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In the past few months, I've gotten a number of emails and instant messages from people who have had their prescriptions "held hostage" at the optical shop. It's been awhile since I've seen anything like this. It makes me think that these stores are starting to feel the combined pinch of the economy (that we've all been feeling for the last year or so) and that the online eyeglasses retailers are taking market share at an faster rate.

Either way, there is no excuse for holding these prescriptions and frankly -- in the United States at least -- it's against the law.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission enforces the so-called "Eyeglass Rule" which requires eye doctors to provide their patients (stop thinking of us as "customers") "one copy" of the prescription at the end of the eye exam.

If you EVER get any attitude or have your prescription held against your will CALL the Federal Trade Commission at 202-326-3528 or 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Here is the statute:


Sec. 456.2 Separation of examination and dispensing.

It is an unfair act or practice for an ophthalmologist or optometrist to:

(a) Fail to provide to the patient one copy of the patient's prescription immediately after the eye examination is completed.

Provided: An ophthalmologist or optometrist may refuse to give the patient a copy of the patient's prescription until the patient has paid for the eye examination, but only if that ophthalmologist or optometrist would have required immediate payment from that patient had the examination revealed that no ophthalmic goods were required;

(b) Condition the availability of an eye examination to any person on a requirement that the patient agree to purchase any ophthalmic goods from the ophthalmologist or optometrist;

(c) Charge the patient any fee in addition to the ophthalmologist's or optometrist's examination fee as a condition to releasing the prescription to the patient. Provided: An ophthalmologist or optometrist may charge an additional fee for verifying ophthalmic goods dispensed by another seller when the additional fee is imposed at the time the verification is performed; or

(d) Place on the prescription, or require the patient to sign, or deliver to the patient a form or notice waiving or disclaiming the liability or responsibility of the ophthalmologist or optometrist for the accuracy of the eye examination or the accuracy of the ophthalmic goods and services dispensed by another seller.

Revised as of January 1, 1999]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 16CFR456.2]
[Page 453]

A note to optometrists out there; Start charging the appropriate amount for an eye exam and be up front about it. The more educated people get, and the more you try to hide your motives, the more you'll be hurting in the end.

Also, we, as patients, need to start lobbying for the PD (pupillary distance) to be included in the exam -- they have it and there is no extra work on their part to add it to the prescription card.

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At July 23, 2009 at 6:52 PM Anonymous said...

PD- They *don't have it.
It must be measured.
But there is NO reason for it to be measureed in a refraction.
Just line up the phorpter and go.

Opticians usually handle this measurement.

If you want, upload your picture and the online site will measure it for you.

I hope you like your on-line eyewear.

If you decide that your vision and appearance is more important than the dollars saved, we'll be there with the expertise, selection and service that you'll want.

Barry Santini
Master Optician
NYS Licensed Optician

Good eyewear costs. It's just that many of you have *not* ever had the opportunity to experience truly fine eyewear. If you had, then online eyewear would take its rightful place alongside of fast food - Cheap & adequate. But not great.

At July 30, 2009 at 11:15 PM Jim said...

can't agree with you there, Barry.

Now I'm not sure I've ever had what you call "fine eyewear", but i've payed $400 for glasses a few times, and my new $15 pairs from "on-line" are every bit as good.
I even have some friends who've paid top dollar for glasses at the hippest stores in philly.
...we're all Zenni converts now.

The simple fact is that you are ripping us off. Charge $50-100 if you need to, but there is no excuse for charging $500 for what can be made for less than $20.

vision? works fine for me

appearance?...are you saying my personal taste is worse than an opticians?
I'll have you know that I'm quite capable of picking out a pair of glasses that don't look hideous on me.

At August 3, 2009 at 5:59 PM Anonymous said...

I'm with Jim.

I've paid upwards of $350 for eyeglasses from an optician for years, until I discovered online eyewear. The pair I got for $70 is just as "fine" as what I was paying through the nose for previously, and I'm not obligated to pay storefront rents for opticians that decide they need to be located in prime real estate.

At October 8, 2009 at 3:50 PM Anonymous said...

Online eyewear? Really?
Does no one have any class anymore? And nevermind supporting local businesses, that's not important. American jobs aren't important. Or quality, customer service, or the ability to return to an eye care practitioner if you need adjustments or are having problems with your new glasses.
None of that is important. Lets all just go to the online bargain basement Zenni. By the way, those glasses look cheap, and make you look cheap.

At October 12, 2009 at 3:40 PM Ira said...

@anonymous (obviously),

What really gets me is so few of you in the optical industry have the huevos to use your real name. You anonymously stand behind the flag and name-call. How incredibly cowardly.

This argument has been beaten to death.

Oh, and by the way, those "cheap glasses" are one of the very few name brand frames I own. I could have bought these in your store -- if I'd wanted to pad your wallet (which I would never want to). As it was, they were VERY inexpensive.

Have a nice day.

At October 12, 2009 at 5:40 PM Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with my local optician making a profit because they do provide good customer service. But if they have been making a HUGE profit on me and other loyal customers all these years just because they could, then I have no problem going online. If they want to bring their prices more in line with the online stores I will gladly buy several pairs from my local optician. Wouldn't that be in their best interest? At their current prices I would buy 1 pair of glasses or maybe just new lenses only when my prescription changed. Cut the profit margin, and you'll sell more merchandise.

Satisfied online customer

At December 6, 2009 at 6:05 PM Anonymous said...

So interesting that brick & mortar eye care "professionals" are the only folks vehemently against online vendors.

They take the issue so seriously.

And yet, most times I visit small optical shops, the service sucks.

Optical shops DO NOT offer money-back gaurantees. They only "promise" to do it right, which in my experience means they'll do it wrong a few times and then shove me out the door.

At least some online vendors offer money-back gaurantees. This means that if they do lousy work, they will go out of business.

If you ask for your Pupilary Distance and get crap about it, check online for pupilometers (looks like a view master) and PD sticks (it's kinda like a ruler, very inexpensive).

At March 19, 2010 at 1:33 PM jh said...

For me, they have my PD measurements on file but they want to charge me $25 to tell what they are. I need this to order lenses for existing frames which they don't carry. I've already purchased expensive glasses from them. Doesn't seem right to me.

At March 29, 2010 at 3:21 PM Jenny said...

Our optical shop is in the middle cost-wise in our community. We are a single doctor office with an onsite lab and hundreds of frames available. We do not have the inventory (warehouses) of lenses like Wal-mart and online stores. Our purchase price is based on how many lenses we buy (tier system) and so are the frames. We cannot afford to compete with online outlets because we simply cannot get products as cheap. We also honor all manufacturers warranties and further help a pt that has broken/lost their glasses or needs an adjustment. You are paying for "full service" at our office, not a one shot delivery through the mail. We once had a man say he was not going to pay our prices for his lenses because he knew what they really cost. My doctor slapped the boxes of uncut progressives up on the and said "here they are." The man said, "what am i supposed to do with these," and the doctor responded "that's the point of our charge to you as a customer. Can you grind your own lenses?" The guy shut up and bought the lenses AFTER we put them in his frame instead of before.

At August 11, 2010 at 7:57 PM Anonymous said...

To the optician that "measures a pd in a phoropter"
If a kid with a strab came to you and you failed to measure the pd correctly, every aspect of the exam there after would be off. Good luck prescribing prism or a high powered pair of lenses for anyone. This is why opticians aren't allowed to prescribe glasses. Read stats on vision related learning disabilities. I'm sure a good portion of these come from opticians that "measure pd in the phoropter"

At August 20, 2010 at 4:11 PM RedStickHam said...

I asked WalMart for my PD recently and they told me they couldn't give it to me. I was there getting a second opinion after a questionable experience with another optometrist who did give it to me(his staff gave me 62 and I measured myself at 63).

As for glasses prices, I live in contacts and only wear glasses occasionally, so I always bought the cheapest frame available, which usually weren't nice looking or fashionable. I'd still have to pay over $100 for them, and that is plastic frames, CR39 lenses, with no coatings.

I've since discovered online glasses and was able to get 3 pairs of fashionable glasses, 2 with polycarbonate lenses, one with CR39 plastic, one plastic, 2 metal frames(one semi rimless), all of them have all coatings, for around $130 including shipping. I'm also picking up another pair, CR39s, all coatings, for around $40.

All of them are sturdy frames and the prescription is right on the money. They aren't designer frames of course, but that doesn't bother me any. All 3 companies I bought from are in the U.S. and have U.S. based labs. I can't see why glasses have to be so expensive now. WalMart is offering $38 glasses, perhaps they are feeling the pinch, maybe the rest of the eyewear industry will feel it too.

If brick and mortar eyewear stores want to keep our business, they'll have to offer competitive prices and have knowlegable staff that provide good service, something that seems to be lacking in many industries today.


At October 12, 2010 at 8:33 AM Sam said...

Question - is it the FTC that the eye Dr goes by or is it HIPPA? My Eye Dr said that according to HIPPAshe can with hold information from me if it's for the best of my health.
I've asked for our (my son's & mine)records & prescriptions three times now since April & she refuses.
My health insurance at work was willing to pay for a pair of frames until Sept 1st(when a policy change would take effect). She has sat on this for so long I will no longer get my free glasses (none of the ones @ her office qualified) & her attitude is such that I don't even want to do business with her. My eye's are pretty bad & my prescription is complicated enough that it has been screwed up before so that's why I want to get a copy of everything of mine. I wanted to get a copy of my son's so his Dad could have a copy just in case during paternity visits.
Any way, I can call the FTC - I just was curious how the HIPA law affected the FTC's jurisdiction.

At October 27, 2015 at 1:55 PM Moretaylor said...

What they are doing has nothing to do with HIPPA and is against the law. Call the FTC immediately to report the office. You have the right by law to your perscription.

At March 9, 2016 at 11:25 PM Unknown said...

Lenscrafters said they had to order trial contact lenses and wont release my prescription until they come in. Been 10 days and still no contacts. They refuse to tell me why. What can I do. I have td them I buy my contacts online.

At March 9, 2016 at 11:33 PM Unknown said...

Lenscrafters wont release my prescription for contacts because trial pair hasnt come in yet and its been ten days. They are not special order. Just stronger than ones I had. Is this standard procedure? They wont tell me why it is taking so long. I had told them I buy my contacts online. Really giving me a hard time. This after I paid over 300 for them to put new lens in my old frames for my glasses I wear in case I have provlem with contacts.

At March 9, 2016 at 11:34 PM Unknown said...

Lenscrafters said they had to order trial contact lenses and wont release my prescription until they come in. Been 10 days and still no contacts. They refuse to tell me why. What can I do. I have td them I buy my contacts online.

At September 4, 2016 at 12:06 AM Yoda9103DMD said...

I am a Dentist - my eyesight and consistant ideal correction is paramount. As of late, it is impossible to refill Rx lenses that work well - they find a reason to fit a different brand - often ill suited in spite of requests and prior fact based on 40 years experience with soft contact wear. It makes no matter; it is always try this or that and I know the size is off and I'll be sore and have red around my iris borders by 6-8 hours of wear.
After all these years, I do not blink much due to the eye being covered. They dry out- additionally I live in a dry desert climate. A larger lens worked better to capture moisture and free the tissue at the iris ede getting traumatized by a small dessicated lens. It was cushioned and floated more allowing more O2 exchange. A very hydrophilic polymer above 55-60% ratio to H2O was ideal also.
Sadly, they tear you like an idiot and Rx the most profitable lens to market for them like drug reps. If the fit is close- good enough for all - except a patient doing close detailed tasks 10 hours a day.
Most opticians I've asked know nothing about loops and uniting corrected eyes and this resource to ideal. They know how to exhaust my insurance coverage with substandard care and visual aids.
I'm not sure who is accountable here. The optical professionals do not stay long anywhere it seems. To their defense, the companies prostitute their educations and debt to benefit corporate interests free from any liability unlike the Doctors.
In the interest of wanting ideal eyesight and corrective options, what is the best approach?

At April 7, 2017 at 6:25 AM Frustrated said...

My husband and son keep trying different doctors in an attempt to get SOMEONE who will cooperate and give us our prescriptions. It is a hassle everywhere we go. I was charged an additional $10 to get my son's PD. My husband just went for an exam and I do not believe his prescription is correct. It cannot be! We both called the opthalmologist's office back to question it and were given the run around. I have the right to buy glasses where ever I want. I started buying glasses online because I did not like the selection at the doctor's office AND when we "settled" on a pair, the price tag was $200+!!! We ended up ordering a pair we were very pleased with at Zinni for less than $50. Doctors need to be more reasonable.


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