Adventures in $40 eyeglasses

I posted about my experiences buying glasses online over at 43 folders. It may not be a major thing for most people, but when I consider the many thousands of dollars I’ve paid for glasses all my life and the mystique surrounding the production (optometrists make it sound like a highly trained set of monks hand-carve every lens somewhere in the Himalaya), finding out I could buy half a dozen pairs for a couple hundred bucks was huge. I keep reading about opticians freaking out about these cheap glasses sites and whenever I see someone digging in deep to defend a business model that’s worked for the past 40 years, I feel a tinge of joy knowing that wall is crumbling down.

4 Comments

  • Thanks for posting this! I’ve struggled with the fact that my insurance only provides for either one pair of contact lenses OR one pair of glasses per year, not both. But as a hard lens wearer, I need a backup pair of glasses, if only to get me safely from between the bedroom and the bathroom every morning and night. In the past I’ve “resolved” this by just getting the contacts and keeping the same, old, beat-up, no-longer-current prescription glasses. But I think I can manage $40-ish for a new pair! (oh, not only are my glasses old, but I have a very high prescription so they’re extremely thick. I haven’t wanted to replace them til I could afford the high-index lenses that will be thinner. Looks like these online places solve that problem too.)

  • “optometrists make it sound like a highly trained set of monks hand-carve every lens somewhere in the Himalaya”
    Haha, hear, hear. I’m a high end audio aficionado and similar farfetched claims are done for lots of accessories of the trade (with corresponding sky-high prices of course), when truth is, a little research will let you find decent, quasi-similar alternatives at Home Depot or Radio Shack for far less dough.
    Now, my work glasses cost me like a hundred bucks about five years ago, and are still doing fine (an exceptional lightweight frame btw). Sometimes the price is irrelevant in regards of the performance. But there’s a fine -and not always too obvious- line to distinguish when something is priced right and when something is priced ludicrously.

  • The things I can not get past to buy glasses online are the cut of the lenses (you mentioned that), not being able to try on before buying, and knowing my eyeglass store will make things right with there are problems.
    In my case my lenses are the high cost, bifocals for high index far sighted with astigmatism. My last 2 pairs were sent back to recut the lenses after they were just knocked out. Complete difference when they take the time to cut the lenses. To me that is a major issue to not have the lenses catch light on the edge, that keeps me in full frame plastic frames.
    I use websites to preview frames and then ask my shop to get the ones I like most so I can try them. The pair I just ordered I would not have picked from a website, they had it in the store and it was similar to the other styles I was looking at. To me minor differences in the frames (slight arch over lenses, dip or straight bridge, how angled the sides are) make a huge difference that I can not gauge online. Again the frames on not the big ticket for me. I can buy frames elsewhere and bring them into get lenses.
    In addition to handling getting lenses recut until right my shop has also eaten the cost (probably not as big of an issue to them as to me) to get me out of “new technology” lenses. A new material to make them thinner had the side effect of distorting everything not viewed through dead center of the lenses. I have worn glasses for 33 years and never had that issue.
    If I had a typical prescription I would not have the same cost or concerns, and I would definitely
    buy online. My average cost is $350 after insurance and the frames are about $50 of that.
    Even if I can’t utilize the web for glasses it is cool that other can. Your 43 folders post should be very useful and helpful for many people.

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