Buying Glasses? 3 Facts Your Eye Doctor Doesn’t Want You to Know.

Oops, my bad. This is a guest post from some guy who wasn’t who he said he was and was trying to make a few bucks off of an affiliate link.   Still, I can attest to the information  within this post as being accurate, as I too buy my glasses and contacts on-line – so I will keep this post up.   But I  have since removed the offending affiliate links from this post.

As an added bonus, with the new information given to me by Patrick at Cash Money Life regarding this character, I thought it would be fun to add some editorial comments to this post.

This past week I was reflecting on how I was able to save money in 2009 and I realized that one of the ways, purchasing eyewear online, wasn’t very well known by most people.   (Editor’s note:   Actually, he was reflecting on how he could make money by duping dumb bloggers like me.) I first found this out when I read this article in the New York Times about do-it-yourself eyeglass shopping.

At first I didn’t pursue this; I had become so used to going to the eye doctor every year and purchasing glasses there.   (Editor’s note:   I’ll bet this guy has 20/20 vision.)

A few months ago though when I went to buy my new pair I was told it would cost me over $300 and I honestly didn’t have that much in my bank account.

So I decided to go home and look online to find a less expensive alternative. That night when I looked online I found that the same lens I was looking at was half the price.

I couldn’t believe these brick-and-mortar stores had such a high profit margin. How could this be?   (Editor’s note: Why don’t you tell us, “Jared?”   I assume he was watching a Subway Sandwich commercial when  he made up that moniker.   I’ll bet this guy’s real name is Ben Dover.)

According to the New York Times, “a glasses frame that costs less than $25 to make in Italy can retail for at least $150 at an optical shop in the United States.” Unbeknownst to most people, these stores are making absurdly large profits.     (Editor’s Note:   I’ve always had trouble with words that are singular but spelled plural.   For example, am I the only one that thinks “a glasses frame” sounds a bit off?   To me it sounds better, if it were “a glass frame.”   Same thing with “scissors.”   Why isn’t it a “scissor?”)

The New York Times went on to say “If ever there was a market ripe for the intervention of the Internet, which allowed consumers to find discounts on best-selling novels, digital cameras or Hawaiian vacations, eyeglasses would be it.”     (Editor’s Note: When it comes to ripe markets begging for intervention, the Times forgot peddling advertisements disguised as  “guest posts”  to clueless bloggers like yours truly.)

I began digging into this more and I found that there are several well-known blogs dedicated to purchasing glasses on the Internet.   It was there that I found answers to all of the questions I had.   (Editor’s Note: You mean you discovered there were ways to make a few bucks peddling eye-wear advertisements disguised as  “guest posts”  to clueless bloggers like yours truly.)

In particular, I want to share with you three key points that I discovered that many eye doctors and brick-and-mortar eyewear shops probably don’t want you to know:

1.   All I needed in order to buy glasses online was a prescription and a PD measurement from my eye doctor.   Doctors are required to give this to you.     (Editor’s Note:   True.)

2. Customer service at some of those online stores is fantastic.   You can call them for help finding the best frames and lenses for yourself. (Editor’s Note: That is true too.)

3. If you do need your glasses adjusted it is very easy to learn to do it yourself, or you can go to a local optical shop and they will do it for a very small fee.   (Editor’s Note: Again, true.)

I called my eye doctor for my prescription and the next day I purchased glasses online. I have bought two pairs now and both have turned out to be great.   (Editor’s Note: Somehow I don’t believe that.)

To be honest, I believe the quality of the glasses is even higher than the glasses I bought in the store.   (Editor’s Note: Higher, not likely.   The same, absolutely.)

The process is not only easy, but it has also saved me a lot of time. (Editor’s Note: Dat be true.)

Now, I not only buy my glasses online, but I also shop for my contact lenses online too!   Each box of contacts that I purchase online saves me $20.   (Editor’s Note: Imagine that!   Obviously, he is trying to score points with multiple affiliates in the same post.   Ah, the joys of capitalism!)

Popular websites that sell contacts include…   (Editor’s Note: You know what – if you’re interested in buying contacts on-line, just go to Google and type in the words “contact lenses.”)

If your resolution this year is to save money, I strongly recommend you try shopping online for your eyewear.   (Editor’s Note: My apologies to my readers.   I’ll try and be more careful next time.)


  1. 1

    Jenn says also recently featured an article on this, which inspired me to give it a try. I wear contacts most often, but wanted a stylish pair of glasses for the side.

    I used a company in India and had a pair of glasses for under $25 out the door. A few things I’d note from my experience:

    – Measuring your Pupil Distance isn’t that easy (and is a necessity for good fitting glasses and correct lenses). If possible, have your eye doctor do this for you.

    – Customer service isn’t all that good. But I expected that..

    Overall, I was quite pleased. I’ve since recommended it to my siblings, both of whom have bought pairs for occasional use.

    Hope your readers are also inspired!

    • 2

      CP Towne says

      Jenn, I purchased two pairs of glasses on line in the last three weeks, total cost $51.00 from Zenni. The PD is on any Rx which you are given by the optometrist. If it’s not on the Rx, ask for it.

  2. 3

    NMPatricia says

    I would guess all of what is in the post is true. When I needed glasses recently, I nearly passed out when the final bill came in. On the other hand, I was determined to support a local business, you know the brick and board kind that has to pay rent and advertise against the chains in Penny’s and Wal-Mart. I got great service and can get them adjusted by just walking in. Since they were my first pair of glasses, they also walked me through how to get used to them a little faster. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this on-line. My trust just isn’t there for that. From my experience, a friend went in there wanting to get her glasses fixed. Instead of taking her bucks, they suggested contacting the manufacturer who replaced them for free. That kind of community-capital (social capital as Trent from Simple Dollar calls it) isn’t found on line. Granted I paid a lot, but I also feel I invested in my community.

    • 4


      If you can afford the premium, Patricia, I think that paying a little extra to keep the money within your community is a very noble and reasonable course of action. I do that myself at times too!

  3. 5

    Danny G says

    Your post is interesting but you forgot a few things. An eye doctor spends almost 8 years training to provide their service. The cost of an eye exam is determined by an insurance company and usually doesn’t cover fixed costs for the exam itself. The doctor pays a staff to assist you in getting glasses that fit and look good on you. If you then take that information and search the Internet you can certainly find the item cheaper. And the small fee an eye doctor charges to provide an adjustment for your online purchase (if they charge one – frequently not good for business) doesn’t cover the staff’s time to adjust them. Most eye doctors have to mark the retail cost high because the vast majority of patients have insurance to pay for the glasses but the insurance company only pays a percentage of the retail cost. That’s why you see 1/2 price sales at brick and mortar shops for non insurance buys. If we want to keep high quality eye doctors in our neighborhood we should re-evaluate buying eyewear online. We used to be able to visit a pharmacist who could do more than fill a prescription or go to a hardware store to get more information then “Plumbing is on aisle 6”. Companies like Wal-Mart drove them out of business and will soon do that to Eye Doctors. Wal-Mart hires the eye doctor and sells online products. Do you want your future eye doctor to work at Wal-Mart? Be careful what you wish for… PS I am not an eye doctor and I will continue to buy from my local doctor.

  4. 6


    I’m definitely going to try this next time. I spent like $450 on my last pair of glasses which really pissed me off. Thanks for the tips here. I will bookmark this page as a reference!

  5. 8


    A couple of weeks ago I did a post on repairing eyeglasses for a lot less than replacing them brand new. I got an email from someone who works in a shop that does repairs by mail. Ahhh, one of the fringe benefits of blogging!

    But I want to comment on the bogus poster – you’re not alone Len, I had one myself back in November. I’m willing to bet I’m a bigger dope than you, because the person who wrote the post on my site posed as an attractive girl, with her own website, and the post itself was solid. I should have guessed since the given last name was “Lohan”, but like I said, I’m a bigger dope than you are.

    Actually, it was the Lohan thing that got me suspicious. I tracked “her” visits and found they came from India! When I questioned the poster about the last name, she turned into a he, and didn’t want anyone using the given website for contact.

    Needless to say, I pulled the post, hopefully wiser for the experience.

  6. 9


    @Len, love the editorial comments–too funny.

    @Kevin@OoutOfYourRut, OMG, I just got an email from Jennifer “Lohan” this morning! I replied asking for more info and haven’t heard back–thanks for letting me know.

    • 10


      @20s: Ouch! Yeah,that is way too much to pay for glasses.

      @Jenn: Thanks for the tips. I wouldn’t recommend measuring your own PD either. For people that went to the eye doctor, the doc did it when he/she checked your eyes – and they have to give you the number.

      @Wojo: Thanks, my friend!

      @Kevin: Ooo – that is a tough one. Boy are you gullible. I guess that makes two of us. Well, Kevin, since we’re airing all our dirty laundry, I want to also confess that I still secretly pine for a Wham! reunion tour. If Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael ever get back together, I am so there.

      @Susan: I’m glad I could make you smile. :-)

      @Monroe: Yeah, that’s a good one too. LOL

  7. 11


    Another tactic: telling the blog host it’s OK to not link back to the guest author’s blog. Hmm. Wrong answer to give a reporter who cheerfully links to pieces at the competition.

    • 13


      I agree. What really got me was the deception and the fact that this post has been submitted to other bloggers with the same ruse of a back story.

  8. 14


    I found out about these details when I had to get a prescription for free safety glasses from my former employer. Turns bought company bought safety glasses and I got a second pair of equal or lesser value for free at the place I got my safety glasses. Just so you know safety glasses are not cheep. Too bad they would only let you get a pair every 18 months.

  9. 15

    Cemlyn Jones says


    Danny G is right. I wish I wasn’t so self absorbed as to always want to save money but what can you do ?? We all have to save where we can, only wish our governments felt the same !! I love the old fashioned hardware store where the old guy, usually, knew everything there was to know about all the things in the shop and you could buy however many you needed and not be stuck with some prepackaged item.

    In the UK there is a hardware chain, I forget the name now, something like Homebase, where they started to hire Old Aged Pensioners simply to answer people’s questions like ” How do I fix that leaking tap?” These guys would love to chat, walk around the store, showing you the tools, the parts you need and even show you what you needed to do on some of the fittings in the store. These guys were paid next to nothing, they were happy coz they had something to do and they felt useful and they could mix with people, and the customer was happy for the same reason, they could talk to somebody who knew more than “Isle 6 I think ” Sadly, that scheme was stopped because some idiot customers used to sue the store because they bungled what the helper had told them. I used to enjoy talking to these guys. The real sad thing I could be one of those guys now !!!!

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      Me too, Cemlyn. It’s tough finding knowledgeable help nowadays, but sometimes I do get lucky and run into one. Usually, though, I get little help and, sometimes, even completely incorrect information. Very frustrating when you really need help.

  10. 17

    Seth says

    There are pros and cons to everything. A pro being saving money. The con being not guaranteed appropriate customer service or a quality product. Granted you aren’t guaranteed those things in any retail outlet or private practice either, but it is more likely when dealing with a human instead of a voice. I’ve read countless articles on buying spectacles or contact lenses online and bypassing the optometrist and in those articles it talks about all the negative aspects of such. For example, most people who buy their contact lenses online tend to overwear them, thus more likely to have microbial keratitis or ulceration. Granted not everyone does that, but more than likely if you wear contact lenses, you are over-wearing them. As far as spectacles go, the PD is important for your prescription, but so are other factors depending on the amount of prescription you have. They key word here is prescription. It is a medico-legal device just like any pill the M.D. will give you. The fact that it is even legal to just use it willy-nilly and purchase lenses online without knowing anything further is absurd to me.

    As far as mark ups in practices vs online retail shops, it is touch and go. Some private practices need the mark up to be able to make payroll due to the many employees plus education loans they have. In my setting of corporate employed clinic, I don’t set the fees, but we are the cheapest in town with the largest selection. Typically you can get 2 pairs of eyeglasses for about half of what 1 pair costs somewhere else. And I’ve seen the product, it isn’t all cheap materials with huge mark ups. There is quality product in there, so it makes it an even better deal ultimately.

    Furthermore, the doctor provides a service and they need to be paid for that service. It is unfortunate that our student loans are a second mortgage (in that case my house is cheaper than my student loans), but that is how it goes.

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      Great points all, Seth. And mark me down as one of those folks who tends to wear their contact lenses too long at times. I’ve been known to wear them for up to a month at time — although they are specifically designed for that type of abuse, it’s still not recommended because the eyes aren’t.

  11. 19

    Michael says

    Thanks Len for all of your posts ~ They are very entertaining!

    I have been wearing glasses for 55 years now (Since I was 5). I don’t particularly care for the style of frames that have been sold for the past 5 or so years. Actually I think the majority of them are just plain ugly and are just not my style.
    Like most people, after getting an eye exam, I was always ushered to the rack to choose a new pair of frames. It has always been frustrating, because when I try them on, I really can’t see what they look like on me because there aren’t any lenses in them and without lenses, I can’t see a thing, so I have to rely on the sales person who says everything looks great, just to close a sale.
    If I don’t like the style to begin with, I won’t like them for me ~ No matter what anyone says. And I never liked having to wait a week or two for them to come in, so I could see what I looked like (and was stuck with) with them on. After the glasses are made and delivered, you are stuck with them until next year (Or the next time I had to buy them), because its too late to change your mind unless something was drastically wrong with them.
    I finally got smart and decided to use an older pair of frames from a pair of glasses that I saved to use as a spare in the event that my new glasses somehow managed to get lost or broken. I bought at least 2 or 3 new pairs of glasses that I didn’t like, so instead of choosing another pair of ugly frames that I didn’t like, I had them make new lenses for my old pair of frames ~ There was nothing wrong with them (They had only been used for a year and weren’t old) and there was no reason why I couldn’t use them despite the pressure from the sales person. The best part was that I saved a few hundred bucks for not buying another pair of overpriced designer frames that I wasn’t going to like anyway.
    The bottom line was that I saved some money and I finally had a pair of glasses I liked.
    I guess its been about 5 or 6 years now and I still don’t like the “new styles” so I’ve only been buying the lenses!
    About 7 years ago, I developed AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) and after 3 years, I lost the central acuity in my right eye, despite having over 40 injections of a medicine that costs $2000/shot in my eye (That’s just the one medicine ~ Not the Dr’s fees or any of the testing or other meds). Yeah, that’s right… I have a needle jammed into my eye at least 6 times a year ~ It’s as much fun as having a needle stuck into your private parts… But, it’s better than being blind. It’s one of the most painful things I can imagine. So, for those of you who don’t understand… In other words, I am now blind in my right eye and am fighting to save my left eye. Now when I have an eye exam, my Dr only checks my left eye (The good one) ~ Nothing can be done to correct the vision in my right eye, so they don’t even bother to try. Now I have to visit my eye Dr every month for the rest of my life for a complete battery of tests and more injections. Through this ordeal of Macular Degeneration, I have had to buy new glasses 3 or 4 times a year. With progressive bi-focal poly-carb lenses, etc… the cost was through the roof, usually north of $400 to $500 a pair.
    The silver lining of going blind is that now I only purchase a single lens after my eyes are checked. I still have peripheral vision so my old right lens works perfectly for me. After 55 years and spending a fortune for new glasses at least once a year, I am happy to get a price break!

    • 20

      Len Penzo says

      Thank you, Michael! And thank you for sharing your story!

      I have to say, to have a needle stuck in your eye countless times — and then have to pay $2000 every time it happened is terrible. I’m very sorry it had to happen to you.

  12. 21

    JOpti says

    Doctors are NOT required to give a patient the PD. This measurement is not taken during the exam. Only taken when glasses are measured.

  13. 22

    karen says

    6-2-13) heres another note.

    yes you need your eye prescription and yes you need to get from the eye doctor you “Pupil Distance” also known as your “Pupillary Distance (PD)” , that part is very important when ordering online….now if your “Pupillary Distance (PD)” is the same for both eyes (example 32 left eye, 32 right eye) then selct single PD and then add the 2 numbers to get 64.

    now if your “Pupillary Distance (PD)” is different on each eye (example 32 left eye, 40 right eye) then you should select dual PD.

    also the eye doctor has to give your PD number its part of your prescription and they dont usually add it on the paper work that they give you, because most people buy their frames/ glasses in store and not online.

    so make sure you ask for al that from your eye doctor .

  14. 23


    I found these guys recently and found their service exceptional and the pricing as low as any I’ve found. Best yet, when the product arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Complete pair of glasses with great lenses for less than $30. It 75% less than I paid to Walmart two years ago.

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