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Glasses Product Review - Ordering Internet Eyeglasses

Updated on July 1, 2011

Eyeglasses From the Internet

From Top to Bottom: $55.90 eyeglasses from Internet, $600 eyeglasses from optical shop, $200 eyeglasses from optical shop.
From Top to Bottom: $55.90 eyeglasses from Internet, $600 eyeglasses from optical shop, $200 eyeglasses from optical shop.

Buy Cheap Eyeglasses- One Perspective

The last pair of prescription eyeglasses I purchased cost nearly $600 and didn’t fit my face. I knew as I impulsively selected the fashionable little frames that they weren’t going to work, but I grimly went ahead and allowed the sales person to write up the order. A couple of days later, I picked up my glasses and took them home, where I wore them unsuccessfully for about two hours. Then I put them into a drawer, never to be worn again. Later, the store called to ask how my glasses were working out. I admitted that I had made a huge mistake, that the glasses didn’t fit my giant head, that I couldn’t see out of the lenses because they were too small and the glasses kept sliding down my puny nose, and that I was relatively miserable about having spent that kind of money on something that I couldn’t use. To the store’s credit (and per their guarantee) they cheerfully offered to have me pick out new frames, and to remake the glasses at no additional charge. I was too embarrassed to take them up on their offer, and never went back. For the next ten years, I wore contact lenses 24/7.

Then I hit a milestone birthday. My old eyes could no longer focus well enough to read close-up. Working at the computer screen was a challenge. The optometrist partially solved my dilemma by prescribing contact lenses in a variety of powers: lenses for distance, lenses for reading - monovision solutions for my aging eyes. He also told me that I was a really good candidate for progressive lens eyeglasses, and wrote the prescription. I explained my fear of eyeglasses and my giant-head-puny-nose issues. I feared that no frames would ever fit my face. He encouraged me to see the kind woman at the optician’s desk, which I later did, only to find that they had no frames in stock that were wide enough to fit my huge head.

I am not what you would call a big person, or even a tall person. I am, in fact, a short person with a very large head size and flat-ish face, much like a Persian cat. I also require progressive lenses of extra strength, which usually further reduces the number of frames that will work for me. For prescription eyeglasses, I need a larger lens-size and wide frame with short temple arms to go around my ears. If I am lucky enough to find wide frames, they inevitably have long temple arms to match. The arms go way past my ears and stick out the back of my head. It’s disturbing, really, when you see it up close.

The Myth of Eight-Dollar Eyeglasses

To spare myself the embarrassment of yet another optical shop, I decided to do an online search for wide eyeglass frames, and accidentally discovered the $8 prescription eyeglass. Could this be true? I searched further and found several companies that advertised that they make $8 or $9 single-vision prescription eyeglasses, and that they could be ordered online. Progressive lenses and bifocals were upcharges, as expected, but given that I threw away $600 on my last pair of glasses, and given that I only expected to wear eyeglasses at home for a few hours each night, I was willing to risk up to $60 to see what I could get online.

One online retailer advertised “$39 eyeglasses.” Frames began at $39 (although there were several on sale for half that price,) with upcharges for anti-reflective coating, different lens materials, focal types, and tints. After some searching on their website, I found a pair of suitable wide frames on sale for $19.95. With upcharges for progressives and extra-strong prescription, my total came to $99.93 – a bit over my budget of $60.

I ultimately settled on an “$8 eyeglasses” retailer with progressives that started at $37. While I found a handful of frames that were wide enough to fit my noggin, and with shorter temple arms to go around my ears, none of the frames were what you would call stylish, exactly. They were quite functional and acceptable, however. I selected a stainless steel frame for $12.95. With additional charges for the progressive lenses and shipping, my glasses came to $50.95. Adding $4.95 for shipping, my total was $55.90. Shortly after I placed the order, I received a confirmation email. Delivery was expected to take about three weeks because of the progressive lenses, which took longer to make, and because the glasses were apparently shipped from China.

Edges - Thick to Thin

Front-most glasses with thick polycarbonate lenses. Middle $600 glasses with thin high-index polycarbonate lenses.  Back $55.90 glasses with thin high-index polycarbonate lenses.
Front-most glasses with thick polycarbonate lenses. Middle $600 glasses with thin high-index polycarbonate lenses. Back $55.90 glasses with thin high-index polycarbonate lenses.

Differences Between $8 Glasses and $600 Glasses

Aside from the obvious fit-and-wear issues with my $600 glasses, there are some significant differences between the $8 glasses (or in my case, the $55.90 glasses) and the $600 glasses:

Frame Material: While both sets of glasses have polycarbonate lenses, the $600 glasses have a titanium frame and weigh slightly less than one ounce. The $55.90 glasses have a stainless steel frame and also weighs less than one ounce, but the stainless steel is thin and has a flimsy feel. For my purposes – limited wearing time and careful handling – this is not a problem, but for a child or active adult, this type of frame might not be suitable.

Lens Thickness: One of the main reasons the $600 glasses cost so much was because they were made from a high-index material with much thinner edges. However, I was surprised to find that the $55.90 glasses were also made with a high-index material, and the finished lenses are actually thinner than the $600 glasses.

Edges: The $600 glasses have nice smooth, rounded edges with a slight tint to them, which makes the thickness of the lens much less noticeable. The $55.90 glasses have distinct, non-rounded edges with no tint. To be honest, this bothers me considerably, and is one reason I won't wear the glasses outside of my house.

Fit and Service: For $600, the technician at the optical shop measured my pupillary distance, and took other measurements as well. She made recommendations for lens materials and coatings. She called when my glasses were ready to be picked up, and when I picked up the glasses, she fit them to my face, bending the temple arms so that they hooked behind my ears. She also called to check on my satisfaction, and was true to offer the store’s guarantee to remake the glasses because I was not happy. For $55.90, you get virtually no customer service – a big concern if something goes wrong. And you have to fit the temple arms and the nose piece on the glasses yourself, which turned out to be fairly tricky to do.

Delivery Time: The $600 glasses were ready in a matter of days. I picked them up at a convenient location near my home. The $55.90 glasses took three weeks to be delivered. I worried that they would never show up, based upon some Internet reviews I read about the company that I used.

Internet Eyeglasses - Resources

There are many sources for glasses on the Internet. This list isn't an endorsement for any company, it serves only as a starting point for your own research.

www.eyebuydirect.com - Advertises itself as the "#1 online eyeglasses shop"

www.zennioptical.com - Advertises prescription eyeglasses starting at $8

www.optical4less.com - Advertises prescription eyeglasses starting at $15

www.39dollarglasses.com - Advertises prescription eyeglasses starting at $39

www.glassesshop.com - Advertises inexpensive prescription eyeglasses


Tips and Cautions

To successfully order glasses online, you will need to know a set of measurements that may not be on your glasses prescription. These measurements include:

  • Pupillary Distance
  • Frame Width
  • Temple Arm Length
  • Bridge Distance

Most of the online retailers give directions on how to measure pupillary distance, or you can ask your optometrist to give you the measurement when you get your prescription written. Other measurements can usually be found on your current pair of eyeglass frames.

I paid for my purchase with a credit card, which gives some protections to the California consumer in the event that the goods are never delivered. Check your credit card Terms and Conditions to understand what protections, if any, you are offered by your card holder if you don’t receive your glasses.

I recently purchased a pair of reading glasses from an online company that accepts Paypal.  This gave me a sense of confidence in that I didn't have to reveal  my credit card information to a new online retailer.

Some retailers have virtual try-on capabilities, which allow you to upload an image of yourself and “try-on” a selected pair of frames. Others have printable frame images that you print, cut out, and try-on. For other sites, you must have a good idea as to what type of frames will work out best for you.

If you have a simple prescription, you could conceivably purchase a complete pair of glasses, including shipping, from an online retailer for under $14. I recently paid $23 total for a pair of prescription reading glasses ordered online.

Lens material costs vary considerably from one retailer to the next. Some retailers charge more for high-index polycarbonate lenses, others include it in their standard pricing. Other upcharges might be incurred for tinted lenses, glare coatings, and for strong prescriptions. Be sure you understand what you are paying for before purchasing.

Certainly, the phrase “you get what you pay for” resonates here, but given that I only wear my glasses for a limited number of hours each night, I feel that I got my money’s worth. I recognize that purchasing eyeglasses online is not the right choice for everyone. You will nearly always have better luck working with your optician to find frames that fit and function properly. If, however, you have special needs and are willing to gamble a bit of money and time to see if you can find a pair of glasses that will work for you, investigate the $8 online eyeglasses retailers for yourself and see what you think.

Comments

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  • Bonnie4433 profile image

    Bonnie4433 

    5 years ago

    I highly recommend Optical4Less . I have gotten my eyeglasses from Optical4Less exclusively for more than 3 years now, and can see no reason to order from anyone else.

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