Vision quest

Among its many traits, the World Wide Web has increasingly become the world’s shopping center.

Virtual store fronts like Amazon, Walmart, Apple and eBay have grown exponentially over the last decade.

The number of things that you can buy on the Web is almost limitless. But are there some items, regardless of their availability, that you just wouldn’t buy online?

Like, for example, prescription eyeglasses?

Eyewear sites emerging

While browsing the web, you might have noticed ads for sites that sell eyeglasses online. Sites like Eyebobs, EyeBuyDirect, and GlassesUSA, to name a few.

Such sites are working very hard to enable customers to buy eyeglasses online. The hooks are vast inventories, name brands, and value pricing.

Still, the idea of forsaking my OD (doctor of optometry) and his optical shop, which I’ve frequented for many years, seemed like a non-starter.

Getting my yearly eye examination, having my prescription re-verified or changed, and checking out new frames has become an annual rite of passage.

There was, however, always a nagging suspicion that I was overpaying for eyewear. I can’t remember buying new frames outfitted with multi-focal lenses that did not cost me $400-$450.

Window shopping

Being a curious sort and, of course, interested in all things technological, I began to explore the GlassesUSA site. I was doubtful that I would ever buy eyeglasses online, but thought what would a little window shopping hurt?

The GlassesUSA site is attractive and well-designed. As you begin to drill down, however, the sheer quantity of choices, options, colors, lenses, and so on can seem a little daunting.

The company is no doubt aware of this. When you visit the site, you are immediately offered a 50%-off coupon. Simply enter your email address to receive the coupon. This enticement did have the effect of pushing me to continue exploring.

Decision-support tools

Modern web sites, particularly e-commerce sites, fall into the Web 2.0 category. I’ve discussed Web 2.0 in other posts (for example, here).

Basically, Web 2.0 sites are multilayered and outfitted with tools (built-in apps) that enable visitors to create profiles, send and receive messages, add comments and reviews, search, and shop for merchandise.

GlassesUSA offers a number of tools that make choosing and buying eyeglasses not only possible, but also fairly easy and in a personalized way.

On the landing page, click what type of eyeglasses you’re looking for—men’s, women’s, sunglasses, multifocal, or specific brands.

On the next page, there are tools to refine your search and, importantly, to find your size (pictured). We’ll get into this in more detail in the next section.

There is also the ability to try different frames on pictures of models, and even to upload your own photo to try on frames:

Some tips

Full disclosure: I went ahead and purchased a pair of eyeglasses from GlassesUSA. If it’s something you might consider, I have a few tips for you.

First, if possible, have on hand a pair of eyeglasses that you already own and are happy with in terms of overall fit. You can use this frame to help judge frames you are looking at for appropriate size and fit.

It’s not always the case, but many eyeglasses will have their measurements printed on the frame, typically inside of one of the earpieces:

In the picture, three numbers are shown, 52-18-140. These are the measurements (in millimeters) for lens width across the front of the frame, bridge width, and temple length, respectively.

If your old eyeglasses don’t have these numbers visible somewhere on the frame, find a metric ruler and measure the features yourself. Approximations within a few millimeters should be fine.

The picture above is indicative of what GlassesUSA calls a medium-sized frame. The site allows you to narrow your search by frame size—extra large, large, medium, and small. Here’s a guide to what those approximate sizes would be:

Extra-large: 58-18-145

Large: 53-18-140

Medium: 50-17-140

Small: 46-16-140

Given the design and type of frame, these sizes can vary somewhat, but they do give you a starting point.

With an idea of your frame size, you can go ahead and see how particular frames look on the models, or even upload a good head-on picture of yourself and virtually try them on.

If you settle on a frame but are still unsure if you want to buy eyeglasses online, note that GlassesUSA offers a 100% satisfaction and money-back guarantee.

To follow through with the purchase, you are required to upload a legal prescription to the site in the form of a PDF. This isn’t a problem for me, as my optical shop will either print out a copy or email my updated prescriptions on request.

Worth it?

I’m all for supporting local businesses like my optical shop. As noted, I get my annual exam and prescription renewed there, and I do sometimes order contact lenses from them.

But when I weigh paying $400 for a new pair of eyeglasses there verses $200 at GlassesUSA, it’s pretty compelling to save the money.

The only question that remains: is the quality and fit comparable?

If you shop carefully, yes. One thing that you won’t get are the small adjustments an optician will make to ensure a perfect fit after your glasses come back from the manufacturer.

Ultimately, it’s a leap of faith to buy eyeglasses online, but with the knowledge that I can return them no questions asked, that leap is not too difficult.

Fortunately, the recent pair I bought looked good and fit well right out of the case:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *