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Consumers Can Save 40 Percent or More on Eyeglasses by Shopping Online and At Discount Retailers

Consumers Can Save 40 Percent or More on Eyeglasses by Shopping Online and At Discount Retailers

Costco tops ratings of eyeglass chains and other discounters

CR August 2013 CoverYONKERS, NY — Buying eyeglasses from the eye doctor’s office is convenient, but can be costly.  Comparison shopping among different types of eyewear stores including online and discount retailers takes time but can save consumers 40 percent or more.  Consumer Reports’ most recent survey about its readers’ eyeglass-shopping experiences found that Costco was a standout for overall satisfaction – including cost – among chains such as EyeMasters, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, and Sears Optical and other discounters including BJ’s Optical, Sam’s Club Optical, and Walmart Vision Center.

The full report and Ratings of eyeglass retailers are available in the August 2013 issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

“If you want a deal on eyeglasses, step outside the optometrist’s office before deciding to buy,” said Tony Giorgianni, Associate Editor for Consumer Reports. “By doing a little research and shopping around, it’s possible to get a great pair of glasses and save money.”

Consumer Reports surveyed almost 19,500 readers to find out how much they paid for eyeglasses and to gauge their level of satisfaction regarding their overall shopping experience for them. Frame selection, customer service and employee expertise were among the attributes also rated.  Respondents spent a median of $244 out-of-pocket on their last pair of prescription specs. 

Despite its fair rating for its selection of frames, Costco earned top marks for cost, quality and follow-up service.  While readers were essentially pleased with their purchase at retailers like EyeMasters, Pearle Vision and Sears Optical, results were mixed.  LensCrafters was singled out as the place to get eyewear the fastest – almost half of readers who shopped there had their glasses the same or next day.

Consumer Reports found that online eyeglass retailers offer a huge selection and low prices.  Consumers can save significantly by shopping sites such as FramesDirect.com, SimplyEyeglasses.com, Eyeglasses.com, and LensesRx.com.  New sites such as Zenni Optical (zennioptical.com), Warby Parker (warbyparker.com) and Classic Specs (classicspecs.com), offer a complete single-vision pair of specs for less than $100, but they primarily sell their own proprietary glasses. 

Remember, online buying means having to wait for the glasses to arrive in the mail and shipping them back if there’s a problem and these sites don’t provide the in-person service customers would get at a walk-in store, which could be a problem if frames need adjusting, for example. Shoppers shouldn’t expect online shops to take vision insurance, but they may be able to obtain reimbursement from their provider.

Buying Advice

There are many choices and factors to consider when buying eyeglasses – and it can be easy lose sight of finding a good deal. Consumer Reports suggests the following tips for those in the market for a new a pair of lenses and frames:

  • Research online. Even if the plan is to buy locally, consider reading how-to information on websites such as Eyeglasses.com and LensesRx Online Optical. Knowing something about the types of frames, lenses and coatings can help consumers understand their options and sense whether a store or website is trying to up-sell them.

  • Get a doctor’s recommendation. If a current prescription is more than a year old, have an optometrist or ophthalmologist do an eye check before ordering new glasses.  Request that the doctor measures and records pupillary distance, which is needed to order lenses online.

  • Negotiate. If frames available locally are priced for less online, give the walk-in store a chance to match or at least come close to the best online price. Remember, a walk-in shop can provide frame adjustments and other post-purchase services that can be difficult or impossible to get online, so it may be worth paying extra.

  • Check warranties and return policies. A good retailer should have at least a one-year warranty against defects in frames. For instance, Eyeglasses.com says most of its frames are covered by the manufacturer for one or two years and that it will process warranty claims on the customer’s behalf.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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