Refurbishing my face furniture
June 29, 2009 4:58 AM   Subscribe

As my new pair of glasses cost me £200 at a high-street optician, I am wondering whether to go online to get a second pair and/or sunglasses. But I have reservations. Your advice and experiences, please?

I'm worried that not seeing the frames in person might lead to me getting a bad-quality product, or one that isn't suitable. I'm quite short-sighted (prescription says -4.25, -3.00, and my lenses are as thick as you can get before they need to be thinned down to fit frames) and need to wear mine all the time. The pair I chose this weekend were 'designer' glasses, as I happened to like those frames best, but I'd like a quirky pair (cats eyes), or a coloured frame that I wouldn't necessarily want to wear all the time. I know the kinds of frames that suit me (I can't fit my lenses in wire frames, and I like chunky plastic) but how do I know if particular frames will fit? Is it worth using these services if my eyesight is pretty bad? Should I stick to 'name brand' frames to ensure they're reasonable quality? And finally, my friend with better eyesight used a Chinese site she found to be good, but I'm wary of doing online business with sites littered with typos - any good, reliable sites?
posted by mippy to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh - I'm in the UK and I had my PD measured by the optician for my test. (I think it was the first time I'd had it done - I was trying a new optician and the previous one never measured me.)
posted by mippy at 5:01 AM on June 29, 2009

Ordered prescription glasses online once and won't be doing it again. Quite appart from the fact that the frame was obviously not adjusted to suit the shape of my head/nose etc it turns out there are different ways of writing a prescription and whilst I copied mine out accurately it was not written the way the sytem expected to read it with the result that I had a pair of glasses that was unsuitable through nobody's fault in particular...

Think of it as cost per hr of wear and £200 is about ~ 1.5p per waking hr over a two year period - if your prescription doesn't change much at your next check-up it's even less!
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:11 AM on June 29, 2009

I've purchased 4 pairs of glasses on-line and have had great success. One pair might be a little off in terms of Rx, but it might be the weird shape of the lenses. The frames are so cheap that I don't mind taking the chance. Some frames are $8.00! I suggest you look at Glassy Eyes for information about good and safe sites.
posted by bluespark25 at 5:15 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I dont mind paying that much for my glasses, on the grounds that it's healthcare and you can't screw around with that. However, I don't know any optician that will put lenses into, say, vintage frames - all the high-street places only do their own. (I also have a wide face compared to the average 1950s woman...)
posted by mippy at 5:23 AM on June 29, 2009

However, I don't know any optician that will put lenses into, say, vintage frames - all the high-street places only do their own. (I also have a wide face compared to the average 1950s woman...)

In that case search (and I mean search - not just in your town but a reasonable radius) for a small independent optician - they are a dying breed - and call them explaining what you want - they should be able to meet your requirements although I expect it will be costly.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:38 AM on June 29, 2009

Check to see if the online retailer will actually thin down your lenses. Thinned lenses are costly, so they might not provide that service. Also, for the record, your prescription is most definitely not the thickest lens you can get. Trust me. (-14 here.) With a chunky plastic frame, you might be able to get away without the thinning. Remember: the larger the area of the lens, the thicker it will be. (The 80s were such a nightmare.) If you choose a small frame, you'll have thinner lenses. That might be a way around that for you.

How often to you usually have to go back to get your glasses adjusted? Depending on the frame, I've had to go back two or three times to get a pair bent in particular ways to avoid them rubbing in the wrong places. You would have to pay an optician for that service if you don't have them manage the frames. That might be worth it, or you might not need that service at all.

Another way around this might be to find a shop that would let you come in with your own frames and have them put new lenses in those. Personally, I wouldn't trust someone who's never seen me to make me glasses. The stakes are just too high. If you can order the frames you like and pay for them separately, and then pay someone local for the lenses and the fitting, that might be the best of both worlds.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:47 AM on June 29, 2009

There was this 2007 thread about inexpensive online eyeglasses.
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: I don't need my lenses thinning - that was just the advice I was given if I wanted thinner frames, which I don't. I'm happy with plastic for now.

I've rarely gone to get mine adjusted, though the two year old pair I'm wearing feel a bit squint.

'Costly' is what I'm trying to avoid here - Opera Opera in Covent Garden have exactly what I'd like as a second pair, but I can't afford £300 for a main pair even...
posted by mippy at 6:30 AM on June 29, 2009

"Designer" glasses and cheap glasses are made at the same place by the same people. Luxottica licenses the brand names for stuff that sounds fancy (Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari, and on and on) so they can charge you $300 for a $3 piece of plastic.

The only bad thing about ordering a pair of glasses online is not being able to try them on first to see how they look on your face. The adjustments you get at the store are basically someone bending the frame a bit, you can do that yourself.

I did pay $300 for the pair I wear every day at a local place. But I've ordered a spare pair from Costal Contacts for $30 that came in the mail faster than it took the local place, and two pairs of sunglasses from Zenni for $30 each that both work fine.
posted by andrewzipp at 6:40 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Our very own Fearless Leader wrote a blog post on this very thing some time ago. I've never bought glasses online, as my prescription's a bit wonky; mathowie seems to have had an exemplary experience though.
posted by littlerobothead at 6:40 AM on June 29, 2009

You might want to check out Juliet Banana's recommendation which I really thought I'd favourited before.

I share your paranoia, but just bought prescription swimming goggles (from A Sight for Sport Eyes) with absolute success. My previous pair were €150 (same brand, similar model, left them on the beach!) from a snooty local optician who made a big fuss about ordering separate lens strengths for my eyes, and I ended up getting two pairs and express international shipping for about €80. I reckon I'll stick to a local independent for my primary glasses, since I'm getting good eye tests and am happy with the service, but I'm encouraged now to get a couple of less versatile vintage pairs too.
posted by carbide at 6:47 AM on June 29, 2009

"Opera Opera in Covent Garden have exactly what I'd like as a second pair, but I can't afford £300 for a main pair even..."

I wouldn't be purchasing much in Covent Garden, tourist trap that it is.

I've got a solid Optometrist on Commercial Road in the East End (Stepney) who does a cracking job and charges about one third what my employer paid eye doctor in The City used to charge for identical services and product.

I only wear my glasses around the flat (contacts otherwise), but I'm paying about £20 for a pair of basic black frames. Very utilitarian plus very inexpensive = A Happy Mutant.

So maybe you can try someplace outside of Central London? Even identical frames may cost less, simply because overheads are lower on less desirable High Streets.
posted by Mutant at 6:51 AM on June 29, 2009

It took me 3 pairs of $20 glasses from an online retailer (Zenni) to get everything right (PD, the displayed frame measurements vs. my face).

It was a good experiment because now, every pair I get from them, glasses or sunglasses, is spot on. (I just ordered my 6th pair from them ). And now I have a general feel for which frames will look good on me.

I tend to need new glasses every year, and at $300+ per pair, for me, that initial $60 waste was well worth the trouble.
posted by zerokey at 6:54 AM on June 29, 2009

I own about . . . 14 pairs? now of prescription glasses purchased online. My prescrip is close to yours, and I've never ordered the thinner lenses (which eyeglass stores always tried to push on me, saying I needed it--apparently, not true). The vast, vast majority of pairs I've purchased are from zenni optical because they seem to have the greatest variety of funky plastic frames and I've never had a bad experience with them. In total, I've spent less that $250 dollars, which is less than one pair of store bought prescription lenses would have cost me.

I really think the key to being happy with your online eyeglass purchase is to buy 2 or 3 pairs your first time out. They're cheap enough that doing so will cost you less than a hundred dollars and you'll have a variety of pairs to choose from if you're not happy with one.

Oh, and if you're worried about fit, all online eyeglass sites will give you the measurements of their frames. Just measure a pair that you're happy with and look for one with similar measurements. Honestly, I've never bothered doing it and it's been fine for me. Many sites now offer a "virtual try on" feature as well.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:57 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

>I don't know any optician that will put lenses into, say, vintage frames - all the high-street places only do their own.

I wrote an overly enthusiastic comment here about using Global Eyeglasses for this.

They accept orders from the UK.

One way to prevent the problem koahiatamadl had entering their 'script correctly is to make sure you understand the prescription. You're paying the optometrist to examine your eyes, not just to try to sell you an expensive pair of frames. I made my optometrist write my prescription out for me (they didn't offer it) and then said, "OK, this is the Spherical, this is the Cylindrical, and this is the Axis, right? Can I please have my pupilary distance?"

I got a little bit of a dirty look and they asked me "hopw did you know all that?" but this is absolutely part of what you're paying for when you get your eyes examined.

The way to be a little more sure that the frames will fit your face is to measure a pair of frames you like in person, or your face(a little trickier). All online eyglass retailers provide lens, temple, height, and bridge measurements. It can be frustrating because sometimes you'll realize a pair of glasses you love the look of is much too small or large for your face, but it's much better to use your measurements as a guide and disqualify frames that don't fit than waiting for them to get to your home and finding out they don't fit.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:07 AM on June 29, 2009

I could have written bluespark25's post, only I have bought six pair online. Four of them were received last week. I bought them from EyeBuyDirect and will *definitely* patronize them again. Extremely well done. My boyfriend has commented several times that the lenses in his EyeBuyDirect glasses are far superior to the glasses he just had made at a local optometrist. All four pair together were $140. The second pair I ordered for myself don't suit my face so I am sending them back. EyeBuyDirect allows returns within 7 days for any reason whatsoever. It's a killer deal. Looks like they ship to the UK.

My prescription, btw, is very, very close to yours, except add in a pretty bad astigmatism in one eye, not so bad the other. I didn't order "high index" lenses ("thinner") and my rimless are lovely. and LIGHT.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:10 AM on June 29, 2009

My pair of Zenni Optical glasses fell apart after a couple months. They were frameless, and the anchors for the ear holder broke the lens on one side. It was irreparable. Never had a pair do that before. YMMV.
posted by malapropist at 7:11 AM on June 29, 2009

I have four pairs of glasses from Zenni Optical and three pairs of sunglasses from Global Eye Glasses. Only one pair from Zenni didn't work but that's my fault for getting tiny glasses. I have spent less than $100 USD on ALL of them! Measure the frames you like and you can use those measurments to find what you want online. I'm also going to recommend Glassyeyes. They give you a lot of info about how the process works.
posted by shmurley at 7:19 AM on June 29, 2009

Nthing Glassy Eyes to learn more about your options in this area. I, too, have a difficult prescription (prism, nearsightedness, and astigmatism), and I was very happy with my online purchase. I think the key is to start with a pair of glasses you know fit you properly and order a frame with similar measurements, and also to find a good optician that will adjust them for you after they come. The frames are the same and very likely come from the same ultimate place that the expensive ones do.
posted by oblique red at 7:33 AM on June 29, 2009

My wife and I have had great success with Zeni Optical. The lenses have chipped a bit, but I'm very rough with my glasses and wear them 24/7. And for 15$, it's okay if they chip.
posted by GilloD at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2009

I have a far worse prescription than you (in the -8 range with astigmatism), and pretty much DO have to get high-refractive lenses or I'm wearing chunks that look like they could stop bullets. Every pair I've ever had from a local optician has been at least $300, going back to age 10. My last pair was closer to $500

I bought the pair I'm wearing at the moment from Goggle4U online, based of an earlier post here. Part of the reason I went with them, is they offered the newest lens material with teh highest refractive index I could find. With the special lenses, anti-glare/fog/UV treatments, and everything, they cost me $50. Yes, I had to wait a couple days more than the local place might have taken and hadn't tried on the exact frames I bought. Still worth it. Go somewhere, try on frames, find ones you like, and measure them. Frame width, height, temple-length are all searchable from most folks online.

I'm not sure I'll ever buy regular again.
posted by pupdog at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2009

My pair of Zenni Optical glasses fell apart after a couple months. They were frameless, and the anchors for the ear holder broke the lens on one side. It was irreparable. Never had a pair do that before. YMMV.

Oh, I do want to say that my mother had some trouble with her wire-frame glasses from zenni. That being said, it's pretty difficult to bullocks thick plastic frames. I've only had one pair break--half frames, incidentally, but that was because I stepped on them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 AM on June 29, 2009

Glasses Direct seem to be pretty good - my latest pair came from there, and I paid £90 for slightly thinned frameless glasses which was much much cheaper than the local optician wanted. They also have good customer service - I got a call from them to check the prescription I entered was really correct (it was, I have a weird prescription), and to check I knew how thick the lenses would be, so I felt pretty comfortable that they know what they're doing. They'll also send you frames to try on at home so you can see if you like them.

I also have several pairs of glasses from Goggles4u, because they are incredibly cheap. I had one dodgy pair, when they didn't stick the nosepiece on a frameless pair correctly, but I mostly buy chunky plastic prescription sunglasses from them, and they're fine. They seem to have recently acquired a UK manufacturer, so now they arrive in two weeks instead of six.
posted by penguinliz at 9:08 AM on June 29, 2009

I'm wearing glasses from Glasses Direct right now and have had them two years already. They're splendid. My wife's glasses come from there, my second pair come from there.. always amazing and reasonable value (they're not the cheapest by any means).

I'm not overly fussy on fit so I don't care for all the "fitting" they do at the store so it works superbly for me. Glasses Direct are very reputable and are probably the biggest online eyewear retailer in the UK right now, so check them out.
posted by wackybrit at 9:14 AM on June 29, 2009

I have a couple of pairs I bought online. I probably wouldn't bother again. I seem to get something that is close to my prescription, but not quite right. If I wear them for a while, I get used to it, but I still prefer my "real" glasses that I paid $200 for. I would take them back to get double-checked if I had gotten them from the local optometrist. For sunglasses, it's ok, but for normal glasses, not so much.

Maybe the online places just can't deal well with extreme astigmatism.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 PM on June 29, 2009

Smackfu: I went back to my eye doc after I got my glasses from Zenni for a completely non glasses related thing and when I told her how and where I got my glasses she asked to check them for accuracy. They were right on the mark, so go to your eye doc and have them checked; it was free for me.
posted by shmurley at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2009

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