Giving my eyes a rest
August 13, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Soooo I need glasses. I have wore contacts for the last 5 years and would like to buy some designer frames. I usually get spectacular deals by buying my contacts online rather than on my local shop. How can I recreate the process with eye-glasses?

I would like to know whats the best method of buying designer frames and get the best possible price?

1) Do I go to the store, check out the frame that I want then somehow find it online?

2) If so, what are the best websites to do this? What are the best stores in NYC that allow me to try on designer-frames (and maybe even take pictures), without buying them or having pesky salesman after me at all times?

Finally I have a prescription in place and have contacts to last me for the rest of the year so I dont mind waiting for shipping.
posted by The1andonly to Shopping (29 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Let mathowie tell you how.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

There's a problem with buying frames online for your first pair of glasses: you do not know if your ears are even. My ears have a good half-inch difference, making all glasses visibly tilt. Even if I buy glasses online, I'd have to get them adjusted in-store, and certain glasses don't take well to such a drastic adjustment. Plus, if you've got a tilt and get thin, metal frames, they come out of alignment pretty quick (unless there's something I don't know.)

I suggest heading to the shop and trying on a bunch of pairs just to see how glasses sit on you and fir your nose and ears, and then deciding whether or not you'll purchase them online. Otherwise, get them in a shop, as the optician (or whoever it is) will know whether those particular frames will take to adjustment and can adjust them right there and then.
posted by griphus at 10:17 AM on August 13, 2010

I just just just bought a pair of glasses online for the first time, am delighted with the results - cheap and fast (2 days!). I'm in Canada though, the website i used ( had a feature to try them on virtually - take a picture, size the pic right, and then try on glasses. You just need to measure the distance between your pupils and include that with your prescription. Provided the basis for trying them on virtually too.

Glasses usually have size info written on the inside of one of the arms, so one option is to check out a regular store, find a size/style that suits you well, and write down the numbers (lens width, bridge width, arm length) to look other glasses up online. You could also look at the store above, do the virtual try-on thing, and then look up where you can buy the same pair elsewhere. fwiw, Canada's still at a lower exchange rate than the US, though shipping costs might balance it out.
posted by lizbunny at 10:27 AM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

You can usually try on designer frames at Lenscrafters without being bothered too much. I tried on sunglasses that way.

The problem is that even if the frames fit, the lenses need to be cut so that your interpupillary distance is correct. If that is off, you will get distortion and possibly very bad headaches. I really do recommend that you get your lenses ordered and cut by a local optician rather than some mail-order website.
posted by twblalock at 10:31 AM on August 13, 2010

While I agree that you might want to get your first pair in person at a shop, you should check out Zenni Optical for really cheap glasses. I have several pairs from them and have no complaints - even prescription sunglasses.
posted by jacquilinala at 10:42 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: the lenses need to be cut so that your interpupillary distance is correct

Is Interpupillar distance, the same as Pupillary Distance?

Because if it is then after reading Mathowie's article I found out that I can use my ruler to find this number...

Also I dont expect to use the glasses on a daily basis....I will use them either as a fashion statement or the few hours before I go to sleep.
posted by The1andonly at 10:44 AM on August 13, 2010

DEFINITELY Zenni Optical. All you have to do is get your current prescription, and ask the doc to measure the distance between your pupils. I have two pairs from there that I've had for at least three years, my husband just bought two off of them, and I'm going to get some more soon.

They do take ages to ship, but I found it to be totally worth the wait.
posted by lhall at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2010

I also agree with the advice above that says to try out stuff in the store to determine what size frames suit your face. Very handy!
posted by lhall at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2010

I was going to suggest zenni optical too, a friend bought hers there and they were very cheap. I've had a few friends buy a bunch of frames on the cheap, return the ones they don't like, and get the ones they do like sent in for fitting with lenses.

Yes the distances you speak of are the same, go forth and measure.
posted by lizbunny at 10:56 AM on August 13, 2010

'Nother vote for Zenni. I purchased four pairs from them for less than $100. Out of the four, one didn't look good on me at all. Two look nice, and the last pair turned out to be so cute on me that I wear them all the time. So for less than half of what I'd pay for one pair at the eye doctor I wound up with a great-looking pair, two nice backup pairs and a pair I can use to scare the kids at Halloween.

The best way to find a nice-looking well-fitting pair is to measure a pair you already have, or find a pair you like in the store and measure them. They all look the same size on the internet so it's tempting to just find a shape you like, only to be surprised when you get them to find that the lenses are way too teeny or huge.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2010

Yes, interpupillary distance is the same as pupillary distance. The person in the glasses shop will do measure this for you, not your optometrist/optician. I found a bored chatty lady who did it for me without any hassle for sales in her shop.

I had great success with two pairs on Zenni and one pair of name brand on, because while trying on glasses in LensCrafters to figure out the size, I fell in love with some Ray-Bans. The pair was about 1/3 of what I would have paid in Lenscrafters.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2010

I've bought a lot of glasses online with great success. I recommend going in to a real shop first and trying on frames while taking note of the sizes that fit you best--this will help a lot when you are trying to figure out how frames found online will fit you.

Also, check out this blog which is packed with great info on buying glasses online, plus lots of discounts and reviews:

posted by katy song at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to being "pesky salespeople" opticians are often also trained professionals. They know things about the best frames and materials for your prescription and for the shape of your face.

Also, if you do decide to go into an optical to try on frames to purchase online later it would be best if you did refuse help from the opticians because they often work on commission and could be spending time with people who will buy in the store.
posted by Kimberly at 11:42 AM on August 13, 2010

So your local merchants pay rent on stores, pay to staff them, and carry expensive inventory. You want to take advantage of this local availability, maybe take some photos of the inventory, dodge the people whose job is to pay for the rent and inventory that you are taking advantage of, and then ship your money somewhere else.

Why don't you go somewhere like this web store which says you can get a refund on frames if you don't like them?
posted by massysett at 11:46 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: In addition to being "pesky salespeople" opticians are often also trained professionals..

This is part of the reason I am turned off buying from my local store. I asked for a prescription for glasses, paid for that prescription but it doesnt have a PD. Inquired a bit about LASIK told me they I shouldnt get it as I am too young (now 26) yada yada...

I then realized that me having information is a problem for their sales models but quite good for my mostly empty pockets.

Second, I am not taking advantage of their staff, I have a right to shop around and if they do indeed have the best price I would buy for them.
posted by The1andonly at 11:59 AM on August 13, 2010 is an excellent resource on buying glasses and contacts online, with discounts to different vendors. The biggest concerns i had before buying online was frame fitting and prescription accuracy. Glassyeyes has instructions behind picking the correct frames and lenses, but trying on a pair before buying is something I would recommend. If you do buy online, have an optician or two check the lenses to see if they are true. Anecdotedly, I have medium to severe nearsightness with some astigmatism (-6/-6.25) and purchased 2 pairs of stylish non designer glasses from (they do carry brand name, I just couldn't afford it) for a great price and am very happy with the results. I didn't try them on before buying, but measured the sizes beforehand. This was back in April and both pairs have held up to my shenanigans.
posted by Giggilituffin at 12:06 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I am a guy and have gotten compliments from both sexes on the spectacles.
posted by Giggilituffin at 12:09 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: Warby Parker isn't super cheap (95$ per pair), but their lenses are very fashionable and of high quality.
posted by kylej at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've read all over metafilter about how to buy glasses online and am dying to try it but i dont' have my PD. i went to my local store & the lady was snippy and short about giving me that measurement. she said they wouldn't do it. I went to measure my own but i have dark eyes and it isnt' clear. Plus, my script is so strong, I'd like to get the correct measurement.

any suggestions on how to handle staff in stores so they give me the PD? I assume they're onto people buying online so it woudl be great if i could be up front about this (not a great liar).
posted by UltraD at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2010

GlassyEyes is a great resource. And, yes, you probably do want to try some glasses on in person if you haven't worn them for a while - I had been wearing glasses exclusively or most of the time for 3-4 years before I started buying online, so I already knew what kinds of frames looked good on me. I've ordered from, Zenni, and someplace else. They all did a fine job, although Zenni did not offer to replace the glasses I ordered from them that got stolen out of my mail room (not really their responsibility, but dang, a coupon or something would have been nice).

massysett and Kimberly have a valid point about taking advantage of the services of the optician shop and then not buying there, but the prices are so outrageously different. I'd be willing to pay an extra $50 to buy locally from trained professionals, but an extra $300+? No way!

Also, with plastic frames at least you can adjust them a lot at home. I use a hair dryer to heat mine up and then bend them into the shape I want. You have to be careful not to get the lenses too hot because if you have coatings they can blister, but it's not rocket science, just a pain in the ass.
posted by mskyle at 12:33 PM on August 13, 2010

UltraD said:
"...any suggestions on how to handle staff in stores so they give me the PD? I assume they're onto people buying online so it would be great if i could be up front about this (not a great liar)."

If you already have your current Rx, just bring it with you the next time you're trying on frames. Try to pick a time when the store isn't busy, then after a few minutes, ask the salesclerk if they're running any specials or promotions. Nod your head, act interested, make small talk if you wish. Take a few pictures of yourself with your camera phone wearing the frames you like best... mumble something about wanting to show your significant other your choices before you decide...then casually whip out your Rx and ask if s/he would mind taking your PD. Say thanks a lot and be on your way. Most of the people in these shops are very helpful when business is slow.

Or you can just skip that whole song and dance and go back to the place where your got your Rx and ask them to do it. Or Costco, if you're a member.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:06 PM on August 13, 2010

UltraD, I had my optometrist measure my PD for me when I decided to try out an online glasses place. He didn't hassle me one bit.

I can't remember which one I used, but I was pretty disappointed in the quality of the lenses even though I upgraded to the highest-quality ones. Also, the frames did not have wire in the plastic earpieces, making them tough to adjust. So, there are benefits to buying higher quality frames.

Like the OP, I generally shop around in person and then go online to get the best deal. I will go into a frame store, try things on, ask the salesperson to write down the style name and number for me, and then tell them I have to think about it. If I find a better price online, I go that route; if I can't, I buy from the store where I tried them on.
posted by chez shoes at 1:09 PM on August 13, 2010

I just went the Zenni route too! My only complaint was that it took six weeks to get them. They told me that tinted lenses take longer, but that was only after I called. There is no delivery time listed on the website.

I just asked the optometrist for my PD. He was attached to the LensCrafters and didn't seem to care a bit.

I spent $175 for one pair at LensCrafters and I wish I'd just waited for my Zenni order. I got a spare pair of glasses (which I wear more than the expensive ones) and two pairs of sunglasses. On the same order my husband got a pair of sunglasses with the lighter lenses for his really thick prescription. The whole order cost less than $100 and that included the shipping costs.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:24 PM on August 13, 2010

The style name and number is usually right on the tag of the frames, so you should make your own notes. I would not take up any of the optician's time if you don't plan to purchase there.

I agree that the PD should be given with the prescription, though this is not typical because the optometrist is not responsible for that part of it- the optician is. So it's better to go where you've already paid somebody for something, rather than just anyplace. It's like asking a jewelry store to measure your ring finger if you don't plan to buy a ring there. Unless they're particularly friendly or bored, they have a right to be snippy if you take up their time when you don't plan to pay them for it.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get your glasses for the best possible deal. This is a market where prices have spiraled way out of control. $500 I paid for my last pair of glasses at LensCrafters. Insane.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:27 PM on August 13, 2010

As others have mentioned, presciption lenses are ground assuming that the frame they are used in will be fitted properly. Part of that is ensuring the lenses are postioned correctly on your face and that each lens is the proper distance from the eye. Part of that is just making sure the glasses don't look cockeyed on your face.

The more issues you have with your vision, the more crucial the need for proper fitting. I use progressive lenses, for example, and fitting is very critical.

Perhaps you could try browsing at some local shops to get an idea which frames to concentrate on. I'm sure any competent shop would adjust and fit frames you bought online, but likely for a fee.
posted by justcorbly at 1:42 PM on August 13, 2010

For cheap but decent knockoff/generic frames with lenses, check out; I just got a funky vintage-y looking frames with lenses and coatings for $20-30 including shipping (free shipping if you buy 2 or more pairs). It might take a couple weeks, but it's well worth the price. I think I'm going to send them my vintage glasses to get relensed in my own Rx.
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:24 PM on August 13, 2010

Nthing GlassyEyes for information about how to use the online glasses retailers and discounts. (I've used several of the ones GE suggests, you're unlikely to go wrong with any of those.) Definitely go around your local glasses retailers to try on glasses -- much easier and faster to get some general idea what you're looking for that way than to use the clunky photo sample things on the websites. Much easier to do that wearing contacts, what with actually being able to see through the plain lenses on the displayed frames. Have fun!
posted by asperity at 3:57 PM on August 13, 2010

2nding Warby Parker. I am quite pleased with the glasses I got from them after wearing some Prada frames that I adored into the ground. (I decided I could afford to throw away $100 on the Warby Parker's before dropping $400 on new Prada's, and I am glad I did.) I looked at Zenni and a bunch of the other discount places and just didn't feel like the styles were as nice-looking as the designer frames from LensCrafters or other places. Warby Parker may be on the high side for discount online places, but I think their glasses look much nicer, and they are still much cheaper than from a storefront. Plus, they have a money back guarantee.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:16 PM on August 13, 2010

I went for two pairs of glasses and one pair of sunglasses because zenni optical did not believe my prescription (I guess I'm odd). But in other good news, each order only took about 1.5 weeks to arrive.

Yes, you will want to try on some pairs in person to get an idea of what sizes look good (learn what the numbers printed on one of the arms mean and try to find ones online that match). I have one pair that is a bit too wide so I rarely wear them because they slide down my face really easily. You can easily do this at a lenscrafters or something like it, just stick to "oh i'm just looking right now" whenever a salesperson tries to help. Or go when it is busier and they have other customers to talk to.

I had my eye doc measure the PD, she didn't care at all and in fact wanted to know my experience with buying online so she could tell some of her other (poorer) customers about it, and yes they do sell glasses in the office. I probably wouldn't ask someone at lenscrafters to do it since it will be obvious you aren't buying from them but you can easily have a friend do it.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:01 PM on August 15, 2010

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