Sunday, September 30, 2012

Buying Glasses Online has an article reviewing ten of the most well-known sites for buying glasses online. They give good details for each of the sites, but they understandably lack any professional advice to distinguish among the sites.

Something to look for when shopping glasses online, as with anything, is brands. Brands aren't just overpriced names for the same stuff. They are quality products marked with a reputable name to guarantee your confidence in the product.

The cheapest sites have no recognizable brands, which means there is zero guarantee to you of the quality of the product. Sure they're cheap, and most the sites have 100% refund policies. But when the frames won't fit or hold adjustment, or the lenses seem to strain your eyes, produce weird "fish-bowl" effects, or just seem hazy, what are you going to do? If you paid $10, even $20, are you going to contact customer service for a return authorization, package them up, ship them back at your expense, and wait for the refund, all the while without new glasses? Probably not, you'll probably just throw them in a drawer and try again (or just throw them away, as I did when I bought a couple pair online a few years ago just to see how they turned out. They were crap).

The no-brand materials the lowest-price guys use for frames and lenses are so ridiculously cheap, bought in bulk for literally pennies from Asian factories, that much of the time even if you return them for your money back they still turn a profit on the shipping! They have absolutely zero incentive to provide you quality stuff because it costs them more to take the time and use the materials to get it right than it does to churn out poor junk, half of which could be wrong, and just accept the shipping profits on the returns. If you absolutely don't care about the quality of your glasses, go ahead and throw a few bucks around and see if maybe someone accidentally makes you a useable pair. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Not all glasses you buy online are crap. You can get perfectly good quality eyeglass materials online, the same level of quality you get from good opticals, even boutiques. (Note I said materials. The physical product can be the same, however the measuring, product design & selection, and frame fit can all be wrong without a optician's expertise.) The way to be sure you are getting quality is brands.

Several sites in the review sell good brand name frames, which guarantees they were made at least by a slightly decent manufacturer. Framesdirect, GlassesUSA, and all sell the same  kind of brand frames you'll find in mall retail opticals and eye doctors' offices. Of those Framesdirect is by far the biggest and best, with massive selection and a price match guarantee for many of the best designers. If you are going to buy a frame online, buy it from Framesdirect.

However, frames are only of secondary importance for glasses. Is is better to like your frames but not see well, or see well but not like your frames? Neither is good, but the whole point of glasses is seeing better, right? So while frames are more fun to pick out, you really need to think about and put some priority into lenses.

Not all lenses correct vision equally. Poor manufacturing creates lenses with inconsistent prescription and haziness. Vision simply will not be comfortable, clear and crisp even when the prescription is accurate. The only way to know you are not getting $0.15 per pair Asian special lenses is to buy branded lenses, the same used by reputable opticals in the U.S. Because few consumers know anything about spectacle lens brands, this is where almost every online seller skimps. Some claim to use quality brand lenses, and may do so, but they don't make it clear what you are getting. Framesdirect is great for frames, but they are not clear on their lens brands. They charge enough to suggest they are using quality materials, but there is no guarantee of what you get. Only one site in the review specifically lists it's brands, and they are all good:

Look at their sample price list above. Essilor, Crizal, Orma, Thin & Lite, these are brands that guarantee you are getting quality produced materials. Note the prices. No $6.95 glasses here. Because you can't make decent glasses at those prices. However, if you compare to retail stores and doctors' offices, the prices above are excellent and for the very same materials.

These best resource I've found for quality spectacle lenses online isn't in the review, probably because they don't sell frames. Eyeglass Lens Direct only sells lenses, and is and awesome source for most of the high quality spectacle lenses available in the U.S. today. You can select lenses by specific manufacturer, and then by specific lens designs and models. Through this site you can get some of the most technologically advanced and best quality materials there are, products no other online seller offers. The amount if information is daunting and can be impossible for the consumer to decipher, because most of the discrimination among brands and lens designs is the purview of the professional optician. However, because Eyeglass Lens Direct specifically states the products you a re purchasing, you can Google the names and research yourself. Every brand has an informational site to explain their particular benefits.



So then, what's the best process for buying glasses online, to get the best price, best product, and best results?
  •  Research and buy the frames you want on
  • Find a good optician willing to make measurements and guide you to the best lens option for your Rx and frame. Pay him for his professional expertise and time. Don't be a dick. Want my suggestion on a fair price? $30-$60 depending upon your needs and his skill.
  • Buy the lenses from
You now got the best price on frames, a great price on guaranteed quality brand lenses, and if you found a good optician and compensated him adequately for his skills, you got the same accuracy and guidance you would have if you had purchased eyewear from him.