Making a spectacle of myself
June 27, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Eyeglasses filter: Any members out there that still buy their specs from a non-chain optical store? (long post)

Yesterday I bought my new glasses at the optical shop located in my opthamologist's office. My decision to buy there was based on two factors: they had a pair of frames I really liked, and it was too hot outside and I was too tired to drive from place to place to price specs.

However, I had some severe sticker shock once my order was tallied: just over $700. I bought one pair of frames, and two sets of lenses, supplying my own frames for the reading glasses. My prescription may be a bit tricky, since I require prisms in the lenses, and I also had a transitional bifocal in both sets of lenses. I had one pair of lenses tinted purple. Does $250-something for a set of eyeglass lenses seem normal? (Or should I say "market-appropriate"?) The last time I bought glasses was from a different optical shop four years ago; I bought both two pairs of frames and lenses (although the frames came from the "discount/discontinued" rack) and my total was just under $500.

Has the price of lenses increased that much in the past few years? (Oh, by the way, I have trouble getting prisms at chain stores like Pearle Vision and Lenscrafters, so don't include their prices in the equation.) I know that optical shops tend to have a 600% or more markup, but I keep fretting in the back of my mind that I should have shopped around before I plonked down seven big ones for two pairs of glasses. Please share your own glasses-buying experiences.
posted by Oriole Adams to Shopping (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've had glasses going on 25 years now, and I don't believe I've ever had a pair under about $300. Admittedly I have a really strong prescription, and can't wear standard metal frames (titanium rules, though), but yeah, they're expensive. I've never even tried one of the chain stores, every vision insurance I've ever had covered the independents, and not the chains.
posted by pupdog at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2007

Does $250-something for a set of eyeglass lenses seem normal?
Yep. Sounds cheap to me.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2007

$250-something is about right for glasses plus lenses if you go with the online option and get really high end frames.

For my current pair of glasses, I went to a high-end fashionista glasses place to find the frames that I liked, then I bought them, with lenses, online for a very small fraction of the price. They're great, and the lenses fit the frames better than any glasses I've ever had.
posted by The World Famous at 3:29 PM on June 27, 2007

Decent lenses cost a lot. Variable-focus lenses made from high-index materials with antireflective coating empty my pocket, so your cost seems moderate to me, too.

I don't need trendy, thanks, so for frame economy I use a very robust make (autoflex) which last for multiple years -- almost ten, now. Lenses, though, get scratched and need replacing every year or so.
posted by anadem at 3:30 PM on June 27, 2007

Yeah. I probably paid ~$250 for regular lenses + frames at my local optician last time I got glasses, and this was in Canada.
posted by SoftRain at 3:38 PM on June 27, 2007

Short answer: yeah that seems pretty reasonable (where reasonable = expensive, but realistic to the market.)

I refuse to buy from Lenscrafters for a variety of reasons (big chain, crappy quality) and my last couple pais of glasses have been in the $250-$400 range. Glasses are expensive, most frames are designer branded, and lenses themselves, especially if they're polarized, or extra thin can be really pricey. To cut costs I try to buy frames when they're on sale, even when I don't need a new pair of glasses and then have lenses with my most up to date prescription put in when I do need a new pair.
posted by nerdcore at 3:46 PM on June 27, 2007

$250 is decidedly inexpensive for a great pair of eyeglasses. I dropped about $600 on a single pair of Kawasaki (they've no screws or hinges) frames.

To me, it's a small investment. I wear glasses every day and consider them an integral part of my identity (they are, after all, on my face all day). When it comes time for a new pair - every two or three years - I never skimp.
posted by aladfar at 3:50 PM on June 27, 2007

I have bought my two most recent pairs for under 60 bucks after routinely paying 2-500 every other year for about the last 10 years.

I purchased both of my pairs off of recommendations from:
posted by iamabot at 4:19 PM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

You should have a breakdown of where the money went. Just comparing the totals is very hard to make any real conclusions.

Tinting is very pricey ($50-$100). Bifocals are expensive. Transitional bifocals are more than that. Basically you have every expensive thing you can get in a lens. On top of that, frames can easily be $300 each, so going from discounted frames to full price would make a big difference.
posted by smackfu at 4:51 PM on June 27, 2007

I'm in Australia, obviously there will be some difference.

For tinted, prismed, transitional bifocal I would expect to pay about $400 for the lenses alone.

Personally? I'd say it's a more than reasonable cost.
posted by ysabet at 5:01 PM on June 27, 2007

My last pair of specs cost about $450. I have a very boring prescription and I had anti-glare coating put on, but I stayed in their shop for what seemed like hours trying on every pair in the store that may have looked good on me, monopolizing their only sales person for the entire time. (I also had a pile of money locked into a cafeteria plan that wasn't going to get used by the end of the year...)
posted by mkb at 5:04 PM on June 27, 2007

Yeah, read the glassy eyes website. I just bought a pair of glasses at a local shop (after reading that website) because I liked being able to try the frames on and the price wasn't bad. I've gone with Lenscrafters before and the quality was shit - never again. But once I get my new glasses and I'm sure the prescription is right, there's not much to stop me from spending $50 online for my next pair.

I don't mind paying for a quality pair of lenses. What really gets me is paying hundreds of dollars for designer frames. If my local eye place had a budget wall where all the frames were only $20 each... now we're talking.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:32 PM on June 27, 2007

You probably paid about $50 per pair more than you would've had you shopped around and maybe used a coupon with a chain store. However, I knew an actual traditional optician who ran his own shop. He could spot errors in lens positioning and grinding (which cause minor refractions and other headache inducing defects) that even a good chain store tech would probably miss. So, you might take solace in the fact that you possibly received better quality control.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:07 PM on June 27, 2007

Sounds like the right range to me, after many experiences buying glasses at several different opticians over the years. I figure glasses are probably the only accessory I have other than maybe my watch that I will wear every single day, and that other people are going to be looking at every time I talk to them, so it's worth dropping the big bucks for something I love that's made well.

Well, that, and the fact that last time I decided to try one of the chain stores. The glasses were cheap, but they suck - the lenses pop out all the damn time. And much worse, the doctor told me I very likely had a pseudotumor and packed me off to a specialist with dire warnings that I'd probably have to get spinal tapped and MRIed, so I spent my Christmas in massive fear of my impending exploding brain, only to find that when I got to the specialist, it took him about two seconds of looking at my eyes to conclude that I just have a weirdly shaped optic nerve. He was really surprised the optician had felt the need to send me to him at all, much less terrified me with such dire prognoses along the way.

So I'm back to the independent guys from now on. I'm willing to pay more for someone who knows what they're doing, sells me glasses that don't suck, and refrains from terrifying me unnecessarily.
posted by Stacey at 7:59 PM on June 27, 2007

I got soaked for $300-$400/pair every few years. Last year, the local rhymes-with-MenSnafters took three times to get my glasses right; the final one worked out only because I insisted that they just use my old prescription. Each time it took three weeks to get the glasses to me, "because of the special lenses and coatings" (single-vision, astimatic, anti-glare -- no big whoop). I've also been to boutique-y, old-school guys and not gotten much better.

A few months ago I came across the site that iambot pointed out -- -- and I ordered glasses from two different sites, as a little comparison. Each pair base came with the coatings I wanted, and for an extra ten bucks, they're yellow. For fifty bucks each, they arrived in ONE week, and are great! I like the ones from goggles4u a little better, but that's because the frames themselves are a little better fit. The web's certainly worth a go; unless your optometrist is grinding lenses by hand, making eyeglasses isn't as occult of an art as some make it seem.
posted by mimi at 9:39 PM on June 27, 2007

Got my last pair at a smaller shop because it was close.... It was a mistake, as they had a much smaller selection than Eyemart, and now i'm stuck with some frames that i'm not too crazy about... and i wear contacts half the time now, so I wont get new frames anytime soon.

If you like the frames, dont fret about the cost.
posted by itheearl at 12:31 AM on June 28, 2007

I have an odd short-sight prescription, and for years I've gone to the same small two-branch business near home. The benefit of this is that I've been seeing the same guy for about 10 years now, unlike Specsavers, etc where people tell me they haven't seen the same ophthalmologist twice.

But the glasses have always been eye-wateringly expensive - in the £400 ($800) bracket, because of the lenses. And I always think, hell, if I'm paying £300 for lenses, I might as well get a nice pair of frames, which add another £100 to the price.

Following a recent thread on buying specs online, I took a punt on spending some money on glasses from here. Although the standard price is $25, with my prescription the whole thing came out at £105 ($210). I thought it was worth spending that amount to see what they were like. And they're great, I'm really pleased with them and have had lots of compliments on them.

Clearly the overheads of paying for a shop, receptionist, etc. rack up the costs, but I can't see where my old glasses were 'worth' four times as much as my new ones. The lenses were crafted in the UK, which would also add to the cost. The online ones came direct from the manufacturers in Shanghai.
posted by essexjan at 4:26 AM on June 28, 2007

Thanks for the responses. I feel more comfortable with my purchase now that it seems the price was apparently in the general ballpark of what others are paying.

I don't expect glasses to cost the same as when I got my first pair ($16 for the lenses, $8 for the tint), but it seems that eyewear prices are increasing at whim, not with the cost of inflation.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2007

Yeah, I generally pay around $300 for the lenses alone for a -5.5 correction and high-index lenses. But I buy only online now. Three pairs so far, $70 each, and 100% happy. I used
posted by loiseau at 2:12 PM on June 28, 2007

Wow, thanks loiseau and essexjan for the tip! I got my first prescription a couple of months ago but hadn't yet filled it since glasses are so freaking expensive and I don't really need them (they'd just make reading subtitles a bit easier). But ten minutes ago I followed your links and bought a pair of funky glasses from them for £23 including frames, lenses, and delivery! You guys rock it to the tip top.
posted by hot soup girl at 4:10 PM on June 28, 2007

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