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Optimizing Your Dollar: Buying Eyeglasses Online?

optimize your dollar 1My last eyeglasses were driving me crazy. They just didn’t fit well on my face and I was at the shop getting them adjusted almost weekly. So no tears were shed when my husband accidentally stepped on them. Luckily, I still had my old glasses.

Like many, our family has vision insurance. And like many, we have to wait a certain amount of time before getting new eye wear. So my first thought was to visit one of the One Hour eye glass stores at the mall. They were advertising a special of a hundred bucks or so, which seemed like a good deal. I wasn’t surprised when the sales woman told me I would have to pick from a certain very small group of frames. And I wasn’t surprised when she told me there would be an additional cost for my prescription. I WAS surprised when she estimated my glasses would cost $500! Ouch!

IMAG0002 I decided to wait until my insurance would cover a new pair which happened just after Christmas.In the mean time, several friends had written that they or their relatives  had ordered glasses online. But would they work right? Would the prescription be right? Could I see through them?

With all these questions it made sense to do a test run with my daughter who was scheduled for an eye exam and wanted to get new contacts. (Our insurance covers glasses or contacts, not both.) Since she has minimal vision problems we decided to order a pair of glasses with her new prescription online.

And why not? At Coastal.com, they were advertising your first pair free!

We figured it was worth the gamble. When daughter was picking up her contacts she tried on several pair of glasses to see what style she liked. She also took note of the frame size (two little numbers on the arm–one for width of glasses, one for length of arm). She needed her prescription plus the pupillary distance (all exams include this information but not all list it on the prescription, you have to ask for it). As promised, the glasses were free, we only had to pay the shipping and handling charge of $11.58. They arrived as promised within a week my daughter found them comfortable, could see clearly and likes her new style.

Our insurance covers a new eye exam and a percentage of the frames and glasses. Because my prescription is complex and because I cannot see without glasses I opted to buy a pair of glasses through the optical store.

I go to Nationwide Vision. The reason I go there is because the last go around, someone had recommended trying Wal-mart’s optical center. Surprisingly, they had the exact same frame I found at Nationwide. But, though they also took my insurance, the total cost would have been $50 more.

After discussing the cost of all the add-on’s (like anti-glare and scratch coating)– passed on those,  picked out a mid range pair of frames, and they tallied up the total. With insurance my copay was $229.99. Not exactly a deal,  but I ordered them anyway.

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Pink frames are from Nationwide Vision.
Purple frames are from Glasseshop.com.

Then, seeing how happy my daughter was with her glasses, I decided to try and order a second pair online. The website used for daughter’s glasses was still offering the same special.

BUT. My strength of prescription was an additional cost so the glasses would have been in the $180 price range.

I wasn’t quite willing to gamble on glasses at that price so I checked for other online eyeglass stores. This apparently is like a well kept secret (from me anyway) as I discovered there are many many online stores offering eye wear.

The store I settled on was Glassesshop.com. They were offering a 30% off special. There was not appear to be an extra charge for the prescription strength. And the price included anti-glare and scratch resistant coatings plus a happiness guarantee. My total, with the discount and shipping was $71.80.

Both my new glasses from the neighborhood store and the online shop took about 7 business days.

The results: I like both pair of glasses. I especially liked the savings with the online glasses.

  • When ordering online you need your pupillary distance measurement. The websites offer ways that you can measure your own PD number. I had little faith in getting this correct myself. Your optometrist measures it and if  it’s not noted just ask for it. Online shops, like other stores will honor an eye prescription that is less than one year old.
  • Not all opticians will adjust glasses not from their shop and some will charge a fee. The online pair feel slightly loose on my face and I may need to get them adjusted. I don’t know yet if this will be a challenge.
  • I specifically was looking for frames without nose pieces because I’d had so much trouble with the last pair. After looking and looking online and thinking I was choosing carefully I ended up with a nose piece with the online glasses. This would have been obvious looking at them in the store.
  • Most online stores offer a way to preview the frames; some, allow you to upload a self photo and ‘try on the glasses’. It’s a nice option.
  • When ordering online it’s important to pay attention to the frame width and arm length. It’s easiest to look at an old pair of glasses or some at the store. I think I should have paid more attention to the frame width, I might have looked for a slightly more narrow frame (see the difference above.)
  • Bifocals and progressive lenses are available online. I also got progressive lenses and was very worried about how they would work with the online glasses, knowing that I could easily go in for adjustments or new lenses if the store bought glasses were uncomfortable. But the bifocal part of these glasses while slightly different is actually more comfortable for me when working on the computer.

I am excited for the chance to have glasses that I can change with my mood. Of course, my experience is mine alone. You might have a different outcome. But based on this, I would recommend trying an online order, especially if you are looking for a second pair or maybe sunglasses.

If you have suggestions to stretch your shopping dollar or questions please let me know.

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  1. Buying any product online is fun, at least for me. You may think that eyeglasses are made to take care of your eye. How will you buy them online without even seeing or touching them? Believe me, most online stores today sell branded designer eyeglasses with 100% quality assurance. Try shopping online once. You will enjoy.