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I really like EyeOverheard. Lily does a bang-up job of gathering up all of the industry gossip and making it interesting. It's also a great place to keep the pulse of optical industry employees without having to deal with a certain optical forum's overwhelming cast of illiterates (usually).

Anyway, a post from a week ago struck me as interesting and even more so when I read a response by "Barry".

The story can be found here. It's about how Essilor, "The World's Leader in Ophthalmic Lenses" has decided that independent eyeglasses stores need to move some of their business online. Read the article, it's exactly the right length.

Barry responds to it with the following:

Call me old, a codger, or even a curmudgeon:
For the forseeable future, there’s nothing that will ever take the place of hands-on, in-person, just plain, good ol’ fashion’d “tryin’ on” when it comes to eyewear. If you disgree, let’s see after John Q. get’s his eyewear delivered to his door a couple a’ days after selecting them on-line.

As we’ve heard so many times from our clients” “I would buy more than *one* pair, if they weren’t so darn’d expensive.

Well, Mildred, I’ve got news for ya: $38.95 is the current ticket, including shipping. Are you really gonna but *that*m many more pairs, and create a real eyewear wardrobe? Who are you kiddin’!

You can’t even choose *one* pair properly, let alone 3!

Bottom line: It’s never been about price. It’s been about confusion and convenience. Just what are the gorilla’s doin’ to adress that?
I've got news for you Barry. There are thousands of people in my little corner of the internet who after discovering the solution to the problem of overpriced eyewear, now have to figure out how they are going to store/display all of their new eyeglasses.

It takes one successful order -- and with a moderate single-vision prescription, it's a virtual certainty with the right online retailers -- to permanently remove that customer from your brick and mortar eyeglasses world -- and revenue stream. They're doing a fantastic job with multi-focals too for you (and soon to be me) "codgers".

All of the confusion and second-guessing when you're staring in the mirror at four C-Notes perched on your nose melts away for most when they open a package and they pop on a pair of solid glasses that work -- for $30 or $40.

They expand out from there.

Bottom line: it IS about price -- and guess what, when you're adding to your collection it's a HELL OF A LOT more convenient to order online than to drive to a store to deal with someone who worked at 7-11 last week and who is now inexplicably wearing a lab coat.

P.S. Thanks for yet another example of how you opticians think about your customers ("You can’t even choose *one* pair properly, let alone 3!"). Kudos!

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At June 11, 2009 at 12:26 PM Anonymous said...

Sounds like an optician to me. Last time I went to get new glasses, I tried them on and told the guy that they felt fine and indicated that I was ready to go. He grabbed them off my face with a "Let me tighten them up for you." before I even had a chance to tell him that I prefer that my glasses not fit like vice grips because I only wear them before bed. Too late, he obviously knows what's best and I'm just a stupid customer.

At June 11, 2009 at 2:41 PM Berit said...

I just read this--unbelievable! I also noticed another comment by this Barry person talking about some NJ doctor who knows that his patients aren't following the recommended contact disposal schedules when his automated system emails them to say that they need to buy more contacts, and they respond that they don't need any yet. He then follows up to bully them telling them that they need to come in for an exam since they are not following his recommended schedule and are damaging their eyes!

"EARTH TO DOCTOR WHOEVER-YOU-ARE!--Just because I didn't reorder though your rip-off store doesn't mean that I'm not replacing my contacts properly. Maybe I called 1 800 contacts! Maybe I didn't wear my dailies every damn day. Or, in my case, since opening up my contacts about 11 days ago, I've only worn them twice! Yes, I know that they must be replaced every 30 days, and I WILL do so, but when I do, I may hold off opening the next box for a week or so until I actually want to wear contacts again.

Sorry for the mini-rant, but, there it is.

As for cheap online glasses, I just got 3 more pair in from Zenni--and BOY are the cute! I see pretty good out' of 'em too. *snort* These guys keep acting like the lens is crafted with magic, and only a brick and mortar store has a wand. I've been telling everyone who admires my new glasses that they cost 19 bucks (with shipping), and they are astonished. When they say their prescription is "too strong for something like that", I tell them that I have astigmatism and that I'm nearsighted to the tune of "Three point something" in both eyes. That makes them take notice! Then, when I get home I email them links to your blog here and Zenni.

At June 14, 2009 at 11:05 PM Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about us. We are glad you like us.

We feel the same way about you, and BTW

Suxottica is great stuff!!


At June 16, 2009 at 6:36 PM Keith Pipes said...


Can't thank you enough for your information. I posted a blog today about going to Costco and how helpful and willing the lady in the eyewear department was even though I told her I was buying frames online. I also linked your site again for folks to reference. This has been an epiphany for me, you rock! Let the revolution begin!

At June 17, 2009 at 1:22 PM Chuck Knight said...

Sometimes it is helpful to hear the opposing side, so I'm going to play Devil's Advocate.

This person made one very valid point -- there is no substitute for actually trying on a pair of glasses.

The virtual fitting rooms offered by some sites are a step in the right direction, but remain lacking compared to a true, physical, on *your* face fitting.

Variations in skin color, shape of the nose, etc can vastly impact how the glasses look on you. And, the different spectral responses of various cameras and monitors may change the colors sufficiently that what you see is not truly what you get.

I know in my own case, I have always purchased fairly "safe" eyeglasses online...conservative wire frames, and a single pair of plastic. The plastic "shouldn't" have worked for my face...but they did, and at only $8, they were a worthwhile experiment.

They could just as easily have been a disaster.

There IS value to a hands-on fitting, and those people should be compensated for their work and their knowledge. Not all of them are 7-11 rejects...some are true professionals.

Find a good one, and they're worth their weight in gold.

At June 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM Ira said...


I appreciate the comments and want to clarify a few things. I truly believe there are true professionals lurking in the independent boutiques around the world. I'm typically commenting on the state of the mall's eyeglasses store (of LensCrafters) where the majority of eyeglasses are still purchased.

As for safe choices, that's certainly a great place to start. I've gone way beyond that now and think that the vast majority of what made you pass on a frame in the past was built in to the price you saw on the frame. I know for a fact that a $20 pair of glasses I just purchased were nearly identical to a pair I laughed at two years ago in the store. I love them.

I also love the idea of an "$8 disaster". I don't think it's possible, but I love the idea.


At June 19, 2009 at 4:56 PM Unknown said...

The true professionals do exist - they're just hard to track down.

I once went into a new-to-me independent eyeglass shop for an adjustment because the nose pads were just a tiny bit too tight. The guy behind the counter bent them totally out of shape and when I said they were too loose, he said "it's better" and didn't seem interested in discussion.

I've been to Hour Eyes (the local Davis vision affiliate), and though their employees seem to mean well (and are nicer than actual Davis Vision staff), they still are only so good/confident when it comes to making adjustments.

But the B&M shop in Rockville, MD I normally go to... they have people who've been in the eyeglass industry for years. They offer service that makes me feel I've gotten my money's worth on my previous three pairs of $400+ eyeglasses, and they don't mind that some of their customers buy glasses online. The other day, I went in with a brand-new half-rim Zenni pair that they very carefully adjusted to fit as best as possible.

Zenni doesn't want to put my prescription in a rimless frame, and I can use leftover heslth savings account money at my B&M shop, so I still plan to buy glasses locally.

I've worn glasses all my life. I've been to some really eyeglass shops, and I've been to some mediocre ones. And because I know I've found such a good independent local shop, I don't mind spending more once in a while if it means I get good service on all my glasses all the time.

At July 11, 2009 at 11:32 PM DrGooch said...

Hats off to your ingenuity, but you gotta give the brick and morters their due... it is very expensive for them to exist, and there are some critical things that they contribute to this equation that you online guys would be gonners without.

For the consumer that walked into a brick and morter to select the frame for fit, etc, then came back to you for the purchase--then that consumer, and the online retailer (YOU) just became parasitic in nature. And parasites generally weaken the host.

Hopefully there will always be a good market for those who love face to face transactions and are willing to pay for the higher overhead. And hopefully, your parasitic drag will strengthen the true professionals out there and push the sclock meisters out of business.

At February 23, 2010 at 10:08 PM Anonymous said...

I bought glasses from EyeBuyDirect and it was a very bad experience. They sent the glasses broken (screw out at the frame holding the lens in) and refuse to repair, replace or refund my 23.00! They rip people off for 23.00 folks! I NEVER even got to wear them!


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