out site with an actual F.A.Q., EyeBuyDirect, I was able to pare down the contenders to three.

EyeBuyDirect Prism FAQI knew Optical4Less could accommodate a prism prescription as they're the only online retailer in the group that allows you to enter a prism in the online prescription form.

Checking with Goggles4U was going to take some time. There is no mention of being able to deliver prescriptions with a prism on their site and the "Live Chat" feature was in "Leave a Message" mode. I left a message on Wednesday morning at about 10:30AM CDT. I'm curious how long it will be until I get a response.

My last stop was 39DollarGlasses and their F.A.Q. mentioned nothing about prism. Popping into their "Live Chat" brought up a window and Melanie was able to answer my question almost immediately to the affirmative, if not requiring me to jump through an extra hoop:

I wish I hadn't highlighted the thing before taking the screen shot

So we're down to two (and possibly three) of the retailers to fill this prescription. I'm not surprised at the choices as they seem to be two of the more "hands-on" or "in-house" places in the "Big5".

Next step will be to look for frames of a type I haven't had to consider for myself. It's a daunting prospect, but the next couple of installments will narrow down the options in "Project Dean."

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.

A month or two ago, I got re-introduced to Shuron frames and have been a bit obsessed. You'll see that a lot with me. As glasses have become a much bigger part of my life, I am no longer trying to find the most minimal of frames. I'm not shopping in the same stores as Elton John, but I do like my glasses to be on the bolder side.

I picked up a Shuron frame a few weeks back and if the gubmint didn't require so much of my monetary assistance at the moment, I'd have a fully functional pair of beautifully nerdy Demi Grey Freeways perched upon my schnoz right now (I'm hoping to get the lens order in this week with 39DollarGlasses, the guys who relensed my trademark frames in February).

My original quest, regarding the Shuron frames was to find some for a couple of members of the GlassyEyes forums. They were looking more for a cheaper, Shuron "style" frame at the time.

Albert, at Optical4Less, has a new frames this week -- something that might fit the bill for those of you on a tighter budget. How does, $37 (SHIPPED!) including UV, Anti-Reflective, and all of the other Optical4Less goodies sound?

These have that certain self-assured, nerdy look, but aren't truly Freeway knockoffs. To me, they appear to borrow design elements from the Shuron Freeway (eye shape), Shuron Sidewinder ("paddle" temples), and the Ray-Ban Wayfarer (lack of the Shuron "key hole" bridge). You get the idea, and you get a "classic(y)" look if not the integrated, truely iconic frame.

Of course, lensed, these are roughly a third of the price of the "Made in the USA" Shuron frames.

Let your wallet decide!

I'm a self-employed guy with a house, three kids and big medical insurance deductible. I wasn't about to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get my eyes checked with taxes due. That said, I need to make sure my eyes are in tip-top shape. I was at Sam's Club a couple of weeks ago for a gallon of jalapenos and ten pounds of frozen blueberries when I walked past the optical center.

$50? I could afford that -- every two years.

I scheduled an appointment and late last week went in and got it done at the store in Eagan, Minnesota. I was greeted by "Sam" (I swear to God) who started me off in the "room o' technical goodies". Seated on a stool I rotated to three different machines as he lined things up and pressed buttons that blew puffs of air into my eyes.

So far, apart from the sound of shoppers pre-spending their 2008 Flat-Panel Tax Rebates, things weren't too far of a departure from my more traditional trips to the optometrist's office. He took my glasses to test them, "Oh, Silhouettes!" I assured him they weren't. I began to tell him my tale, and as he finished his tests, told me I'd gotten a heck of a "good deal on them".

A few minutes later, the lovely and talented Dr. Heather Tuttle entered the scene and completed the requisite tests in a surprisingly calming room tucked away amid the intense and unwavering consumerism all around us. She provided me with my prescription (only a tiny change) and directed me back to Sam for my PD measurement. She too, was at least casually interested in the idea of online eyeglasses -- and the fact that I was interested in keeping my prescription current.

My existing glasses would be fine for at least the next couple of years. Before ringing me up, Sam said, "So I guess I won't try to sell you any glasses today." I laughed, paid my bill, thanked him, and grabbed another gallon of jalapenos on the way out.