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I was weeding out the forum's pending posts of penis pills and porn and happed upon this message from a newbie. He asks a series of good questions -- that I'm more than happy to answer.

He begins:

I have checked out several sites that sell glasses online. Some... offer brand name frames but still at seemingly reasonable prices, probably less than I would pay if I used my insurance discount at a physical store.

There are indeed a number of sites online that sell designer frames. The prices range from similar to the mall stores to significantly less. The difference is usually whether the frames are current or previous year's designs. If you're looking for something stamped on the temple to let the world know what you're wearing, then this is a viable option.

Others... are similar to a "dollar store," it seems to me. That is, they have very inexpensive frames but frames with names you'd be unlikely to find anywhere else. Some also include the lenses in the price, which is almost unbelievable.

In fact, almost all include lenses. What should really shock you is the mark-up you've been paying for lenses for as long as you've been wearing glasses. Standard single-vision lenses in bulk can cost as little as $2 per pair, progressives can be found for $6. Let that sink in a bit. No one is grinding lenses from a blank anymore. Need a -2.75 lens? Open a box and you've got one. Pop it in a machine to cut it to fit the frame and move on to the next one.

Now take a look at your frames. Unless you're the kind of person who wears eyeglasses frames hand-made from a solid chunk of metal by silent, chaste monks in the foothills of the Alps, there really isn't much to them -- some plastic or metal temples, maybe some 20lb test fishing line, a few fiddly bits... It should be almost unbelievable that they cost what they do in the stores.

My question is whether the low price corresponds to a low quality in frame and lens craftsmanship and/or service.

This are two very different questions.

First, on quality... I've bought well over 30 pairs of glasses in the past 30 months since this started. All but perhaps 3 pairs (less than 10%) matched or exceeded the previous half-dozen pairs I found in various places around the house. I paid over $400 for each of the previous two pairs I bought at LensCrafters -- a mistake I, and almost everyone who has taken the online eyeglasses plunge, will never make again.

On service? This is trickier. There are many variables to this. There are many online retailers and some are better than others -- far better. Even with the good ones (look over to the left column) there are sometimes problems. For me, it's more important how they deal with these difficulties. I've had excellent luck with my orders, and in helping most of the people who have come to me looking for help. There are exceptions in this as there are in the mall retailers.

Do you get what you pay for in the arena of online glasses buying?

I can't stress this enough, you DO GET what you pay for with online eyeglasses -- instead of paying TEN TIMES more than you should pay. (this is the one case where I wish the 'blink' tag still worked in all browsers)

Has anyone had experience buying from both the more expensive sites and the lower priced ones? Did you notice any significant difference?

I've bought from both. This site deals primarily with the more economical side of the equation as I think it's a much more important side. I've already talked about the quality being on par. Service is, again, the wildcard. There is no appreciable, overall difference based on average price of eyeglasses. The low-end shops win big on price and hold their own or exceed the higher-priced stores on service -- usually.
Thank you.

You're welcome. Hope it helped.

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At May 6, 2009 at 10:19 PM mindy said...

hi i was wondering if you knew any other website that sells "freeway" eyeglasses. only one i seem to find for cheap is optical4less. after reading your previous entry now i'm effy about ordering it.

if any help, thank you.

At November 6, 2009 at 1:44 PM Anonymous said...

Honestly, I know glasses stores are ripping us off, but I purchased from an online discounter and I hated the glasses; I felt like I had gone to China and purchased a pair.

I tried one again at and I liked the glasses; they weren't as inexpensive but I thought the quality was just as good, or even better than my local glasses store.

Tell me if you know of other online websites, but I am still careful going really cheap.


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