I read a blog post recently – “How to save money like by thinking like a millennial” (credit here) with interesting tips like opening a checking account that refunds all your ATM withdrawal fees, signing up for Amazon Prime and downloading the browser extension coupon finder Honey. Then I reached – “Stop getting ripped off on glasses by getting Warby Parkers.”
Thanks to the tv show “60 minutes” and viral College Humor videos, the dominance of one company over the eyewear industry and the high margins they enjoy by cutting costs and cutting quality has created a cloud of distrust over the professional dispensing of an eyeglasses prescription by brick and mortar optical retailers.
But when you see a price tag difference of $39 for online glasses to over $200 from a store- you at least wonder why. I’d like to break down the differences and hopefully convince you that even for $39… online glasses are not worth it.
Seven Reasons to NOT Buy Glasses Online
1. Standards do not apply
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed comprehensive standards (14 to be exact) that describe the acceptable degree of error in a set of prescription eyeglass lenses to the written prescription by the doctor. Here’s an example:
If your prescription is -2.50 in your right eye, the acceptable range of power for the lens is -2.13 to -2.63 (±0.13).
What do these numbers mean? With every click of the phoropter when the doctor is measuring your prescription and asking “Which is better, 1 or 2?” there is a change of 0.25 diopter.
A summary of the standard for manufacturing eyeglasses lenses can be found here. The standards are developed by a team of doctors and manufacturers to represent what is acceptable to the patient’s visual needs and manufacturable.
When a prescription is outside of this tolerance, well first off, you won’t see as clearly as possible. Imagine using a pair of binoculars to see something in the distance- turning the dial until you see the image clearly. Then you move the dial even slightly one direction or another. That’s kind of how wearing a prescription that’s close- but not close enough can feel. Less than perfect vision is in itself is a disadvantage but also has potential effects such as eyestrain, headaches or double vision.
For children, wearing the incorrect prescription can have even worse consequences- as their visual system is developing wearing the incorrect prescription could cause one eye to work harder than the other and ultimately throw off the eye’s ability to work together and a muscle imbalance could lead to amblyopia (lazy eye).
At our office, we use a lensometer to double check every pair of glasses that is ordered to the doctor’s written prescription and reject any lenses that are outside of tolerance. Do online retailers do the same? According to a study performed by the American Optometric Association (see here) where 154 online glasses were ordered and analyzed, 29% of these had an inaccurate prescription.
One out of every 3.5 pairs of glasses that ships out from an online retailer will not have an accurate prescription.
Every pair of glasses that is dispensed by our opticians will have a prescription within the tolerances laid out by the ANSI standards.
2. Duty to Warn
Optometrists have a professional and legal “duty to warn” patients about the proper use and safety issues associated with ophthalmic products (aka glasses and contacts).
Having an optical professional- an optometrist or licensed dispensing optician provide a educated recommendation for lens materials and lens options is important for protecting one of our most valuable assets- our eyes.
Thankfully there are also manufacturing standards in place to address the integrity of glasses lenses. Among the ANSI standards that are discussed above are criteria for impact resistance for dress glasses (safety eyewear is more extensive). How do glasses purchased from an online retailer match up to the safety standard? Not well. In the same study by the American Optometric Association referenced above, 23% of online glasses failed impact resistance testing.
Almost 1 in 4 online glasses do not pass ANSI safety standards for impact resistance.
Definition of failure of the impact resistance test? Cracks through the entire lens thickness into two or more pieces.
3. Those licensed dispensing opticians? Armed with knowledge and experience.
An average conversation about lens styles, lens materials and lens options at our office is at least ten minutes long. An optician should ask lifestyle questions about how you use your eyes and what your visual needs are before making any recommendations on which lens will be best for your needs. Explaining the features and benefits of different lens materials in relation to your prescription can help you make an informed decision between Trivex and Hi-Index plastic. A quick honest conversation about how you take care of your glasses will help the optician recommend the best anti-reflective (non-glare) coating to meet up with your glasses care routine.
Becoming a licensed dispensing optician is a three year apprenticeship program in Washington state combining both on-the-job training and supplemental instruction through classes and individual study. After a written and practical exam, an apprentice becomes a licensed optician and along with the continued in the field experience to fine tune their craft, there is a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education required every three years.
Licensed opticians bring experience and knowledge to help each patient make educated decisions on the best choices for their individual eyewear needs.
Even Siri doesn’t have the answer to which progressive lens will work best all week at the computer, Saturday at the golf course and withstand your habit of wiping the lenses on your shirt.
This is getting a little long, so we will continue with an additional 4 reasons in the next blog post. We are presenting a total of 7 reasons why to not to buy glasses online. I can think of one good reason to buy online glasses as stated above- you will save money on the initial purchase.
I hope you take our reasons to not buy online glasses into consideration before making a decision to purchase an important medical device at bargain basement prices. The purpose of glasses is to help you see and shouldn’t cause harm to your vision or put your eyes at risk in the process. Please carefully weigh your options and let us know if you have any questions!
Thank you and have a great day!