Apprehensive about ordering glasses online
December 30, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I need to wear glasses all the time for my job (and for seeing things in general). Unfortunately, they broke the day before Christmas, and, while I have repaired them, they're pretty unsightly. The only way I could replace them in the near future would be to order a pair online. However, I have kind of a small head and am apprehensive about not being able to try frames on before purchasing them. How have you folks done with ordering glasses online that fit comfortably? Where should I order from?

I should probably also mention that buying several sets of glasses in the hopes that one fits better than another is not really something I can afford right now, unless they're really inexpensive (like under $10 apiece). Fortunately I tend to prefer metal frames, which are easier to adjust, but I'm still pretty nervous about this.

Additionally, I need to get a new prescription before doing this; does anyone know where can I do this on the cheap in Rhode Island?
posted by The Great Big Mulp to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Warby Parker allows you try on up to five frames at home before you buy.
posted by roomwithaview at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some podcasts I listen to have carried sponsorships from Warby Parker, and the ATP guys seem to be pretty satisfied customers.

Warby Parker has free home trials, and you can find a link from ATP above to get some discount on shipping too, should you choose to try them.

(On preview - no way!)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2013

Warby Parker has a "Home try-on" service, where they send you 5 pairs, you try them on and mail them back (postage-paid, of course), and then you can buy or get more to try or whatever. They also have some "narrow" options. Unfortunately not that many and not metal frames, but it mights till be worth trying them.
posted by brainmouse at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: First step, since you've got an existing pair of glasses you seem to have been happy about the fit on: get out a ruler and measure them. How to measure frames.

All the online eyeglasses merchants will give you full specs on frame dimensions, which you can compare to the dimensions of your existing frames. After that, it's all style, materials, and price.
posted by asperity at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Apparently it's Warby Parker day at AskMe. Their service is indeed great, and I used them back when I was in the USA full-time.

As to your "try a bunch for $10" idea, I'd say go for it. The old cheapskate's favorite standby, China's Zenni Optical helped me with a half-dozen facial experiments when I was in the Middle East and bored last year. They ship everywhere, cost almost nothing, and will indeed take returns for pretty much any reason. The quality isn't exceptional, but it's actually a lot better than I expected, and I still wear some of them today. They have head and eye measuring guides on the website.

But mainly, I learned what looked good on me (a few) and what was hideous (more) and used that info when shopping for less-cheap glasses elsewhere the next time around.

Bonus: it's fun opening a box of eight wildly-different glasses that all work. You get some great costume party accessories out of the deal.
posted by rokusan at 12:36 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Classic Specs also does a home try on. I tried on a bunch from both Warby Parker and Classic Specs; the Warby Parker glasses were in general tiny on my head, so that might be a good place for you to start shopping. Also, I didn't need proof of a current prescription to order from Classic Specs. I just gave them my numbers.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2013

If you want to buy them online, ask to get your pupil distance measured when you get your new prescription.

If you like your current frames and want to get them again, you may be able to find them online.
posted by radioamy at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2013

About getting an eye exam: optometrists aren't like medical doctors in a good way. If you call and ask, they will be able to tell you up front how much an exam costs. Shop around locally. There may also be community eye clinics that you qualify for -- dunno about anything RI-specific.
posted by asperity at 12:40 PM on December 30, 2013

Response by poster: Warby Parker looks nice, but price is a huge issue, and Warby Parker is out of my range. It looks like the Zenni price range is more realistic for me, right now. I probably should have mentioned that in the question.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: On my second pair of Zenni glasses. Super cheap, all I would tell you to do is to get the anti-smudge coating, unless you like polishing them 20x a day. But since they're super cheap, this won't increase your cost much.

You do need to get the papillary/pupil distance measurement to get the size/spacing right on your head. When you get your prescription, make sure they include that information.

(distance between your two pupils).

There are no guarantees, of course. Zenni is great for regular plastic frames, but I haven't tried getting metal frames.
posted by emjaybee at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should say, my first pair of Zenni's lasted about three years before they got really wobbly.
posted by emjaybee at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2013

I buy most of our glasses from EyeBuyDirect, who have deals and/or send me coupons constantly. They categorize their frames by small/med/large/xl with mm measurements, so you can use a cloth tape measure to determine the width you like/need.

Their frames start around $4-6 for clearance (which, to me, look like all the other glasses), and often they have BOGO or BOGhalf on frames that generally run $10-30.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:47 PM on December 30, 2013

You can get a free pair of glasses from I'm wearing mine now, in fact, and they're just as nice as the ones I paid $300 for a couple years ago. Just measure your existing glasses (as suggested above) so that you can find some with similar dimensions.
posted by belladonna at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing asperity's suggestion that you measure a pair of glasses that fit you.

I did this when ordering from Zenni and it worked out.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: Total Zenni fan here. Measure your pupillary distance (PD) (I did it by taking a cell phone picture of a metric ruler in front of my face, using a photo editor to see what the distance was), upload a picture of your face to Zenni, virtually "try on" the frames you're interested in appropriately scaled on the picture of your face.
posted by straw at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've bought from Zenni, EyeBuyDirect, and Warby Parker and had good experiences from all of them. One thing Warby Parker mentions is that they will reimburse you (click "Products") for getting your frames adjusted by an optician. My local optician will adjust any frames for free (because I get my eye exams there {covered by my health insurance!}). There are also some online tutorials for adjusting your own glasses. Go for it!
posted by mattbucher at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use
Because if something's not quite right, it wasn't even forty bucks.
Sometimes they send me an email that's like, "Hey, something cheap is now 50% off," and it works, so now i have three pairs of glasses.
posted by entropone at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: Yes, Zenni. A thousand times yes. EyeBuyDirect and Goggles4U are also decent, but my partner and I have bought a dozen pairs each from Zenni over the years with no issues.

The way you get around the sizing nervousness is simple: go to a Target or a Wal-Mart optical section. Or any place that sells eyeglasses. Try on as many pairs as you like. When you find pairs that look like the right proportion for you, take note of how wide they are in millimeters. This is your size. When you search at Zenni, look for glasses approximately this width. You can also get a good idea which styles will look good on you, so that you can search for their analogues later on Zenni.

What I like to do is to buy several pairs at once that seem like they might work. I get one or two that seem like reasonable, basic pairs, and one or two that are a bit of a stretch for me. Their glasses are so cheap, my bill with shipping, is still under $100. Once they arrive, I try them all out and find my favorites within a week. I now also have two to three spare pairs.

Bottom line: every single person I know who has tried buying glasses online has wondered what in the hell took them so long. People of various sizes, genders, prescriptions, etc.... they all end up shaking their heads and wondering why it took them so long. The markup in stores is just insanity. Worried you won't like what you get online? Hell, if you buy them for $15-35 each and spend say, $150 total to get a great pair, isn't that still half what you'd pay in a retail store?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:56 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can't say enough good things about Zenni. I'm wearing my favorite pair from them right now, a nice metal pair that I got for seven bucks about three years ago. These things have been through hell--they've been stepped on, sat upon, and one time they went through the washing machine. They've gotten out of shape, but a bit of bending later and they're as good as they were when I started.

Many WalMarts, etc, will adjust your glasses for free if you ask nicely.

If you buy a plastic frame and it's slightly too wide, get some almost-but-not-quite boiling water and let the frames sit in it for a minute or two, and then gently bend them to be less wide. It's not perfect, but for a $6 pair of glasses that I only use as backup, it's damn good.

Every couple years I buy fifty dollars of glasses from Zenni, which usually comes out to five to eight pairs. There's always one or two pairs that fit amazingly that I love, and one or two others that are ok but not my favorite thing, and, usually, one pair that I'm meh about. But for fifty bucks, who can complain?
posted by MeghanC at 2:37 PM on December 30, 2013

I love Zenni, as well. I use them exclusively - good quality, decent styles, big selection, super low price. I've never ever been unhappy with an order.
posted by firei at 3:43 PM on December 30, 2013

Nthing Zenni. Good quality and very reasonable prices. They are the only glasses I wear.
posted by pjern at 5:11 PM on December 30, 2013

Yeah, if you give Zenni your PD and then upload a photo, they use some sort of eye/head scaling to allow you to virtually "try on" pairs of glasses. Pretty accurate, in my experience.
posted by clerestory at 6:04 PM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: If you look on the inside of the arm on your existing glasses, there should be a number there that corresponds with the size. Mine is 49-19-140. Those are the distance from temple to temple, width of nose piece, and length of arms, respectively. Most online companies will list glasses sizes in this same format so if the ones you broke fit you well, you should be able to find something comparable. Alternately, if you can't find that number on your frames, try on a bunch at somewhere like Walmart and note the size.

I have also purchased cheap reading glasses before at a store like Walmart, and asked if they could fit my prescription lenses in place of the reading lenses. This has only worked once, but I paid just the cost of the lenses, and a small fee for the fitting.
posted by persephone's rant at 6:29 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm a big fan of Zenni optical. The "try it on" feature that lets you upload a photo and mark your pupils as a means of establishing scale for the frames is a little bit goofy looking, but does give a decent sense of how frames will look on your face. Caveat: I did wind up ditching the pair of absolute cheapest $6.95 glasses I got from Zenni because the plastic on the temples was irritating the hell out of the tops of my ears (I think it was the shape, not the material) but I've bought several $9.95 pairs and they've been great.

I also had a good experience with - I happened to catch a 50% off sale so I wound up paying more like $25 shipped.
posted by usonian at 6:19 AM on December 31, 2013

Nthing Zenni, even for metal frames. My husband got his metal-framed glasses from Zenni a few years back and is still wearing them (although now the issue is that he's due for a new exam) at all times except when sleeping. I think he'll probably order from them again, and I'll definitely give them a whirl. If you're used to and prefer special coatings, it's probably worth it to go ahead and order them, but it didn't seem too expensive.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:22 AM on December 31, 2013

Best answer: Mine is 49-19-140. Those are the distance from temple to temple, width of nose piece, and length of arms, respectively.

Correction on the post above: Those numbers are width of one lens, width of nose piece (the bridge), and length of arm, respectively. They are measured in millimeters, so you can measure your existing glasses (or look on the inside of the arms to see if the measurement is there) and that will help you find the right size. Double the width of the lens and add the bridge length for the total width of the glasses (temple to temple).

I recommend taking the tactic of trying on a bunch at a local store and see the size range that fits you best before looking online for that size. You'll also need your PD, which the optician can measure for you or someone can do for you at home. This is also in millimeters. Do not guess on this!

I've had some success with Zenni and more success with Coastal, Warby Parker, etc. My current glasses are from Rivet & Sway, which also has a try-before-you-buy system. They are good glasses. I've been buying glasses online since 2009.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:22 AM on December 31, 2013

Actually buying glasses online is SO much cheaper, in our family, we've dropped optical insurance, as paying for the exams cash and ordering big heaps of pairs of specs online is cheaper than a year's worth of premiums.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:43 AM on December 31, 2013

Response by poster: Alright. I've just received my new glasses from Zenni Optical, and I'm pretty happy with them (especially price-wise). They fit nicely, and I think, once I have some extra income, I'ma order a few more. Thanks, all, for your help! Wish I hadn't been afraid to try this before.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:44 AM on January 15, 2014

Response by poster: (I started marking "best answers", but, if I miss a few, y'all can just assume that everyone who recommended Zenni Optical gets one.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:47 AM on January 15, 2014

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