Jan 7 2015
07:36 pm

For those of you that need to wear prescription eyewear, and your insurance does not cover vision, I came across this article that might be of some help.

Well, after you get over the sticker-shock on the (up to) 500% mark-ups. But, the important part:

This has begun to change over the last few years. A knowledge-is-power, power-to-the-people, Web-driven DIY wave is rocking the optical industry's very foundations. Dozens of companies now sell prescription glasses online, frames and lenses included, for as little as $7.95.

Just wanted to post this in case some reader (or someone they know) needs new glasses and doesn't have vision coverage or an extra $300+ sitting around.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


This is much appreciated, CE. I'm so extremely nearsighted I have to pay that premium for Featherweight lenses (so my glasses won't look like Coke bottle glass) and I need the no-line bifocals the author requires. I've never felt I should splurge on the progressive lenses--although they'd be a treat--because I'm already paying $300-$500 out-of-pocket for my glasses, always in whatever ugly frame is cheapest!

AND three of the four of us in this family wear glasses or contact lenses, so you know which of us has always sacrificed getting an updated prescription when either of the kids needed more contact lenses, eh?!

I've already printed the AlterNet article and filed it with my health/dental/vision insurance paperwork. You can bet I'll be checking out 39DollarGlasses, ZenniOptical, and Goggles4U the next go-around, which needs to be soon.

Thanks again!

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Actually, I believe I'll order a pair of glasses for my contact lens-wearing son, too, and recommend to my contact lens-wearing daughter that she do the same.

Both of them require prescriptions so strong they're never in stock, meaning they have to wait for their orders to be shipped.

An emergency back-up in the form of some eyeglasses on hand is a good idea for the both of them--at these prices, that is.

Pam Strickland's picture

My glasses are in the $600

My glasses are in the $600 range. And I do go for the featherweight lenses and the progressive bifocals. But I also believe in getting a frame that I'm happy with. It's going to be on my face everyday. I set a limit, but I don't buy whatever's cheapest just because it's cheapest. And honestly, I don't get how you can order glasses online. You haven't tried th on. You can't get them adjusted. And when it comes to bifocals, they can't be fitted. I want to buy from an in-person optician.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


The Zenni site allows you to upload a photo of yourself and "try" their frames on that photo. I haven't yet looked at the other sites mentioned in the article.

And the author of that article says she actually got better follow-up service from some of the online businesses than she did at some brick-and-mortar businesses she'd frequented previously?

We generally need to buy what's cheapest because it's cheapest whatever the commodity.

CE Petro's picture

Virtual Try-on

Pam, I was also looking around several of these sites, and of the 3 mentioned in the article, 2 have virtual try-on applications. Also, the instructions on these sites are very explicit on measuring, for pupillary distance, arm length, etc.

I posted this as an FYI for anyone that might want the info. You gotta do what you feel most comfortable doing!

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Well, this family was trapped in a Health Insurance Nightmare for several months in 2013-2014, following my husband taking a new job.

As I'd mentioned here at the time, his new employer offered only one tier of health/dental/vision coverage for a Cadillac plan that would have resulted in a $1000/month payroll deduction for the three of us.

The boy and I wound up carrying private health/dental/vision coverage for several months, but our combined costs for the two plans was still running $900/month.

Only recently has the mister's employer begun offering three tiers of coverage, allowing us to once again choose a mid-range plan resulting in a $500/month payroll deduction of the sort to which we were accustomed.

When you're forking over nearly $12000/year just for the insurance premiums (on a single income), there isn't a lot left over to cover the co-pays.

And I believe I've also shared here our more recent car insurance travails?

Online opticians it is!

Andy Axel's picture

You can choose frames

and have them lensed.

I have a Waza frame (titanium, spring-hinged temples) that I really love and has worn just great for me. With my new Rx I'm going to have them converted to sunglasses and it'll be hella cheaper to do that through a web fulfillment site.

(My optician adjusts glasses that I haven't bought from her, BTW. It helps that I go there every year for a checkup, though.)

Pam Strickland's picture

You don't get a check-up from

You don't get a check-up from an optician. The optician makes the glasses. You get a check up from an opthamologist or optometrist. The former being a full-fledged MD; the latter being someone who is only trained to examine eyes for vision and a limited array of other eye-related issues.

I can look at a picture and see one thing, but it's different when I look at myself in the mirror. I also cannot imagine being fitted the way y'all are are saying. It simply doesn't make any sense to me.

I don't have any health insurance, period. Through Interfaith I could get glasses very inexpensively, but I'm not going to wear just any ole frame because this is part of the first impression people are going to have of me. Also, that inexpensive eye wear is lined bifocals and I can't deal with those. I manage to find a sale, though clearly not the prices that y'all are talking. This is the first time I've gotten the featherweight. It makes a difference. I also got transition.

And as CE said, it's what I'm comfortable with. And the truth is, I buy almost nothing through the web. I like dealing with folks face-to-face. Among other things it means paying taxes that support schools and the infrastructure.

TaxSlayer's picture

Yeah, go with what you are

Yeah, go with what you are comfortable with but it's hard to buy your argument that saving 500% on eye wear through a website weakens tax funds going to the local school system or infrastructure. In actuality it means less money is going to the monopoly that causes the high markup in the first place, which means more money stays local.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Gosh, ya'll have some fancy-schmancy ways.

I adjust my own glasses. Bought an 8-piece precision screwdriver set in a folding case for $1.50 at Dollar General.


Bird_dog's picture

Frames are the ripoff

Lenses are the corrective devices. I often reuse frames I like with new Rx lenses as my vision deteriorates. The frames for my rx readers have to be a good headband also. That way they are useful up or down. :)

schull's picture

anecdotal evidence

I haven't dealt with Zenni in a couple of years but only because the fact that I don't wear glasses but my ex wife does means she tends to deal with our son's eyeglasses issues more than I do these days.

I googled and found Zenni after my son lost his first pair of glasses, for which we paid just over three hundred dollars. I say lost, but soccer balls and glasses often don't mix. It wasn't his fault.

In the ensuing eight years and nearly as many pairs of glasses, I don't know if Zenni has gotten as much money as that very first place we bought that first pair of frames for this kid. And he's always been able to find a frame he likes and tends to be happy with the glasses when they arrive. He's also not an especially picky kid, but the glasses have tended to look good on him. I'm also a biased judge, so

tl;dr don't wear glasses, have purchased glasses for minor child, no complaints

redmondkr's picture

I've worn glasses for 55

I've worn glasses for 55 years and I have rarely owned a pair that didn't require my own personal adjustment in the first few weeks of ownership.

Let me tell you about the time I broke the temple piece on a pair when I was about 16 and I made the clever decision to temporarily repair it with my handy soldering iron. That magnesium temple piece is just like a cheap sparkler when it ignites.

Pam Strickland's picture

It's the possibility of

It's the possibility of breaking that means I don't adjust my own frames. I'm pretty handy but the bending and twisting isn't my deal. I do tighten the screws and such.

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