Cheap eye exam/glasses in portland?
December 13, 2010 8:11 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm looking for recommendations for a low cost way of getting new eyeglasses in Portland. From the scant research I've done so far, it looks like the best plan is to get an eye exam and then order from a website. But where to get the exam in PDX? And, also, is America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses really a scam? Any personal experiences with them or other Portland places appreciated. Oh, also, I have no health insurance. Thanks!
posted by overglow to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
While I'm not in Portland, the cheapest way I've found to do this (in Sacramento, Syracuse, and Cleveland, anyhow,) is to go to a generic chain place to get an eye exam, then to hop online and go to Zenni Optical for the glasses. You order, give them your $15-including-shipping, and then the glasses show up about ten days later.

If you can get to Lloyd Center, there's a Lenscrafters and a Sears Optical--I've managed to get in and out of both places for under $65. Many Sam's Clubs, WalMarts, CostCos, and JCPenny stores also have optical departments, and in my experience, the appointment will run about $50 - $75, depending where you live and if you catch a sale or not.

Buying glasses in person will definitely cost more than buying them online, so I'd advise against that. Try on some pairs while you're there, though, and make a note of what they are. When you get home and go to shop, you can research the size, etc of those frames so you have an idea of what things look good on your face.
posted by MeghanC at 8:56 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite cheap source for glasses (once you get the prescription) is I've bought a few pairs from them, and you can get the higher quality lenses and still pay less than $100. They have limited selection of frames but I was able to find a pair I liked. Sorry, I'm no help on the Portland-specific question.
posted by lvanshima at 9:16 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

America's Best sucked major monkey butt when I went, also with no insurance. What we were expecting to be a couple hundred dollar trip turned into colose to $6-700. Part of that was because we did contact exam as well as glasses. They just shuffled as along in the process.

We were expecting the free exam with two pairs of glasses. A bit of wishful thinking maybe since we wanted one pair each for me and my wife (and thus one of our exams for free). But it was never explained to us in the office that free glasses meant plastic lenses only. And only certain prescriptions can even get plastic lenses. I know that we should have been on top of that, but we told them at the start of things that that's why we went there and not other places.

If you decide you want contacts you have to have a second exam to make sure they fit right and everything. I'm not sure how standard that is, but when I went to Wal-Mart and an independent doctor I don't remember hearing any of those restrictions at all.

If you don't get the second exam, they tell you that they won't release the prescription. I didn't even try, so I don't know if making a fuss would get you the prescription anyway.

Seriously, the second we got out of there we both said that we wished we had just gone to Wal-Mart. Contacts come thorugh 1-800-Contacts anyway, and the glasses are cheap. They also give you prescription if you want to go somewhere else. As opposed to America's Best/Worst, who hold the prescription hostage.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to call them a scam. I'm sure there's some fine print that covers their collective ass. But definitely shady and could do business better. I was not amused at all when I went there.
posted by theichibun at 9:22 PM on December 13, 2010

+1 for Zenni Optical. There's a bunch of similar websites, but these folks do a nice job and they seem to be very competent. I've heard good things about 39dollarglasses, but have not ordered from them.
posted by drhydro at 9:23 PM on December 13, 2010

Just make sure you get your PD (Pupil Distance) when you go in for an exam. I tried to measure my own and ended up with screwed up vision and headaches for a few months until I finally had a doctor do it. Most people will do it, but I'd go to a local person rather than a chain - chains sometimes have weird rules where they won't release prescriptions because then you won't buy from them. is your friend in all this, even if they are a little skeevy.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:48 PM on December 13, 2010

First, make sure you check the online glasses sellers for the list of measurements you'll need from your eye exam. It would suck to pay for an exam only to discover you are missing a measurement.

Check the eye section in this Portland Mercury article about healthcare on the cheap.

Or, start calling around to some local optometrists and ask them what they'd recommend for a person without insurance. You'll quickly learn whether they're more concerned about their profits or your eyes; eventually one of them will offer you a reduced rate or a referral to a low-cost provider.
posted by danblaker at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2010

I had two friends get their eye exams at Wal-Mart for $30 about 6-7 years ago. I don't know if Wal-Mart still does that, though, or what their prices are these days.

-1 for Zenni Optical. I bought two pairs from them. Both of them look awful on me. One of them is way too small, despite the measurements on the site being the same as glasses I already own. It was the worst $80 I ever spent. It wasn't worth returning them due to their restocking fees and unpleasant customer service.

does free home try-ons of frames. I haven't ordered from them, but my sister did and she was very happy. $95 glasses with the ability to try on different pairs first trumps $29 glasses that might look/feel terrible, especially if that increases the likelihood you'll have to spend more to get glasses that actually DO fit. But your budget may dictate otherwise.

And yes, definitely get your PD (pupillary distance) on your prescription. Also, if there's a chance you might lose the paper the Rx was on, e-mail all the details to yourself.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2010

Doh, preview wasn't inspected close enough! is the company that does at-home mailed try-ons.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2010

I just did a similar thing to what you're thinking about. Got an exam at Costco for about $70 (don't have to be a member) and ordered a pair of glasses from Zenni. For full disclosure, I would have preferred to use a company other than Zenni (due to mixed reviews, which we're seeing here on AskMe as well) but they were the only company that enabled me to enter my exact (ridiculously strong; I have terrible eyesight) prescription on the site, the others I would have had to call and speak with someone and explain my deal, yadda yadda. With strong prescriptions you generally get totally hosed buying glasses at a traditional retailer. The last pair I bought five years ago cost me just north of $250 for frames and lenses. The ones from Zenni, $75 including shipping. Just ordered them the other day and have not yet received them but we'll see how it goes...

Oh, and Glassy Eyes is a good site that has reviews of the online retailers and also frequently has coupons. Good luck!
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:18 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Best way to mask/obliterate brand logo on black...   |   Are you there, holidays? It’s me, Average Agnostic... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.