I’ve been wearing eyeglasses since I was six years old. My first frames were red. Red PLAID, that is.
As an adult, I’ve been careful when purchasing eyewear, in the hopes of not looking as dorky as I did in first grade. My last pair was trendy, a Warby Parker style in a dark blue color called “Beach Glass.” I paid $325 for them in 2019. Here’s an actual, unretouched photo of me in my glasses:
By 2021, I realized my vision had changed, and so had my taste in frames. Maybe the pandemic changed me. All that dreary news, all those drab and dreary masks. I no longer want such dark frames. It was time to go shopping for glasses. Things went downhill from there.
I found an eye doctor in my new town and went to see him. When I arrived, there were no cars in the parking lot. That should have been my first clue. Inside, the office looked run-down, there were no other patients waiting, and there was loud classic rock music playing somewhere down the hall. I considered leaving, but then out he came to greet me. He was an older gentleman who seemed a bit forgetful, but he was very nice. I went ahead with the exam and got a new prescription.
I found frames I liked at Zenni.com (a company I’ve bought glasses from before) and ordered them online. They were really cute: pink, cranberry, and black in a tortoiseshell pattern. Best of all, they only cost $126, including progressive (no-line bifocal) lenses and non-glare coating!
I received my Zenni glasses. The prescription seemed off, so I returned them. Zenni inspected them and discovered a manufacturing error. They remade them for me free of charge and sent me another pair … but those were even worse. I couldn’t read the TV screen; I couldn’t even read street signs while driving. I returned this second pair of Zennis. They were inspected as well, and Zenni commendably admitted they’d made another error, just a slight one this time, but enough to earn me a full store credit. I haven’t used it yet. Don’t know if I ever will.
I had another eye exam, and my vision had by now changed again. With my new prescription in hand, I decided to take a chance on the optician playing the loud classic rock music in the other half of the office. Boy, I don’t know how to take a hint, do I. When I picked up my new Kate Spades, a right-wing talk show spouting conspiracy theories, instead of classic rock music, was booming out of the guy’s radio. I paid for the glasses ($450) and vowed never to return again.
I had to return again, though, because although I could read street signs off in the distance, I couldn’t read anything else .
It was second opinion time. I saw a new eye doctor, who really seemed on the ball. She said she’d corrected my vision to 20/15 (the best it’s ever been), and I could tell when I looked through her equipment that it was true. The new prescription was a far cry from the one I’d gotten only a few months earlier. Finally, I was getting somewhere! At least, that’s what I thought.
Because now, I needed to find a pair of well-made, affordable glasses. I decided to visit the optician who was part of her practice. Almost immediately, I fell in love with a pair of stylish rose/mauve frames that looked great on me.
The friendly, talkative optician couldn’t have agreed more as she cheerfully worked up my price quote: with lenses, $832, plus tax.
I. Don’t. Think. So.
I went home without ordering, wondering how a pair of glasses could cost that much. When I started looking into it, I learned that, according to Forbes, The Guardian, the L.A. Times, and other news outlets, there’s been something close to a monopoly in the eyeglass industry for years, and it’s run by a company called Luxottica. And Luxottica actually seems proud of their “vertically integrated business model” that allows them to market their brands through LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target, etc. Not quite a pyramid scheme, but almost.
Here’s an excerpt from their website:
“Luxottica is a leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of fashion, luxury and sports eyewear. Its portfolio includes proprietary brands such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue Eyewear, Persol, Oliver Peoples, Arnette, Costa del Mar and Alain Mikli, as well as licensed brands including Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Bulgari, Chanel, Coach, Dolce&Gabbana, Ferrari, Michael Kors, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., Valentino and Versace. … One of the Group’s competitive advantages is the vertically integrated business model built over the years, covering the entire value chain: design, product development, manufacturing, logistics and distribution.”
Yep. The eyeglass industry seems to have gone the way of Big Pharma. Since they control distribution, they’re free to charge the consumer whatever they can get away with.
I’ve been trying to find out if I have insurance coverage for glasses. (I don’t, but after NINE phone calls between various optical companies, my insurance benefits office, and a company called Eye-Med, I’ve discovered that I’m eligible for a discount program with Eye-Med that I have to pay for in order to get the discount. And the information on their website is so confusing that I still don’t know how much that discount is.
I’ve gone back to wearing my three-year old glasses for now. I’ll probably try to find a pair on Warby Parker that I like. I just can’t see spending over $800 on a pair of glasses when my prescription changes about once a year.
How much are YOU willing to pay for a pair of good quality eyeglasses?
This is post #3 in this year’s #NaBloPoMo challenge, a.k.a. #NanoPoblano. To follow my blog, just click below where it says “Follow loristory.”