Consumer Guide to Eyeglasses

Jan 31, 2006
Came across this interesting site today:

Some excerpts:
...I am a licensed optician who has worked for a mall-based optical chain and two different independent doctors of optometry, both with large retail sales. I have more than twenty-five years "in the business." I know exactly what optical products cost and how they are marked up. You are not going to read any "industry insider information" here, because none exists......What I can share with you are some common-sense guidelines...

...Frame pricing is consistent throughout the industry. Almost all optical retailers mark up frames along similar guidelines....So, rule number one is: You will pay more for a frame with a designer name...Just because a frame has a designer name does not mean it is a better product. In fact, it was most likely made on the very same assembly line and from the very same materials as the company's house brand....Like lenses, most frames are made by the millions, in huge factories located all over the globe....

...Unlike frames, lens pricing is very inconsistent throughout the industry. Almost all optical retailers will mark up lenses to what the local market will bear. Of course, there are exceptions, and it is up to you to shop around and be sure you are not overpaying for a specific lens...

...Not all progressive lenses are created equal......To some degree you really do get what you pay for. Is $400.00 a heck of a lot of money for some pieces of plastic? Yes it is. But, that is the way it is…Beware of buying the progressive lens that, "just came out". Advertising is a powerful medium, and lens companies spend millions of dollars promoting new lenses...

...Realize that if you are presbyopic (meaning that you need an add power, and wear a multi-focal or progressive) and that if you have a change in prescription that one area of your vision will be better and one will be worse! Stop torturing your doctor, optician or ECP! It is a simple fact that you cannot have perfect vision in all ranges. You are o-l-d. Get over it. If the doctor's prescription provides you with crisp distance vision, chances are that you will lose some of the clarity that you had with near vision in your old pair. The only way around this is having individual pairs of glasses for the different ranges you need.
Do buy a BIG frame if you want a progressive to work well. If you want a progressive to work well, it needs room to do it. Yes, the optician will probably tell you it will work just fine, and the lens company will probably tell you it will work, but guess what? It won't...

...As you age and your add power goes up, +1.25 to +1.50 to +1.75 to +2.00 the distortion in the rest of a progressive lens will increase. Sorry, that is just the way it is - you cannot overcome physics. Add powers over +2.00 are guaranteed to have some annoying distortion...

Expect to pay about this much for a complete pair of glasses (frame AND lenses):
Single vision glasses: Between $100 and $300.
Lined multi-focal glasses: Between $150 and $400.
Progressive glasses: Between $200 and $600.
AR or non-glare coatings: add $75 to $150.
Changeable tint lenses: add $75 to $150.

Online Eyeglass Shopping:
You cannot overlook a complete pair of glasses for $18.00 when similar or even identical products are selling for a hundred dollars more at the local shop. Online eyewear sales are a routine part of the business.
It is possible to purchase a pair of perfectly good glasses online. Heck, I would say that your chances of getting a great pair of glasses from a large online retailer are actually better than what you might get through several of the managed care plan companies offered through your doctor's office!
With that said, if you have a low prescription, you are looking for an inexpensive pair of glasses and you prefer to shop online then I would suggest going with one of the larger online retailers, Warby Parker and Zenni Optical seem to be the leaders.

PLEASE! If you are wearing progressive lenses and/or have a high prescription go and see a professional. DO NOT SHOP ONLINE for progressives or high prescriptions! The fit and measurements for progressives and higher prescriptions need to be made by a human.
I wear glasses for distance and have a relatively low prescription. I only buy my glasses from Zenni. Just bought some great looking owl glasses from them for about $30. I feel for people with high prescriptions/progressive lens requirements who are at the mercy of extortionist eyeglass shops.
I use glasses when working with a computer - this is slightly longer distance than when reading a book. I just got new lenses that Lenscrafters calls boost lenses, because they are slightly stronger on the bottom for reading, but they're not progressive. They are also something they call "workspace" lenses, which are supposed to be better for slightly longer distances, like when I sit in front of computer monitor. The problem is their useful (sharp) area seems to be very small. If I look up slightly or down lightly or a bit to the left or a bit to the right, the image is no longer sharp. Only the area directly straight on is sharp. So if I'm in front of a large monitor, only the center part of the monitor is in focus. This is terrible. Looks like I'll be going back to the more simple single strength lenses that I had before.
Lol.. without my bifocals I'm practically blind. For this reason and the fact that I wear glasses all the time, a proper "fit" is very important to me. I'd never consider getting my Rx glasses online but if you have a single Rx lens I don't see why an online retailer wouldn't be a good source.
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If you are 50+ start checking your eyes individually with this chart.

AMSLER GRID Watch for wavy lines, missing lines, etc. The alphabet eye test does not pick up this.

Leading cause of blindness of boomers. I did not see this coming. i noticed one night at work while staring off in the distance that the view was darker in one eye. Went to a Retina Specialist. Yep, MD. Learn about it. AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
Originally Posted by Mad_Hatter
Lol.. without my bifocals I'm practically blind. For this reason and the fact that I wear glasses all the time, a proper "fit" is very important to me. I'd never consider getting my Rx glasses online but if you have a single Rx lens I don't see why an online retailer wouldn't be a good source.

While my eyesight isn't as bad as yours, I wear glasses all the time as well. And they are progressives. I have been buying my glasses from Zenni online for the past five years. Every pair I have received have been just as good as anything I have ever purchased at an optical store. Not to mention the cost savings that come with my online purchases.
About the pricing of frames and lenses:

...It's a question I get asked frequently, most recently by a colleague who was shocked to find that his new pair of prescription eyeglasses cost about $800.

Why are these things so [censored] expensive?

The answer: Because no one is doing anything to prevent a near-monopolistic, $100-billion industry from shamelessly abusing its market power.

...I reached out to the Vision Council for an industry perspective on pricing. The group describes itself as "a nonprofit organization serving as a global voice for eyewear and eyecare."

But after receiving my email asking why glasses cost so much, Kelly Barry, a spokeswoman for the Vision Council, said the group "is unable to participate in this story at this time."

...What the Vision Council probably didn't want to get into is the fact that for years a single company, Luxottica, has controlled much of the eyewear market. ....
Its owned and licensed brands include Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace.

Italy's Luxottica also runs EyeMed Vision Care, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical.

Just pause to appreciate the lengthy shadow this one company casts over the vision care market. You go into a LensCrafters retail outlet, where the salesperson shows you Luxottica frames under various names, and then the company pays itself when you use your EyeMed insurance.

And Luxottica is even bigger after merging last fall with France's Essilor, the world's leading maker of prescription eyeglass lenses and contact lenses. The combined entity is called EssilorLuxottica. Do you have Transitions lenses in your frames? You're an Essilor customer.

...The high cost of frames reflects a market that is woefully lacking in meaningful competition. Warby Parker recognized this as a business opportunity. I'm surprised others haven't jumped in as well with reasonably priced eyewear.

The average cost of a pair of frames is $231, according to VSP, the leading provider of employer eye care benefits.

The true cost of a pair of acetate frames — three pieces of plastic and some bits of metal — is as low as $10, according to some estimates. Check out the prices of Chinese designer knockoffs available online.

Lenses are a whole other matter. This is the "healthcare" component of vision correction and as such should be affordable to all. However, as with prescription drugs, government officials are content to pretend that "the market" will protect patients.

It won't. And the more than 1,000% markup for most vision products proves that.

Why do glasses cost so [censored] much? Because this industry has been getting away with fleecing people for decades. And you don't have to look hard to see this won't change any time soon.
Good info. I've been bringing my prescription to Walmart and buying glasses for myself and the kids for a few years. I find the techs there fit my glasses to me much better than most optician only shops as well.

Just paid ~$79 for frames and ~$200 for progressive lenses. This is about $100-200 less than going to any optician shop in my area.
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I also recently bought some eyeglasses at the Walmart Vision Center. Paid $102 for the frame, and $270 for Nikon progressive lenses.
Originally Posted by SubLGT
I also recently bought some eyeglasses at the Walmart Vision Center. Paid $102 for the frame, and $270 for Nikon progressive lenses.

After basically a lifetime of dealing with optician prices and fitment issues that have had me come back in sometimes twice, I've been thrilled with Walmart vision for the past 3-4yrs. You can get really nice frames for even under $50 and progressive polycarb lenses start at ~$180 at the store I go to. Way less if you don't need bifocals.
Through the years I have found that Safilo Elasta frames and very well built and affordable. Before the holidays, I will have my second cataract surgery(the first two years ago) and I will be able to pick out a new frame courtesy of my working neighbors who are out the door about the time I get up. Not trying to rile anyone and I was the one out the door before sunup for a lot of years.Hopefully, the funds will be there for everyone when they retire.I presume that word is still in the working stiff's vocabulary.

Some comments I came across, from 4 people:

...I'm new to progressives too and it has been a long time since seeing a doctor. Headaches from long hours at the computer drove me in. But I was shocked at the price. I actually spent $1700 for the progressives and a second pair of Computer glasses. the lenses were both top of the line, the second frame were Flexon at $350, but the first pair was 40% off the lenses and the second pair was 50% off total. Still $1700 Yikes. My daughter says go to Costco next time...

... I did not skimp on my eyes as good vision is something I do not take for granted. $178 in exams/tests, $230 frames, $720 lenses ($360 ea), and UV/AR and Transitions $300. After insurance my cost was $872 thanks to tax at the retail cost of all. Yes $900 is a helluvalot of money, but my vision is pretty [censored] important. We don't blink putting a $1000 set of tires on our vehicles, so I see nothing wrong investing $900 into my well-being for a quality pair of glasses....

...yes, like the proverbial $35 Tylenol at the hospital or the military $700 hammer, I feel I was royally overcharged--and insurance fraud was involved. No one, not even where I live in a stupidly expensive..... company town [Palo Alto] , should expect to be charged $1,221 for eyeglasses. With insurance, I paid $414, and still feel overcharged...

...My 76 year old mother was charged $1,800 by a local optician for her glasses. Unless they were gold with a few diamonds thrown in (which they weren't) I can't see how that amount is justified. She doesn't have significant eyesight issues...
I joined Costco specifically for one reason: to buy progressives. They use a high-index digital blank, good quality AR coating, and they run their own lab. I think the lenses were $130 if I remember correctly, and they're great.

My wife's first pair of progressives was $800 or so, and the second pair from Costco. She preferred the ones from Costco. Seriously, if you don't buy another thing at Costco, it makes the membership worth it.
I have two pairs of progressive lenses that, honestly, were a waste of money. The "reader" section that actually worked for me was maybe 1/8" at the bottom edge of the frame. Because of this, and the high price, just for S&G I had a pair of bifocals made by an online company. It worked out pretty well - for a couple hundred bucks I have a pair of glasses that I wear for almost everything.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a YT channel called "Laramy-K Optical". The guy provides a plethora of info, including training videos for opticians. After watching a few videos about progressive lenses, I came to understand how complex and complicated the fitting is in order to get them right. When I had my progressive lenses made, there was minimal measuring done and I'm sure that's why the lenses were a poor fit for me.

I have my yearly exam coming up next week and after reading this thread (and having a much better idea about the how's and what's about progressive lenses), will consider giving Costco a try. The bifocals work pretty well for 70% of the time, but I believe a properly fitted/made progressive would be ideal.
Originally Posted by Touring5
...I came to understand how complex and complicated the fitting is in order to get them right. When I had my progressive lenses made, there was minimal measuring done and I'm sure that's why the lenses were a poor fit for me....

Yes, an accurate pupil distance measurement is essential, and in my experience the "fitting height" has a big effect on how much reading area or distance area you end up with.
I just want new eyeballs . I tried progressive and said no way. Just give me bifocals with the tiniest sliver of reading area so I don’t have to deal with the line when looking distant. I only wish contact lenses didn’t accentuate floaters like they do. 🥴.