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.”
Companies over the eyewear industry cut cost and quality for high margins. This has created distrust of the eyeglasses prescription dispensing by brick and mortar optical retailers.
But when you see a cost difference of $39 for online glasses to over $200 from a store- you at least wonder why. I’d like to say the differences and convince you that even for $39… online glasses are not worth it.
Seven Reasons to NOT Buy Online Glasses
1. Standards do not apply
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed 14 standards. These describe the acceptable degree of error in a pair of eyeglasses, 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 making lenses can be found here. The standards are developed by a team of doctors and manufacturers to show what is acceptable to the patient’s visual needs.
When a prescription is outside of this standard, you won’t see as clearly. 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 how wearing a prescription that’s not close enough can feel. Less than perfect vision is already a disadvantage. And, it also has potential effects such as eyestrain, headaches or double vision.
For children, wearing the wrong prescription can have even worse consequences. Due to their visual system developing, the wrong prescription could cause one eye to work harder than the other. This could 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 prescription. We reject any lenses that are outside of tolerance. Do online retailers do this? 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 incorrect 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).
So, it is important to have an optical professional- an optometrist or licensed optician to provide educated recommendations for lens materials and lens options. Therefore, this will protect one of our most valuable assets- our eyes.
Thankfully there are also manufacturing standards in place to address the integrity of glasses lenses. How do glasses purchased from an online retailer match up to the safety standard? Not well. Because, 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. Then, will make recommendations on which lens will be best for you. Explaining the benefits of different lens materials in relation to your prescription helps you make a good decision between Trivex and Hi-Index plastic. A conversation about how you care for your glasses will help the optician recommend the best anti-reflective (non-glare) coating.
Becoming a licensed dispensing optician is a three year apprenticeship program in Washington state. After a written and practical exam, an apprentice becomes a licensed optician.
Licensed opticians bring experience and knowledge to help each patient make educated decisions on their individual eyewear needs.
Even Siri doesn’t have the answer to which progressive lens will work best all week at the computer or Saturday at the golf course.
In the next blog post, we will continue with an additional 4 reasons. Finally there is only 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 them. Furthermore, the purpose of glasses is to help you see. They 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!