Buying Glasses at Traditional Shops? You Must Be Blind

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Prescription glasses cost most people at least a couple hundred dollars — on top of an eye exam — but they don’t have to.

That’s the message from Consumer Reports, which surveyed nearly 19,500 readers and found they spent a median of $244 out-of-pocket on their current prescription eyewear. That means half paid more than that and half paid less.

By comparison shopping at discounters like Costco and BJ’s as well as online, the magazine’s team was able to knock more than 40 percent off the prices of frames and lenses.

You can do it too. We cover what you need to get those savings in the video below. Check it out:

One of the reasons prices are so high, and that people are willing to pay them, is that glasses are part seeing and part being seen. They’re both vision correction and fashion statement, CR says. But another reason is that two companies have a stranglehold on the industry.

Luxottica owns LensCrafters, Pearl Vision, vision centers at Sears and Target, insurer EyeMed, and many popular brands including Ray-Ban and Oakley, CR says. VSP Global similarly owns a major insurer, an eyewear company, and labels such as Calvin Klein and Fendi.

There is plenty of competition outside that bubble. Here are a few sites we’ve found that get decent reviews:

There are plenty more. But as we warn in the video, quality and service vary. It’s important to check each site’s return policy and look for consumer complaints at sites like Ripoff Report or Complaint Wire before buying.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Farseer The Seer

    Very good info, thanks for sharing.

  • Dale

    Complaint Wire seems to deal with instances of fraud in India only! Why choose that particular site?

  • Jan

    What about no-line bifocals? Don’t they need the seg height? How do you get around that for the mail order places?

  • Jeng Narumon

    Tried both Optical4Less & Zenni. Optical4Less’s customer service is way better. I had several questions on my prescription, and their customer service associate patiently answer my multiple questions, and made suggestions on frames that might look good on me. Their website allows virtual “try on”, picture upload, & profile saves, making it very convenient to compare glasses & fill out the prescription. Saves me $250 over going to Costco , even with my VSP ! With the price that I pay at Optical4Less, I can save my VSP money on contact lens !

    • Luna Garcia

      Second that, I have purchased like 7 orders from http://optical4less.com for the pass 6+ years. Their optical quality and customer service is the best! I’ve tried other online glasses and they don’t come close, I had to send all of them back!

  • Becky Bentrim

    EyeBuyDirect.com has a great selection of glasses. Too bad they are poor quality. The coating on my frames started peeling after having the glasses for not even a year and the company told me they would replace the glasses–if I paid to ship my glasses back, paid for the new frames if there was a price difference because mine were no longer sold, and pay to have the glasses shipped back to me again. Not to mention that these are supposed to be returned in their original packaging. Who keeps the box your glasses came in? I kept the case, sure…but the box was disposed of a long time ago. The hoops that they make customers jump through are ridiculous. I will NOT be shopping there again. I may have to pay more initially by going to my eye doctor for glasses, but at least those last for years and years!