Seeing Through the Scam – The True Cost of Eyeglasses

Prescription eyeglasses. It’s a need 72% of Americans have, and chances are, you or someone you know will go through the process of purchasing them sometime in your/their life. However, there are issues that prevent us from getting what we really want, and sometimes buying a frame with pre-prescribed lenses from Walmart or Costco seems to be the easiest and most efficient way.

The truth is, our eyes, those windows to the world, deserve much more than a cheap investment and a hasty decision; opting for cookie-cutter craftsmanship could end up causing considerable damage, costing us many times the price of our original glasses. If only we weren’t that cheap.

But, in a world where optical correction will exist as long as humanity does, a group of e-retailers have begun what it’s now referred to as “The Optical e-Revolution” in which buying custom-made eyeglasses has been rendered affordable, fast, and as easy as one-two-three. Too good to be true? In the past decade the Internet has leveled many playing fields and the eyeglass industry is no exception. In this era of consumerism, where the power no longer sits solely with producers and where supply eclipses demand, consumers will simply not accept being constrained by inflated prices. Companies such as EyeBuyDirect, Frames Direct and 39 Dollar Glasses have proven determined to help rid us of the number one enemy of our pockets: Retail Cost.

Try to guess the actual cost of production for those cool designer brand-name glasses you’re wearing. I’ll give you a hint: For the highest quality glasses that exist, it’s no higher than $15 USD.

“Why should eyeglasses cost so much? Buying eyewear should be a democratic process and affordable to everyone,” says EyeBuyDirect CEO Roy Hessel. Companies like his are able to sell trendy, top-notch prescription frames starting as low as $14.95 USD because they have lean organization structures with the lower overhead costs from being online. “I was really pleased with the quality of the glasses I bought from Frames Direct. For $90, including shipping, I got glasses that I would have paid $300 for anywhere else,” said Gary Morison of New York, New York.

But there is one more obstacle that is keeping customers from the advantages of glasses on-line purchasing: the “touch and feel” factor. Considered a medical purchase, some customers feel the need to interact with their new pair before actually buying them, but according to some “professional e-buyers” such as Candy Surret, “There is nothing more personal than trying on your new glasses and being able to share them with 10 of my friends before actually making the decision.” And that’s what some e-visionaries are doing: Helping you make your decision by sharing with friends.

While 39 Dollar Glasses’ SmartFit system allows you to print out a full-size picture of the selected frame, Frames Direct’s Framefinder technology is a virtual try-on system that allows you to upload your picture and try on as many glasses as you want. But other companies such as go a step further with their EyeTry technology that allows you to share your photos, so that your friends or family members can get involved when deciding which pair looks best on you.

The Optical e-Revolution has only begun and yet the overwhelmingly positive response of consumers has led to dramatic growth of this market. It has been estimated that by 2009 approximately half of all eyeglass purchases will be made online. But why wait til then? After all, it’s just one click away.