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Economics of online glasses sellers
February 2, 2013 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for background on the means of production for the well known online glasses retailers (Zenni, 39dollarglasses, etc.) How are orders fulfilled, from placement to delivery in stores such as these? It is an intriguing business, but there is little background information available for the curious.

I am looking for background on the means of production for the well known online glasses retailers (Zenni, 39dollarglasses, etc.). From reviews, the quality is by and large, very good, while the price remains at a fraction of those sold through traditional channels. I have looked for sources on where these glasses come from, and how they are produced, but I have come up with little concrete information.

For the top sellers, I have tried to search for a factory or office, and I can not seem to find much. This leads me to believe that they may be produced outside of the country, or quite possibly though a 3rd party.

How are orders fulfilled, from placement to delivery in stores such as these? It is an intriguing business, but there is little background information available for the curious.
posted by Lugos to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
The glasses are made in Asia. I know Goggles4u is in Pakistan and Globaleyeglasses ships from Hong Kong. Order are shipped directly to customers, by post.
posted by ssg at 12:09 AM on February 3, 2013


I can't offer much insight into the cheap online glasses retailers, but I can tell you that the reason they're so comparatively cheap has a lot to do with the anti-competitive, vaguely monopolistic practices of the primary eyeglass manufacturer and retailer for the United States. Luxottica Group not only manufactures (in Italy and China) most of the eyeglasses sold in the US, it also owns a good number of the most popular retailers (Sears, Target, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, etc.) as well as a prescription eyeglass insurance company (EyeMed). Oakley finally had to relent after 10 years of Luxottica refusing to sell their eyewear at places like Sunglass Hut and merged with Luxottica a couple years ago. Luxottica produces both luxury and generic eyewear.

I know that 39dollarglasses.com manufactures all of their glasses in the US, but I don't know anything about Zenni or others.
posted by xyzzy at 12:40 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I got a wonderful package the first time I ordered glasses online; the glasses were in the case in a styrofoam box, which was then sewn into a cloth bag and sealed with wax, with the address written in hand. And mailed from Pakistan. It aroused much suspicion when I got it delivered to my office.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:52 AM on February 3, 2013


Homeboy, where oh where did you order those glasses from?
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:52 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe that eyebuydirect.com manufactures their lenses in Maryland. That's where the orders ship from anyway.

Not sure about the actual frames though. I'm sure those are manufactured somewhere else but where?

If you look on their website their contact address is only listed as "United States Of America".
posted by eatcake at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2013


Here's a video of the manufacture of the lenses for glasses.

Here's a video of the manufacture of the frames for glasses.

For what it's worth I've had $40 glasses from Zenni are as good as $500 glasses from LensCrafters.
posted by gregr at 7:54 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for Homeboy, but glasses from Goggles4u arrive exactly as he describes: styrofoam, sewn into a cloth bag, sealed with red wax (which is, sadly, quite wasteful).
posted by ssg at 8:10 AM on February 3, 2013


xyzzy, do you have any cites for your info on Luxottica?
posted by attercoppe at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2013


Here's a story about an upstart in the market that has some of the same info on Luxottica.
posted by azpenguin at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2013


My orders from Goggles4Less have not arrived packaged that way. I feel cheated. Anyway, I have basically been happy with Goggles4Less. A couple times I thought I could see the spot on the lense where they held it to grind for my pupil distance, but for the price, I was thrilled.

39Dollarglasses sent a lot of cute stuff with the glasses (little keychain repair kit and lint free cloth), but the frames themselves were pretty cheap, and I'm not going to use them again.

In a recent AskMeFi, another MeFite complained about the grind quality of these places, and stated that they found the quality to be excellent from Optical4Less. I think I'm going to try them next.
posted by MeiraV at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend who was working in Shanghai last year came back with some very striking eyeglass frames that she got for extremely cheap, around $20. They look identical to the Warby Parker line. We are certain they must come from the same factory.
posted by cazoo at 9:37 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


attercoppe: Indeed I do. 60 minutes did a segment on Luxottica that was pretty thorough. Luxottica's web site lists their brands and holdings.
posted by xyzzy at 11:39 AM on February 3, 2013


What is good etiquette for those who don't want to pay the local eye doctors for frames and lenses? Last couple of times I did the online thing, my eye docs guilt-tripped me when I walked out the door with just the prescription.
posted by christopherious at 12:44 AM on February 4, 2013


What is good etiquette...

Find a different eye doctor. You're paying for an exam, which results in a prescription. That is the service rendered. Sure, they want you to buy glasses there, but you didn't contract with them to examine your eyes and then sell you glasses.

If the eye doctor is question is pressuring you to do more than that, vote with your wallet and go elsewhere. I'll recommend Costco. They all have optometrists available who do eye exams for $40-50 or so with no pressure to buy buy buy [the optometrists do only exams, Costco sells glasses.]

If you are near Eden Prairie, MN, I can give a totally unqualified recommendation for Dr. Melissa Viker at the WalMart vision center. My family and I have been seeing her for years, and we have never had a problem walking out with a prescription only. I think I bought glasses there once ten years ago.

I understand that a lot of eye doctors decline to measure your PD [pupillary distance] unless you're in the process of ordering glasses. Again, I recommend Costco. The last time I ordered glasses online I walked up to the optical counter at Costco and asked "Hey, can you measure my PD?". 30 seconds later I had a piece of paper with a number written on it. I then spent 15 minutes discussing how to order glasses online with the person who'd measured my PD. She said she'd always wanted to try it.
posted by chazlarson at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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