Buying eyeglass frames only online and getting the lenses locally?
June 5, 2020 12:33 PM   Subscribe

The online eyeglass stores I've searched thus far do not provide progressive lenses with prisms, which is what my prescription requires. The frames online, however, are infinitely less expensive that those at brick-an-mortar stores. Is it..."acceptable"...to bring a pair of frames purchased elsewhere to a local shop and have them grind and install the lenses? Will I be charged some sort of "premium" for not buying frames from said shop? (I've tried phoning a few local optical stores nearby to inquire about this, but all are still closed due to the pandemic.)

I currently have health insurance through the state (Medicaid), which pays for one pair of eyeglasses per year. However, when I finally found a shop that accepted Medicaid, they informed me that prisms weren't covered unless I had a "doctor's note" (I guess an official prescription is considered a "doctor's note") and would cost $40. My doctor faxed the "note" and then I was told that progressive lenses weren't covered, either, and would cost extra. I took just the single-vision lenses, which are fine for distance but I struggle to read text on my computer screen (I'm a writer/researcher by trade). Traditional bifocals don't work (half-moon bifocals were an option via Medicaid, but it's the middle part of my visual field that I need for the computer screen, not the "reading" glasses part). (Oh, and it sorta irked me when I made an off-hand comment about not liking those half-moon bifocals the optician said "At your age, sweetie, who cares how you look?")

So I've decided to never darken that store's doorstep again, and now that I've received my stimulus check I'm thinking of splurging on a pair of progressive prism lenses so that I can see what I'm typing without enlarging the screen 150%. But the frames are sooo expensive in brick-and-mortar stores, which is why I'm considering buying frames online and just paying for a pair of lenses once the stores start opening again. Would this be out of line/rude? What is your experience buying frames online - if, say, the temple pieces don't quite fit your ears, will a local optometrist adjust them for you when installing the lenses?
posted by Oriole Adams to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
it is completely acceptable. I have done this and was not subject to any premiums or additional fees.
posted by supermedusa at 12:41 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


The optician I go to lately's site makes it clear that you can do that.
posted by praemunire at 12:47 PM on June 5


You can definitely do that. However, any sales they offer will not apply and you might well discover that the prices they advertise are sales/promotions, so while they are not charging a premium (which is probably illegal), you may pay more for the lenses than you would if you were buying the frame there. This is how they dissuade people from keeping their old frames and just getting new lenses when their prescriptions change.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:04 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


i agree with "If only I had a penguin". i have purchased frames from Warby Parker and had the lenses done locally. They did charge me "full price" for the lenses. Have you looked into Warby Parker to buy the frames and lenses? I don't know if they do what you need specifically, but you can try on 5 frames by mail (no postage either way), and you have 5 days to decide what you do or don't like, then send them back. Their prices are very good.
posted by ydaltak at 1:10 PM on June 5


This isn't directly answering your question, but some online glasses stores do make progressives.
posted by Lexica at 1:16 PM on June 5


This isn't directly answering your question, but some online glasses stores do make progressives.
I checked out this website originally, and maybe I'll have to research further or contact them directly, but from the photos when I specify "prisms" they show these add-on things (not quite like a binocular, but along those lines) rather than prisms ground into the lens.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:23 PM on June 5


i agree with "If only I had a penguin". i have purchased frames from Warby Parker and had the lenses done locally. They did charge me "full price" for the lenses. Have you looked into Warby Parker to buy the frames and lenses? I don't know if they do what you need specifically, but you can try on 5 frames by mail (no postage either way), and you have 5 days to decide what you do or don't like, then send them back. Their prices are very good.

The Warby Parker store near me is closed for now (pandemic), and the web page says to "come into a store" for pricing on prism lenses.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:28 PM on June 5


I do this all the time. If you need prism lenses or some other unique lens situation, this is the best way to save money. I recommend getting frames that are not string-groove, sometimes labs don't like to cut the expensive lens blanks into string groove frames because the strings are sometimes not great quality so they'll decline to cut lenses for you because of the frame quality.
posted by juniperesque at 1:33 PM on June 5


(The unfortunately-named Goggles4U will sell you progressives with prism.)
posted by mumkin at 1:41 PM on June 5


I've brought in frames to get just lenses replaced at an optician store many times and it was no problem. They do this all the time, some people prefer to keep their old frames. The only caveat is that you want to make sure the frames you're getting from the online shop are decent quality. Warby parker should be fine. I had problems with one of those $10 Zenni frames, the plastic wasn't flexible enough or the screws were glued in, I forget which but they couldn't open them to swap the lenses. And one time I bought some $20 sunglasses and (successfully) got rx lenses put in because the frames were awesome, but the frame plastic ended up developing cracks around the lenses after a few months. In retrospect that was a dumb idea and I should have known better.

Not sure if this would work for your specific rx, but if any optician offers 'digitally surfaced' lenses I'd highly recommend checking them out. The vision quality is really next-level.
posted by 100kb at 1:41 PM on June 5


I usually have old frames relensed and I might get a weak attempt at a sale on additional new frames from them, but it's no actual problem with relensing as long as the frames are in good shape. I can't imagine new frames would be any different.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:09 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Just a note for Lexica and anyone else reading, a prism lens is not the same as a progressive lens. Prism
corrects misalignment of the eyes by physically displacing where the light hits the retina, while a progressive lens provides refractive correction for multiple distances. In the past, it has been hard to get a prescription with prism filled online because fitting the lenses properly can be tricky. If the lens isn't centered just right, it's super uncomfortable to wear.

Depending on the amount of prism correction you need, you might want to ask your ophthalmologist about press-on Fresnel lenses. A caveat is that they don't provide the same clarity that a ground-in prism lens would. The appearance may be a deterrent, as well, but any amount of ground-in prism will increase the lens thickness quite a bit, so it's kind of a six of one, half dozen of another situation.

I have a very substantial prism prescription (48 diopters base-in at my last exam) and used the press-on Fresnel prisms for cosmetic purposes for several years. My ophthalmologist discouraged me from trying the ground-in prism because the lenses would have had to be so thick and so expensive as to be totally impractical.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 12:24 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


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