Glasses Reviews – the search for something under $40

The old EGRR site has been migrated to… here!

Well… mostly anyway. A few changes if you were a visitor of the previous site:

  • Some of the pages that nobody really visited have been dropped (the old forum archives and “The Retailer Graveyard” for example).
  • Information pages that didn’t also contain a review of a purchase are gone.
  • I’ve trimmed down some of the content:
    • Knowing that Retailer X accepted Discover and had a fax number isn’t as pertinent these days.
    • Price charts are gone since I could never keep up with the ever changing prices of the retailers anyway.
    • A lot of specifics have been removed to reduce the error rate as time goes by between updates. Instead I’ve tried to make general statements that have held true over the years and are likely to continue.
    • Videos are gone (people have much nicer videos up on YouTube than the ones I put up a decade ago!).
  • Inlined “old versions” of a page are gone.
  • Pages were removed for retailers who no longer compete in the < $40 bracket.

 

Retailer Review List

39 Dollar Glasses (review)

Coastal (review)

EyeBuyDirect (review)

Eyeglass Direct (review)

GlassesShop (review)

Goggles4u (review)

GreatEyeglasses (review)

SelectSpecs (review)

Zenni Optical (review)

 

FAQ (for Readers)

1. Who are you? And tell me a little about the site.

I started the EGRR site back in January of 2006. I was a regular guy looking for glasses, and wasn’t willing to pay the $160 that Wal-Mart (the cheapest place locally) wanted for their cheapest frames and cheapest lenses at the time. I took my search online, but retailers were hard to find and finding information about them was even tougher. I couldn’t tell whether they were legitimate or whether they were scams. After many hours of research, I had a lot of compiled information so I decided to put a few pages online with the information I’d gathered. As the only resource of it’s kind, the pages immediately started getting a lot of traffic, so I decided to expand on them. Before long, Eyeglass Retailer Reviews was born.

One of the strengths of the site (in my opinion) is that I’ve managed to keep things pretty unbiased. Unlike most of the large review sites out there, a retailer can’t hire a marketing company to fill EGRR with fake reviews. This site actually used to have forums, but someone started attempting to post some fake positive reviews there so I scrapped the whole concept rather than risk exposing people to tainted information. Of course, the down side to “insulating” EGRR the way I have since then is that most of the information here comes from me – and who’s to say I can be trusted? That said, I do try to keep a balanced approach and always aim to look at retailers from a typical customer point of view… usually as the guy from 2006 who was looking to buy glasses online and was having trouble.

 

2. I like my frames but need new lenses because I broke my lenses, got a new prescription, or . Where can I get this done?

This surprised me as being one of the most common questions. I’ve had input from a number of readers who had a lot of success with an online outfit called ReplaceALens.com . They’re BBB-accredited with an A+ rating. Note that I have not used them myself so can’t vouch for them personally, but they’ve been around for quite some time and I’ve yet to hear a complaint. Their site used to be very simple with a mail-order form, but it’s really improved over the years.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, SelectSpecs.com was one of the first retailers to contact me years back mentioning that they added a “reglazing” (re-lensing) service. They are located in the UK though. For someone looking for something in the US, 39DollarGlasses.com is another possibility.

That said, quite a few retailers do offer that service now. If you’ve ordered from a retailer that you were really happy with in the past, it might be worth sending them an email and asking them if they’ll re-lens your old frame. Even if they don’t advertise it, quite a few will.

Do keep in mind that because your frames are going to make TWO trips through the mail this way, there’s a fair bit of added risk. Stuff does get lost/damaged in the mail. Asking about additional postal insurance might be a good idea. If your current frames are extremely valuable, this is a situation where you may want to eat the extra cost and have it done locally. Otherwise, be sure to package them incredibly well and take every precaution you can.

 

3. Where is the best place to buy glasses online?

This is also quite frequent. I really avoid making specific recommendations when possible because there’s always the chance I’ll say “oh, this retailer is perfect for you!” and you’ll end up having a bad experience.

The truth is, you should usually pick whoever you’re most comfortable ordering from. If you’re not sure, do more research. Google/Bing the retailers you’re interested in to find input from others, try posting on forums (slickdeals, redflagdeals, etc), if the retailer has a contact form make use of it to ask questions, and just keep going until you’re sure.

If by the end you don’t feel comfortable with any retailers, I strongly suggest you just skip the online stuff until next time. There’s no shame in buying in a local store – sure it’s more expensive (though online prices have driven local prices down significantly since 2006), but sometimes you can’t put a price on peace-of-mind.

 

4. I’ve never bought glasses before and just got my first prescription. Suggestions..?

If you’ve never worn glasses (or contact lenses) before, I really suggest getting your first pair locally. The big reason is that if something is horribly wrong with your prescription… you might not know. In a local store, they usually handhold you, show you how to clean your glasses, adjust them for you, make sure everything seems correct, and all that wonderful stuff. You just can’t get that level of hands-on service online.

That said, I do realize that many people are on a budget, and their only choice is online. Triple-check that you entered your prescription in that case, and if you have any issues, be sure to contact the retailer. If something doesn’t “look” right in terms of vision, make sure you visit your optometrist with the new glasses in hand.

 

5. I had a really bad experience with a retailer. What should I do?

Start by shooting me a quick email (matt@eyeglassretailerreviews.com) if possible and let me know what happened.

Next, contact the retailer – give them an opportunity to resolve it. Make multiple attempts to contact them if necessary, and document all your attempts to contact them (date, time, method of communication).

If that fails, try contacting the BBB – you can use their online complaint form if you’d like. Be sure to pass them as much information as possible, including the stuff you documented above. Note that not every retailer responds to BBB complaints, but many retailers do. If they don’t, it’s usually a knock against their BBB rating.

If all else fails, you can try contacting your credit card company and inquiring about the possibility of a “charge back”. This should usually be a last resort, and should only be used if you’re 100% sure the retailer was in-the-wrong and when you have exhausted all other possible options. I strongly suggest that you ask the credit card company about possible ramifications of going this route. Legally, you probably have to (or morally, should) return any items if you go this route, and there could be other legal ramifications. Again, last resort.

Send me a follow-up email later if possible, letting me how things turned out in the end.

 

6. What is the “hot water test”?

When EGRR was in it’s infancy, I received some really weird complaints about coatings “cracking”. This wasn’t a frequent complaint, but it led me to do some further investigation as it seemed to revolve around certain retailers which had me wondering if their coatings were somehow different. What I found was that the cracking was correlated to higher temperatures – glasses that had been left in a hot car, were exposed to steam, were placed in hot water, etc.

I personally had become accustomed to cleaning my lenses in warm water with a little bit of dish soap, and had avoided using hot water because temperature extremes are rarely good for anything.

However since EGRR had become something of a public service, I figured I may as well start testing with hot water. Beyond the aspect of it being beneficial information for readers, I also wanted to avoid the situation where retailers start using poorer coatings to cut costs. After all, why would a retailer use a more expensive coating if nobody notices it?

So the test is essentially running the glasses under hot water (roughly in the 60-70C range) for a few seconds, and then carefully examining the lenses for signs of the coating cracking. It’s a painfully simple test, but it’s the only real obvious indicator I have when it comes to durability which I tend to correlate with quality. Note that just because a coating doesn’t crack, it doesn’t meant that it’s the highest-caliber coating out there! It just means it didn’t crack under hot water. Maybe it’s poor in other areas – but I don’t have access to a lab and neither does Joe Consumer, so the hot water test is the test.

As a reminder, you should not try this test at home. If the lenses fail the test, they are unusable. And it’s within the realm of possibility that even though my glasses from Retailer_A passed, your glasses from Retailer_A somehow came out differently. It’s not the end of the world when they crack for me because most of the glasses I buy are for the sole purpose of reviewing, and their destiny is to sit on a shelf when I’m finished with them. Chances are you probably wanted to actually wear your glasses for months/years, so don’t go running them through tests that might wreck them.

 

7. I contacted you but you didn’t reply!

You can be pretty certain I read the email, but I may not have had time to respond, and it probably just got pushed down.

If you requested a response and didn’t hear back from me, send me a reminder email in a couple days.

 

8. How does the site pay for itself or make money?

There are ads throughout the site!

 

9. I’m writing a paper/article, and was wondering if you could answer X.

Sure! I’m usually pretty open to these types of requests. Because responses for these tend to be a little more lengthy, it tends to take me a few days to get back to people on these. If you haven’t heard back with a week though, be sure to send me a reminder email.

 

10. What happened to ContactLensRetailerReviews?

Not long after starting it, I realized it’s value as a review site was somewhat low. The retailers all sell the same products and primarily compete on price, so purchase reviews would be pretty pointless aside from shipping and customer service stuff. The biggest value I saw it having was that it mentioned when multiple retailers all appeared to be owned by the same parent company, and it exposed what I consider to be a shady practice of tacking on an arbitrary “handling” fee during checkout.

Anyway, as of the latest update it’s gone.

 

11. The site focuses on the basic single-vision glasses. Who is cheapest for bi-focal/progressives?

This was one of the earliest questions that came up. I initially tried to address it via massive price charts but they went out of date pretty quickly and trying to make them mobile-friendly was always a chore. Since the charts are gone, I no longer have a simple answer. Since bifocal and progressive prices are largely “hidden” until you add the lens in the shopping cart, I know it’s a source of frustration.

That said, my suggestion would be to visit a few retailers and do the following to get the current price in under 2 minutes:

  1. Open a “Private” or “Incognito” tab.
  2. Visit the site. If you have an account, do not log in.
  3. If the site has a sorting function (most do), choose progressive/bifocal. If they don’t, find frames with huge lenses since smaller ones often won’t work.
  4. Add the cheapest frame.
  5. Choose “add lenses”, the “bifocal” or “progessive” option, and quickly fill in your prescription.
  6. Lens options usually come next, so write down the prices.
  7. Delete the item from your cart.
  8. Check the next retailer you’re interested in.
  9. Once you’ve found the retailer you want to use, close your “Private” or “Incognito” tab and order normally, being careful to double check your prescription and other options.

Deleting from the cart is highlighted because you’re rushing here and you don’t want to accidentally order the pair you used for price checking. Using a Private or Incognito tab for your “price checking” is a fail-safe to help ensure that the prescription you hastily entered is not saved in your web-browser. So if all goes well, when you visit the site to actually order, it shouldn’t remember that you added anything to the cart and shouldn’t remember your prescription.

I know, it’s a lot of work. But I’ve found it to be less frustrating for people than spending an hour to find frames they like only to find out the retailer charges exorbitant prices for progressives.

 

12. I have a very high/complex prescription. I’m having trouble finding a retailer that can do it.

If you know your prescription is pretty crazy, contact each retailer you’re interested in. Just because they don’t list it on their site doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

Because this situation often involves higher price territories, make sure you’re satisfied with the retailer’s answer and double-check about exchange/return policies in case there’s a problem.

Note that in some of these situations a local retailer or optometrist is often a safer option.

 

13. I have another question!

Please send along an email to matt@eyeglassretailerreviews.com !

 

FAQ (for Retailers)

 

1. I’d like to advertise site-wide on EGRR mattgadient.com.

I’ll list this first because it was the most common on EGRR.

I didn’t do site-wide advertisements on EGRR for the glasses stuff, as I tried to keep the site as unbiased as possible and putting your banner site-wide might make some readers believe I am endorsing you. Beyond that, if I allowed it for you, I’d have to allow it for everyone else. And some of the retailers have massive buying power so unless you’re one of those 3-4, chances are you’d be permanently outbid rather quickly (in other words, if you somehow convinced me, it would almost certainly come back to bite you!).

However, I do have Adsense running on most pages, and you’re free (as is everyone) to target a site-wide campaign that way.

 

2. You have inaccurate info about our site, we’ve made updates, we don’t believe you were fair, etc.

Outdated info happens pretty often, particularly with retailers who make frequent changes. If you update your site, especially if it was in response to criticism I listed, please let me know. Pricing changes, BBB rating changes, etc do happen over time as well and I update these infrequently since they’re very time consuming to check for each retailer, so if you notice something wrong, toss me a quick email, ideally with the correct information attached when possible (i.e. “you listed basic lenses as $19 but they’re now $15 – all frame prices went up by $3 – other prices are unchanged”).

If your site offers certain features I didn’t mention that you believe are unique/compelling, especially if it’s something you think is really positive that other retailers do not offer, it’s very possible that I simply missed it. That said, it has to be something that I think would be valuable to customers – something like “if someone refers 10 friends they get a free pair” will not impress me. Something like “our virtual try-on now calculates someone’s PD automatically through some crazy algorithm” probably will.

In terms of being unfair, I’m the first to admit that sometimes I’ll go a little over the top with criticism (on numerous occasions I’ve gone back and edited some of the rants I’ve gone into when something about a site set me off). Contact me and I’ll take another look. This goes double if you notice that another retailer had the same flaw and that I didn’t mention it (or if I gave another retailer credit for something and didn’t mention it for your site).

Do keep in mind that I try to approach most sites from the perspective of a regular consumer. In particular, anything that might cause somebody to make a mistake when attempting to order or cause a large amount of frustration is probably going to be picked on severely. Certain things drive me up the wall too – bait-and-switch style items, or anything consumer-unfriendly in particular. When it comes to positives, standard features are often hit-and-miss with me – mentioning how to take a PD, virtual try-ons, and other things that most retailers now have don’t always get mentioned, unless there’s something compelling about the way you’ve implemented a particular feature.

Finally, my observations are largely based on my opinion, so take them with a grain of salt. If I said your theme is tacky but you love it (and your customers love it too), don’t go changing it just to appease me. I’ll usually find at least something negative about each site regardless, so don’t fixate too heavily on anything I’ve said unless it’s something you feel I’m correct about.

 

3. What determines the order that retailers are listed in?

I used to have the most established and reputable retailers listed towards the upper half, but currently they’re simply listed alphabetically.

 

4. I’d like you to review our glasses. Can I send you a free sample / coupon code / etc?

Unfortunately, I can’t go this route. There’s no way to guarantee that the glasses I’d get wouldn’t receive special treatment. I need to place the orders myself, somewhat anonymously.

 

5. I have a coupon code or special for your readers. Will you list it?

If you can provide a perpetual coupon code (no expiry), or one with a very long expiry, send it along. Beyond that, sometimes I’ll list codes that last at least a month, but even those are getting more infrequent because they’re a hassle to maintain.

If you go the coupon route, generic site-wide coupons are fine (20% off all frames, $10 off purchases over $50, etc). Don’t send coupons/specials that are insanely specific (“20% off a selection of our plastic frames”), as they only apply to a limited audience.

 

6. How do I get a banner for my site listed on my info/review page instead of an Adsense ad?

It used to be that I’d run affiliate banners on each retailer’s page, but I’ve dropped the affiliate ads for the time being and don’t know if/when they’ll be returning. You can try targeting an Adsense ad at specific pages.

 

7. I just started a new online glasses store. Will you list my site?

I’m very particular about sites I list, particularly since over the years there have been some retailers that were either scams or went out of business. Even a few that had been around for years suddenly vanished unexpectedly. I used to have an “Other Retailers” page where new retailers would go but it wasn’t particularly popular and has been removed. If you send your site along, I’ll take a quick look at it though and keep it in mind for the future.

 

8. I’m planning to start my own glasses shop. Any tips?

First of all, keep in mind that it’s an incredibly competitive market, and that the market is still very saturated. There was a massive boom from 2006 until around 2008-2010, and the current climate is very hard to survive in. If you already have a successful local glasses business to fall back on and are simply expanding to the online area, you might be able to survive. If you’re starting from scratch, you probably won’t survive the year without a lot of capital.

Here’s part of an email I sent to a writer when discussing the industry a couple years ago, which still largely holds true today:

You’d have to be crazy (or incredibly passionate) to start up a new online retail today without a fully-featured easy-to-use site, rock-bottom prices, fast customer service, BBB-accreditation, and an affiliate program through one of the major programs to get others advertising for you. And that’s a lot of money to put out before you’ve even sold a single pair. And even then, you might fail.

Assuming you’re still planning to go ahead, you’re going to have to determine your target market – it’s been my observation that the retailers that try to target multiple areas (every price point for example) tend to fail quickly, and even the well established retailers tend to stick to a certain part of the market. Ideally, you should find something that makes you unique – something that you can bring to the table that nobody else does. After all, if there’s nothing unique about you, why would anyone buy from you instead of from a more established retailer?

Your website can be one of the more challenging and expensive aspects. Bolting a shopping cart onto WordPress isn’t going to cut it. You usually need to hire both a developer and a designer. To be clear, a developer handles the “programming” end of things. They make sure your buttons, option boxes, fancy mouseover effects, try-on feature, etc work. They also ensure that your shopping cart connects correctly to the rest of your site, that your security certificate works, that your site is quick and responsive, etc. A “designer” is essentially an artist. They design the look of everything on your site, and work with the developer to make sure it’s implemented perfectly, and that the whole site is visually cohesive and attractive. It is rare to find someone who excels at both, but both are crucial.

Keeping customers happy is going to be critical. Angry customers are quick to post negative reviews. Happy customers are largely silent unless you’ve gone so above-and-beyond that you’ve made their day. And you’ll probably have to budget for the “irrational” customer who might not be appeased until you’ve refunded their money, paid for return shipping, and sent them a free credit, all because they made a mistake when entering their prescription.

All that said, if you’re intent on setting up shop, I wish you the best of luck and you’re best not to let my comments discourage you. Definitely let me know about your new site so that I have you in mind for the future.

 

9. I contacted you but you didn’t get back to me!

You guys have always been a balancing act for me. On one hand, I try to keep retailers at arms-length to an extent. It’s nothing personal, but I try to stay unbiased and approach things from a consumer point of view and that’s a little tougher if we get too chummy.

On the other hand, feedback from you guys is often helpful. You’re the quickest to notice mistakes I’ve made regarding your site, and it’s always helpful when there’s been an issue I’ve mentioned and you’ve contacted me mentioning that you’re working on resolving it.

If you don’t receive a reply, usually it’s just that I’ve been busy (some days I see over 100 emails, and anything I can’t respond to immediately tends to get buried). Sending a reminder every few days can help.

There are times when I’m just doing the arms-length thing. If you mentioned an error and notice it’s been corrected within a few days but didn’t hear back, that’s probably the situation. Unless you really need a follow-up, it’s probably best to just leave things be until you need to contact me again with something.

I tend to keep marketing agencies in particular at a distance. Many of them are used to publishers who are willing to do any extra promotion (site-wide banners, front-page mentions, etc) for incentives, or will aggressively “push” your site, neither of which I can do for obvious reasons. There have been enough frustrating conversations here (for both sides) that I’ll often only reply to emails that don’t mention promotion and instead are asking about expired codes/banners, issues with a write-up, casual questions, etc.

 

10. The BBB rating isn’t fair. They’re a bunch of crooks!

The BBB ratings have largely been removed. They may return in the future though, so if you get a complaint via the BBB I’d strongly urge you to do your best to address the issue.

 

Contacting Me

Questions? Comments? Bought glasses recently? Send me a message! I’m always interested in hearing about ways to improve the site (what’s helped you, what hasn’t, etc). Letting me know how your own experience went helps me to identify retailer trends, and helps me to see if my own reviews are reflecting the experiences others are having in addition to indicating whether there are aspects I should be paying more attention to in the reviews for the site.

If you want to get a hold of me, you can send me an email at: matt@eyeglassretailerreviews.com

 

Submitting a review:

With the site transition, commenting should now be available. If you want to share your experience, that will likely be the quickest and easiest option.

However, note that all comments are moderated on mattgadient.com and the comment policy for the main site applies.