Help me find some cheap eyeglasses
January 4, 2005 11:57 PM   Subscribe

What is a good source of inexpensive eyeglasses? [more inside]

Not having replaced a pair of eyeglasses in many a year, I'm surprised to discover how much the optical shops want these days for a standard pair of glasses with lenses. Wow. There's gotta be a better way. Right? Right...?
posted by nakedcodemonkey to Shopping (17 answers total)
My grandfather loves the reading glasses he can only get at the Dollar Tree near my house.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:00 AM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Some public libraries I go to have a drop-off box for eyeglasses that go to charity. This is usually run by the neighborhood Lions Club or Optimists groups. If you are genuinely destitute, contact the aforementioned clubs in your locality to see if you can arrange for a pair through them. Otherwise you could search Google for vendors that offer inexpensive prescription glasses. Use Pink's suggestion if you just need reading glasses.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:06 AM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: Nope, not destitute, just not interested in fancy designer frames. Reading glasses aren't an option, unfortunately. These are for full-time use, and the prescription for each eye is too different to tolerate the off-the shelf solution.

An online vendor might work. Anyone have experience doing this? Are there any gotchas to look out for?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:30 AM on January 5, 2005

As much as I'm loathe to support them, Sam's Club has cheaper contacts, lenses and frames than just anyone else -- and for prescription products, you don't need a membership. If they try to card you at the door, just tell them you're going to optical with a prescription.
posted by eschatfische at 5:13 AM on January 5, 2005

I've ordered from the Hong Kong based Optical 4 Less and was pleased with the quality for such a low price. Their prices range from $30 for a basic pair of single vision on up to $60 or so for bendable titanium. You have to provide them with your prescription and your pupillary distance (pd), which is possible to measure yourself in a mirror (or get a friend to help). The obvious disadvantage of ordering online is that you can't try them on before you buy them, but the site does give a lot of frame measurements, so you could potentially dummy something up with paper just for size purposes. Of course, for about a quarter to a third of the price of glasses here, you could just donate them to charity and get another pair and you'd still be ahead.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:20 AM on January 5, 2005

Cheapest source I know of is Costco. They're not one hour service, or anything, but they're apparently very good. Assuming you have some other need for Costco's services that justifies the membership fee, of course.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:22 AM on January 5, 2005

yeah, sam's club has some cheap glasses. my wife's insurance coverage will pay for contacts yearly or glasses every two years, so we get the contacts, and go to sam's for glasses once we have the prescription. last pair was just under $100 for polycarbonate lenses. their frame selection is ok, no fancy designer frames but there are enough choices that you can find something that doesn't look bad on you.

i think wal-mart optical might actually have an eye doc on hand. could be wrong. anyway should be same price/selection as sam's, don't think there's any additional discount at the warehouse, and no hassle about the membership card either way.

people who say "don't shop at wal-mart" are sadly too often talking to folks who can't afford not to. it's the nature of the beast.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2005

I found LensCrafters to be reasonable, but that was after hunting through Harvard Square, where the cheapest glasses I could find were $700.

I'd also second or third the wholesale club suggestion, I once had some nice looking (and cheap) glasses from BJ's Club that lasted for about 3 years.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:00 AM on January 5, 2005

With a AAA account, you get 30% off of glasses at Lenscrafters.
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:30 AM on January 5, 2005

I can recommend Costco - I got cheap but funky glasses there and have gotten compliments on them, which I never did with my expensive optitian's glasses.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2005

I got a $49 pair at America's Best. Not the greatest customer service, but the glasses were just fine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:55 AM on January 5, 2005

banjo_and_the_pork, why didn't you go to For Eyes? I often get glasses at their Harvard Square store for $79 or so (and I highly recommend the handsome South African optometrist affiliated with the store).

nakedcodemonkey, there may be a For Eyes near you--check their "find a store" link, as they do have a bunch in California. I have also bought glasses at LensCrafters and been happy with them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:32 AM on January 5, 2005

people who say "don't shop at wal-mart" are sadly too often talking to folks who can't afford not to. it's the nature of the beast.

OT: Yet people who do shop there perpetuate the cycle that drives wages and benefits down along with prices, and causes more job outsourcing, creating even worse economic conditions with each purchase. It's why too many people are low-wage workers in the first place. We can't afford TO shop there -- because we're shopping ourselves right out of a living wage.

I used to shop there, arguing that I just couldn't afford to pay slightly higher prices elsewhere. But I finally decided that it wasn't worth the misery it was causing this society. Giving up few pennies and nickels here and there is a sacrifice, yes, but one I'm willing to make because it's a small conribution to a better nation. You'll be surprised how well you do with more conservative buying (who needs all that plastic crap and poorly made clothing, anyway?), looking for sales and using coupons, and comparison shopping. I know -"who has time for that?" is the most common response. Yes, that's how Mom saved money in the 70s before WM existed...but it still works effectively if a $4 savings on a $50 shopping order is crucial to you. It's not low price that drives people to Wal-Mart; it's the percieved convenience. I've given a bit of that up but I feel much better. Social improvement almost always involves conscious effort and sacrifice.

Anyway -- I went to a Wal-Mart eye doctor once in college for a pair of glasses. Even those were $140 (1993), and that was their special deal (with exam). I hated wearing the glasses and wore my contacts, except at night. I didn't like the way my eyes felt. So I brought the glasses with me the first time I went to the real opthalmologist who I see now, wanting them replaced. He tested them to see what the old prescription had been -- put them in the little viewer, made some 'hmm' and 'sheesh' noises, and then told me that the lenses had been put in rotated 180 degrees from where they should be. Since I have astigmatism, that was what was making a noticeable difference in my vision. There comes a point where a bargain is no longer a bargain.

You'll find that even the expensive-looking optical shops have no-frills lines that are less expensive. The frames aren't by Calvin Klein, and are generally simple and basic, but who cares. The exam and lenses seem to be where the steepest part of the cost comes in -- for me, anyway.
posted by Miko at 11:15 AM on January 5, 2005

Local thrift stores. Every pair of glasses i've owned i purchased the frames at the thrift (for about a buck) and took the frames and my prescription to any old eyeglasses place for the lenses (about 40 bucks). Pretty cheap and sometimes you can find some pretty sick specs at the thrift.
posted by verysleeping at 11:39 AM on January 5, 2005

A previous eyeglasses thread I asked about mentions a few online vendors if you should decide to go that route.

While they may not be the cheapest, I can certainly recommend for service. They were fantastic. After I placed my order online, the tech handling my order actually called me to correct a mistake I'd made -- I was overpaying for a type of lens I didn't need for my prescription -- they corrected my order and saved me money. I can assure you that LensCrafters would never do that.
posted by jca at 11:55 AM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: So many good ideas. Thanks, everyone!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2005

Believe it or not, I found some cool old bakelight round frames with gold hinges at an ANTIQUE STORE for $13. I _loved_ the frames, although I've been accused of trying to look like Harry Potter (marginally better than Waldo of "Where's Waldo" fame). Getting lenses for them only cost me about $40, so they turned out to be the coolest, lowest priced glasses I have ever had. You can find "vintage frames" on eBay also, if finding something retro interests you.
posted by spock at 2:06 PM on January 5, 2005

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