If you wear glasses, you have probably at least wondered what online eyeglass retailers are all about. It’s easy to get drawn in by their low costs and the convenience of shopping in your pajamas, but I have to warn you, there are risks involved in purchasing eyeglasses online.
Should I Buy Glasses Online?
First we must remember this very important detail: Eyeglasses are not a fashion accessory, they are an investment in your health. In order to ensure that they function properly, they must be custom fitted to meet your prescription needs. This is not to say they can’t also be fashionable and fun to wear. I want you to love wearing your glasses, but ultimately, that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to help you see. Dr. Vann puts it best when he says "The numbers on the page are only half of your prescription." The rest is fulfilled by an optician as he or she completely customizes the lenses to meet your visual needs and then provides the precise and detailed measurements required to ensure optimum vision. As you can imagine, buying a custom made item such as this without professional assistance can present a myriad of problems.
Improper fit of the frame.
Choosing a frame is a big decision. The style, the color, the size; a frame can help you tell the world who you are. Even more important than that, the way a frame fits you can affect how well you see. Opticians are trained to know what type of frame is required for your prescription. They know how to identify the optical center of a lens, the potential thickness of your lenses in that particular frame, whether a multifocal or computer lens will be practical in a certain frame size, and so much more. Comfort of the frame should be of concern, as well. While you may know that you need a 17 millimeter bridge and 140 millimeter temples, you must consider that like clothes and shoes, every frame will fit you differently. The only way to know for certain a frame will work for you is to try it on, and the only way to acquire the precise measurements needed for your lenses is for a trained professional to take them while you are wearing the eyewear frames. Online retailers will tell you that you only need your pupil distances (PDs), which can be true, if you are purchasing very basic single vision lenses in a low prescription. They will even provide you instructions on how to take them yourself or they will encourage you to have your eye doctor provide them. If you choose this route, be aware that this is not part of your routine eye exam, so you should be prepared to pay for this service. Practices charge as much as $50 to provide the required measurements and you will often be told that they cannot be taken with any sort of accuracy unless you are wearing the frame on your face.
Incorrect prescription and safety of materials.
At VisionArts, we have a system in place to ensure that your glasses arrive accurately, are made in the proper materials and with the proper prescription. There are a number of checks and balances glasses orders go through within our office before they reach the lab. Once the order is filled, our lab puts the lenses through several quality checks before returning them to us. Upon arrival at our office, we once again verify the prescription in the lenses before dispensing them to you. Rarely do incorrectly made glasses make it into the hands of our patients. By contrast, a recent study by the American Optometric Association revealed that 29% of glasses ordered online had at least one lens that failed to meet the required prescription and that 19% of adult’s lenses and 25% of children’s lenses did not meet safety standards. Another recent consumer report stated that of 36 pair of glasses studied; only 10 pairs met industry standards for prescription accuracy and safety.
Inferior quality and authenticity of products.
We prescribe very specific products in our office, and there are specific reasons behind these choices. Most online retailers do not have access to the same products that we, as private practitioners, can provide. They will tell you their products are the same, but just as with any other product, quality and performance vary widely from brand to brand. When our doctor prescribes a particular lens for you it is because that lens will provide you with the best visual solution and maximum protection for the health of your eyes. If you purchase inferior products, your glasses won’t perform as we promised you they would in our office.
Lack of follow up care.
Our eyewear is backed by a 90 day adaptation period, during which time we can change anything we need to in order to ensure that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. Beyond that, both the frame and lenses will have a 1 to 2 year warranty available that protects against normal wear and tear, scratches, and other defects. Should these problems arise, our opticians take care of remakes and repairs for you. It goes without saying that we can only guarantee and stand behind products that we have provided for you. As sad as it makes us when we hear that your glasses aren’t working properly, if they weren’t purchased from our practice, there is very little we can do to help you. With online glasses, you must deal with the hassles of warranty issues on your own. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who managed to receive properly made pair of glasses from an online retailer, you may need them adjusted or repaired from time to time. Our practice and most others will charge you for these services on glasses not purchased from us.
I do understand the lure of saving money, but as you can see, there are significant risks involved in making such an important purchase online. Ultimately, if you decide to try buying glasses from an online retailer, just keep this final thought in mind: You wouldn’t expect much from a vehicle with a $900 price tag attached. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect much from a pair of glasses with a $39 price tag attached.