I was just reminded of something by The Librarian, as she just went to the optometrist for an exam. It’s this: You don’t have to buy glasses from the optometrist. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a few bits of molded plastic.
You can do the same thing that your optometrist does: contact a distributor and buy a pair of glasses for less than $100.
First you have to get your prescription from the optometrist. This is not difficult, except for one point. The optometrist, unless you specifically ask, will leave out the pupillary distance, or PD. That is the distance in millimeters between the centers of your pupils. Your optometrist will be reluctant because he or she will know that a hundred bucks or more in pure profit is walking out the door with that number. The online optics suppliers need that number. Politely insist. You will get a slip of paper marked with the necessary correction (in diopters) for each eye (“O.D.” is right and “O.S.” is left. These are abbreviations for oculus dexter and oculus sinister. The latter does not mean “evil eye.”) The cylindrical distortion will be noted, and, of course, the PD.
There are a number of suppliers online who will sell you glasses made to your prescription and custom specifications. By custom I mean not only the frame type but also the lens materials and coatings. Most people will want some kind of polycarbonate lens. If you have a strong prescription you may want a lens with a high refractive index, which means that the lens can be thinner. There are a variety of coatings available. I have had glasses with the Crizal anti-reflective coating and it did make things clearer. You can also get anti-scratch coatings, sunglass tinting, and UV protection.
I should note that something like 90% of the glasses frames sold in this country are made by a single company called Luxottica, based in Italy. That is regardless of whether they have the Luxottica name on them or some major fashion brand. Ray-Ban, Oakley, Prada, Bulgari, Brooks Brothers – all made by Luxottica. But don’t weep for Luxottica if you buy direct. They will still make a 64% gross margin, roughly the same as Apple.
So, here are some links:
http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/ Glassy Eyes offers up reviews of various online sources and has notifications on sales. Some of his static content is a few years out of date. He has a list of half a dozen low cost suppliers.
http://www.opticsplanet.com/eyewear-store.html Optics Planet offers a large selection of prescription glasses and sunglasses. They also have optics of other kinds, including telescopes, binoculars, and night vision goggles.
http://www.coastal.com/glasses Coastal Contacts has contact lenses (surprise) as well as prescription glasses and sunglasses.
If you have a pair of frames you like with lenses that don’t work for you anymore, consider http://eyeglasspeople.com/ . They will put new lenses in existing frames for you.
There are more online glasses suppliers out there. By all means, search out some more. It’s always wise to do a second search for reviews of any online supplier you find. Some have better service and quality control than others.
Now I have made some optometrists sad. Before you sympathize too much, here’s a quotation on GlassyEyes from an industry insider:
"A pair of SV (single vision) stock poly Alize cost me $34, and carry a 2 year warranty. We sell 'em all day long for $199/pair, for a profit of $165/pair. Our capture rate for AR (anti-reflective coating) is about 90%. Also stock poly non coated, cost $6/pair and sell for $109...
Now show me the math where you can beat the $165 profit on a pair of SV (single vision) lenses. If you can, I'll still love you in the morning."
The Minor Heretic loves you long time, for free, and wants you to save money.