I wonder if glasses are really $39…. Reviewing 39 Dollar Glasses

If you’re looking for the pictures and review of the glasses, scroll down a ways. Otherwise, I’ll start with some info about the company first.

Quick Notes:

  • Catered strongly towards new customers with little to no experience buying online.
  • Polycarbonate lenses standard – polycarbonate, a virtually shatter-proof material excellent for everyone (but even more strongly recommended for children) is the lens used in their basic pairs of glasses.
  • Name brand lenses – while the basic lenses are unbranded, there is a heavy selection of name-brand lenses, often in polycarbonate.
  • Re-lensing – 39dollarglasses offers a re-lensing service if you have existing frames and would like to simply have new lenses put in.
  • “Worry free guarantee” – if unhappy with the glasses, you can let them know within 10 days of receiving them and they will pay for return shipping and refund your money (minus the original shipping charge). Some exclusions apply.
  • Higher end of the discount price scale (no offerings in the under-$30 range).
  • AR coating is considerably more expensive than most retailers.
  • No name-brand designer frames offered.

Impressions:

39 Dollar Glasses has been around almost 2 decades now (since 2000), and continues to be well-suited toward the nervous first-time buyer. At times it almost appears that they’re just as much in the “peace of mind” business as they are in the “glasses” business.

The largest downside to 39 dollar glasses is the price: they’re at the higher end of the “discount lenses” scale, and don’t include a lot of freebies. On one hand, your $39 gets you Polycarbonate lenses on single-vision glasses – a good step up from the basic CR39 plastic lenses offered elsewhere. On the other hand, adding an anti-reflective coating bumps up the price of your glasses by $25, where many other retailers offer the coating for free (or at least a lower cost), although to be fair many of those other retailers are putting the AR coating on CR39. If you’re looking for Polycarbonate lenses, it’s actually a pretty reasonable deal. If you don’t mind CR39 or glass though and are looking to spend as little as possible, you may want to look elsewhere.

It’s worth noting they’ve also added a “100% worry free guarantee” which has a few caveats and has changed over time, but is effectively 30 days full refund (minus shipping), or 90 days credit/exchange.

Looking through reader input I’ve received as well as other resources on the web, the impression I get is as follows:

  • Issues seem to be few and far between.
  • Contacting them if there’s an issue can take a couple attempts, though things usually do end up resolved.

They have maintained a fairly consistent selection of frames to the point where if you bought frames years ago and want new ones of the same type, there’s a good chance they still carry them. Frame prices start at (you guessed it) $39 and at the time of this writing there’s still a heavy selection at that price point. The more “expensive” frames currently add about $20 to the price tag.

Single-vision lenses come free with the frame. Through my research, every indication has been that all their lenses seem to be crafted (and the glasses put together) in a lab located in the USA. Most of the lenses you can upgrade to are branded (Transitions, Seiko, etc).

Website and Ordering:

The 39 Dollar Glasses website remains excellent – particularly for first time buyers. Much of the site is very step-by-step in a way that’s simple and non-complicated, but with a good bit of information/help available when desired.

It’s worth noting that while browsing, I never felt as though I was being bait-and-switched or pressured into something more expensive. The cheapest stuff was always selected by default, and the only thing it mentioned as a “recommendation” was the $25 AR coating. That said, the upgrades themselves are
heavier in price.

Pricing and Value:

The majority of plastic/metal single-vision glasses come to $39.00 complete with UV protection and scratch-resistance.

Despite the basic offerings being priced higher than most other retailers, the fact that your $39.00 gets you polycarbonate lenses makes it a pretty reasonable deal. Stepping up to anything other than a non-basic lens starts to escalate the price quite quickly, though you’re generally getting name-brand lenses for the money. However, this probably isn’t the place for someone simply looking for a backup pair of glasses, since you can get a basic pair of glass or CR39 lenses/frames complete with an AR coating for less elsewhere.

That said, if this is your first time buying glasses online or you’re looking for polycarbonate and/or name-brand lenses, 39 Dollar Glasses is definitely worth checking out.

 

On to the Reviews…

I’ve ordered from 39 Dollar Glasses a few times over the last 13 years. The most recent orders went well (uneventful is always good), though they did take about 2.5 weeks to arrive in Canada: 1 week to ship and 1.5 weeks in the mail. Since there wasn’t anything unexpected, I didn’t bother with pictures and details for those.

My earliest 2 orders are below though:

39 Dollar Glasses Review (my 2009 purchase)

Aug 11 – An order was placed for glasses. I went with the cheapest frames ($39.00) which came with free polycarbonate lenses, and added an AR coating ($24.95). I used the coupon link from the website (15% off) which reduced the price by $9.59. The glasses included free anti-scratch and UV coatings. Shipping was $12.95 to Canada, bringing the total to $67.31.

Aug 12 – A day later, I received an email stating that the glasses had shipped, which included a tracking number.

Aug 20 – The glasses arrived. The envelope stated they were shipped from New York. Overall, a very reasonable shipping time from the US to Canada.

 

Packaging

Inside the envelope was a clamshell case, which contained the glasses as well as a micro-fibre cloth. The case was noticeably durable as soon as I held it. I resisted the urge to grab a sledge hammer and see how much of a beating it would take, but needless to say, I’m confident in it’s ability to protect the glasses during transit.

 

Pictures

39 Dollar Glasses - Packaging for Sept 2009 order
39 Dollar Glasses - Overview for Sept 2009 order

(click on any of the pictures to open a larger version in a pop-up window)

Very simple, just the case, glasses, and a cloth.

 

First impressions & Quality

The frames were very solid, which was noticeable right away. They’re also hinged and overall they have a good sturdy, quality feel to them. The lenses were cut precisely to fit the frames, and seemed to be optically correct throughout. Neither the nosepads nor the frames needed any adjusting.

The AR coating reflects light sources as a light purple (green/purple tend to be the common colors), and no defects were present. The lenses were quite clean and didn’t need any rinsing.

I put the lenses through the “hot water test”, and they passed without any cracking.

All around, the glasses seem to be a nice basic quality pair with a good solid feel to them, and I’d expect them to last quite a few years.

39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2009 order - Looking at lenses #1
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2009 order - Looking at lenses #2
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2009 order - Looking at lenses #3
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2009 order - Looking at lenses #4

Final Thoughts

I was pretty pleased with the glasses overall. $39 does get to be at the higher end of the “discount glasses” spectrum, but they do include polycarbonate lenses as standard which makes it very competitive with other polycarbonate offerings. The down side is the price of the AR coating – at $25, it easily adds over 50% to the total cost of a basic pair of glasses. It did pass the hot water test (and had it failed I would have reamed on it hard), so it’s likely to be at least a quality coating. To be perfectly fair, most other retailers charge a lot more for polycarbonate to begin with (even when they include free AR), so it probably isn’t as big a deal as I’ve made it out to be – the grand total for poly & AR is still very competitive with others.

 

Would I buy from 39DollarGlasses again based on this experience?

I probably would. I tend to like the properties of polycarbonate, and both the frames and lenses met my expectations and were great for the price.

 

Would I recommend 39DollarGlasses to others based on this purchase?

It depends on the person. The website’s very new-user-friendly, the quality is great, and the price is very competitive as well. They’re also one of very few to have resolved 100% of their BBB complaints.

For someone looking for a quality pair of frames with polycarbonate lenses, 39DollarGlasses would probably be one of my first recommendations. For polycarbonate, it’s really the way to go if someone’s looking for quality at a good price.

That said, for someone who’s looking for a simple cheap back-up pair, they’d probably be best served to get a standard CR-39 lens elsewhere.

39 Dollar Glasses (my 2006 order)

Jan 4 – I placed on order for glasses via the website. I selected regular metal frames, Polycarbonate Transition lenses, and an AR coating. Polycarbonate Transition lenses are typically a lot more expensive. Therefore, after shipping it came out to $160.80 (note that regular polycarbonate lenses with frames are available for $39 + shipping).

Jan 5 – I received an email stating: “Your order is expected to ship in 2-4 business days. Shipping method: USPS Global Priority. Order total: $160.80. You will receive an additional email containing your delivery confirmation number immediately after your order is shipped.” Their website allows you to check the status of your order, so not wanting to miss the ‘shipped’ day, I checked the status of my order daily, which always read “In Production”.

Jan 16 – I received my order in the mail. While I was happy to get my glasses, I was surprised, as I never received an email that said they had shipped, nor did their website ever change the status of my order. It still showed “In Production”. Not the end of the world, but had the glasses become lost in the mail, I wouldn’t have really had much of an indication, as the status page never changed. Free with the glasses was a hard clamshell case and micro-fiber cloth which has a string so that it can also be used to carry the glasses.

 

Pictures

(click on any of the images to open the image full-size in a new window)

39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - Envelope #1
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - Envelope #2
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - The Case
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - Glasses in the Case
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - The Glasses Themselves
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - An Overview

#1 and #2 are of the packaging, nothing fancy. #3 is the hard clamshell case. While not indestructible, definitely sufficient for shipping, as you would need a fair bit of weight to crush/break it, #4 is the way it was when first opened. You can’t see it, but there was some sort of ‘debris’ all over the lenses. It rinsed off easily with water. #5 and #6 are just a couple extra pictures I took to display the glasses.

Jan 16 (continued) – I examined the frames, which seemed to be straight and constructed well. They fit perfectly and didn’t need any adjusting. Bright light that ends up reflected in the lens shows as green, which seems to be the color of the AR coating. While examining the lenses, I noticed a vertical hairline scratch in the right lens, just left of center, extending about 5mm from the top and going all the way down to the bottom. I put the glasses on and noticed within a few minutes that light in certain situations would catch this scratch in such a way that it would cause an annoying blur (similar to the blur caused when dirt or a smudge gets on a lens).

Pictures of the scratch (click for full-sized image)

39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - Scratch Close-up #2

I apologize for the “messy” backgrounds. The digital camera I was using had difficulty catching light reflecting from the scratch and I had to take over 20 pictures from different locations in my home subjected to varying amounts of light before I was able to get decent shots of the scratch. Clicking on either of the above images will open a full size picture in a new window. I have labelled the areas where the scratch is.

Jan 16 (continued) – I went to the 39dollarglasses website and filled out their online form, giving as much detail about the scratch as I could, and asking what their policy is in this situation. By Friday, Jan 20th (4 days later), I had not received a response, so I sent another message via their online form. Monday morning (23rd), I receieved the following reply:

Thank you for your inquiry. We are sorry to hear you received your new glasses with a scratch in the lens. We sincerely apologize if we may have caused you any inconvenience. We will be glad to remake the scratched lens for free of charge. Please send the glasses back along with the original invoice and a note describing the problem to:


39dollarglasses.com
3075 Veterans Memorial Hwy.
Suite 230
Ronkonkoma, NY 11779

Once we receive the glasses, we will give you a courtesy call.

On Jan 26th, I sent the glasses back via Xpresspost (a postal method which includes tracking information) I included a picture and a description as well. Fast forward to February 17th, and I had not received the glasses, nor had I been given the courtesy call. I sent an email asking for an update to the status of the glasses. After the weekend (Feb 20th), I received the following in an email:

Thank you for your inquiry. We had received your glasses on February 2nd and sent them to the lab to have the right lens remade due to the scratches we found. Your remake order was shipped out on February 15th via USPS Global Priority Mail. This service can take within 7-14 business days to deliver. If the order does not arrive by March 6th, please contact us.

Feb 23 – I received my glasses in the mail. I took pictures of the packaging, but it was packaged almost identically to the way I received them originally, so there’s little point in including another set. However, there was a problem… Yes, they replaced the lens, but believe it or not, the new lens had a scratch in it. I kid you not, there are pictures below.

39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - New scratch #1
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - New scratch #2
39 Dollar Glasses - Sept 2006 order - New scratch #3

These were taken with a different digital camera, as it caught the images much better. However, the close-ups are a little blurry. Click any of the images to open in a new window. Before anyone asks, no, it’s not the same scratch. this one actually extends across the entire length of the lens (the other began 5mm from the top).

Also, this one is slightly to the right.

 

Feb 23 (continued) – At this point in time, I’ve given up, and decided to leave things where they are. Rather than paying shipping to send the glasses back again (and waiting until late March / early April to receive them back again), it’s got to the point where both myself and readers should have an idea of what you might expect from 39 Dollar Glasses. The money spent in shipping would probably be better spent purchasing new glasses from another retailer to review anyway. The glasses are still perfectly useable 90% of the time. For the rest of the time when a reflection becomes an issue, I have other pairs.

 

You can probably guess what I’m about to say now. I’m extremely disappointed with my experience with 39 Dollar Glasses. To be honest, the scratch didn’t bother me that much to begin with. In fact, the only reason I sent back the glasses was for the sake of this review.

 

So what in particular was I disappointed with?

A few extremely minor issues first of all. The order page was never updated, the glasses had some sort of debris on them the first time I received them, it took 2 messages before I got a response the first time, and I wasn’t given the “courtesy call” they told me I would receive when they got my glasses back. None of those are major issues, but are all worth mentioning.

The one major issue I had was of course the scratched lens. I know mistakes and oversights do happen. However both times, before sending me the glasses, a simple 5 second inspection would have easily caught the scratch. Remember, when I returned the glasses the first time, I also sent a detailed explanation and even had a picture with the scratch circled. I would think that in a situation like that, a retailer would at least take a little extra care in ensuring everything is right the second time around, but it seems in this case, that was not so.

Despite all that, there is some good to be said for them. Ordering from their website was a breeze, and aside from the scratched lens, the quality of the glasses seems to be really good. The customer service was also pretty good, as they got back to me within one business day (2 out of 3 times anyway). They also didn’t give me any hassle, and were quick to accept the glasses back to have the lens remade.

Days
Total time between ordering and delivery (first time)12
Total time between returning glasses and receiving them28

Would I buy from 39 Dollar Glasses again based on this purchase?
Probably not.

Would I recommend 39 Dollar Glasses to others based on this purchase?
Not based on this purchase. That said, despite my experience, I don’t hear a lot of bad about them, so I have to assume that it’s because the quality is usually fairly high. Customer service itself seems to be good as well, and they’re also one of very few who have resolved every one of their BBB complaints.

 

Overall Recommendation for 2019

Over the 13 years that EGRR was running, I received very few complaints (only 3) about 39 Dollar Glasses which is extremely low for having been so many years. One was in regards to certain countries they don’t serve, and the other couple had shipping or quality issues.

While my very first order didn’t go so well… keep in mind that was back in 2006 and since then I’ve been pretty pleased.

 

Between the low complaint rate, newcomer friendly site, and lack of “bait and switch” tactics, I’d definitely recommend giving them a look: especially if shopping for glasses online for the first time. That said, if you’re getting a higher priced pair, be sure to read the details regarding the “Worry Free Guarantee” so that you’ll know what you’re in for if you end up in a situation where you have to send them back for some reason.

If you’re interested in checking them out, you can find them at: https://www.39dollarglasses.com/ .

 

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