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It's back as of Sunday Morning.

I'm stuck on dial-up until Monday afternoon, so updates will be a bit slow, but as of right now, on Saturday evening, Zenni is pretty much broken. There are lots of broken images and clicking on any of the at least 4 categories in that nasty left nav, bring up the message:

There are no available products under this manufacturer.
...even though I've chosen no manufacturer -- or are there any "manufacturers" at all on the Zenni site. It's not just me. There is a report in the forums as well.


Additionally, anyone else notice that they use a 71K image for their header? You would if you were stuck on dial-up like me for the weekend. Yeah, that one with the clip-art eye doctor standing on the side of the snow-capped mountain (also weird).

Albert, at Optical4Less sent me an email noting a new frame on the site. Wow. I've always liked bolder frames so rimless isn't typically a route I travel. For those looking for a cleaner, more transparent look, they're a great option... and then there is the target market for these. Look below! They're GLOW-IN-THE-DARK.

Kind of "bulky" for rimless frames. "Bold" dare I say? Not that you'd probably wear these to a black-tie affair (or to the candlelight Christmas service), but I think there is a place in my glasses wardrobe for these.

Fireworks? Rave? Halloween party? Late night jog around the block? For a little extra light in case of a power failure?

I'll have to remember to carry some GlassyEyes cards with me when I wear these at night. You're asking yourself, "Ira? Are you seriously considering these?" Absolutely, I'm consideringI've ordered a pair of these "glow-in-the-dork-dark" beauties. Certainly something I DON'T already have -- and a stark contrast to my first pair of rimless frames.

Chime in! Where else are you in need of a little light (or attention)?

I wrote a post late last winter about my "swimming glasses". It got a lot of interest and feedback. I've spent an awful lot of time swimming this summer. Lots of jumping and diving off the back of the boat, and tons of time at the beach with the kids. Even as summer sadly starts to show it's age up here in the Great White North, I'm still trying to get in as much as I can and planning for a few trips over the winter to places with pools and water parks. I like the water.

I used to wear contacts swimming, but lost a few over the years -- back when they were expensive. Also, it's no fun driving home with only one good eye.

Anyway, I still love the idea of swimming glasses for a lot of what I do, but a few weeks ago, I was at the lake and there were about a half dozen enormous catfish swimming around in the swimming area. I'd have loved to be able to see them -- from beneath the surface.

It got me to thinking about the "prescription" swim goggles someone mentioned back then. I use quotes around "prescription" as they might be your prescription if your sphere measurement isn't a X.25 or X.75 (the economical versions are only available in half and whole numbers). Also, unless you want to spend significantly more, don't have an astigmatism more than a few degrees off of 0 or else you're going to be really uncomfortable.

I poked around and came up with a few options for those of you in the need. Each model allows for different prescription strength in each eye -- can you imagine that some DO NOT?

Hilco Prescription Swimming Goggles - $30.95
  • 100% UVA, UVB Protected
  • High Performance Anti-Fog Treatment and impact tested
  • Includes protective carrying case
  • Lens Available from -8.0 to +8.0 (some half steps -- i.e. -2.5, -3.5)

Ultra Comfort Prescription Swim Goggles - $27.95
  • Premium satin silicone seals and strap for ultimate comfort
  • Sleek black/blue look with tinted lenses
  • High Performance Anti-Fog Treatment
  • Ships with three sizes of nose bridge for better fit
  • Easy to assemble
  • Available in prescriptions for Myopia (near-sightedness) in powers from -1.5 to -8.0
  • 100% UVA, UVB Protected

ParMel Custom Optical Swim Goggles - $40.00 (including shipping)
  • Shatter resistant polycarbonate lenses
  • Anti-Fog Treated Lenses
  • Clear Lenses
  • 3 Size Nose Bridge

Children's Prescription Swimming Goggles - $30.95
  • 100% UVA, UVB Protected
  • High Performance Anti-Fog Treatment and impact tested
  • Easy to assemble
  • Children's Lens Available for Myopia (short-sightedness) and Hyperopia (far-sightedness) -5.0 to +8.0

It's been a couple of years, but it's time to open up the old hockey bag and take to the ice this fall. I love hockey. I love cold weather (not as much as hot weather, but still). There is only one thing I don't love about hockey -- besides the Red Wings -- having to wear glasses. They fog up, they limit my peripheral vision, they're dangerous... I needed contacts.

I haven't worn contacts regularly in many years. Frankly, when I sit in front of a computer most of the day, they're not comfortable, but a few years ago I wore them for sports and it made an enormous difference. I'm no Gretzky (or as the kids say, "I'm no Sidney"), so every bit of help is, well, helpful.

I checked online and was amazed at the number of sites selling contact lenses these days -- and that most of them were roughly the same price. It also struck me how different this product was to sell than eyeglasses. Essentially, if you have a valid contact lens prescription, and if you know what you wear, it's all about price -- and the promo codes. All of this is more important for those of us not filling the hallway closet with box after box of these.

So I whipped up a grid of prices... and it turned into a site. I get an email every week or two asking about contacts, and finally figured, "Why not?" It's an exercise in modifying a WordPress template to my needs and posting my research again for anyone interested in it. I plan on updating the prices and promos regularly, because what else am I going to do as I watch the new seasons of "entourage" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" this Fall into Winter?

If you wear contacts (or know anyone who does) take a look.


P.S. No, this doesn't mean I've lost my passion for glasses. I'm still in my dozens of glasses 95% of the time.

I was running errands last weekend -- and lunch time rolled around. I had about 5 bucks in my pocket and I'm a vegetarian, so my lunch choices were limited. I passed a Wal*mart. I hate the place, but they had a Subway inside and I don't hate sandwiches (especially since I removed choice from the equation like 20 years ago -- 12-6-inch-wheat-veggie-delight-lettuce-tomatoes-pickles-lots-of-jalapenos-vinegar-salt-and-pepper-no-toast).

Anyway, I was eating my sandwich and reading a copy of "The Onion" and a youngish-looking eyedoc came in (lab coat and all) for her sandwich and sat down to eat and stare off into space.

I'm not a social butterfly, but she did sit at the table adjacent to me and when is this going to happen again? So, I said "Hi." I explained who I was and handed her one of my last wrinkled GlassyEyes business cards out of my wallet (NOTE TO SELF -- order more). She'd seen one already! Truth be told, I leave them all over the place. I had a few questions for her about eyeglasses quality -- and she had a few questions for me about my experiences.

She didn't care much at all about eyelasses frames. Functionally, she more or less agreed they were there as a tool to hold the important parts in place. As long as the frames fit reasonably well, where they were made, and what name was stamped on the bow was of little consequence. She did have concerns about eyeglasses lenses, but she qualified this by explaining that the way lenses are dispensed now takes a lot of the risk out of the equation -- for single-vision lenses. As long as the PD is good and astigmatism is factored in properly, they should be fine. She thought online bi-focals were a bad idea -- I told her to search for "Dean" on my site when she had a chance.

I asked her about business, and she mentioned that anecdotally there seemed to be a growing percentage of her patients who were taking the prescription off-site to be filled -- online or otherwise. She also mentioned that the people she had checked that were wearing online glasses seemed thrilled to tell her all about them. She also said that people are probably more likely to get their eyes checked in her environment and take the prescription elsewhere than have to deal with disapproving comments from a doctor who has significant financial interest in the dispensary.

She finished her sandwich and said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "if people keep up to date on their prescriptions, she doesn't care where they get their glasses filled -- and business has been good."

Apparently, people are getting their eyes checked. Exposure to the idea that for significantly less than $100 you can get peace of mind that your eyes are healthy, get an up to date prescription, AND get a pair of glasses online seems to be driving traffic into (at least a subset of) the eyedocs.

In the past few weeks I've gotten some mail that made me think a bit more again how I've looked at the savings in my own eyeglasses purchases. To be sure, there are more than a few people in the forums who've "reinvested" their savings in additional glasses. It's easy to do, especially if you've got a flex spending account (FSA for all of you human resources folks out there) set up.

But what of those of us who only need one pair?

What are some of the other things we spend or even (gasp!) save the money we didn't spend on glasses? Mine melts right into the shrinking budget in a million different ways, but wouldn't it be somehow more satisfying to identify where it went? Here are a few things to consider spending your savings on.

I used to figure that if I got two years out of a pair of glasses I was doing pretty well and that a new pair would cost over $300.

It got me to thinking. In a sputtering economy, things like these can have a big effect on personal economic well being. Let's use that $300 as a baseline for a typical pair of eyeglasses bought at LensCrappers and $30 for an average cost of a pair of online glasses. It's like a 90% off coupon (on the whole package - versus those silly frame coupons with which they routinely stuff my mailbox).

So here we have it

What does it buy?

  • 4 tanks of gas.
  • Broadband internet for almost 7 months.
  • A year of Netflix.
  • An overflowing cart at the grocery store.
  • 6 new bras.
  • Two trips out to the fine dining establishment of your choice for you and your significant other (hold the champagne)
  • A Nintendo Wii (for the kids) with an extra Wiimote. Burn off some calories too!
  • That brake job on your Cavalier that you've been putting off.
  • A warm winter coat.
  • More than a year's worth of Gamefly (again for the kids).
  • Sweaters for the entire family (you can now drop the thermostat a few degrees starting in November). SAVE EVEN MORE MONEY!
  • Save it. $10.80 interest in a year @ 4%
What other things can you point out?

Most of the eyeglasses-related email I get has a lot to do with the economy. It seems to have ramped up a bit over the past few months. Just this week I got three emails with socio-economic themes.

One of the emails I got was from an electrician struggling mightily to keep his going. He did a little math and reinvested the savings into big oil the business.

"I usually spend almost $600 on my bifocals. I just spent $89. I have a fleet of six Econoline vans to fill every day or two. Your site just saved me a day or two of fuel expense with enough left over for lunch and dinner. Did I mention, that the glasses are perfect?"

Another came from a single mother -- and I get these a lot. Her daughter broke her glasses (again) and even with the "deals" she thought she was getting at her optometrist, she was going to have to add to her debt to get it taken care of before school started.
"My cube-mate showed me your site and said, 'one of these place might have kids glasses.' I was blown away!!! ...I able to get her glasses replaced for $40! Budgeting for the next time they break or get lost won't be such a huge problem."

The last one came from a friend who recently lost his job. He went fishing with his dad a few weeks ago and lost his prescription sunglasses over the side of the boat. He was planning on doing without -- having far too much self-respect to go for the traditional old-guy clip-on flip-up.
"And then I remembered your site! ...skipped the polarization on these, but $24? Even I can afford that! They turned out great. Thank you, Thank you!"

I've heard grumblings about how this effects our economy negatively. All of this "buying eyeglasses from China" business. Here's my take. Yes, many of the frames are made in China. How does that differ from most of the frames you buy in the store? Not in any meaningful way -- except you're not going to get a big (I'd argue horrendous) "DG" emblazoned on the temple.

Additionally, what is often forgotten in the equation is what happens to the money saved by not overspending by a factor of ten. It's not flushed down a toilet. It goes into our lives in such meaningful ways. Perhaps two or three trips to the grocery store for a family of 5 (I've got three kids) -- keeping the money local rather than in the pocket of some Italian billionaire.

Paradoxically, the cheaper my glasses are, the better I take care of them. I've been doing this online glasses thing for almost two years now and my glasses are all in great shape. Why? I'd argue it's my almost religious use of the micro-fiber cloth to clean them.

Once I used my shirttail when my glasses got smudgy, and then I started ordering glasses online and a pile of variously branded microfiber cloths began to form. That pile's been depleted, spread far and wide in my travels.

I bought a huge one from Sam's Club (the only size they carry) and it sits on my desk folded up always at the ready. However, in the past few weeks as I've run around the town, I've been without and had to put up with the streaks and smears.

I ordered one of these Handy Micro-fiber Cleaning Cloths the other night and I couldn't be happier. It's small, clips on my keychain, stays out of the way and is great for the glasses and the camera lenses.

I highly recommend it.

I also got a free coupon code for some prints from Shutterfly (perfect for the oft-delayed annual kid's pictures for the grandparents).

Good deal!