And a couple of articles from Consumer Reports:
8 Great Ways to Save on the Cost of Eyeglasses
Here’s how to shop smarter at every step of the process—without skimping on quality.
By Anthony Giorgianni
December 29, 2016
1. Study Up
It’s smart to research your choices, even before you have your eyes examined, so that you will know what to ask, understand your options better, and avoid being oversold on extras you don’t need.
There are many good online resources you can use to find information, including AllAboutVision.com, Eyeglasses.com, and LensesRx.com. Look for advice on choosing lenses, frames, and add-ons, such as anti-reflective coatings.
2. Talk to Your Eye Doctor
If your prescription is more than a year old, you’ll need a new eye exam, says James Wachter, an optometrist at Clarkson Eyecare in St. Louis. While at the doctor’s, ask for recommendations about which lenses and frames are right for you. For example, your ophthalmologist may recommend a certain type of progressive lens or a specific material for your lenses. Or he or she may advise you to avoid frames that can’t properly accommodate your prescription—rimless models that won’t look right with thick lenses, for instance, or frames that are too narrow to handle the multiple vision fields in progressive and other multifocal lenses.
Ask the doctor to measure what’s called your pupillary distance or PD (the distance between the center of each of your pupils) and include it on your prescription. You’ll need the PD (two for multifocal lenses) if you decide to order lenses online. Some eyewear websites give you instructions on how to measure it yourself, but Adam Gordon, O.D., a clinical associate professor of optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that a professional will be able to do it more accurately. At least five states—Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Mexico—require that doctors provide you with your PD. So when you book your exam, verify that your eye doctor will give it to you, advises Gordon. Some doctors charge extra for this service unless you’re ordering glasses from them. If your doctor won’t provide your PD or charges for it, consider going elsewhere. If you decide to pay for a PD measurement, Warby Parker will reimburse you up to $50 as long as you buy glasses from one of its outlets.
3. Explore Frames
If your doctor sells frames, start by trying on some from his or her selection. Make note of the brand, model, and size of the frames you like. Also record prices and details about the seller’s return policies and warranty. (You’ll need to know the cost of eyeglasses in order to comparison shop.)
4. Compare Your Options
Once you’ve narrowed the frame choices, use a web search to find and price your favorite pairs, which in most cases you’re likely to find online. Get the prices on lenses, too, when considering the cost of eyeglasses, so that you can compare. One potential shortcut: If your eye exam was at Costco, Sam’s Club, or Walmart and you find a frame you like at the same store, our survey results suggest that you’ll likely be satisfied if you simply go ahead and order your lenses there. The same goes for Warby Parker if you have a simple, single-vision prescription. If you don’t, you can probably find less expensive lenses elsewhere.
If you find better prices as you search, call or visit the store where you originally discovered your favorite frames and ask it to match your lowest price. When looking for the best deal on the cost of eyeglasses, it’s only fair to give the store the chance to reduce its price, especially if the staff spent time answering your questions. It may be worth paying more to deal with a professional in person, especially if you’re ordering multifocal lenses or have a strong prescription. And it’s good to support a local business you may need for frame adjustments later on. Finally, if you’re haggle-averse, you’re not alone. Relatively few of our survey respondents tried negotiating for a discount. But of those who did, nearly half were successful, and more than a quarter of them saved $100 or more.
6. Divide and Conquer
If a single retailer doesn’t provide everything you need, consider splitting up the process. You might have your eyes examined at your doctor’s office, take advantage of the savings you can get buying frames online, and have the lenses made at Costco or Walmart, for example.
7. Don’t Pay for Add-ons That Don’t Add Up
In our reader survey, half the respondents said they paid extra for scratch-resistant coatings, and 22 percent shelled out for coatings that offer ultraviolet protection.
But all plastic lenses already have an anti-scratch coating on the front of the lens, says Karl Citek, an optometry professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. And most lenses nowadays completely protect wearers from harmful UV light from the sun without any add-ons. One more to skip: coatings that block blue light. The science connecting long-term exposure to blue light to damage to part of the retina is weak, says James Sheedy, Pacific University professor emeritus of optometry, who has studied the effect of blue light on the eyes. One add-on that he does say may be worth paying for is an anti-reflective coating. It reduces glare on the front and back of the lenses, making them easier to look through—especially at night—and also lets other people see your eyes better, he explains.
8. Consider Buying a Second Pair
It’s a good idea to order a backup in case your primary glasses break or are lost and you don’t want to be forced to pay extra to get another pair quickly.
How to Avoid Being Gouged When Buying Eyeglasses
Our exclusive reader survey reveals ways to get surprisingly great deals on frames and lenses
By Anthony Giorgianni
December 29, 2016
For the approximately 64 percent of Americans who wear them, prescription eyeglasses are part medical device and part fashion accessory. They correct your vision and, faster than you can say Jackie O or Harry Potter, help you tell the world how you’d like to be viewed, too.
Even a simple pair, however, can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. That’s especially true if you’re buying eyeglasses the old-fashioned way, at a doctor’s office or an eyewear chain—or if you have a complicated prescription. Online retailers offer ways to save, as do big-box stores, but you may get less hand-holding and a smaller selection of frames. The choices—and the trade-offs—can be overwhelming.
That’s why we surveyed more than 91,000 readers and also shopped for glasses ourselves, online and in walk-in stores, to discover the pros and cons of different vendors. We interviewed eyeglass experts and eye doctors to get their best advice, too. What we learned is that where you get your glasses should depend on whether your priority is convenience, service, selection, or a rock-bottom price.
Doctors’ offices and independent eyeglass shops. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents bought their glasses from one of these sources. They gave these sellers high marks for lens and frame fitting, employee knowledge, and follow-up service. But frames and lenses tended to cost more than elsewhere: Our readers shelled out a median of around $400, two to three times what you might pay online or at a discount store.
Major eyewear chains. Since it has many locations to help you if there’s a problem with your glasses, buying eyeglasses at an eyeglass chain can be convenient. Our readers reported good follow-up service from most chains, too. But in other areas, survey ratings varied depending on the company.
Warby Parker and Zenni Optical. Each of these stores sells only its own brand of glasses. Warby Parker retails both online (they’ll mail you up to five frames to try at home for free) and in brick-and-mortar locations in 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Ontario, Canada. In the seven years since it launched, Warby Parker has become a major player, offering glasses with single-vision lenses for $95, including an anti-reflective coating. But if you order progressive lenses, those prices can rocket to nearly $300—far more than the prices we found at some other retailers. And Warby Parker’s warranty on frames is only 30 days, compared with a full year at some other stores.
As for all-online retailer Zenni Optical, you can try on frames only virtually, by uploading a photo of yourself. And it, too, has a 30-day warranty. Still, Zenni’s frames with basic single-vision lenses start at less than $10, and upgrading to progressives begins at just $28. Survey respondents who bought from Zenni spent a median of just $69 for a complete pair of glasses, making them our survey’s lowest-cost retailer.
Large discount chains. Costco and Walmart are low-cost one-stop spots for buying eyeglasses where you can do everything from having your eyes examined to getting your finished glasses adjusted for fit. Frames can be inexpensive at these stores. At Walmart and Sam’s Club, we found basic, plastic progressive lenses for as little as $79. Costco charges $130 for high-definition progressive lenses, which, as with all Costco lenses, include an anti-reflective coating. That’s about half what you’d pay at many walk-in stores. But if you need basic, plastic single-vision lenses, you can pay as little as $29 at Walmart, about half as much as at Costco.
These retailers got high marks from readers, with Costco, our top-rated eyeglass retailer, edging out Walmart in several areas, including the quality of frames and lenses and follow-up service. But readers were not impressed by the selection of frames, especially at Costco. One workaround: You can usually have a discount store put lenses into frames you purchased elsewhere. Walmart charges an extra $10 and Costco $18 to do this. They’ll also adjust the frames while you’re there.
Online retailers. While only about 5 percent of our respondents bought their glasses online, nearly twice as many browsed online before purchasing at a walk-in store. Even if you don’t plan to buy from a website, the price information you get might help you negotiate your way to a discount from a walk-in store. For instance, in a web search, we found a Dolce & Gabbana men’s frame that was $190 at LensCrafters on sale for $99 at LensesRx Optical and $89 at Amazon.com.
But no matter how good an online retailer’s tools, prices, and return policies, getting your glasses by mail can be a hassle, especially if you have to send them back.
The Best Choice?
Once you know the pros and cons, your decision may be easy. If you have a simple prescription, you might consider shopping at Warby Parker. If you’re covered by insurance, you’ll probably want to choose a provider that accepts your plan. If your heart is set on pricey designer frames, online retailers may be a great option.
If no one retailer has the service, selection, convenience, and prices you want when buying glasses, think about splitting up the process. You might have your eyes examined by your doctor, search for frames online, and get your lenses from Costco. One eyeglass vendor doesn’t necessarily fit all—but knowing what each retailer offers will let you buy your glasses with your eyes wide open.
Your Guide to Buying Glasses Online
The number of people buying glasses from websites is small—but growing. We asked experts about what goes right, what goes wrong, and how to get what you want.
By Anthony Giorgianni
December 29, 2016
There’s no shortage of eye-care professionals who are skeptical about buying frames and lenses online. “These are custom-made devices. It’s not like buying a box of Cheerios,” explains Dr. Andrea Thau, an optometrist and president of the American Optometric Association. Prescription glasses, according to this camp, are complex medical devices—especially for people who need progressives or other multi-focal lenses, which require complicated measurements best taken while patients are wearing the frames they’ve selected. And once a pair of glasses is delivered, they say, the lenses should be checked to make sure the prescription is correct and the frames adjusted for fit.
But Stefanie Rodrigues, director of operations for Eyeglasses.com, thinks the main objection about buying glasses online isn’t really about the quality of glasses sold by online vendors but about the competition these vendors present to traditional eyeglass retailers. Most lenses, including progressives, are “not a big technical challenge for our lab,” she claims. When there is a problem, her company will remake the lenses at no extra charge. And, she adds, that doesn’t happen very often. “People think if they pay more, that means better vision. It doesn’t,” Rodrigues says.
But to make sure you’re really looking out for yourself when buying glasses online, follow these tips.
Research the website. Some online retailers, such as Warby Parker, Zenni Optical, and EyeBuyDirect, have top marks from the Better Business Bureau. Others don’t do so well, including EZContacts.com and GlassesUSA.com. Look for a report online at the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org). Also, see what others are saying by using a web search with the name of the company and terms like “reviews” and “complaints” before buying glasses online.
Resist buying frames you can’t try on. Many websites offer tools that let you test frames virtually by uploading a photo of your face. But trying on frames in the real, nonvirtual world is the only way to tell whether they’re comfortable and may give you a clue that they’re poorly made, says Adam Gordon, clinical professor of optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Before buying glasses online, you can find frames locally or use a website that will let you try them on at home, like Glasses.com, which sells designer frames and will send you one pair of glasses to try for 15 days, complete with prescription lenses (single vision only).
Examine the return policy and warranty. A retailer’s policies are especially important when buying online, where typically you must pay for your glasses before you receive them. Find out if the online seller will remake your lenses if there’s a problem or error.
Enter your prescription carefully. All those numbers and unfamiliar terminology, such as “axis,” “sphere,” and “cylinder,” can make prescriptions complicated. It’s easy to blunder when transferring the data to a website form. Some retailers may ask you to upload an image of the prescription to avoid potential errors.
Check your vision. If you have difficulty seeing with your new glasses, ask the online retailer to verify that the lenses were created using the proper prescription. If that checks out, go back to your doctor, who can recheck the lenses and make sure a mistake wasn’t made during your examination.
Know when you need a pro. If the frames need adjustment, many websites provide instructions on doing the job yourself. But Gordon says it’s less risky to have a professional do it. Many walk-in retailers will adjust glasses purchased elsewhere, like if you bought your glasses online, though you may have to pay for this service.