When Buying Glasses, Price Isn’t Everything

Andrew KarpIf you’re like me, you’re probably getting tired of the consumer media telling eyeglass wearers they are being overcharged for their eyewear. From respected publications such as Consumer Reports to award-winning television programs like “60 Minutes,” consumers are hearing a rising chorus of mainstream media voices advising them to cut their eyewear costs by buying online or from discount stores.

Although price is always an important factor in any buying decision, it’s just one element, something this one-dimensional reporting overlooks. The other element is quality. It is the balance of these two elements that creates value for the consumer.

The latest ones to jump on the “eyewear is overpriced” bandwagon is ABC News. In a special report by ABC’s “Real Money” team, reporter Paula Faris offers this pearl of wisdom: “Shop around with your prescription. Don’t get stuck buying glasses at the optometrist’s office.”

I guess it never occurred to Faris that some optometrists might offer good deals on glasses, not to mention a comprehensive eye exam and advice about which lenses might best suit a patient’s visual needs. The OD might even have a well-stocked dispensary run by an expert optician where the patient can conveniently be fitted with those lenses. What a concept!

Shortly after the ABC News report aired, VSP Optics blogged, “There have been a lot of stories counseling Americans not to buy eyeglasses from their local eye doctor. This is not only bad from a personal health perspective but also from a personal finance perspective.” VSP went on to list various reasons why consumers should buy their glasses from independent eye doctors. In addition, VSP Vision Care president Jim McGrann stated in a video posted on the company’s website, “You really want to stay involved with your eyecare professional to make sure you’re getting the medical side of this experience, and couple it with the cool fashion side.”

Nicely put, Mr. McGrann.

Andrew Karp, Group Editor, Lenses and Technology

About James Spina
20/20 Editor-in-Chief

6 Responses to When Buying Glasses, Price Isn’t Everything

  1. Barry Santini says:

    Eyewear is overpriced, and a smartphone for similar money is not? Shame on us eye care professionals. It’s is clear we’ve done a terrible job communicating our added value to the eyewear transaction.

  2. Mark says:

    We, as eye care professionals need to do a better job of responding to media reports and stories which paint a one sided picture like those Andrew references in his article. Additionally, as Barry points out in his comment, we have to better communicate the value we add to the transaction and do everything possible to showcase our knowledge and professionalism. A patient based approach ensures that an “apples to apples” comparison is done if the patient decides to price shop.

    The more exact measurements required by modern progressive lenses and using machines such as the Visioffice also helps. It raises the patients awareness to the potential pitfalls of getting glasses from anyone not capable or able to make such measurements. All of us should be in the business of educating our patients, which again adds value to the services we provide. It wasn’t until I started working in the industry that I understood the value and purpose of “add-ons” like AR coat and I’ve been wearing and hence purchasing glasses for years. And why would anyone in the profession would call them “add-ons”?!

    While it’s nice to get some support from Mr. McGrann, VSP is not consistent in it’s support of the independent optometrists. VSP is encouraging online shopping with Eyeconic.com albeit with a nod to the local optometrist.

  3. Mike D says:

    Great perspective, Andy…I wish you had thousands more followers!

  4. D. Hopkins says:

    Perhaps reporter Paula Faris should experience the difference for herself. I suggest she “shop around” for the best deal she can find. Get the glasses. Wear them. Then, go to a professional Optometrist or Ophthalmologists who only uses quality products where aberrations in the lenses are not an acceptable business practice. Or perhaps where actual Doctors and professional Opticians do not accept unwanted prism added in the lenses. The list goes on. It’s obvious the professional optical world must work much harder to educate the public in the numerous advantages of going to an actual professional where their eye care is number one priority. Respect your vision.

  5. Eileen says:

    As an optician, there is nothing more annoying than having one of our patients call and ask for a PD so they can take their business elsewhere. It always irks me. But more times than not, that same patient will return the following year with complaints about the glasses they purchased online. Bridge didn’t fit right, temples too short, unattractive on their face shape, etc.

    Those are the skills that a flesh and bones optician brings to the table–the ability to assist the patient with picking JUST THE RIGHT frame for them, for their face, their style, their lifestyle. We are the ones who can help with the fit options, the different eye size options on a particular frame, or a different more flattering color.

    Hopefully, this trend (shopping for bargain eyewear online) will highlight the very qualities the patient is NOT getting buy hitting that ‘checkout now’ button. Because, even MORE unnerving, is when they bring their Internet bought eyewear into our office and expect US to do all the adjusting and refitting! Humph, I say to that!

    • Barry Santini says:

      It is important to remember that a PD request for online-sourced eyewear is not always about cheaper. It could be Rx swim or ski goggles, or simply
      Product a local B&M office is not carrying or capable of ordering. Thats why every PD request should be folllowed with a short description of the common services the wearer might like, such as adjustments, independent verification and the like. These services, of course, have associated charges. You’re in business, aren’t you? Approching outside-your-office (OYO) sourced eyewear this way removes any hard feelings you may have, including an occasional “harumpf.”
      It also begins your transition from the now outmoded “exclusively a fully bundled eyewear transaction” to business plan that finally recognizes and communicates the value of your services.
      And be careful about resisting giving out the PD of record. Its a medical record, and patients are entitled to that info on demand under the law. We ECPs already have the legacy of Eyeglasses 1 and the FCLCA to see how the government will step in to prevent an industry’s misguided attempts to prevent a consumer’s right to comparison shop.

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